Kalash valley’s Chilimjusht festival kicks off

Tourists join in celebrations at premier regional festival

Our Correspondent May 16, 2019
In this photograph taken on October 31, 2015, Kalash students attend a class at a school in the Brun village of Bumboret valley. PHOTO: AFP

PESHAWAR: A record number of tourists from Germany, France, Japan and around the world continued to throng the Kalash valley to enjoy the three-day Chilimjusht or Joshi festival celebrations which have commenced in the scenic Kalasha valley.

Chilam Joshi Festival, also known as Chilimjusht, Chilim Jhust and the Kalash spring festival, is one of the most awaited festivals in Kalash. The Kalasha people organize the Chilam Joshi festival to honour and praise their God. They welcome the spring season with gratitude and in hope of blessings from God.

During the Chilam Joshi Festival, the community and their elders place the most emphasis on purity so that, when the Balomain visit the valley, the Kalasha followers have a pure mind. People take ritual baths a week prior to the festival.

During the purification ceremony, a man must not sit all day and later at night his face is sprinkled with the blood of a sacrificed goat. Men actively participate in the cooking during the festival and bake special bread and distribute it in the three valleys of Kalash.

On the first day, the elderly Kalash women and children distribute milk and yogurt of goats and sheep among the children. This rite is commonly known as the Cherak Peepe. They also perform traditional dances and sing songs as they celebrate the Cherak Peepe.

The Kalash people wear new dresses and prepare various dishes to welcome the spring. The Kalash girls spend lavishly on the purchase of clothes and ornaments for the event as they use the occasion to show off their financial status.

The main feature of the festival is the selection of life partners for unmarried boys and girls. The event culminates with the loving couples tying the knot.

Other rituals are performed in the remaining two-day Chilimjusht with tourists from around the world.

Situated about 45km from Chitral town, the Kalasha people attract the world to their unique culture and religion. “KP is blessed with exotic valleys and unique rich culture and traditions. The province is a peaceful destination for foreign and domestic tourists to come and enjoy the beauty of nature it has to offer,” says Tourism Corporation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (TCKP) Managing Director Junaid Khan.

It is worth mentioning here that the population of the Kalash people stands at 4,100, but they are the major tourist attraction in the region despite their dwindling population. Though the Kalash people observe various festivals, Chilimjusht is the most popular of them all.

With its power to attract visitors, the five-day festival is also a lifeline for the economy of the Kalash tribe along with offering them the opportunity to showcase their culture. It is partly on account of the festival that their rituals, clothes, shoes, and decorative items have found admirers and buyers across the world. For the community as well, the festival offers an opportunity and preparations for it begins several weeks in advance. They renovate their houses and mend and replace worn-out items. Many create extra accommodation in their houses and set up camping hotels to house domestic tourists.

However, the growing influx of tourists creates new problems for the womenfolk. Reports of hounding them for photographs and harassment by domestic visitors are common.

The festival is also a religious occasion for the community, but several people have been seen making fun of the rituals. It has been reported that after the festival, the valley is strewn with litter and open defecation lining the edges of streams. This happens despite the provision of waste bins and community washrooms. The community has to spend weeks to collect litter and to restore the valley to normalcy.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2019.


Bunny Rabbit | 5 years ago | Reply ET Please post more pics of such festivals . The world would like to know how they dress , eat , dance ....
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