CHITRAL: A great hustle and bustle was witnessed in Kalash valleys on Sunday as the community is celebrating the ongoing Chitirmas festival with enthusiasm. There was an euphoria among the people in Ramboor, Bamburet and Birrir valleys as men, women and children made various items and toy animals of wheat flour and distributed them.
The people also celebrated various events including Mandahek and Sharaberayak festivals. They made toy animals like cows, markhor and symbols of their ancestors from the flour and baked them in the fire. These toy animals then placed in the sun.
Similarly, Mandahek festival was also celebrated during which tree branches were set on fire and people observed one minute silence. A number of foreign tourists have reached Kalash valley to enjoy the event with the indigenous tribe. Beginning on December 7 and to be continued till 22th of the current month, the phase of bonfire competitions in the festival has already completed. Earlier, the children gathered at their sacred place, collected twigs and branches of pine trees and made bonfire to show skills in making high flames and smoke.
Making high flames and smoke is meant to welcome peace, prosperity, minerals, green grass and love among the people of the indigenous tribe in the ensuing winter and spring seasons. The children while holding green leaves and branches of trees also sang songs and performed chorus to enjoy the festival.
Kalash is a small non-Muslim ethnic community in Chitral. The Kalash people are also found in Nuristan province of Afghanistan. Kalash people, numbering only about 3,500 live in Ramboor, Bamburet and Birrir valleys in Chitral. They enjoy religious freedom and celebrate the Chawmoss and other festivals regularly.
Kalash people during the Chitirmas festival, which marks the end of the fieldwork and harvest, make their wishes for the New Year while dancing in chorus, dressed in colourful robes. Kalash tribes sacrifice cattle mostly goats by pinning arrows in their necks. They neither meet nor shake hands with any visitors during that time.
After three days, they come out dancing and drinking wines together. Young Kalash boys and girls express their feelings for each other and announce their marriage. French, Belgian and other foreign tourists have visited the Tourist Information Centre. Zarin Khan, the centre in-charge, briefed the tourists about the religious, cultural, tourism and historical perspective of the Kalash valley and its inhabitants.
The Tourism Department has also installed lighting system and made arrangements for transport and other facilities so that local community and tourists could celebrate the festival in a befitting manner.