Chitral district is divided in two districts lower and upper Chitral by the government of KPK. Upper and Lower Chitral covers an area of 14,850 km². Chitral is located among Hindukush mountains in the northwest of Pakistan. Lower Chitral covers the area from lowari to Barenis and Gobor in the Garam Chashma side. From onwards Barenis village, district Upper Chitral starts. The total population of Chitral (lower and upper) is 447,362.
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.
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 highest peak in this range of Hindukush is Terichmir, 25,263 feet.
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.
Chitral has a Mediterranean climate, with warm summers and mild winters.
The driest month is July, with 6 mm of rain. Most of the precipitation here falls in April, averaging 102 mm.
July is the warmest month of the year. The temperature in July averages 26.1 °C. January is the coldest month, with temperatures averaging 4.1 °C.
There is a difference of 96 mm of precipitation between the driest and wettest months. Throughout the year, temperatures vary by 22.0 °C.
The unique culture of Chitral, developed over many millennia with more than a dozen ethnic groups speaking as many languages, is closely linked to that of Central Asia and China instead of South Asia, according to a study conducted by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
It says that arts and crafts, traditional costumes, food and beverages, local games, music, dance, folksongs and legendary sites form the main components of the cultural heritage of Chitral. The study also includes the historic military sites and indigenous tribes (Kalash) in the ingredients of cultural heritage.
“Chitral's artisans manufacture a wide range of elegant and delicately crafted jewellery, woodwork and embroidery, woven and knitted textiles,” the study says, adding that clay, wood, stone, bone, animal skin and copper are the material most commonly used.
The woolen fabric of Chitral, locally called shu , and walnut-wood furniture are popular in handicraft markets throughout the country.
The study adds that traditional clothes, including that of Kalash people, are made from wool and silk and decorated with beads and shells.
Traditional cap ( khapol ) and gown ( chugha ) are popular while the typical Chitrali shoes ( khon ) resemble the long riding boots.
The area's vast culinary repertoire of foods and beverages is unique in terms of both flavour and presentation.
Regarding the local games and sports, the study says that polo and falconry are the most popular recreational pursuits in Chitral while people also hunt for sport.
The study places music and dance at the heart of Chitrali culture. Chitral's rich and varied musical tradition is part of the fabric of everyday life while Chitrali sitar is famous throughout the world and the traditional dances, such as dani and sauz are part of the folk heritage of Central Asia.
The folk poets of Chitral sing war songs as well as love ballades, the study says, adding that epics are popular among the Kalash.
“With its origin lost in the mists of antiquity, the ancient tribe of Kalash is a unique cultural resource,” says the study, adding that Chilm Jusht, Uchhal, Chitirmas are some of the main festivals of the tribe that attract a large number of tourists to the three segregated valleys of Bumburate, Birir and Rumbur in Chitral.
The study says that Chitrl is home to several preserved forts, fortresses and towers from a more recent era and the ruins of forts dating back to the fourth and fifty centuries BC are also found here.
Traditional Chitrali buildings are embellished with wood carvings and have been designed keeping in view the climatic and local environmental conditions of the area.
The population of Chitral is comprised of varying ancestry but this difference is forgotten in the unity and affection that binds them to each other. The various tribes of Chitral are as follows:
These account for 92% of the population of Chitral and are 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 expert in making handicrafts.
In the tenth and eleventh century, the Kalash ruled over Lower Chitral, up till Hurbuns. In 1220, the tribe of Khow defeated Bal Singh, the Kalash ruler, and pushed them to the south western 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 south west 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 is 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 south west. 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 their families, women work while men love gossip and sports. Their favorite pastime is to play with snow in winters. 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. The speak Khowar and Persian and follow the customs and habits of the Khow people. However, some of their culture is still preserved and Daree, 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 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 north eastern 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 have 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 the 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.
Here we have a famous Turk race of Central Asia who speak Kirghiz, a language well known in history. They migrated form 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 but settled here due to the affection and hospitality of the ruler of Chitral. With time, their population spread all over Chitral, but 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 disloke 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
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 forced the Afghans to take refuge in Chitral, Pakistan. Some of these Afghans are from Panjsher and Badakhshan and 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.
There are 12 languages are spoken in various parts of Chitral Valley. Some of these languages are indigenous to the valley while the speakers of others emigrated to the valley from neighbouring areas and counties. Most of these languages are highly endangered because of lack of documentation. Below are the brief descriptions of the languages.
Dameli (ISO 639-3: dml) is spoken in several isolated villages in a side valley called Damel in southern Chitral. The Alternate names used for the languages are Damia, Damiabaasha and Gidoj. The language is classified into Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan group of languages. Dameli has been substantially influenced by Pashto and Nuristani Language. The Population of Dameli speakers are nearby 6000 and the number is increasing.
Gawar-bati(ISO 639-3: gwt) language belong to Indo-Aryan group of languages. The other names used for the language are Kohistani, Narsati and Arandui. Gawar-bati speakers live along the Kunar River, predominantly along the Pak-Afghan border area. In Chitral a main village of Gawar-bati language speakers is Arandu. Most of villages of this languages speakers are laying across the boarder in the Kunar province of Afghanistan. The total estimated user of the language in both countries 9,960. The number is decreasing and the speakers are switching to Pashto language.
