Best books about Kalash people

Kalash People: 10 Best Books About Pakistan’s Indigenous Tribe

Kalash is a beautiful and unique culture surviving in seclusion in Pakistan. It is hidden in the mesmerizing nature among the Hindu Kush mountain range. The Kalash people belong to the Dardic language family, a native of Indo-Aryan, inhabiting Chitral District of KPK (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) province.

People living in Kalash valleys are popularly known as Kalasha who are believed to be the descendants of the army of the Alexandra the Great. Though Kalash is part of Pakistan, an Islamic Republic, however, Kalasha people have their own religious beliefs, cultural sophistication, and language.

Half of the population is Muslim and follow Islamic principles. The other half of Kalasha people are polytheists, believing in multiple gods. These Kalash people refer to themselves as animists, having a firm belief that places, objects, and creatures all possess a unique spiritual essence. They have unique festivals and traditional practices that you cannot find in any part of Pakistan.

We are the soul, pearl, purity, and the eternal beauty of the Hindu Kush Mountains.

Writers, authors, and playwrights from all over the world have written many incredible books about the Kalash people. If you are inclined to explore the ravishing culture and novelty of the region, then you must read these top 10 books about this indigenous tribe in Pakistan.

1. Kalash Solstice: Winter Feasts of the Kalash of North Pakistan

Kalash Solstice Winter Feasts of the Kalash of North Pakistan book cover

Written by French writers, Jean-Yves Loude and Viviane Lièvre, Kalash Solstice is a beautiful book exploring the unique and inspiring Kalash in Pakistan. Jean, with his partner, Viviane, went to live in Kalash valleys to discover and uncover the reality of the Kalasha people in the Hindu Kush Mountains.

The writers met the people of Kalash to understand their culture and how they follow the solstice in their region. Solstice is a time when the sun appears to its most southerly or northerly excursion. It occurs twice a year, on June 20 and December 22. The Kalasha people calculate the movement of the sun to determine the days and months of a year.

The book is a detailed study of the people of Kalash and their beliefs. The writers have phenomenally elaborated on the winter feasts and festivities of the Kalash region and how it affects the lives of the people living there.

2. Pagan Christmas: Winter Feasts of the Kalasha of the Hindu Kush

Pagan Christmas book cover

“The core of Kalasha religion is a symbolic system that contains a fully-fledged cosmology finely expressed in the language of ritual.”

Taking people inside the world and the lives of the Kalasha people, the writer of this book has exceptionally discussed the inhabitants of the Hindu Kush mountains. He talks about the religious matters and cultural heritage of the people, that one can witness especially during the winter feasts of the solstice.

The Kalash people are the last of the Indo-European religions found anywhere in the world. The book excavates how the non-Muslims are living in pre-Islamic cultural society. Pagan Christmas is written by Augusto S. Cacopardo from Italy, who is a professor at the University of Florence. He has done extensive research in the field of cultural anthropology and worked on the non-Muslims living in Kalash in Pakistan.

Cacopardo in his book explores the historical and cultural significance of these ancient people. He has brilliantly provided the readers with an authentic comparison of Indian religion with the folklore of European society. You can find extensive knowledge about the Kalasha people and their community and how they rejoice in their winter feasts.

3. Himalayan Festivals – The Last Kalash

Himalayan Festival book cover

“Go talk about us, at home, beyond the mountains. Tell the world that we exist.”

Himalayan Festivals – The Last Kalash is a comic book written by Jean-Yves Loude. What makes this comic book different from any other is that it reflects the true story of the Kalasha people. It talks about their moments and rites in the most exceptional way.

Due to oppression imposed by the Taliban, the comic book talked about how the people of Kalash used to retaliate and worked hard to maintain their identity. The Kalasha community has managed to preserve the culture and traditions of their ancestors, free from the clutches of Taliban. When the winter solstice approaches every year, the people of Kalash dance and sing for the rebirth of a new season.

The book is all about their liveliness and vivacity, living the life with happiness and celebrating the life in true sense. Jean-Yves Loude, a French author, has phenomenally captured the emotions and feelings of the Kalasha people in this comic book. The writer himself lived in Kalash valley for a while, adopted their rites, and learned the language.

4. Kalash

Kalash novel book cover

Kalash is a romantic novel written by Mustansar Hussain Tarar, recipient of Sitara-e-Imtiaz for his literary services in Pakistan. He is a travel enthusiast, novelist, columnist, and renowned TV host.

His fictional novel Kalash revolves around a forbidden love that blooms in the valley of Kalash. However, due to cultural and identity differences, the male protagonist has to leave his lover and wife from Kalash. The story unfolds and reveals the consequences one goes through when marrying their love from a different culture. The parental pressure and cultural clashes suffocate a relationship with an everlasting pain in the hearts.

Throughout the novel, the readers can enjoy the stunning description of the landscapes as the novel is set amid the awe-inspiring and gorgeous Kalash valleys of the Hindu Kush Mountains. If you’re interested in a fictional story of passion, romance, and pain of love, go for this fascinating novel by Mustansar Hussain Tarar today!

5. Kalash: The Paradise Lost

Kalash - The Paradise Lost book cover

Kalash: The Paradise Lost is inscribed by Muhammad Alauddin, a former civil servant working in Pakistan. He has a passion for studying tribal lifestyle and the problems they encounter in their daily life. In this book, Alauddin has presented the culture, traditional rites, and lifestyle of the people of Kalash beautifully.

After thorough analysis, research, and exploration, Alauddin has updated the readers of his book on the problems of the Kalasha community. The book is highly engaging with authentic interviews from the natives. He has discussed the Muslims, animists, and polytheists living in Kalash. What makes the book more exciting is that the writer has drawn a parallel between the people of Kalash, the tribals of Bangladesh, and the societies of Africa.

