Gojal area of the Karakorum mountains
Pakistan glossary

Chiragh Ali











17 July 2000



Section 1
Interviewer’s introduction: On July 14, 2000, I informed the narrator that I wanted to interview him. After three days when I got the message that he is ready for the interview, I went to his residence on Monday evening, July 17, 2000. His children, Rehmat Rahim, Javed Rahim and Sahira Begum were waiting outside the house, to welcome me. When I approached near to them they welcomed me and customarily invited me to the house. When I entered the house some other guests were also sitting in the house who had come to offer their condolences on the death of his wife. The host was entertaining the guests with the local dish of chilpindok (large chapattis spread with qurut – local dried cheese - and butter stacked in piles) and tea. After taking the local dish we offered prayers and then the other guests left the house. Then he asked me whether I would like to interview him in the local house or prefer to sit in a separate room. I deemed it convenient to sit in a separate room.
We entered the room it was carpeted and quite a cosy room. Comfortable pillows were lying on the floor for relaxing. Windows were glazed with different coloured glasses that were creating a scene of rainbow in the room. The narrator’s house is located on the southern terrace of the village, from where the entire Shimshal village was visible and we were enjoying the blooming green fields. Towards the east, the apricot and popular trees of Mazarbar and Khizerabad were presenting a fascinating view where as toward the west the Qaroon peak (7100m) was glittering and the white magnificent building of Jamat khana (religious and community centre of Ismaili Muslims) in the middle of the village was impressive. Enjoying the seductive and impressive scenic beauty around us, we started our discussion in a very pleasant mood.
In the best name of God the magnificent, and the merciful.

My name is Majnoon Khan. I am working for Shimshal Nature Trust and PANOS. SNT and PANOS have jointly undertaken a programme known as Shimshal Oral Testimony Programme. The aim of this program is to collect the views and the experiences of the people of Shimshal and to pass on this information to the people around the globe. We are about 18 persons working on this program so that we could get the views of the people with different backgrounds and convey it to the world (community).
In this connection I have come to you to obtain some information from you. So first I will record your interview and will translate it in to Urdu, word by word then it will be translated into English and then published in the shape of a book. When this book is ready then SNT and PANOS will Insha-allah (God willing) will present you a copy of the book. What is your opinion about it? Will you agree if we publish your name in the book?
Majnoon Khan janab (Mr, sir), thank you for visiting me to get some information from me. For that I am grateful to you. As far as my views regarding publication of my name in the book is concerned, I wish my name to be published in this book.
Section 2
Chiragh Ali janab, thank you very much for the opportunity you provided to me to collect your views.

Respectable Chiragh Ali: would you like to tell us what do you mean by culture? And what festivals does the culture include?
Mukhi Majnoon Khan (mukhi: religious title)! Culture means the mode of living and the dress, the way of life and the religious practices and festivals. What we have heard from our elders about our culture and what we shared with them, the celebration of our cultures, these were such that our ancestors lived an agro-pastoral life in Shimshal. And they left us certain customs connected to that mode of life.
Among these customs, first of all we start our festivals with the celebration of Tagam (sowing festival), it means to start with the cultivation. In this festival first of all we take the seed to the field on the first day of April. On this occasion all the people of the village gather in the field of cultivation and we also gather the oxen in the field because we would plough the land with these oxen. All the women and men including the young, elders and children jointly celebrate this festival. After offering prayers and sowing seeds in the main field, everyone returns to their houses and every individual sows seed in their own fields. They inaugurate the sowing season in their fields. After this celebration, cultivation starts. When cultivation ends and the plant sprouts from the seeds then we celebrate another festival practised by our ancestors. We take butter and flour to the field and welcome the young plant by applying some flour and butter to the new sprouted plant. This festival is called Safza Sar (crop sprouting festival).
After this celebration, Kooch festival (celebration of migration to and from Pamir) takes place. The festival is such that on the day of Safza Sar the elders decide a date for departure of the Kooch and then two or three persons are sent to Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures) to bring the yaks for transportation. When these yaks arrive the village then women along with livestock leave for Pamir. When they reach Pamir then the same day or the next day, the most senior woman after confirming the correct position of the stars and the horoscope, begins the milking of the yaks and [other] livestock. Then each senior woman from every family starts milking the livestock of their close relatives. Three days later another custom called Mirgichig (purification custom, to give thanks to God) is performed. Then the first fresh butter is donated to the community centre in the name of God. Thereafter everyone formally begins producing dairy products from their livestock.
Section 3
What else is performed in Mirgichig, please explain?
As I mentioned earlier, first of all the milking of livestock is initiated with some special practice. On the fourth day, early in the morning the men gather in a central place where every household brings milk, cream and seman (local sweet dish). Then all the people offer the prayers and then take the food. After this gathering, everyone is invited by their close relatives where special food is served to them.
Once again they gather in the premises of community centre and take the fresh yoghurt where as the women in one place start the extracting of butter from the yoghurt for the first time. After accomplishing this task the shepherds take the livestock to a particular place known as Gowmerk (the place of cow death) for grazing. Some young ones also go with the shepherds to help them. While returning back to the animal shelter in the evening, the young catch two strong male sheep which are decorated colourfully and hold them for about 15-20 minutes, until the rest of the livestock reach near to the animal shelter and then the two decorated male sheep called shanipoos (decorated male sheep) are released. These sheep rush to join the flock.

