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Kalash: amazing people in the mountains of Pakistan

Author: 17.02.2017 | tradition, Pakistan
While watching Discovery or other popular science shows it seems that our planet has been explored and examined length and breadth long ago. However some phenomena that we come across in our lives literally knock us down. Like, for instance, the fact that in Hindu Kush Mountains mysterious and blonde Kalash people live in isolation and surrounded with Islamic states; and even modern science is unable to solve the riddle of its origins.

Up high in Hindu Kush Mountains where borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan meet, in remote Chitral District, amazing and cheerful Kalashs people live – and they even look uncommon for the area. Several villages of this pagan settlements account for about six thousand dwellers and most of them have never been outside their territories. This is courtesy of both self-sufficient way of life and the fact that some sort of resemblance of a road to the “big land” appeared merely twenty years ago due to efforts of … the Greeks. It is this fantastic, even in geographical terms, connection of highlanders and citizens of Hellas that has laid foundation to a romantic legend based on a failed “Indian” crusade of Alexander the Great.

According to the theory, warriors of the famous emperor, two men and two women, were so exhausted by fights and wearisome mountain passages that they, either being weakened or having committed desertion, stayed in those lands. When they cured their wounds and settled in, former soldiers took to things common for men and women – creation of future generations - which resulted in emergence of Kalash people. The story is beautiful and it sounds more convincing than the other two because according to one of then dwellers of Chitral are forefathers of the Slavs and according to another they are true Aryans that Hitler was so persistently looking for all over the world. Some also mention their alien origins but that’s one bold idea….

Even today scientists keep arguing about how things really were because while resembling Muslims, who live everywhere around, as little as possible, “on the inside” – meaning such indicators as DNA, pigmentation and blood count - the Kalashs are similar to Pakistanis and the Afghans of all peoples. This is probably why population of their villages decreases – many convert to Islam and leave. Still, when talking to locals you can but be astonished not just by their pristine minds (for instance, majority of them have no idea what tourists do when the latter ones take pictures) but also by the fact that they don’t know any other countries but Greece.

In addition to the road, Greek organizations have built several schools there and got electrification going though it works every other time in the mountains. But the Kalashs pay no attention to lack of civilization because their way of life with foraging, hunting, fishing and endless ceremonial feasts doesn’t really require anything else. Despite what seems like “wild life” at first glance, true democracy reigns in their settlements, thus, for instance, women have a right to choose a husband and can easily get a divorce. Their opinion is taken into account in family as well as whole-village matters, it isn’t rare that it is them who are trusted with the title of the senior of a village. Equality of sexes is observed in every sphere but work – representatives of the gentle sex are engaged in domestic chores while men not only bring kill home but also manage to grow wheat among stones.

Regardless of the fact that almost none of the Kalashs speak English, they are very sociable and open to the world. They respect their guests and invite them to participate in feasts and rituals, major of them are Joshi - feast of sowing, Uchau - feast of harvest and Chawmos - general pre-winter celebration in hopes that the season will be mild. During each of them all citizens dance nearby sacred place called Jashtak, painted with patterns, Greek style ones, by the way. Birthdays and funerals are celebtated in the greatest manner and during latter ones one cannot cry at all. Everyting is accompanied by drinking wine which is also completely uncommon for the region. And should one have enouh powers left, it is possible to play gul afterwards. It is hard to describe this kind of spot otherwise than a mix of lapta, golf and baseball. Everyone play it, from children to old folk; when asked, how old they are, threy most often answer "I don't know, I simply opened my eyes in this valley once and have lived ever since".

Among the Kalashs thre are own celebrities, for instance, Lakshan Bibi, a brave woman who's made a career of a pilot and created an international organization in support of her people. Knowledge and fame never changed her national features - she is still open, just as her fellow nationals, and she still lives among them, in Rumbur village. Another "star" is a Japanese Akiko Wada who has married a local dweller. She is an expart in small peoples, she says she came to the mountains to study the Kalashs but ultimately stayed for good. Nowadays other Japanese, her friends and relatives, visit them. From time to time scientists and researchers with their minds haunted with the mystery of the Kalashs, come there; and in number of tourists the British are in the lead because they of all other people, as former colonists of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, know the area very well and realize that there one can truly enjoy nature and such unusual people who remind that happiness is about simple things.

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