Cross-posted from: Suppressed Histories Archives
Originally published: 09.07.13

One of the last peoples of western Asia to retain their aboriginal culture are the Kalasha of upper Pakistan. They speak an ancient Indo-Iranian language, Dardic, which conserves very ancient features. They took refuge in the mountains of Chitral a long time ago, surviving many waves of invaders. One of the last of these named them Kafir Kalash, “Black Pagans,” after the black robes of the women, and their refusal to convert to Islam. The individual tribes call themselves by older names: Kati, Kom, Vasi, Presun.

Kafiristan, shown in lower center
Kafiristan, shown in lower center

A neighboring group of Kalash people speak a different Indo-Iranian language but shared many cultural ideas and deities. [Witzel, 2] They live in the northwestern region of Afghanistan, which Muslims dubbed Kafiristan, Land of Pagans. In 1895-96, the Afghan emir Abdur Rahman Khan led an attack on the country, declaring “that either the Kafirs would be converted to Islam or be wiped off the face of the earth… Even the names of their villages were Islamised.” [Zaidi, online]

The emir’s armies forcibly converted the Kalasha, and  destroyed their temples and icons. “Altars were burned, priests murdered, boys kidnapped and conscripted to military school in Kabul. Only several hundred Kati Kafirs (the Red Kafirs of the Bashgal Valley) managed to flee across the border.” [Witek, online] The conqueror renamed the region Nuristan, “Land of Light,” symbolizing what he saw as their rescue from pagan darkness.

On the Pakistani side, the Chitrali Kalash have lived under steady pressure to convert to Islam, and about half the remaining populations have done so, to date. Three valleys, with about 3500 inhabitants, hold on to their ancient culture. [Mohammed Bugi, personal communication, June 5, 2013] They are like a besieged island, trying to survive surrounded by the dominant, highly conservative Pakistani society, with the added pressures of poverty and tourist bombardments.

Kalasha women celebrating a festival
Kalasha women celebrating a festival

By their own telling, the cultural distinctness of the Kalash goes beyond their pagan beliefs. They have a saying, “Our women are free” (homa istrizia azat asan), and they assert that Kalasha women have “choice” (chit). Wynne Maggi’s fine book, Our Women Are Free: Gender and Ethnicity in the Hindukush, gives a detailed portrait of the culture. She explores the contradictions between that affirmation and the patriarchal aspects of the culture, which are considerable. (For example, Maggi says that “The concept of women’s freedom is entirely without connotations of women’s solidarity.” [38] I won’t attempt to summarize her contributions, which would be a much longer article. Instead, this article concentrates on the Kalasha goddesses.

A key source on Kalash religion is The Kafirs of the Hindu-Kush (1896) by George Scott Robertson, who traveled in Kafiristan five years before the forced conversions began. He listed 16 principal deities, writing “The gods are worshipped by sacrifices, by dances, by singing hymns (Lálu Kunda) and by uttering invocations (Namach Kunda)…” [381] (I’ll be quoting extensively from this source.)

Sacred image of a goddess or ancestor
Sacred image of a goddess or ancestor

Richard Strand recorded testimony from a Vasi man named Zaman Xan: “In pre-Islamic times they had this quality, right? They were the god-callers; they would call the gods. They recited history… History like, ‘We came from such-and-such a place. Imro’s praise is this. Mone’s praise should be this.’ A person’s — uh, what was her name? – ‘Disañi’s praise is this type.’ They would shout it out. Yes.” [http://nuristan.info/Nuristani/Vasi/VasiCulture/Zaman16.html

Gullam Ullah told Strand, “There was Křumâi – they used to call it Mercy-Pleading Křumâi’s [place], right? That woman’s — she was a holy woman. Křumâi, a woman, Křumâi. Another — she [Křumâi] was lower, right? — like, higher, divine, important woman, a holy woman, was Disaňi. One of our peoples’ gods was Disaňi; she was a woman. The rest were males, for instance, Gish and Mone, and whoever else. You know them all; you’ve written them down, right?” [History of the Kom,” http://nuristan.info/Nuristani/Kamkata/Kom/KomTexts/KomHist.html

The Kalasha spoke of a male creator, Imrá, who had numerous shrines. He endowed other gods such as Moni, Gish, Satarám with life from his breath; “but Dizane sprang into existence from his right breast. Placing her in the palm of his hand, Imrá threw her violently upwards. She alighted in a lake, and was there concealed and released…” [Robertson, 381] The goddess is conceived of as an emanation from a male creator, but also as coming into being independently. By other accounts, she is his sister.


