History of Chitral
The Early history of Chitral is shrouded in mystery.This mountainous country which was first referred to as Kohistan or land of the mountains was said to be inhabited by a race called “Khows” speaking a separate language Khowar, or language of the Khows. Some people say that it was Khowistan – the abode of the Khows. Separate parts of the country came to be called Torkhow – Upper Khow, Mulkhow – Lower Khow, names which persist to the present day. An early Sanskrit inscription at a village called Barenis (27 miles away from Chitral) of about AD 900 records that the country was Buddhist, under King Jaipal of Kabul. It is believed that Upper Chitral was under Buddhist influence in the past and even today there are a few rocks in Torkhow area known as “Kalandar-i-Bohtni” (Mendicant of Stone). It is a figure of a stupa; the upper part of which has been cut into the figure of Buddha and may be of Chinese origin. No records of this period exist
Marco Polo, who passed through the Pamirs, referred to the country as Bolor. History relates that first a Chinese army and then an Arab (Mongols?) army invaded Chitral from the north by the Broghal pass when the upper part of the country is said to have been converted to Islam. The southern district remained non-Muslim till very late and were then converted to Islam. A Mongol tribe called Yarkhuns invaded Chitral via the Broghal pass and may have given their name to the Yarkun valley. They were opposed by Somalek, leader of the Khows. Another incursion is attributed to Changez Khan and his Tartars.
Chitral nevertheless has remained an independent state for centuries with its own culture and language. In the late nineteenth century it became part of British India. It was a princely state in 1947, which acceded to Pakistan in that year. The rule of the Mehtar came to an end in 1954 and power was henceforth exercised by the political agent posted at Chitral. The state was merged into Pakistan in 1969. The recorded history of Chitral is divided into six epochs as follows:
The Achemeanian Empire of Persia was extended to these regions during 400 BC. Its more than two thousand years since this empire receded but its supremacy was so strongly established that many Persian cultural traits are still in practice in Northern Areas as well as few parts of Chitral. In some valleys surrounding Chitral such as Wakhan, Shaghnan, and upper parts of Chitral people speak Persian language. Even Khowar, which is the native language of the local people (Khow), contains much borrowing from Persian.
Zoroastrianism, an Old Persian religion, has also left behind some of its traces in this area. Traditions also tell about leaving of dead bodies unburied in caves in the wilderness or in the hollow of trees. Such practices were specific in this religion. A festival on 21st March (Nouroz) the first day in Persian calendar still prevails in Chitral. It is celebrated in few valleys every year. (Israr Chitral A historical sketch)
The Kushan dynasty established its rule in this area in 200 AD. In the second century Kanishka the most powerful emperor of Kushan dynasty had extended his rule all over Northern India, probably as far as south Vindyas and all over the remote region up to Khotan beyond the Pamir pass.
The Chinese extended their influence in the 4th century AD and remained in power until the 8th century. The rock inscription of Pakhtoridini near Maroi refers to Chinese rule. Another inscription in Barenis refers to the Kushans. According to Sir Aurel Stien, the inscription says that Jivarman ordered to make the pertinent drawing of a stupa. Such rock carvings have created confusion for writers like Buddulph and many others to believe that Chitral formed part of the last Hindu Shahi ruler of Kabul. It’s also believed that the northern parts had embraced Islam by the end of 9th century when Arabs defeated Bahman, chief of the country. By the time of withdrawal of Arabs many people had accepted Islam. (Souvenir, 2nd Hindukush Cultural Conference, p.19-21)
In the 11th century AD southern Chitral was invaded by the Kalash from Afghanistan, who occupied the country as far to the North as Barenis village, while the upper parts were under another chief Sumalik. some Kalash Chiefs Rojawai, such as Nagar Shah and Bala sing ruled Southern Chitral from 11th to 13th centuries A.D.
In the beginning of 11th century Shah Nadir Rais occupied southern Chitral and defeated the Kalash. Shah Nadir Rais extended his dominion from Gilgit to the present southern boundaries of Chitral. Rais family ruled over Chitral for about three hundred years when Katura family succeeded them.
