May 15, 2012


Former Kafirs
Characteristics of Pre-Islamic Nurestani Society (The former Kafirs)
Based on obervations of G. S. Robertson, THomas Holdich, Donald N. Wilber, HW Bellow, and some other noted investigators.
Both the Kafirs and Afghans are brigands by instinct and both are careless of human life. Perhaps the Kafirs are the worst of the two in both respects, but a Afghan makes the account more than even by his added perfidy and cunning. All the neighbouring Musulman tribes have an intense hatred of the Kafirs because of the injuries the former have received at the hands of the Kafirs through the ages. The Kafirs love to dance to their war god Gish after killing Musulmans.
The Kafirs love to fight. Their inter-tribal hatred, sometimes, goes to the limits of absurdity, thus entirely deadening their political foresight. It is probable that there is no single tribe of Kafirs at the present day Kafirstan which is at peace with all other tribes. Some of their inter-tribal wars have continued for generations, and the one between the Kamoz and Katirs of Ramgulis went over a century. The Kafirs are highly revengeful. For honour's sake, a man of any position in the clan (even the slave) having been killed by an outsider clan must be avenged by blood. No matter what, a murder has to be avenged under all circumstances. Blood-feuds within a tribe do not exist, but if a fight did start, it was the duty of all witness to intervene at once. The slayer of his fellow, even by accident, has to pay a heavy compensation or else become an outcast. The stigma attaches itself to children and their marriage connexions. Kafirs have true conceptions of justice. There is no death penalty since a fighting male is too valuable a property of the whole tribe to be so wasted.
Though in his raids into hostile territories, whether of Kafirs or Musulmans, the Kafir spares neither men, nor women, nor even children and though, he holds human life as of very little account, and though in hunting, he appears to employ brutal methods of getting his game, yet he is not cruel by nature. Though highly passionate and wildly independent, the Kafir can be easily appeased. Though exasperated to such fury by centuries of persecutions by Musulmans, the Kafirs, in general, are harmless, affectionate and kind hearted people. They are indeed a model of politeness. They are merry, playful, fond of laughter and of very social and joyous disposition. The Kafirs are splendidly loyal to their friends and are accustomed to grandest acts of self-sacrifice and bravery. Kafirs are very hospitable. They are kind even to a Musulman when they admit him as their friend or guest.
The Kafirs are remarkable for their cupidity. They can be easily bribed, can do anything for money. But in matters of honour, no Kafir can ever be won by any amount of cash, whatsoever. Kafirs are extremely jealous of one another, no matter how they have intermarried. Kafir hates Kafir more than he hates Musulmans, which sometimes leads to internecine strife. It is as natural for a Kafir to thieve, as it is for him to eat. The children are encouraged to steal. Kafirs are remarkable for their reckless courage, furious bravery and towering love for freedom. Kafirs women are also extraordinarily courageous and dashing.
The war strategy of Kafirs is to wear down the enemy by playing purely defensive tactics. They hold positions, form little ambushes, and seek to cut off stragglers and harass the invaders in every possible way. Then when the enemy, from accumulated losses, begins to retreat, the tiger-footed Kafirs attack him on all sides like a swarm of hornets. At this point, the dogged resistance turns into furious bravery. A Kafir never fights so well as when the advantage is to his side. He plays a winning game splendidly. Each man tries to emulate the traditional heroes of his tribe and will performs some of the grandest deeds of courage and heroism to gain the admiration of his tribal. The Kafir of Bashgul is ever on the raid and on watch for a chance for a Musulman's life. The killing of Musulmans is ranked the chief object of a Kafir's life since his social position is dependent on the number of Musulmans he kills. A robe of honour (a Shawl) is awarded to those who have killed four or more Musulmans.
