By Koumal Ahmed
Kalash is a beautiful valley situated in the Chitral District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Some people believe the Kalash people belong to the blood line of Alexander the great’s army but it’s still unproven. This place is also known as Kaafiristan and the religion they follow is polytheist. This small and beautiful valley is a source of attraction for Pakistani’s as well as international tourists. Kalash valley actually consists of three small valleys; Bumburet, Rambur and Biriu. These valleys are less populated and interconnected.
The view on the way to Chitral-Kalash is adventurous as well as scenic. I would like to mention Lowari tunnel here, it’s a long tunnel connecting Dir and Chitral valley , which is the actual route. As the tunnel was going through some construction phase so we took the other route. As we were taking this route we visited upper dir and all the praises to Almighty; what a beauty. Huge River flowing on one side, waterfall on the other. There was a small hotel where we had our delicious breakfast with chai and crispy parathay right in front of this mesmerizing view. On the way to Kalash you will find huge mountains of hindu kush range; in which Tirich Mir is the highest, fully covered with snow.
Kalash valley comprise of small beautiful meadows where cows and goats are having their rest time, small interconnected houses, very simple and raw, stunning river that excites you and at the same time scares you to death and lots of greenery, The air is fresh and clean, every single breath you take makes you feel alive. The clean river water is the best thing to drink, cold and refreshing. Far away through the foggy sky you will see huge mountains covered in snow.
It was mid of May and the weather was unexpectedly cold and windy. The sky was loaded with heavy clouds and we were just wondering that it might rain any time and it happened, luckily we all were carrying our rain coats. We were camping and my goodness our woolen clothes failed to keep us warm, the only thing that helped us fighting that weather was the bon fire at night. Bon fires are always the attractive part of such trips and fun filled too. The guitar, music, dance, gossips, laughter and what not all around that fascinating bonfire. Huh I miss it!
Fortunately I got the chance to attend one of their festivals which is called Josht festival but widely it’s known as Chillam Joshi festival. This festival takes place in May each year to welcome the summer season. It’s a three day festival for which they have a different ritual for each day. They start their festival by offering goat milk to people then come the dance ritual, where they sing and dance dressed beautifully in their colorful cultural dress. Their dance is as unique as their overall culture, all women gather together, holding each other’s hands tightly and forming a close circle performing their cultural dance and singing some Kalashi song along with drums. Woah! What a beautiful experience it was. So much color, beauty and music around us.
We knew there is a lot more to their culture and we were curious to know it in detail. For that we hired a local guide; let me introduce you to Mr.Aslam whose nickname was Lee. What an amazing guide he was. Such a lively person with great sense of humor. So he exploration journey starts with Mr.Lee. We visited their graveyard which had open graves. The guide told us that they have a ritual of not burying the dead bodies; instead leaving the graves open for the crows to come and eat the body which is considered a sacred thing in their culture.
Another thing we were astound to know was whenever someone in their family or in Kalash dies, people from all the three valleys gather for few days and celebrates the death of their loved one. They believe that our soul is caged in our body and when someone dies they are free from that cage and meet the loved ones who are already gone from this world. We also got the chance to visit their museum; it was small but beautiful architecture and well maintained.
Our guide showed us few statutes and the history of those was when someone dies in their valley, one of the family member in the memory of the loved one makes his/her statue. Now it’s not a simple statue it is made after performing another custom which again amazed us. He told us that after leaving the body in the graveyard for few days one of the family member visits there and loudly call out “where are you?” and they believe one of the trees answer back “here I am”. If they get the answer they cut that specific tree and makes the statue out of it and if they don’t they will try this calling out practice for three days and still if they don’t get the reply that means no statue will be made for the person who passed away.
We inquired about their education levels. We were told that after school for higher studies they mostly go to Peshawar. Our guide Lee himself was preparing for his B.A exams. The majority of their women were working and confident. Kalash is a place where you would enjoy more if you love to study cultures. It’s a place with unique cultural practices. We requested our local guide to tell us more about their culture in regard to their marriage ceremony. We were told here girl usually get married in an early age but what he told us next was astonishing. He said if a girl wants to marry another man as in if she wants to change husband so she will convey the message to her prospective husband; offering herself in marriage and also informing him that he have to pay double the amount of what her current husband paid to her parents. The soon to be husband pays double the amount to the present husband and the matter is solved.
We requested Lee to tell us what their specialty in food is and where can we find it, and our always smiling tour guide took us to his place where he served us freshly made walnut bread (roti) with piping hot red beans. Olalala…the soft roti filled with walnuts, every bite was simply delicious and so were the beans. I was enjoying the walnut bread more because that was something very unique. It’s a must try! We also tried chapli kababs, fried fish and pakoras from road side while taking the tour to this valley and the experience of food being cooked right in front of your eyes, served piping hot while you sitting and eating on the river side is just unexplainable.. You got to try it on your own. Not to forget countless cups of ‘garam chai’, simply what I needed after that delicious food we had.
This trip was one of its kind, as always we met a lot of people and made new friends, had crazy and learning experiences, great scenic views, delicious food and a lot more. I believe every trip you make gives you a chance to explore yourself, learn and add something new to your knowledge and takes you a step ahead on the journey to gain wisdom. So travel and explore the world; with that explore yourself too. Life is all about exploring and learning.
Will catch you guys soon again with some new fantastic and worth sharing experiences!
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More about the writer; Koumal Ahmed:
An enthusiastic, adventurous and versatile personality who believes that you can change your world by changing the way you look at it and perceive it. She is an observant person who loves to read different behaviors of people around. She wants to be an inspirational speaker and motivational force for people to help them achieve what they what in life by guiding them through her knowledge and learning. Her inspirations comes from quotations, people around her, and any good content she finds anywhere, meeting people and listening to their life journeys. Her understanding about life is that each one of us is looking for one basic thing in life and that is happiness/contentment and that could be achieved by making small amendments in ourselves by positively altering our attitude towards our problems, life, our behavior and also through our communication skills. Koumal is an adventure loving person who loves to travel to explore the world and with that the idea is to explore her too. Her idea about life is to invest time in yourself to find the hidden talents that you have and push your limits to know how far you can go with the inner strength you have in you.
She holds her Master degree in Advertising. Koumal has served the industry for more than five years in different fields of events, client servicing and marketing as part of different organizations. She was part of one of the radio station of Pakistan as RJ and also appeared on screen in morning shows as a celebrity guest representing women on different topics. Presently she works on her own as a consultant and does freelance work in collaboration with different groups. Koumal is a fitness freak and thus she is a certified yoga trainer too, with that she attended 4th Dimension course with Dr.Moiz Hussain. She believes yoga and meditation connects you to yourself and the higher authority that’s guiding us through every step of our life. Reading books and searching for good content on internet is also one of those ways by which she nourishes her soul.She loves to travel and explore the world, a wanderer who is always looking for something new and makes a new story each time she travels.
The Secret by Rohnda Byrne, Leadership Wisdom from the Monk who sold his Ferrari (the eight rituals of the best leaders) by Robin Sharma, The power of your subconscious mind by Joseph Murphy, Self Power by Deepak Chopra and Unlimited power by Anthony Robbins. These are the books that she recommends to every person who is seeking a change in life and who wants to know how to use the power we have in us to manifest what we want to achieve in our life. These books empowered and motivated her to think differently and to see life in a different manner and learn great leadership skills.