Tue. Nov 24th, 2020

Pictorial – Glimpses of the Baba Ghundi Festival held in Chipursan, Hunza

Photography: Farman Karim Baig

Chipursan is a valley located on the Pak-Afghan border, in Gojal Valley of  District Hunza. It is also located in the proximity of China and Afghanistan. It is in Chipursan where the Pamir, Hindu-Kush and the Karakuram ranges meet.

The people of the Chipursan Valley speak Wakhi, an Indo-European language in the Eastern-Iranian sub-branch, spoken primarily in Wakhan Valley, from which it drives its name. Wakhan is a narrow valley located across the mountainous border in Afghanistan. Chipursan and Wakhan are located adjacent to each other, and the people have ancestral, cultural and religious links.

A view of the Baba Ghundi Shrine with a snow-capped mountain in the background
A view of the Baba Ghundi Shrine with a snow-capped mountain in the background

The people of Wakhan and Chipursan have been trading for centuries mostly during the summers, when the passes connecting them are open due to melting of snow. The traders exchange goods, because currency is not very important in this part of the world. The people from the Wakhan Valley and other parts of the Pamirs bring yaks, horses, sheep and goats, while the traders from Chipursan bring shoes, cloths, kitchen utensils and other ‘modern’ products from the markets in Hunza and Gilgit. The exchange takes place near the Shrine of Baba Ghundi.

This year an “International Baba Ghundi Festival” was also held near the Baba Ghundi Shrine. The festival brought together people from Chipursan, and other parts of Gojal Valley, and Wakhan, enabling them to celebrate some moments of happiness and joy, amid the snow-capped towering peaks, in a pristine setting. Traditional games, like Buzkashi, Polo were played, while artists danced, sang and played musical instruments despite of the chill in the atmosphere.

The region is cold and people have to wear warm cloths all the time
The region is cold and people have to wear warm cloths all the time

“In the past the people could roam freely between the valleys. But this has changed since the 90s, after the Taliban insurgency started in Afghanistan”, said Ahmad Ali, a local cultural activist, who was also involved in organizing the event. “We have been organizing this festival for the past few years, with the hope of increasing interaction between the people”, he added. The people of Chipursan Valley, and majority of the people of Gojal, have strong ancestral and cultural ties with the people of Wakhan.

“The festival provides the locals of Chipursan and the residents of Wakhan to interact, trade, and enjoy together”, said Mirzo, a resident of Wakhan Valley who had traveled through a glacier and peaks for days to cross the border and attend the festival.

Players from the Wakhn region busy in playing Buzkashi, a traditional game played on horses
Players from the Wakhn region busy in playing Buzkashi, a traditional game played on horses

Amjad Ayub, Chairman of a local development organization, was spot on when he said that by allowing the people from both sides to come together, the environment of peaceful co-existence can be further strengthened. He urged the government to celebrate the Baba Ghundi festival at a larger scale.

“The people have a shared history, same culture and same language. Bringing them together through such festivals will create opportunities for economic and cultural development”, he said.

A Kirghiz child who came to attend the festival with his parents
A Kirghiz child who came to attend the festival with his parents

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