Wednesday December 13, 2017

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

Kalash Women

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

  • sudheer naik

    There is still controversy over what defines the ethnic characteristics of the Kalasha and what exactly is their number.

  • Annesha Das Gupta

    Interesting bit of information about the Kalash. It was particularly, surprising to know that they still worship the Greek gods. Impressive.

  • b

    Annesha do read about the Kalash on
    The picks there are beautiful. Dated 12.4

  • Pragya Jha

    it is considered as a lost tribe and they don’t follow Islam even they are residing in Pakistan instead they are worshipping Greek Gods.Intresting

  • sudheer naik

    There is still controversy over what defines the ethnic characteristics of the Kalasha and what exactly is their number.

  • Annesha Das Gupta

    Interesting bit of information about the Kalash. It was particularly, surprising to know that they still worship the Greek gods. Impressive.

  • b

    Annesha do read about the Kalash on
    The picks there are beautiful. Dated 12.4

  • Pragya Jha

    it is considered as a lost tribe and they don’t follow Islam even they are residing in Pakistan instead they are worshipping Greek Gods.Intresting

Next Story

Adivasi Mulniwasi Adhikar Parishad, a Tribal Body demands a Separate Land for Adivasis in Nagpur

An Adivasi social, educational, cultural and economic protection act was also put forward in order to safeguard the rights of indigenous tribes

Tribals of India, Flickr

Nagpur, Nov 16, 2016: There is no reason found in displacing thousands of Adivasis from their native lands because these places belong to them more. Satish Pendam, President of Adivasi Mulniwasi Adhikar Parishad said that the state government should provide separate land for Adivasis. He said this during a tribal rally at Old Morris College ground, Dhantoli.

The rally was held in honour of freedom fighter Birsa Munda, to celebrate his 141st birth anniversary. Self-Respect Movement, Birsa Brigade, Unique Society for Social Justice and Adivasi Bachao Andolan jointly hosted the rally, mentioned TOI.

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Addressing the gathering he said,”We celebrate anniversaries of great personalities to learn from on their teachings and values. Birsa’s teaches humanity and that all human beings are equal.” Focusing on the hardships of tribals he said, “There are more blood banks in rural areas for a good reason. But, our people have to sell their blood in order to feed their children.”

On the issue of rape of the minor trial girls in Ashramshala, a Buldhana district, Pendam said, ” We will not sit silently as Adivasi girls get abused by people of the upper caste. The government’s silence on the issue shows that it is going slow on the culprits.”

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Talking about the Right to Identity for the tribe, he said to TOI, “We have been residing on this land longer than any other community. Actually, we are the owners of this land and its time the nation recognises this.”

Along with Pendam, members of the organising parties Jogilal Ilpache, Shankar Uike, Marotrao Kolwate and 35 Sarpanches from the district attended the event. Rajiv Poddar, BJP President of Nagpur district was the Chief guest.

Different speakers also voiced issues like the social identity of indigenous people and Adivasi personal law. An Adivasi social, educational, cultural and economic protection act was also put forward in order to safeguard the rights of indigenous tribes, mentioned TOI.

Around 1,000 people became a part of this rally from villages of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra. Folk dances shown by men and women of the tribal community and Folk songs by children were presented during the rally.

– prepared by Chesta Ahuja, NewsGram.  Twitter: @ahuja_chesta


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Tribe travels 5,000 miles to protest against Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Projects in Lumbini Nation, Washington

A coalition of tribes turned out in June after an oil train derailed in Mosier

Linda Soriano of the Lummi Nation performs a smudge ceremony at Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, fanning smoke from burning sage with eagle feathers onto a totem pole, Aug. 25, 2016. Image source: VOA

A Pacific Northwest tribe is traveling nearly 5,000 miles across Canada and the United States with a 22-foot-tall totem pole on a flatbed truck in a symbolic journey meant to galvanize opposition to fossil fuel infrastructure projects they believe will imperil native lands.

This is the fourth year the Lummi Nation in northwest Washington has embarked on a “totem journey” to try to create a unified front among tribes across North America that are individually fighting plans for coal terminals and crude oil pipelines in their backyards.

The highly visible tours, which include tribal blessing ceremonies at each stop, fit into a trend of Native American tribes bringing their environmental activism to the masses as they see firsthand the effects of climate change, said Robin Saha, a University of Montana associate professor who specializes in tribal issues and environmental justice.

“I wouldn’t go as far as to say there’s an anti-development movement, but tribes are feeling the effects of climate change quite dramatically and are responding in a lot of different ways,” Saha said. “Some of them feel as if they’re not going to survive.”

Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

In North Dakota, for example, people from across the country and members of 60 tribes have gained international attention after gathering in opposition to the four-state Dakota Access oil pipeline. The totem pole heads to that site, near the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation, next week.

