Chapter 2 - Chitral


The present fort of Brep, in upper Chitral, is built on the ruins of an 18th century Chinese fort


The second chapter concentrates on the district of Chitral, a key sub-region within Peristan, where an Islamic principality probably originated in the 16th century, to become a propulsive center for the diffusion of Islam and the subjugation of the Kafirs. The history of Chitral and of this principality remained so far scarcely studied and largely unknown, while recently fabricated chronologies and many legends have widely circulated, deceiving many: this chapter provides one of the first systematic investigations of the sources for Chitral history available in English, which has taken advantage of Wolfgang Holzwarth's recent studies on the subject. Most of the southern part of this district, which was subdued by the mehtars (the princes) of Chitral only in the early 1700's, remained unconverted until the 1800's. It is here that the Kalasha, now some 3000 people altogether, have preserved to this day their Kafir culture, which is described in its general outlines on the basis of the long field work of the authors among them. Our knowledge of the Kalasha culture, this authentic anthropological wonder that has survived all the way through to the 21st century, forms the basis for the comprehension of all Kafir cultures, including those of Nuristan, to which the Kalasha are closely affiliated.
The other communities of southern Chitral had been converted to Sunni Islam by their Pushtun (Afghan) neighbours to the south around the mid 1800's. These groups had remained so far unstudied, save for their languages, which had been recorded in the 1920's by the Norwegian linguist Georg Morgenstierne, the foremost authority on the languages of Peristan.
It is to these populations, namely the Palula, the Dameli, the Gawar and the Jashi, among whom the authors have carried out the field work for this study, that the remaining chapters are dedicated.