The annual Chomos festival came to an end with a steady rhythm on the drums as Baitan, the religious leader of the Kalasha, made prosperous predictions for the New Year in a charsue, or a dancing ground, in Barun village of Bamburet Valley.
The festival formally started in the Rumbur, Bamburet and Birir valleys of Kalash with live offerings made to Malosh, the Kalash god of fertility and good omens, on December 6. On the last day of the festival on Sunday, the tribe gathered at Batrik forest outside Bamburet Valley early morning in search of a fox. For the Kalash, the fox is considered to be a good omen. The search was being led by Baitan and by afternoon, they spotted a fox coming out of the forest and leading up to a mountain. As the animal fled towards the east, the Kalash community made its way back and started dancing in the charsue and Baitan made his predictions for the new year.
Lok Rahmat, a Kalash elder, said that Baitan, identified as Kadirak, had mentioned that the fox heading towards the east was a good sign for the tribe and valley. Rahmat added that the New Year would be good for the Kalash and the country in general but there would be small incidents and difficulties.
He explained the festival was their way of welcoming the New Year and bidding the current one farewell. Rahmat added that it also gave the people an opportunity to celebrate the chilly winter.
According to Rahmat, Kalash men and women from different villages in Bamburet, including Karakarh, Batrik, Barun, Anijh, Saro Jal and Paroananda, had gathered in charsue. They sang traditional songs, wore painted costumes and colourful dresses. At dusk they performed their final dance and left.
During the festival many tribal elders narrated stories of their brave forefathers and how they came to rule Chitral valley. Rahmat said they wanted their young generation to have a connection with their roots and remind them of what their ancestors did.
Ikram Hussain, a member of the Kalash tribe, said the festival was also organised to help young Kalash men and women find their future spouses. This Chomos, however, no one decided to get married or find a partner.
The Pakistan Army, Chitral Scouts, police and border police took strict security measures to avoid any untoward situation during the annual festival. The number of local and foreign tourists this year was less as compared to previous years. Many residents believe it was because of the bad weather and closure of Lowari Tunnel.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2013.