During the Rais rule in Chitral its boundaries extended from Narsut in the extreme south of the state to Gilgit in the east. The rulers had an effective council of chiefs of the local tribes to run the affairs of the country. The ruler of this family also worked for the dissemination of the teachings of Islam in the state.
There were no regular state forces to defend the state frontiers so the local headmen and chiefs called all the persons of their tribes to fight for the state under the collective defense system. The Mehtar (ruler) had friendly relations with the rulers of surrounding countries. (Baig, Hindu Kush study series vol. two)
The Katur succeeded the Rais dynasty in 1595. Muhtaram Shah I was the founder of Kature rule in Chitral, whose descendants ruled over Chitral until 1969 when the State was merged as a district of NWFP.
During the rule of Amirul Mulk in 1895, Umra Khan the chief of Jandool crossed the Lawari pass and invaded lower Chitral. As a result, there was fierce fighting in which the Mehtar of Chitral and British officers were besieged in Chitral fort for 42 days. Troops from Gilgit and Nowshera came to the rescue of the besieged fort and the British rule was extended over entire Chitral in April 1895. Shuja ul Mulk emerged as the ruler after the war who ruled for 42 years until 1936.
During the Pakistan movement there was a campaign in Chitral in favor of independence. The people backed all India Muslim League and Mehtar Muzafarul Mulk openly declared his backing to the Pakistan movement. In May 1947 H.H. Muzafarul Mulk informed the Viceroy about his intention to join the new state of Pakistan. The accession instrument was signed on November 7, 1947.
Geography of Chitral
Topographic features of Chitral:
Area 14850 – sq.km
Glaciers /mountains – 76 %
Forests/Grazing lands – 20 %
Crop land/Orchard – 4 %
All weather road is the main problem of communication in Chitral. Pakistan International Airlines operates Fokker flights to Chitral on subsidized rates for locals and domestic tourists since 1962. Postal service is available in big towns and valleys. Electronic media such as television boosters, radio stations, and digital telephones exchanges have been installed in the district. Internet services have also been provided in Chitral since 2000.
Peaks in Chitral above 7000 m
|No||Peaks||Altitude in meter|
Altitude of Important Towns
|No||Towns||Altitude in feet|
|1||Chitral Town (HQ)||4980|
|No||Glacier||Place||Length in km’s|
Important Passes of Hindukush in Chitral
|1||Shandur||12305||Chitral & Gilgit|
|2||Kachi Kani||19292||Chitral & Swat|
|3||Dodorgaz||17625||Chitral & Gilgit|
|4||Khatinza||17500||Chitral & Afganistan|
|5||Nuqsan||16560||Chitral & Afganistan|
|6||Zagar||16434||Chitral & Gilgit|
|7||Kan Kun||16360||Chitral & Afganistan|
|8||Agram||16031||Chitral & Afganistan|
|9||Darkot||15015||Chitral & Gilgit|
|10||Durah||14800||Chitral & Afganistan|
|11||Khrambara||14250||Chitral & Gilgit|
|12||Boroghil||12480||Chitral & Afganistan|
|13||Lawari||10500||Chitral & Dir|
|14||Chumarkan||14252||Chitral & Gilgit|
|15||Thui||14760||Chitral & Gilgit|
Climate of Chitral
Chitral is situated in the rain shadow of high mountains. It therefore does not receive the monsoons. The mean rainfall of Drosh and Chitral Towns (lower Chitral) is about 650 and 500 mm, respectively, received mainly in spring and winter. Summer and autumn are dry, barely receiving 10-25 mm of rainfall per month. In Upper Chitral, the annual precipitation perhaps peters down to about 200 mm, received mostly as snow at higher elevations.
The Kalash tribe
Kalash tribe is touristic asset of Chitral, without whom Chitral would have been little known on the tourist map. The Kalash people, the tribe that inspired Kipling live their daily lives deep in the valleys of the Hindu Kush, the unforgiving mountain range at the border of Pakistan with Afghanistan.
How they got there is a mystery. How they manage to survive is another. The Kalash are a people who have links with Greece in almost everything but proximity. They dance around night-time fires; they make wine and indulge in ancient Olympic sports such as wrestling and shot-put. With their piercing blue-green eyes, strong features and olive skins, even Alexander the Great was convinced of the Hellenic connection.
