The Katoor Dynasty (also spelled Katur and Kator) and its collateral branches ruled the ancient Kingdom of Chitral and its neighbours in the Eastern Hindukush Region for over four hundred fifty years. At the height of their power under Mehtar Aman-ul-Mulk (mehtar in Khowar means king) the territory controlled by the Mehtar of Chitral extended from Asmar in the Kunar Valley to Sher Qilla in the Gilgit Valley. The Mehtar of Chitral was an influential player in the power politics of the region as they acted as intermediaries between the Princes of Badakhshan, the Yousafzai Pashtuns, the Maharaja of Kashmir and later the Emirate of Afghanistan. The Katoor Mehtars also paid tribute to the Qing Dynasty of China until the mid-19th century. Their economy largely relied upon the extraction of duties upon caravans travelling from Bokhara, Kashgar and Yarkand to the Punjab region. The Mehtars were also highly involved in the Central Asian Slave Trade. Following the Chitral Expedition of 1895, Chitral became a Princely State of the British Indian Empire. For the history of the Dynasty from 1895 onwards, refer to State of Chitral.
The Katoor Dynasty and its other branch, the Khushwaqt Dynasty, descend from a prince from Khorassan (the region between Merv, Mashhad and Herat) named Ayub Mirza, Baba Hib-e-Sarmast. He was a son of Faridun Husayn Mirza, a son of Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqarah, Padishah of Greater Khorasan. According to family tradition Ayub Mirza was a cousin of Mughal emperor Babur, both being Chaghatái descendants of Tamerlane and Genghis Khan.
Baba Ayub Mirza is said to have arrived in Chitral, married the daughter of the ruler Shah Raees, a supposed descendant of Alexander the Great. The grandson of this marriage founded the present dynasty.
The name Katoor is an ancient one and has been in use long before the ancestor of the Katoors settled in Chitral in 1520. Theories include that it was a Kushan title of nobility. Katoor also means dragon in the archaic Bashgali dialect of Nuristani. The title of Shah Katoor was given to Mohtaram Shah, the first ruler of the house, by a local holy man who claimed that his bravery and integrity were reminiscent of the pre-Islamic Katoor rulers of the region.
When the Dynasty was first founded by Shah Katoor I his domains included lower Chitral, the Kunar Valley down to Bar Kunar, the Lot-Kuh Valley and the Torkho and Mulkho regions of Upper Chitral. Under Shah Katoor II, Mastuj and the Yasin Valley also came under Katoor domination, though very briefly as the Khushwaqt rulers (also descended from Baba Ayub) retook these regions within years. The Kati and Kom tribes of Kafiristan (now Nuristan) were tributary to the Mehtar of Chitral until 1895. The tribes of Dir Kohistan and Swat Kohistan (Kalam) also paid a yearly tribute to the Mehtar. Shah Katoor III invaded Wakhan in retaliation for a raid on Chitral from Wakhan and forced the Mir of Wakhan to pay tribute. In 1876, Mehtar Shah Aman-ul-Mulk conquered the Ghizer Valley (Excluding Yasin) and Puniyal and laid siege to the Dogra Garrison of the Maharaja of Kashmir in the Gilgit Fort. During this time the tribes of Darel, Tangir and Kandia and the State of Nagar paid tribute to the Mehtar of Chitral. The Katoor Kingdom of Chitral reached its territorial peak under Mehtar Shah Aman-ul-Mulk, when the Khushwaqt territories of Ghizer, Yasin and Ishkoman were conquered in 1880.
The rulers of the Kator dynasty with the date of their accession:
- Khan, Hussain (1996) Proceedings of the Second International Hindukush Cultural conference p. 135
- Faizi, Inyatullah (1996) Wakhan, A Window Into Central Asia p. 50
- Ghufran, Mirza Tareekh-e-Chitral