Shrine of Disane, northeast Afghanistan
Shrine of Disane, northeast Afghanistan

Dizane is the great Mother Goddess of the Kalasha. Variants on her name are Disani, Disni, and she is also called Dezalik (“sister of Dezau,” another name for the creator god). This sister-brother pairing is a deep matriarchal pattern in many cultures around the world. Disani “is important; she is the goddess of the hearth and of life force; she protects children and birth giving women…” [Witzel, 5; he derives her name from the same root as the goddess Jeshtak (or in her Hindu form, Jyeshtaa.]

Robertson noted, “Dizane is a popular goddess, and is worshipped wherever I have been in Kafiristan. The Giché, or new year festival, is entirely in her honor, and she also has special observances during the Dizanedu holiday.” That the goddess presides over the new year—as Auset/Isis did in Egypt—is testimony to her great importance. Hers was the greatest festival of the Kalasha, which Muslims described as “the Kafir Eid.”

“In the evening and throughout the night there were feasting and rejoicings in most houses at

Bringing torches to Disane at dawn on New Years Day, at Kámdesh, Afghanistan
Bringing torches to Disane at dawn on New Years Day, at Kámdesh, Afghanistan

Kámdesh. At the first glimpse of dawn on the morning of the 17th, in spite of a heavy snowstorm, men and women issued from every house carrying torches of pine-wood, and marched up the hill crying, ‘Súch, súch,’ and deposited their brands in a heap in front of Dizane’s shrine. The blaze was increased by ghee being thrown on the fire. The Debilála chanted the praises of the goddess, the people joining in the refrain at regular intervals.” [Robertson, 583]

“Dizane takes care of the wheat crop, and to propitiate her, or to increase the produce of wheat-fields, simple offerings are made unaccompanied by the slaughter of an animal.” More patriarchally, the men of Giché offer a goat to Dizane every time a son is born (although she presides over all births). [Robertson, 410]

Several hymns to Disni recorded in Shtiwe, Nuristan, celebrate her as a giver of life-force. This one, sung in early spring when the flocks are taken up to the mountain pastures, calls to mind Avestan paeans to the milk-giving Iranian goddess Anahita:

O Disni, you are the protector of the gates of God
and moreover you have eighteen grades:
Keeper of the temple
Giver of milk to human beings,
Protector of infants,
Well-wisher of man-kind [sic],
Bearer of welfare from God,
You keep the door of milk flowing,
You bring sensuality to mankind,
You increase what is created,
You are the one who receives permits from God,
And you are the keeper of the nine gates of mercy.
[Edelberg, 10]

One important tradition shows Dizane as the Sacred Tree. Robertson had collected a “good story” about this tree, “but the record of this story was lost in a mountain torrent.” [385] He remembered bits of it: “Dizane the trunk of the fabulous tree whose roots were the goddess Nirmali, while the branches were seven families of brothers, each seven in number. Some Kafirs affirmed that Dizane was the daughter of Satarám. She may have been originally the goddess of fruitfulness. She usually shares a shrine with other deities, but at Kámdesh she has the pretty little temple… all to herself. There, at the Munzilo festival, those Kanesh who live in the upper village have to sleep in the open.” [Robertson, 411] The emphasis on outdoor shrines in Nature is pervasive in Kalasha culture.

Another story told by a Kám priest reveals more about what became of Dizane after Imrá threw her up in the air and she alighted in the waters: “In a distant land, unknown to living men, a large tree grew in the middle of a lake. The tree was so big, that if any one had attempted to climb it, he would have taken nine years to accomplish the feat; while the spread of the branches was so great that it would occupy eighteen years to travel from one side of it to other.