Sir, what do you mean by shanipoos? Do you call it sheenpoos or shanipoos?
Yes sir, it is known as sheenpoos but today it is pronounced shanipoos instead of sheenpoos. But I don’t know the exact meaning of this, but one interpretation is that two male sheep are washed and decorated and are raced behind the flock. When these two rush to join the flock and enter into the shelter along with other flock people get happy and deem it lucky for the livestock. But if they deviate and instead of joining the flock they turn to either side, away from the animal hut, people get annoyed and they deem it unlucky as the male sheep did not return to its shelter so there is a risk of loss of livestock. In this way when the shanipoos along with other livestock enter the shelter then the most senior women spray milk and yoghurt on the livestock.

As milk and yoghurt are sanctified things, then what is the purpose of spraying it on people? Would you please explain?
[Narrator is smiling] It means that, may God increase our subsistence and may we get prosperous. It is the reason that milk and yoghurt are sprayed on the people. This is the belief of our people. And when livestock are closed in the livestock shelter then women initiate the milking of livestock whereas men start removing the hair from the livestock and oiling the horns of livestock, then mark them with specific signs so that everyone recognises their livestock. The theme of this festival is that people start their herding activities with the name of God so that they make the best use of their resources. They prepare local food in the name of God and after praying for good fortune, they take it and then everyone gets busy with their routine works.
Section 4
Were there any other festivals other than that described above, would you please tell us?
Yes sir, the customs we inherited from our ancestors are celebrated step by step. When the Mirgichig festival ends there comes another festival, which is such that the women make the first butter in the name of Imam (hereditary spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, currently Prince Karim Aga Khan) and this is donated to the Jamat khana. Then they extract another butter known as offering butter; this butter is distributed among the people on the occasion of migrating from Shujerab to Shuwert (from the lower to the higher pasture).
There after another festival known as Chaneer (harvest festival), is celebrated. The practice for the celebration of Chaneer is such that the elders would go to the khalifa (local religious leader) and khalifa would specify them the date and time for Chaneer. Prior to Chaneer all the people would do ashar (unpaid labour for Mir, rulers of Hunza state up to 1972). Some would cut the hair of goat and some would prepare thread from it and some would weave local carpet.

Why would people do ashar? For whom they would do it? Everyone would do it for themselves?
[With hesitation.] No, not for themselves, but they would do it for the Mir. There used to be a man known as yarpa (Mir’s representative responsible for livestock production and supervision of central grain store). It was his responsibility. He would look after Mir’s livestock and other related affairs. The wife of yarpa was known as dughdar who would extract butter and would prepare local cheese for the Mir. The yarpa would get the hair of yaks and goats trimmed at Pamir and then would transport them to Shimshal with the help of the community’s yaks. Six or seven persons per year would offer their yaks for the transportation of these goods, and then people at Shimshal would start ashar for Mir. In the meantime the date for Chaneer with mutual consent was fixed. They fixed dates for shartwurza (guest of the year, in Pamir) and Wulyo (riding excursion to Wulyo where people go for offering) and Shegd-tar-charaman (festival celebrating the moment when the new crop is taken to the threshing field). When shartwuzra would arrive in the village from Pamir, another custom known as Shegd-pagash-diyetk (tasting of the new crop) was celebrated.

You mentioned about Wulyo, what is that and how is it celebrated? Please tell us in detail.
Regarding Wulyo: I submit that there is a place in Pamir known as Yakhtash, but I don’t know what it means. According to our ancestors, grandfather Bosing had lost his yak. People searched for the yak for many days but they could not find the yak. One day he himself set out on a searching mission when he reached a place named Wulyo he found his yak resting beneath a boulder. From beneath the boulder, he tried to drive the yak out but the yak didn’t move. Therefore grandfather Bosing proposed the yak for offering and slaughtered the yak at the spot. The second thing is that oil (butter) was emanating from that big boulder. It is therefore called Wulyo.
The way the festival is celebrated is such that when two shartwurza go to Pamir from the village then every household at Pamir invites them to their houses and serves them with special foods. The next day they go to Wulyo. They gather yaks one day before departure to Wulyo, on that day the people in the village play an interesting game with the people at Pamir. It is such that 6 or 10 people come from Shimshal and hide themselves in elevated places and in the night they attack the yaks and cut the rope from which the yaks are tied up and return to Shimshal the same night. Whereas the people at Pamir pool the yaks in a central place and guard them the whole night, at the same time the people from Shimshal make the efforts to launch the rope gashing operation successfully so that they could exhibit the act of their bravery. In this way they make a struggle and sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail but it was necessary to take the piece of rope with them to Shimshal as a token of proof.
Section 5
If the people on the rope gashing mission were caught, how would the people at Pamir treat them?
Sir, if the people from Shimshal were caught by the people at Pamir they put them in prison and punished them. Punishment was such that on Wulyo day they carry the load of cooking pots and walk all the way down to Wulyo where as the people from Pamir ride their yaks. And at Wulyo they make a fire and prepare food for the Pamir people. This was their punishment. By making fire and cooking the food their faces and hands get black due to the carbon of firewood. [Both the interviewer and the narrator are laughing: interesting!]

