Kalash Valleys of Chitral

Compiled by Rashid Zia Cheema

Pictures of Kalash Women: A Kalash woman helping her daughter cross a stream on a bamboo pole, both dressed in black traditional dress - Photos of Kalash Women, Chitral

Brief History: The Kalasha or Kalash are indigenous people who live in the Chitral District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. They speak the Kalasha language and practice polytheistic religion (Belief in many gods). They are related to the Nuristani people of the adjacent Nuristan (Previously known as Kafiristan) province of Afghanistan. However, most of Nuristani people had embraced Islam by the end of 19th century.
Kalash people live in three remote mountain valleys: Bumburet, Rumbur, and Birir. These valleys are opening towards the Kunar River, some 20 km south of Chitral city. A mountain pass, located at a height of approximately 3000 m, connects the Birir and Bumburet valleys. The Kalash villages in all three valleys are located at an altitude of about 1900 to 2200 m. The maximum temperature in summers varies between 23° and 27 °C (73° to 81 °F) and the minimum temperature during winters varies between 2° and 1 °C (36° to 34 °F).
The Kalash people have a distinctive culture which is completely in contrast with the other tribes living close by. In their religion, sacrifices are offered and festivals held to  thank their gods for the bountiful resources in their area. Kalash valleys are made up of two peculiar cultural regions, the valleys of Rumbur and Bumburet forming one and Birir valley the other, Birir valley being the most traditional of the two. Kalash are much closer to Indo-Iranian traditions, but some of  them claim to be descendants of Alexander the Great’s soldiers, however, extensive genetic testing has shown no connection. Kalash people have blond hair, fair skin, and green eyes.

Map Showing Three Kalash Valleys (Bumburet Valley, Rumbur Valley, and Birir Valley)

Pictures of Kalash Valleys, Chitral, Pakistan: Map of Chitral District also showing three Kalash valleys; Bumburet Valley, Rumbur Valley, and Birir Valley - Kalash Photos

PTDC Motel in Bumburet, Kalash. The PTDC (Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation) Motel is located at Bumburet in Kalash Valley. It has 14 cozy rooms and a restaurant. Foreign tourists need a permit to enter Kalash Valley which is issued at the entrance of Kalash Valley. Tourists entering the valleys have to pay a toll to the Pakistani government, which is used to preserve the Kalash culture.

Pictures of Kalash Valleys : PTDC (Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation) Motel at Bumburet, Kalash, with cozy rooms and a restaurant - Kalash Photos, Chitral

How to go to Kalash ValleysThe best time to go to Kalash is summer (May to September). You can take a PIA  flight from Islamabad or Peshawar. This 50 minutes flight operates 4 days in a week, subject to weather ((Flight status and schedule can be checked at the official website of PIA: http://www.piac.com.pk/ ). You can also go to Kalash by road both from Islamabad and Peshawar. It takes around 10 hours from Islamabad to reach Chitral by road and about 7 hours from Peshawar. You can rent a vehicle with a driver to go to Kalash from Chitral and it takes about two hours to reach Bumburet valley. Foreigners need special permit to go to the area.
The best deal to visit Kalash is to book a trip through Hindkush Trails, one of the best tour operators in the area. The website is www.hindukushtrails.com

 Hindukush Heights is the best hotel in Chitral. Tatler, UK, in its travel guide 2010 ranks it among “the best 101 hotels in the world”. The hotel is run by its owner Siraj Ulmulk, an ex PIA pilot, and his wife Ghazalla Ulmulk. For more details and reservation, please see the website www.hindukush.com.pk

A Smiling Kalash Girl. Kalash girls are married at an early age. Marriage by elopement is very common among Kalash people.

Pictures of Kalash Women: A smiling Kalash girl wearing conventional Kalash dress, embroidered with cowrie shells - Photos of Kalash Women, Chitral

Two Kalash Girls Wrapped in an Embroidery Shawl

Kalasha Pics, Images: Two Kalash girls wrapped in an embroidery shawl - Kalash Valleys Photos

A Handsome Kalash Boy Poses in Front of a Camera. Photo by Tahir Khan Kayani.

