Chitral’s unique culture linked to Central Asia

By Zahiruddin

CHITRAL, May 1, 2011: 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.

Dr Inayatullah Faizi, former project manager of Chitral Conservation Strategy, said promotion of tourism in the area depended on preservation of cultural heritage which was endangered at present.

He said some of the components of the heritage were quite unique in nature that included architecture, customs, folksongs and folklores while Kalash were known throughout the world as primitive people.

“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 woollen 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 (koan) 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 Mumuret (Bumburate), Biriu (Birir) and Rukmu (Rumbur).

The study says that Chitral 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 fifth 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.

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