BUMBURATE: Below the snow-capped Hindu Kush mountains people of Kalash Valley celebrated the four-day Chilam Joshi Festival (Festival to welcome spring).

The annual festival was held in three Kalash valleys of Bumburate, Birir and Rumbur where Kalasha girls and boys danced to the tune of traditional drum beats. A large number of tourists including foreigners from all over the world attended the festival. Foolproof security arrangements had been made at the festival, which went smoothly. The tour of Kalash was sponsored and managed by Travel and Tours Company and Transmedia PR agency.

The Chilam Joshi Festival started with ‘Milkday’ on which Kalash people offered libations of milk that had been saved for 10 days prior to the occasion.

The celebration highlighted their cultural richness, plethora of colours and the underlying message of peace. In the festival the Kalasha people seek the blessing of their God and pray for the safety of herds and crops of the community.

The women were dressed up in traditional clothes of vibrant colours and were adorned with dayglo floral pattern with the combination of beaded necklaces, gold and silver jewellery and elaborate headgear. Men wore traditional Shalwar Kameez with a woolen waistcoat. The Kalash women and men dance and sing in a circle on the rhythmical chant of drum beats. The tribe’s number has shrunk to only about 4,000 people whose economy is based on agriculture.

The festival brought smiles on the unmarried Kalasha boys and girls faces who during the festival get an opportunity to choose their life partners. They announce their life partners name on the last day of the festival.

According to locals Kalash people are descendants of the great warrior king Alexander the Great of Greece.

Talking to The Nation Qazi (religious leader) Hateullah said people of kalash have their own identity and way of life through centuries. “Some people come to invite them to embrace Islam but they don’t want to.”

“They believe if every Kalashi will convert into Islam their culture will disappear with the passage of time. In this festival they pray for their people and for the upcoming year to be prosperous. Their style of dancing is one way of showing happiness and acknowledgment towards the creator,” he said.

Javed Iqbal who traveled all the way from Faisalabad on his bike to attend the festival said it was a memorable experience. “After the festival I am going to Gilgit and Skardu to enjoy the summer.

“The major issue we are facing is the roads which are not properly maintained and quite bumpy. Every citizen in our country should explore the beauty of Pakistan,” Javed said.

Australian filmmaker Werner kropik told this scribe that it was second time he was visiting Kalash Valley. “First time I visited it was 18 years ago. I made a bicycle trip from Peshawar to China.

“This time I returned to see the festivity of Kalash Valley, which is famous worldwide. I noticed Pakistanis has started discovering their country like the Chinese do. Pakistani people have found their identity and roots in culture. I can see people coming here for pleasure and not just for the sake of photography,” Werner said.

Kalash resident Zainab Bibi was of the view this festival is like Eid celebration to them. “Interesting fact about this occasion is that both Kalashi men and women select their life partners and express their love in front of audience on this special day. In our religion, you can choose whoever you want to marry, the parents don't dictate you,” she said.

Another resident Zurab Gul said every year people from across the globe come to see the unique and indigenous culture of Kalash and convey a peaceful image of Pakistan to rest of the world.

“The schools and temples are established to keep this culture alive. It is the responsibility of every Kalashi to learn the language and pass it on to upcoming generation to preserve it,” she said.