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Mumtaz Hussain

History of the Chitrali Historiography is not as short as generally believed to be. Muhammad Siyar wrote his Shahnama, sometimes around the closing of the Eighteenth Century. Next work of any importance, on this topic came a hundred years later, when Mirza Ghufran compiled his seminal work titled Tarikh e Chitral in 1893. This work became foundation of further writings on the history of this region in the forthcoming years. From the middle of the Nineteenth Century, Western writer also began writing on the history of Chitral and the adjacent areas. Today we have got volumes of works on the history of region, but all this material is basically a narration of the events which took place after the taking over of the Katur Dynasty. Very little has been written on the periods before the advent of the Katurs so far. Recently, some local writers published books on the Pre-Katur history, but these works bear little utility or credibility, due to lack of proper methodology. The works are just haphazard conglomeration of traditions and opinions, and one gains hardly anything after going through these books.

However, some western researchers have tried to reconstruct the early history of this area with the help of historical works of the surrounding areas, as well as the local traditions. Some very interesting facts have been uncovered as a result of this research.

One of these discoveries is a name “Shah Baber”. This name appears nowhere in the works of the local or earlier Western Writers. Mirza Muhammad Ghafran’s first book on the History of Chitral makes only casual reference to the Raees Rule, without mentioning any of the names. A list of ten Raees rulers have been recorded by Mirza Ghufran in his second version of the same book in 1919. Where from these names came? It is a big question mark. Some Western writer suspected that these were invented by Nasir ul Mulk around 1940. But their mention in an earlier work has made the opinion baseless. The omission of Shah Babur from the list of Raees rulers, adds more discredit to it, as well as to the chronology associated with it. The name of Shah Baber Raees was first mentioned in Bahr al Asrar, a history of the Uzbek Kingdom of Balkh, written in the seventeenth century. It says that a Shia ruler, by the name of Shah Baber, was ruling Chitral about the year 1620. The name appears in many other sources such as Akhmedov, the Uzbec historian. The History of Kashghar also mentiones him as ruler of Chitral around 1640.

Local traditions in the Khowar speaking areas are not altogether silent on Shah Babur. The village of Babur Abad (corrupted as Bakrabad) is named after him. He is said to have brought the area under cultivation, by constructing a water channel from the Jughur Steam. There is also a family tradition in a local syed clan which claims some relationship to him. The name Shah Babur, is however repeatedly mentioned in the oral traditions of the Non-Khow communities in the Southern Chitral.

The picture of this man which can be constructed with all these discoveries is like this. He was originally a ruler of Badakhshan, ousted by the Uzbeks of Balkh. He came to Chitral with a considerable number of followers, and conquered it. As he was Ismaili, the creed got foothold in the country, and continued to flourish. However he himself was forced to convert to Sunnism, when threatened by the Uzbeks, who were by now masters of his homeland Badakhshan. Later in 1641, Chitral was invaded by the the Chaghtai Kingdom of Kashghar, and Babur became a tributary to Kashghar. What happened next, is not known. Babur disappears from the scene after this, however his son Shah Raees is said to rule Yasin, sometime around 1650. This Shah Raees is most probably the one who founded the Gilgit line of Raees Rulers and possibly that of Chitral as well.

Some of the sources are given here for ready reference.
  1. Holzwarth.W. (1996) Chitral History, 1540-1660: Comments on Sources and Historiography. In Bashir and Israr-ud-Din: 1996.
  2. Cacopardo, A.M. & A.S. Cacopardo (2001) Gates of Peristan, History, Religion and Society in the Hindu Kush.
  3. Biddulf, J. (1880) Tribes of the Hidoo Koosh. Calutta. Repr. Peshawar1986.
  4. مرزا محمد غفران (۱۸۹۳) تاریخ چترال فارسی نسخہ اول .
  5. مرزا محمد غفران (۱۹۲۰) تاریخ چترال فارسی نسخہ دوم
  6. غلام مرتضیٰ (۱۹۶۱) نئی تاریخ چترال اردو .
  7. (18-07-2013)
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