Culture and Traditions of Chitral

The lifestyle and social habits of the Chitralis date back to ancient times. Joint family system is still the norm. The father is considered the head of the family; the privilege is conferred on the eldest son after his death. Usually it so happens that while the father is alive, all live together in a single house. After his death, the property is divided and the sons move with their families into houses of their own.
The youngest son inherits all houses owned by the father. The eldest makes a house for him by himself. For this purpose, he is provided with land and wood for construction.
To comment on their houses, the most important room of the house is in the shape of a hall and is brought into multiple uses. It is divided into parts and each part is utilized differently. In the center of the room is a fireplace, whose smoke escapes through a hole in the ceiling. Men sit to the right and women to the left of the fireplace. The area at the back of the male and the female sitting rooms is used as bedroom. Wheat-flour, ghee, meat and milk are stored in cellars.
The main room also serves as a kitchen. This is especially practical during the winter season when the same fire is used to cook and warm people. Every family member sits on the seat assigned to him. The first or the most prominent seat in the male section is occupied by the head of the house. As a counterpart to it, the leading female member of the family (usually the eldest daughter-in-law) sits on the most prominent seat in the female section and cooks for all. Other members also sit in accordance with hierarchy. When visited by a religious and spiritual leader, the head of the family offers his seat to him. On the arrival of a guest, all embers of the family get up from their seats to welcome him. The guest is given due respect and while elders are talking, youngsters do not interfere. They only speak up when asked a question, and that too is answered with decency and respect. They do not even laugh in front of their elders. It is deemed improper to raise one's voice in gossip or everyday talk. As for their eating habits, a wheat bread (chapatti) is passed around and all people present take a morsel. The guest begins this prologue to lunch. Little matters, like washing hands before meals or drinking water demand delicacy, for allowing others a chance to wash hands or drink water before they do is a means of showing respect.
Chitral Culture Part 1
Recorded approximatively 1983
Note: The Traditional Dancer belong to Khot Torkhow Chitral his name is Wali Khan
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Chitralis love social gatherings; pleasure is doubled by the provision of music. The area has a rich musical tradition perhaps because music is not restricted to a caste or social group. The rich and the respectful do not consider musical parties or concerts as a disgrace. Rather, the playing of musical instruments is an art relegated to the elite. Musical concerts can be arranged at any time of the year; just contact any youth society or cultural club. Music, today, is patronized by the rich while in older days, this was the job of the mehtur.
In the times of the mehtur, daily sittings (nashist) were held at court. These can be likened to a meeting of higher social and political order, or a meeting of Parliament. The respected people of the area, the elite, administrative authorities and social agents representing remote areas of Chitral made up the participants. Attending this sitting was taken as a token of special affiliation with the mehtur.
'Maarka' was a sort of meeting where open discussions were held on national problems and administrative issues. Critics and analysts gave their views, which entertained the ears of the mehtur. Then the mehtur asked questions on various national and regional issues, which were answered by the participant-audience. Then followed a session in which different problems and matters of importance were discussed with the mehtur and his opinion taken. Significant political decisions were made and legislation drafted. The participants targeted each other with pranks and wit, and sometimes, this progressed into an interesting argument. These arguments proceeded in a metaphorical language and were enjoyed by both participants and listeners. Harsh words were delivered under the garb of politeness.
Such meetings were also organized by the governors. These were punctuated by refreshments and dinner parties. Food was served on tablecloths spread in front of all participants. A big tablecloth was set for the mehtur. It was the custom that the mehtur sent a few morsels to those whom he wanted to honor. The honored swelled with joy and paid his respects to the mehtur. Often it so happened that the mehtur distributed all food in front of him and didn't eat anything. The story goes that a simple natured rustic was appointed guard to the room where the meetings took place. When, for some days, he saw the mehtur sitting hungry, he felt sorry for him. The next day, he made a bread (chapatti) of corn, for this was what his economic standing allowed him, and brought it secretly with him. At dinner, the mehtur again distributed his share and ate nothing. Witnessing this, the innocent guard started making signs, as if he wanted to convey something to the mehtur. He wanted to tell him not to worry, for he had brought a chapatti with him and that he could eat it comfortably when the others had left. Unable to interpret these signs, the mehtur sent a person to inquire. When the matter came to light, the innocence of the villager took everybody by surprise. The mehtur rewarded him with prizes.
A similar tradition is followed at marriages. In honor of the wedding guests that arrive with the Baraat (wedding procession), a special dish is served at breakfast of the following day. The chief guest distributes its contents amongst his relatives - the bridegroom's side. Also on special occasions, the head of the family distributes amongst other members some special dish made for the occasion.
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.


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