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The Kalash - Observers of the Sun, Moon and Stars

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The Kalash are a unique people living in the Chitral District of northern Pakistan. Considered to be the indigenous people of the area, the Kalash have a population of approximately 3,000 and their culture is believed to date back 3,000 years. They speak Kalasha, a Dardic language which belongs to the Indo-Aryan language tree.

The Chitral District, home to the Kalash, is quite a fertile region. The word Chitral comes from the Khowar language and means field. Kalash fields are filled with an abundance of crops including wheat, corn, buckwheat, apples, apricots and walnuts. They also utilize rivers within the valley to irrigate crop fields and power mills for grinding grains. Cooking is done using wood-fired ovens.

Dance is a key aspect of Kalash festivals. During the summer festival, which lasts for a few days, Kalash people pay reverence to God by expressing gratitude for their food and crops. After the prayer, dancing commences and continues into the early morning of the next day. Another important aspect of festivals is that it offers people in the Kalash community an opportunity to meet a spouse.

The Kalash people have become known for their traditional practice of Suri Jagek. This meteorological and astronomical knowledge system is based on observing the sun, moon, stars and shadows, in reference to the local topography. It provides the Kalash with insights into the weather and was inscribed on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list in 2018. The practice is considered to be central to Kalash life and UNESCO has brought attention to its significance, especially during the current climate crisis. The Kalash people use the insights gained to respond to extreme weather conditions and manage their crops so that they know when to harvest, how to produce more crops and avoid crops from being eaten by pests.

Suri Jagek also informs cultural traditions and the Kalash calendar. For example, it is believed that using stored millet during the new moon will create prosperity. Based on studying meteorology and astrology, the Kalash people can calculate times for important social events to take place.
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