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Day 8: The Kalash Valleys

Rumbur, Pakistan 
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At Rumbur. Kalash girls, barley field, dry-stone wall, traditional costume, modern foot.
Michael Palin - HimalayaTheir best hope of survival is tourism. Aware of the potential, the government has given them better roads and schools that teach Urdu and English, but of the money charged for permits to visit the Kalash valleys Saifullah reckons only five per cent finds its way through to the community.

In a stone hut with an irrigation channel running through it, an old man on his haunches watches barley being ground between two stones turned by the force of water. A few yards further on there is a handsome new suspension bridge that allows vehicles right up into the village. The road passes a long, low building with a high wall snaking around it. This is the menstruating hut. Kalash theology has very strong notions of purity and impurity. Menstruation is confirmation of women's impurity, and when their periods begin they must leave their homes and enter a communal house.

Mothers must give birth in the hut and remain there for 20 days afterwards. Only after undergoing a purification ceremony can they return home and rejoin village life.

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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 8: The Kalash Valleys
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Rumbur
  • Book page no: 27

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