Professor R. K. Biag
The mountainous state of Chitral in the past i.e. some 300 years ago when industrial revolution was getting momentum in the West was blocked between the high sierras of Hindu Kush and Hindu Raj.
But then, Chitral had a small population and a sense of insecurity because of the bellicose designs of its close neighbours as well as raids from different regions.
The raids were carried out for booty – food items of all kinds – as hunger and famine was very common and trails were dangerous. The more ferocious tribal men invaded border regions of upper Chitral that was more vulnerable due to a number of low altitude passes.
The appearance of raiders from the north was communicated to distant villages by a defence system which was called Phumbarash – a beacon. Defence experts had selected suitable high mounds where a stock of firewood was always kept ready and three or four families of the nearest village were made bound to light the fire after first seeing the raiders.
This beacon was seen in the lower villages and the residents were alerted after seeing the flames at the Phumbarash site. Then, the next beacon was lit at the third and the fourth vintage points and so on till the ruler at Chitral fort was informed and preparations were made to beat back the invaders.
On the sight of the raiders, the villagers ran with the members of their families to hide in the secret caves that had been dug at a safe distance from the village. They had already carried their food stuff near those caves and kept hidden in underground earthen pitchers. They left their homes by leaving some cattle behind to satisfy the raiders which they grabbed and slaughtered for their hunger.
Dry fruits were carried away from each house and every house was searched and looted, leaving nothing of value. This search continued for a couple of days and then they moved to the next village. The villagers did not show their presence nor they dared to fight the ferocious invaders. The old Kho men had devised this system for their defence.