The Village

The houses in the highest northern regions are built of stone or brick. The houses in the steep forested regions are mainly of wood, often in several stories, stepwise above each other. The lower level of a house usually contains a stable and storage area. The upper floor is generally a large single room in which the family cooks, sleeps, and receives guests. One house’s roof serves as a patio to the house above. These patios are used for drying fruit. This configuration is chosen in order to save what little arable land there is for cultivation purposes. The patios are connected to each other with ladders, which facilitate movement around the village.

All villages have a common gromma, or dancing floor. Dancing is an integral part of Nuristani culture and pre-Islamic religious life. At least up until the end of the 19th century, every village also had a stone altar near the gromma.

Nuristani houses often have wooden verandas along the front, wooden facades, and a hearth in the middle of the main room. The hearth is surrounded by four wooden pillars, sometimes carved to resemble deities, and there is a smoke hole in the roof over the hearth.

Having carved wooden pillars and carved wood facades along the exterior verandas are symbols of social importance within the Nuristani tribes. Lower classes of workers are not permitted to carve wood within their houses. In addition to Kalash deities, Nuristani wood carvings include goats and criss-cross basket patterns.

These wooden houses are built of posts and beams, hewn by hand. The spaces between the timbers are filled with stones and clay.