The Kalash, or “Wearers of the Black Robe,” are a Dardic people whose ancestry is enveloped in mystery: a legend says that five soldiers of the legions of Alexander the Great settled in Chitral, and are the progenitors of the Kalash. Today, the Kalash are one of the world’s endangered minorities, with a population of about 4,000 remaining.
The Kalash live deep in the Hindu Kush mountains of northwest Pakistan on the slopes of the remote and picturesque Chitral Valley – home of Tirich Mir, the 14th-highest peak in the world (25,550 ft).
The culture of the Kalash is unique, and differs drastically from the overwhelming Muslim ethnic groups in Pakistan. The Kalash are polytheists, with a pantheon of deities and demi-gods that has been compared to that of ancient Greece, though it is much closer to Indo-Iranian (Vedic and pre-Zoroastrian) traditions. The gods are believed to be appeased through animal sacrifices and seasonal festivals, three of the most important being Joshi, in late May, Uchau, in autumn, and Chaumos, in midwinter.
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