Strange! Instead of hosting them they were disgraced and dishonoured, why?
Yes; it was for the reason that they failed in the struggle and became the prisoners of the people of Pamir. But on return from Wulyo they were allowed to ride. So the festival of Wulyo has been celebrated in this way since the day of grandfather Bosing’s yak offering at Yakhtash. Since then people offer prayers there. All those children and those persons who go to Pamir for the first time they take one sheep or goat each for the offering. Everyone rides the yak and every household according to their intentions takes with them one piece of butter; some would bring one kilogram and some two kilograms for the offering. In this way they would distribute the offerings among them. The butters were melted and purified and were refrozen in the stomach of a slaughtered animal and were carried with them for further use at Paryen on the way down to Shimshal. Thus people would return to Shuwert from Wulyo in the evening. The next day they would see off the shartwurza. Shartwurza would collect one-kilogram of butter from every household and would load two yaks to transport the butter to Shimshal. This butter was transported to Shimshal because butter was not available at Shimshal, therefore shartwurza would go to Pamir to bring butter as well.
When shartwurza would reach near the village all the people would go for their reception. Then they would escort them to a central place where shartwurza would give each one their butter. As there was no arrangement for keeping the records in writing it was quite difficult to distinguish the packets of every person, but they were very intelligent people, they would distribute the packets of butter to each individual without mistakes. The same day people would celebrate Shegd-tar-charaman. Chaneer leaves for Shimshal just one day after the departure of shartwurza from Pamir and camp at Paryen where the butter frozen in the animal’s stomach, is used. And everyone would enjoy the fresh butter, our ancestors would also compliment the taste of this butter, even today we enjoy the taste of this fresh butter. The next day Chaneer would reach Zarthgarben (place: beneath the brown rock). From here people from Pamir would cross to the village in the night to launch a stealing operation of the celebration cap and cloths so that the people at the village are left with no celebration cap and cloth. This was a kind of game and they would make fun like this to each other.
The third day Chaneer would reach the riverbank where all the people from the village would come to greet them and get them across the river, as there was no bridge. They would make a cableway of rope made of yak’s hair whereas in our era it is made by iron wires. The people crossed from one bank to the other via this cable way. There was no cabin system people would hang to the rope and were pulled to either side. In order to cross the cableway, an expert was selected from among the people of Pamir who would take the pulling rope with him to the other side. The ends of this rope was then tied to each side of the cable way and with the help of this rope people were crossed by pulling them to either side of the river. The people from Pamir would bring goat’s meat from Yakhtash and khesht (wheat flour fried in butter) called ostona khest, as a token of benediction and would first cross it over the cableway and presented to the people on the other bank. This benediction was distributed among the people. Thereafter they would cross the people and their luggage. Chaneer festival is constituted by all these small events.
Section 6
Have you ever been to Pamir as shartwurza?
[Excitedly!] Yes I had been to Pamir twice as shartwurza.

How did you feel as shartwurza?
[Enthusiastically!] I will tell you the story of my visit as shartwurza. In accordance with our traditions I was shapoon (shepherd with yaks) along with late Mullahshikar. In the course of time I intended that the coming summer, I would volunteer as shartwurza. I went as shartwurza along with Fazil Baig. The same year contractor Sani had started constructing the road in the Shimshal gorge. For this purpose he had transported two hand drill machines but later on he took the machines back, on the grounds that these machines were out of order. When we arrived at Pamir as shartwurza our elders warmly welcomed us. Among the elders, Rahman Baig janab, Sultan Baig janab and father in-law Mulla Shikar were also present there. They took us as kings. In fact, shartwurza were treated as kings, we were seated respectfully and the elders would keep standing - as a gesture of respect - in order to welcome the shartwurza. As many days we remained in Pamir all the households invited us and rich people invited us even twice.

Strange! You were invited to 10-15 households daily. How did you manage that?
[Closing his eyes and looking in to the past!] Yes we would attend every house as a gesture of respect and would fully enjoy the foods. We would also invite other people with us to the food.
Section 7
You told that each one invited you to food and the culture of hospitality is the same even today. What do you think is this culture good or bad?
No sir, it is a wrong custom. Though we inherit it from our ancestors but it is extravagant, and the second thing is that people live a more busy life today than the past and it is not advisable to waste time in such a way by just attending the banquets the whole day.

