The Dazzling Darel valley
Visits 206
Visits 206
Visits 206
August 19, 2011
While traveling on Silk route, the Karakorum Highway, one comes across many dazzling valleys. One such beautiful valley is Darel, situated south west of Chilas in Gilgit-Baltistan. A jeep track road from Shatial, a small town noted for Buddhist rock carvings, leads to Darel. One has to cross the bridge which is constructed over Indus river to enter Darel. While crossing the bridge one can see across the river gold washers called maruts busy searching gold from the waters of Indus. Prior to construction of bridges, maruts also acted as ferrymen, crossing the river by skin rafts. These days, they settle at the banks of Indus where they work.
Entering Darel, one has to pass through many thickly populated villages before reaching Gumari, headquarters of the tehsil. The first village that welcomes the visitor is Gayal tucked in the rugged mountains of Hindukush. The village is noted in the valley for its wooden houses. Almost every household in the village carries an intricate carving -- indicating the social position and status of the owner in the community. However, the door frames of the dwellings are ornately carved.
An old wooden mosque also dots the landscape of the village. This mosque is a great specimen of wooden architecture and a blend of local and foreign elements. Arcade facade of the mosque carries interesting schemes of floral designs. According to Ghaffar Khan of Manikyala, the Gayal village is believed to have been founded some three centuries back. The old village was situated some seven kilometres from Gayal village inside the GayalNala (side-valley) by the name of Lolo Kot. The ruins of the Lolo kot can still be seen spreading over a large area. The ruins of a fort and a graveyard still exist in the deserted village of Lolo Kot. The inhabitants of Lolo kot were non-Muslims and converted to Islam by some learned men from Swat. The first wooden mosque was commissioned by these learned people from Swat. Later on, when the inhabitants left Lolo kot and settled in Gayal they also brought the pillars and other architectural elements to re-use these at Gayal mosque.
The second village that one passes after Gayal is Phuguch situated on Darelriver. There also exists a wooden mosque in the village that dates back to eighteenth century. The mosque is profusely decorated with floral and geometric designs. The pillars of the mosque are lavishly adorned with floral and geometric designs.
The front of the mosque is an open space with a wooden platform for Jirga. There is a tradition among Darelis to erect wooden platforms, either near the mosque or on the bank of the river. These wooden platforms are given special attention as far as decoration is concerned. One of the most splendid platforms in Darel is located in Manikyala Pain. The distinctive feature of the platform is ornamentation.

Phuguch village is also famous for its ancient Buddhist University remains. The ruins of the Buddhist University are perched on a hill which is situated just before the Phuguch village. The surviving walls of the university are conspicuous from the distance.

Darel abounds in sites of historical and archaeological significance. Almost every village boasts of a wooden mosque. However, those at Gayal, Phuguch, Somigal, Manikyala Bala, Manikyala Pain, and Yeshoot are noted for their decorations. Apart from ancient mosques, there are remains of forts located in some villages of Darel. Of these the destroyed fort of Gumari is worth-mentioning. This fort is believed to have been built by PakhtunWali Khan who ruled over Darel, Tangir, Harban, Sazin and Shatial. He belonged to Khushwaqte, the ruling family of Yasin, a branch of the dynasty of Chitral. The British called Indus valley below Chilas and its tributary valleys like DarelTangir, Kandia and many smaller communities Yaghestan 'land of free.' PaktunWali Khan ruled the roost here and exploited the rich resources of Tangir and Darel.

PakhtunWali is said to have built a number of mosques and forts in his dominion which are located in many villages and towns of Darel, Khanbari, Sazin, Harban and Tangir. The fort that he is supposed to have built in Gumari, Darel is now in ruins reminding the visitors the past glory of the ruined city.

Nowhere in the Northern Areas is there such large number of forests as is in Darel. Lower Darel which consists of villages of Gayal, Phuguch,SomigalBala, Somigal Pain, etc. are not very densely forested while upper Darel which comprises the villages of Manikyala Bala, Manikyala Pain, Padyal, Yeshootetc have heavy forests. Lower Darel does not receive snowfall in the winter whereas the upper Darel does receive heavy snowfall. As snowfall begins in upper Darel, its communication with lower Darel is disrupted and people are confined to their houses for weeks. People begin storing vegetables and meat before the winter season approaches. During this period, people use dry vegetable and meat. Locally, dry meat is known as Goshti or Nasalo. In order to store the meat, Darelis slaughter their livestock before December 21 after which the Valley receives heavy snowfall disrupting the communication with outer world completely. It is really hard to eat this dry meat but Darelis enjoy devouring it.

In order to reduce the shortage of silage the Darelis store the fodder for their animals before the winter sets in. They place the grass and haystack over the chopped branches of the trees. It is really amazing to see the haystack placed over trees in almost every village in upper Darel.

Darelis spend most of their time in taking care of the animals. Mostly unmarried young boys are responsible for grazing the livestock. They take their animals to various high pastures in KoNala (side-valley), Khanbari, KalNala, BiareeNala, JoolNala, ChilaNala, LattiGah, GirorGah, BachhayGah, Koto Gah and Ishkobar in the month of May and stay with their animals for whole five months and return back by the end of October.

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