about chitral

Picture of Chitral courtesy: dawn.com

Chitral is located in northwest Pakistan among  Hindukush mountains. Administratively, it is divided into districts of lower and upper Chitral in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province

Moreover, Khowar-speaking indigenous people are in vast majority. They have their own unique Khow culture and traditions. Interestingly, there are also about 12 small languages other than Khowar in Chitral.

WEATHER

Weather here is extremely harsh and cold in winters and pleasant in summers. The best season to visit the valley is from May to September. Temperatures in summers range between 25 and 40 degrees Celsius and in winters it plunge below minus.

FAMOUS PLACES

Balim, the boat village
Balim in Laspur valley of Upper Chitral.

Drosh, Ayun, Madaklasht, Birir, Rumbur, Bumburate and Garam Chashma are some of the popular places. The Kalash valleys are repository of one of the unique cultures of the world.

For the last two decades, Shandur has become famous for the annual polo festival.

Shandur is located between Upper Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan and is about 100 kilometres from the main  town.

PEOPLE

Indigenous people are called Khow and they have a diversified culture and traditions. Till creation of Pakistan in 1947, Chitral was an independent princely state.

GEOGRAPHY

Chitral
Chitrali men in hunting gear at Qaqlasht.

Chitral is bordered with Gilgit-Baltistan in the east, Swat in southeast, China in north and northeast and Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan in the northwest.
In the west are Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. Moreover, Upper Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa lies in the south.
When one enters the valley through Lowari Tunnel and Shandur Pass, the landscape inspires them.
The valley has mysterious and steep mountains, green valleys, beautiful meadows and glaciers. It has 35 small valleys.
The most worth-seeing of these are Kalash valleys, Garam Chashma, Shishi Koh, Laspur, Yarkhun, Torkhow and Mulkhow.
The highest peak in this range of Hindukush is Terichmir, which is 25,263 feet.
Chitral is also called a palace of fairies because of its mighty mountains. No mountain here is less than 4,000 feet and over 40 peaks have an altitude of 20,000 feet.

This area lies at an elevation of 4,900 feet above sea level. The total area is 14,850 square kilometers. It is situated between 35 & 37 N latitude and 71 and 22 and 74 E longitude.
In 1998, the population of Chitral was 318,689 which in 2017 increased to 447,362.

History

From ancient times, Chitral has been an important point on trade routes from northern Afghanistan (ancient Bactria) and Tarim Basin to plains of Gandhara.

Nevertheless, it remained an independent state for centuries with its own culture and language.
The area also has a rich archaeological heritage that has not been explored.

In the late 19th century, the then princely state became part of British India. It was a princely state in 1947 which acceded to Pakistan in that year.
The rule of Mehtar came to an end in 1954 with all powers henceforth exercised by a political agent.

Pakistan merged the state in its territory in July 1969. The recorded history of Chitral has been divided into six following epochs:

RAIS RULE

In the beginning of 11th century, Shah Nadir Rais occupied southern Chitral after defeating Kalash. He extended his dominion from Gilgit to the present southern boundaries of the state.
The Rais family ruled the area for about 300 till Katura family succeeded them.

During Rais rule, Chitral’s boundaries extended from Narsut in south to Gilgit. The rulers had an effective council of chiefs of local tribes to run state affairs.

There were no regular forces to defend the state, so the local headmen and chiefs fought for the state. The Mehtar had friendly relations with rulers of surrounding countries.

Also read: Tourism and Chitral

IRANIAN RULE

The Achemeanian Empire of Persia extended their rule to the region in 400 BC. Persian cultural traits are still in practice in some parts of Chitral.
In some valleys such as Wakhan, Shaghnan, people also speak Persian language. Even Khowar contains much borrowing from Persian.

Zoroastrianism has also left behind traces in this area. Traditions also tell about leaving of dead bodies un-buried in caves in some areas of Chitral.
A traditional festival on March 21 (Nouroz) still prevails in the area.

KUSHAN RULE

Kushan dynasty established its rule in this area in 200 AD. In the second century, Kanishka emperor extended his rule all over northern India, probably as far as up to Khotan beyond the Pamir pass.

CHINESE INFLUENCE

Chinese extended their influence in the 4th century AD and ruled the area until 8th century. The rock inscription of Pakhtoridini near Mroi refers to Chinese rule.

Another inscription in Barenis refers to 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 believed that the northern parts embraced Islam at the end of 9th century after Arabs defeated Bahman.
By the time of withdrawal of Arabs, many people had accepted Islam.

RULE OF KALASH

In 11th century AD, Kalash from Afghanistan invaded southern Chitral. They occupied the area as far as Barenis village. Another chief, Sumalik, was ruling The upper parts of the valley.

Some Kalash chiefs such as Nagar Shah and Bala Sing ruled southern parts of valley from 11th to 13th centuries A.D.

KATUR DYNASTY

The Katur succeeded the Rais dynasty in 1595. Muhtaram Shah I founded the Kature rule and ruled the area until 1969.

Also read: About forts in Chitral

During the rule of Amirul Mulk in 1895, Umra Khan, the chief of Jandool, crossed Lowari Pass and invaded lower Chitral.
A fierce fighting started and the invaders besieged Mehtar and British officers in Chitral Fort for 42 days.
Troops from Gilgit and Nowshera came to the rescue of the besieged fort. The British then extended their rule to Chitral in April 1895.
As a result, Shujaul Mulk emerged as ruler until 1936 – for 42 years.
During the Pakistan movement, a campaign was launched in Chitral in favor of independence. People backed All India Muslim League and Pakistan Movement.
Mehtar Muzafarul Mulk informed the viceroy in May 1947 about his intention to join Pakistan. They signed a accession instrument on Nov 7, 1947.