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Kalash: Tribals of North Pakistan

Kalash is a non-Muslim community in mountains of Paksitan that is trying to preserve hard to maintain their identity

By Pragya Jha

The Kalash People- is a unique tribe of people who reside deep in the valleys of Hindu Kush  mountain range and three sub valleys namely- Bumboret , Rumbor and Birir in the modern-day district Chitral of Pakistan. How they got there and how they survive is a mystery. They are one of the most remarkable cultures on the planet. It is the largest minority group in Pakistan,with a population of just over 3,000.They are also called as Kafir (Non-believer),Black robe and Sia Posh.

“The Man  Who would be King”

Kalash tribe inspires Kipling live(Kalash are the mythical tribe depicted in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King”). According to David Gulmour , Kipling’s story was inspired by the author’s meeting with an unidentified Freemason when he was working as a young journalist in India, which suggests that Harlan’s adventures or a version of them, had been absorbed into Masonic folklore on the North-West Frontier. With reference to this book-The kalasha  used to be divided into two major divisions:

a) Siah-posh(black clad)

b)Sufaid –posh(white-clad)

The Siah -posh long remained dominant,and all the surviving Kalasha kalasha ‘Kafirs’ in Pakistan today are Siah-posh.

Alexander and Greece Connection

There is a story that is told on mountain sides of  Hindu Kush that  Alexander who is considered as great as Greece god Apollo and Zeus, left his troops here. He asked them to stay here in this land without changing their Hellenic beliefs and traditions, their Hellenic laws and culture until he returned from the battles in the East…” There are many similarities between them and the Hellenes of Alexander the Great’s time. Similarity of religion, culture, and language. The tribe is polysthetic, people who believe in many gods. The gods that they believe in, are the twelve gods of Ancient Greece which makes them the only people who continue this worship.The gods that they worship are-Zeus, Apollo, the god of Sun. Shrines which are found in Kalash village gives a glimpse of religious sanctuaries of ancient Greece.They also live a lifestyle that can be compared to Greeks. They dance around night-time fires(The Kalash dance in a cyclical motion and the men usually follow it by loud cries of i-a and i-o), As per the Islamic Law,alcohol consumption is prohibited ,the Kalash are the only people  who produce and consume wines and indulge in ancient Olympic sports such as wrestling and shot-put.Many historians,experts and authors agrees that Kalash tribes are possibly  the DNA of Greece.

Kalash people are hospitable and welcoming to tourists.The valleys are beautiful and peaceful .The peaceful environment of  Kalash adds to the interest of visitors. The visitors can enjoy hiking and trekking.The ideal time to visit the valley is from April to October.There are two ways to enter the valleys: by foot or, landslides permitting, by road. Most people prefer the 90-minute jeep ride from the trading centre of Chitral, just 32 kilometres north-east.One other way to reach there is to take domestic flight from Lahore to Chitral and from there it’s just a three-kilometre taxi ride to the Attaliq Bazaar jeep depot, where there are daily services to the main valley of Brumboret.

Kalash Customs(Bhashali)

Kalash live in Pakistan but they don’t follow the Islamic law or read Quran instead they have their own law and customs.One of the most remarkable custom is Bhashali where a women who is suffering from her menstrual cycle is made to live in a wooden hut,and if anybody touches or come in contact with woman during this time,they have to wash themselves immediately to avoid contamination.These houses are essential part of the religious customs.


Spring comes in the valley with season of festivals.At the end of the may an yearly Joshi festival is celebrated, milk plays an important role in this festival.The milk is saved before ten days prior to the festival.This milk is used to feed newborns and is also thrown on the houses and objects.And at the end of the festival leaves are thrown on participants to welcome the Spring.Another festival that  is celebrated by Kalash in every autumn is Uchau in August.And the most important festival of Kalash people is Chawmos,celebrated in the middle of harsh winter i.eDecember. This festival marks and celebrates the end of the harvest and during this time, the animals are also sacrificed to provide food source for the winter.


The traditional and unique attire of the Kalash people is also a major attraction for tourists.Women wear dress containing black robe,cotton dresses, baggy black cotton dresses brilliantly embroidered at the collars, cuffs and hems. Kalash men wear their traditional goat-hair tunics for shalwar-kameez, the pajama-like outfits which are worn throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Kalash Culture has also been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The population of this tribe is continuously decreasing inspite of the efforts of Pakistan government to preserves the tribes with its genuine customs,clothes,religions and beliefs. The population is also decreasing due to the people adopting  Islam. It is deemed as one of the world’s endangered community.

Pragya is a pursuing Journalism in New Delhi. Twitter @pragya1527



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