Kalasha – The White Tribe of Pakistan

The Kalasha of Chitral or simply Kalasha, are an ethnic group living in the Hindu Kush region of Pakistan. They are [probably] an ancient Dard people who speak the Kalasha-mun language, have light skin, eyes, and hair, similar to what one would find in Southern Europe.
Many Kalash claim that they are the direct descendants of either Greek settlers, Alexander the Great’s army, or even Alexander himself. The claims are questionable, as there is proof of their existence before Alexander’s invasion of the Persian Empire.
One theory suggests that similarities in the culture of the Kalasha and Greek people stem from the expansion of Proto-Indo-Europeans.
It is important to note that there is no current connection between the Kalasha of Chitral and the Kalasha of Nuristan. These two populations descend from different branches of the Indo-Iranians, a division that goes back some 5,000 years.
According to linguist [Richard Strand], a professional in this area, the people of Chitral apparently adopted the name of the former Kafiristan Kalasha, who at some unknown time extended their influence into Chitral.
There is still controversy over what defines the ethnic characteristics of the Kalasha and what exactly is their number. An estimate puts current population of ethnic Kalasha around six thousand; who continue to worship their polytheistic gods, while many thousands more have converted to Islam (whether genuine or for economic and social gain), yet still live within the Kalasha villages and maintain their language and their traditional centuries old way of life.
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KALASHA – THE WHITE TRIBE OF PAKISTAN

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by Kuroisitas

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The Kalasha are indigenous people residing in the Chitral District of Pakistan. They speak the Kalasha language, from the Dardic family of the Indo-Iranian languages, and are considered a unique tribe among the Indo-Aryan peoples of Pakistan.

They are related to the Nuristani people of the adjacent Nuristan (historically known as Kafiristan) province of Afghanistan. An autochthonous and polytheistic by the late 19th century much of Nuristan had converted to Islam, while the Kalasha of Chitral maintain their own separate cultural traditions.

The culture of Kalash people is unique and differs completely from the various ethnic groups surrounding them. They are polytheists and nature plays a highly significant and spiritual role in their daily life.

As part of their religious tradition, sacrifices are offered and festivals held to give thanks for the abundant resources of their three valleys. Kalasha Desh (the three Kalash valleys) is made up of two distinct cultural areas, the valleys of Rumbur and Brumbret forming one and Birir valley the other, Birir valley being the most traditional of the two.

Kalash mythology and folklore has been compared to that of ancient Greece, but they are much closer to Indo-Iranian (Vedic and pre-Zoroastrian) traditions. Some of the Kalash people in their own traditions claim to be descendants of Alexander the Great’s soldiers, however, extensive genetic testing has shown no connection.

The Kalash’s origins have fascinated anthropologists due to the unusually high frequency of light hair, skin, and eyes (particularly green). Some Pashtuns and Persians too have been known to have blond hair or green eyes (such as Sharbat Gula).

In the mountains of the Hindu Kush in Pakistan, six thousand or so people live who look and sound very different from their neighbors.  They claim to have lived in the area for thousands of years and they look to all intents and purposes, European.  

 Image Credit Flickr User Manalahmadkhan 

Image Credit Flicks User Saad Sarfraz Sheikh
Many of the Kalash are blond haired and blue eyed, somewhat of an 
anomaly in Pakistan!  Some believe that they are descendants of 
Alexander the Great’s army though their true ethnic origins are still unproven. 

 

They have a significantly different outlook on life from the Muslims 
surrounding them – they are polytheistic and have a completely different folklore
 (which has been compared to that of ancient Greece).   

DNA testing has not, however, produced any connection to Greek people. 
Yet although there is no genetic support for a Greek origin, the tests
 on the Kalash also showed no detectable East or South Asian lineages. 

 

Taking in to account genetic drift it was then thought that the Kalash 

blood line originated in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and 

the Caucasus. However, another series of tests suggested that

 perhaps the Kalash are in fact aboriginal to the area with only 

negligible contributions from external peoples. In other words,

 the jury is still out as to where they actually come from but it 

might well be exactly where they are right now. 

Hiten Raja 
 They live in Kalasha Desh – which translates as the three valleys 
of the Kalash – and that is the limit of their people’s range. There are 
only around five thousand speakers of the language, Kalasha, left which 
in terms of a language means that it is critically endangered. However, 
it is thought that the language probably never had more than a few tens
 of  thousands of speakers at any one time.

