The four-day Kalasha ‘Chilim Jusht Festival 2018’ kicked off on Monday in Chitral.

The first ritual 'chirik pipi' milk distribution by shepherds to welcome the spring was held in Bumburet Kalash valley.

To the Kalasha, the festival is the culmination of religious life and like the big funerals. The ‘Chilim Jusht / Joshi Festival’ is the spring festival which is observed in the middle of May and lasts for four days.

The locals believe that the spring festival honors the fairies and also safeguards the goats and shepherds when they go to the pastures.

Prior to the festival, the women and girls gather from all over the valley and decorate their houses. Inside the houses local wine and milk products are shared. The women then sprinkle milk on Goddess ‘Jestak’ “the protector of children and home”.

The festival begins at Rumbur where the Shaman (soothsayer) and tribal chiefs lead a procession to the 'Malosh altar', high above Grum, to sacrifice goats to the Gods. Later the festival moves on to Bumburate and ends up at Birir.

The Kalasha are colourful and ancient indigenous people. They are cheerful, generous, witty and fond of rejoicing and merry making. Their women folk have an outgoing manner that is disarming, delightful and unexpected.

Every religious ceremony is accompanied by dancing and rhythmical chant to the beat of the drum. The women wearing their traditional black robes, ornate cowries shelled head dresses and adorned with colored necklaces, dance in a circle.

Then the men join in: it may be a man and a woman or a man in the middle with women on each side, lovers being free to intermingle. One hand is held round the waist of the partner and the other around the shoulders. Tribal chiefs (Kazis) in colorful dresses narrate stories of bygone.