Burusho - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. The Burusho have been Muslim for more than 300 years. They are adherents of the Ismaili sect (headed by the Aga Khan) and have made such modifications in religious belief and practice as to render this system of Islamic belief practicable within their social and environmental setting. No systematized eschatological system exists among the Burusho. It is generally believed that at some point in the future the living and the dead will be reunited. Bitaiyo (male and female prognosticators) foretell the future by inhaling the smoke of burning juniper twigs. No professional priesthood exists among the Burusho. The mir appoints several literate men as khalifas to officiate at burials, weddings, and naming ceremonies. These individuals do not perform these duties on a full-time basis. Religious ceremony plays little part in the daily life of the Burusho. Ritual prayer and fasting are practiced by some. While little is known of pre-Islamic religious practices, it is believed that at one time sacrifice was offered to the boyo (divinities thought to occupy a place above the fort at Hini). The communal wedding Ceremony held on 21 December is also an important part of the Burusho ritual cycle.

Arts. Embroidery and wood carving may be noted as examples of Burusho visual art. Dancing and music (both being important components of Burusho ceremonial life) are attested. The same can be said of dramatic art, performances being sponsored on certain special occasions. Burusho oral literature contains folklore (indigenous and borrowed), anecdotes, and songs.

Medicine. A variety of natural substances (roots, herbs, and bernes) is used for medicinal purposes. Access to scientific medicine is also available. The belief is still held by some Burusho that supernaturals play a major role in the cause of human illness. Indigenous medical practitioners are lacking.

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