Kalasha Pictures: A handsome Kalash boy poses in front of a camera - Photos and Images of Kalash Valleys

Kalash Girls in Their Traditional Dress Making Victory Sign

Pictures of Kalash Women: Three joyous Kalash girls in their traditional dress, two girls making victory sign - Photos of Kalash Women, Kalash Valleys, Chitral, Pakistan

A Beautiful Kalash Girl, Wearing Colourful Headdress. Photo by manalahmadkhan.

Pictures of Kalash Women: A beautiful Kalash girl, wearing colourful headdress - Photos of Kalash Women

FC (Frontier Corps) Mess at Bamuret, Kalash. Photo by Tahir Khan Kayani.

Kalasha Pictures: FC (Frontier Corps) Mess at Bamuret, Kalash - Photos of Kalash Valleys

Traditional Black Dress of Kalash Women. Kalash women usually wear long black robes, often embroidered with cowrie shells. For this reason, they are known in Chitral as “The Black Kafirs”. In this photo, a Kalash woman is helping her daughter cross a stream on a bamboo pole, both dressed in black traditional dress.

Pictures of Kalash Women: A Kalash woman helping her daughter cross a stream on a bamboo pole, both dressed in black traditional dress - Photos of Kalash Women, Chitral

A Kalash Girl Carrying Her Younger Brother in Her Lap, Rumbur ValleyPhoto by Carol, bag_lady’s.

Kalasha Pics, Images:A Kalash girl carrying her younger brother in her lap, Rumbur Valley - Kalash Valleys Photos

Two Kalasha Girls Taking a Walk in Their Village

Kalash Photos, Images; Two Kalasha girls taking a walk in their village - Kalash Valleys Pictures, Chitral

A Cute Little Smiling Kalash Girl. Photo by Carol, bag_lady’s.

Kalasha Pics, Images: A cute little smiling Kalash girl in her traditional dress - Kalash Valleys Photos

A Kalash Girl with Green Eyes, Wearing Beads

 Kalash Valleys Pictures: A Kalash girl with green eyes wearing beads - Kalash Photos, Chitral, Pakistan

A Kalash Girl with Cowrie Shells Headdress 

 Kalash Pictures: A Kalash girl with colourful headdress made of cowrie shells - Kalash Valleys Photos, Chitral, Pakistan

A Kalash Girl in Traditional Dress with Flowers in Her Headdress 

Kalasha Pics, Images: A Kalash girl in traditional dress with flowers in her headdress - Kalash Valleys Photos

Two Kalash Women standing Outside a Shop at Rumbur. Photo by Tahir Khan Kayani.

Kalasha Pictures: Two Kalash women standing near a shop at Rumbur - Photos of Kalash Valleys

Three Dancing Girls of Kalash. Photo by Imran Schah.

Kalash Pictures: Three dancing Kalash girls in colorful dresses - Kalash Valleys Photos, Chitral, Pakistan

Kalash Students Entering School Building. Kalash students walk to class through the entrance of the Kalasha Dur School and Community Center in Brun village, located in Bumburet Valley. Photo by Imran Schah.

Kalash Pictures: Kalash students are entering Kalasha Dur School and Community Center - Kalash Valleys Photos

Kalash Students Learning Kalasha Alphabet in School. Teacher Noorzia Khan, 16, writes letters from the Kalasha alphabet on a blackboard during a lesson at the Kalasha Dur school and community center in Brun village, located in the Bumburet Kalash Valley.

 Kalash Pictures: Kalash students learning Kalasha alphabet in Kalasha Dur School - Kalash Valleys Photos

Four Kalash Girls during Spring Festival, 2012. The three main festivals of the Kalash are the Joshi festival in late May, the Uchau in autumn, and the Chawmos in midwinter.

