Temples of the Kalasha religion

Most anthropologists believe that a good deal of the Kalasha religion may have been borrowed from Is

Most anthropologists consider the Kalasha Religion to be polytheistic, because it has many deities. In Rumbur, however, where the people are more progressive and there is a stronger belief in the monotheistic concept of one single creator of the universe, Saifullah Jan, the official representative of the Kalasha, says the Kalasha do believe in one supreme god. This god goes under various names such as the Persian KHODAI (used mostly in Birir) and under the name of DEZAU. There is also an intermediary named BALAMAHAIN, who rides upon a horse and is a messenger of DEZAU. Most anthropologists believe that a good deal of their present day religion may well have been borrowed from Islam.

There is also a nether or underworld which has association with the myth of the world standing on the head of a bull. Earth quakes are associated with the roar of an angry bull. Ancestors are believed to exit into this underworld, called Palaloiy, which is connected to the present world by a metal pillar, believed to have been situated at the site of an ancient Kafir temple in the Parun valley, the spiritual center of Kafiristan. Perhaps because the Kalasha have a purely oral tradition, they appear to have relatively little religious mythology. The ancient temple in the Parun valley also has significance to the Kalasha, as being the site visited by the Kalasha king Raja Waiy, during the late 15th or 16th century on one of his expeditions to Kafiristan. He was accompanied by a legendary Shaman, Nanga Dehar, who, in a state of trance discovered that the gods wished to be taken to the Kalasha valleys so that they might continue to be worshipped and receive their sacrifices.

This story gave birth to sacred sanctuaries in the valleys and religious rites. On the return from Kafiristan at the Ganglewat Pass, Nanga Dehar gave Raja Waiy two or three arrows (Stories conflict on the number and colures) and told him to shoot them down into Rumbur. Where one landed higher up, the shrine to Sarjigor was built on the spot where another landed, the Bashali House was built.

While the alters, dedicated to major deities such as SAJIGOR (forbidden to women as they are regarded as impure), are built in the open on a plinth of stones and decorated above with rough wooden carvings of horses, heads, the alters, dedicated to JESHTAK (the goddess protector of the family), are housed in wooden temples called HAN where ceremonies such as weddings are held. The portals of the temples are carved with intricate geometric and lattice-type designs, and inside, the four heavy cedar pillars are engraved with cloven hooves symbolizing the BALAMAHIN coming on his horse (in the west, cloven hooves are symbolic and ascribed to Pan –an Arcadian deity and thence in Christian mythology to the devil).

According to most anthropologists, these carved designs originated in Nuristan, although Darling believes the origin of some of them may go back even further to a place the Kalasha call Yarkhan (d) (Now in China), one such motif was supposedly engraved onto a slender metal pillar which was said to lead down into the underworld called PALALOIY, the final resting place of the ancestors. The alters in the temple are usually decorated by wooden plaques, ornamented by two carved goats, heads and two horses, heads and adorned with branches of holly oak according to professor Paolo Graziosi, goats are sacrificed in front of the alters and their blood, along with some milk, is thrown over the sacred plaques. Every clan has its own alter dedicated to the household goddess: JESHTAK. If it is a small clan member's house, it is in the sacred space between the earth and the rear wall.

Maureen Lines was born in North London and has worked with the Kalash people in Pakistan for many years. She is the author of The Kalasha people of South Western Pakistan.
Photo: André Spicer
Show Hide image

“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.