The Kalasha: Rites of Spring

60 minutes / Colour / 1990
Directed by
John Sheppard

Anthropologist Peter Parks

Country of production United Kingdom

Series Disappearing World Series

The Kalasha are a tribal people, 3,000 strong, who live in the high valleys of the Hindu Kush mountains in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. The Kalasha are unique as a pagan people in this Islamic Republic.

Joshi, their three day festival of song and dance, rituals and sacrifice and the re-telling of legends celebrates the coming of spring and encourages chivalrous romance between the sexes. All this provides a colourful focus for this film which explores the life and customs of the Kalasha.

Before the menfolk depart to the high mountain pastures for the goats’ summer grazing they present the women with goats’ milk and bread that has been ritually purified. The women sing their thanks, praise and food and clamour for more. Whilst the men are away, the women stay in the narrow valleys, tending their tiny terraced fields of wheat, maize and millet.

The Kalasha are worried that their way of life is under threat. The naively mortgaged land and walnut trees to their Chitrali Muslim neighbours, often in exchange for paltry loands. The Chitralis now covet the profits to be made from exploiting the cedar and holm oak which grow in the Kalasha valleys.

The Pakistan government is aware of the problems and would like to safeguard the Kalashas’ existence as a flourishing minority culture and tourist industry. But a future as a ‘zoo people’ within a tourist park does not appeal to the Kalasha. They are happy to welcome tourists at their festivities and they appreciate interest in their customs, but they are pragmatic about its value to them.

Language and subtitles English with English Subtitles

Region South Asia

Country Pakistan

Keywords Festivals / Carnival Land Rights Agriculture / Farming Social Conflict