The Kalasha are the last remaining pagans of the Hindu Kush. Numbering about 4000, in three adjoining valleys in northwest Pakistan, they are known for their proud polytheism, the freedom (and beauty) of their women, and their wine-drinking.

Among the Kalasha, November is the month of the ancestors, and it is customary to remember them—for “the spirits of the dead are pleased when their names are remembered”—by recounting tales of their deeds.

In Kalasha society, it is impingent upon the wealthy to throw elaborate feasts for as many people as possible; only by sharing their wealth with the rest of the community do they gain prestige. Their Muslim neighbors laugh at them for their lavish, spendthrift ways, but this is indeed the way of the pagan ancestors: from those who have much, much is expected.

In Brumburyak's time, a stubborn winter spoiled the spring. The snow lasted so long that the ploughing season passed and work in the fields could not be completed. The same disaster occurred the following year, and famine gripped the valley.

Brumburyak questioned his wife Kagayak and his grandson Khan: 'What can be done, how can the people's lives be saved? Can we share our grain among everyone?' Brumburyak was a very wealthy man, and his storehouses were still full of reserves. His grandson and his wife replied: 'No, it isn't possible. If we distribute everything at the same time, the people are so hungry that they will fall upon the bread and eat it all up. And they will be hungry again afterwards. It would be better to have them come here every day to prepare a daily ration for each.'

Brumburyak summoned the 140 hungriest, those who had nothing left at all, and gave them each a tatori, a big galette [loaf]. He fed them thus until the summer tilling, the mulberry season. In this way, he saved the lives of the inhabitants of the valley, and today, when the Multimire give a feast, the other lineages recall the goodness of Brumburyak, ancestor of the Multimire, in all their eulogies.


Jean-Yves Loude and Viviane Lievre, Kalash Solstice: Winter Feasts of the Kalash of North Pakistan (1985), tr. Grahame Romaine and Mira Intrator. Islamabad: Lok Virsa, pp. 178-9.