By Muhammad Jalaluddin Shamil
BOONI (CHITRAL): A few months back, a friend of mine through SMS inquired whether I had any information about the Khowar equivalent of the names of the months of the year.
The underlying intention of this SMS was to gather, from various sources, the names of the months in Khowar language and to publish the same in form of a calendar. A week or so before the same friend text me again and gave me the glad tiding of the publication of the calendar and about its availability in some bookshops. I went to one of the shops and bought one and found it to be informative and strange at the same time. I was not scared because unlike the “Mayan Calendar” there was no prophecy in the calendar about the future of the mother earth; neither the management of the calendar consulted the oracle at Delphi, or mother Shipton for further predictions about the destiny of human kind. So not to be afraid of any other 21 December 2012.
Standards regarding any concept, phenomenon, area of study or any other endure of knowledge develops through seminars, dialogues, conferences, publication and researches. Sincere efforts by the stakeholders of Mother Tongue Institute of Education and Research (MIER)-an initiative for the preservation of cultural documentation, towards the publication of the aforementioned Khowar calendar is a good example of a nice initiative of the organization and its people towards the establishment of standard regarding the subject matter.
Indeed, the efforts of our friends of MIER is a sincere one, praiseworthy and progressive in a sense that they offered somehow good intention to the knowledge based society. Khowar speakers should applaud them for this sincere intention. Their respectful efforts should be encouraged but their research which eventually materialized the publication of the calendar seems to be inadequate, fanciful and capricious.
While observing the calendar in hand I came across many strange words which seem to be foreign to Khowar language. Even more is that some Khowar equivalents of the names of the months which are frequently used by the Khowar speaking elders have not been used and some self styled words have been used in their stead. While buying the calendar from the book shop some senior and educated Khowar speakers were also present who even challenged the authenticity of some of the Khowar names of the months in the calendar. I don’t mean to say that the efforts of our friends of MIER are worthless, indeed, they have tried their level best with full sincerity and enthusiasm, and I recall their their struggle for the project during the last few months, but my concerns are that the said calendar lacks proper research, many well established names of months in Khowar have not be mentioned and self styled foreign names have been used instead. How good it had been if intelligible, frequently used and easily comprehensible names were used?
The nomenclature of the Khowar names of the months carries in them a certain background conforming to the Khowar culture, thinking process and general worldview of the people, geographic hurdles and opportunities, ceremonies and responses to natural phenomenon by the inhabitants. For instance, November (Chanchori-Leaves Shedding Month) is the month when trees shed their leaves, which is a natural phenomenon. Similarly February (Aalian-Duck hunting month) is the month when Siberian migrating ducks curve their way through the Khowar speaking belt, and people go for hunting ducks, in this connection February is called as Aalian.
A substantial portion of each page of the calendar has been reserved for pictures and photographs. It would have enhanced the general outlook and many other aspects of the calendar if relevant pictures relating to the ceremonies events and occurrences which takes place in that particular month would have been depicted with the corresponding months. For example the page of the calendar showing November (Chanchori) would have been beautified if the scene of a village depicting the leaves shedding process of trees was included instead of the existing picture. Similarly the page reserved for February (Aalian) would have been made more meaningful if the picture of migrating ducks or any other such related depiction had been made.
The calendar in hand can’t be called as representing the unanimous and all agreed upon naming system of months in Khowar language, because different Khowar speaking areas understand the name of the months with different names, for example the month of September is understood by the residents of the sarhad (people living in boundry areas of Chitral) as “Gharikhomik”-means returning with cattle from high up pastures, whereas, the said calendar has tried to standardize the Khowar equivalent of September as “Khompech”. Similarly equating May with “Boi” is not justified as many Khowar Speaking areas of Chitral transliterate May With “Shaytu Drayk”-means the months when the traditional drink Shaytu (Lassi-thoroughly shaked mixture of yogurt and water which produces butter) is made in high quantity. Furthermore famous names of certain months “Ghorghor”, the other “Sirilati”, another one “Khol Kraymi” etc., have not been even mentioned for reasons unknown. The calendar uses the words “Boi”, “Yough” and “Pini More” for the months of May, June and July respectively, which are non-existent in Khowar language, if do exists that might be in some lower part of chitral , in Lotkoh area, in Kalash tradition or any where else not at least in upper Chitral.
In conclusion it is suggested that, while publishing such documentations a unanimity should be established between the residents of various Khowar speaking areas by consulting senior citizens, historical documents, inferences from traditional stories and learned peoples etc., only then after the publication could be termed as authentic, standardized and representing the whole slot of population and could be considered as an authority on the subject matter.
I further urge the management of the calendar to brief us about the meanings and the philosophy/ cultural background behind the names such as BOI, Yough, Pini More etc., if they claim that these are the standardized and established names of the months in Khowar language.