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Little is known of the early history of Chitral and rock inscriptions and early traditions give little evidence on this subject. This mountainous country which was first referred to as Kohistan or land of the mountains was said to be inhabited by a race called “Khows” speaking a separate language Khowar, or language of the Khows. Some people say that it was Khowistan – the abode of the Khows. Separate parts of the country came to be called Torkhow – Upper Khow, Mulkhow – Lower Khow, names which persist to the present day. An early Sanskrit inscription at a village called Barenis (27 miles away from Chitral) of about AD 900 records that the country was Buddhist, under King Jaipal of Kabul. It is believed that Upper Chitral was under Buddhist influence in the past and even today there are a few rocks in Torkhow area known as “Kalandar-i-Bohtni” (Mendicant of Stone). It is a figure of a stupa; the upper part of which has been cut into the figure of Buddha and may be of Chinese origin. No records of this period exist.
Marco Polo, who passed through the Pamirs, referred to the country as Bolor. History relates that first a Chinese army and then an Arab (Mongols?) army invaded Chitral from the north by the Broghal pass when the upper part of the country is said to have been converted to Islam. The southern district remained non-Muslim till very late and were then converted to Islam. A Mongol tribe called Yarkhuns invaded Chitral via the Broghal pass and may have given their name to the Yarkun valley. They were opposed by Somalek, leader of the Khows. Another incursion is attributed to Changez Khan and his Tartars.
In the 16th century, the Shah Rais dynasty ruled Chitral. Shah Rais had an adviser by name of Sangin Ali, who apparently came from Khorasan. On the death of Sangin Ali in 1570, his sons ousted Shah Rais and gained control of the country. It is from the second of these sons that the present royal family of Chitral is descended. The highest class, Adamzadas (Katoras), take their names from Sangin Ali’s grandsons. The Katoras are believed to have been descended from Moguls. Headed by Baba Ayub in the middle of the 16th century, they have been ruling the country with varying fortunes for the last 350 years, 350 years of war with the nearby states of Gilgit, Chilas and the Pathans.
This article is sent by Nimra Khan. Nimra Khan is currently living in Chitral. She is studying in 2nd year in Chitral City Girls College. Nimra’s father is doctor and she also wants to follow her father profession.