It means, twice you have been to Pamir as shartwurza?
Yes twice! Because I enjoyed it for the first time and then once again I got the chance as shartwurza. It was such that the system of shartwurza was declining and our elders were worried about it. One day I was sitting in my house when your uncle (interviewer’s uncle) and subedar Shah Daulat came to me and told me that nobody is willing to go to Pamir as shartwurza. So they requested me to be volunteer for shartwurza so that the custom is performed and the requirements (fresh butter) of the people are also fulfilled. I consented to be shartwurza with the conditions that they would arrange someone to accompany me. Therefore they requested Ali Sarwar and with difficulties they convinced him to company me as shartwura to Pamir. The time was too short for the arrangement as the departure of shartwurza was scheduled two days earlier but it was delayed due to unavailability of shartwurza. Therefore we left for Pamir the same day. We set out in the afternoon and when we reached the bridge of Qarmoma; your (interviewer’s) grandmother1, it already got darker. It was too dark to see the trail and we crawled all the way to the end of the trail on all fours like animals.
From there onward it was not so difficult. We walked throughout the night and before dawn we reached Arbob Paryen (a place). It was the Wulyo celebration the same day but we were still too far to participate in the festival. Though it was unusual but I convinced Sarwar janab that we would not be able to reach Pamir in time, hence could not join the Chaneer procession but we would try hard to reach Wulyo to join them. I also convinced him it would not matter if we could not reach even Wulyo as one of our objectives was to bring the butter to Shimshal, so we would at least do that.
When we reached Waraw (Shimshal pass), the shepherds grazing the yaks, told us that the people had already left for Wulyo as we had already anticipated that. Soon we arrived at Shuwert where the senior women Madam Gulchin, Madam Durik and Madam Maharam; the house woman responsible for Mir’s livestock, welcomed and Madame Maharam invited us to lunch. We, in turn invited the senior women mentioned above, to join us in luncheon party.
The senior women instructed the young to arrange yaks for our riding so that we could move ahead, and soon they gathered yaks but the yaks left behind were so wild that the women could hardly control them for our riding. Therefore the senior women requested us to control the yaks and to put the nose string to each yak. We thanked them for the arrangement they had made for us and with our utmost efforts we could control a wild yak ha ha ha…. [laughing]. We were just to leave for Wulyo when some people from Wulyo came to drop the children and the women. Then they arranged good yaks for our riding. We left for Wulyo along with them and when reached Wulyo, the meal (offering) was ready to serve. We took the meal and then left Wulyo. We all returned to Shuwert where the people of Pamir formally welcomed us as shartwurza. They appreciated our efforts for reviving the vanishing custom of shartwurza.
The next day, customarily we arranged a banquet in the honour of the people of Pamir and then made necessary arrangements for our return journey to Shimshal. We were a little bit worried as we were in need of a yak to transport the butter load to Shimshal. Then your (interviewer’s) uncle Imanullah, who was a very generous person, offered us his yak and then we left for Shimshal. When we reached Shujerave (lower pasture) the river was flooded, and the yak was reluctant to cross the bridge. We tried our best to get the yak across the bridge but in vain. Then I decided to get the yak across through the river. I told Sarwar to wait across the river and then I took the yak to the riverbank and the moment I rid the yak of the load he jumped into the river. The currents were very high and I was about to suffocate under the water when we reached the other side of the river. I thanked God and took a five-minute rest and then went on.
Section 8
How did you feel under the water? Please tell us in detail.
I was unable to see anything under the water. I just thought that I was drowning. I lost hope for survival, but thank God, the yak was very strong - he swam with great power to cross the river. Then I offered tasbih (act of praising Allah) and then went on, as we had to reach Shimshal the next day.
When we reached Paryen, the flow was very high and the yak again refused to cross the bridge. The gorge was narrow and it was not possible for the yak to cross the stream so we tried to get him across over the bridge but after three hours of struggling we failed to cross him. When the people from Pamir arrived with yaks then they crossed our yak along with other yaks; they told us that they were already anticipating this situation.
So, in Paryen they consumed the butter from the offering, which they transported from Yakhtash and they spared another yak belonged to Qurban Ali, for us to share the load of the yak we already had with us. Then we left Paryen, as it was already getting dark so the people with Chaneer advised Akram Baig janab and Mirza Amin to company us. We travelled all the night and the next morning we reached Bandsar near Shimshal. Young people were waiting for us at the riverbank. They got the luggage across over the cable way and carried the load to Shimshal where it was distributed among the people.
It was the day of Shegd-tar-charaman festival and the next day was Chaneer festival. On Chaneer day, people take collective breakfast; each one takes his breakfast to the house of the most senior in their neighbourhood and would collectively take breakfast before going to the river bank for the reception of the people of Pamir. They escort the people of Pamir in the form of procession to the village where this festival comes to an end.
The next festival called Shegd-pagash-diyetk is celebrated. The procedure to celebrate this festival is such that the people belonging to each clan go to the house of elite i.e. to the house of numberdar (government representative in the village) or khalifa, where the elite prepares for them one deg (cast iron cooking pot;100 litre capacity) of beth (local dish, wheat flour mixed with butter, water and salt served with mutton). Before taking this food, all those who had come from Pamir go to the elite’s field and bring the new crop. The new crop is then pulled out and put over the food. After taking this food everyone goes to their houses and then to their fields and brings the new crop and put it over the food and carries this food to the house of the elite where they collectively eat this food. After this all the villagers gather in the community centre and offer prayers for the prosperity and safety of the village and then they take food in the community centre before they disperse. In this way the festival comes to an end.
Section 9
Despite the fact that shartwurza is our cultural heritage, you told that you were volunteered for shartwurza. How and why you volunteered? Please explain.
The business of life has caused a decline in the enthusiasm for celebration of this festival. As you see nobody is available nowadays in the village. The commitments of people have increased, migration is taking place for the sake of employment and more tourists are coming to the village and most of the people travel with them and earn their subsistance. Also more people go - when they return they deem such festivals as a waste of time. In this way the customs are in decline.

