Enemies of Allah, infidels. One of the smallest and most combative populations of the Earth is called Kafir. But the thousand Kafirs who have survived in a mountainous paradise in the midst of the rocky labyrinths of the Hindu Kush, who have never been tamed and have never been Islamized, proclaim themselves Kalash. Free men.

Three valleys in the high Pakistani Chitral remain of the ancient and legendary kingdom of Cafiristan: Rumbur, Bumburet, Birir. Full of pines, oaks, walnuts. Swollen with waters. Their existence is an anthropological rebus, a miracle of survival in an extreme environment. The Kalash Kafirs also declare themselves to be the “last Greeks of India”: they claim they descend from the heroes of Alexander the Great’s Invincible Armada which, in 326 B.C., passed through Cafiristan to conquer India. Anthropologists say that their story began four-thousand years ago with the migrations of the Indo-Iranian peoples through the Oxus valleys (the Amu-Darja).

Today, the Kafirs live increasingly tight-knit in their eagle-nests, huddled against the mountain slope, connected by paths that flank pensile aqueducts. The Kafir fairies live in the purest lands of the peaks. They protect the ibexes, the shamans, the shepherd kings and all the wild and naked nature of the mountain tops. The Kafirs belong to a goat-based culture that preaches nomadism, the sacredness of the wilderness and the totem he-goat. Goats are treasure. A man’s power is measured by the number of his goats. The symbolism of the goat appears everywhere: on the doors to the granaries, on the wooden bowls of everyday use, on the embroidery of the tunics worn by the beautiful Kafir women who smile at you without veils or chador.

Italo Bertolasi

Categories: Approfondimenti

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