Satarám became enamoured of the tree, and journeyed toward it. On his near approach he was suddenly seized with a mighty trembling, and the huge tree burst asunder, disclosing the goddess Disane in the center of its trunk. Satarám had, however, seen enough; he turned round and fled in consternation.” [Robertson, 382-83]

“Dizane began to milk goats…. While she was engaged in this occupation, a devil observed her. He had four eyes, two in front and two behind. Rushing forward, he seized Dizane, while she bent her head to her knees, quaking with terror. The fiend tried to reassure her, saying, ‘It is for you I have come.’ She afterwards wandered into the Presungul, and stepping into the swift-flowing river, gave birth to an infant, who at once, unaided, stepped ashore, the turbulent waters becoming quiet, and piling themselves upon either hand, to allow the child to do so.” The people were amazed at this, and at his starting down the river by himself. He took the name Baghisht, given him by a man who asked for his name. This son of Dizane was one of the Kalash gods. [383]

Wooden statue of goddess or ancestor wearing a jewel on her brow, and traces of blood offerings
Wooden statue of goddess or ancestor wearing a jewel on her brow, and traces of blood offerings

In Chitral, Kalasha women invoke Dezalik in the bashali, the women’s house where they go to menstruate and give birth. If a birth is difficult, they offering walnuts to her, praying, “Oh, my Dezalik of the bashali, make her deliver quickly, bring the new flower into her arms, don’t make things difficult; your eating and drinking.” And again: “Oh, my Dezalik of the bashali, one has come under your care. Bring health, set the flower in her arms, your eating and drinking,” as the women throw more walnuts to the goddess. [Maggi, 145]

The goddess Disni plays a key role in another story. The gods wanted to get control of the House of the Sun, inhabited by a wealthy demon. His death will mean the healing of the world. The god Mandi gathers a company of the gods, including the goddess Disni, and leads them up the hill. They find the house, and an old woman is there. Mandi goes to ask her about it. “It is a house between up and down; inside there are seven brothers (called Dizano, cf. Dezâlik of the Kalash) who have many things: the sun and moon, gold, silver, water, fields where they sow.”

The Old Woman instructs Mandi on how to make visible the rope that suspends the house between heaven and earth. But when he goes back to relate this to the gods, he forgets what she told him. This happens three times. Another god has to follow him and report back her instructions. The gods’ first attempt, by shooting arrows, fails because the house is made of iron and the cords holding it up are invisible.

“They ask Disni to sow seeds, which ripen quickly, and are threshed. The chaff attaches itself to the thread and it is visible in white.” Then Mara is able to shoots arrow through the cords, bringing down the house. But its door will not open. Disni tells Mandi to look at her white, full thighs. He becomes excited and is able to jump against the door with enough force to break it. He kills the seven demons. [Witzel, 5. The seven brothers are called Dizano, which seems to relate them to Disane and the seven branches of her tree in the earlier story; though here they are demonized, and Disni works against her sons.]

Dizane is also remembered as a builder. In Presungul is “a great irrigation channel” “which it is affirmed that Dizane herself constructed. There is also a good bridge in the same district called by her name.” [Robertson, 410] This recalls European faery stories of Melusine as a builder of bridges or castles, or the Basque lamiñaku, as well as Indigenous traditions of ancestral female shamans in Yunnan. But a much closer parallel exists among the Dards of Ladakh, where the goddess Gan-si Lha-mo “is especially associated with irrigation and the building of water canals.” The Darnishi (fairies) also aid people in these tasks. [“Religion of the Dards in Ladakh,” http://texts.00.gs/Religion_of_the_Dards_in_Ladakh.htm, with a truncated cite of fn. 202: “Snoy 1975:51 & 175]

Horned headdress of Kati women
Horned headdress of Kati women

“When the men of a tribe are away raiding, and the women collect in the villages to dance day and night to propitiate the gods and sing their praises, Dizane is one of the chief deities they supplicate for help. Her hymn goes something like this: ‘Send my man home safe and unwounded’…” But they call on the god Gish to bring plunder. [Robertson, 410] These women’s dances must have been something to see.