 

 

As their numbers are very small, the culture of the people who 
surround them have had an impact. Many of the Kalash in two 
of the valleys have converted to Islam, probably around fifty percent. 
They still practice many of the traditional aspects of Kalash life 
though the non-converts call them ‘sheiks’.  A third valley,
 known as Birir, still clings to the traditional way of Kalash life. 

Image Credit Flickr User Manalahmadkhan

By some standards, the Kalash are very poor and it is true that they are subsistence farmers. Kalash houses are typically made from Deodar trunk to an ancient design. They appear singly or stacked up against each other up vertiginous hillsides.

Image Credit Flickr User Gregory Strauch

 

Image Credit Flickr User Yodod
Yet even though the houses often look precarious, they are built on solid stone foundations. Many have inbuilt beehives, given the villagers access to honey close by. Life is, however, hard. Outbreaks of cholera still happen regularly in these remote villages.

Image Credit Flickr User GroudReporter
In stark contract to the culture of Pakistan the Kalash do not separate the sexes or disapprove of contact between men and women of different families.  However, there is the ‘bashelini’ – a house in the village where menstruating women are sent until they regain ‘purity’ and rituals must be performed before she can return to her husband.

Image Credit Flickr User GroundReporter
Elopement is regular in Kalash society and – strangely – it occurs often among married women.  The woman herself will ask the prospective groom and offer her hand, informing the new man how much her previous husband paid for her.  

Image Credit Flickr User GroundReporter
The Kalash have, for however long they have been in the Hindu Kush, made their livelihood by herding goats and farming. Yet tourism does not play a major part in their lives with many urban Pakistanis making the journey from the big cities to meet their light colored rustic neighbors.

Image Credit Flickr User Saad Safraz Sheikh

Image Credit Flickr User Yodod
The Kalash are protected by the government of Pakistan but their future is uncertain – particularly if the religion declines in to theocracy.  There have been recent Taliban incursions and a Greek aid worker was kidnapped in 2009 (she was returned unharmed four months later after an outcry). However, their relative isolation may well ensure the Kalash survive.

Image Credit Flickr User Yodod
First Image Credit Flickr User GroundReporter
Source of Text and Images

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45 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Kalasha – The White Tribe of Pakistan […]

  2. These are phantastic pictures about people and landscape.

    • *Thanx for your visi to this site and appreciating our work. Also PLZ NOTE THAT WE HAVE MOVED TO OUR INDEPENDENT DOMAIN AT http:wondersofpakistan.com/ *

      *and* *link to this post on our own domain is as follows:-*

      *http://wondersofpakistan.com/2012/09/03/kalasha-the-white-tribe-of-pakistan/*

  3. They no doubt are the remnants of the original white people who conquered India and subjugated the darker Indian peninsula inhabitants who morphologically seem related to the aborigenes of Australia. The caste system ensued to keep the conquering race pure.
    The Brahmin at the top, like Nehru, tend to be quite white and whiteness is always sought after as a desirable trait to have in a wife as can be attested by marriage wanted ads. The Kalash were just better preserved from miscegenation due to near complete isolation. But the signs of admixtures are already there if you study the pictures above. And since whiteness is genetically recessive (makes sense since whites were the most recent and advanced link in the process of evolution) the miscegenation will continue further eroding their whiteness and the freedom of women in that culture. Jealousy by either sex and control of women by men seems to go with the skin colour.

  4. The words Hindukush, and Kalash have attracted me towards the probable impact factor of this article .
    It is a good effort.

    It opens the new frontiers for DNA mapping and cultural excavations.

    Personally appreciate the effort depicted through this article.

  5. They are NOT white. Blue eyes and blond hair is extremely rare even among the majority of the Kalasha, who have dark hair and eyes.
    This is a complex subject. Indians actually have the highest European blood outside of countries considered culturally white (upper caste Hindus and Sikhs).
    The areas called Pakistan was all Buddhist, Hindu, or Sikh. They fled to modern day India far before the partition in 1947 (no records or borders), the ones with land, fled after or during the partition because they were resisting.
    Pakistanis today are mainly followers of a rebellious leader from Central India. These followers of Jinnah to Pakistan for land and money. The only people in that region today who did not move are the Kalash who did not move for financial reasons.
    Tthere are MANY tribes like these in Nepal and India, but they go unnoticed because of their large population. They follow the caste not the region. The Sikh massacre made Hindus and Sikhs in North India to come a little south to Punjab. North is successful and has a lot of immigrants and the partition switching.
    I’m American and almost every time Alexander the Great’s story is brought before me, I do say it has nothing to do with the Kalash. Even Alexander wasn’t Greek, the Kalash are of Mongolian blood, they resemble ethnic Hispanic (who were Mongolian).

