Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 13.COM 10.a.6

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Pakistan has nominated Suri Jagek (observing the sun), traditional meteorological and astronomical practice based on the observation of the sun, moon and stars in reference to the local topography (No. 01381) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Suri Jagek, literally translated as ‘observing the sun’, is the traditional Kalasha meteorological and astronomical knowledge system and practice – enacted predominantly in the Hindu Kush mountain range – based on the observation of the sun, moon, stars and shadows with respect to the local topography. The system is a complex structure of empirically observed knowledge and is repeatedly referenced to allow the Kalasha people to predict the appropriate time for sowing seeds, animal husbandry and natural calamities. It is also used to govern the Kalasha calendar by determining the dates of important social events, festivals, feasts and religious ceremonies. The practice demonstrates the relationship of the Kalasha people with their surroundings and the importance of their immediate geographical context to sustain their way of life. The viability and transmission of the knowledge system rest on an innovative transfer of information through folk stories, songs, proverbs and rhetoric and certain aspects of it – such as the study of shadows and its use in rearing cattle and livestock – are being recreated to fit into modern society. However, with the advent of the digital age, people are increasingly opting for more technologically ‘advanced’ means of predicting weather conditions. While the practice remains visible as an oral tradition, there is currently a lack of awareness among the younger generation about its cultural significance and benefits.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

U.1:   Despite modernization and new global forecasting methods, Suri Jagek still plays an important role in the life of the Kalasha community, comprising fundamental knowledge that helps sustain their way of life. It also constitutes a repository of the history of the region transmitted through songs, folk stories and proverbs, serving spiritual and utilitarian purposes. Suri Jagek strengthens solidarity among people and reinforces a sense of identity by pointing towards shared histories and deeply rooted cultural connections.

U.2:   The viability and transmission of the element rest on an innovative transfer of information through storytelling, particularly when the community gathers to observe the rising and setting sun. The element is transmitted exclusively orally and via physical observation; no documentation or formal means of education exist. Young people lack interest in the element as formal education alienates them from their culture and an awareness of the benefits of Suri Jagek. There are two to five experts per village, aged over sixty years old. Global, technologically ‘advanced’ weather prediction methods have replaced traditional knowledge, the ancient observatories are threatened by increased construction in the valleys and the impact of climate change has also affected the practice.

U.3:   Past and current safeguarding efforts have been based on joint activities by the local communities and the State Party, including inventorying intangible cultural heritage in the region, collecting oral traditions and developing sustainable eco-tourism. The proposed safeguarding plan has been carefully prepared and clearly demonstrates community participation. It includes four objectives that match the identified threats: strengthening traditional community-based networks; reinforcing the transmission of related knowledge to young people; raising awareness of the pivotal role of the element for ecological sustainability and biodiversity; and strengthening physical infrastructure through community spearheaded interventions.

U.4:   The initiative to nominate Suri Jagek came from community members who participated in a workshop on community-based inventorying. The nomination involved the widest possible participation of members of the Kalasha community, academics, NGOs and the Pakistani government. During a series of consultative meetings, many aspects of the element were discussed and detailed documentation was conducted based on extensive field research. Qazis, farmers, shepherds, village elders and school teachers played an important role in preparing the file, and representatives of the Kalasha as well as Muslim communities in the three valleys provided their free, prior and informed consent. Though there is some sensitive information relating to the element, there are no customary practices which restricted access.

U.5:   The element was identified with the participation of the communities and is included in the National ICH Inventory of Pakistan. The inventory extract provides a description of the element, its practitioners and location. Community members from three valleys (Bumburet, Birir, and Rumbur) – including bearers, schoolteachers and representatives of community-based organizations – partook in meetings dedicated to the inclusion of the element in the inventory.

  1. Inscribes Suri Jagek (observing the sun), traditional meteorological and astronomical practice based on the observation of the sun, moon and stars in reference to the local topography on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Commends the State Party for submitting a well-prepared file, notably in relation to the description of the threats to the element, and underlining the collaboration between the community and researchers;
  3. Reminds the State Party that updating is an important part of the inventorying process and invites it to include detailed information in its next periodic report on the implementation of the Convention at the national level on how the National ICH Inventory of Pakistan is regularly updated with the active participation of the communities, groups and non-governmental organizations concerned, in accordance with Article 11(b) of the Convention.