Chitral (princely state)

Chitral (princely state)

Coat of arms of Pakistan

This article is part of the series
Former administrative units of Pakistan

Flag of Chitral
Map of Pakistan with Chitral highlighted
Capital Chitral Town
Area 14,850 km²
Languages Persian (official)
Khowar (colloquial)
Established  1585
Abolished 28th July 1969

Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Chitral (or Chitrāl) was a princely state of Pakistan and British India until 1969. The area of the state now forms the Chitral District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.



The former princely capital, Chitral Town, is situated on the west bank of the Chitral (or Kunar River) at the foot of Tirich Mir which at 7,708 m (25,289 ft) is the highest peak of the Hindu Kush.


The official language of the state was Persian but the general population was mainly of the Khow tribe, who spoke the Khowar language (or Chitrali), which is also spoken in parts of Yasin, Gilgit and Swat. Chitral was also famous for being home to the Kalash tribe who reside in three remote valleys southwest of Chitral Town.


From ancient times, Chitral was an important point on the trade routes from northern Afghanistan (ancient Bactria) and the Tarim Basin to the plains of Gandhara (in northern Pakistan), and the region near Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan.

The ruling family of Chitral traces its descent from Baba Ayub, a disciple of the saint, Kamal Shah Shams ud-din Tabrizi, who settled in the village of Lon and Gokheer. According to family tradition, Ayub was a son of Fareidun Hussein, tenth son of Shah Abu'l Ghazi Sultan Husayn Bayqarah.

Baba Ayub, is said to have arrived in Chitral , married the daughter of the ruler shah Raees the descendant of Gabari(swati) royal race and suppose descendant of Cyrus the great. The grandson of this marriage found the present dynasty. Accordingly, the family actually owes their fortunes to Sangan Ali, sometime Minister to Shah Rais, ruler of Chitral during the sixteenth century. His sons seized power following his death in 1570, establishing a new ruling dynasty over the state. The present ruling dynasty descends from the second of these two sons.

The period between Sangan 'Ali's accession to power and modern times is clouded by fratricidal warfare, contests for power with the former Raisiya dynasty, the Kushwaqte family and endless disputes with neighbouring rulers. So much so that it is nearly impossible to date the reigns or lives of many of the rulers. Only during the middle of the nineteenth century, when permanent Dogra rule was established in Kashmir. European travellers, administrators and scholars began to enter the area and take an interest in its history, and gradually the history of the country, its people, languages and culture, began to emerge from the mists of time. However, this task is far from complete and it will be many years before Chitral yields up all its mysteries and secrets.

Shah Afzal II, who ruled from the beginning of the nineteenth century until its middle, fought against the Afghans in support of his allies, the rulers of Badakhshan. He also fought against the Dogras and against his Kushwaqte kinsmen, but later switched sides and concluded treaty relations with the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Thereafter becoming an ally of Kashmir, in return for an annual subsidy to pay for troops and the supervision of the Afghan border.

Aman ul-Mulk, Afzal's younger son, succeeded his brother in 1857. After a brief dispute with Kashmir, in which he laid siege to the garrison at Gilgit and briefly held the Puniyal valley, he accepted a new treaty with the Maharaja in 1877. After a relatively long reign, he died peacefully in 1892.

Aman's younger son, Afzal ul-Mulk, proclaimed himself ruler during the absence of his elder brother. He then proceeded to eliminate several of his brothers, potential contenders to his throne. This initiated a war of succession, which lasted three years. Afzal ul-Mulk was killed by his uncle, Sher Afzal, the stormy petrel of Chitral and a long-time thorn in his father's side. He held Chitral for under a month, then fled into Afghan territory.

Nizam ul-Mulk, Afzal ul-Mulk's eldest brother and the rightful heir, then succeeded in December of the same year. At about that time, Chitral came under the British sphere of influence following the Durand Agreement, which delineated the border between Afghanistan and the Indian Empire. Nizam ul-Mulk's possessions in Kafiristan and the Kunar Valley were recognised as Afghan territory and ceded to the Amir. Within a year, Nizam was himself murdered by yet another ambitious younger brother, Amir ul-Mulk.

The approach of the Chitral Expedition, a strong military force composed of British and Kashmiri troops prompted Amir to flee with to his patron, the Khan of Jandul. The British had decided to support the interests of Shuja ul-Mulk, the youngest legitimate son of Aman ul-Mulk, and the only one untainted by the recent spate of murder and intrigue. After entering Chitral and installing the young Mehtar, British and Kashmiri forces endured the famous defence against a seven-week siege by Sher Afzal and the Khan of Jandul. The British then captured Sher Afzal and Amir ul-Mulk, deporting them both to Madras.