Kalasha Pics, Images: Four Kalash girls sitting under a tree during spring festival, 2012 - Kalash Valleys Photos

Kalash Women  Dancing at Joshi (Spring) Festival. The Kalash people celebrate the end of winter in May each year with the Joshi (Spring) Festival. The first day of Joshi is Milk Day. People go from house to house, dancing and singing. Each household offers milk that has been saved for 10 days before the festival. As hours of dancing reach a climax on the final day, men and women separate in dancing areas and each take branches of walnut to wave as they dance. At the shout of a Shaman, they throw their branches in the air. Photo by Hector Salazar.

Kalasha Pics Images: Kalash women dancing at Joshi (Spring) Festival - Kalash Valleys Photos

Joshi Festival. Two Kalash girls at Joshi Festival. Photo by imranthetrekker.

Pictures of Kalash Women: Two Kalash girls at Joshi Festival, wearing customary Kalash dress,colourful bead necklaces and caps - Photos of Kalash Women

A Young Kalash Girl Sitting on a Stool, Rumbur Valley. Photo by Carol, bag_lady’s.

Kalasha Pics, Images: A young Kalash girl sitting on a stool, Rumbur Valley - Kalash Valleys Photos

A Kalash Girl in the Doorway of Her House in the Village of Balanguru, Rumbur Valley. Photo by Carol, bag_lady’s.

Kalasha Pics, Images: A Kalasha girl in the doorway of her house in the village of Balanguru, Rumbur Valley - Kalash Valleys Photos

A Kalash Family at Rumbur Valley Cleaning the Rice. Photo by Carol, bag_lady’s.

Kalasha Pics, Images: A Kalash family at Rumbur Valley cleaning the rice for the evening meal - Kalash Valleys Photos

A Kalash Woman, Shazia Bibi, Cooking the Bread for the Evening Meal, Rumbur ValleyPhoto by Carol, bag_lady’s.

Kalasha Pics, Images: A Kalash woman Shazia Bibi cooking the bread for the evening meal, Rumbur Valley - Kalash Valleys Photos

An Old Kalasha Woman with Colorful Headdress and Bead Necklaces. The women folk of Kalash make their clothes and headdresses in the winter season when they are unable to work in the fields because of severe cold. Photo by Carol, bag_lady’s.

Kalasha Pics: An old Kalasha woman with colorful headdress and beads necklaces - Kalash Valleys Photos

A Very Old Kalash Woman With Fancy Headdress

Kalasha Pics, Images: A very old Kalash woman with fancy headdress - Kalash Valleys Photos

‘Bashalani’, a Segregated Building for Kalash Women. According to Kalash religious custom, the menstruating girls and women are sent to live in a separate building, called the “Bashalani”, during their periods, until they regain their “purity”. They are also required to give birth in the Bashalani where they are shifted during the last month of pregnancy.
In this photo Kalash women are standing outside the Bashalani to take the clothes for washing from their relative women inside the Bashalani. Photo by Gul Hamaad Farooqi.

Pictures of Kalash Women: Kalash women standing outside the Bashalani to take the clothes for washing from women inside the building - Photos of Kalash Women

A Kalash Girl Standing Outside the Bashali of Krakal Village . Photo by Tahir Khan Kayani.

Kalasha Pictures: A Kalasha girl outside the Bashali of Krakal village - Photos and Images of Kalash Valleys

Funeral Rituals by  Kalsah People. Kalash people leave their dead on a wooden coffin exposed to the weather and let it rot.  After one year a wooden statue is placed near the coffin in a ceremony to project the bravery of the dead man and his other good qualities. This ceremony is done in pomp and show followed by a feast.
Women are kept in the same clothes, which they wore at the time of death. For women and children there is no singing and dancing. If a women died during the course of delivery or during menstruation period in the Bashalani, her dead body would be directly shifted to the cemetery.  For the old women enjoying respect in the society, the relatives consider it a privilege to give her all possible honour by dressing her nicely and beauty touch is given to make her more attractive. Sometime artificial ornaments are also placed in her coffin. In the past, shoes with which she danced in her life time were also kept in her coffin.

