Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hunza is situated at the point where Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and China meet. It is over 2500 m above sea level and is surrounded by seven-thousand-meter-high mountains. But at this entirely mountainous elevation there are grown vegetables, various fruits and grains such as potatoes, beans, wheat, barley, watermelon, grape, cherry, apple, pear, peach and apricot.

The Inhabitants are great farmers and they have created their own system of irrigation and drainage; the drainage channels are called KULLS. The high snowcapped mountain, which is called RAKAPOSHI (ra kah posht – Albanian for fell downwards), supplies the valley with drinking water. Hunza people, who live in complete harmony and enjoy good health without the diseases of the time, are known in the world for their longevity.

They live up to approximately 100-140. Hunza mothers breastfeed their sons up to 3 years, whereas their daughters only up to 2 years. There is no separation of married couples in Hunza. They call themselves Hunza (=small nose in Albanian) people or Hunzakurt because of the Hunza valley’s shape like a nose. They speak BURRUSHASKI (burrërrishtja- Albanian for manliness language) which is an unwritten language.

Men wear SHALVARE, while women call their shirt KAMISHA (Albanian for Shirt). Their traditional dances are accompanied by drums, flutes or reed-pipes as they dance hand in hand forming a circle. On festive occasions men wear a woolen cape called Çuka. The wine (alcoholic beverages) festival is in October. Women do not cover their face or head with veils.

The most important holiday is the Solar New Year which is called NA UROSH (Albanian for Wish Us). All the year’s weddings are organized on a single day in December. Hunza people tell from one generation to another their story, how they have remained in the Hunza valley since 3rd century B.C., and that they have descended from the time of Alexander the Great.

Aristidh Kola, arvanitas historian writes in his book “Arvanites”: . . . Alexander the Great, Illyrian by his mother had expanded his army by choosing Illyrian soldiers. But the period after Cleitus was murdered by Alexander the Great constitutes a very significant moment because about 6 thousand Illyrian soldiers left the latter and stayed apart in Braktane until they settled in today’s Kafirstan. . .So we are referring to a large number of Illyrians (about 50 thousand of them) who have remained there since the time of Alexander the Great, since the invasion of Darius’s Kingdom of Persia. The region occupied by them was called Kafirstan (land of the infidels) because they did not accept Islamization. Hunzakuts lived for thousands of years as pagans until the early nineteenth century when Amir Abdur Rahman Khan converted them to Islam. (1895-1896).

After Emir of Kabul‘s conquest, the region was renamed Nuristan (Land of Light). Kafirstan had often been object of invasion before Emir and certainly their identity degraded, their “priests” were killed, religious centers were burned, young boys were forcefully recruited into the military forces, and young girls into Khans’ harems.

What is important is that Hunsakuts, just like our Illyrian ancestors, still drink wine mixed with water. They are tall, with a light skin and red cheek bones. Most of them have blue, green or gray eyes and blond hair, which distinguishes them from the Afghans, Pakistanis and Tajikistanis. Many of them are also red-haired.

High up in the mountains lives a peculiar tribe, the Kalash. The Kalash people are the last surviving animist in Central Asia. As a small group of 5 thousand persons, they have a slightly different history from the other Hunzakuts. Over the centuries Kafiristan was divided into two zones- the zone of the Black Kafirs who are the present day Kalasha people and the zone of Red Kafirs whose descendants still live in Nuristan. The latter subdued to Emir of Kabul’s jihad.

Black Kafirs still cling to Animism, the belief that all things have a soul even wood. For thousands of years Kalash people have survived and preserved their unique culture and their social and linguistic identity, but the new century has faced them with two great challenges: religious fundamentalism and climate changes.

fahri 5Studying Hunza and Hunzakuts is of great importance to Albanian culture, because they have lived for thousands of years apart from the rest of the world which has helped the preservation of Illyrian-Albanian customs and linguistic features.

It is interesting how our neighbors, although uninvited, have the courage to dance in our wedding. . . In fact Greeks for years have sent teachers, open schools and convinced the world of the Hunzapeople’s Greek origin, whereas Slavic-Macedonians have been sending Slavic linguists in Kalash since 1996. Their purpose is to find linguistic continuity between the Slavic-Macedonian language and the burrerrisht.

But the most ironic event took place in 2008 when the FYROM’s Prime Ministers Gruevski invited for a visit the Hunza Prince Ali Khan and Princess Gacanfer Roni Atika, as descendants of Alexander the Great. All of this was supposed to show the Slavic-Macedonian continuity with Hunza people (! ). . . . . . . On the other hand, Albanians have covered their wedding with a veil of oblivion and disregard.

Translated and edited by Margarita Paci
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