Why, then, are they found tucked deep in the valleys of Brumboret, Rumbur and Birir then?
Kalasha Dancers Harvest FestivalWhatever the answer, the Kalash are one of the most remarkable cultures on the planet. With a population of just over 3,000, the largest minority group in Pakistan, they are an oasis of color and warmth in stark contrast to the seemingly inhospitable land that surrounds them. Despite their isolation, or perhaps because of it, the Kalash people are welcoming to Western visitors.
There are two ways to enter the valleys: by foot or, landslides permitting, by road. Understandably, most people prefer the 90-minute jeep ride from the trading centre of Chitral, just 32 kilometres north-east. There is not really any other reason to take the trip â€“ everyone, including half the men of the valleys, it seems, are packed inside, and while most are returning from work in the Chitral souvenir shops, it is entirely believable that some are just along for the ride. With just the right amount of speed, a liberal sprinkling of hair-pin bends and a conservative use of the brakes, you can imagine these ancient jeeps are propelled by sheer adrenaline.
Dur Cultural Center: The valleys are idyllic and a haven from the hustle and bustle of Pakistan’s major cities and tourist attractions. Walnut and jujube trees cling to the lower slopes, while carefully cultivated sugarcane fields thrive along rivers at the bottom of each.
It is here, deep within the Hindu Kush, that travelers come for a taste of another life, another time. Villages are little more than a scattering of wooden homes, and although there has been a recent blot on the Brumboret landscape in the form of a three-star hotel, most travellers prefer the simple charm of a 250-rupees-a-night ($10) guesthouse with twin rooms, meals on request and gardens at the rear.
In the smaller valleys of Birir and Rumbur, it is also possible to stay in family homes, and with comparatively few visitors there is never a shortage of invitations, no matter how hot or sweaty you appear.
Kalash Drummer: But if the first thing that strikes you about the Kalash is their disarming hospitality, then the second is their appearance. The word “Kalash” means “black” and refers to the clothing worn by the women and girls. It is quite a misleading label, and while the men have definitely drawn the short straw in the clothing stakes, the elaborate garb of the women is anything but. Women tend to dress in very colorful and elaborate clothes in stark contrast with the rest of Pakistan. For the travelers who make the effort, this vibrant display is well worth it.
Not everyone who makes the trip is so warmly received. Because the Kalash are pagans and worship a pantheon of gods including Dezao, the creator, or Jastak, the goddess of family, love, marriage and birth, rather than Muhammad, they are free from the restraints of Purdah. As such, they represent more than just an oddity for the Pakistani men who come to ogle the bare flesh.
The Kalash have always been proud of their way of life and recently so is the rest of Pakistan. Traditionally the Kalash were ostracized by their majority neighbors and forced deep into the mountains for their religious beliefs, they have been tolerated through gritted teeth. It is only recently, once communications improved and the tourist interest soared, that the Pakistani authorities have tried to understand this wonderful culture.
Tourist Information / Tips
Whether you are a first time visitor to Chitral or a regular one, whether you are visiting as a back packer tourist or a high profile businessman, whoever you are and whatever your purpose of visit, here are certain do’s and don’ts, the knowledge of which can be useful during your stay in Chitral.
- Do your home work about Chitral before visiting the place
Have a clear cut itinerary.
- Be adequately equipped with clothes for harsh change of temperatures.
- Carry enough Pakistani currency. Money changing facility is not good at the Banks.
- Carry a guide book but don’t blindly follow it. Ask the locals,they are helpful.
- Respect the local customs.
- Be courteous and get courtesy in return.
- Be prepared to get stuck up in Chitral. Closure of road and cancellation of flights is always expected.
1. Don’t venture into Chitral unprepared
2. Don’t take the local people for granted by looking at their humility and simplicity.
3. Don’t interfere or be too intrusive about the local customs
4. Don’t discuss religion
5. Don’t accept blind invitations or visits to unknown places without adequate preparation
6. Don’t have immediate flight connections with your return flight from Chitral because the air service is very unreliable and you can get stuck up for many days