Do you think that the tradition of shartwurza, should continue or it should be abandoned? What should be done in your view? Please explain.
It seems to me that the traditions that were practised by our ancestors were for the reason that people had surplus time and they all lived together in the village. Therefore, they created such customs to keep them busy with celebration of these customs. But today these customs can no longer work, because today our Maula (literally, master; the Aga Khan) and the government insist upon us acquiring education. At the same time nobody is free, everyone is busy and nobody has time to celebrate these festivals.

In your view, is there any possibility of modification in the rest of the customs? What difference do you feel in celebrating these festivals today and in former times?
There is a lot of difference between the festivals in former times and today. Personally I was in favour that we should not abandon our customs, but in line with today’s conditions it should be abolished. Today’s needs would surely abolish it. Because that that results in wastage of time and resources should be abolished and those important festivals such as Chaneer, Tagam etc. should be preserved, lest our culture vanishes and our children remain ignorant of their past.

In your view would the major cultural events like Tagam, Chaneer etc. flourish in consonance with our culture or would it disappear?
Hastily! No sir, very soon it will disappear.
Section 10
What suggestions would you like to offer for the preservation and proliferation of these customs?
[Hesitantly!] In this connection I already explained that the way you are preserving your culture as Maula also insists not to give up your culture, in the same way people from outside also come to protect our culture. New organisations are coming into being which insist on the preservation of culture. Under such conditions, it should not be abolished. But if we look at the commitments of the people today, then it looks like the people in the coming days would not afford time for such celebrations - because festivals also demand the presence of people. Today nobody is available even to irrigate their crop fields, then who will afford time to celebrate these festivals, as participation of more and more people make the festivals impressive? If all the people do not participate in the festival then there is no true enjoyment. I think it would not be justified to say that the customs should be abolished but they will decline with the passage of time. Therefore the customs and traditions may disappear as a result of modernisation.

Matrimonial ceremonies are also part of our culture. Would you like to tell us in detail what are those matrimonial practices?
[With cheerful impression on his face, to make the interviewer trust that he possesses plenty of information, he replied quickly before the question was over!]
I tell you the practices in former times or the…[he wanted to tell some thing but paused for about two seconds. I encouraged him to tell us whatever he wanted.]
The practices of our elders were such that [paused for five seconds]. As I requested that the economical conditions of the people, in those days were not so good as compared with today, therefore people would carry out the betrothal ceremonies one year prior to the marriage and the following year they would perform the marriage ceremony. The betrothal practices were such that the selection of the girl for their son was the sole discretion of the parents they would not bother seeking the consent of their son whether he wanted to marry the girl or not. The custom was such that a big pot of molida (local dish; bread mixed with qurut and butter) was prepared and all the villagers would participate in it. The custom of Pergvendak (necklace tying ceremony) was also such that all the villagers would participate in the party. And on the occasion of marriage banquet 12 to 15 goats were slaughtered and 12 to 15 deg of beth were prepared and all the people were invited to participate in the party.

What was the normal age for marriage? Was there any age limit?
There were no age limits for marriages. In different ages people would marry, but the only and favourite children were married in minor ages, some would marry in youth. My parents married me when I was eight years old. I married in 1960; the same year Maulana Hazir Imam (spiritual leader of the time) His Highness prince Karim Aga Khan visited Hunza for the first time.
Section 11
Janab! How did you feel when you married at the age of eight? Were you happy?
Sir! I was worried because I was too young to differentiate between good and bad things, how to shoulder the responsibilities of having a wife and how she would make the adjustments with me etc.etc. My parents blindly married me and bearing this feeling in mind I would very often, make my father realise the mistake of getting me married at such a young age.