Kati women wore horned headdresses, with four horns made of human hair. (The birth of a four-horned goat was considered a very auspicious omen of divine favor.) Robertson witnessed one of these women’s dances at Lutdeh in Kafiristan. He wrote that while the men were away on a raid, the women leave off their field work and gather in the village. For most of the day and all night long they do nothing but dance and feast. [621]

“They have elected three Mírs, the chief of whom is Kan Jannah’s wife. These three persons direct the revels, and contribute greatly to the feasting. Kan Jannah’s wife is carried from one place to another as a ‘flying angel’ on the shoulders of a stalwart young woman, each of the other Mirs holding one of her hands. The little party staggers over the narrow shaking bridge, and then starts off at a run, to the outspoken delight of the onlookers. Occasionally the women dance on some convenient house-top. In the afternoon they invariably feast and dance under the big mulberry tree in the east village, and use the east or west vllage dancing-place according to the position of the sun. During the night all congregate at the east village dancing-place. [622]

"Women's Dance to the Gods," from Kafirs of the Hindu-Kush
“Women’s Dance to the Gods,” from Kafirs of the Hindu-Kush

“Although they all seem abandnoed to feasting and holiday-making, they are nevertheless engaged in strictly religious ceremonies. To watch them at night, when the majority are obviously tired, leaves no double in the mind on this point.  I have… observed by the fitful light of the wood fire how exhausted and earnest the women looked. One young woman, shrugging her shoulders in time to the music, had streams of perspiration rolling down her face, although she was all muscle apparently. The exertions these women undergo are astonishing to see. Many of the very old women have to give up from sheer exhaustion, but the midde-aged and the young work away singing and dancing 622 hour after hour and night after night.” [625]

“The aged are very earnest and solemn; the young girls, on the other hand, are ready to seize every opportunity to make improper remarks to any male spectator of whom they do not stand in awe. Stlll the great majority of the dancers at all times attend strictly to the dancing… They evidently believed themselves to be engaged in an occupation which did them infinite credit in every way. I could read as much in their faces and in their gestures.

“All wore horned caps except the little girls…” The women were dressed in their finery, wearing the national budzun [a dark woolen cloak]. A large number carried dancing axes, and not a few had daggers.” One old woman flourished her dagger before Robertson’s eyes for a few minutes, to the delight of the other dancers. [625-26]

The women of Lutdeh danced to Imra, Gish, Dizane, and the other deities in their turn. “After each dance there was a short rest, after which the women collected again in the centre of the platform.” They did a call-and-response anthem, and began dancing again. [626]


She lives on her sacred mountain Tirich Mir, home of the fairies. [Maggi, 12] She had a shrine at Badáwan, where the Afghan Kalasha used to sacrifice goats to the deities and mountain fairies. [Robertson, 384, footnote 1] Robertson first thought Krumai was a male god, “but after seeing her effigy in one of the dancing-houses in Presungul, no doubt could remain concerning her sex. She is worshipped everywhere probably…” though he saw no sacrifices to her. [411]

Goddess riding on a goat
Goddess riding on a goat

“The goddess Krumai, in the shape of a goat, came over from Tirich Mir, and went among them [the other deities], but none recognized her except Imrá, who took an opportunity, when she was not looking, to push her into the mountain-stream. Struggling out of the water, Krumai ran diagonally up the steep rock, leaving the marks still visible in a vein of mineral of a color different from the rest of the rock. When she got to the top she began kicking down showers of stones on to the gods below, to their great annoyance. Imrá told them that the goat was Krumai, and added that he alone had been clever enough to discover that fact. On hearing this they all adjured Krumai to behave better. She thereupon assumed her proper shape, came down amongst them, and subsequently entertained them all at a sumptuous banquet which she brought from Tirich Mir and served on silver dishes.” [Robertson, 383-4]

Some Krumai traditions resemble stories about Dizane. She flees from a giant, hiding in a tree, but is impregnated when he urinates on the tree. Krumai then gives birth to the god Mande. [Snoy: 160-161, in http://texts.00.gs/Religion_of_the_Dards_in_Ladakh.htm This web page elsewhere refers to a “C^omo Mandi [who] is said to be, along with Le`i Nakr.n, the ruler over all the deities. The title C^omo stands for queen … and clearly shows the female aspect of the deity.”]

Ceremonies always ended with a dance to Krumai: “a comical dance performed in her name… always winds up the performances at the regular ceremonies, when each important deity is danced to in turn.” [Robertson, 411] Her goat aspect is reflected in the horned headdresses of Kati women.

