Under the shadows of Tirichmir in the Hindukush mountain range, the valley of Chitral in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan is a fascinating combination of science beauty and cultural diversity. The land of apples, apricots, pears and pomegranates, Chitral stretches from 1,094m to 7778m above sea level (ASL) at Tirichmir Peak. With its collection of rugged mountains, gushing river, hot springs and fruit-laden orchards, Chitral truly is an enchanting part of Pakistan.
The area is bordered by Afghanistan in the north and west, with the narrow Afghan Wakhan corridor separating it from Tajikistan, Dir kohistan in the south and Gilgit in the east. Chitral can be accessed via several mountain passes, the most being the Lowari Top (3,118m) approx. crossing the Hindu Raj (a spur of the higher Hindukush) in the south and the Shandur Pass (3,798m) forming the eastern gateway from Gilgit. Other passes include the Dorah Pass from Badakshan in Afghanistan and the Borghal (3,798m) from the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. Although tese two passes represented the main arteries of the Ancient Silk Route to Yarkand and Kashgar in China and Badakhshan in Afganistan, they are not much in use today.
Situated on the main crossroad to Central Asia, Chitral has a long and fascinating history. In fact, it is this strategic location that compelled invaders to capture it before any other area in the region. The historic history of Chitral begins with the Tibetans Invading Yasin in early 8th century AD, followed by the Chinese 1750 AD and the Buddhists in 900 AD. Later the Kalash also ruled Chitral for decades.
In the 14th Century, Chitral became a unified independent kingdom under the rule of Shah Nasir Rais.In 1570; the Rais dynasty was replaced by the katoor Dyasty. The famous Mehtar of Chitral Aman-ul-Mulk ruled from 1857 to 1892.In 1895, the siege of Chitral fort took place and lasted a month, after which Chitral remained an independent state under British rule. finally, in 1969 it was merged into Pakistan.
Today, Chitral hosts ancient Chitrali Tribes as well as nomads who were invited by the mehtars to settle in the state. Chitral is also home to the ancient pagan tribe of the Kalash who are now confined to the three valleys of Bamburate, rambur and Birir. The riginal state of Chitral covered a greater area, with its border reaching as far as Badakhshan and Bashqal in the north-west and Kunar Valley in the south (these areas are now part of Afghanistan).In addition, this extended to Sherqilla on its north-eastern front, which lies in Gilgit today.
It is believed that the soil has a special preference for its old inhabitants. On festive occasions, these people are treated with great respect. In the traditional social set-up, the shepherd was also raised to a significant social stature; they were cordially invited to all festivals and sent some special dish or meal. They had the authority to fine anybody who deterred from this general norm.
The Kalash are an ancient pagan tribe living in three valleys of Chitral namely Bamburate, Birir and Rambur. The Kalash religion is based on myths and superstitions that relate to the relationship between the human soul and the universe. This according to Kalash mythology needs its manifestation in music and dance, which also contribute to the pleasure of god and goddesses. The Kalash celebrate four festivals commemorating seasonal change and significant in agro-pastoral life by offering sacrifices on altars, cooking traditional meals and dancing to traditional music during the week-long events.
ECO-TOURISM IN CHITRAL
Eco-tourism has in recent years, become a popular slogan of environmentalists and Tour operators the world over, But what exactly in eco-tourism? In a nutshell , ecotourism can be defined as environmentally and socially responsible tourism. It aims to protect nature through providing the means to do so by directly supporting local communities. Other aspects such as the sustainability of local culture and history are also included. Looking at the negative impact mass tourism can have on native culture and environment ecotourism is a sensible alternative. Rather than travelling in large groups, considered taking the trip with a small group of like-minded people. This approach can have many benefits from communities being better able to accommodate fewer people, better access to local portars and guides and improved chances of sighting wildlife. As an eco-tourist, you are no longer simply a visitor, instead you are able to play an active role in helping conserve nature and forming a better understanding between people of different culture.