Socializing through hunting
June 29, 2012
Tangirs (of Tangir valley in Diamer district) of GilgitBaltistanare a very religious people. Almost every adult man wears a beard. Beard shaving is not considered good; elders discourage the practice of shaving beard. Not a single shop of the barber can be found in the Jaglot bazaar. Some years ago a person from Hazara division opened one but the people forced it close.
All the people belong to Sunni sect of Islam and are very orthodox Muslims. In the whole valley TV is invisible; it is sin to watch TV programmes. The valley is furnished with electricity and telephones but the people here have never bought a TV. However, radio sets are frequently found in the valley.
The only source of entertainment for the males here, is hunting. They hunt in order to get meat and hides, which are then sold in the market. One of the hunters, Salam Khan, well established into his late seventies, said that he had over two hundred markhors to his credit. He is a very famous and experienced hunter in Tangir.
“I was sixteen years old when I first killed a markhor. When I came back home, everybody was delighted and my father celebrated on my first hunt. ‘Hunting is the job of the brave and it showed the masculinity’, remarked my father.
“He was very contented and told me that now I have become the adult male and could participate in the jirgas. In the past, it was a prerequisite for younger people to be hunters in order to participate in jirgas. The hunters were highly regarded in the society and were a symbol of status and people liked to have discussions with them because they were considered experienced and with experience came the intellect. They were even consulted in the jirgas irrespective of their age and caste.”
There are several customs associated with hunting. Salam Khan told me that in the past when he was young and his father was a celebrated hunter, there was a custom known as Ban Daru (a communal hunting). In this practice or custom people communally hunted, some people were directed to shout in order to scare the animal and then trap it. Others were holed up and ready when the animal approached, to shoot at it. The person who first spotted animal and aimed at it received the most important piece of the hunted animal. These days this custom is not practised any more.
There were many customs associated with hunting that are not practised nowadays. When I asked him, how many pheasants he had killed, he brazenly told that he has killed over four hundred pheasants. Their meat is consumed while the plumes of the pheasants are sold in the market. Each plume costs four to six hundreds. He told candidly and explicitly the numbers of animals and birds he has killed and spouted the numbers boldly as over two hundred markhors, 12 ibex, 32 musk deer, 10 bears, chakor and ram chakor and countless wild pigeons, over four hundreds pheasants, countless foxes, and a number of other birds found in the valley.
Markhor is becoming extinct in the valley; people kill it for meat, hide and horns. The hunter and his family as well as relatives consume the meat. The horns of the markhor are sold. People dispose of it ranging from Rs9,000/- to Rs15,000/-. Its hide is either used as pelt and is placed at the doorstep, or sold and gifted to some relative or friend. Like markhor the musk deer is also on the verge of extinction. It is being killed particularly for its musk that is put up for the sale on the very high price. Many people come to the area, just to buy the musk. It is then taken to Swat and sold for a higher price. The hide of the musk deer is sold at Rs7,000/- to Rs12,000/-.
Ibex is also hunted for meat, hide and horns. The meat of the Ibex is very delicious and is a panacea for the back pain. The hide is either sold or placed at the doorstep. Its horns are used as decoration in both homes and hotels.
As mentioned earlier, the pheasant is hunted to get meat and plume. The plume is sold in the market on a high price. Salam Khan kept telling about his hunting without any pause.
“Now, I have left hunting. Instead my elder son, who is in his thirties, does hunting. I taught him the knack of hunting. Whenever I went hunting I always took him along to socialize in hunting techniques. He is now a much trained hunter who now takes his son while he is on hunting.”