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Colours of the Kalash -ChiterMas 2010

CHITRAL --Holy Festival  of The Kalash the 'Chiter Mas' or 'Chow Mas' ended with the winter solstice on 22 Dec. Holiest amongst the primitive Kalash tribes festivals, Chiter Mas is observed with much reverence and rejoicing amongst the Kalash. Goats are slaughtered, Cheese taken out from its hoardings and wine doled out to the celebrating Kalashas. Girls and boys choose their life partners on the occasion and  soothsayers predict for the future year. . Wikepaedia describes the festival as :

"The most important Kalash festival is the Chaumos (cawmōs, ghona chawmos yat, Khowar "chitrimas" from *cāturmāsya, CDIAL 4742), which's celebrated for two weeks at winter solstice (c. Dec. 7-22), at the beginning of the month chawmos mastruk. It marks the end of the year's fieldwork and harvest. It involves much music, dancing, and the sacrifice of many goats. It's dedicated to the god Balimain who's believed to visit from the mythical homeland of the Kalash, Tsyam (Tsiyam, tsíam), for the duration of the feast. Food sacrifices are offered at the clans' Jeshtak shrines, dedicated to the ancestors.

At Chaumos, impure and uninitiated persons aren't admitted; they must be purified by a waving a fire brand over women and children and by a special fire ritual for men, involving a shaman waving juniper brands over the men. The 'old rules' of the gods (Devalog, dewalōk) are no longer in force, as's typical for year-end and carnival-like rituals. The main Chaumos ritual takes place at a Tok tree, a place called Indra's place, "indrunkot", or "indréyin". Indrunkot's sometimes Kalash Damsel (net photo) believed to belong to Balumain's brother, In(dr), lord of cattle.

Ancestors, impersonated by young boys (ōnjeṣṭa 'pure') are worshipped and offered bread; they hold on to each other and form a chain (cf. the Vedic anvārambhaṇa) and snake through the village.

The men must be divided into two parties: the pure ones have to sing the well-honored songs of the past, but the impure sing wild, passionate, and obscene songs, with an altogether different rhythm. This's accompanied by a 'sex change': men dress as women, women as men (Balumain also's partly seen as female and can change between both forms at will). --(CN report, photos by GH Farooqi, 22 Dec 2010)


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