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Chitral remaining aloof from the rest of the world, its history is shrouded in mystery.  Archeologically the area is rich but so far no excavations have been carried to uncover the record of the past. Chitral is located on the northernmost tip of Pakistan which was a princely state, later merged in Pakistan in 1969. The country has been divided into two main ethnic groups for a long. The people who are the inhabitant of the upper part of Chitral are known as Khow. The people living in the lower part of Chitral are Kalash-the kafir of the Hindu Kush Mountains. Both of these groups have similarities and differences in their culture and way of life. Due to this ethnic division, the country has most of the time remained divided into two principalities. Old traditions have saved the names of some local rulers like Sumalik, Rais, and Bahman in the upper part, and Bulesing and Raja Wai in the lower part. It seems these were local rulers who ruled certain parts of Chitral.

According to the folklore of Chitral, Chitral was ruled by a king Bahman and his capital was Mulikhow of Chitral. There was a kingdom of fairies in the Hindukush mountain of Chitral.

A Picture during the Era of Chitral state

The name of Chitral was Kashgar.  Kash was the name of the king and ghaar, an Urdu word that means cave. So, Chitral was the cave of Kash- the king of the fairies. The name of Chitral gradually change from kashghaar  to qashqar, kashkar, Kasgar, chetrar and Chitral now.

Chitral was ruled by many civilizations from the north which is very clear to resemble the culture, customs, and rituals of Chitral with Central Asia. Alchemeanian Empire, Zoroastrianism, Kushan Empire, Hun Dynasty, Chinese and Kalash occupation have much influence till now. Then, Shah Nadir Rais came from the Chinese Empire, defeated Kalash, and became the ruler of Chitral. This family ruled for more than three centuries and was succeeded at the end of the 16th century by the house of another family known as Katoor. Battle for a succession of crown started within the family of Katooria Dynasty. Chitral had been independent for many centuries but a turning point in the history of Chitral established a connection with British India through Kashmir.  Aman ul Mulk was the King of Chitral in those days. His brother Sher Afzal was against the policy of seeking an alliance with British and Kashmir Darbur fearing that such ties would prove harmful to the independence of Chitral.Later, British India controlled Chitral in 1982, and further demarcation of the Durand line cut the connection of Chitral in the north of Hindu Kush.


Geographically speaking, Chitral comprises the upper basin of the river which is locally called River Chitral but it becomes River Kunar when it enters Afghanistan. The river rises in the Boroghil region. Many small and large tributaries join this river on the way. Villages are mostly situated at the confluence of the river and its subsidiaries. The main valley and the side valleys all are bound by very high snow-clad mountains. Arable land is scarce, most of it is rocky. Fruits of magnificent quality grown in paths of land are grown and exported to other areas.  Chitral borders Afghanistan to the north and west. Pamir Mountain (roof of the world) in Tajikistan also lies to the north. Thus the region is very important from a geographical point of view. The River Oxus rises in Wakhan which is the famous River of Central Asia. The southern passes of Hindu Kush range have been of great military significance. The Wakhan also borders Chitral on the Boroghil side. The area did not develop being the buffer zone between British India empire and and Czarist Russian empire. Many books about the history of Wakhan have been written and on the great personalities who passed through Wakhan. Dir and Swat lie towards the south and the province of Gilgit Baltistan towards the northeast. Tirich Mir about 25263 feet (7700 M) is situated on the southern side. It is the highest peak of the Hindu Kush. There are many glaciers in the valley. Chitral is connected to the rest of Pakistan by Lawari Tunnel and Shandur Top.


The population of Chitral comprised of different ethnic groups but the difference is forgotten in the unity and affection that binds them with each other. One can marriage with the other tribe easily. The culture of Khow people is dominant over all other ethnic groups living in Chitral. Following are the various tribes of Chitral


Chitral is composed of Khow people which is more than ninety percent and is spread in many villages. Original Khow are of Aryan ancestry. It is believed that they came from central Asia, Afghanistan, and Kashmir. This dominant ethnic group is a heterogeneous tribe with an age-old class system. Basically, they are happy and contented people fond of music and hunting. Women observe pardah and are experts in making handicrafts.


In the tenth and eleventh century, the Kalash ruled over Lower Chitral, up till Hurbuns. Bal Singh was a ruler of Kalash who was defeated by Khow and he pushed forward to the southwestern valleys of Chitral. Living with the Khow, they gradually embraced Islam. But those in the valleys of Bomborate, Birir, and Rumbur clung to their own religion and culture.

