Legend of Bigfoot
Barmanu of Pakistan
By Dr. Ali Jan
The legend goes that high in the mountains of Kalash area there lives a wild creature that is half-man and half-ape. The Kalash shepherds and their Nuristani neighbours refer to this being as Barmanu in their local dialect. This term is likely derived from the term Ban-Manus in Sanskrit, meaning 'Man of the Forest'. There have been occasional sightings of the mysterious beast and many including Maureen Lines claim to have heard its cry. (This fact was confirmed to me separately by her long Chitrali driver Shortfall, who had also heard it).
"It was no ordinary cry. It was extremely loud," Maureen says. She recalls the day she was taking a walk with her driver and a local friend when she heard it. "It came from across the river it seemed and it was like a woman's scream but it was definitely animal-like, like somebody was in great agony", according to her. It lasted for a few seconds and the sound echoed and reverberated in the valleys for a while. It was close to nightfall and her companions became frightened and they hastily moved out of the area. Having lived in the Kalash Valley for nearly three decades Maureen reckons there is no known animal, to her knowledge at least, that could make a sound like that. "The hyenas, jackals, mountain lions, even the elusive snow leopard of Kalash region all have distinctive calls. This was beastly & clearly different. And I still shudder every time I think about the experience", Maureen confesses.
Experiences like the one mentioned above, sometimes go beyond the realm of plain legends and it is often difficult to find a rational explanation. What follows is even more bizarre. In 1987, a researcher Jordi Magraner, a Spanish scientist living in France arrived in the Kalash valleys in search of the Barmanu. After his initial interviews with locals based upon a 19 month study, he was convinced of the presence of a 'wild hairy man' and the Spaniard spent the next fifteen years in pursuit to find one. Shockingly, in the summer of 2002 he was found dead with a slit throat; murdered in his own house in Kalash Valley. A police investigation lasting two years was inconclusive as they could neither unearth any motive for the murder nor apprehend any accused.
He spent many years of his life studying language, origin of the European and Central Asian Neanderthals (Pre-Historic Man). He had a special interest in crypto zoology, an obscure form of science dealing with subjects such as unknown creatures, Loch Ness monsters (a creature said to live in Loch Ness, a deep freshwater loch) and 'Bigfoot' legends.
During the period 1988-1990, Jordi Magraner conducted a study on scientific lines with his colleagues Yannik and Erik L'Homme on behalf of Association Trogloydes, France. During his exploration in District Chitral he gathered 27 eyewitness accounts of different encounters with the 'Unknown Hominid of North Pakistan'. He published a paper in the mid-90s which describes the findings of his 1988-1990 study in Pakistan. He records, "We have 27 stories in our possession... In all, 29 people have witnessed 31 contacts with wild hairy men."
The anatomic description of the Barmanu given by him is quite vivid: Systematically, the oral statements stress the human appearance, permanent bipedalism and abundant pilosity (hair) on the body except on the face and knees, presence of hands and feet. Lastly, the witnesses spoke about an unpleasant body odour like that of carrion. The head is voluminous, elongated and hunched into the shoulders, with prominent cheekbones, the face is hairless, and the nape is vigorous. The nose is turned up, nostrils are broad...the eyes are wide set, the mouth without lips is broad...The witnesses indicate the lack of forehead and large but human teeth (no large canine teeth like fangs). The chin is not evident".
He describes the cry of the 'Bigfoot', which the expedition had also heard, as follows: "The voice is strong; the expression contains some cries and guttural sounds without identifiable articulate speech...oral statements indicate the existence of a well developed throat, an important space above the jaw... Cries had been heard twice in 1988, in the mountainous forest of Chitral. The first time at 600 or 700 metres, the second time at 200 metres. These sounds were heard at nightfall. They were powerful and echoed through the mountains like plaintive human calls. The voices were high-pitched; recalling of a teen-ager or a woman. The emissions of sound lasted, less than one minute. We had no time to record these cries. No animal in Chitral is able to produce such sounds. Even the jackal living in this country cannot produce such a powerful whine. Whereas the jackals howl, sometimes all night long. The whines also reverberate the moan of certain marine birds such as Laridae (gulls) or Procellaridae (Shearwaters), but no such birds live in the Kashgarian Mountains, even during migration periods. Gulls and Shearwaters keep away from forestland. The next day, shepherds who heard the cries, maintained it was a 'Forest Man' (a Wild Man)". (Oral Statements Concerning Living Unknown Hominids: Analysis, Criticism, And Implications For Language Origins.)
A recent trip to the Kalash Valley gave me an opportunity to meet with different folks who confirmed all the stories about the legend. The Kalash tribe particularly believed in the existence of Barmanu. Such a wide held notion, as corroborated by Jordi Magraner's research cannot be easily brushed aside as mere hoax, folklore, or misidentification of other species. Although one might notice that mental dysfunctions like Schizophrenia and hallucinogenic substance abuse appear to be equally common here, yet how does one account for the experiences narrated by visitors as well? I was unable to find any explanation.