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Tribes in the Pacific Northwest have engaged in public protests and taken legal action as West Coast ports have emerged as strategic locations for crude oil and coal companies to reach customers in energy-hungry Asia. Seven crude oil or coal export terminals are proposed for conversion, expansion or construction on the Oregon and Washington coast. Some have already led to increased freight train traffic along the scenic Columbia River Gorge, where local tribes fish salmon.

A coalition of tribes turned out in June after an oil train derailed in Mosier. The oil from the derailment mostly burned off in a huge fire, but a small amount entered the Columbia River where the tribes have federally guaranteed fishing rights.

“We’re all trying to unite our voices to make sure we’re all speaking out,” said Jewell James, a Lummi tribal member and head carver at the House of Tears Carvers.

In recent years, cheap natural gas has prompted many domestic utilities to abandon coal, driving down production at major mines in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal producing region. Asian coal markets have become a potential lifeline for the mining industry — and Pacific Northwest ports are seen as the anchor.

The Lummi Nation launched a savvy public relations campaign last year against what would have been the nation’s largest coal export terminal proposed for Cherry Point, Washington, at the heart of their ancestral homeland.

In May, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a needed permit for the Gateway Pacific terminal after finding it would damage tribal fishing rights.

This year’s 19-day totem trek started Tuesday in Vancouver, British Columbia, and makes a stop Friday in Longview, Washington, where a similar shipping terminal would export 44 million tons of coal annually to Asian markets. With the Gateway Pacific project on ice, the Longview project would now be the nation’s largest coal export terminal.

It would mean 16 coal trains a day, mostly from mines in Montana and Wyoming, and an additional 1,600 round-trip vessel calls a year in the lower Columbia River, said Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, senior organizer with the Columbia Riverkeeper. There are concerns that wake from the ships could strand juvenile salmon and impact tribal fishing, she said.

Bill Chapman, president and CEO of Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview, said in an emailed response to questions that a draft environmental review by Washington state and county officials found there would be no impacts to tribal fishing. Trains already run through the area on established tracks and have caused no issues, he added.

The terminal on the site of an old aluminum smelter plant would create hundreds of much-needed family wage jobs and is supported by labor unions, Chapman said.

“We’re building on a location where industry has existed for over 70 years,” he wrote. “Our export terminal is sited on a stretch of the Columbia River dotted with manufacturing plants and docks.”

A third large coal terminal in Oregon was dealt a blow this month when a judge upheld the state’s right to deny the project based on a similar threat to tribal fishing rights.

If proponents decide to appeal, the case will go to trial in November.

This year’s brightly painted totem weighs 3,000 pounds and is carved of western red cedar. An eagle with a 12-foot wingspan sits on top, and the pole itself features a wolf and bear — symbols of leadership, cunning and courage — as well as white buffalo and tribal figures, said James, who has been carving totem poles for 44 years.

To the sounds of drums and a prayer song, the 22-foot-tall totem pole was blessed in a smudge ceremony at the entrance of Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle Thursday. Lummi Nation member Linda Soriano fanned smoke from burning sage, covering the pole in a haze as sun rays beamed down. She then fanned the smoke through the crowd gathered outside the church.

“Mother Earth is hurting,” said Lummi Nation member Randy Peters Sr. as he began his prayer song, “Mother Earth has been hurting from all of the abuse that has been going on. The unsafe practices of the coal, and the mining and the transportation of energy.”

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Tribes in Oregon, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota and Canada will host the Lummi until their end point in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where tribes are fighting oil pipelines bound for the East Coast.

“You can’t put a price on the sacred. Our land and our water are sacred,” said Reuben George, manager of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative in Vancouver, British Columbia, where his tribe is opposed to a major oil pipeline. “This totem pole represents our laws, our culture and our spirituality.” (VOA)



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Kalash of Pakistan: The only Pagan Minority Community in Islamic Republic is under Threat

The Kalash community is believed to be descendants of Alexander the Great and his troops who invaded Kalash


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.

A young Kalashi girl. Image source:
A young Kalashi girl. Image source:

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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.

A group of Kalashis during the Joshi festival. Image source:
A group of Kalashis during the Joshi festival. Image source:

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


One response to “Kalash of Pakistan: The only Pagan Minority Community in Islamic Republic is under Threat”

  1. The Kalash of Pakistan may become the next Yazidi.

    Any genuine and distinctive minority in the World is under threat. Empires, whether Communist, Islam, British or Roman, or the Social Engineering Indian Republic are a threat to spirituality and cultural identity. Islam is an overt, self declared and vicious threat to all who are outside its intestines. That is the very proclamation of this “religion” in the Quran and the Hadiths.

    I might add, as just a few out of myriad examples, that Sabarimala, the Jalykattu, Kohlapur Mahalakshmi, Shaneeshwara Temple and the Brahmin way of life are being eradicated by the Indian Republic and its vicious Constitution, ugly laws a confiscation of other people’s property and religious freedoms, and, even more vicious courts.