Although Shuja ul-Mulk was now firmly established as ruler, the Kashmiris annexed Yasin, Kush, Ghizr and Ishkoman. Kashmiri suzerainty over Chitral ended in 1911, Chitral became a salute state in direct relations with the British. Mastuj, also removed from the Mehtar's jurisdiction in 1895, was restored to him within two years. Shuja reigned for forty-one years, during which Chitral enjoyed an unprecedented period of internal peace. He was probably the first ruler to journey outside of the Hindukush region, visiting various parts of India and meeting a number of fellow rulers, as well making the Hajj to Arabia and meeting Ibn Saud. He supported the British during the Third Afghan War in 1919, during which four of his sons and the Chitral State Forces served in several actions guarding the border against invasion.

Nasir ul-Mulk, succeeded his father in 1936. He was the first ruler of his line to receive a modern education, becoming a noted poet and scholar in his own right. He took a deep interest in military, political and diplomatic affairs, and spent much of his time on improving the administration. Dying without a surviving male heir in 1943, his successor was his younger brother, Muzaffar ul-Mulk. Also a man with a military disposition, his reign witnessed the tumultuous events surrounding the transfer of power in 1947. His prompt action in sending in his own Body Guard to Gilgit was instrumental in securing the territory for Pakistan.

The unexpected early death of Muzaffar ul-Mulk saw the succession pass to his relatively inexperienced eldest son, Saif ur-Rahman, in 1948. Due to certain tensions he was exiled from Chitral by the Government of Pakistan for six years. They appointed a board of administration composed of Chitrali and Pakistani officials to govern the state in his absence. He died in a plane crash while returning to resume charge of Chitral in 1954.

Saif ul-Mulk succeeded his father at the age of four. He reigned under a Council of Regency for the next twelve years, during which Pakistani authority gradually increased over the state. Although installed as a constitutional ruler when he came of age in 1966, he did not enjoy his new status very long. Chitral was absorbed and fully integrated into the Republic of Pakistan by Yahya Khan in 1969. In order to reduce the popular Mehtar's influence, he, like so many other princes in neighbouring India, was "invited" to represent his country abroad. He served in various diplomatic posts and retired from the service as Consul-General in Hong Kong in 1989.


The ruling family of Chitral was the Katur dynasty, founded by Shah Katur (1585–1630), which governed Chitral until 1969 when the government of Pakistan took over. During the reign of Mehtar Aman-ul-Mulk, known as Lot (Great) Mehtar, the dynasty's sway extended from Asmar in the Kunar Valley of Afghanistan to Punial in the Gilgit Valley.

Tribes in Upper Swat, Dir Kohistan and Kafiristan (present day Nuristan, not to be confused with the Kalasha valleys which have always been an integral part of Chitral) paid tribute to the Mehtar of Chitral.

The ruler's title, Mehtar, is unique; his male descendants were styled Mehtarjao, equally rare, until the higher (Persian) royal style Shahzada, originally reserved for the Crown Prince (Tsik mehtar, again unique, as Heir Persumptive, becoming Wali-Akht Sahib when heir Apparent), was extended to all princes of the Mehtar's blood since the rulers at that point.

The scions of the Katur dynasty are still widely respected and honoured by the people of Chitral today, but the current Mehtar, H.H. Mehtar Muhammad Saif ul-Mulk Nasir does not hold any official powers. He is married to the daughter of Nawab Muhammad Saeed Khan, the Nawab of Amb and has two sons and two daughters including:

1. Mehtarbaak Shahzada Fateh ul-Mulk 'Ali Nasir, Wali-Akht Sahib, born 27 November 1983

2. Shahzada Hammad ul-Mulk Nasir, born 20 September 1990

Tenure Mehtars of Chitral[1]
1712–1745 Sangeen Ali
1745 - Unknown date Mohammad Beg
Unknown date - 1775 Unknown ruler
1775–1790 Faramarz Shah of Yasin
1790–1795 Shah Afzal I
1795–1798 Shah Fazal
1798 - Unknown date Shah Khairullah Khuswaqte
Unknown date - 1818 Mohtaram Shah II (1st time)
1818 - 1820s Nawaz Khan
1820s - 1833 Aman ul-Mulk I
1833–1837 Mohtaram Shah II (2nd time)
1837–1853 Shah Afzal II
1853–1857 Mohtaram Shah III
1857 - 30 August 1892 Aman ul-Mulk II
30 August 1892 - 1 December 1892 Afzal ul-Mulk
1 December 1892 - 12 December 1892 Shir Afzal Khan
12 December 1892 - 1 January 1895 Nizam ul-Mulk
1 January 1895 - 2 September 1895 Amir ul-Mulk
1 May 1895 - 13 October 1936 Shuja ul-Mulk
13 October 1936 - 29 June 1943 Mohammad Nasir ul-Mulk
29 June 1943 - 7 January 1949 Mohammad Muzaffar ul-Mulk
7 January 1949 - 14 October 1953 Saif ur-Rahman
14 October 1953 - 28 July 1969 Mohammad Saif ul-Mulk Nasir
28 July 1969 State of Chitral dissolved


  1. ^ Ben Cahoon, "Pakistan Princely States". Retrieved 2007-10-03. 

External links

Coordinates: 35°50′16″N 71°47′02″E / 35.83778°N 71.78389°E / 35.83778; 71.78389

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