PESHAWAR - Famous Kalash Valley is all set to say “Ashpata” to the colourful festival of Chilimjusht, which has kicked off today (Friday) in the mountainous Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “Ashpata” is a common word used by local Kalasha tribes people and it is used to say “hello”.

In Chitral, Kalash area houses three valleys, namely Barir, Rumbur and Bamboret. Each year, the Chilimjusht festival is celebrated in the month of May in the three mentioned areas. The festival is being held from May 13 to 17, 2022 in the Kalash region. Kalasha tribes persons go shopping ahead of their festivals, with females spending more on the shopping to buy clothes and ornaments.

This year, Eid fell close to the festival, which is why many local and foreign tourists have also arrived in the area to enjoy the festival and many, who had already arrived in Chitral on Eid days, decided to stay back in the area to attend Chilinjusht festival too.

According to a report of KP Integrated Tourism Development Project, the Lower Chitral that houses Kalasha area has received the maximum number of the foreign tourists, compared to other scenic locations of KP this summer season.

The Kalasha tribe used to inhabit a large area of Chitral. However, many of the families have converted to Islam and they are now inhabiting the three valleys of Rambur, Bomboret and Barir, which border Nuristan province of Afghanistan.

There are around 3,000 families of Kalash tribe in habiting the three mentioned valleys. There are different theories about the Kalasha tribe’s origin. Some say they are the descendants of the soldiers of Alexander the Great, and their mythology and folklore is often compared to that of ancient Greece.

Also, this theory also lays emphasis on the face structure of the Kalasha tribes persons and Greeks. While many have converted, still there are houses wherein both the Muslim and non-Muslim Kalasha live together. Often when there is a festival of Kalasha community, the converted Muslim family members witness the festival and activities but they may not participate in them. The Chilimjusht is also an occasion for lovers to intermingle. A main feature is that the unmarried boys and girls select life partners at the event. The Kalash people celebrate four main festivals annually. In addition to Chilimjusht, the other three festivals are: “Uchal” which is observed in August marking the harvest of wheat and barleys and bringing down of cheese from the high summer pastures; “Phoo” is only held in Birir at the end of September to celebrate the harvest of grapes and walnuts; and “Chomos” is celebrated around mid-December as the Kalash people believe it is meant for divine pleasure, the living and dead relatives and for the safety of crops and goats.

An elderly Muslim resident of Bamboret area told this correspondent that it is wrong to say that all the Muslims living in the valley were non-Muslim Kalasha tribes persons in the part.

“Kalasha tribe is separate from us. Our family had migrated from Afghanistan in the distant past,” he added.

Sayed Gul Kalashi, who serves at an archaeological site in Taxila, told The Nation that she did not agree with the theory that her Kalasha tribe had descended from the soldiers of the Alexander.

“We believe that Kalashas were present in this area even before the arrival of the Alexander forces here,” she claims.

She further stated that Kalashas is not one people but that it comprises several different tribes having originated from different areas.