In the north of Pakistan, in the Hindukush range along the Afghanistan border lives a small tribe of people known as Kalasha or Kalash. The Kalash valley is sub-divided into three valleys named, Birir, Bumboret, and Rumbor. The Waighli or Kalash people are descendants of Dardic Indo-Aryans, with their own native culture, customs, heritage, and language.
However, the real history behind the origin of this tribe is still ambiguous that is masked behind different myths and theories. Where some believe them to be the progeny of Alexander the Great, there some consider them to be the migrants of the neighboring valley of Kafiristan (land of kafirs, also called Nuristan).
It is said that the ruler of Afghanistan named Amir Abdul Rahman in 1885-86, occupied the Nuristan area, and enforced their natives to accept Islam. This was the period, when the people of Nuristan, migrated to Chitral to protect their religion and culture.
Some historians also think that the forefathers of present-day Kalasha fled from Tsiam or now Siam, modern-day Thailand. It is the reason they are also called Siah posh.
Whom Do Kalash people follow?
They follow their own religion, customs, and rituals. The people of Kalash do not follow a single god or object rather they are animist, worshipping about 12 Gods and goddesses and various other statues and objects. Their religion is considered to be an ancient form of Hinduism, altered with time and the neighboring areas.
The rituals and customs of the Kalash tribe show a glimpse of traditions that were practiced in the area of Nuristan before their conversion.
Today, the people of Kalash are divided by religion; half of them are Muslims while the other half follows their ancient indigenous religion.
Like Hinduism, Kalash people worship different gods for different purposes. They worship deity Jeztak, as he is considered to be the ruler of life and family. Similarly, they follow different deities named, Indr, Munjem Malek, and Imra, etc.
The Kalash valley has shrines and altars of their different gods where the people regularly perform sacrifices. Worship of deities is done in the same way as Hindu poojas.
Crows are considered to be their ancestors, for which they are given immense importance. They are fed often mainly in tombs with the left hand.
Another ritual performed by them is that the people of Kalash do not bury their dead ones under their ground, rather their coffins are kept on the ground.
Considering the origin of Kalasha from Genetic point of View
Through the DNA studies, the people of Kalash have found to be genetically diverse. Their genetic analysis shows that the lineage of Kalash is not related to any East or South Asian lineages but it is linked to Western Eurasian lineage.
However, scientists find no proof of their association or genetic linkage to Alexander the Great.
So, nothing about the origin and history of the Kalash tribe can be clearly said.
Historically, the wealth of Kalasha was measured in crops and livestock. But with time cash-based economy began to prevail in the valley. Their economy is supported greatly by tourism. Travelers are made to pay toll taxes upon entering the village that is used on the preservation of the culture and needs of the people of the valley.
The Kalash tribe is endangered-By What?
The population of Kalash valley was once thought to be around 200,000 which is now greatly reduced to only 3000-4000. Such a striking decrease in the number can be attributed to the enforced conversion to Islam. Indeed, this forceful conversion has now become one of the crucial reasons for the decline of the Kalash tribe. The people were being pressurized both directly and to turn to Islam. The young population of the valley was approached by Muslim Tablighi to guide and educate them about Islam as older ones were stubborn and reluctant in their beliefs.
Some Muslim extremists begin to enforce the conversion to Islam and such acts raised tension between two groups. But the government of Pakistan has now banned all such activities and other tablighis to enter the valley, it the view of protecting the cultural heritage and freedom of the minority group.
Even after the protective measures of the government, the Muslims living in proximity to Kalash valley are still being portrayed as oppressors as more people are being converted to Islam. The reason behind this conversion of Kalash people is no more pressure from extremists but their sense of being alone and left out.
The Kalash converted people are by themselves encouraging their friends, family, and relatives to follow Islamic teachings.
Moreover, ongoing modernization has though killed the traditions and customs of many nations. Same is the case with the Kalash valley; people there are becoming motivated to leave the simple traditional life of a village to live in a city a luxurious life.
The constitution of Pakistan has ensured equal rights to minorities in any part of the country and condemns any sort of extremist movement. The law is formulated to safeguard the life, customs, and traditions of the people of Kalash. It is the reason that has helped such old religion and heritage from extinction so far.