History

The last Kalash

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  • The Kalasha are a Dardic Indo-Aryan indigenous people residing in the Chitral District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. They speak the Kalasha language, from the Dardic family of the Indo-Aryan branch. They are considered unique among the people of Pakistan.

    The culture of the Kalash people is unique and differs in many ways from the many contemporary Islamic ethnic groups surrounding them in northwestern part of Pakistan.They are polytheists and nature plays a highly significant and spiritual role in their daily life. As part of their religious tradition, sacrifices are offered and festivals held to give thanks for the abundant resources of their three valleys. Kalasha Desh (the three Kalash valleys) is made up of two distinct cultural areas, the valleys of Rumbur and Bumburet forming one, and Birir Valley the other; Birir Valley being the more traditional of the two.

    The ancient culture of the Kalash people is threatened. Almost 4,000 still live at the foot of the Himalayas between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But modern life is making inroads here, too.

    Legend says the Kalash are descendants of Greek troops who settled here during the campaigns of Alexander the Great. But the tale is debatable. DNA researchers suspect they originated in Afghanistan, but the Kalash cling to the story, saying they are of western and European appearance. Over the course of history, most of them were forcibly converted to Islam or killed. A small part of the community, however, survived in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They are polytheists and live in a very traditional way, far from the modern, big cities.

    The younger generation often has to decide whether to stick to tradition or pursue a modern life. Many are engaged in a balancing act between the desire to maintain their culture and religion and the opportunity to move beyond the limited opportunities of their home villages. This film asks the Kalash how they see the future of their traditions. Will they be able to maintain them?

    Directed by: Sabiha Sumar

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