Old Chitral in the shadows of Hindu Kush-2

.. by Prof Rahmat Karim Baig

In the old days of Chitral the river systems were a great obstacle for the people in reaching their relatives in the villages across the rivers. In summer the volume  of the rivers was too high due to melting of the glaciers and also the speed of the rivers was very fast but in winters the rivers subsided and very small volume flowed down the river beds and make shift arrangements were made by building weak bridges which they called ‘ pai seri’ – bridge for goats. But in some places they did not make it fit for goats but only fixed logs across the river and crossed it very carefully. The ones used for goats had ‘chipul’ on the logs and were built by the ‘gram’- the group of hamlets who grazed their goats in one flock turn by turn  and thus the commune had the facility to herd the flocks after about a month. The river system also had forced them to develop the skill  swimming to be  written later.

The logs and ‘chipul’ were provided by rotation. In certain places the rivers were shallow and could be forded easily. Many liked to keep ponies and waded the rivers on their ponies. The gram system was also used to provide food to a family where someone died and they did it in twos or threes  for three days and after that period the mourning was over and the bereaved family had to resume cooking their own food.

The pastures were also divided among the communities and no violation was tolerated but disputes also arose over borders of the pastures and the fire wood and fodder resources of the specific areas. The local elders headed by ‘Asaqal’ and ‘Charvelu’ were to decide such disputes and more serious cases were taken to Hakim of the district. The above named officials were responsible to maintain law and order in their villages. The GRAM system was just like  the commune system and they also had to pay to the shepherd if the rotation system was not possible. They paid food items, goats skin, mutton as well as grain  for the work of the herder. The village channel watcher was also responsible for safety of the main irrigation channel as well as water rationing among the households. This man was also paid grain per family after threshing their crops. .. Prof Rahmat Karim Baig, Chitral 07 Mar2022

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