Gojal

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The Batura glacier, one of the longest outside the Polar region, is in Gojal.
Terraces in Gojal

Gojal (Urdu: وادی گوجال‎), also known as Upper Hunza [1], is a valley situated in the far north of Pakistan. It borders Pakistan and China at Khunjerab Pass and Afghanistan at Chipurson valley. It is the largest tehsil of the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan.

Gojal is a series of large and small valleys sharing borders with Hunza in the south, China in the north-east and Afghanistan in the north-west. Shishkat is the first village of Gojal. Except for the Shimshal, Misgar and Chipursan valleys, all the villages of Gojal can be seen from the Karakorum Highway (KKH), which crosses Gojal, entering China at the Khunjerab Pass. Gojal region has 20,000 Ismaili residents.[2]

History[edit]

The valleys and villages of Gojal were settled over time by people from surrounding regions. Kirghiz nomads initially used the areas in upper Gojal as winter pastures. Wakhis migrated from Wakhan to this region, the Yishkuk (Chipursun) valley, the Avgarch area of Gircha and Sost villages were settled in the upper Gojal while in the lower Gojal Hussaini [ur] is considered ancient settlement. When Hunza was under the Central Government of Gilgit the Ishkook settlement was wealthy and paid cattle and other dairy products to the Raja of Gilgit. As Hunza emerged as an independent state during the early 15th century so it can be inferred that different valleys in upper Gojal were inhabited by the Wakhi speaking migrants prior to the emergence of the Hunza state. Later, the oral history holds, a catastrophic flood destroyed the Ishkook settlement during the 18th century.

Since 2010, parts of the valley have been inundated by the 27 km long Attabad Lake

Shishkat[edit]

Shishkat Gojal is also known as Nazimabad Shishkat is the first village of Goj al when crossing Central Hunza. Total population of the village is 2160 individuals living within 220 households. This is dominantly a Burushaski speaking village however people of Wakhi and Domaaki ethnic group also inhibit the village. The village was settled down in 1903 during the reign of Mir Nazim Khan. Before this the barren lands were used as grazing land of Gulmit village. Some Wakhi households from Gulmit also permanently settled down in Shishkat while the Burushaski and Domaaki people migrated from Central Hunza. The village also has historical significance because this was the battle ground between Wakhi population above Gulmit and the state of Nagar and Hunza.

Gulmit - The Tehsil Headquarters[edit]

Gulmit is the administrative headquarters of the Gojal Tehsil, in the upper Hunza region. Gulmit is a centuries-old historic town, with mountains, peaks and glaciers. It is a tourist spot and has many hotels, shops and a museum. It is located 2,408 meters (7,900 feet) above the sea level. Gulmit consists of small hamlets called Kamaris, Odver, Dalgiram, Laksh, Kalha, Shawaran, Khor Lakhsh, Chamangul and Goze. Gulmit is home to around 4,000 people, all of them Wakhi-speakers and followers of the Ismaili school of thought of Shia Islam.

A view of Gulmit during autumn season

Before 1974, when Hunza was a state, Gulmit used to be the Summer Capital of the state. After the abolition of the state it became the Tehsil's seat of government. The oldest intact house in Gulmit is more than six centuries old.

There are six Jama'at Khana or religious community centres in Gulmit. One notices their presence in every ward of the village. The old Summer Palace of Mir of Hunza stands at the northern edge of Gulmit's historic Polo Ground. Old mosques, now used as libraries, also adorn the beautiful physique of Gulmit valley.

Among new buildings constructed by the government in Gulmit are Tehsil Headquarters, Federal Government's Boys High School, Civil Hospital, Diamond Jubilee Girls Middle School and Government Girls Higher Secondary School.

Al- Amyn Model School, a community-based organization, has a beautiful building standing next to the Health Center of Aga Khan Health Services.

Settlement of Passu[edit]