The Kafirs are chiefly remarkable for their love of cattle. In Kafir opinion, a good man is one who is a successful homicide, ever ready to quarrel, of an amorous disposition, a good dancer, and a good stone-quoit player. The whole of the Kafir race are remarkable for their fairness and beauty of complexion. A Kafir exudes impression of personal dignity, self-respect, self-confidence, strength and gracefulness. Kafir society is essentially democratic and the Kafirs are theoretically all equal.
The Kafirs, as seen above, seem to be as degraded in many respects as it is possible for this type ever to become. If it were not their splendid courage, their domestic affections and their overpowering love of freedom, the Kafirs would indeed be a hateful people. In other respects, they are what they have been made by uncontrollable circumstances. For them, the world has not grown softer as it has grown older. Its youth could not be crueller than its present maturity, but if they had been different, the Kafirs would have been enslaved centuries ago. Their present ideas and all the associations of their history and religion are simply bloodshed, assassinations and blackmailing; yet the Kafirs, though a highly wild people, are not savages. Many of them have the heads of statesmen and philosophers. Their features are Aryans and their mental capabilities are great. Their love of decoration, their carving and their architecture all point to a time when they were higher in human scale than they are at present.
Former religion of Nurestanis
Before their forced conversion by Abdur Rahman, Kafirs, the forefathers of the Nurestanis were practitioners of ancient pre-Islamic Animistic traditions. The Kafiri picturesque ceremonial and good humoured tolerance was replaced by the selfrighteous pride of Islam, Imra became Allah, Moni became Mohammed, and Dizane became Fatima while all the shrines, altars and holy places were destroyed. A whole generation of male youth was kidnapped and taken to Kabul to be islamised (sheikh-convert). There were lingering traces of ancestor-worship and fire-worship. The Kafir religion was a blend of Zoroastrian rituals, Hindu beliefs, Buddhist tenets and diverse ceremonies as well as paganism reminiscent of the mythology of Greece. In a public apartment of Kamdesh was a high wooden pillow on which sat a figure with spear and staff in his hands, this effigy represented one of the great men of the village who by giving several feasts for the whole village had earned this privilege. Imra (Kati) Mara (Perun valley) was the God of creation. Every Kafir village had its Imra shrine (stone altar under sacred -oak-ceder or juniper tree) and in Kstigigrom in the Perun valley was the temple of Mara, the largest in Kafiristan (a place still considered holy to the Kalashi of Pakistan). God Moni (Kalashi-Balomain) was the chief prophet of Imra/Mara. Gish (Kalashi Mahandeo) or Great Gish was the war god-his shrines were extremely popular among the Bashagul Kati. His cult involved headhunting (trophy taking) the more kills a brave made the higher his possition in the community and at death braves were honoured by the erection of an effigy recording the number of his kills. The Goddess Dizane (Kalashi Jeztak) was the mother Goddess of Kafiristan, her shrine above Kamdesh was typical of many Kafiri holy places (that used to be every were in former Kafiristan)- a small, lovely carved house with an effigy of Dizane visible in the door. There was also a holy vineyard-Indrkun (in Kafiristan's Wama valley) that was sacred to Indr. The gods of lesser significance along with local-tribal Gods were many. Bagisht was the God of waters, Sudaram the God of the weather and Arom was the tribal God of the Kati tribe. The religion of Kafiristan (with local twist) is still alive among the Kalashi in Pakistan. Effigies were erected to the faires (Kundrik)-to protect the crops, to honour baves (Dal) and ancestors (Gandeo). Some Idols were of stone with metal masks while others were carved from wood.

