SOCIAL STRUCTURE OF KALASH VALLEY

Family relations are extremely important in Kalash; people rarely call each other by their name, but rather addresses each other in term of their relationship to the eldest child of the family. This means that children are very important and every body knows their names. After receiving the proper dress a child is considered a full member of a community. However, the young are expected to behave respectfully towards their elders, listening and obeying their commands.

Households generally consist of the extended family, encompassing many relations and several generations, and forming integrated economic units. People belong to their father’s clan (even married women), which is very important term of identity, and involves sharing the economic responsibility in case of big expenditures such as funerals. 

As the women are excluded from the Onjesta sphere their living space is smaller than men. Women mostly stay below the highest water channel in the field and village areas. In the summer they go to the fields of the lower summer pastures. After their return to the villages in the autumn, these areas are purified and closed to the women. Although women are considered Pragnata, they are not at all looked down upon; they are considered the common pride of the valley, and for instance have to walk first in the procession when coming to another valley for a funeral. The men talk proudly about women meaning all women from the valley or clan. They have total self-determination in all personal matters. Thus within the strict rules governing incest and periods of abstention, a women is able to decide whom to marry and with whom to make love (if the man agrees of course). Men frequently complain of “women’s choice saying what can we do?” if a man dares to pull the plaits of his wife or talk rudely to her, she normally leaves the house. She can then take a lover, and nobody can force her back again. After disputes over fields, women’s elopements are the main reasons for community conflicts.

  Important to the Kalash are the codes of honour that first of all emphasize generosity, living according to their religion, honesty in work and speech (quality of speech is better than quantity) and diligence. Greed is looked down upon- many myths tell how greed leads to disaster. The Kalash society has no formal internal leadership. Disputes are settled and decisions made by the male clan elders in common. There are also strong personalities among the women who give their opinion and are heard. Politically the community is split in to factions- traditionally competing around clan elders, but now-a- days increasingly competing around politicians from outside running for the minority seat in the National Assembly. The Kalasha elected minority member of District Council in Chitral functions as a representative and mediator with the surrounding world. The Kalash have not yet succeeded in winning the minority seat in the Provincial Assembly.

 By Shahzadi.(38/10)

    

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