PESHAWAR: The grand gala of Kalash winter festival – Chitirmas – was celebrated on Saturday with much funfair and splendour.
Foreign tourists, who had come from different countries to the Kalash valley to have a glimpse of unique culture, traditions and religious rites, enjoyed various events during the 15-day gala in the scenic valley.
Member provincial Assembly from Chitral, Wazirzada, attended the concluding ceremony.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch and Malakand Division Commissioner Zaheer ul Islam and others accompanied the lawmaker.
The MPA praised the provincial government for the facilities provided to the tourists and the local Kalash community to celebrate the festival.
During Chitirmas or Chawmoss festival, which began on December 7 and continued till 22nd of the current month, the Kalash people organised a number of events including bonfire competitions, Mandahek, Sharaberayak and Savilakehari 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 bonfire to show off their skills in making high flames and smoke, which 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 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.
Similarly, Mandahek is another festival during which tree branches are set on fire and people observe five minute silence.
Then comes 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 chorus. They express their feelings for each other and announce their marriage.
The community performed Shishaw and Gosnik rituals as well. After Shishaw rituals the Kalash community does not touch outsiders.
In Gosnik, three to five years old boys and girls wear new dresses with lots of walnut breads, fruits, gifts and locally made embroidered clothes. Their uncles bring goats and sheep to give them as gifts to their nieces and nephews.
The Tourism Department had made appropriate arrangements including installation of lighting system, provision of transport and other facilities so that the local community and tourists could celebrate the festival in a befitting manner.
Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Senior Minister for Sports, Tourism, Archaeology, Museums, Culture and Youth Affairs Muhammad Atif Khan had issued directives to the quarters concerned to provide every facility to the locals and foreign tourists.
He had also announced Rs560 million for highlighting the Kalash culture to the world.
The Kalasha winter festival “Chitirmas or 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.
At dusk, torch-lit processions are taken out from all the nearby villages in Ramboor, Bamburet and Birrir valleys. The processions then culminate at the “Charsue”, which is the main customary dancing place. Most of the festivities are indoors where the local wine is handed around as the dance gathers momentum. It is carried out till late in the night round the bonfire.
On the other hand, the tribal elders sit on hilltops at dawn to watch the rising sun and declare the New Year.
Goat sacrificed are then made to the Godess “Jastak”, while blood from the animal is sprinkled at the temple Jastime.
When “Balimine”, another great god visits the Kalash valley once a year, sacrifices are made at his “Malosh Altar” too.