A far searched statement? Maybe. Maybe not.
"Long, long ago, before the days of Islam, Sikander e Aazem came to India. The Two Horned one whom you British people call Alexander the Great. He conquered the world, and was a very great man, brave and dauntless and generous to his followers. When he left to go back to Greece, some of his men did not wish to go back with him but preferred to stay here. Their leader was a general called Shalakash (i.e.: Seleucus). With some of his officers and men, he came to these valleys and they settled here and took local women, and here they stayed.
We, the Kalash, the Black Kafir of the Hindu Kush, are the descendants of their children. Still some of our words are the same as theirs, our music and our dances, too; we worship the same gods. This is why we believe the Greeks are our first ancestors."
This is what Kazi Khushnawaz, a Kalash himself, is telling today. What a family tree to claim!
The Kalash are living in a remote area of northwestern Pakistan on the steep slopes of mighty Hindu Kush. It seems they have a great deal of similarities with the Greeks from Alexander’s time, such as their religion, their culture and their language – or is this more wishful thinking than anything else?
The story goes that they believe in many gods and more specifically in the twelve gods of ancient Greece including Zeus, Apollo and Aphrodite. Shrines in their honor can be found in every Kalash village – a reminder of the sanctuaries we would expect in ancient Greece. Oracles, believe it or not, still play an important role in their social structure where every question or prayer to the gods usually includes an animal sacrifice.
And then there is their ritual “Day of the Transfiguration” which is celebrated on August 6th when the grapes are ripe and offered to Dionysus asking his blessing for a plentiful harvest. In ancient Greece Dionysus was the god of wine and fertility, but what is he doing here in Pakistan, an Islamic country prohibiting the use of alcohol? The Kalash are certainly an exception as they produce and consume wine.
They also feast with songs and dances and in their dance, the Kalash move in circles and shout cries of “i-a” and “i-o” which would be inspired by the battle-cry of the Macedonian soldiers.
Another oddity in the Kalash’s lifestyle can be found in their furniture. They are the only ones in the East to decorate their chairs with drawings such as the ram’s horns which can be traced back to Alexander’s helmet and even battle scenes depicting Greek soldiers, not at all unlike those discovered in Vergina, Greece.
The British explorer George Robertson concluded in 1896 that half of the Kalash’s language derived from ancient Greek and there is the story about a tablet found in one of the villages carrying some hieroglyphics, which when translated read “Alexander the Great lives forever”. Lots of things to think about …
Many have been puzzled by the Kalash’s “European” looks due to their unusual number of light haired and skinned people as well as by their green eyes. Although Pashtuns and Persians have been known for their blond hair or green eyes, that may not be conclusive, especially since extensive genetic testing has shown no connection… According to in-depth studies, their blue and green eyes may simply be the result of isolated recessive genes due to isolated genetic parentage or even inbreeding and mutation.
According to the Kalash’s own myths however, their founder was a “horned-god” and an equestrian conqueror with devilish horns – yes, a picture that matches that of Alexander the Great with his horned helmet. Yet, there is no smoke without fire. Their claim as descendants of Alexander the Great may simply refer to the political and economic legacy of Alexander’s Empire. After all, he left his marks on all the lands he conquered, not the least the Hellenistic influence that continued for a number of centuries. Besides, the tale of the “two-horned Iskander" is told everywhere in Asia.
It is difficult to know what to believe or not. Of course, the Kalash’s Greek origins may simply be the inevitable blend of the Greco-Kushan tradition spiced with Buddhist influence and left-overs from Zoroastrian origins. The Kalash were surely part of Alexander’s conquest and legacy, meaning that the tale of the “two-horned Iskander” may simply have been passed down the generations. Like other disparate and unique tribes as the Pamirs and the Kush found throughout Central Asia, they may have settled in the area after Alexander’s campaigns but as proved by recent studies published in the European Journal of Human Genetics they almost certainly are not Greek.
Well, so much for all the Alexander believers who like to find his offsprings at the end of the world and for the everlasting optimists who see Alexander everywhere. Each of us will have to draw his or her own conclusions …