The Nuristani people's closest relation is to the Kalash people. Furthermore, they have very little genetic relation to neighbouring ethnic groups like Pashtuns and Kashmiris. This is because they have always remained isolated in the mountains which has led them to become a genetically isolated population. It is also speculated that Nurestani people are of different origin altogether assimilated in the region at at some point of time in history.
Rosenberg et al. (2006) ran simulations dividing autosomal gene frequencies in selected populations into a given number of clusters. For 7 or more clusters, a cluster (yellow) appears which is nearly unique to the Kalash. Smaller amounts of Kalash gene frequencies join clusters associated with Europe and Middle East (blue) and with South Asia (red).

Soviet war in Afghanistan                                                          
General Issa Nuristani was second in command following the King during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Before his assassination, General Issa called the Nuristani people in a "Jihad" against the Soviet Army. The Nuristani people were among the first in Afghanistan to rise against the Soviet invasion. They played an important role in the conquering of some provinces, including Kunar, Nangarhar, Badakhshan, and Panshir. Following the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, the Mawlavy Ghulam Rabani was declared as governor of the Kunar Province.
Most of the former Hindu Kush Kafir people are considered the ancestors of the Nuristanis. Led by the Koms tribe, the Nuristani were the first citizens of Afghanistan to successfully revolt against the communist overthrow of their government in 1978. Thereafter, Nuristan remained a scene of some of the bloodiest guerrilla fighting with the Soviet forces from 1979 through 1989. The Nuristanis inspired others to fight and contributed to the demise of the Afghan communist regime in 1992.

Nuristanis in Pakistan
Some Nuristanis venture across the border into the adjacent Chitral District of Pakistan where they have come to dominate the commerce and trade of the district capital and have integrated successfully into the cosmopolitan social dynamics of the district capital, Chitral, alongside Khowar speakers, Kalashas, Tajiks, Pashtuns and Wakhis.
There is a large number of these people use to live in Chitral, Pakistan the eastern border of Nuristan. Most of these people are from the KATA Family and Janaderi Branch, some of these people are use to live in Ozhor (recent Karimabad), Gobor, Buburat, Ayun, Broze and Mastuj. There is very popular Rock (Stone) associated with this tribe located in Karimabad (Juwara) called KATA BOHT (Kata is the name of the trible normally they associated with the Headtribe and BOHT is stone in Chitrali Language). They are physically strong, brave,light hair, eyes, and skin like other Nuristani. Now they normally use Kuraishi with their names.

Nuristan, in light green
The Nuristani do not have a formal tribal structure as the Pashtuns do, however they do designate themselves by the names of the local regions they are from. In total, there are 35 such designations: five from the north-south valleys and 30 from the east-west valley.
Some of these tribes include:
Jench (of Arnce village)
Kambojas or kam

In popular culture
Nuristanis were depicted as their pre-Islamic past the Kafiristanis, as one of peoples inhabiting Kafiristan in Rudyard Kipling's book called The Man Who Would Be King which was then made into a film.


  1. Friend, where can I find a copy of G.S. Robertson's excellent book on these people? It seems it is out of print and google books does not have a copy. Much obliged for any more pre-islamic information about these most magnificent fighters. If you could provide me more leads, I would be most grateful.

    1. Thanks for visiting the blog. i do not have any copy of the book but you can find it in please find the link below:



  2. Dear Abdul Wahid , I got your email ( luke = Kafiristani ect ) I am unsure how I contact you other than leaving messages on your blog ( here for example ) I do like your ideas and will help were and how ever I can . Have you joined jstor = this is a free online study sight were I got a lot of photos and written info to , I would say cheque it out , I think you will like it as they have all the reports and studies that have been done on both the Kalashi and Kati and other former Kafiri tribes ect over the last hundred years . I do own a copy of the Kafir's of the Hindu Kush which unlike the online editions has the pictures in it and it is these as well as some pictures taken in 11929 in Urtsun valley before conversion to Islam , these are of Imras and Varin's shrines and the Rikhini or holy dancing platform there . I have some of these photos on my Kafiristani album or on my facebook kafiristan album .You are welcome to copy and use what ever you want , all the best my friend . I will try and order the 2 photos from 1885 upper bashgul valley trip by the gilgit mission under lockhart ( I think or lovelock ) but these cost 70 pounds each so I might take me a few months to be able to afford the , but touch wood it all works out .

  3. Have they retained any old customs even after the conversion?
    Is vocabulary of their language available? Do they resent the forceful conversion?