We are having rare studies on Nuristan and facing difficulties accessing to sources that study Nuristan, hence this blog was created to explore the unique history,culture society,custom,people and political situation of Nuristan. This Blog aims to collect information from different sources to create a data base of Nuristan related issues exploring Nuristan s' challenges and ask this question from all Nuristanis.Have We Enlightened Nuristan with the Light of Islam,Knowledge and Unity?
May 4, 2012
The area known as Nuristan is located at the southern end of the Hindu
Kush mountain range in Afghanistan. Historically, this area was known as
Kafiristan and the inhabitants as Kafirs. Nuristan has a temperate climate
with enough precipitation to provide plenty of water for irrigated
agriculture. There are limited amounts of arable land in the Hindu Kush,
but there are abundant amounts of pastureland well suited for
transhumance. Subsistence is based on the production of cereal grains and
of dairy products from goats and cattle.
Nuristan is an ethnically and linguistically diverse region in which six
mutually unintelligible and unwritten languages are spoken. The Nuristani
Group of languages, a branch of the Indo-Iranian Subfamily of
Indo-European languages, contains five of these languages. The sixth
language, Pashai, is spoken in the far western part of Nuristan by groups
of Pashai peoples who are considered to be a culturally distinct group and
who live mostly outside Nuristan.
On the basis of linguistic and cultural affinities Nuristanis may be
divided into three different groupings: those calling themselves Kalasha;
the Kati, Mumo, Kshto, and Kom peoples; and the Vasi. The Kalasha groups
live in the southern part of Nuristan and constitute three of the five
Nuristani linguistic communities. The Ashkunu, Gramsana, and Kalasha all
speak dialects of a single language. The Kalasha speak an independent
language called Kalasha-ala, which is further divided into two dialects.
The Tregami speak an independent language that is distinct from, but
related to, Kalasha-ala.
The Kati are the most numerous of Nuristani peoples. The Mumo, Kshto, and
Kom all speak different dialects of the same language and are separated
into different villages, primarily
within central Nuristan. The Vasi, who are considered the most culturally
and linguistically distinct of the Nuristani peoples, speak a language
that is divided into dialects according to village.
Even though each Nuristani group often regards itself as being as distinct
from the others as it is from neighboring non-Nuristani groups, features
of their languages and cultures suggest a common origin. The Nuristani
languages are believed to share a common phylogeny. Oral traditions
indicate a long history of interaction, and there is a common belief that
Nuristanis formerly inhabited the Kunar Basin.
The Nuristanis once shared a common religion. They believed that the world
was divided into pure and impure, corresponding to the division between
gods and people. The gods controlled the destiny of people, which was
determined by the generosity of sacrifices to the gods and the purity of
individuals and their families. Shamans acted as intermediaries for the
people. Sacrifices and purification rites were performed by other
specialists. Feasts were seen as acts of generosity in sacrifice,
bestowing on the giver(s) both purity and formai social rank.
The basic sociopolitical unit in Nuristan is the village. Villages are
surrounded by agricultural land and by mountain and valley grazing areas.
The land is owned by male heads of households, and access to grazing areas
is a hereditary right of male residents.
Men who are seen as promoting cohesiveness tend to gain leadership within
the village. Open conferences are held whenever decisions affecting the
entire community are needed. At these conferences, skilled leaders are
given the authority to resolve a community crisis. Leaders maintain their
authority only as long as they have the consensus of other political
leaders or until the crisis is resolved.
The role of mediator is crucial to the maintenance of social cohesion.
Political leaders emerge largely because of their abilities to resolve
conflicts within the community. Conflict resolution takes the form of
determining, through mediation, an appropriate compensation. In disputes
involving bloodshed, blood money is demanded and expected. Blood disputes
are particularly dangerous for the community because the aggrieved, or his
agnatic kin, may seek blood vengeance. Avoiding bloodshed is a major
motivation prompting men to become mediators.
Cooperation within Nuristani culture is based on kinship ties. Agnatic kin
are expected to support each other in times of crisis or need. Because
agnatic ties are so central, Nuristani men who have frequent interpersonal
relations with Nuristanis from other villages will adopt them as brothers.
Those adoptive ties, along with the ties of intermarriages, are the
primary links between different Nuristani groups.
Traditionally, only men could own property, and grazing rights were
inherited through the male line only. Today, under Islamic law, women are
also entitled to a share of the patrimony, but in practice their share
usually reverts to their brothers or close male agnates.
Nuristanis are divided into two endogamous castes—a lower caste of
artisans and a landowning upper caste. The former were slaves until the
twentieth century, and they are still predominantly disenfranchised. The
lower caste produces the woodworking, blacksmithing, pottery, weaving, and
basketry products used by all Nuristanis.
In addition to caste specialization, there is also a division of labor
based on gender. Traditionally, males and females were expected to
contribute to the production of a meal. The women provided the bread,
which meant they were responsible for all agricultural production and the
gathering of firewood. The men provided a dairy product, which meant they
cared for the goats and cattle.
Some of the cultural divergences among Nuristani groups arise from
differences in the environment and the availability of land; others are
based on variations in kinship organization. For example, the Kalasha and
Kati recognize formalized groupings of close agnates that are lacking in
the descent model of the Kom and Kshto. Other cultural differences, such
as variations in dress, house construction, and music, coincide with the
three major Nuristani ethnic divisions.
Nuristanis have generally considered themselves dominated by an oppressive
regime ever since their incorporation into Afghanistan in 1896. They saw
no advantage in a Sovietled Communist government after the coup of 1978,
and therefore launched an attack that led to a nationwide uprising against
that regime. Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, there have
been few reports on the Nuristani culture.