Pictures of Kalash Valleys: A Kalash Cemetery showing wooden coffins exposed to the weather conditions - Kalash Photos, Chitral
Wooden Funeral Statues Made by Kalash Craftsmen. These wooden funeral statues are placed near the dead in a ceremony held one year after the death.
Pictures of Kalash Valleys: Wooden funeral statues made by Kalash craftsmen are placed near the dead in a ceremony held one year after the death - Kalash Photos, Chitral

Kalash Museum at Bumburet

Kalasha Pics Images: Kalash Museum at Bumburet - Kalash Valleys Photos

Related Pages:
Photos of Chitral
Photos of Abbotabad
Photos of Kaghan
Photos of Naran
Photos of Nathia Gali
Photos of Peshawar
Photos of Swat

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Comments

  1. Manzoor Ahmad says:

    Interesting and worth visit scenic views, do visit this paradise on earth.

  2. Ghulam Mukhtar says:

    I love Kalash velly and kalashi people

  3. Lt Col(Retd) Gul Khan, NZ.Been there 1990, yes it is Kalash Culture N Civilization which is so alluring, control over no of tourist’s is very essential.These Days Taliban factor would ensure, flooding by tourists would taint Kalash Community, life style.

    • Muhammad Faheem says:

      SALAM.
      Mein Bahawalpur say hoon. Islamabad may job ker raha hoon. May Chitral say shaadi kerna chahta hoon. Agar aap meri help ker dain tou bohut meharbani ho gi. kindly meri rehnumai karein.
      Mera email address yeh hai: muhammadfaheem0092@gmail.com
      Allah Ta’ala aap ko jaza day.

  4. S.A.Kazmi ( Lt Col Retd ) says:

    Excellent compilation Col Rashid Zia Cheema;well done , thanks for sharing.
    Best regards.

  5. Marzban Sadri says:

    Kalash seems to be a very beautiful place, very scenic. Would be worth a visit.

  6. Salman Rashid says:

    Thank you so much for dispelling the foolish myth of Greek lineage for the Kalasha people. I first debunked it in 1986, before the Kalasha were genetically tested. My treatise was based on a study of their religion which clearly derives from the Hindu pantheon. Your article should help clear the fog.

  7. Maj (r) Syed Zahid Salam says:

    Col Cheema,
    Thanks. You took me back to year 1963 when I along with two friends undertook a trip to Chitral and Kafiristan and the three valleys. The memorable trip is etched on my memory for the lands of raw beauty, most friendly and beautiful people and land of peace and tranquility. It was considered as a remote and detached corner of Pakistan as if forgotten and unreachable.

    I remember a GTS bus would start its long journey from Peshawar early in the morning. This was the only bus available in a day. The road for almost half our journey was a kutcha pebbled road. The bus kept stopping enroute to pick up passengers and some boarded the roof with a odd goat as company. The bleating of the goat was not exactly music to the ears. Most of your journey mates were NASWAR chewing addicts which they frequently spat to add to ones misery, But they offered a smile to make amends.

    The Bus stopped overnight at DIR. We were lucky as being guests of Chitral/Dir Scouts due connection of one of our colleagues’ father who was an officer in Ministry of State and Frontier Regions at Islamabad. The next day we crossed LOWARI TOP, a height of over 10,000 feet which had ice even in summer months. Our stay with Chitral Scouts at their HQ at Drosh and hiking to the three valleys was both enjoyable but tough on stamina. The emblem of scouts was MARKHOR (Marco Polo goat) horns. This goat is found on upper reaches of Mountains of over 12000 feet, only highly dedicated hunters take to this adventurous Shikar.

    Chitral town was like a small hamlet and number of foreigners were visible mostly hippies, happy on pot, and some mountaineers. Snow clad mountain of TRICH MIR presented an inspiring beautiful view from the town of Chitral.

    Much must have changed with commercialization especially in the Kafir valleys and its once innocent people. A trip of a lifetime.

