Via Dawn – Like other districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Chitral also is host to a large number of archaeological and historical monuments like the petroglyphs of Rain, Pakhtoridini, Charoon, and Mulyom; wooden mosques of Ayun, Koghuzi, Lodde, Dahar and Sorlaspur, and sites in Kalash valley.
Among these the Shahi Masjid and fort in Chitral city stand out in prominence and remind one of a glorious period of Chitral’s history.
The Shahi Masjid is believed to have been built by Shujaul Mulk who was made Mehtar of Chitral in 1895 by the British government. The British had occupied Chitral and some parts of Dir by defeating Umra Khan, the ruler of Jandol and Dir, and Afzalul Mulk.
Shujaul Mulk was appointed as the Mehtar of Chitral as well as an honorary commandant of Chitral Scouts raised by the British in 1903. He ruled Chitral from 1895-1936. He is believed to have built many mosques and fortresses in Chitral including the Shahi Mosque. The three-domed mosque is said to have been built in 1914. Two minarets were added later on. The distinctive feature of the mosque is the stucco work, which decorates every space of the mosque inside and outside. The main gate of the mosque, which opens on the south, is also decorated with stucco. The main features of the stucco decoration are the geometric and floral designs. The mosque has no parallel in terms of architecture in the whole of Chitral District. As compared to other mosques in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, particularly the Mahabat Khan mosque in Peshawar, which is noted for its murals representing floral and geometric designs, the Shahi Masjid’s stucco decoration excel in intricacy of design.
Southeast of the Shahi mosque is situated a fort believed to have been built by Raja Nadir Shah in the 14th Century. Later on, the Mehtars of Chitral and the British officers renovated it.
The present fort was built over the ruins of the Chew Fort. Chew was the Kalasha ruler who is believed to have been the real founder of Chitral. Before coming of Islam to Chitral, he was the ruler and built many forts among which the Chew Fort now called the Chitral Fort and the Denin Fort are well known. He also built a bridge over Chitral River, which is still called after him as Chew Bridge and connects Denin Bazaar with the Airport Road. Another Kalasha ruler, Kaojak, who ruled some parts of Chitral particularly Ayun and other villages, also left a fort whose remains are found near the Sahan Bala where his descendents still live. They have converted to Islam. However, the Kalasha of Rumbur, Birir and Bumboret valleys still narrate the heroic deeds of Kaojak.
The notable feature of the Chitral Fort is the portico, which attracts the visitor. The main entrance or the portico, which opens on the west, is decorated with stucco. The place inside the fort is also remarkable for its aesthetic beauty. It was renovated during the reign of Shujaul Mulk and Nasirul Mulk. From the fort one can have the view of the Tirich Mir peak.
The eastern rampart of the fort is in a very dilapidated condition. The western rampart overlooking the river is also in a bad state of preservation. The fort is actually crumbling. The concerned authorities should make all efforts to renovate and restore it to its past glory, turning it into a tourist spot because a very few people visit the fort.
The writer is Staff Anthropologist at Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE). He may be contacted at: email@example.com