By Samiullah (Reshun)
Chitral is situated in the north of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. It consists of two districts of Lower and Upper Chitral.
Chitral is inhabited by Khow people and its population is about 0.45 million. It is spread over 14,850 square kilometers.
On its northwest is Afghanistan and on the south are Dir (upper) and Swat. China is located on its north side.
Some boundaries of Gilgit and India are located on its eastern side. About 90pc of land in Chitral is mountainous. There are green mountains with forests in the south. In the north, you can see dry mountains wearing white sheet of snow.
The valley is inhabited by people belonging to Sunni and Ismaili communities and a small minority of Kalash. Kalash live in three isolated valleys of Bumburate, Birir and Rumbur. The Sunnis are in a majority in Lower Chitral and the Ismailis are concentrated in Upper Chitral. The Ismailis follow their spiritual leader Prince Karim Aga Khan (49th spiritual leader).
No record is available about the Kalash people in Chitral history. However, some people say they reached here due to some unknown circumstances when Alexander the Great invaded India in 327 B.C. Historians say they belong to the nation of Greece and came here during the Kalash rule when the capital of Chitral was Ayun.
Their culture is unique all over the world. They celebrate four festivals i.e. utchal, phool, chowas and chilimjusht every year. A large number of people both Pakistanis and foreigners come to participate.
Overall, the Khow people are very friendly and hospitable. They wear Shalwar, Qamiz and put on Khapol (woolen traditional hat) on their heads.
Their hospitality is famous all over the world. Whenever a Chitrali builds a house, he first constructs a room for his guests.
Shandur is the natural highest polo ground (12,210 feet) of the world and is located at the farthest end of Chitral (upper). Polo is known as the game of the kings and king of the games.
Here the polo match is completely different i.e. played on free style compared to other cities. Sarwar Lal, Muzafar Ali Lal and Shahji were very famous and great polo players throughout Chitral.
Poetry in Chitral reached its climax during the period of Mohammad Siyar. At present, Aminur Rehman Chughtai is one of the popular philosophical poets.
There are many historical buildings in Chitral such as the royal fort, Shahi Mosque, Muzataf Khatan. Shandur Lake also adds to the beauty of Chitral.
Kohwar is spoken as a main language and in addition to it there are many dialects spoken by local people.
The valley remained cut-off for four months in a year due to heavy snowfall on Lowari Pass. And due to heavy snowfall, the rates of articles i.e. ghee, sugar, tea etc increased. But now a tunnel has been constructed and the area remains open round the year.