Traditional dances of Chitral fading away

CHITRAL: As the International Dance Day was marked on Saturday, the people of Chitral complained that the traditional dances, which made a significant part of their culture, were fast fading out of their daily life.

They insisted that around 360 types of dances were performed in the district.

However, the Kalash, the primitive people having unique ways of living in southern Chitral, have kept their traditional dance alive as it is not only part and parcel of their culture but also forms their basic religious ritual.

Former IUCN project manager in Chitral Dr Inayatullah Faizi told Dawn that the local residents could be divided into Khow and Kalash communities along the lines of their cultures and traditions.

Dr Inayatullah said in the current times, the Khow people had almost forgotten 288 of the 360 types of their dances.

“A local younger of today can hardly name four to five types of Chitrali dance and he will not be able to give their description,” he said.

He regretted that the declination of the local dancing culture had gone unnoticed and there were fears that it would completely faded away in the next two decades or so.

Dr Inayatullah said Chitral Scouts had salvaged part of Chitrali music and dances by including a band of local musicians in the force.

He said it happened in 1982 when then commandant of the force, Colonel Murad Khan Nayyar discovered and called an elderly man from a distant valley of Chitral, Woor Mohammad to the garrison of Drosh to teach the art of Khongora Phonik (dancing with swords) to the force’s personnel.

He said some other famous types of Chitrali dances were preserved by the National Institute of Folk Heritage in late 1970s after its team visited the far-flung areas of Chitral to record the dances performed by the local elderly people.

President of the Anjuman Taraqqi Khowar Chitral Shahzada Tanvirul Mulk told Dawn that currently, Shishtuwar, Nohtik, Phastok, Barwazi, Shabdaraz and Tatari Wawari were among dances popular with youths.

He said there were a number of valleys in Chitral, including Lotkoh, Laspur, Yarkhoon and Biyar, where the old dancing culture was fast losing to the alien one.

He said Kalash might be the only religion in the world in which dance was obligatory for followers.

“A child of five years begins to learn different kinds of dances as part of faith. The Kalash people dance for three days and nights around the dead body before burial.”

Luke Rahmat, an educated youth from Bumburate valley, said the dancing tradition of Kalash was not under threat as it was part of religion of local residents and formed a major part of their festivals.

“In any festival of Kalash, you will see a lad or lass of seven years as well as an old man of 90 years dance in the same group. It is here the traits are transposed to the new generation from the old one,” he said.

He said the Kalash dances were few in number and were associated with certain festivals and occasions and that each was essentially different from other.

“All these dances are performed on the Chilim Jusht festival, which is our major festival held in the spring season,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2017

1 COMMENT

  1. Dear Sir,

    After a long time, I happened to see a very well written piece on Chitrali dances and how we are at the brink of losing them for good. Though having no expertise in the subject I won’t be able to comment much on this form of expression of music of Chitral; however there is another craft upon which I had conducted some research 10 years back (could not publish anything unfortunately) . I have always liked the melodious sound of Sitar as the Farsi poet poet puts it “Khushk Maghzo Khushk Taar o Khushk Post, Az kuja mi ayad een awaz e dost”.Way back in 2003, I used to work for a local NGO in Chitral and the project aimed at promotion of cultural eco tourism in the region. During those times it occurred to me that the craft of Sitar making was dying or had almost died down to the point of extinction as we could not find even a few Sitar makers in the whole of Chitral.
    During my search for authentic information on the subject, I was told that there were some very well known personalities in the history of Chitral who were known for Sitar making and playing including Baba Siyar; Sonoghro Malang Ziyarat Khan Zeerak, Shah Gulizar of Miragram etc. The disappointment was that in the whole of Chitral town there was only one person who was still making sitar i.e Sultan Ghani-by ethnicity a Pashtun.
    These days we see lots of young sitar players which gives rise to the notion that may be the craft has been revived? I don’t know whether that is the case?
    It would be useful to know the status of the craft of sitar making in Chitral at present times; whether it is still rare or young craftsmen have come forward and have kept the tradition alive.
    If you could please invite our valued readers to share their views on this.

    Thank you.

    Saifuddin Saif.
    Morder/present Lahore.

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