Which practice of betrothal in your view was good: the old custom or the modern?
[Thoughtfully recalling the past] I request that in former times our elders with their own consent, got their children married in minor ages, I would not condemn the practice as it was the system of that era. But I think that the custom of betrothal practised today is much better because today people get married in accordance with their own will and likeness when they mature. They plan their future to live a better marital life. They face less post-marital problems and also own the responsibility. They observe the rights of each other in a much better way and they take care of each other.

Would you like to tell that, what kind of music was used on marriage occasions and what was the music system?
In the beginning when there were no musical instruments available, people would sing local songs i.e. “namekdon” (the salt pot), “khun shaheen” (the falcon nest) etc. Then in our era flutes were used as musical instruments. Late uncle Imanullah, Mulla Qurban, Qalandar Baig, Hasratullah Baig were playing local flutes where as Uncle Bakht Baig, Noorud din Shah were playing drums. In this way people would enjoy the music on marriage occasions and would dance to the music. When the bridegroom would go to his in-laws house then the bridal procession would go with music. Late Muhammad Yari would play damal (drum with sharp sound); it was normally played with the main drum. Originally we had no damal in Shimshal and when the Mir visited Shimshal and he noticed the music without damal then he sent one from Hunza. In this way the complete musical instruments were played on marriage occasions and people would really enjoy that, but today it is not so much interesting, in those days stage dramas were also perfomed. For example kirgas (the vulture), yuksh (the ibex) dramas were staged.

You mentioned the names of some animals, what was the theme of these dramas?
[Fearfully that perhaps he may not reply correctly.] Well, they might have seen these animals and then portrayed them. In kirgas drama performers would wear reversed kerest (overcoat made from animal hide) with a long beak and would dance in yorch (place for dancing in Wakhi/Tajik houses). In another drama they would portray an ibex and would sing the dialogue between a baby ibex with her mother regarding a hunter. The theme of the song is such that a baby ibex was grazing with her mother when he saw a hunter approaching to them.
Baby ibex: Mama! A hunter is approaching!
Mother: No my baby it is not a hunter but a shepherd.
Baby ibex: O’ mama; he is carrying the gun, what to do now?
Mother No baby: don’t worry, be courageous, it is not a gun but a stick.
Baby ibex: Mama what to do now, he is fixing the target (taking aim).
Mother: Don’t worry baby, he is not taking aim, he is looking through binoculars.
Each event of this sad song of the ibex was demonstrated dramatically to make the people realise we should not hunt in the breeding season.
Section 12
Besides this drama what else were presented or were there any other activities?
They would also present the drama “saudogar” (“the trader”) and would sing songs.

What was that?
[Laughing!] The legs of two persons facing opposite are tied up to make a camel. These camels are decorated with colourful cloths and ornaments. One man rides the camel and the other holds the bridle and they move slowly by singing a song. When they complete the fourth line of the song then from any corner of the house another person starts singing the fifth line of the song. The house is full, so everyone joins them in singing the song.

Do you memorise the song, which is sung in this drama? If yes please recite a line from that song?
Ashtor ba qatar karawanam ashtor! (I possess a long queue of camels like caravan.)
Balai ashtoor bar daram ashtoor! (The camels carry load and all that belongs to me.)
Wa zi Balai ashtoor bar daram ashtoor! (Yes camels carry load and all that belongs to me.)

In a gathering, have you ever sung a song? If so which one?
We would sing the poetry of our elders. They would formulate poetry. For example we would sing the song formulated by uncle Shireen Shah. There is another song i.e. … [pauses] Asmanan khamda rawi kabotsor (beautiful Millard has landed from the sky for the first time); this song was most popular. And then in the recent past people enjoyed by singing modern radio songs. Nowadays everything is lost. The orchestra and the singers all are dead, now nobody practises it. Therefore it is the reason that the marriage ceremonies today are less jubilant.

In marriage houses folk tales were also narrated?
Yes traditionally from the day the marriage arrangements were started, people would gather in the house and would tell folk tales, dance by singing song and would also narrate the events and history of past. In this way people would enjoy till midnight and would take food and then would return to their houses. This activity would last for four to five days.
Section 13
Are folk tales narrated even today please explain?
No sir, nowadays folk tales are not narrated.

Then nowadays, what other activities in marriage houses are carried out?
[With disappointed face impression for the current activities!] Nowadays the marriage activities are completed in two days. Young people come to the marriage house; they enjoy playing cards and other games rather then assisting with the arrangements. People simply sit idle whereas we would celebrate the events enthusiastically but today they sit silent and the elders do not let the youth even make a noise, what to mention about singing songs. So this is the system today.

In your view which system is good? Was the old system good or the modern system?
I like the old tradition of marriages. We would enjoy it to the limits. It was a very good system. Today people enjoy the events less, as I told, nobody is allowed even to talk loudly so there is no music and dancing today.

Have you ever narrated a folk tale?
[With apologising impression!] No sir, I have never narrated folk tales because I don’t know folk tales therefore I take less interest in folk tales. Late Muhammad Habib was famous for narrating tales. Parallel to him, Arab Khan janab and uncle Mirza were also very famous for narrating popular tales.

