A different shade: The fading colours of Kalash
BUMBURET: The centuries-old pagan Kalash tribe of Chitral valley bears testimony to the cultural diversity of Pakistan.
Once considered to be the rulers of the vale, the indigenous tribe has unfortunately reduced to 6,000 people living in Bumburet, Rumbur and Brir valleys.
“During the past few decades, a large number of Kalash people converted to other faiths,” said Iftikhar, a local hotel owner in Bumburet. He, however, was quick to add the conversion is voluntary.
Anthropologists say this could this could wipe out a rich and ancient culture.
“The tribe must be asked to hold on to their traditions. They should not give up their lifestyle; otherwise, a very important civilisation will perish,” said Iqbal Naseem, an anthropologist.
He added their culture, dress and language should be preserved in books. “The Kalash tribe heading towards extinction is not a good sign.”
Modern education is one of the main reasons of the cultural diffusion. “With literacy ratio increasing, tribesmen are abandoning their traditions. Global culture is driving them away,” said Waqas Ali, a social activist.
Not all is lost
There are many young men and women who still practice the old ways with pride while receiving modern education.
Meeta Gul holds a master’s degree in Urdu literature from Shiringul University and works as a health promoter with Pakistan Red Crescent Society.
Dressed in traditional Kalash attire, she maintained their women enjoy more freedom than other tribes. “Long ago, the Kalash tribesmen started arranging marriages. The custom, however, was not very successful and the ratio of couples separating went up,” she said, adding most people now prefer to marry of their own choice.
She also claimed the number of people converting to other religions has gone down because people have become more aware of preserving their customs.
When asked about her colourful outfit, she said: “I am more comfortable in this dress. Whether it is winter or summer, we are used to it.”