Islamic Influence On A Kalasha Rite

As we have previously asserted, the emphasis upon the Kalasha as some sort of ‘More Pure’ and ‘Pre-Vedic’ Hinduism is mistaken. There is no doubt that they – as with any other surviving Indo-European faith – do preserve very ancient and archaic elements indeed; however, the belief that this places them as an unadulterated “pre-Vedic” religion is untenable. We have looked at this with regard to their co-religionists, the Nuristanis. We now turn to consider a matter of the Kalasha themselves – revealed through the liturgy of one of their most prominent observances, the Chawmos festival taking place proximate to the Winter Solstice in December. The particular hymnal in question is one recited during the course of a blood-sacrifice to Mahandeo – that is to say, ‘Mahadeva’ in our (Sanskrit) parlance. 

Now, for this I am reliant upon the field-work of one Augusto S. Cacopardo – an Italian academic who recorded various of his observations, including the actual text of various hymnals etc. in an extensive article upon the subject. He notes with some interest that there is both an Arabic/Muslim influence as well as an Iranian one upon the rite – demonstrated in the latter case via the salience of a ‘Sal-‘ for ‘Year’ in the rite in question, something not endogenous to the Indo-Aryan Kalasha language itself. But the real point of surprise .. well, I shall relay the text and you’ll see what I mean here:

“e all’ah parwadig’ar 
d’eshuna khayr k’ari tazag’i k’ari
pruST’I k’ari barak’at de heesh!

e all’ah pak parwadig’ar
tu k’ushala mahand’eo khod’ayas h’atya
suw’al k’ari
mun ta pili’ai m’undo uchund’ai heesh! “

Now, why is this comment-worthy for us? 

Well, perhaps a translation may make it more clear:

“O Allah Creator-God  
bring peace and health to the community, make everything good, give
blessings, heesh!
O Allah, holy Creator
you, ingenious Mahandeo, pray God for our sake
once the top is reached, from the top you descend, heesh!”

Now, as we can see – that term, ‘Allah’, is being posited as a supreme creative agency. And that is not an endogenous Kalasha term, either – rather, it is the quite direct Arabic: “The One”, indeed. So familiar from the religious calls and invocations of their Muslim neighbours. 

So what is going on here? Are these Kalash somehow ‘hidden Muslims’? Well, I would not say so – not necessarily, anyway. 

We often see a phenomenon in various ‘conquered’ cultures – ‘converted’ cultures, we should more properly suggest – wherein the Gods of the old faith do not really fade away fully; but rather, are ‘converted’ Themselves, becoming mere Saints or Angels of intercession with the now ‘true’ divine upon the behalf of Their former supplicants. The examples of Europe are quite prominent here – we can point toward specific saints that were demonstrably the Indo-European deifics and heroes of a prior, now-lost age, often with the holy-sites in question still utilized in much the same manner as they once were. Indeed, if we are indulging in a full-scale analysis of this, the Roman Catholics have directly adopted the liturgical language and dress and even titles along with the holy-places of the glory that was once pagan Rome. An associate learned in this area has also pointed out to me the similar phenomenon in the realms of the Nart Sagas of the Caucasus – there, it is even more direct in some ways. 

However, that presents us with something of a quandry. For while we EXPECT to see this with ‘conquered / converted’ peoples – we do not expect it to see it in those who have as-yet remained not-so. We do not expect that the center of a religion becomes re-oriented around the god of the conqueror where no successful suppression campaign has, in fact, eventuated. And yet, there we have an “Allah”, right there positioned as the Supreme, to Whom Mahandeo is an intermediary emissary. What to make of this.

Well, for a start, I am unaware of evidence that ‘Deo’ has lost its quite literally ‘Divine’ connotation in Kalash language – there seems little suggestion that Mahandeo is somehow no longer a God simply because Mahandeo is being invoked to “pray for our sake” to ‘The Highest’. 

For a second – it could be conceivably asserted that what we perceive here is .. actually surprisingly resonant with what we might expect from a Hindu understanding. 

You may have heard of Brahman – not Brahmin (although these are, of course, etymologically related). Brahman means ‘The Highest’, ‘The Absolute’. In a Vedic reckoning this may be said to be correlate with Cosmic Order, Rta – per the work of Sayana in this regard; and I fundamentally agree with him, of course. The Cosmic Order schema is quite directly Uber Alles, Supernal, above even The Gods – and we see this across the Indo-European Sphere. Interestingly, prominently expressed in-universe as a Goddess – and Vak Saraswati Aditi is the Vedic perception of this, of course. Later Hindu belief emphasizing other names such as Devi – Parvati, Durga, Kali. I do not think that this is necessarily coincidental, as applies the situation of Mahandeo being invoked here – but more upon that, perhaps, some other time. 

Now what do we see described in the last, concluding lines of that brief hymnal – the ascent up to ‘the top’ and thence back down again. Something rather similar, in fact, to the manner and the mechanism via which the same deific – Agni-Rudra – is set to take off and bring from the summit, the realm ‘Beyond The Waters’ as liminal sphere to the universe (I do not say ‘the cosmos’ due to the meaning of that as ‘regime’, realm under ‘law’) – where Law, the true Absolute, is to be found. What does Agni-Rudra bring? What does Agni in Hawk-Raptor form come bearing? Or Odin, for that matter, as the Eagle? Why, ‘blessing’ in a most direct form – the Soma, the Mead of Poetry. It is the same place we find the Vajra coming from per the concluding lines of RV VIII 100 – and only once Devi Vak Saraswati is propitiated. (An alternate reading of the first lines of that hymnal, which I disagree with for reasons I may cover in a future piece setting out in grander detail the relevant ritual metaphysics, posits a greater saliency for Vayu here – and while I do not disagree with the importance of Vayu in the general conceptual sphere … well, Vayu, as we know from various archaic Hindu materials, is Agni, is Rudra – so it is the same calculation either way we splice it; the Sky Father interceding with the Absolute)

So, just as we see, for instance, in the Gayatri Mantra so familiar to the Hindusphere, the prayer for Illumination – the force of light and life – to come down from the Sun as apex to our reality which lets in this force from above and beyond; so too, it would seem, do we have similar occurrence here in this Kalasha hymnal. A prayer for the force of life and prosperity to go up, and come back bearing the successful fruits of this entreaty amongst them, at about the time when the Sun begins its restoration following the Winter Solstice. 

Nevertheless, we are left with this most curious situation of ‘Allah’ being the labelling for this ‘Absolute’. It is not – necessarily – inappropriate to be thinking of ‘The One’, I suppose, when speaking of an Absolute in this sense, in this context; but why the Arabic religious terminology? 

Who can say. Perhaps it was a confused syncreticism which has crept in; perhaps it was a rather … curious endeavour at ‘active camouflage’ necessary to survive all of those years in Muslim-majority contexts [‘See? We pray to Allah, too …’] – although how convincing that might have been to the neighbours in question, I really do look sideways at in askance. Maybe it really is, as some have sought to infer, a sort of ‘displacement’ which has taken place in greater earnest … and then not gotten all that totally far. There are several possibilities, and I do not think that a truly satisfactory ‘hard’ answer shall be forthcoming. 

The point, however, is a simple one. We can make quite feasible interlinkages and interleavenings between what is demonstrated here and ‘authentic’ baseline Indo-European understanding – particularly of the post Vedic Hindu character. However, it is similarly quite clear that Islamic syncretic influence – whether linguistic or perhaps even more substantive in nature – has indeed manifested itself amidst the Kalasha. 

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