GVS Magazine Desk |
The Kalash Valleys are situated among the Hindu Kush mountain ranges of the Chitral District. The valleys’ serene beauty, lush green gorges and fruit farms make it an ideal tourist spot, not only in terms of its scenic beauty but also in terms of cultural diversity and religious shrines. Tribes of Kalasha have a rich culture and are very steadfast about their identity. These people stand out from other tribes, customs and communities of Pakistan.
The picturesque plains have historically been inhabited by a pagan community, whose origin remains unresolved; however, many DNA studies have proven that the people are descendants of Emperor Alexander the Great. This tribe of the blue-eyed, fair-skinned and golden-hair, are distributed among three valleys of Chitral, namely Rumbur, Brumbret, and Birir.
The losing team then sacrifices a bull to provide food for the winning team and arranges a musical party to enliven spirits after the exhausting day.
The Rumbur and Brumbret form a single culture due to the similarity of their practices – Brumbret is now inhabited by Muslims as well – while Birir being the most traditionally sound, forms a separate culture altogether.
Travel and Lodging
On arrival in Chitral, foreign visitors have to register themselves and their particulars with the local authorities. Tourism Corporation Khyber Pakhtunkwa’s Information center or CAMAT’s reception desk, at the airport or office in town, can provide guidance regarding the process of registration and allotment of security personnel.
The journey from Chitral to the valleys is done mostly by direct jeeps that leave around 1 pm from the center of Chitral. These Jeeps charge a measly 200 – 300 Rs per person. Chitral central bus stand also has options to hire shared cars – which is a great substitute for those travelling in groups or those with claustrophobia which takes them to Ayun, a town located about an hour away from Chitral. A seat costs around Rs 100 and a whole car, Rs.600. From Ayun, shared cars and Jeeps further go to the respective valleys. Foreigners with security personnel also have to pay for the seats of their associates.
Read more: Rituals, Festivals and Gods of Kalash Valley
The accommodation facilities of Kalash range from cozy but basic motels run by the locals, staying true to their cultural theme, situated in Rumbur and Birir, to relatively commercialized hotels found in Brumbret that are maintained by PTDC and a few other big hotel subsidiaries. Depending on the location, room rentals start from a decent Rs. 1,000 per night and go up to Rs. 4,000 or more. It is advised by frequent travelers to find abode in the lodges maintained by Kalash locals in order to experience their exotic cuisines and domestic customs.
Local Culture and Cuisine
The Kalasha tribe has a rich cultural atmosphere, known to be a delight for visitors. Their cuisine contains many indigenous dishes along with local Pakistani influences. One can see fruits and crops of the area as highlight of the meals. Their foods are entirely handmade and consist mostly of breads, cheeses, meats and walnuts. In fact, the Kalasha even make their own wine and liquor domestically. This untapped area of culinary surprises is vividly different from the rest of Pakistan.
The people of Kalash are the smallest religious minority of Pakistan. There is pressure from extremist religious groups against the openness of their culture and even some forced conversions to Islam, but all over the valley, there are signs warning against proselytizers coming into the area. Overall, though only a few still practice the Kalasha lifestyle, religion and speak the language.
In fact, UNESCO has announced their language to be officially endangered, given the lack of written scripts and the scarce population to keep it alive. However, despite the pressures of the outside world, the Kalash population has increased from 2,500 in the 1980’s to currently 4,100 people.
There are many sports played in the valleys, but snow golfing is the most famous winter-sport among the people; it is locally called cikik ghal, kirik ghal and himghal. The game is played between two villages without any specific players and victory is achieved by winning the best of three games. The losing team then sacrifices a bull to provide food for the winning team and arranges a musical party to enliven spirits after the exhausting day.