CHITRAL: The grand event of Kalash winter festival – Chawmoss or Chitirmas – was celebrated on Sunday with much funfair and splendour.
The final dance event was held at Jastkhan in Broon village in Bamburet in pleasant weather. Lower Chitral Deputy Commissioner Naveed Ahmed, District Police Officer Waseem Riaz, local and foreign tourists and a large number of Kalash people including men, women and children were present.
Personnel of Chitral Task Force, Tourism Police and district administration provided security to the locals and visiting tourists. Foreign tourists, who had come from different countries to the Kalash valley to enjoy the unique culture, traditions and religious rites, attended various events during the 15-day gala in the scenic valley.
The Tourism Department had also installed lighting system and made arrangements for transport and other facilities so that the local community and tourists could celebrate the festival in a befitting manner.
During the Chawmoss festival, which began on December 7, the Kalash people organised a number of events including bonfire competitions, Mandahek, Sharaberayak, Savilakehari, Sheshao, Gonsik, Jastak and Ghonachanjarat festivals to celebrate the festival with religious zeal and zest.
The festival began with bonfire competitions by Kalash children clad in colourful dresses and robes. They collected twigs and branches of pine trees and made a bonfire to show off their skills in making high flames and smoke in Rambur, Bamburet and Birrir valleys.
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, sang songs and performed chorus dance. It followed Sharaberayak and Mandahek festivals.
In Sharaberayak festival, the Kalash people make toy animals like cows, markhor and symbols of their ancestors from the wheat flour and baked them in the fire. These toy animals then placed in the sun. Later, they are distributed among the relatives and well-wishers.
Mandahek was another festival during which tree branches were set on fire and people observe five-minute silence. Then they celebrated Savilakehari festival. Kalash men, women and children wearing new and colourful clothes, gather at a place and sing love songs for each other.
They dance together and praise each other. Young Kalash girls wear boys’ dresses and boys clad themselves in girls clothes and dance in the chorus. They express their feelings for each other and announce their marriage. The community performed Sheshao and Gosnik rituals as well.
In Gosnik, three to five years old boys and girls wear new dresses with lots of walnut breads, fruits, gifts in their hands and locally made embroidered clothes. Their uncles bring goats and sheep to give them as gifts to their nieces and nephews.
During Ghonachanjarat, the Kalash women and young girls collected branches of cedar trees in Rambur, Bamburet and Birrir valleys and made baskets of them. The women and girls from three valleys later gathered and performed the dance in the chorus and celebrated the Ghonachanjarat festival.
In the Kalash calendar, December 21 is the shortest and last day of the year and they mark December 22 as the first day of the new year. All the Kalash people, including men, women and children gathered in Batreek village in Bamburet valley for performing religious and cultural rituals during the night.
They perform their own religious rituals all night and wait till the sunrise of December 22 to mark it as the first day of the New Year. The Kalasha winter festival “Chawmoss” is the biggest festival of the year. The festival begins as winter starts around mid-December.
The festival is celebrated for the divine, the living and dead relatives, crops and the goats to be safeguarded, while the community, the village and the valley are purified prior to the coming year. Sighting a fox is a good omen and great efforts are made in this regard.