Janab! Do you like the old customs of marriage? Would you like to tell us in detail what kind of dresses was used on marriage ceremonies?
Mukhi sahib (interviewer)! Regarding dresses in old times I would say that in former times, dresses were not in abundance like they are today; people today wear high quality cloths. We had shushk (long shoes made of animal hide) which we would make from goat or Ibex hide, we would also dye the leather to make colourful shoes. Likewise we would also wear chugha (long woollen overcoats). Our mothers would prepare woollen coats and chugha for us. Instead of shirts we would wear woollen shirts and chugha. Cotton or silky trousers were also not available and we would use hand made woollen trousers. I myself wore woollen cloths and chugha on my wedding ceremony. Turban, to wear on the occasion of my marriage was prepared by my grandmother. It was prepared from coarse woollen cloth with different design from colourful woollen threads, which were used on marriage occasion. There was no silky or cotton cloths available at that time. The rich people would have plain white cotton cloths or coarse cotton cloths. I still memorise that my uncle Mohib and Afiyat Khan had bought one modern coat each, then everyone would use these coats one by one for dancing on every marriage occasions. The caps were also used on special occasions like marriage and other celebrations. There were ordinary caps for common use. And these common caps were then washed in barley flour because soap was not available at that time.

What was the food arrangement on marriage occasions? There was any special food arrangement or did there use to be ordinary meals? Please explain in detail.
There were special food arrangements. The bride and bridegroom both would invite all the villagers to a banquet. If it was a well off family then they would prepare 15 deg of beth with 12 goats slaughtered for the banquet. Therefore they would make preparation for about four-five days prior to the marriage function. In the course of preparation, the close relatives of the bridegroom and bride would invite them into their houses one by one and the villagers would arrange dinner for them during these four-five days, the families would then invite people to share the dinner with them. On the wedding day, early in the morning all the villagers would gather in the house of the bridegroom where they were hosted with one deg of beth. Then they would accompany the bridegroom to the bride’s house where they would take special food prepared for this occasion before they dispersed to their houses. The bridegroom would make an overnight stay in the house of bride. The next morning all the people were once again invited to a banquet called Mehmani followed by another function known as seeing off the bridegroom; they were hosted again with beth. Then they would take the couples to the bridegroom’s house where they would take the special food and with this event the marriage function would conclude.
Section 14
There were special food arrangements for special occasions. Does it exist even today?
Yes sir, but out of those special meals, the one called Mehmani has been abandoned, whereas the special meal prepared on wedding day still exists.

What is meant by khashsloom? Please tell us in detail.
[Hesitantly!] To greet the relatives of bride.

[Encouraging him!] Well, it means to go to greet his mother in-law?
[Excitedly] Yes… Yes sir, it means that one day after marriage the bridegroom would go to the house of his mother-in-law to greet her and would also go to the houses of the bride’s relatives to greet them. It was for the reason that the bridegroom gets familiarised with all his wife’s relatives. This activity would continue for about 5-6 days i.e. till Tarkhun yundak.

What is Tarkhun yundak, please explain?
It means that after the marriage, parents invite their daughter to their house for the first time. It is called Tarkhun yundak. All the relatives of both bride and bridegroom would also accompany them.

Would you please explain tamsol (sayings)? What does it mean?
Mukhi sahib! Tamsol is a saying in a philosophical way. It means that normally people speak plainly with simple words but some great people speak with logic. The logical and meaningful talk is also called politics. In former times the political persons were termed as tamsolgo (those who refer to the sayings), because they would speak with references and examples, like you people ask questions with different tricks.
Section 15
Do you know any tamsol?
[With fearful face impression but managed to respond!] I memorise very few tamsol e.g. one of our ancestors tamsol is as follow:
“Wurk sell shatrish, yathima sell sharik.”

What does it mean?
It means, “feeding a baby sheep will be of benefit, but bringing up an orphan will be harmful”, because when he will get matured he will make more demands and can show difference of opinion. The second saying is such that: “Kho kambal tayeen kha, kho pooda roor”: “stretch your legs in accordance with your blanket.”

What does it mean please explain?
It means to live within your resources. To commit what you are capable to do, do not act beyond your capacity, undertake the task that you can accomplish, etc.etc. This saying was used for such things.

Have you ever designed a tamsol?
Thinking for a while! No, but mukhi sahib: I always quote the saying that transpires the difference between the people of today and in former times. Today people neither agree on issues nor they own the simplicity and the honesty of the elders. We do not benefit from the education. So more often I quote the saying! “Neither in three nor in thirteen”. Therefore, there exists no harmony in our works. Good work is expected either from the highly educated people or from the illiterates, because the illiterates obey the orders and carry out the work without reasoning. In this way the work is accomplished in a better way.

