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A young Kalashi girl. Image source:

From the higher Rumbur valley of Pakistan, the Kalash community is a traditional sect of pagan people from North-West Pakistan with a rich, yet threatened culture. A place which is certainly cut off from the rest of the nation, Rumbur valley has no electricity or newspapers and no phone networks. They have one thing in abundance, which is militancy.

There are numerous reasons as to why the Kalashis are under threat, and one of them is Paganism. They worship one ‘creative God’ as refuse to accept Islam while the rest of Pakistan constitutes Muslims. And because they call everyone else Pakistani (despite the fact that they too belong to Pakistan), this community is too prone to sudden violence by Muslims. The security is heightened in the valley, especially during the Kalash festival Joshi, celebrated on the onset of Spring, mentioned reports.

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People wear traditional clothes, beat drums and sing traditional songs, drink wine and make merry under this liberating sky. The concern for security or disapproval from other communities doesn’t lessen their celebrations. The ‘Chilam Joshi’ festival is a four-day festival that starts from the Rumber Valley and ends at Bhamboriyat.

Military forces create another trouble across the valley. After every few metres can be found a militant from the ATS to secure the foreign tourists from majorly Taliban; abductions were common here a few years ago. After recent earthquakes and other calamities, the Kalash community highly depends on tourism for an earning. Cattle and livestock or agricultural activities cannot be held here, reported


Conversion is a recurring problem for people belonging to this community. Many women convert from Kalash to Muslim or others after marriage, and men often accept Islam to reach their material goals. Another major reason for conversion is usually that Kalash is an ‘expensive’ culture- where ethnic clothes, weddings and funerals are expensive. The newer generation doesn’t want to learn about their group, they are not interested in learning their traditional songs.

The Kalash community is believed to be descendants of Alexander the Great and his troops who invaded Kalash. They are fairer people with bright coloured eyes, as opposed to comparatively darker skinned Pakistanis. There are not more than 3500 Kalashis in Rumbur and Chitral in total, and they are under constant threat of Taliban.

– prepared by Chetna Karnani, at NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna




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