    • You are terribly uninformed. Sitting in the US & commenting on the Kalashas of Pakistan is beyond your forte.

      You say majority of Kalasha have dark hair & dark eyes, but this is not true. You doubt the color of Kalasha’s hair & eyes as black. Yet not only Kalasha but many tribes in the Pashtun population of Pakistan have blond hair & blue eyes. Even you may find many from the Punjab province of Pakistan who may have blue or green eyes & blond hair.

      I wonder from where did you get knowledge about Kalasha. Your knowledge is uttterly false (absolutely without any weightage). Looks you comment for the sake of omment only, so I strongly advise you to first read the history & then comment.

      What color have the Indians especially those which have settled abroad and as you say have the highest blood outside of countries are culturally white, does neither interest me nor impress me, but it does show your complex about white complexion which makes you singularise the upper caste Hindus & Sikhs having a culturally white complexion.

      Pakistan did have Hindu, Buddhist & Sikh populations, but as an outfall of partition of the then British India in 1947 only Hindus & Sikhs left for India as did so many Muslims who left their home & hearth for Pakistan.

      Buddhists had inhabited Pakistan’s Gandhara civilisation in the earlier parts of the Christian calender but after pressure first from the Hindu rulers & later by different invading forces, moved to other parts.

      The massacre of Sikhs in 1947 was a two way affair. The Sikhs were murdered in the Western Punjab of Pakistan & Muslims were likewise massacred in Eastern Punjab by the Sikhs, hence cross migration of the three leading ommunities in the subcontinent viz: Muslims from all parts of India fleeing to Pakistan & the Sikhs and Hindus fleeing from Pakistan to India.

      And finally your calling Quaid e Azam a rebel leader shows the real color you Indies have. Its this B.S. in your mind that you try to castigate a man who was declared an apostle of Hindu Muslim unity and who later heralded the Pakistan movement. Your shit minds try to declare the man who in the contemporary history is an undisputed and most venerated leader the Muslims ever had.

      You claim to be an American and pose yourself as highly informed Indian but to declare Alexander as of Hispanic origin is a marvel of history because uptil now no historian of a worth had the courage to bring out this great “discovery” that you have made by calling Alexander the Great as of Mongolian cum Hispanic origin.

      • Oh give me a break Muhammad Wasi. Most of these Kalash have strange looking faces, and none look like Europeans. They are just pale skin because they spend winter 6 months of the year inside their dark little homes with no windows. “Blue, blond hair” in Punjab lol. They are Slavic tribes who fled from Mongoloid Huns and settled in Afghania and Punjab, and now you call such invaders Pakistanis lol. You Pakis got nothing to talk about now other than skin color.
        And why did Hindus and Sikhs have to leave Pakistan in 1947? Nobody was supposed to move from their homes as per partition rules. What if India sent 200 million more Muslims to Pakistan?

      • *Thanx for your input on WondersofPakistan discussion forum. PLZ NOTE THAT WE HAVE MVED TO OUR INDEPNDENT DOMAIN AT http:wondersofpakistan.com/ and link to this post is as follows:-*

        *http://wondersofpakistan.com/2012/09/03/kalasha-the-white-tribe-of-pakistan/ *

    • *Thanx for your input on WondersofPakistan discussion forum. PLZ NOTE THAT WE HAVE MOVED TO OUR INDEPENDENT DOMAIN AT http:wondersofpakistan.com/ and link to this post is as follows:-*

      *http://wondersofpakistan.com/2012/09/03/kalasha-the-white-tribe-of-pakistan/ *

  6. Also Caucasian and White are two different topics, ethnic Caucasians were dark featured and said to be from the middle east, the words Caucasian and Aryan were adopted by Celtic blooded Whites

  7. I appreciate the effort.

  8. I would like to point out the young girl in the first picture was RETOUCHED, I saw the exact same picture on a photographer’s page but in that picture the girl had dark brown eyes, also these people are NOT white, not even Caucasian, their Mongolian blooded, tribes like these are all over the Asian continent and in some places in more numbers (I mean numbers in millions near India and Nepal border), they have no traces of their DNA to Europe, there were like four pictures of Kalash kids on the net circling around where they look like pure Caucasian, but turned out to be tourist or retouched. There was a blog over that as well, other than those four pictures I’ve seen, they look like typical south Asians Mongolians, majority have dark features and resemble like Hispanics to me, whose ancestors were also Mongolians, like the article but updated and accurate info was not used and seemed more of opinions and seemed to concentrate on eye, hair color and to label them white in the title??? there’s no proof they are, but still nice to read it.

