The Early chitral history is shrouded in mystery.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.
Chitral nevertheless has remained an independent state for centuries with its own culture and language. In the late nineteenth century it became part of British India. It was a princely state in 1947, which acceded to Pakistan in that year. The rule of the Mehtar came to an end in 1954 and power was henceforth exercised by the political agent posted at Chitral. The state was merged into Pakistan in 1969. The recorded history of Chitral is divided into six epochs as follows:
The Achemeanian Empire of Persia was extended to these regions during 400 BC. Its more than two thousand years since this empire receded but its supremacy was so strongly established that many Persian cultural traits are still in practice in Northern Areas as well as few parts of Chitral. In some valleys surrounding Chitral such as Wakhan, Shaghnan, and upper parts of Chitral people speak Persian language. Even Khowar, which is the native language of the local people (Khow), contains much borrowing from Persian.
Zoroastrianism, an Old Persian religion, has also left behind some of its traces in this area. Traditions also tell about leaving of dead bodies unburied in caves in the wilderness or in the hollow of trees. Such practices were specific in this religion. A festival on 21st March (Nouroz) the first day in Persian calendar still prevails in Chitral. It is celebrated in few valleys every year. (Israr Chitral A historical sketch)
The Kushan dynasty established its rule in this area in 200 AD. In the second century Kanishka the most powerful emperor of Kushan dynasty had extended his rule all over Northern India, probably as far as south Vindyas and all over the remote region up to Khotan beyond the Pamir pass.
The Chinese extended their influence in the 4th century AD and remained in power until the 8th century. The rock inscription of Pakhtoridini near Maroi refers to Chinese rule. Another inscription in Barenis refers to the Kushans. According to Sir Aurel Stien, the inscription says that Jivarman ordered to make the pertinent drawing of a stupa. Such rock carvings have created confusion for writers like Buddulph and many others to believe that Chitral formed part of the last Hindu Shahi ruler of Kabul. It’s also believed that the northern parts had embraced Islam by the end of 9th century when Arabs defeated Bahman, chief of the country. By the time of withdrawal of Arabs many people had accepted Islam. (Souvenir, 2nd Hindukush Cultural Conference, p.19-21)
In the 11th century AD southern Chitral was invaded by the Kalash from Afghanistan, who occupied the country as far to the North as Barenis village, while the upper parts were under another chief Sumalik. some Kalash Chiefs Rojawai, such as Nagar Shah and Bala sing ruled Southern Chitral from 11th to 13th centuries A.D.
In the beginning of 11th century Shah Nadir Rais occupied southern Chitral and defeated the Kalash. Shah Nadir Rais extended his dominion from Gilgit to the present southern boundaries of Chitral. Rais family ruled over Chitral for about three hundred years when
Katura family succeeded them.
During the Rais rule in Chitral its boundaries extended from Narsut in the extreme south of the state to Gilgit in the east. The rulers had an effective council of chiefs of the local tribes to run the affairs of the country. The ruler of this family also worked for the dissemination of the teachings of Islam in the state.
There were no regular state forces to defend the state frontiers so the local headmen and chiefs called all the persons of their tribes to fight for the state under the collective defense system. The Mehtar (ruler) had friendly relations with the rulers of surrounding countries. (Baig, Hindu Kush study series vol. two)
The Katur succeeded the Rais dynasty in 1595. Muhtaram Shah I was the founder of Kature rule in Chitral, whose descendants ruled over Chitral until 1969 when the State was merged as a district of NWFP.
During the rule of Amirul Mulk in 1895, Umra Khan the chief of Jandool crossed the Lawari pass and invaded lower Chitral. As a result, there was fierce fighting in which the Mehtar of Chitral and British officers were besieged in Chitral fort for 42 days. Troops from Gilgit and Nowshera came to the rescue of the besieged fort and the British rule was extended over entire Chitral in April 1895. Shuja ul Mulk emerged as the ruler after the war who ruled for 42 years until 1936.
During the Pakistan movement there was a campaign in Chitral in favor of independence. The people backed all India Muslim League and Mehtar Muzafarul Mulk openly declared his backing to the Pakistan movement. In May 1947 H.H. Muzafarul Mulk informed the Viceroy about his intention to join the new state of Pakistan. The accession instrument was signed on November 7, 1947.