Passu is located with 125 km from Gilgit on the KKH near the border of China and is surrounded by the mountains of the Karakoram range. Its neighbourhood also includes two large glaciers: Batura and Passu Glacier. It is one of the most dangerous places to live in due to the continuous threat of floods and has been flooded four times in the past. Passu is also one of the most ancient villages in the area. According to Archeologists, the first human settlement in the area dates back to 3000BC or 5000BC. There are many ancient rock carvings of ibex and zebra on several rocks, showing that ibexes have been around in the valley for many millennia, but the area no longer houses zebras. the only other wildlife here are snow leopards and yaks. In the second settlement era, Chinese Buddhists lived here. The buddhists of Gandahara, Swat, Gilgit, and Passu travelled from via this valley to go to China. Records of this settlement and subsequent migration are found in Karga Gilgit and Khurramabad Passu. The third settlement in the history of this valley is the Islamic era. Islam came to this area in the ninth century when Arab soldiers and traders ventured to these parts of the world. Quranic verses were etched in the mountains around the valley during this era. The fourth era was also Islamic, which was settled here in the 18th century. This time, the area boasted a vibrant populace of 315 families. However, this village was destroyed by natural disaster with a landslide and the nearby river was blocked. Only a few families remained safe by the landslide. This village was destroyed once again in 1964 when the population was forced into migration by the flooding of the Shimshal river and erosion around the river bank. This time around too, the village had some 300 houses. The majority of Passu's native population recognises its ancestor as a man named Quli, who had come from Wakhan in the 15th century. In his memory, the people of Passu are also known as Quli-kuts or kutor . The quli-kuts tribe has also inhabited Karimabad, Murtazabad and many other villages of central Hunza. The quli-kuts in central Hunza later adopted the Burushu way of life and now speak the Burushaski language. Most of the families migrated to chapurson and Khyber. Among the current inhabitants of Passu are seven families: the Alvi, Mughani, Dinali, Sakhi, Quba, and Hadab. The latest figures put the population of Passu around 1000.

Ghulkin Gojal[edit]

Ghulkin Village is located in Gojal, upper Hunza. It is reached by following the Karakoram Highway (KKH)

140 km north of Gilgit. This trip takes 3–4 hours by van. From a turn-off just beyond Gulmit, a winding jeep track leads upwards for 3 km, until the ground flattens out and the first houses of the village come into view.

Ghulkin Glacier

Ghulkin occupies the site of an old glacier fed lake, which has been silted up by continuous sedimentation. Many of the 140 traditional dwellings that constitute Ghulkin village are arranged in a circular form, facing the one-time shores of the lake, creating a wonderfully communal atmosphere. The central area now supports several dwellings and fields, including a strip of land often used as a cricket pitch.

There is no accurate historical record of the origin of the village, though it is estimated to be around 700 years old. According to local folklore, there were settlements here while the lake was still in existence, this area being used as pastureland in summer. The name is derived from two words of the local Wakhi dialect, 'Ghulk', meaning 'well' and 'kin', meaning 'whose'. Being an area of low rainfall, the most vital requirement is water for irrigation, livestock, drinking and domestic use. Khawaja Ahmed, and Ismaili Muslim who came here with the Mir of Hunza, asked him for land. After the Mir agreed, Khawaja Ahmed mobilised the people of the area to construct a water-channel to irrigate the land. This made cultivation possible and the Ismaili settlement flourished. Now small scale health and educational institutions, electricity and water-sully facilities are available in the village. Through the involvement of capacity-building NGOs, there is also a handicraft production centre and opportunities for other vocational training. The Jama'at Khana, the central religious institution for all Ismaili Muslims, holds a strong position in the community. Apart from its religious functions, it provides a central location for community meetings, festivals, celebrations, resolution of disputes and other community activity. In Upper Hunza, winters are long and can become bitterly cold. Snowfall brings with it the Siberian ibex, descending in search of grass under the snow cover. Summers are hot in the north, though more pleasant than the harsh temperatures in summer are around 30 °C. In winter the temperature remains below freezing point, further dropping at night

Hussaini[edit]

Hussaini village on Attabad Lake

Hussaini [ur] village is one of the oldest settlements of Wakhi people in the Gojal valley. Hussaini is surrounded by the Hussaini Glacier and the Khunjarav River and the Karakorum Highway passes through the middle of the village.

People: The residents of Hussaini are ethnically Wakhi and speak Xikwor or Wakhi language.

Religion: The people of Hussaini like all other people in Gojal are followers of the Ismaili school of thought in Islam. Tourist Attractions: Hussaini Suspension Bridge, Borith Lake, Zarabod and Sultan e Shahtalib (decades old shrine of a saint) are famous tourist attractions of the Hussaini village of Gojal valley.

Avgarch[edit]

One of the oldest strong hold of Wakhis against Kirghiz and other invaders is located in valley starting at Murkhun. There are two forts namely Pasth Qlha and Wuch Qlha, an Ismaili mosque and Watch towers in Avgarch. These historic sites are still in use. Baba Sufi is considered one of the first to settle in Gojal along with his wife. He settled by the spring of Gircha but abandoned it from the fear of looters, his clan later kept using Gircha as a fertile land and took the crops back to Avgarch. The settler of Shimshal Mamu Singh also went through Avgarch and Qorun Pass. Legends say his wife was also from Avegarch. Later Mir Silum Khan of Hunza convinced people to settle Gircha and use Avgarch for one season. During the invasion of the British the people from all lower Gojal and Hunza, took shelter in Avgarch. Later British came to Avgarch and asked people to go back to their home with assured safety.