    • I wanna add one important thing regarding to Kalash’s blood line. Whether you believe it or not but their physical features are exactly same as people in Eastern Europe.

      You don’t need to believe cause that’s you nature could be to try to find some false reasons to deny the reality.

      No doubt kalash are totally different culture than any other in the world. Pakistanis don’t need to know their blood line, as long as they are in Pakistan, they are considered Pakistanis.

    • Since you mentioned Nepal here, let me add something which might expand your knowing. Firstly, yes. There’s some similarity between these tribe and the Nepalese. Historically, Nepal is a mixture of different races and cultures. One such tribe of people is the Khas (Caucasus>Caucas>Khas) tribe. History has it they are one of the tribes that entered Nepal through Kashmir somewhere from the Caucasus Mountains. Their customs are unique which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Kalasha tribe – praying the ancestors. These Khas tribe believe their ancestors comprised of 13 tribes who came from the west and they pray them during certain occasions. But with the advent of Hinduism , mostly are converted but some do still practice the custom.

      I, come from this tribe. To my amazement, most of my people do look like these Kalasha people. Above all, our Language – Khasa Bhasa (Khas Language) contains heavy Dardic elements, which further resembles Kalasha language and the rest from the family of Eastern Iranian Language. Upon further studying and research, I found that Khas people indeed are not from the Indian region and have migrated from the Caucasus and beyond..I further believe that the Kalasha, Afghanistani, Kashmiri, Himachali and Khas from Nepal are from the Caucasus and have strong tie with the Albanians.

      Why? Because, we do look more like them. Fair and similar features. The Alpine group.

      The Himachali chronicles also mentions us as the Alpine People, latter followed by the Dinaric people.

      Also, it is said that Albanians came from Caucasus and called a small portion of Caucasus as little Albania (although my research here is limited). But mu point is yes, Kalasha are indeed Caucasus with little or none admixture. Even though I don’t belong in their community, somewhere inside I truly believe I’m a part of theirs.

      • I was researching this as somewhere in my mind I had d same idea as u mentioned above but couldnt find any link in proper research documents. Im surprised uv mentioned my thought in ur words. I am from nepal as well but not khas tribe..

        Khas-mir, Khas-ghar, also a region in west afganistan called Khash, there are also several province in east and north Iran called Khash, also another called chahar khash, another khas region exists near azerbaijan, armenia, iran border, Khas-huri in georgia, infact many names of towns in georgia sounds nepali/khas areas in nepal, there is also a dish called khash in all the regions mentioned above including bulgaria & d dish is also eaten in albania but is called pace, I believe the khas people are not necessarily from albania, but decendent of illyrian origin from the balkan region, of which albania, kalasha and khas people decended from.

        If you listen to traditional illyrian, kalasha and music from the hill regions of nepal, they re so similar. Some of the music collected by kumar basnet is very similar to kalasha, burusho, pamirian traditional music and the illyrian traditional music. Im no expert but i believe the experts cant be bothered to research.

  9. What Bull…. is this…. The Kalash people are Indo-Aaryans. They originally are from Caucasus (Russia), have gone all over Europe (hence Caucasian) and to Iran and India, which is why you call all those language as one family of languages” the Indo- European family of languages”. Kalash are isolated hence have kept themselves up in their original lifestyle (or indeed some mutation happened – as it looks like some of them are whiter than whites), while Caucasians as they further went to the East (Iran, India) got mixed up with indigenous people as it happens everywhere, in situations like these Kalash of Pakistan have no connection to Mongols. Their facial structure is Caucasian, so do proper research before you comment.

    Kalasha’s is a unique culture and must be preserved. They are very peace loving and flexible people as far as their mannerism and their cultural nuances are concerned.

  10. Did anybody did dna testing with Albanians,their language is very similar to Albanian.

    • lol, I just can’t believe where did you got that Idea because that’s look pathetic, but still I think we should try that, even if Kalash’s physical features didn’t look like Albanians.

