In the Northern part of Pakistan there lives an isolated tribe called the Kalasha or Kalash people. The Kalash language is an Indo-Aryan language from a sub group known as the Dardic languages. Although these languages are believed to be descended from Sanskrit, the Kalash people themselves believe themselves of Western origin and in their ancient Indo-European pagan religion, they sprinkle the blood of sacrifice toward the West.
Most of the Kalash living in the Western valleys of Chitral have retained their ancient pre-Islamic Aryan religious rituals, while the rest of the Dardic language speaking peoples are Muslims with only vestiges of their ancient beliefs. Surrounding Muslim peoples say that the Kalash are descendants of Alexander the Great, a popular but unfounded myth made famous by its central role in the plot of the 1975 film The Man Who Would be King. The film is set in an area of Afghanistan once called Kafiristan, where a pagan religion, which influenced that of the Kalash, was practiced before conversion to Islam in the 19th century.
Although the Kalash language is widely accepted as part of the Chitral sub-group, along with Khowar, some linguists such as the Norwegian Georg Morgenstierne, believe Kalasha is an independent and separate language. Although the languages of the Kalash and the Nuristanis are not mutually intelligible, the two peoples share similar rituals and customs in their Indo-European religions.
The religion of the Kalash resembles ancient Hinduism in many respects but is also distinct with attributes associated with “mountain religions” of the Himalayas, including shamanic activity and belief in Mountain spirits. These spirits are called Apsaras but are known in many places by their Persian name Peri. They also worship a figure who is much like Indra, whom they sometimes call Indr or Varendr and associate with thunder.
There are also similarities between their religion and that of the Zoroastrians of Iran, whose religion is described in an ancient book called the Avesta. A similar belief regarding impurity is described in the Hindu Vedas and the Avesta which is practiced by the Kalash who believe all women and corpses to be impure, as well as those not practicing the Indo-Aryan religion (Muslims). Contact with Muslims, menstruating women or corpses necessitates ceremonies and cleansing rituals.
Kalasha culture, religion and language have been preserved due to a conservative tradition which excludes outsiders. Their language is comparable to Lithuanian in the sense that it is of particular interest to linguists due to its archaic forms. It is one of the few living languages that preserve the ancient character of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family.