Chaomos

Chaomos

At least seven days, including December 21, the winter solstice
Chaomos is the winter festival of the Kalasha (also known as Kalash Kafir) people, who live in valleys in the northwestern corner of Pakistan, about 20 miles north of Chitral. The festival honors Balomain, a demigod who once lived among the Kalasha and did heroic deeds. Every year, his spirit comes to the valleys to count the people, collect their prayers, and take them back to Tsiam, the mythical land where the Kalasha originated, and to Dezao, the omnipotent creator god.
The celebration begins with the purification of women and girls: they take ritual baths, and then have water poured over their heads as they hold loaves of bread cooked by the men. A man waves burning juniper over the head of each woman, murmuring, " Sooch " ("Be pure"). On the following day, the men and boys are purified. They, too, take ritual baths and are then forbidden to sit on chairs or beds until evening when the blood of a sacrificed goat is sprinkled on their faces. The celebration continues with singing and chanting, a torchlight procession, dancing, bonfires, and festive eating of special bread and goat tripe.
Kalash means "black," and the people (thought to have descended from Alexander the Great) are called that because of the women's black robes. The Kalasha are among the people who live in Afghanistan in the area called Nuristan ("land of light"). This entire region was once known to the Muslims as Kafiristan ("land of infidels"), but in 1896 the Afghan Kafirs were forcibly converted to Islam. The Kalasha still maintain their old religion, a mixture of ancestor and fire worship. Their pantheon of gods, besides Dezao, includes Sajigor, the "great" god, Mahandeu, the "wise" god, and Surisan, who protects cattle.
Chaomos is one of the four annual festivals of the Kalasha; others are the spring festival in mid-May, the harvest festival in mid-August, and the autumn festival that marks the walnut and grape harvest.
CONTACTS:
Sarhad Tourism Corporation
13-A Khyber Rd.
Peshawar, Northwest Frontier Province, Pakistan
92-91-921-1091; fax: 92-91-921-0871