Near the Shahi Mosque of Chitral, on the right bank of the river, is the majestic Chitral Fort, which has been witnessing the glories and the ruins of the history for centuries. Visiting the fort may give you a glimpse into chronicle of this area, the whisper of the golden days. It is also a unique and wonderful built heritage that leaves art lovers and architects dizzy given the time and clime it was constructed.
The fort may not be in its original form as it was first constructed as the walls were once plastered but its loss reveals the sturdy stone and wood structure beneath. The fort’s water supply lies outside the walls which was the reason the besieged British soldiers, here in 1895 had to face considerable problems.
The Royal Fort Chitral has a rich past. Among some major invasions of the fort are the adventures of invaders from across Lowari Pass, to the south. In 1895, when there was a coup costing the life of the Mehtar Nizam ul Mulk, and his half brother Amir ul Mulk seizing the Chitral fort, Amir ul Mulk’s sister was married to Umra Khan, A local Chief of Dir & Bajaur. Umra Khan had come across the 3200m Lowari pass and siezed the Drosh Fort. Also, Umra Khan assisted Sher Afzal (who claimed to be the Mehtar), who during his conquests after Bajaur and Dir made an excursion to Chitral and held the Chitral fort under siege from 3rd March till 19th April 1895. British Political Agent at Gilgit, Major George Robertson was sent to Chitral by the government, with 400 escorts, to report about the situation. British Garrison at Chitral Fort held out until the approach of a small force under Colonel Kelly, which caused the invaders to withdraw as a result Umra Khan fled to Afghanistan and Sher Afzal was imprisoned.
When we start from Chitral towards the extreme south, the Lowari Pass, there are many forts that can still be witnessed in the original shape. Umra Khan, a known name in the history of Chitral, who advanced to Chitral from the south of Lowari Pass had constructed forts in many villages, including Drosh. The fort at Drosh, the most important town in lower Chitral, was of crucial influence in the early stages of the crisis. It was a strong fort for the area, with six towers, and stood on a cliff above the Chitral River. As stated by a British writer, shortly after Umra Khan crossed the Lowari pass in January 1895, he laid siege to the fort. Its commander turned out to be a supporter of Sher Afzal, a claimant to the throne of Chitral who was allied to Umra Khan. The fort was surrendered without a fight, the enemy gaining an arsenal of 200 rifles in the process. When the siege at Chitral was over in late April, officers passing Drosh were astonished to find that Umra Khan had almost completed the construction of a second fort at Drosh, less than 200 m away from the old fort. A photograph taken at the time shows the two forts, the nearer one built by Umra Khan having wider tops to its towers, in the style of south of the Lowari. During the summer of 1895, the old fort was developed by the British as a commissariat base for the forces in Chitral. In order to build storage within the fort, Umra Khan’s new fort was pulled down, so that its timbers could be reused. Low’s Sappers and Miners also built a new covered way to the river for the old fort. By the time that they made Ii plan of Drosh in late summer, Umra Khan’s fort was shown as ruins. Today, the base of the old fort is the site of a school and this is sometimes mistakenly caned Umra Khan’s fort, for there is no trace of the remains of the fort that he actually built. To the fact that Umra Khan could build such a fort in three months says a lot for the timber and stone method of construction; it was quick and could readily reuse materials from other buildings. Timbers last well in the dry atmosphere of Chitral and many forts in the area were rebuilt in the first half of this century. They are just as interesting as older structures, for they represent a long tradition.