Until the 1970s, not much was known about this tribe that resided in the southwest of Chitral, in the three valleys of Bomborate, Birir, and Rumbur. This pagan tribe of 3,000 people follows its own distinct culture and traditions. Their origin is still not known. Either their original home in Syria or Tsiyam, the old name of Thailand. From here, they migrated to Afghanistan and then to Pakistan. The Kalash are illiterate but clever people and excel as masons and craftsmen. They have a friendly temperament and are fond of music and dancing. Their native language is Kalasha or Kalashamun.


These tribes live in Gabore in the north, Langoor Butt in the south and the valleys of Bumboret and Ambore in the southwest. In the last decade of the nineteenth century, they came from Noristan (Afghanistan), their homeland, due to Ameer Abdur Rehman Khan’s forced conversions to Islam. In 1926, they embraced Islam. In this trib. Their favorite pastime is to play with snow in wine women love to work at home while men are bussy outside home to be a breadwinner for their home. There was a time when they were known for their skill in arrow shooting.


These can be classified into three groups.

*Wakhak who migrated from Wakhan, Afghanistan.

*Sri Qali, who came from Tajikistan

*Craimanar who came from San Kiang, China.

Together, they are all known as Wakhi and their language too is also called Wakhi. Khowar is also spoken by some of them. As for their residence in Chitral, some writers say that they live in the upper areas of Chitral that border Afghanistan while others have placed them in Broghail Valley in the east of Chitral. Their living depends on agriculture and livestock.


These came from Tajikistan and Badakhshan in 1700 AD and settled in Madaklasht village of Shishi Kuh valley. Their ancestor made weapons from iron and the ruler of Chitral invited them for this purpose. They speak Khowar and Persian and follow the customs and habits of the Khow people. However, some of their cultures are still preserved and Dari, their language, is still spoken in Madaklasht. Thus, they have preserved their individuality while mixing with the Khow society.


This is a nomad tribe that came from Dir, Swat, Hazara, Kohistan and, Afghanistan during Katur rule and settled in the southern valleys of Chitral. Their language is known as Gujrar. Their population is concentrated in Shishi Koh and also in the valleys of Arundu (or Arnadu) or Domail. They are herdsmen distinguished by their migratory temperament; in spring, they move from the south to the northeastern valleys (the upper areas) in search of pastures while in winter, they descend to warmer areas at lower heights. And because they are nomads, there is no discipline amongst them. Today, however, they are giving up herding in favor of a settled life of trade and farming. The slyness and cleverness of the Gujars have become proverbial.


The Dameli are immigrants from Afghanistan and have settled in the southern parts of Chitral, about 20 miles north of Arundu/Arnadu. They are divided into two groups; Shintari and Sawatis or Afghanis. The Shintari claim that they are the originals or ancient inhabitants of the area. The latter separated themselves from Arandvi Afghans and came here around 1400 AD. They speak Damia, a language that is related to Khowar and Gowarbati.


Gower Bati is their mother tongue while Afghanistan their original homeland. They inhabit the valleys that are in the extreme south of Chitral and are be grouped into three categories:

*The Sniardai came about 500 years back from Asmar in Afghanistan.

*The Sultana came from Jalalabad and has been living here for about eight generations.

*The Afghani or Swati came about twenty generations back from the Kohistani area of Dir and sawat.


In 1939, the Sariquali migrated from Chinese Turkistan and settled in the north of Chitral in the Baroghil valley. They converse in Sariquali, a distinct Turk dialect also spoken in the Sariqul mountain area in Tashquraghon.


These people are the famous Turk race of Central Asia who speaks Kirghiz, a language well known in history. They migrated from Andijan Fargana valley in western Turkistan (a part of what we know today as Uzbekistan) and settled in Baroghil valley.


In 1915, the Pathans came to Chitral from Dir and Jandul. They came on a trade and diplomatic mission and settled here due to the affection and hospitality of the ruler of Chitral. With time, their population spread all over Chitral especially Drosh, Chitral, Mastuj and Arnadu (or Arundu). Pathans are caring, sympathetic, and loving people. They depend on trade and business for a living, and most of the trade of Chitral is in their hands. Though they live with the Khow, they dislike mingling with them. Subsequently, their customs and habits are safe from Khow Influence. Pashto remains their mother tongue.


They have come from Chilas and have been living in Ashirat in Drosh Tehsil for about twelve generations. Their language, called Phalura, is a dialect of Shina.


When the Russian force occupied Afghanistan then this tribe came to Chitral Pakistan.  They are mostly from Panjsher and Badakhshan while Persian is their lingua franca. Others belong to the Pashtu speaking belt of Nangarhar, Qunduz and Kunnar.


This tribe came from Badakhshan and settled in the west of Chitral in Lutkoh Valley. Yidgha is their native tongue, and this is the only thing they have preserved in this area. For they have changed their habits and customs and merged themselves into the Khow social set up.



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