CHITRAL: The weeklong winter festival of Chitramas started in three Kalash valleys of Bumburate, Birir and Rumbur here on Thursday.

The major event of the opening day was the going of men and women into seclusion in the corral (cattle house), called autik in Kalash language.

The secluded people are volunteers who confine themselves to the corral for a week during which they insulate themselves from other people. During this period, they eat the meat of slaughtered goats and drink and pass the time in merrymaking.

The final day of the festival coincides with the first day of the new year of Kalash calendar and the secluded people come out of the corrals to join other folks in concluding ceremony of the festival.

Luke Rahmat Kalash said that from spiritual point of view more importance was accorded to it than the other festivals during which special prayers were held for wellbeing of the community during the coming year. He said that Kotramu was of an important activity of the year in which statues of different domestic and wild animals were made by women with dough of wheat flour which were then baked and used to decorate the houses during the festival.

“In another function of Madaik, the Kalash people pile up their preserved fruits, including grape, pear, apple and walnut, which they clean to use during the festival. During the daytime, the Kalash people pass their time in merrymaking by singing and dancing while during nighttime they dance around the bonfire in Chharsu (dancing place), he said.

Rahmat Kalash said that it was the only festival during which non-Kalash people were prohibited to go in vicinity of the houses of Kalash. An official of Bumburate police station told this scribe that a good number of foreigners, including a team of French tourists, were in the valleys to watch the festival.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2018

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