The Kalash Songs


The Kalash Songs

Saifud din

The shrinking community of Kalash or Kalasha live in three valleys namely, Rumboor, Bumburait and Birir, in the south-west of Chitral. Earlier they were numerous in number who occupying the whole of the southern Chitral, now there have left a few thousand Kalash people who still cling to their old religion and way of life.

Kalash are an Indo-Aryan people who belong to the Dardic sub-group. There are indications that they originally lived somewhere down the Kunar Valley and moved up to Chitral few centuries ago. They have lived in proximity of the Nuristanis, who have influenced the Kalash culture to a great extent. .

Music and dance are an integral part of the Kalash religion and culture. Almost every important occasion of their social life is marked by a singing and dancing by both genders; even death is no exception. .

Kalasha folk songs are very ancient and have come down by word of mouth. These are important source of the Kalasha historical traditions. Here is a brief introduction to some common Kalasha songs: .


It is an ancient song of Kalasha which describes that how the Kalash army under their leader Shalak Shah invaded Chitral. The army consisted of men on foot as well as horse riders. In this song a story tells that Kalash vanquished the forts of Narast, Arando, Mir khani, in the South and further won all the fort and important places of Lot Koh and jaram in Badakhshan in Afghanistan.

It has been said that Shalak Shah divided the conquered areas among his brothers, sons and other relatives. Adok, his brother, became the ruler of Bumburat. Poyul, the son of Shalak Shah, became the ruler of Drosh and Gula Sung was the ruler of Chitral. His jurisdiction to rule was from Chitral to Kari which is seven kilometers long from Chitral. Mushir Bag, who lived in Singoor, ruled the area of Lot Koh. There were Kalash rulers in the other areas like Suveer, Shishi Kuh, Mirkhani et cetera. These rulers or leaders were known as Asaqal. Among the descendent of Shahlak Shah, Raja Vai was a famous ruler who ruled the Kalasha valleys of Ayoon, Taitoon and Bashgal, now Nooristan of Afghanistan. He was the last ruler till the Rais family established their rule in Chitral.

Ishtikhek (To praise)

“Ishtikhek”, a word both used in Khowar and Kalasha language which means to ‘praise’. This is a story telling form of song which praise and tells the story of a family, tribe, or a prominent man , living or dead. These songs are sung in festivals and are both traditional and freshly made. These songs cultivate a society where people remember each another with good names and respect. .

Nasiat (Advice)

Kalasha tradition is very rich because they share the experience of life with one another. In this song they share their experiences and advise the young to follow their elders as a role model. Often, old stories are narrated and a linkage with the present is drawn to make the songs more related and comprehensive. It is a type of educational song which gives some lessons to the younger generation. The Kalasha don’t have a documented history; they have always relied on the oral tradition to remember their- often glorified- history. .

Ispra-Pasa Gro (Songs from the Dream of the Dead)

It is a song which touches the spiritual boundaries of human being. The deads come to someone’s dream and sing a song. The dreamer, then, remembers the song and memorizes it when he wakes up. He sings it when the next festival arrives. It is related to the third eye or sixth sense of man. It shows that how their religion is powerful spiritually and near to the nature. “Might is right” has been the mantra of human since the time immemorial. Ergo, this era has deprived to explore the self, to live a life full of quality and respect others. But now, the spiritual strength of Kalash is fading away due to the shrinking identity of the community.

Oshniru Ghru (Pure Songs)

These songs are sung in all festivals but a category, which is called the “Pure Songs” are religious prayers, so sacred and pure to Kalasha that even their women cannot listen to them. Therefore, they don’t let any outsider to know about these songs. In the history of our subcontinent, the musicians and scholar considered the classical music as pure. There were proper rules and regulations to gain the training of pure music and Knowledge. Hence, there was a pure relation of Gurushishya Parampara (Teacher-student tradition). Gu means dark, Ru means light. So, Guru was a teacher who guides his student’s (shishya’s) life from blindness to bliss, wisdom and light. .

Ajona Bayak (love Songs)

Romance is a part of life that blossom the relationship; love between a boy and a girl is secret which gives purity to love. It is the first step of human transformation to energize the body and soul. In Kalasha culture, there is no such kind of restriction to love as is present the other cultures surrounding them. The olden lyrics of the adjacent cultures were mostly for kings or historical events, but Kalasha poets also treaded the path of love and describe the love emotionally using their imagination power. It shows that this culture was very high in the list of developed nations from the ancient times. For example ‘Daginai’ narrates the story of love in the green and hilly mountain of Kalasha. At the end of this story, the lover puts his sword on the ground with its tip on his chest and the handle on his beloved’s grave and fall on it. This is a long-debating story which gives lesson about pure love, sacrifice, struggle and how to become alert from bad vibes in a society.

All said and done, in Zhoshi festivals, girls dancing on Daginai, chains arm in arms and pull each other, like a human tug of war. This chain also shows that we should ignore the word “I” which means illness and promote the word “we” which shows wellness. We have born for a short time so we should hug each other and extend a helping hand to each other. It also depicts the fight to achieve love and help other living in this mundane life. .

Biramour Ghru (Dowry Songs)

As I have already mentioned that most of the old traditions have lost to history, but the practice of a few dowry songs still exist in their fragile form. Because it was the responsibility of each family to compose a song for their daughters and in this way hundreds of songs were created, but very little is known about these songs. Kalasha give dowry to their daughters and sing songs praising her and whishing her good luck for the journey ahead. .

Ishpa Dayak Ghru (lullabies)

Every Kalasha kid has her or his own lullaby. Mostly, the grandmother makes lullaby for the newborn. It is a carrier counseling for the kid and gives the children to fulfill the dreams of their parents and encourages the kid throughout their life. In this way, every kid in Kalash has a lullaby exclusively belonging to him or her. It not only develops abstract mind of the children but also push them to live a successful life. These songs make a relation between parent and children who create an environment to respect elders and support family system. Therefore, Kalasha help one another in every field of life and have an aura of peace and love .

It was only a brief introduction of the Kalasha songs. Next time I will try to write on the musical instruments and the rhythm etc. of the Kalash Music.

On the language of Kalash People.

A Website on the Culture, History and Languages of Chitral.