Gojri is a vast spread language of this sub-continent and also found in Afghanistan. The language is classified into Indo-Aryan in the Indo-European family. In Chitral Gojri language is spoken in more than a dozen villages mostly in southern part. The largest number of Gojri speakers lives in Nagar village of Chitral with 75 homes belonging to this community. Other villages of Chitral where Gojars are found are situated in Shishikoh valley. They arrived in Chitral earlier than the beginning of nineteenth century. The exact number of Gojir speakers live in Chitral is not known but their pollution is to be believed a few thousands.
The Kalasha (ISO 639-3: kls) language also named Kalashamon and Kalash. It is spoken in three Kalash valleys named Birir, Rumbur, Bumburet. All these three valleys are situated nearby to one another in the south of Chitral. The language is equally understood in each valley with slight variances. The number of Kalasha Speakers are 5,000 and the number is decreasing sharply. Kalasha people are shifting to Khowar language.
The Khowar (ISO 639-3: khw) speaking people are the largest group in Chital. It is also called Qashqari by Pashtoon speakers . This language is also classified into Indo-Aryan in the Indo-European family. In addition to Chitral, the language is also spoken in Gilgit-Baltistan and Swat valley. The estimated number of Khowar Speakers in all region is around half million. Khowar is a literate language, with books, magazines, radio programmes and audio/ video documentation.
Kirghiz(ISO 639-3: kir) is a Turkic language in the Altaic family of languages. It widely spoken language with speaker in China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Some reports reflected that there are few Kirghiz families living in the Baroghil area extreme north to Chitral. Historically these people came 1940 from Andijan in the Kirgiskaya Republic fleeing the invasion of Soviet Union. The great thing about Kirghiz community in Chitral is that they love their language and pass on to their younger generations that’s why the language has not been affected so for. Those children who are born to mixed parents also learn the language.
The Kati (ISO 639-3: bsh) and Kamviri (Kamviri xvi]) Language speakers have emmigrated to Chitral in various time from Nuristan Valley in Afghanistan. Kati is different from Kamviri but the two are significantly mutually intelligible. The speakers of both the languages in Chitral like to call their languages as Shekhani. Some of them also prefer to call their language Nooristani. In Afghanistan, Kamviri is spoken in Southern Bashgal Valley while the two varieties of Kataviri are spoken in the Nooristan region and Bashgal valley of eastern Nooristan. In Chitral the villagers of the language speakers are Shekhandeh (Bomburat), Goboor, Badogal, Langurbat. Some families also live in Urtsun
A dialect of Dari (Persian) in Afghanistan is spoken in upper Shishikoh valley in the village of Madaglasht 30 kilometres north of Drosh. This community has been present in Chitral for over 200 years and they are migrated from Afghanistan to the area. According to the linguists, Madaglashti is same as Dari (Farsi) but the speakers of this language insist on this title. The number of Madaklashti speakers are around 3000.
Palula (ISO 639-3: phl) language belong to Indo-European, Indo-Iranian families of languages. It is also called Phalura and Dangarik War. In Chitral the language is spoken in Southern part in Ashret and Biori valleys as well as in the villages of Kalkatak and Purigal. Some Speaker also live in Dir Kohistan. The number of Palula Speaker are 10,000.
Sariquli (ISO 639-3: srh) is another language spoken in Baroghil in the extreme north of Chitral in boarder of Wakhan corrido in the same area of Chitral, where Kirghiz and Wakhi languages are found. Sariquli is a Pamir language in the Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. In 1948 some Sariquli people came in Chitral from China and settled here. Nowadays there number are 70 speakers of the language in Broghil. The majority of Sariquli speakers live in the far western end of the Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region of China. Sariquli language is on the verge of extinction in Chitral for being surrounded by Wakhi and Khowar languages and young people, born to mixed parents don’t learn it. Only adults are using Sariquli language while speaking to each other.
Wakhi (ISO 639-3: wbl) belong to Indo-European, Iranian family of languages. The language is spoken in Tajikistan, Kyrghistan, China and Pakistan. The name Wakhi is derived from Wakhan, the name of the narrow corridor of Badakhshan province in Afghanistan which separates Pakistan from Tajikistan. Some families of Wakhi live in Broghil in extreme north of Chitral. In Pakistan majority of this language speakers live in Gilgit-Baltistan. Total speaker of this language in all countries are 58,000.
The Yidgha (ISO 639-3: ydg) language is among the 23 languages of Pakistan which have been declared endangered by UNESCO. The language is also called Lutkuhwar or Yudga and is spoken in the Lutkoh Valley, about 46 km west of Chitral. The Yidgha people originally migrated to this area from the Munjan valley in Afghanistan about 500 years ago. The Number of Yidgha speakers are 6,150. Yidgha is moving closer to extinction every day. More and more people are switching to using Khowar, and in some villages, Yidgha is no longer being passed on to the next generation.
Urtsun is a valley, situated up in the hilly area of southern Chitral where Kalasha people used to live in the past. Urtsuniwar / Urchuniwar is not different from Kalasha language. The language has just been renamed by the speakers who have converted to Islam. This renaming has given a new life to the language which is tagged a language of Kafirs, pagans and abandoned by those who quit their religion. More than two thousand people speak this language. There is 70 % similarity between Urchuni War and Kalasha.
According to latest census of Pakistan 2017 population of Chitral is 447362. In Total population males are 225846, female is 221515 and Shemale / Transgender are 1. Average annual growth rate is 1.80 from 1998 to 2017.
Chitral (Lower and Upper Chitral) has 98 percent literacy rate, the highest in the KPK, in the age group of 6-10 years.
His Highness Shuja Ul Mulk
Shahzada Iftikhar Uddin