An Introduction to
the Kalasha People in Chitral
part 3


The Kalasha believe in a number of gods and goddesses ranking Khodai as the supreme.

Creator. Has no wife nor child. Creator of the universe, responsible for life, death, health, illness and harvest etc. He is supported by Parishita (angels) who chiefly do the work. Does not have any altar nor sanctuary.
Powerful and most favorite god that stays in the valleys. He has two altars in Mumret and one each in Rukmu and Biriu. They are symbolized by four horse heads. He-goats are sacrificed on occasions.
Goddess (Goddesses ?) who protects pregnancy, birth, marriage etc. She alone has a roofed temple (Jeshtakan). Every clan had this temple but many have collapsed nowadays. She also lives in each house.
God of cattle and cereal crops. Worshipped in Mumret only. He is a friend of Mahandeo but has a little less power. He has no altar but rather a sanctuary on the hillside opposite Batrik village.
Goddess entrusted with fruit worshipped in Mumret and Rukmu. She has power to give a child to an infertile mother. Also has power to improve weather.
Goddess. Ceremonies are held in the sanctuary to stop babies from crying. Also a lamb is sacrificed to restore good weather.
Worshipped only in Karakar village in Mumret. His power is regarded by inhabitants of Karakar to be equal to that of Mahandeo.
God who is worshipped in Darazguru village of Mumret valley. He is not so powerful but is a representative of Mahandeo. Has a small altar symbolized with two horse heads.
He comes to their land from Tsiam (Kalasha name for their native land) for four days with his wife Indr during the Chawmos festival. His power and the fear of him exceed that of Mahandeo.
Sajigor is worshipped in Rukmu and Warin in Biriu. They are both more powerful than Mahandeo and have a great power to destroy. They each have an altar.

These are only some of the gods and goddesses. There are others to which goats or lambs are sacrificed whenever occasion calls for them.


Pari & Parian
Pari are fairies and Parian elves living in Mt.Tirichi-Mir. People who are loved by them become insane and die. Their souls are lead to Mt.Tirichi-Mir after their death. One who is mentally retarded is regarded as being possessed by these fairies.
An evil spirit that lives in springs. It takes the black form of a bull or a goat and steals or rots the crops and food. People are forbidden to go to springs at the time when Bhut appears.

Besides these, there is a fairy called Suchi and spirits called Gurimun, Dualiwali and Bashjuao etc. People pray to them for the health of cattle and give thanks for hunting.

Pure - "Onjashta" Impure - "Prakata"

For the Kalasha, pregnant women and those having their menstrual periods are most Prakata (impure). They are isolated in a special house called Bashali. Even after the birth of the child, the mother and her baby have to remain there for ten days (in Mumret). Food is left outside by their family and one of the inmates comes out to collect it.

On the other hand, gods are Onjashta (sacred or pure). Between gods and Prakata women, there are certain degrees of purity inherent in the Kalasha country and their way of life. For example, a man is Onjashta, a woman is Prakata, an innocent boy is more Onjashta than adult. To become more Onjashta, a man has to wash his hands in the river. On special occasions when a higher degree of purity is required, he must wash at a spring, wear clean clothes and then sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on his head.

Because women are Prakata, they can not go to the altar or the sanctuary (except Jeshtakan). Nor can they eat the meat sacrificed to them. Furthermore, there is a place inside the house where the women are forbidden to step in. The roof and cattle shed are also out of bounds for women.


A shaman, "Dihar" goes into a self-induced trance and communicates with the gods. Formerly, Dihar used to travel through space and have supernatural power. These days, he only hears the voices of gods in his dreams. He is the most Onjashta of all human beings and is respected as such. But some young people have an antipathy toward him. He is not a priest nor does he take leadership in ceremonies. The office of Dihar is not hereditary but is bestowed on a man who hears the words of Khodai in his dream.


Khodai ordered Parishita to create Man. Parishita first made a giant but he was so big that he hit his head on the ceiling. Then he made a dwarf but he was so small that he got buried in the snow and could not walk. At last he made just the right size man.

