George Scott Robertson.

The Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; online

. (page 35 of 38)
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what they were for. On the present occasion the shil was
produced by the holder, Chandlu, the Debilala's brother.
For a whole year it had reposed out of sight in a bed
of wheat. When it was brought again into the light a
goat was sacrificed, and the flesh partaken of by sucli
of the Jast as chose to l)o })rcsent. The throwing took
place at a })Osition near the upper village, where a con-
tiguous line of house-tops atfordcd a more or less level
space, and in the presence of a large number of spec-


tators. The weather was unpleasant, but the competi-
tion must take place, no matter how bad it may be. All
the ambitious and stalwart youths of the tribe, and many
visitors as well, took their stand one by one behind a
particular mark, whence, starting at a furious pace, each
hurled the iron ball as far as his strength permitted, all
the spectators shouting out " Onsht. onsht ! " (up with it,
up with it). This was intended to incite the competitors
to the utmost effort, and certainly added to the general
excitement, xill were urged to join in the sport, myself
among the rest, but I well knew that throwing such a
weight in lieu of a cricket-ball would almost break my
arm, so I prudently refrained. After several hours had
passed, during which innumerable young men had thrown
the shil as often as they liked, a young tribal hero made
his appearance and threw a grand throw amid thunders
of applause. One of the orators springing upon a frag-
ment of rock spoke excitedly and fluently in praise of the
thrower. The hero himself, a famous warrior, tried to
look modest, but only succeeded in looking intensely
gratified. Another young man subsequently made a still
better cast, and remained the victor ; but he was not
nearly so popular as his more distinguished adversary,
whose continuous attempts to make a still better throw
were greeted with enthusiastic shouts of " Shamish ! "
(Well done !) In the end both young men divided the
honours, and feasted the whole village, although the
actual victor of course retained possession of the shil
for the year. Like Henry Morton after the Wapinshaw,
the winner has to entertain the vanquished. He has
also to feed the whole of the village as well. A friend of
mine, named Aza Kan, had on several occasions proved


himself the best man in the tribe at throwini; ihe shil.
but on this occasion he refused to compete. When
asked the reason, he replied that he had already been the
victor on five different occasions, and did not care again
to undergo the expense of feasting the village. Some
Kiifirs on hearing that in my country the winner of an
athletic competition such as this would probably receive
a prize, disapproved strongly of such a custom, remarking
that as Imra had made a particular man's arm strong,
therefore that man should give a feast in honour of Imni.
Concerning the possibility of an individual of some other
tribe winning the competition, they told me that in such
a case the man would be allowed to give a feast, but he
certainly would not be permitted to take the shil away
to his home.

The shil-throwing is an ancient custom, and is said to
be observed by all the tribes of Kiifiristjin. It appears to
be in praise of Imni, and is called the Shilarigajar.

(4.) The Marnma festival took place at Kamdesh on
March 8, while I was away in the Kunar Valley. I3y all
accounts the obseiTance was both curious and interesting.
On the evening of the 7th, the women cooked rice and
bread, and then, early in the morning, taking a small
quantity of the prepared food with ghee and wine, placed
tlie whole in front of the family effigies. The faces of
the images were also smeared with ghee. After a short
interval the food on the ground was destroyed and flooded
away by a gush of water from a goatskin. The women
next repaired to the pshar or Nirmali house, wliere they
feasted and amused themselves with loud laughter.
They then started for their respective homes singing.
The men and women chaffed one another indelicately


on the road, the former offering the latter neck orna-
ments or other small articles to be danced for. Later
on, near each house, a small portion of prepared food
was placed on the ground in the name of each deceased,
relative that could be remembered, and was in its turn
swamped away by a gush of water. The food which
remained over was then feasted on, and I was assured
that joy and contentment reigned in every household, the
atmosphere of which no doubt reeked with the appalling
remarks which appear to be inseparable from K













7. Sunra.

8. Pah'ik.

9. Diinu.

10. Mirjan.

1 1 . Garak.

12. Mori.

13. Karuk.

14. Samar.

15. Aza.

16. Aror.

17. Knli.

18. Widing,

19. Arakon.

20. Aramallick.

2 1 . Katamir.

22. Tong.

23. Utamir.

24. Chara.

25. Baril.

26. Malik.

27. Basti.

28. Chimiding.

29. Samata.

30. Barmuk, &c., &c.















16. Bangu.

17. Arubi'i.

18. Wazi.

19. Chabri.

20. Marangzi.









28. Tramgudi.

29. Bodza.

30. Malaki, &c., &c.

Babies are often suckled until they are two or three
years old or more. Women are hospitable to hungry
infants other than their own. I have several times seen
them quiet other people's children by suckling them.
Babies, of course, accompany their mothers everywhere.
The infant is carried inside the dress in front when the
woman is going to or returning from the fields, for at
these times her back is always occupied with the conical
basket, or is bending under the weight of heavy loads.
While the mother is actually tilling the laud the baby is


