Rahmat Karim Baig

Kho tribes of Chitral; where did they go?

Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

In the valleys of Chitral there lived many ethnic groups who came into this part of Hindu Kush via a number of passes in the west, east and north.

I am not sure about any such entry from the south but that aspect cannot be rejected outrightly.

The Kalash claim to have come here from SIAM Desh. OK. Their forefathers came from a certain region but the Kho of today are not the original Kho who came thousands of years ago but most of these ethnic groups also tell stories about their places of migration to Chitral and mixing with the old Kho tribes and adopting their ways and enriching their tongue.

The original Kho are nowhere to be found except a few exceptions. Where did they go then? Did they migrate from here? And settled somewhere else? Or they died en masse in an epidemic? Or they drowned themselves into the rivers of Chitral where many young ones do the same act even today?

 The old Kho were overpowered by the newcomers and then made slaves and then were sold into slavery by the rulers of the old times. This is one of the answers to the questions posed above. The enslavement was a common feature of the society of that time and the powerful captured the weaker ones and made them slaves or sold to traders of that time. Even after their disaapearance there are smaller groups in certain valleys where they can be identified.

Many of them, even after that misfortune to their fellow Kho groups, survived and took shelter in resourceful families and got mixd with other minor groups and renamed themselves so the Kho became less and less with the passage of time till to date.




4 Replies to “Kho tribes of Chitral; where did they go?”

  1. The Kho of Chitral is neither a homogenous entity nor did they descend from the sky. They migrated to the present Chitral valley from different passes in the north and west as rightly mentioned in the article. The genetic stock of the Kho people is not controversial. They are either Central Asian or Tibetan-Caucasian as is the case with most of the people in Gilgit Baltistan and other regions in the north.

    Likewise, many of the people living in olden Chitral migrated to Central Asia and other regions over the same passes at different times for better opportunities or were driven out because of wars and rivalries, but the number of outmigration was not as huge as to cause depletion of the entire population of the old Kho people.

    What makes the Kho people distinguished from the Wakhi and other Central Asian communities is their language – Khowar, which has around 30% Dari and Wakhi vocabulary. High-quality scientific research on the Khowar language will help to trace the origin of the Kho people. If they (Kho) are of Central Asian or Wakhi origin, why did they forget Dari or Wakhi (mother) language? Why and when did they start speaking Khowar? How and when did the Khowar language come into existence? What are the influences of other languages (except Dari and Wakhi) on Khowar?

    The point that the old Kho people have been replaced by the dominating population does not carry weight. The Kho population adapted and lived up to the emerging cultural, social, and strategic realities that the newcomers introduced. They became part of the struggle and welcomed the new realities and tried to benefit from them.


  2. …Victors don,t usually adopt the culture or language of the conquered people . Hispanics in south America, British and other Europeans in north America, Australia or south Africa exterminated the local population and imposed their own language and culture. Mughols in India adopted local culture and language and didn,t behave like the Europeans. So the idea of foreign tribes coming to Chitral and selling,drowning or pushing out the Kho after adopting their language and culture doesn’t seem plausible. More plausible would be the idea of Kho as being outsiders who imposed themselves on local populace( we don,t know who they were and what language they spoke) after getting foothold here.

  3. It would indeed be very helpful if Prof. sahib could tell us about a few Kho tribes and also the ones who were sold as slaves. This would be a great addition to our knowledge of the local history. Also; out of curiosity, I am asking this: How long ago did we start speaking Khowar? the origin of the language.

  4. Very interesting. Will be great if you can narrate a few examples of our khow tribes or individuals sent or sold into slavery so that we and our youth know how supressed we were.

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