Kalash Religion


Kalash culture and belief system differs from the various ethnic groups surrounding them but is similar to that of the neighboring Nuristanis in northeast Afghanistan. The Kalash people are unique in their customs and religion.
In the 1970s there were a number of forced conversions. However, during the last two decades, protection by the Pakistani government has seen the Kalash double in number
There is a creator deity called Dezau (ḍezáw) whose name is derived from Indo-European *dheig'h 'to form' (cf. Vedic dih, Kati Nuristani dez 'to create', CDIAL 14621); he is also called by the Pashto termKhodai. There are a number of other deities, semi-gods and spirits. The Kalash pantheon is thus one of the last living representatives of Indo-European religion, along with Hinduism and Zoroastrianism.
There is the prominent Indr or Varendr (Warín, Werín from *aparendra); the rainbow (indré~ CDIAL 1577) is called "Indra's bow" as in Vedic; when it thunders, Indra plays Polo. Indra is attested both in Vedic and Avestan texts and goes back to Indo-Iranian deity Vṛtrahan the 'slayer of vṛtra' (resistance).
Indra appears in various form, such as Sajigor (Sajigōr), also called Shura Verin (Šúra Werín from *śūra *aparendra 'the hero, the unrivaled Indra'). Warén(dr-) or In Warīn is the mightiest and most dangerous god. The location of his shrine was assigned by bow shot, which recalls the Vedic Indra's Bunda bow.[17] Another one of his forms is the recently popular Balumain (Baḷimaín). Riding on a horse, comes to the Kalash valleys from the outside at winter solstice. Balumain is a culture hero who taught how to celebrate the Kalash winter festival (Chaumos). He is connected with Tsyam, the mythological homeland of the Kalash. Indra has a demon-like counterpart, Jeṣṭan (from *jyeṣṭha? 'the best'), who appears on earth as a dog; the gods (Devalog, Dewalók) are his enemies and throw stones at him, the shooting stars.
Another god, Munjem Malik (munjem from *madhyama 'middle'; malék from Arab. malik 'king'), is the Lord of Middle Earth and killed, like the Vedic Indra, his father. Mahandeo (mahandéo, cf. the Nuristani Mon/Māndi, from *mahān deva), is the god of crops, and also the god of war and a negotiator with the highest deity.
Jestak (jéṣṭak, from *jyeṣṭhā, or *deṣṭrī?) is the goddess of domestic life, family and marriage. Her lodge is the women's house (Jeṣṭak Han).
Dezalik (ḍizálik), the sister of "Dezau" is the goddess of childbirth, the hearth and of life force; she protects children and women. She is similar to the Kafiri Nirmali (Indo-Iranian *nirmalikā). She is also responsible for the Bashaleni lodge.
There also is a general pattern of belief in mountain fairies, Suchi (súči, now often called Peri), who help in hunting and killing enemies, and the Varōti (~ Sanskrit Vātaputra), their violent male partners (echoing the Vedic Apsaras and Gandharvas). They live in the high mountains, such as Tirich Mir (~ Vedic Meru, *devameru: Shina díamer, CDIAL 6533), but in late autumn they descend to the mountain meadows. The Jach (j.ac. from *yakṣ(inī), are a separate category of female spirits of the soil or of special places, fields and mountain pastures.
It is uncertain whether or not there are still pagan, non-Muslim Kalash remaining. During the seventies, when local Muslims forced a number of conversions upon the Kalash, their numbers shrank to just two thousand. However, with protection from the government, a decrease in voluntary conversion and a great reduction in the child mortality rate, the last two decades have seen their numbers double.

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