|An Introduction to
the Kalasha People in Chitral
The elevation is about 2000 meters. The style of the traditional house is two stories built of wood and stone. The ground floor is generally used as a storeroom and a place for cattle, and the people live on the upper floor.
The upper floor is about five square meters, and two meters high.
The fireplace is at the centre and the beds are located beside
the walls. Windows and doors are made small and a simple smoke
hole is made in the centre of the roof to permit smoke to escape.
The inside of the house is ingrained with soot. In summer, people
cook and sleep outside on the balcony attached to the upper floor.
The land is irrigated and is generally rich and fertile. The main crops are corn, wheat and millet. They are rotated in a two year cycle: Corn (May-October) - Wheat (November-May) - Millet (June-October) - Fallow (November-April). Each family has several fields and by shifting the cycle of rotation, it is possible to get each kind of crops every year.
Vegetables (such as tomatoes, potatoes, onions, beans and pumpkins) and fruit (such as apples, peaches, grapes, pears and pomegranates) are also produced.
Men perform the heavy tasks like harvesting and thrashing grain but most of the agricultural work ( irrigating, cultivating etc.) is performed by women.
Goats play an important role in the life of the Kalasha. Some people keep hundreds of them. They supply milk from which butter and various kinds of cheese are made. Especially, he-goats are ritually sacrificed to the gods in ceremonies. Sheep are kept for wool and a few bulls are raised for agricultural purposes and cows for milk.
From June to October, these cattle graze on highland alpine pastures near the Afghan-border. The cattlemen stay with the cattle and bring them back in autumn. In winter, sheep and cows are fed hay and goats are fed leaves of Holly Oak.
Grazing cattle is men's work but cows and sheep are sometimes looked after by women and children.
Traditional foods are round flat bread (made of wheat), milk, buttermilk, butter, cheese and walnut. Beans are important source of protein. Meat is eaten only on special occasions. A sort of porridge is made with meat soup and wheat flour. However nowadays bread made of corn, and soup made of tomatoes, onions, potatoes, and boiled vegetables are also eaten. These vegetables were introduced to the Kalasha with tea (milk tea) about thirty years ago. The custom to eat rice at special occasions was also brought by the Muslim.
Fruit is plentiful from summer to autumn and dried mulberries, apricots and their kernels and walnuts are eaten during the winter. Local wine is prepared during autumn and drunk. Formerly chicken and eggs were forbidden but nowadays these taboos are broken.
Though men wear Chitrali hats and Shalwar-Qamiz like an ordinary Pakistani, their traditional clothes are baggy trousers made of heavy wool with a waistcoat and a wide woven belt. They wrap their feet in goat skin which protects their legs and also serves as boots. Cattlemen wear a heavy overcoat from goat's hair to avoid the cold and snow in winter.
The women's costume is unique. They dress in a long sacklike black woolen gown which reaches to their ankles and tie a woolen sash at the waist. A long necklace made of white and red plastic beads, (it used to be coral) are coiled many times around their necks. On their heads they wear an ornamental headdress (Kuppas) and a hair band (Shushutr) decorated with cowrie shells. On the headdress, in addition to 500-600 cowrie shells, small bells, buttons and brooches are also attached and these make it quite heavy.
They also decorate themselves with metal and plastic bracelets, rings, hairpins and about twenty thin chains are hung from their waist. These shells and accessories are brought by traders. Women are occupied in spinning and weaving during the winter.
Every Kalasha belongs to his father's clan: Patrilineal descent. Villages are associated by one or several clans. One clan always resides together. Every clan has its own handed down stories concerning its origin. For example, the Blasinge clan of Brun village believe themselves to be the descendants of the King of Chitral until 18 generations ago, when they lost the battle with the Muslim. The Bazike clan of the same village came to Mumret from Afghanistan long ago but the Afghans came to their village and destroyed everything. After wondering about for a long time they came back to their land again.
The clan forms a unit when a ceremony takes place but they also have a sense of community in each village as a whole. Each valley in turn is also independent unit economically and religiously. Their operation as a community is discussed between representatives from each unit in a democratic way. One who is clever, reliable and who knows the traditional customs has power and authority, and one's finances and age are of no account.
One person is elected for the District Council of Chitral (33 regular members) and he is responsible for external affairs.
A man can not marry in his own clan: Exogamy. Formerly, a father used to search a girl for his son but nowadays free marriage is becoming popular.
In the Kalasha society, sex is quite open and love affairs are common. When a married woman marries another man, he has to give the former husband everything that the former husband gave her father (bulls, goats, saucepans, pots, guns, money etc.) doubling the amount. This event is called Dongrik. Thus, the woman has no responsibility for her love affairs.
After marriage the wife lives in her husband's house: Virilocal marriage. Most Kalasha have only one wife --- polygamy is rarely seen.
Most of the property left by the father (fields, trees and cattle) is divided equally among the sons, except that the eldest gets a little more than his share of these, plus, a cattle shed, while the youngest inherits his father's house. A woman has no rights of inheritance. Sometimes sons live together without dividing the property among themselves.