Role of women in Chitral of the past

..  Prof R.K Baig

The inhabitants of Chitral have been termed in different or contradictory ways by many foreign visitors. Some have called them honest, obedient, trust worthy, brave etc. while others have termed them liar, untrustworthy, lazy, intriguers and so on and all these are part of human nature and each ethnic group has got certain parts of them in various degrees but one thing is prominent that in the mountain blocked  hinterland they had managed to survive and remain self sufficient in all matters of socio-economic challenges.

They were in the grip of geographical conditions and lack of cultivable lands but they did manage to produce enough food grains to live though inconveniently but had devised to shoulder farming and domestic responsibilities almost equally. The males did all kind of farming, carriage of fodder, fire wood, masonry, carpentry, manufacture of farm implements etc. and the females did shoulder raising livestock such as raising sheep for wool which was widely used for clothing, by hand. They did all kind of dairy related products. This was done in the Kho section of the population but the Kalash did vice versa as well as the Bashgalis. The Kho women did nice embroidery, all type of weaving on their wooden handlooms, processed wool but the men did weave goat hair for rugs and Chitrali design of carpets with special patterns. The women also worked in the weaving of woolen carpets and this item was done with differently dyed strings to make the product attractive. The women tried to excel each other in cooking, embroidery, sewing Shuqa-the loose woolen over coat and other products of wool technology. Food rationing was one of the rare qualities and was learnt from elder ladies. They also did preserve medicinal plants for treatment of diseases.

They males and females helped each other in the completion of their specific duties. More work was done by females compared to men. All of them remained busy round the year. There were no off days for the old Kho people of Chitral except some hunting  or manufacture of gun powder and pellets from lead. The women worked harder. They had got more part from the element of jealousy than men and so they were more conscious of their domestic duties and at this concluding para I shall narrate another aspect of the duties of husband and wife in Punjab, Sind and many other parts of south Asia where at the time of marriage but before Nikah the bridegroom left the bridal party, ran to a tree and climbed up. The bride had to go to the tree and promise to do all kind of domestic and farm work and feed her husband and never to not put any burden on him. Only after that promise the groom would climb down the tree and the Nikaah was completed. After that bond she became the worker of the house and her husband lived  an idle life doing nothing. What a difference of social set up!!!!  .. Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig, Terich valley, 17 Jun 2021

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