This first man was Adiem and from his left rib, Bibiawa, the first woman, was formed. They both lived in heaven but when deceived by the Shaitan (Satan) Bibiawa ate wheat and had to defecate. Khodai became angry and expelled the two to earth. Soon they got married and many children were born. Thus the world was made.


Most important festival of the Kalasha held in December. One of the winter solstice festivals which spread north from Iran. It is held thus:





Tsatak Sarazari

Beginning of the festival. Boys and girls make bonfires and compete in the amount of smoke produced whilst they sing and dance. After that, they dance from house to house collecting walnuts and dried mulberries.


Gona Sarazari

After doing the same things as the previous day they sing in separate groups of boys and girls and burn old baskets at midnight.


Gosh Saras

Ceremony for purifying the cattle shed. Wash all clothes and clean the houses.



Festival of leaves and reeds. Sing and dance in Jeshtakan.



Draw pictures on the pillars and walls of Jeshtakan.



Ceremony of the dead. Special bread and fruit are offered to the dead.



Girls eat the offerings and throw the remainder into the river so that it will reach the dead.



Balimain comes. The society enter into a sacred sphere. Ceremony of sacrificial bread (for women). Men sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on all male members of the village (Istongas ceremony).



Initiation ceremony for children to become independent Kalasha ( for boys and girls at the age of three --- only boys undergo a second initiation at the age of five). The village representatives go to the altar at night and sacrifice goats to Mahandeo.



Every man goes to Idorein (Sanctuary of Balimain). This is the climax of the Chawmos. The details of this ceremony are kept secret from women.


Amatak Saras

Ceremony to see off Balimain. A ritual is held for the society to return to normal life.



Ceremony of fox hunting. Joking festival. Some men and women wear clothes of the opposite sex and dance with faces masked.

Dautatu (24/Dec.)
Festival of beans. Girls go to dancing and singing in the village and collect beans. Next day they divide the boiled beans and eat them.
Kagayak (2-3/Jan.)
Festival of crows. Flat bread stuffed with meat is made. At midnight songs are sung to praise "the (mythical) white crows". Next morning they throw the beans to the first (black) crow that is seen flying and sing songs to abuse it.
Kambauchak (3/Jan.)
Festival of little dolls. They make small dolls and give them to children. After a week they throw them outside the village.
Kilasaras (12-13/Apr.)
On the first night a ceremony for cleansing the cattle shed is held. Next night representatives of each village gather in the sanctuary of Ingao and eat newly made cheese. After Kilasaras women can drink goat milk and the farming begins.
Spring festival. People wear new dress and women decorate themselves.






Girls go to the hillside dancing and singing and collecting flowers.



Women decorate their houses, temples (Jeshtakan) and cattle shed with flowers before dawn. Then they go to the cattle sheds dancing and singing and collect milk which has been kept for ten days. At night, a ceremony is held in each cattle shed by men.


Tsatak Joshi

A ceremony to purify one year old babies and their mothers. All the Kalasha gather to dance and sing.


Gona Joshi

Dancing and singing continue for the whole day (more than previous day).

Mrachiwaki Joshi (29/May)
Held ten days after the Joshi. After dividing and eating newly made cheese at the altar of Mahandeo, dances and songs continue.
Rat Nat (July - August)
Dancing and singing at night continue for one month.
Uchao (Middle of August)
Newly made cheese is brought from the pastures. Ceremony is held at the altar of Mahandeo. Dancing and singing take place until dawn.
Prechiaishi (November)
Goats are sacrificed to Mahandeo by each clan in thanks for the harvest and health.
Biramor (November)
Very rare festival held only in November in which a man wishing to gain honour in the society slaughters many of his own goats and entertains a large majority of the Kalasha. It takes place once in several ten years.
Sariack (November - December)
Wedding party. She-goats are sacrificed to Jeshtak and prayers are offered for the couple. Dance and songs.
Pu and Budalak (October)
Festival only held in Biriu. Dancing and singing continue for three days. After Pu, grapes are allowed to be harvested. After that, a festival is held for the Budalak who returns from long stay in the pastures. He is a young goatherd who has some special sexual power and privileges.

I would like to thank Mr. Greg Cooper for the translation

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