The Invisible Web

Your Trip Into the Chapel Perilous

YuleTide: The Twelve Deities of Solstice #11 – BALUMAIN, Protector of the Kalash

Posted by invizweb on December 31, 2008

In the Chitral district of Pakistan, overshadowed by the Hindu Kush mountain range, live the Kalash. Kalash’s polytheistic indigenous religion is the one of the last of the original Indo-European religions. Although it is related to the other two survivors, Hinduism (which some would call a misnomer as its various branches traditionally thought themselves to be separate from the rest) and Zoroastrianism, this religion has its distinct Gods, tales, rites, and rituals.  The Kalasha religion has only approximately3,000 adherents left in the world .

(C) Rosetta Kureshi on Flickr

(C) Rosetta Kureshi on Flickr

On Chaomos (or Choimus), the Winter Solstice celebration, the Kalash pray to Balomain, a wayfaring DemiGod, who is Dezao’s “son” sometimes and a major cultural hero, returns to the Earth on hir horse to bring the people’s prayers to Dezao.  Dezao is The Chief of the Gods in Kalasha religion. Dezao is also referred to in Farsi (Persian), as “Khodai,” which translates to “Supreme Spirit.”  Balumain is thought to be dual gendered and would appear female if shi turned left and male if shi turned right.   Thus, a major component of the festival is for boys to dress as girls, wearing the black dresses that is  the origin of this people’s namesake, and the girls dress like boys.  Prof. Michael Witzel of Harvard (see below) theorizes that Balumain is very analogous to the Vedic God, Indra, as he was portrayed in the Rigveda.

It is said the Balumain was once not received well on hir initial visit to a Kalasha village, and thus had to fight and destroy would-be pursuers.  When shi was accepted, Balumain attempted to teach men and women about sexual intercourse, but was cheated by hir kinsman the deity Mahandeu.  Thus now unseen, the pressence of Balumain teaches Kalash men and women instead songs about courtship and fertility on Chaomos each year.  Balumain is offered bread and goat milk on this day.  Balumain’s sacred animal is the fox, who is hir hunting companion.  Because of this December 22nd is the called the “Fox Day” by the Kalash.  The festivities begin after the women and then men are   purified seperately, after which there is much dancing and the sacrifice of a goat, with its heart offered to a juniper bonfire   Wine plays an important role in the communities of the Kalash, and thus much of it is drunk on the Solstice night.  Kalasha community leaders now ask for the “World Community” to help preserve their wine as a world heritage item.

It is this writer’s request that the readers of this article spread the word to tell as many people possible not to disturb the culture of the Kalash. Recently, rumors have been spread that Osama bin Laden is hiding with a Kalash family, which would be impossible as this community is polytheistic (and also unfortunately, are fighting a war against Islamic conversion; although this one would fight for the preservation of the Kalash religion, pigeon-holing ALL of Islam would be very prejudiced). Due to fear of converting their people away from the old religion, many elders have taken the stance to not allow the Kalash children to go to the predominantly Muslim-based schools. This, however, opens those who want to learn to influence by Christian missionaries who would convert them to Christianity (possibly using a method they used in Japan by syncretizing the name of Dezao with the Christian God, and casting Jesus as Balumain. In addition, a new land route will be completed in Chitral by the end of next year.

I would like to thank WikiPedia for introducing me to this unique culture and its plight to be preserved. Without Wiki I would have thought all of the South Asian Indian Subcontinent to be exclusively practicing Abrahamic religions (Islam and Christianity), Dharmic religions (Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism), and Zoroastrianism.

I would also like to thank Prof. Michael Witzel, Wales Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University for writing this excellently informative essay on the Kalasha religion.  Here also is an archived article written for National Geographic.

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