Rahmat Karim Baig

The bird population of Chitral – 2

Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

In the first write-up on the birds of Chitral it had been indicated that the weapons and ammunition making of the Kho people will be part of the 2nd issue.

So according to that plan, here we shall briefly write about local gun powder and lead bullets/pellets used by the hunters of the past.

The people living inside Chitral borders especially in upper Chitral, were Kho and had to depend on farming, animal husbandry and on hunting as there was a good number of wildlife and the population in the valleys were sparse. They had discovered that there are raw materials in the local soil that could be utilized and they experimented for centuries for better production.

They had found the basic element for gun powder called ‘Shura’ and it was separated from the soil by marinating many kg of the soil in large pitchers and a small hole in the bottom let droplets of the mixture into another pitcher and when enough solution of the ‘shura’ was collected, they boiled the filtered water and let to cool down. Then the crystals appeared on the surface of the water and the crystals were collected and when enough of this material was available then it was mixed with sulphur in proper proportion and was then crushed in ovens for many hours or days and then it was tested.

This product was called ‘ vez’ (gun powder). The material was made into granules and a small amount was used for test fire. It was used in matchlocks called ‘ sia kaman’ which had many models and sizes for various purposes, and they had also explored antimony which was heated in broken earthen ware with pieces of iron and after great heating the two melted at high temperature and became liquid which was purified and put into special flat pitchers where it cooled down and thus lead was obtained and from that material bullets and pellets were made for their matchlocks.

Then they were able to shoot birds and other wild life. This matchlock was the only form of fire arm that they used but was also difficult to use quickly but modern rifles have wrought havoc. Now the old and traditional matchlocks have been replaced by ‘Repeaters’ that kill much more duck in one shot and are also handy to fire into the air and also that the number of population hence the hunters has increased many times and wild life is under threat and birds are now endangered species.

The matchlocks were of different made and of different sizes so various small amounts were put into the barrels of each according to its capacity. After gun powder a bullet or pellets were also put into the barrel according to the capacity of the barrel and rammed into tightly and thus the Kho were able to fire at targets. This was very common among the Kho but the Kalash of Chitral who came here much later than the former learned it from their Kho neighbours.

These matchlocks and ammunition were made at larger scale in different parts of the state where the raw material was found in larger amount also used for defense of the borders of Chitral. The defense system of Chitral was manned by the Kho and the other principal tribes who came later. The Kalash tribes learnt this technology from the Kho.

They also had no pottery skills but had called pottery makers from the Kho area of Chitral (Qazi Khosh Nawaz – Rumboor) but the Gujoor nomads or any other emigrant was not included into defense organization of the State. The Gujoor nomads were brought into Chitral in the reign of Mehtar Amanul Mulk have never been part of the defense organization of Chitral.


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