  8. It is as beautifully written and presented as the “subject” itself….Very good job Cheema!
    It is a matter of great pride for me to be born and live in a country that is full of dancing colors with abundance of natural beauty. My dear Cheema, you deserve high appreciation for bringing forth the lovely side of our motherland, particularly for those living within and outside Pakistan, who haven’t known Pakistan beyond concrete jungle of haphazardly sprung cities and smell of gun powder!
    Don’t let it “stop” here….Keep projecting this side of our country. There are so many wonderful places and spots in Pakistan which are still unknown to our own as well as younger generation. We sure are blessed ones…. having a piece of land on earth with all seasons, all shades, all weathers and limitless bounties to live with….! All we need is to always bow our heads in thanks to Almighty and enjoy the abundance of bounties that has been bestowed upon us.
    Once again…good job….Let’s have some more such pieces…May you stay blessed always.

  9. Brig (R) Aslam Khan (33 PMA L/C) says:

    Dear Col Cheema,
    Your time and efforts spell PATRIOTISM. So well done. Keep it up. Maj (R) Siraj ul Mulk owner of Hindukush Heights Hotel & Tours mentioned in your article is my course mate. I will ask him to give you further inputs. Thanks for making my day with your coverage of Kalash Valley. Stay blessed.

  10. Lt Col (R) Zafar Mustafa says:

    Wonderful addition to our knowledge about our own country. I wish I get an opportunity to visit these valleys. As usual , well done Cheema.

  11. Maj Gen (R) Parvez Akmal (42nd PMA L/C) says:

    Excellent compilation by Col Cheema; thanks for sharing.
    Best regards.

  12. Muhammad Irfan says:

    I like Kalash culture. I want go there but it is impossible.

  13. I would love to visit & if ever the Taliban are under control I just might.

  14. Abdul Rehman says:

    Thanks for these excellent pictures. Please add more images of Kalash Valley

  15. Sohail Nazeer says:

    Thanks dear.

  16. A.Z. Khan says:

    Wow!! I can’t believe it.

  17. Zain Ali Hashmi says:

    Awesome!!! I have made my mind to visit Kalash Valley.

  18. Adnan Rashid Idreesi says:

    Nice place with the nice people of Pakistan.

  19. Maj Siraj Syed (17 PMA Long Course), USA says:

    Great job done by Col Rashid Cheema, the Admin of Native Pakistan, to bring out the most gorgeous pictures of Chitral and the people with beautiful looks and clothes. My American friends cannot believe Pakistan is so gorgeous and beautiful. Colorado is supposed to be the most beautiful State of USA and they have created a town known as Ogalala which is like Switzerland, but seeing Kalash Valley, I feel it beats Ogalala. If the Kalash Valley had such beautiful wide roads, this country could have been considered the Number One wonder of the world which is now held by Peru.
    One agricultural engineer from Colorado goes to Pakistan twice a year and he happened to meet me in the Health Club I attend. He told me the best terrain in the whole world is in Pakistan where the land sloped all the way along the Indus till it reaches Karachi to the Arabian Sea. He said this place can produce sufficient wheat and other cereals for the whole of the world for the next hundred years. He also said if the menace of terrorism was not there, Pakistan could be the number one INTERNATIONAL CITY OF THE WORLD. He also blamed the Government of Pakistan which is so corrupt that it does not use the money to improve the country.

  20. Azam Gill, France says:

    Thanks for the beautiful pictures – a rare collection.

  21. Rana M Sadiq says:

    It is just a very small area picture of Pakistan. We have heaven like places on earth which could attract millions of tourists if we have peace and finish terrorism. It is a good effort to post these. I appreciate the effort.

  22. Lt Col Masood Alam (retd) says:

    Thanks for such interesting, detailed and comprehensive information. Regards.

  23. Editor says:

    Pakistan is a Paradise for tourists. There should be more hotels and fool proof security arrangements to attract maximum tourists in Kalash Valleys.

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