Jun 25

Chitral – The Land of Fairies

EST. Reading time : 3 minutes

Chitral, a beautiful valley in the majestic Hindukush Mountains, is situated in the North-West Frontier of Pakistan. Considered to be arguably the most peaceful district of Pakistan, it is also known for its natural beauty, huge mountains, dazzling landscapes, lush green valleys and beautiful meadows. However, it remains cut off from the rest of the country during winters due to harsh weather conditions. Chitral means “field” in the Khowar language and is spelt as “Chetrar” among the local people of Chitral.

The people of Chitral are simple in nature and have a unique culture and tradition. Chitrali culture is quite rich; they have their own traditional dress which is embroidered by the people of Chitral themselves. The men wear Shalwar kameez with a traditional waistcoat called Waskat with a woollen cap called Pakhol. Shuqa is a long coat that is worn by men during winters. Women on the other hand wear Shalwar Kameez and Dupatta along with traditional woollen shawls and embroidered caps that are known as Khoi. But with time, the custom of wearing embroidered cap (Khoi) has limited to elderly women.

Chitrali embroidery is done by skilled craftswomen and the products are made for wedding gifts and home décor items. Cross stitch is the common stitching type used in embroidery. Women also take pride in making handicrafts, which is also the main part of the daily routine for many of them.

Furthermore, the main cottage industry of Chitral has always been Shu (Chitrali hand woollen thread made from sheep wool) making. Shu making is a native skill of the people of Chitral. There are other major crafts too; including embroidery, crocheting, knitting, rug making, weaving and woodwork etc.

The Chitral valley is famous for its hospitality. Guests are always welcomed with warmth and respect, which is probably why the people of Chitral are familiar with running a successful tourism industry. Tourism is also a decent source of income for the people of Chitral. The locals have their small resorts. People from all over the world love to spend their summer in this beautiful valley.

Moreover, the most common language spoken by the Chitralis is called Khowar, because a large population in this area is the Kho people. Khowar language is also spoken in few other areas such as Gilgit and Yasin. Other languages spoken in this area include; Dardic, Shina, Kalasha, Gujarwar, Wakhi and Persian.

Kalash valley is the hub of Chitral and home to the unique Kalash people who are said to be the descendants of Alexander the Great. Kalash valley is indeed the source of fascination for people across the globe. What makes the Kalash people different from the rest of the world is their unique culture and way of life.

When it comes to sports, Chitralis are very enthusiastic about Polo, which is also the traditional sport of Chitral. The splendid Shandur polo ground in Chitral valley holds great importance because every year Shandur polo festival is held on this ground. The festival is attended by a great number of people from all over the country as well as the world. It signifies the cultural veracity of the people of Chitral.

Chitral is a land of great poets and musicians. It has produced some of the most renowned poets and writers who play a significant role in the field of literature. Women have also played a great role in composing poetry. Female poets in old days used to hide their identities because of religious and cultural barriers. More recently, however, women in Chitral write poetry without hiding their identities. Chitral was a princely state in association with British India until 1947 when it became a princely state of Pakistan until 1969.

However, the former ruling class has maintained their power in socio-economic, cultural and political dimensions. Besides the royal family, there are elites in Chitral as well, who have gained immense political, social and economic power. The subaltern groups, on the other hand, are said to possess little political, economic and social agency.