Do you recollect any saying designed by our ancestors?
A similar tamsol designed by late Niamat ullah. Once he was going to Wakhan Tajikistan. On the way to Wakhan, he had an overnight stay at a house in Gojal that was not economically a stable family whereas the people of Shimshal were very well off at that time. Shimshalis would take the best and balanced food. Since khalifa Niamat ullah and his companion had walked throughout the day covering a long distance till they reached the house, therefore, they had a great appetite for food. The only food the host could make available for them was the dry barley bread, which the host was offering hesitantly to the guests with the feeling that the food was not worthy presenting to the guest from Shimshal. Holding the food in her hands, the host kept standing for few moments, deciding whether to offer the food or not. The guests were very hungry and were anxiously waiting for the food. When the guests noticed the confusion of the host, khalifa Niamat ullah said to the host. “Dear host! Holding the food and keep standing will not turn the dark barley bread into a white wheat bread, so please offer whatever is available”.
One similar saying designed by late Ghulam Nasir was quite popular. For the construction of his big house in Shimshal, he took more than hundred people to fetch timber wood from Nogherdoom Waeen (Bear’s pass). Customarily the owner was required to carry the foodstuff of those who carry the construction logs. Similarly he had to carry the foodstuff of one hundred heads, which was quite heavy, however with difficulty he managed to carry the load all the way down to the village and when he reached the village he said “Alas! If I had carried the heaviest timber I would have earned recognition but I put my life to risk just for carrying foodstuff”
Section 16
Chiragh Ali janab! Would you please tell us the most important event of your life?
[Became worried and after a while replied with pleasant expression] Thank you mukhi sahib: I will tell you about the events of my life. I was the only son of my parents. I had four sisters. From my childhood till youth my parents loved me, as I was their favourite son. On the occasion of my circumcision they arranged a gulzar (grand shooting competition)2 because I was their only son. After that in 1960, they got me married in the year of didar (gathering of Ismailis where the Imam gives special instructions).
We were betrothed the day we were born, because my wife and I were born in one day and the same day our parents decided that we would be married because we were born in single day. Consonant with that decision already made, on the occasion of didar at Hunza, my father requested my father in-law for the arrangement of our marriage, as it was the luckiest year. They decided it at Hunza. In this way at the age of 8 we got married. On the occasion of my marriage, 15 deg beth was prepared and 15 goats were slaughtered and all the villagers were invited to banquet and my marriage function was the best one.
In those days a contingent of military unit was also deployed in Shimshal, they were also invited to the banquet. In this way I lived a satisfied and pleasant life. My uncle and aunt would also love me and take care of me, whatever I demanded they fulfilled my demands. They would always respect my wishes and desires and always fulfilled my demands. The days of my youth, I would normally spend in Pamir, as there were no activities at Pamir and very good food like milk, butter and meat was abundantly available. In this way I spent a luxurious life. When I was separated from my uncle even then I had no worry because I still had the co-operation and help of my uncle. My mother and my wife would assist me in household affairs. In this way I lived a very happy and prosperous life, I would also participate in the community works whether it was a journey or another construction work I would surely participate in it. I never had domestic problems or worries.

It means you also rendered volunteer services to the community?
Yes! I would join colleagues in all the community works. Although the deaths of my parents were a great set back for me, but even than I continued rendering volunteer services to the community. In recognition of those services I was appointed as a member of Tariqa (literally, the way; religious education) board and in 1987 I became a member of the local council and that was a great opportunity for me. I spent a very happy life and when I retired from the council I was nominated as kamdia (second highest local religious leader after mukhi) of central Jamat khana Shimshal, in 1999, hence getting the great opportunity to serve the community. It was the blessing of Maula that in my 48 years of age I lived a very happy and satisfied life. With the blessing of the Allah (God) for being endowed with the responsibility of kamdia, this year my endurance was tested by almighty Allah, by departing the soul of my wife. My wife passed away in June 2000 and departed forever, which bereaved me too much. Though it is the law of nature and everyone in his turn has to leave this world, still the sudden death of my wife was a great shock to me.
Section 17
You are lucky that you lived a happy life. This year, Allah tested your endurance by departing your wife from you and if you will submit your gratitude for what Allah wished then Insha-allah in lieu of this grievances, Allah will bless you with thousands of happiness. Because whatever Allah does is perfect because everything is best known to him and this incident might be a blessing for you. I am grateful to you that you spared time and granted me with very interesting information, so thank you very much and Assalam-o-Aliakum (peace be with you).

1 The narrator is referring to the bridge in the name of the interviewer’s grandmother – this is an illustration of the system of nomus, the traditional system of development in Shimshal. When a bridge, footpath etc needed to be constructed a family would sponser that project in the name of a family member and contribute food and any other resources required to the villagers during construction.
2 People gather in one place with their guns and are divided into two groups. A target is fixed at an appropriate distance and everyone in each group is given a chance to fire at the target. The best firing team wins the shooting competition and the best among the wining team is awarded/ decorated by the family who has arranged the gulzar. That person becomes the champion of that shooting competition.