CHITRAL: The ancestors of Kalash people seem to be good planners of their times as the devastating flash floods of the last year did not hit a single household in any one of the three segregated valleys of Bumburate, Rumbur and Birir due to their location at a safer place well beyond the reach of the ruthless tides.
A worker of an NGO, busy in relief work in those valleys, told this scribe that he found almost no house of Kalash damaged by the flash flood that wreaked havoc in the plains of all the three valleys by sweeping away dozens of hotels and tens of acres of maize crops and tens of hundreds of walnut trees.
He said that as per common practice, Kalash people of the olden times chose only plateaus and highlands for construction of houses and always abstained from making plains as their place of abode.
Based on his survey, the NGO worker said that those Kalash people, who departed from the normal practice and chose the plain areas for construction of homes, were affected by the flood. “It shows the sagacity and foreseeing ability of their predecessors,” he added.
Luke Rahmat Kalash of Bumburate valley said that apart from the safety of the highlands from floods, other reason was that they used the plain pieces of land for raising walnut and grape trees and cultivation of wheat and maize crops.
He said that ancient Kalash not only excelled in the site selection for construction of their houses but they also learnt how to make their houses resilient to the shocks of earthquake.
Luke Rahmat said that not only the houses but their worship places were also built on the mounds and high places. It formed a part of their dogmatic belief to choose highlands for the construction purpose.
Luke Rahmat said that Kalash houses were least affected by the earthquake of 2015. He said that Kalash people followed their own code of building and lavishly used wood in the ramparts to make it light as well as keeping all the four side walls intact.
Muazzam Khan, also known as Haji Ustaz, a renowned carpenter in Chitral city, said that deodar wood was in galore in Kalash valleys and it was fervently used in construction. “Wooden structure is more elastic, shock proof and durable. It withstands the effects of weather and Kalash live in the rooms comfortably in the winter season when the valleys receive more than three feet snow,” he added.
Haji Ustaz said that Kalash architecture was simple in nature and its basic aim was strength rather than decoration. “It involves no carving as practiced by the people of other tribes,” he added.
The carpenter said that Kalash were still reluctant to use corrugated aluminum sheets in the roofs and cement in the walls as they believed that it would change their culture.
Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2017