Pakistan is a multiethnic country. The Kalash people are the unique existence among the various ethnic groups in Pakistan. Living inside “The Islamic Republic of Pakistan”, the Kalash people believe in their own god not Islam and they live only in Pakistan.
In the 1970s, they were forced to convert to Islam, and the fate of Kalash ethnic group was threatened. Thereafter, the government started the subsequent protection of the Kalash people. Thus, the population of the Kalasha had grown significantly over the past 20 years or so.
Now they have a strong identity as a Kalasha Ethnic group, so the conversion rate to Islam became low. Also a Kalasha mother tends to have 7-8 children to increase population of the people of Kalash.
The population of Kalash is approximately 3,000 according to the old guide books and brochures. However, if you visit the local 3 villages (Bumburet, Rumbur, Birir), you will be told that there are more than 4,000 altogether.
“Where did they come from?”
There are three theories regarding this. One theory is that they are the descendants of the army of Alexander the great, from the 4th Century BC, due to their white skin and blue eyes. There is no proof that the army of Alexander the Great passed through this area, but there are many tourists from Greece and NGOs are also active in this valley.
The other is that they moved to Afghanistan from South Asian land called “Tsiyam” that appears in Kalash’s legends and epics.
And the other is a general theory that their ancestors moved from Afghanistan around 2nd century BC to a region centered on the present Chitral and in the 10th century the power spread around the region including Chitral. Between 12-14th century, it became a powerful kingdom. However, it is said that the conversion to Islam in the neighborhood then went on and only left in the current three valleys.
The Kalash people live in three village of Bumburet, Rumbur and Birir located along the border area with Afghanistan, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The group speaks Dardic-based Kalasha language, belonged to Indo-European language. Once there was “Kafiristan” where the same Kalash people lived on the Afghan side across the border. However, the conversion to Islam was thoroughly done in 1896, and the place was renamed to “Nuristan [a country of light, a country of light of Islam]”, Now, the only Kalash people left in the world are situated in Pakistan.
Kalash people … Legends full of mystery, beautiful and charming blue eyes on white skin, exotic costumes of beautiful women…. You will surely be captivated.
Photo : Mariko SAWADA Text : Mariko & Sarosh
※ The photo was taken during the visit between 2006 and 2014.
Tag : Kafiristan , Kalash people , Kalash valley , Kalasha