The book narrates how the Kalasha community rejoices and celebrates new seasons by dancing and singing. Though they are celebrating life, little do they know that they’re becoming a part of history. Currently, Kalasha are facing the threats of assimilation, conversion, merging, and disappearance from the face of the Earth. Kalash: The Paradise Lost is the celebration of a culture that is progressing towards extinction fast.

6. Our Women Are Free – Gender and Ethnicity in the Hindukush

Our Women Are Free – Gender and Ethnicity in the Hindukush book cover

“When tourists first enter Kalashadesh, many exclaim that the relaxing atmosphere of the valleys washes over them as if the welcoming smiles of Kalash men and women soften the air itself.”

Wynne Maggi is the writer of this beautiful book. She is an environmentalist by profession but loves to excavate the hidden cultures all over the world. After understanding the phenomenal culture and traditions of Kalash, she inscribed this book, paying a tribute to the wonderful Kalasha people.

Even though Kalash is part of Pakistan, it’s different from the country’s customs by all means. When the writer herself asked the men and women of the Kalash, what makes them different from other people in Pakistan. They simply told her that their women are free! They do whatever they desire with no restrictions limiting them.

The freedom of the women is a crucial ethnic marker for the Kalasha community. These people have an exceptional sense of humor. They take pride and pleasure in their rites and rituals, and understand the complexity of relationships more than anyone around. Our Women Are Free – Gender and Ethnicity in the Hindukush is a powerful book narrating an untold story of women empowerment in the paradise located in Pakistan.

7. The Kalasha People of North-Western Pakistan

The Kalasha People of North-Western Pakistan book cover

Maureen Lines wrote The Kalasha People of North-Western Pakistan, which helped her gain recognition throughout Pakistan. A British author, Maureen, traveled to Pakistan and fell in love with Kalash. Locals know her as Bibi Dow of Kalash due to her immense work for the welfare of the Kalasha community. The government of Pakistan recognized her efforts by awarding her Tamgha-i-Imtiaz in 2008.

In The Kalasha People of North-Western Pakistan, Maureen talked about the beauty, cultural diversification, and language differences of the people living in Kalash. The central theme of the book is to promote the culture of Kalash and show the world what this wonderful secluded civilization is all about.

Throughout her life, Maureen Lines has been an active advocate for the promotion and preservation of Kalasha culture. She cherished the cultural heritage and the impeccable diversification it offered. Amid the Hindu Kush mountains, this segregated civilization requires appreciation, recognition, and preservation more than anything.

8. Kalash Siaposh Kafirs History and Customs

Kalash Siaposh Kafirs History and Customs book cover

“They wore their national costume, a tunic, not unlike that worn by the Siah Posh women.”

Kalash Siaposh Kafirs History and Customs is a chapter from the book Narrative of Various Journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan, the Panjab, and Kalat” written by Charles Masson. Charles Masson was the penname of James Lewis, a British soldier, and explorer. It was his hobby to travel and excavate ruins. When he came across Kalash, he fell in love with it.

The book describes the Kalasha people as Siaposh Kafirs or Wearers of Black Robes. Masson talks about the inhabitants of three small valleys located in North-West Pakistan which constitutes the present-day Kalash. The writer sheds light on the fact that the Kalasha people (Kafirs) recognize two categories among themselves, the Red ones and the Black ones. The Red Kafirs are Nuristanis who originate from Afghanistan. Whereas, the Black Kafirs are those who wear black dresses.

The book was published back in 1844, however, little has changed with Kalash in terms of appearances in all these years. The women still wear the same black outfits and their dancing style hasn’t changed to date. The difference of opinions is the same and people still differentiate based on being Nuristanis. In this book, you can find in-depth knowledge of the history of Kalash and the customs they followed years back.

9. The Kafirs of the Hindu-Kush

The Kafirs of the Hindu-Kush book cover

“For my experience of Kalash Kafirs was that they were a most servile and degraded race.”

In this book, the writer George Scott Robertson talks in detail about his journey to Kalash (called Kafiristan at that time). The book was published in 1896. At that time it was a neglected land and the book is depicts Kalash people of that time very well. 

George Robertson was a British soldier and author who loved traveling to remote places. When he landed in the rugged region of Kalash, the culture and traditions of the land amazed him. They were was completely different from anything he ever saw.

The Kafirs of the Hindu-Kush is a crucial cultural book that has complete knowledge of a civilization that wasn’t much known to the world at that time. The book is an original work that can provide a detailed description of the culture and history of Kalash (once known as Kafiristan).

Robertson wrote about his voyage to the beautiful land, hidden in the beauty of the Hindu Kush mountains. From unique language to cultural differences to liberty and freedom, you can find every piece of Kalash history in this book. 

10. Kalash – The Last Infidels of Hindu-Kush

The last infidels of Hindukush book cover

Jean-Yves Loude wrote another mesmerizing and inspiring book in French about the culture and civilization of Kalash and its people. He has exceptionally crafted the book that mentioned the Kalash people as the last survivors of the Hindu Kush.

The majority of the people of Kalash are pagans, Kafirs, not worshipping any god. Many still refuse to embrace Islam and cling to their rites, rituals, and beliefs. According to the author, the Kalasha community of infidels is the last survivor whose legacy will always remain alive behind Hindu Kush mountain range.

In the book Kalash – The Last Hindu-Kush Infidels, Jean-Yves pays a tribute to a beautiful and enchanting civilization which is different in every aspect. Through this book, Jean-Yves made it clear that animists and polytheists of Kalash are present near the east side of the Afghan border. The other side of the land has Muslims or converted people who embraced Islam. Today, half of the population of Kalash has not immersed in the Muslim faith.

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January 2022