2017-09-08 | Society

Kalash people cling to unique culture and history

By Alamgir Khan

Numbering only 4,100, the Kalash people inhabit a scenic valley surrounded by the Hindu Kush.


The Kalash Valley in Chitral District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is shown in August. [Alamgir Khan]
The Kalash Valley in Chitral District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is shown in August. [Alamgir Khan]
The Kalash Valley in Chitral District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is shown in August. [Alamgir Khan]

Numbering only 4,100, the Kalash people inhabit a scenic valley surrounded by the Hindu Kush.

CHITRAL DISTRICT -- In a valley in Chitral District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, ringed by the Hindu Kush mountains, the Kalash people preserve their culture, language and religion.

The Kalash practise a religion, Kalasha, described as a blend of Islam and ancient Hinduism.

"We have a unique culture," Kalash woman Shaheen Gul told Pakistan Forward. "Tourists come to our homes and buy Kalash dresses and learn about our culture."

  • 
A Kalash girl stands near her house in the Kalash Valley, Chitral District, in August. [Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash girl stands near her house in the Kalash Valley, Chitral District, in August. [Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash girl stands near her house in the Kalash Valley, Chitral District, in August. [Alamgir Khan]

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Kalash girls learn computer skills in August. [Alamgir Khan]

    Kalash girls learn computer skills in August. [Alamgir Khan]

    Kalash girls learn computer skills in August. [Alamgir Khan]

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A Kalash girl fills a container with spring water. [Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash girl fills a container with spring water. [Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash girl fills a container with spring water. [Alamgir Khan]

  • 
A Kalash mother holds her baby. [Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash mother holds her baby. [Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash mother holds her baby. [Alamgir Khan]

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A Kalash woman stands with her baby in her doorway. [Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash woman stands with her baby in her doorway. [Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash woman stands with her baby in her doorway. [Alamgir Khan]

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A Kalash girl poses for the camera. Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash girl poses for the camera. Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash girl poses for the camera. Alamgir Khan]

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Kalash boys play cricket on the spot where women dance at other times. [Alamgir Khan]

    Kalash boys play cricket on the spot where women dance at other times. [Alamgir Khan]

    Kalash boys play cricket on the spot where women dance at other times. [Alamgir Khan]

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A Kalash woman bakes nan (bread) at home. [Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash woman bakes nan (bread) at home. [Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash woman bakes nan (bread) at home. [Alamgir Khan]

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Kalash girls are shown playing. [Alamgir Khan]

    Kalash girls are shown playing. [Alamgir Khan]

    Kalash girls are shown playing. [Alamgir Khan]

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A Kalash woman sells traditional dresses in her shop. [Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash woman sells traditional dresses in her shop. [Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash woman sells traditional dresses in her shop. [Alamgir Khan]

  • 
A Kalash woman poses in her traditional dress. [Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash woman poses in her traditional dress. [Alamgir Khan]

    A Kalash woman poses in her traditional dress. [Alamgir Khan]

  • 
Kalash women perform a traditional dance. [Alamgir Khan]

    Kalash women perform a traditional dance. [Alamgir Khan]

    Kalash women perform a traditional dance. [Alamgir Khan]

  • 
Other Kalash women are shown dancing. [Alamgir Khan]

    Other Kalash women are shown dancing. [Alamgir Khan]

    Other Kalash women are shown dancing. [Alamgir Khan]

  • 
Kalash men discuss various topics. [Alamgir Khan]

    Kalash men discuss various topics. [Alamgir Khan]

    Kalash men discuss various topics. [Alamgir Khan]

Gul graduated from the University of Peshawar and resides in Kikral village, one of only 12 villages in the Kalash Valley.

"Gen. Pervez Musharraf [the then-president of Pakistan] visited my home," she recalled.

"We are just 4,100 people in all 12 villages," Shaira, 27, another Kalash woman, told Pakistan Forward. She was the first Kalash woman to obtain a master's degree in international relations from the University of Peshawar.

"Poverty and lack of education kept my tribe backward and unaware of its basic human rights," she said.

Only this year, the Peshawar High Court ordered the Pakistani government to include the Kalasha religion as an option on the census.

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