Use of naswaar in Chitral- a luxury or a curse

.. by Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

Naswaar or Nasuwar that is known to all age groups has been a common item in the list of narcotics. It is generally reported that Tobacco came from Cuba or we may put it another way that it was brought  from Cuba by Columbus and the members of his team or their successors on the same route over Atlantic by Spanish explorers. It came to Europe and became fashionable in that society. At the time of Shakespeare it was used and was called Snuff, put not in the mouth but in the nostril. That was perhaps the experimental stage of the use of tobacco. Later it was changed and smoking was introduced in cigar type and then it was refashioned as cigarette meaning as small cigar. It became fashionable all over the Continent and reached Indian sub-continent when the British company got permission from Emperor Jehangir  to establish trading facility. Their mercantile included tobacco and it spread all over India and reached Chitral by traders of that time generally called Paracha.

Mehtar Aman ul Mulk is said to have taken to this new product and a sizeable ball of Naswaar kept his mood balanced. His courtiers also took to it and its seeds were also brought to Chitral for cultivation. Lo! The soil of Chitral proved very congenial for this product and Chitrali tobacco became a nice land produce. The cultivation of this new article became popular and the growers learnt from each other about the techniques of its cultivation, type of the soil, amount of water for irrigation, use of fertilizer, cutting its surplus leaves etc. The Chitralis developed their own form of Naswaar and ways of using it.

When did it come to Chitral is not exactly known i.e. the year of its arrival  or the way of its arrival and by whom, nothing is definitely known. I would like to know it from experts or knowledgeable people of Chitral as how it first came, who brought it, who first tasted it or smoked it ?  But the upper class men got used to it and fashioned special containers to keep it fresh. For that purpose they used native skill- the shell of a specific type of pumpkin which was grown in the kitchen gardens and the seeds with the pulp was carefully taken out and the interior was cleansed and was then used to keep the Naswar  in their pockets during journeys and in a safe place when at home. This container was given the sexy name of ‘ Balaghunu’ The word Nasuwareni was its predecessor.

The type of pumpkin then grown in Chitral was very handy, It was light to be carried. It kept the contents fresh – both in colour and taste. Then the fans of this product began to fashion the size of the pumpkin according to their own idea. As soon as the pumpkin began to grow they tied stripes of cloth around it once  or twice according to their like and the strip tightened the growth as the designer had thought. It was thus found in various shapes in different villages. The more active lovers of naswaar then decorated their Balaghunu and were sent as item of gift to elders. The women are also said to have not lagged behind. They also used Naswaar- an alternative for tranquilizer- and this was neither criticized by men nor deemed a demerit for the fair sex. I would request for feedback on this topic.  Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig, Chitral 05 Aug 2021

One thought on “Use of naswaar in Chitral- a luxury or a curse

  1. Nice article. A strong naswaar has more nasha than a glass of beer. If naswaar was there at the time of our Holy Prophet (PBUH), it would have also been declared haraam like alcohol. In our society naswaar is considered a normal thing. I have seen federal ministers taking naswaar and then throwing the muck from their mouth under the sofa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *