Friday, November 13, 2009

Preservation Of Ethno linguistic Culture,The Kalaash Fascination!


As I look around for answers  in the cultural evolution of the peoples  of Swat valley to the violent ethno religious assault in our modern day Pakistan a fascinating book, Proceedings Of  The Hindukush Cultural Conference by Oxford University Press, gave a fascinating account in so many papers of the Kalaash people. My fascination with this unique ethnic group is such that how in the region where all around there is spread of  Islam and modern ,sociocultural influence, these people managed to preserve their culture uptil now. Since the formation of Pakistan and the inquiry and research into this culture a lot of detail has come out and now as a preserved culture they are cherished. As I read the various papers it became clear that the people of Chitral and Kalaash valley had various shades of religion, shamanistic, ancestoral worship, fire worship etc. They also believed  in One God , which is known as Mahadeo by Kalaash. How is it then that when Islam arrived in this area this belief was not converted and to this day remains as a belief only. There is no place, ritual or written document for one god worship. Ibne Batutta passed this area in 1237 and says that the people of the Chitral were already muslims whereas in the other chronicles the question to  conversion to Islam arises.Another scholar questions in his paper as to how and why the traditions of Khowar culture such as playing the Ibex horn bugle by the shepherd at dawn have disappeared.The slow decline of traditions in song, dance, celebratory festivals and now burials and funerals reflect the loss of culture in Chitral.
The peoples of Swat also became homogenised in the sense of religious practices of uneral and burial and giving up certain practices by the Islamic faith edicts, by the advent of Islam and their initial cultural practices vained.
The Kalaash people are now suffering by illiteracy, disease and looking for opportunity in other areas for economic benefits.They may lose their pristine culture eventually. I can understand this. But my larger question that the assault on the multi ethno-cultural peoples by a small, violent,group now especially dominated by Pakhtuns of a very small ethno religious identity, why and how and by whom is it bieng supported. What is the cultural context?
The question that comes into mind is what is the concept of homogenous religious identity and how does it answer or how does it occur. Is urbanisation one representation? It cannot be !It is not complete in itself. Ethnic, cultural diversity is always opposed to homogenisation in religious beliefs. The Kalaash are a fascinating and unique lot, not only in their preservation of culture but also in the preservation of religious beliefs.

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