CHITRAL: The winter Chitramas festival of Kalash people concluded in the Bumburate valley on Sunday, coinciding with the New Year of the Kalash calendar. The festival began on Dec 7.

Kalash elders from the other two valleys of Rumbur and Birir also participated in the concluding ceremony.

The concluding day started with a ceremony in which a captive fox was set free by bitans (Kalash religious leaders) drawn from all the three Kalash valleys, who made prediction for the coming year on the basis of which direction the fox went.

Imran Kabir Kalash, a former member of district council, told Dawn that the fox leaped towards the stream after its release in the nearby forest which meant that the valleys would see extended winter and more rainfall, but pleasant summer with no sign of natural disasters.

He said the bitans also predicted high production of milk and honey in the valley during the summer, on which depended the sustenance of the Kalash people.

The groups of men and women, who had gone to seclusion five days before the end of the festival as one of the religious rituals of the festival, also came out on the occasion.

They had volunteered to remain in seclusion in the cattle pens to please their gods and goddesses.

The Kalash women and children attired in traditional dresses arrived at the central dancing place (jastakhan) situated at Broon village in the centre of the valley in small groups, singing the special song of the occasion.

With the chitramas festival, the Kalash people prepare themselves for the coming days of winter during which the valleys receive many feet of snow confining the residents indoors in virtual hibernation.

Kabir Kalash said announcements of engagements of young boys and girls were also made on the concluding day of the festival.

The Kalash people hailed the contribution of Tourism Corporation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for providing solar-powered lanterns for lighting during the nights, and for also providing facilities at the dancing places in all the three valleys.

A large number of people had thronged the venue from other villages of Chitral, while tourists from different parts of the country were also seen in the concluding ceremony.

Deputy commissioner Naveed Ahmed, who was present at the concluding ceremony, said elaborate arrangements had been made for the festival in coordination with the Chitral Task Force and the police.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2019

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