Rituals, Festivals and gods of Kalash Valley

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Shafaqna Pakistan:The inhabitants of the Kalash valley celebrate a number of festivals all year round and these are excellent displays of the cultural practices of the tribe. Visitors are known to plan their trips around the festivals in order to experience the Kalash to the fullest. The three predominant festivals in the valleys are:

Chillam Joshi/Joshi

Chilam Joshi festival starts at Rumbur and then further proceeds to the other valleys of Kalash. This three-day long event is held in May to mark the arrival of the yearly spring. To celebrate in spirits of hope and aspiration, women are seen wearing colourful new apparel adorned with cowry shells, coins and beads; their hair is styled in braids and headdresses – which weigh several pounds and are presented to the girls by their uncles; and accessories include traditional jewellery made from apricot kernels.

Vibes of joy and gratitude are felt all around Hindukush when girls go to the hillside for dances and singing. New-born babies and their mothers are also purified in this festival as per tradition and the graveyards visited to remember those passed, among many other rituals. On one of the days, the people traditionally pray for the safeguard of their fields and animals.

And for this purpose, they spread fresh milk on nearby plains and fields, which are symbolic to their Gods. The most beautiful sights, along with beauty of the valleys, are the smiles seen on the faces of unmarried Kalasha boys and girls, as they choose their life partners during the festivities. The suspense ends as they announce the names of those chosen on the last day of the festival.

Uchau

This festival takes place in mid-August, at the altar of Mahandeo, to pay homage to their Gods for blessing them with the year’s harvest. Here, newly made cheese, buttermilk and corn is brought from the pastures. Prayers then follow a procession to Balankuru, in the outskirts of the valleys, where dancing and singing forms an integral part of the commemoration and continues for the rest of the night.

Caumus

It is the most important festival held in mid-December. This festival marks and celebrates the end of the harvest and during this time, animals are sacrificed to provide food source for the winter season. The pastoral God, Sorizan, is believed to protect the herds in fall and winter, who is then thanked at the Caumus Festival.

The tribal elders are seen gathering at hilltops to watch the rising sun of the new year, which is followed by goat sacrifices made to the Goddess, “Jastak”, whose blood is then sprinkled at the temple Jastarkhan.