      Once Again
      lol lol !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. most beautiful kylash

    • Hi there is no need to fight. None of you can solve the problems. Kalash is in Pakistan and they are Pakistani. Living in mountains from thousands years. My Greek friends belive they have same blood line. They are helping their community.One must study world history from Babylon to understand migration of human being. I have travelled many European countries. All European not have blue or green eyes. Some are blind too. Lastly America belongs to red Indians not white settlers.

  12. The best things for Kalash people is that they should migrate enmass to india . We will provide them a sanctuary in Nubra valley were they can live in peace and pratice there way of life .

    • crazy u want to ut them on your cast system have u finished the poverty in India???

      • At least in India they would not face conversion into islamics and would survive . Islam has no respect for any differences they want every person to be the same = a muslem.

    • Sounds like you want to have some more white people in India, don’t you? FYI Kalash are patriotic people who loved Pakistan because that is their home country for over 5-thousands of years so plz do some research before you comment.
      Also, they want to live in cooler areas not in hot and humid areas in India.

      Look I do respect your idea but that’s not gonna work at all. So plz let them live with peace in Pakistan. No one wants to have
      Kashmir II in form of Kalash.

  13. I am so grateful for your site. Thanks Again.

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  14. I have been lucky to visit northern areas of Pakistan and frontier province. This is no doubt most beautiful area of the world. Unfortunately, not very well developed like other high elevation mountain areas around europe. THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE IN THIS AREA WHO LOOK LIKE EUROPEAN with white skin, blond hair and blue eyes. Some valleys actually have more beautiful skin color and eyes than Kalash. Kalash have been isolated more than other valleys and their living style in dark homes and long winters may have helped them preserve their skin colors better while other parts like Hunza, Gilgit to Swat have been mixed. Yet, this race is everywhere in north part of Pakistan, not only Kalash valley.

  15. Check out the latest

    The speak ancient Greek

    http://www.grreporter.info/en/node/172

  16. […] Kalasha – The White Tribe of Pakistan […]

  17. The top image has been manipulated (made more blond than in real life) and I don’t know why! WHY? The tribe is fantastic without any touching.

    You will find the original image here: http://www.taringa.net/posts/imagenes/16995415/Otros-mundos-Kalasha-indoeuropeos-en-Paquistan.html

    • About image 15 from the top. Look for the similarity in clothing and background. The fake image on this page is also there, but lower down. Such meaningless twisting of reality.

  18. You are using an image which has been Photoshopped. This is the original, nice try.

  19. Can we adopt a Kalash baby?

  20. Hi… Is adoption allowed… Can someone tell. I read somewhere as per their tradition if the mother dies during childbirth the newborn is left to die with her…. In such cases would they allow adoption?

  21. This is a quite interesting discussion, but blondness is not the propriety of Europe, the distribution of fair hair and blue eyes, is not regular from northern Europe as being maximum to southern europe as being minimum, but from Northeast to south west. Southern Spain and Portugal have the least percentage of fair hair and blue eyes! Around the Balck sea you can find diffrent populations with fair hair and bleue eyes and it goes diminishing Asia inward.

  22. i want to Adopt a Kalash Boy, i married since 9 years ago, but i have no baby so far.
    my E.Mail I.D is cutemnasir@gmail.com

  23. I beleive that Kalash people are related to Ilirian (today Albanians) people, DNA results were compared to the Greeks and that’s wrong, since Macedonins and Greeks were of different ethnic background, and for the sake of truthfull history Alexander the Great was not Greek but Macedonian which was a Ilirian ( albanian) speaking nation.

  24. @Peter Sidvavi

    Another piece of crap from another Indian friend. If somebody stays indoors that doesn’t mean his/her complexion would change. Yes some temporary change in colour hue/tinge/shade may take place, but its all temporary. Original colour of one’s skin depending on his/her racial features remains same. There are a few English who never left Pakistan and made it their permanent abode, they are living in relatively warm and humid climate of Pakistan but still retain their white complexion.

    FYI we Pakistanis don’t give any importance to skin colour/or racial/caste distinctions. We did inherit caste/bradri biases bcz of influence of having lived with the Hindus for hundreds of years but with the passage of time particularly the influence of education/of Islam on our religious as well as social practices, and social awakening among different strata of the society these biases are becoming a matter of the past.

    Sending 200 million Muslims from India to Pakistan is a satanic thinking which can only come from Hindutva minded Indians who very pride-fully claim themselves as the largest secularists of the world, but in their hearts and minds every secularist in India is a Hindutva infested genie.


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