CHITRAL: The Kalash people, known for their unique culture, celebrated the annual winter festival – Chatar Mas, which concluded in the Bumburate valley, in the south of Chitral district bordering Afghanistan’s Nooristan province.

The concluding ceremony of Chatar Mas was marked with beating drums, dancing and singing religious songs by both male and female members of the Kalash community.

According to local people, this year, two couples left their village and fled to another valley where they announce their wedding. 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 as well as some foreign visitors had come to the valley to witness this unique culture. Stringent security measures were taken by the local administration to thwart any untoward incident.

The Chatar Mas festival starts in the second week of December and continues for more than two weeks. This festival is celebrated to welcome the snow season as it motivates the Kalash people to get prepare 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 during the last seven days and reside inside the cattle houses and consume the meat of goats slaughtered for the occasion. This ritual is called ‘autik’ in local language and the volunteers are not visited during this 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 day. The outsiders’ entrance into the main area of the village and talking to a Kalash person 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. These people celebrate more than four festivals in a year marking each season with a distinct festival. They celebrate Joshi festival in May to welcome spring.

Courtesy: TNN