Other goddesses

KalashDeviChitral1800ca“Saranji is the tutelary deity of the village of Pontzgrom. She has a little shrine on the top of the village tower, and a second near the mouth of the Pontzgul She is also worshipped in the Bashgul Valley.” [Roberston, 411]

“Nirmali is the Kafir Lucina. She takes care of women and children, and protects lying-in women. The women’s retreats, the ‘pshars,’ are under her special protection.” Recall that Nirmali is the roots of the Sacred Tree, underlining the earthen nature of these places, the female quality that the Kalash designate as pragata.

“Besides creating the gods, Imrá also created seven daughters, whose special province it is to watch over the work of agriculture with a protecting hand. As the time for sowing approaches, goats are sacrificed in their honor, in order that crops may be ample and the earth beneficent.” [Robertson, 382]


The vetr (fairies)

The fairies are everywhere. “They have to be propitiated in order that the millet crops may be good. A fire is lit in the center of the growing crop, juniper-cedar, ghee, and bread are placed upon it, and a certain ritual intoned. No animal is sacrificed. At the time that the ceremony to the fairies is being prepared, certain thick bread cakes have to be offered to Yush the devil. So also when Dizane is being invoked to protect or improve the wheat, Yush has to be simultaneously propitiated.” But no one dances for him. [Robertson, 412]

“There is a certain powerful fairy called the Charmo Vetr, who lives high up the Kutaringul [stream]… This vetr (fairy) continually receives offerings of goats and kids from the Kam tribe, and in return has given that people great help against its enemies.” [Robertson, 412]

Another fairy lived in the branches of a magnificent cedar, in whose branches was an Imrá stone. Cheese and other offerings were left there unguarded, since no one would be foolish enough to steal from this tree. The mischievous fairies like to carry off the basket of flour from sacrifices, and torment the priest in other ways, tearing his robes, or setting upon him. But they “are more benevolent than malicious. On the night preceding the Dizanedu festival [for Dizane] there is an annual dance in honor of the fairies.” [Ibid, 412-13]

Another story alludes to female ancestors as founders of nations. Imrá sat on the rocks where the Kti and Presun rivers join, “making butter in a golden goat-skin churn. From the skin three women emerged, who went and populated different countries. Imra then added water, and a fourth woman was created, who settled in Presungul.” [Roberston, 385]


Kalasha Sanctuaries

Robertson notes limits on the importance of Imra, athough he has temples in every village, with a wooden idol or block of stone. His shrines “are small, and have no peculiarity to distinguish them from those of the other gods.” Kalasha shrines are little towers with masonry rubble bases, wooden frames with door or window through which the idol looks, and often above are poles hung with iron pieces. Imra virtually always has his own shrine, while three to five other deities can share one shrine. [394]

“At many of the religious dances he is not more honored than many of the other gods and goddesses. He receives three rounds, but there is none of the enthusiasm which is infused into the dances for Gish, or the light-heartedness which accompanies the comical steps and posturings in honor of Krumai. Possibly in former times Imra the Creator was chiefly worshipped, but at the present time Gish is certainly the popular deity in the Bashgul valley…” [389]

DizaneShrineofKalashNEAfghAt Bragamatál village was a hillside shrine “hung with juniper-cedar all along the front,” with four windows for Dizane, Shumai or Krumai, Saranji, and Satarám, with another empty window. “Dizane’s idol has a round face with white stones for eyes, and an irregular white quartz for a mouth.” She looks “cheerful,” while the others are mouthless. [Robertons, 395] (This distinction of having a mouth was also observed of the Disni statue hidden in a cellar wall at Shtiwe, Nuristan; see below.)

Many sacred stones stood out on the land, where sacrifices were offered; some placed for deities, others “to the memory of ancestors.” [399] “There are distinct traces of ancestor-worship in Kafiristan, although it is strenuously denied by the people.  The effigies erected to the memory of the dead are sometimes sacrificed to, and have their pedestals sprinkled over with blood by descendants suffering from sickness. Long fragments of stone are set on end in many places. These, no doubt, are partly intended as a kind of cenotaph, but a goat is always killed when they are erected. The Marnma festival is in honor of the illustrious dead.” [Roberston, 414]

