CHITRAL: The winter festival of Kalash people, Chitramas, began here on Thursday in the Bumburate, Birir and Rumbur valleys in the south of Chitral city.
The final day of the weeklong festival coincides with the first day of the new year of Kalash calendar.
In every village, some Kalash men and women volunteer to confine themselves to a cattle pen, locally called autik, which means getting secluded.
The secluded people completely insulate themselves from the other people during the week and they eat the meat of slaughtered goats, drink and pass the time in merrymaking.
The elders of the Kalash community congregate on the hilltops or plateaus to observe the movement of the sun before declaring the advent of the New Year on the final day of the festival.
Kalash youth Guruk Shah, a small shopkeeper in Chitral city, told Dawn that the festivities had begun in the Kalash valleys.
He said he had taken leave for a week to participate in the festival but this year, he failed to enlist himself among the people gone on seclusion.
Mr Shah said the seclusion was taken as a religious obligation during which they even considered the sight of the outside people to be tantamount to ‘polluting’ themselves.
He said like Eidul Azha of the Muslims, the Kalash slaughtered goats, mostly one goat for one adult man or woman, on the last day of the festival.
The youth said the valley received heavy snowfall by the end of Dec limiting the movement of the people, who virtually hibernated during the three months long winter season.
He said from the spiritual point of view, more importance was accorded to Chitramas than other festivals.
Another Kalash youth, Tash Khan, said the festival consisted of functions including Sarazari, Kotramu and Madaik.
He said Sarazari function was meant to start the purchasing and stitching of new clothes and costumes for children to wear during the festival.
Regarding the other small-scale post-Chitramas gatherings, the youth said Kotramu was of immense interest in which the statues of different domestic and wild animals were made by women by dough of wheat flour.
He said the statues later baked in fire before were used to decorate houses during the festival.
He said during the Madaik function, which was held on Saturday, the Kalash people piled up their preserved fruits, including grapes, pears, apple and walnut, cleaned and washed for use during the festival.
Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2017