Home Planet Culture Kalash: The Land of Black Kafirs

Kalash: The Land of Black Kafirs

Kalash: The Land of Black Kafirs

The people of Kalash were historically recorded for the first time 681 years ago. Some
conjecture them to be the descendants of the Macedonian/Greek armies of Alexander the
Great, due to their white skin, golden-brown hair and blue eyes. The people of Kalash are the
only pagan minority residing in the Chitral district of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as
they follow the principles of animism EXPLAIN THIS and arguably constitute one of the smallest
minority communities in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Despite their negligible size, the beauty of Kalashi culture has left many astounded. Their
colourful dresses, handmade jewellery, and other splendidly made accessories attract locals
and foreigners alike. The women of Kalash usually wear long black robes, with cowrie shells
and colourful embroideries and are labelled as “the Black Kafirs”, in Chitral.
This label, decidedly discriminatory and accusatory in its tone, comes due to the faith and
customs of the Kalash people. One such custom is the Bashali, a house to which women must
retreat for isolation when menstruating. It essentially divides the pure – the Kalash population –
from the impure – its menstruating women. Some may use this custom to justify the label of
‘Kafir’ as the tribe demeans women, as opposed to Islam, which awards them rights.
Importantly, though, the individuals imposing judgements often hail from communities that
belittle and oppress women in harmful ways as well.
The Kalash accessorize their black robes by making use of colourful long braided head wears
while on the other hand, the men have adopted the Pakistani shalwar kameez. Unfortunately,
their unique culture is at threat due to the influx of as non-Kalashis taking up residency in the
valleys and roughly 50% of Kalash people converting to Islam for a variety of reasons, usually
related to financial struggles, marital obstacles, and societal pressures. One may wonder how
the latter would lead to the extinction of their traditions, and the reason is that the people of
Kalash are extremely particular about their religion and break ties with any who converts to
Islam. Thus, converts are no longer allowed to be a part of their community. However, in doing
so they are unwittingly allowing a steady decline in the number of people practising the Kalashi
culture due to the steady rise in conversions to Islam.
The language of the Kalash is the Kalasha and is a Dardic language, although the language is
only spoken by a handful of people, and UNESCO considers it to be critically endangered.
The people of Kalash differ from their neighbours in several ways, the chief being that there is
no separation between males and females in Kalash and they can keep contact without any
moral policing. This shows us that the people of Kalash are far laxer with regards to the

interaction between opposite sexes, and to a very large extent, consider females to be their
The inhabitants of Kalash valley celebrate various festivals all year round. Some of the most
popular festivals are Joshi, Uchau, and Caumus. Many tourists from around the world visit
Kalash to participate in these festivals and experience the unique culture of the people of