Animal sacrifices were important in Kalasha religion. In fact, all killings of animals for food were ceremonial. Men would pour water on the sheep or goat, which could not be killed unless it then shook its entire body vigorously. (Robertson notes parallels in Greek custom—this was also a requirement, for example, in the ceremony of the Delphic oracles—and among the Thugs of India, who were devotees of Kali.) When the animal shook itself, everyone present made a kissing sound, and the sacrifice proceeded. [423]


Islamic influences had already appeared among the Kalasha that Robertson talked to, as in this origin story naming “father Adam.” “After Imrá created the world, Baba Adam and his wife were in Kashmir. They and their forty children were on one occasion sleeping in pairs, and when they awoke no single pair understood the language of another pair.” Imra sent them off in couples to populate the world, but they were reluctant to leave Kashmir and protested.” (This may reflect the paradisical reputation of Kashmir rather than a historic memory of Kashmiri origins.) Another change was that the male gods came to be referred to by the Persian word “prophets,” apparently in a bid to downplay the old polytheism. [384-86]

The Kalasha have been subjected to violence and intimidation since the forced conversions at the end of the 19th century. They still tell stories about people throwing themselves into the rivers rather than convert. [Iara Lee, 2013] Muslims consider conversion to be irreversible, the penalty for “apostasy” being death. Some people could not bear to give up their deities, and hid them. One was found hidden, face to the wall, in a cellar in the town of Shtiwe, some 80 years after the Emir’s persecutions:

Wooden icon of a goddess mounted on a mountain goat, probably Disane or Krumai
Wooden icon of a goddess mounted on a mountain goat, probably Disane or Krumai

“People in Shtiwe said that the statue represented the goddess Disni. It had been hidden at the time when the people of Shtiwe began to read the ‘kalima’ [i.e. when they became Moslem]… It is an old legend that the name of the statue was Disni. It is shaped like a woman. Her vulva is hidden behind the head of the horned goat. The two horns are grasped by the hands of Disni… When Islam came to Nuristan, the grandfather of Abdullah Jan (Wäci) was frightened and hid the statue in the wall… In Kafir time the statue had its place in the western part of the sitting room near the wall with its face turned to the room.”

The old Wäci had hidden the goddess during the Emir’s forced conversions, placing her in the cellar wall where the ghee was stored. “Disni is protector of the cattle and the milk products. She might still have been able to execute some of her power from her hiding-place.” She looked like she had been anointed with butter, and was in good condition.

The old man’s grandson, a hajji, had been out of town and was going to burn the statue, but the government intervened and saved it. He swore if any others turned up, he would burn them. [L. Edelberg, 6-7] One man said, “You ask me when we danced in front of [the goddess] Disni. We did it in winter, in zhibulu. But the songs used have disappeared with the old men and women… Now only one Kafir is alive and he does not remember the songs. He is stupid.” [Edelberg, 7]

Another wave of attacks on Kalasha was launched in the 1970s, but a cultural revival began around 1975. [Maggi, 106] Abbas Zaidi writes that the Taliban seized large tracts of Kalasha land from 1981 to 1995, forced Kalasha women into marriage, and killed people. Their poverty is exacerbated by government discrimination, which treats them as ineligible for loans, while police and courts ignore the appropriations of their lands. “Within the Chitral society they are completely ostracized for being ‘Kafirs’…” and are, as Akbar S. Ahmed wrote, subject to “formidable social, and psychological pressures resulting from being viewed as ‘dirty’ non-believers by aggressive and powerful neighbors.” [Zaidi] They are targets; some Muslim children throw stones at them. [Maggi, 13]

Kalasha woman in Chitral
Kalasha woman in Chitral

But as Wasiara Aya said to Wynne Maggi, “Why should we convert, ne baba (right, sister)?… Kalasha is good, isn’t that right, sister?” [30]

A new film “The Kalasha and the Crescent” deals with the ongoing pressures of conversion and the tourist industry, with footage of Muslim Pakistanis strenously denying coercion and the Indigenous people trying to cover their faces from intrusive tourists snapping pictures. A Kalash woman says: “We believe only in one god – we have goddesses, yes – but only one god.” (Their multiple gods seem to have collapsed into one in response to monotheist pressure—but they aren’t giving up their goddesses.) [Iara Lee, 2013] The insistence that the Kalash only had one god is belied by the historical record, though it is understandable that in a Muslim-dominated society, they would want to escape the stigma attached to polytheism as “ignorance.”

