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Kalash cultural preservation project launched in Pakistan

Little Kalasha girls in their traditional dresses. (File photo)
The Kalasha community during a festival.(File photo)
The Kalasha community during a festival. (File photo)
PESHAWAR:The Directorate of Archaeology and Museums in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province launched its “Presevation and Promotion of Kalash Valley” project over the weekend.
Nawazud Din, research officer at the directorate, said the Rs60 million ($543,000) project aims to promote and conserve the unique culture of the ancient Kalash community — an endangered minority in the Hindukush mountain belt of Chitral in northern Pakistan — as well as to attract tourism.
“Kalash has a great deal of tourism potential,” he told Arab News, saying both local and international travelers would find the area had much to offer.
Kalash architecture is a unique mixture of ancient woodcraft and the medieval traditions of figure art. Kalash buildings typically feature magnificently carved wooden pillars and beams decorated with human and animal figures and effigies — each one depicting a certain myth and superstition.
The area — divided into three main sub-valleys: Barir, Bamboret and Rumbor — is also known for its local handicrafts, including the spinning and weaving of rugs, carpets, belts and headgear. Sayed Gul Kalashi, manager of Chitral Museum, said the valley’s population is currently a little over 4,000. And Kalash activists have been raising concerns over the speed with which that number is shrinking.
The Kalash tribe has been settled in the valley for centuries. The people are widely believed to be descended from Alexander the Great’s soldiers. Indeed, Kalashi told Arab News that when a group of Greek nationals arrived in the valley a few decades ago, the locals were shocked at the resemblance between them and their guests.
The later Greek visitors, she said, “worked for the welfare of the locals” and earned their respect. They launched education and health projects “because the area is underdeveloped and lacks basic amenities,” and also set up a museum in Bamboret.
Chitral’s deputy commissioner, Irshad Sadhar, told Arab News that local authorities have banned the purchase or sale of land in Kalash valley in order to protect cultural heritage sites.
“We are preserving their places of worship, graveyards and where they usually dance during their festivals,” he explained, adding that they are also “creating places for tourists too.”

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