By Samiullah (Reshun)
Chitral is the biggest (area wise) district of the KP province and is situated in the north of the province. It consists of six tehsils with high mountains and lovely lakes. Its population is about 0.45 million and the area is about 14850 square kilometers. It is about 355 kilometres away from Peshawar city with the height of 4,500 feet above the sea level.
On the north-west of the valley is situated Afghanistan while 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 90 percent of land in Chitral is mountainous. There are green mountains with forests in the south while in the north you can see dry mountains wearing white sheet of snow.
The valley is inhabited by people belonging to the Sunni and Ismaili communities while a small minority of Kalash also lives in three isolated valleys of Bumburate, Birir and Rumbur. The Sunnis are highly dominated in the lower Chitral while the Ismaili population is concentrated in the upper Chitral. One of the most important things about Ismailis is that they 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. Some historians also 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 where large number of people both Pakistanis and foreigners come to participate.
Overall, the people of Chitral are very friendly and hospitable. They wear Shalwar, Qamiz, and put on Kapool (woolen traditional hat) on their heads. Their hospitality is famous all over the world. It is also a fact that whenever a Chitrali builds his house, he first will plan to construct 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 Chitral). 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 at some stage during the period of Mohammad Siyar while at present Aminur Rehman Chughtai is one of the popular philosophical poets of the area.
There are many historical ancient buildings in Chitral such as royal forts, Shahi Mosque, Muzataf Khatan etc. Shandur Lake also adds to the beauty of Chitral valley. Kohwar is spoken as a national language and in addition to it there are also many dialects spoken by the local people.
Lowari Top was the only main land to connect Chitral with cities of Pakistan. The valley remained cut-off for four months in a year due to heavy snowfall on it. And due to heavy snowfall, the rates of articles i.e. ghee, sugar, tea etc increased. Now with the blessing of God Almighty and with the great struggle of former President Pervez Musharraf, a tunnel has been constructed and Chitral remains open round the year.