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Chitral is divided into districts of lower and upper Chitral in the KPK province of Pakistan. About Chitral, historians, anthropologists, authors and travelogue writers have described it as the most romantic, captivating and enchanting place.

Chitral town with Chitral airport in foreground.

Picture courtesy: dawn.com

Located among Hindukush mountains in the northwest of Pakistan, indigenous Khowar-speaking people inhabit Chitral. They have their unique Khow culture and traditions.

Besides Khowar,  there are about 12 small languages spoken in Chitral.

GEOGRAPHY

Chitral is bordered in the east with Gilgit-Baltistan, southeast Swat, north and north-east by China and the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan.

In the west are Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. In the south is situated  Upper Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

When one enters Chitral through any of the two main routes – Lowari Pass or Lowari Tunnel and Shandur Pass – the landscape inspires the visitor.

Chitral is gifted with mysterious and steep mountains, lush green valleys, beautiful meadows and huge glaciers. It is divided into over 35 small valleys.

The most worth seeing of these are: Kalash valleys, Garam Chashma, Shishi Koh, Laspur, Yarkhun, Tor Khow and Mul Khow.

The highest peak in this range of Hindukush is Terichmir, 25,263 feet.

Chitral is also called the 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.

It lies at an elevation of 4,900 feet anove sea level. The total area is 14,850 square kilometers. It is situated between 35 & 37 N latitude and 71 & 22 and 74 E longitude.

In 1998, the population of the district was 318,689, while in 2017 it increased to 447,362.

WEATHER 

The weather is extremely harsh and cold in the winter and pleasant in summer. The best season to visit Chitral is from May to September. Temperatures in summer range between 25 and 40 degrees Celsius while in the winters it plunge below minus.

FAMOUS PLACES 

There are a number of famous places such as Drosh, Ayun, Madaklasht, Birir, Rumbur, Bumburate and Garam Chashma. The Kalash valleys are the repository of one of the unique cultures and mysterious histories.

Chitrali men in traditional hunting dress.

Chitrali men in traditional hunting dress.

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

Shandur is located between Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan and its is about 100 kilometres from Chitral town and 40 kilometres from Mastuj.

PEOPLE 

The people of Chitral are called Khow and they have a diversified culture and traditions. Till the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Chitral used to be an independent princely state.

When Pakistan came into being, the state was the first to declare accession. In 1969, Chitral was merged into the Malakand division as a district.

Chitral lies at the junction of old Chinese, Indian, ex-Russian empires and former Afghan kingdom.

Read tourism and Chitral.

Major John Bidulph visited Chitral in 1876 and reported to the government of India about its utility.

HISTORY 

From ancient times, Chitral was an important point on the trade routes from northern Afghanistan (ancient Bactria) and the Tarim Basin to the plains of Gandhara. It nevertheless remained an independent state for centuries with its own culture and language.

Chitral also has a rich archaeological heritage and there is a need to explore it by experts.

In the late 19th century it became part of British India. It was a princely state in 1947, which acceded to Pakistan in that year.

The rule of the Mehtar came to an end in 1954 and power was henceforth exercised by the political agent.

The state was merged into Pakistan in July 1969. The recorded history of Chitral is divided into six epochs as follows:

IRANIAN RULE

The Achemeanian Empire of Persia was extended 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 speak Persian language. Even Khowar, which is the native language, contains much borrowing from Persian.

Zoroastrianism, an old Persian religion, has also left behind some of its traces in this area. Traditions also tell about leaving of dead bodies unburied in caves in some area of Chitral.

A festival on 21st March (Nouroz) the first day in Persian calendar still prevails in Chitral.

KUSHAN RULE

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

CHINESE RULE

The Chinese extended their influence in the 4th century AD and remained in power until the 8th century. The rock inscription of Pakhtoridini near Mroi refers to Chinese rule. Another inscription in Barenis refers to the 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 also believed that the northern parts had embraced Islam by the end of 9th century when Arabs defeated Bahman.

By the time of withdrawal of Arabs many people had accepted Islam. (Souvenir, 2nd Hindukush Cultural Conference, p.19-21)

KALASH RULE

In the 11th century AD southern Chitral was invaded by the Kalash from Afghanistan. They occupied the area as far as Barenis village. The upper parts were under another chief, Sumalik.

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

RAIS RULE

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

During the Rais rule, Chitral’s boundaries extended from Narsut in the 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.

KATUR RULE

The Katur succeeded the Rais dynasty in 1595. Muhtaram Shah I was the founder of Kature rule. His 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 the Lowari Pass and invaded lower Chitral. There was fierce fighting in which the Mehtar of Chitral and British officers were besieged in Chitral Fort for 42 days.

Troops from Gilgit and Nowshera came to the rescue of the besieged fort and the British rule was extended to Chitral in April 1895. After the war, Shujaul Mulk emerged as the ruler and remained in power for 42 years until 1936.

During the Pakistan movement, there was a campaign in Chitral in favor of independence. The people backed All India Muslim League and Pakistan Movement.

In May 1947,  Mehtar Muzafarul Mulk informed the Viceroy about his intention to join Pakistan. The accession instrument was signed on Nov 7, 1947.

 

Also read: Some basics about Chitral