CHITRAL, Dec 22: The Kalash winter festival concluded here on Sunday with religious leaders of the community predicting pleasant new year for the people as a captured fox released on the occasion ran towards human settlements instead of going to the hills which could have been considered as a bad omen.
The Kalash baitans (religious leaders) made the prediction after observing the direction of the movement of the fox freed in the nearby forest at the end of Chitramas festival, coinciding the start of the new year in Kalash calendar.
The concluding ceremony of the festival was marred by snowfall and the people faced hardships in attending the dancing place at Aneezh. However, the Kalash people as well as tourists braved the freezing winds to carry on the singing and dancing.
Shokore Shah, a Kalash elder of Bumburate valley, told this correspondent that the new year would be pleasant in terms of good health for the people and their cattle, high production of milk and honey as well as cereal crops and fruit trees.
He said as per Kalash beliefs, on the first day of the New Year, gods visited the valleys and met people. Being the most important of all the festivals from religious point of view, the festival started on December 8 in the three Kalash valleys simultaneously, and during the last three days (from December 19 to 21), the selected people in each village confined themselves in cattle houses.
Danishak Kalash of Bumburate valley said the seclusion (Autik) of the people was a great source of pleasing the god, Balimain, adding that during solitary confinement, the people meditated about the spiritual matters of life and the blessings the gods bestowed upon them. He said that during Autik no non-Kalash was allowed to enter the village as even talking with other people would pollute them spiritually. “Goats are slaughtered at Malosh (place of worship), and the number of goats slaughtered this year was 83,” said Mr Danishak.
Announcement of engagements of boys and girls was also made on the conclusion of the festival.
Ali Sher Kalash of Rumbur valley said that 15 engagements were done in all the three valleys. The Kalash people will now confine themselves to their homes due to intense cold and snowfall.
Meanwhile, station house officer of Bumburate police station, Hassanullah, said extraordinary arrangements had been made for safety of the tourists, including foreigners.
On the other hand, most hotels, including those operated by Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation, were closed on the occasion as the number of tourists visiting the valley has dropped considerably.–Zahiruddin