October 4, 2014

1268 PAKISTAN (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) - Kalash girls in Chitral

Chitral was an independent monarchical state until 1895, then a semiautonomous state within the Indian Empire (until 1947), and even within Pakistan, until 1969, when became a district of Pakistan, the northernmost. Even if the population is made up mainly of Kho people, the region has one of the greatest linguistic diversity in the world (more than ten languages are spoken here). Among Chitral's ethnic minorities is the Kalash tribe, who lives in  Bumburet and two other remote valleys southwest of Chitral town. They are one of the three Pakistani populations (the others being Burusho and Pathan) who claim descent from Greek soldiers associated with Alexander's invasion of southwest Asia. Even if an extensive genetic testing has shown no connection between Kalash and Greeks, no one can deny that the culture of Kalash is unique and differs drastically from the various ethnic groups surrounding them.

They are polytheists (in a country where 97% of the population is Muslim, plus 2.3% Ahmadis), and nature plays a highly significant and spiritual role in their daily life. In contrast to the surrounding Pakistani culture, the Kalasha don't in general separate males and females or frown on contact between the sexes. However, menstruating girls and women are sent to live in the bashaleni, the village menstrual building, during their periods, until they regain their purity. Girls are usually married at an early age, but if a woman wants to change the husband, she will write a letter to her prospective husband offering herself in marriage and informing the would-be groom how much her current husband paid for her. This is because the new husband must pay double if he wants her.

For hundreds of years the Kalasha women had worn a black woolen garment, woven by hand (cew), but around the nineties came into use the cotton dress, also black, but woven by machine (piran). The piran is decorated with thin machine borders in age-old designs: the goat’s horn (zigzag) and mishari (checked). Nowadays the thick soft thread in vivid colors (usually bright orange, green or purple and yellow) sewn on the top, the loose sleeves and the bottom of the piran in either checked or zigzag designs, sometimes in flower designs, makes the the piran the most conspicuous part of their culture and identity. The pat’i is a long woven woolen or cotton belt with borders and long fringes wound around the hips, letting the piran hang loose and baggy.

The shushut is a ring around the head, made of woven cloth, decorated with three rows of cowrie shells with thin chains or bright color beads along and between them, from which a ‘tail’ hangs down the back. It is less formal than the kupas and is worn every day all day long and it is taken off only when the woman goes to bed or is in mourning. The kupas, the major headdress, is always worn with the shushut underneath. It is a woolen cap hanging down the back. It is extremely heavy as it is all covered by cowrie shells and other decorations. The jewelry, called ma’ik, consists of numerous colorful necklaces made from bright color beadsand strong threadsall. They are worn around their bare neck and may weigh from one to four kilos! The hairstyles are extremely meticulous. The women wash their long hair in the Kunar river and then after combing it thoroughly they make five plaits, the cu’i: one hanging down sideways on the forehead; two on top of the head hanging on the sides behind the ears and two starting from the back of the head just above the neck and hanging down the back.

About the stamps

The first stamp, designed by Liaquat Ali, was issued on December 28, 2013, to commemorate the 150 years of faithful services of the Pakistan Bible Society (PBS).

The second stamp was issued on January 18, 2012 to commemorate the 100th Meeting of the Federal Cabinet of Pakistan.

The third stamp, depicting Muhammad Ali Jinnah, I wrote here.

The fourth stamp, with the theme 100 Million Cellular Subscribers Celebration Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Islamabad, was issued on January 19, 2011

The last stamp was issued on July 11, 2014, to commemorate 100 years of the Frontier Constabulary.

The Kalasha Woman Today, by Elizabeth Mela-Athanasopoulou - International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, Vol. 2, No. 17, September 2012
Kalash people - Wikipedia

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Sent from Karachi (Sindh / Pakistan), on 09.08.2014