Updated: Mar 8
The Kalash (also known as the Kalasha) are an indigenous people living in what is today Pakistan. Although Pakistan is an Islamic Republic, with more than 95% of its population being adherents of Islam, the Kalash hold on to their own religious beliefs, along with their own identity, way of life, and language. The Kalash people are also noted for their fair skin and blue eyes, leading to a popular hypothesis that they were of Greek origin, specifically the descendants of Alexander the Great’s soldiers who followed him on his campaign in India.
The Kalash can be found in the Chitral District, which is situated in the northwestern Pakistani region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They live in three specific valleys in this area, Bumboret, Birir, and Rumbur. The Kalash community consists of about 3000 people, which makes them the smallest minority group of Pakistan. Nevertheless, this group is best-known for their unique and well-preserved culture, which has led to it being listed by UNESCO for consideration as an Intangible Cultural Heritage . As a matter of fact, this bid for recognition is an attempt by the Kalash to safeguard their culture.
I first visited the Kalash in 1987 and was able to return in 2016. Each time, my visit coincided with Joshi, the Kalash Spring Festival.
The Kalash women wear embroidered gowns and headdresses decorated with beads, buttons and cowrie shells. The men decorate their hats with feathers.