This year’s Chilam Joshi, a four-day festival held in Kalash Valley, attracted a large number of local and international tourists.
As the festival drew to a close Saturday night, tourists were captivated by Kalasha bedecked in their traditional dresses, dancing to the beat of the drum. At the final ceremony, elders narrated stories and legends about the tribe. This was followed by another traditional dance.
Although tourists tried to participate in the festivities, police and army officials did not allow them to come close enough. Nonetheless, even with strict security arrangements, tribespeople welcomed the attention they received from tourists.
Kalasha women dance at the closing ceremony of Chilam Joshi festival in Kalash Valley. PHOTO: MUHKAMUDDIN/EXPRESS
Visitors from various countries – including Denmark, Switzerland and the UK – participated in the festival. Students from universities across Pakistan also visited the valley to partake in Chilam Joshi. Maryam, a student from Sindh, told The Express Tribune she thoroughly enjoyed her time in Kalash. “This was a memorable and educational trip,” she said. “The Kalashs are loving and respectful. After this trip, I will tell my friends to visit Kalash Valley at least once,” added Maryam. “We must preserve this civilisation rather than turn a blind eye to it.”
Chilam Joshi was also attended by many government officials.
Mutayam Cha, a Kalash religious leader, told The Express Tribune the festival was made a roaring success because the country was willing to acknowledge the cultural legacy of the valley.
“I would like to thank all tourists who came to the valley to participate in the festivities,” he said. “They have travelled through dangerous terrain to take part in Chilam Joshi.”
An exhibition of precious stones and traditional Kalash artefacts was also organised at the festival in Kalash Valley by Aga Khan Rural Support Programme. The artefacts had been excavated from the mountains of Chitral and were on display.
Chilam Joshi commemorates the arrival of summer and celebrates the abundance of dairy products during the season. This year, the festival was held amid tight security and strict limitations were imposed on tourists to photograph Kalash women.
However, hotel and shop owners have benefited from the inflow of tourists. Bhutto, a hotel manager, said all rooms of his hotel were booked for a little over a week.
“This is the season for us to earn some money,” he said. “The festival will also pave the way for other tourists to come to the valley.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2015.