How The Black Kafirs Of Pakistan Are Being Robbed Of Their Culture

By Momina Mindeel | 5 Nov, 2016

Donned in round, black full-length robes which give them the ‘siah-posh Kafir‘ (black kafir) name, with layers and layers of cowrie shell necklaces draped around their necks, the Kalashi women roam around the streets of Rumbur valley without a care for what lies for them in the world outside. It’s so not a typical Pakistani neighborhood sight. One can find Kalashi women filling their water pitchers while some sit on their house roofs laughing and talking. You can hear Chitrali/Kalashi songs blaring from the jeeps that have brought the tourists from Chitral to Kalash in, while Kalashi men and children dance to the songs. The women are a little shy when it comes to dancing in public except on their festivals. But the days for this care-free frivolity are numbered. The culture, religion and customs of the Kalash people are under threat from neighboring communities who have a hard time accepting these harmless folks living among them.

 

Who are these people and where did they come from?

kalash-women
Via: Express Tribune

Kalash Valleys; Rumbur, Bumbereit and Birir are located in the Chitral district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There are several stories regarding the origin of the people that have come to inhabit them. Some call them the descendants of Alexandar the Great while others suggest that they migrated from the Nuristan area of Afghanistan. Irrespective of their origin, what is highly alarming is that this fascinating community is on its way to extinction. Their numbers decreased from 10,000 in 1951 to a mere 3,700 in 1998. Today, the number is still declining on account of lives lost to floods and forced conversions – thanks to their Muslim neighborhood.

The adorably little Kalashi children, while frolicking around the streets, will casually tell you that Muslims are bad; a vivid manifestation of the fact that the community is indeed bothered by forced conversions, to say the least.

 

The culture of these people is beautiful mix of dichotomies, that are sadly becoming less apparent in the rest of Pakistan

kalash-culture
Source: rferl.org

While they have a festival called ‘Rot Not’ where young men and women meet, dance and choose their own life partners freely, the women are confined to a place called Bashali during periods and pregnancies. When on a visit to the valley, we expressed wish to visit Bashali, we were told that we would have to take a ritual bath and change into new clothes before we were allowed to go in.

The Ibadat Gah, or places of worship, of the Kalashi people are open only to men so while the men in our party went to visit the Ibadat Gah, we sat outside in an open dancing hall and watched the little kids play with their headdresses. I asked to try one and it turned out to be way heavier than I expected it to be yet the Kalashi women carry it with such poise.

 

The people have a connection to the nature around them like no other

The people of Kalash celebrate life and commemorate the arrival of each season with special festivals for each of them. Apart from Rot Not, they have four other festivals to celebrate the arrivals of summer, spring, winter and autumn separately. ChilmJust, the summer festival, is the most renowned of all.

kalash-woman
Source: adventurepakistan.com

This community, organic to its core, prefers eating huge, thick round bread made out of barley with bakri ki lassi for most part of the day. Contrary to the popular belief, most of them have a significant command over Urdu, they have their own schools, a few shops here and there selling shoes and packets of non-brand chips, one or two dhabas and lots of colors. Some young people go to nearby cities, like Peshawar, for higher education. Everyone is friendly and we ended up making tons of friends at the end of the four days we stayed.

The colorful community of Kalash with its immensely beautiful lakes and walking trails is a sight to behold. One wishes to hear the sounds of the cowrie shell necklases on Kalashi women for centuries to come, as it is but a part of our rapidly declining indigenous culture.

 

Cover Image Via: dawn.com

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