By Mohammad Qasim Baig
Chitral is known throughout the world for its rich cultural heritage and scenic beauty. It is located in the northwestern part of the NWFP, between 71* 12 and 73* 53 east longitude and between 35* 13 and 368* 55 north latitude. It is bounded in the North West by Badakhshan and in the South-West by Noristan province of Afghanistan; Dir and Swat districts of Pakistan are located on the south of the valley while the Northern Areas of Pakistan (Ghizer, Goopis, Hunza and Gilgit etc) are the neighbors on the east of valley. It was a princely state up to 1969, when it was formerly merged in to Pakistan as a district of the Province Khyber Pakhtun Khuwa (K.P.K). Though the Chitrali culture itself is very rich and attractive but the culture of a small group of people within the district, named the Kalash culture is more attractive for the people from the world.
Total population of the Kalash people is 2,500 to 3,000 and they live at an altitude of 2,000m to 25,00m, in three small villages of the narrow isolated valleys of Chitral district. The Kalash people respect their cultural heritage left to them by their ancestors and they retain a clear memory of their rich heredity, traditions, language, stories, songs, dances, rituals and a number of festivals, which they still keep.
Origin of the kalash people is uncertain. The most common theory about their origin is that they are the descendents of Alexander the Great, when he (Alexander) passed through this region in 327 B.C., some of his soldiers settled here so probably Kalash people are the ruminants of the Greece army. But Archaeologist Prof. (Dr.) Ihsan Ali,
Vice Chancellor Abdul Wail Khan University Mardan and the Ex-Director of Archaeology and Museums Government of Khyber Pakhtun Khwa are against this theory and he is of the view that Kalash are indigenous people of this area and they (Kalash) are most probably descendants of the Aryans because neither Alexander nor his forces have touched this particular valley Chitral. To prove this theory and to trace the origin of the Kalash people Dr. Ihsan Ali and his team have conducted excavations of the Gandharan graves, in upper and central Chitral district. Human remains unearthed during the various excavations conducted in the area are in the process of examination by the DNA and radio carbon dating experts from international institutions like Leicester University UK and California University Bakersfield USA.Seven samples of human bones collected during the excavations were submitted in 2007 to the University of Waikato Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory, Hamilton, New Zealand. These included six samples of inhumed bone from Singoor and Parwak Villages and a single sample of cremated bone from a cist grave at Gankoreneotek near chitral air port.
Excavation of aburial site at Gankorinio Tek, Singore Chitral.
Period of the age of remains from Gankoreneotek, Singoor and Parwak range from 1000 BC to AD 1000. On the basis of these dating results and the large number of ancient graves found in the area, having similarities with the burial style of the kalash people are the facts which support the theory of the Great Archaeologist of the Country, Prof.Dr.Ihsan Ali. Beside, collection of “Dental Casts” to find out the origin of different ethnic groups including the Kalash people is in-progress, led by Prof.Dr. Brian Hemphill of California University Bakers Field USA. Prof. Dr. Brian Hemphill and his team visited almost all the areas (valleys) of the Chital district in August, 2005 and collected samples from different ethnic groups. Samples from the ancient cemeteries located in the Kalash valley were also collected in order to continue the research work on the origin of the Kalash people.
Dr. Brian and his team collecting dental Casts from the kalash People.
Though, because of the efforts and support of Prof. (Dr.) Ihsan Ali, research work in shape of explorations, excavations and dental casting by national and international institutions has been done in the past but more research work in this context is direly needed in order to find out exact profile of the Unique Kalash people.