Powerful economic, political and social forces are brought to bear, that intimidate people out of fear for their survival and that of their children, to cede cultural traditions they would have otherwise kept. It’s called religious supercession. Certain kinds of words are used to degrade and crush Indigenous spiritual traditions: “folk stories,” “superstition,” “magic,” “demonic,” “devil-worship,” “ignorance of the true god.” The same pressures are at work eroding the aboriginal culture of the Amazighen (Tuareg), and the Nuba of Sudan. Christian missionaries are working to get aboriginal peoples in Southeast Asia and South America to convert.

Now a movement has begun to support the rights of Kalasha, to retain their cultural traditions and to determine their future. Please support this initiative to the United Nations with your signature: http://www.change.org/petitions/secretary-general-of-united-nations-help-preserve-kalash-a-tribe-in-pakistan-for-united-nations-protected-site#share

© 2013 Max Dashú



George Scott Robertson, The Kafirs of the Hindu-Kush. London: Lawrence & Bullen,  1896) Full text online at: http://archive.org/details/kafirshindukush00robe

Richard Strand, “History of the Kom.” http://nuristan.info/Nuristani/Kamkata/Kom/KomTexts/KomHist.html

_____, “Vasi Culture.” http://nuristan.info/Nuristani/Vasi/VasiCulture/Zaman16.html

Lennart Edelberg, “The Statue KK ii A and Its Circumstances.” in “A Kafir Goddess,” by Ahmad Ali Motamedi, Arts asiatiques, 1968  Vol.  18, Issue 18, pp. 3-21 http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/arasi_0004-3958_1968_num_18_1_1603#

Wynne Maggi, Our Women Are Free: Gender and Ethnicity in the Hindukush, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001. (Chapter 5 on the bashali – women’s menstrual and birth retreat house – is online: http://www.press.umich.edu/pdf/0472097830-05.pdf)

Michael Witzel, “Kalash Religion,” from “The Rgvedic Religious System and its Central Asian and Hindukush Antecedents. in A. Griffiths and J.E.M Houben (eds.) The Vedas: Texts, Language and Ritual. Groningen: Forsten 2004: 581-636 http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/KalashaReligion.pdf

Abbas Zaidi, “Ethnic Cleansing of the Kafirs in Pakistan.” http://www.gowanusbooks.com/kafirs.htm

Many online resources on the Kalasha can be found here: http://kalashapeople.blogspot.com/p/books.html

Iara Lee, “The Kalasha and the Crescent.” (2013 film) http://films.culturesofresistance.org/kalash  “The film documents the challenges faced by the Kalash people of northern Pakistan, who are struggling to retain their cultural identity under the combined pressures of poverty, tourism, and religious tension.”

Thanks to M. Bugi Bugi for some of the photos of statues shown here. I confess that I no longer remember which already were in the Archives, and which I got from him. You can see more of  his photos here: http://pinterest.com/bugiandassociat/kalash-a-living-personification/

Please support this initiative with your signature: http://www.change.org/petitions/secretary-general-of-united-nations-help-preserve-kalash-a-tribe-in-pakistan-for-united-nations-protected-site#share


Suppressed Histories Archive : The Suppressed Histories Archives uncovers the realities of women’s lives, internationally and across time, asking questions about patriarchy and slavery, conquest and aboriginality. About mother-right, female spheres of power, indigenous philosophies of spirit– and the historical chemistry of their repression. Even more important, their role in resisting oppression. A global perspective on women’s history offers fresh and diverse conceptions of women’s power, as well as of men and gender borders. It overturns stereotypes of race and class, and the structures of domination that enforce them. It digs under the usual story of lords and rulers, looking for hidden strands, and reweaves knowledge from the divided fields of history, archaeology, linguistics and folk tradition. So we cast a wide arc, looking for patterns and gaps and contradictions which, where vested power interests are at stake, are trigger points for controversy. Some of the flashpoints are women’s power; neolithic female figurines; gender-egalitarian mother-right cultures; patriarchy; witch-hunts; “heresies” such as goddess veneration or shamans; and the rise and fall of empires, including the doctrines of supremacy and inferiority that prop up all systems of domination.