Kalash festival ‘Chatar Mas’ welcomes winter

CHITRAL – The Kalash people, known for their unique culture, celebrated and concluded the annual winter festival Chatar Mas in the Bumburate valley, in the south of Chitral district.

It borders Afghanistan’s Nooristan province. The concluding ceremony of Chatar Mas was marked with beating drum beats, dancing and singing by both male and female members of the community.

As per the Kalash tribe’s tradition, some girls wore boys’ clothe while some boys wore girls’ dress and danced together. A large number of tourists from different parts of the country and abroad had come to the valley to witness the unique culture. Stringent security measures were taken by the local administration to thwart any untoward incident.

The festival starts in the first week of December and continues for more than three weeks. This festival is celebrated to welcome the snow season as it motivates the Kalash people to get prepared for the tedious days they usually pass in hibernation inside their homes due to heavy snowfall in the valley.

A group of volunteers including men and women go into seclusion and reside inside the cattle houses and consume the meat of goats slaughtered for the occasion. The ritual is called ‘autik’ in local language and the volunteers are not visited during the period to meet their family members. They come out on the last day of the festival and join the concluding ceremony where they are warmly greeted. Young boys and girls usually choose and pick their life partners.

During the Chatar Mas festival, the Kalash people do not allow outsiders to visit the valley without the last 3 days. The outsiders’ entrance into the main area of the village and talking to a Kalash people is strictly prohibited as per their beliefs. One is bound to take a bath in the cold water of the stream to cleanse him or herself if found talking to other people during the festival.

The Kalash people are settled in three valleys of Bumburate, Rumbur and Birir in Chitral. They celebrate more than four festivals in a year marking each season with a distinct festival. They celebrate Joshi festival in May to welcome spring.

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