generally transferred to the back, its head appearing at
the wedge-shaped opening in the dress. The child's face
is often congested as if sutibcation were imminent. It
always looks wretchedly uncomfortable, but is happy
enough. On the 32nd day after birth there is a licad-
shaving, but there is no special ceremony for the occa-
sion, nor any feasting. Some bystander simply wets the
head all over with water and then shaves away all the
hair, except from one patch in the centre of the crown, one
and a half inches by one inch, which is left untouched.
The head-shaving is, I believe, an invariable custom
both for boys and girls, ^^'hcn the children attain to
three or four years of ae'e thev arc often left at home
in the charge of their father, or for some old gaffer or
gammer to look after ; but the little girls very soon
begin to learn field-work, following their mothers, with
miniature conical baskets on their backs, and tiny knives
thrust into their girdles behind. The little boys go
about the village with toy dancing-axes made of reeds,
or pretend to play the aluts game. \\'herever they
wander they are certain of a kindly reception.

Among Kafirs there is no particular ceremony for a
girl on reaching the age of puberty. For boys tliere
are particular formalities which must be observed l)efore
tliey are permitted to wear the virile garment — loose
trousers. The usual custom is for boys to be taken to
Dizane's shrine at the (iiche festival arrayed in these
emblems of manhood ; a sacriiice is made, and tliere is
a feast, lavish or ])(>nurious according to tlie w(>altli of
tlie parents. The sons of ])oor people are often allowed
to associate themselves with the ceremonies carried out
by youths of richer families. 'i"he boys who take part in


the Sanowkun of a Kaneash are exempted from further
observances ; but it is probable that, even in such casei,
an offering is also made to Dizane at the proper time.
I have seen boys under twelve smeared with blood at
the Sanowkun, boys who certainly had not reached the
age of puberty. Outside Kafiristan, on a visit to Chitral,
for instance, boys may wear trousers, but must not do so
in their own country until the proper observances have
been complied with.

Boys and girls do not play at the same games. The
girls play at ball, at a kind of knuckle-bones, in which,
however, walnuts are used, and at swinging ; while any
boy amusing himself in any of these ways would be
despised. From the age of five upwards little girls play
untiringly with a bouncing-ball made of wool. The
object is to keep it bouncing regularly, while between
each pat the player spins round once. The girls' game
at knuckle-bones is played with an uneatable kind of
walnut. Several of these fruits are spread out between
the legs of a player. She tosses up one with her right
hand, catching it in her left, and while it is falling
snatches up the others in a particular order and arrange-
ment. Swinging is the most popular amusement of all
for girls, who swing by the hour. They sing shrilly all
the time without cessation. Young women often join in
tlie sport, and on Agar days in May dozens amuse them-
selves in this manner. A tree on a steep slope is usually
selected. A big girl seats herself on the swing-rope.
A crowd of girls then join hands and drag her up the
slope as far as they can. When let go she swings far
out, perhaps nearly to the top of a tree lower down the
hill, and is much put to it to keep her dress decently


arranged. All the time she sings with tlie other girls
some snatch of song in alternate lines.

Boys play very rough games. A favourite pastime is
for a boy to make a sudden dash at another boy looking
in another direction, or while engaged in the same trick
on a third, and throw him down. At tlie shil competi-
tions, between the intervals of the throwing, it was
common to see half-a-dozen boys hurled to the ground
at a time. We were on house-tops at the time, and at
one place there was a sheer fall of thirty feet. Some of
the players fell actually on the edge of this drop. None
of the grown-up men and women took the slightest notice
of the children, I asked a man if it never happened that
a boy fell over and was killed. He replied that it did
occur occasionally, but not very frequently.

A game constantly played at the same time of the
year is merely an imitation of the national dance. But
this is an exception to all other children's sports, because
girls and boys play at it together. A number of youngsters
of both sexes march or trot round and round in a circle
singing. At a distance they look as if they were all
affected with a shockingly bad limp. They cany sticks
over their shoulders, and although the singing is most
discordant, they keep capital time.

Boys play a game with walnuts in the following w;iy.
A circle a foot and a half in diameter is levelled on the
hillside, the slope behind forming a vertical back wall to
the circle of some three or four inches in height. In the
middle of the circle there is a hole one and a half inches
in diameter and three or four inches deep, 'i'lic ])layers
standing downhill, five feet or so, take any number of
walnuts up to a handful and try to throw tlicni into the


hole. Those which remain outside are then thrown at
with another wabiut. If the player hits one, he continues
his hand ; if he misses, his place is taken by another boy.
This game is played with considerable skill, the real test
of which is the throwing at the walnuts which remain
outside the hole. The boy throwing invariably first wets
the walnut he is about to cast with his tongue, then,
taking steady aim, raises his hand well above his head
and throws hard.

At Kamdesh the boys one day started playing another

Online LibraryGeorge Scott RobertsonThe Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; → online text (page 35 of 38)