Avgarch is one a tourist attraction with 1.5 hour hike from KKH, She offers beautiful pastures and hamlets, glaciers and peaks, yosinband, Old graves of Kirghiz, oldest Juniper tree of Hunza the Baltar Yarz, Boibar valley, Priyar and famous Qorun pass.

Gircha[edit]

A spring village, by the KKH is one of the first settled land in Hunza. Settled by Wakhi legend Bobo e Sufi, his generation used this land to just to grow crops for long, then a fort was built in Gircha which became the centre of political activities for Mirs, sarai for travelers/explorers and Ismaili Missionaries. Gircha has a geographical significance as there are proofs that provide unique litho- and biofacies which has led to the term [3] Gircha has been flooded multiple times, woods etc can be seen in the sediments made visible by recent erosion. Flood from Dilboy stopped the Khunjerab River which eroded the old village and fort. People relocated the fort but the erosion continued and people had settle new villages nearby, namely; Sost, Nazimabad, Murkun, Jamalabad and Ghalapan.

Residents include Bobo Sufi clan, further divided into Rumi kutor, Posh kutor and Arbob kutor, some Wakhi later inhabited the place and are called khik kutor, in era of Mir Nazim Burushaski families were also settled.

Gircha remains a centre of interest for visitors around the world, there are various springs which run the villages activities, fossils, corals, sea shells, the oldest mosque and school of the region, historic houses, and traditions. The village is self sufficient due to its own electric power house, vocational center, the first and only veterinary and trout fish farm are also found in here.

Sost[edit]

Sost is the last border town of Pakistan which leads KKH to China through Khunjerab. Sost is the center of activities in upper Gojal with office of Assistant Magistrate, an established bazaar, dry port, customs and other official setups. Sost is also an old village, with a diverse population. An old house related to Bobo e Sufi is visitable, a Shrine of Saint Baba Sheikh Farid, brother of Shah Shams and Shah Talib is a place of interest for visitor. In 1985 a long tunnel was dug by locals with supervision of AKRSP to irrigate the pasture of Sost, which was named Hussainabad.

Geography[edit]

The Karakoram Highway passing through Gojal in Pakistan.

Geographically Gojal is located between 70 latitude and 61 and is spread over an area of 8,500 km² of land, at an elevation ranging from 2,340m to 4,877m, above the sea level.

Gojal is a mountainous region forming the western part of the Karakoram and Eastern Pamir mountain range. This area also hosts the 56 km long Batura glacier the third longest of Pakistan (after Hispar and Biafo).

The region is home to lofty ice-capped peaks, roaring rivers, lush green pastures and long glaciers.

Villages[edit]

The main villages of this district include: Shishkat (now Nazeemabad also called Trapur), Gulmit, Ghulkin, Husseini (older names Sisoni/Ghusani), Borith, Passu, Shimshal, Khyber, Ghalapan, Morkhoon, Jamalabad, Gircha, Sost, Khudaabad, Misgar, Yarzerech, Raminj, Kirmin, Khill, Rasht, Shersabz, Ispenj, Shitmerg and Zoodkhoon.

Administration[edit]

Gulmit, the winter-capital of the then Hunza state until 1974, is the main town (tehsil headquarters) and seat of government, while Sost is the border check-post and gateway for Pakistan-China overland trade. The entire region is governed by bureaucrats, sitting in Gilgit. Law and order is supported by two police stations and a magistrate.

Poets[edit]

Gojal Valley is home to some amazing poets. Among the poets are Nazir Ahmad Bulbul, Saif uddin Saif, Rehmat Ullah Mushfiq, Afzal Karim and many more. Most of these poets write in Wakhi language.

Tourist sites[edit]

Shishkat[edit]

Shishkat is one of the beautiful place in Gojal, It is the first village that comes in the start of Gojal. Attabad lake is also attached with Shishat, basically Attabad lake is given name after disaster in 2007, many people of Attabad were killed so the lake which has come to form in Shishkat has named Attabad lake(In the remembrance of the peoples).It is famous for its cultural festival. People of Shishkat are also famous for their hospitality.

Lupghar Sar is 109th on the list of world tallest mountains. It is located in Shishkat valley of Hunza Gojal. It is part of the Momhail Sar cluster of mountains and has an elevation of 7,200 metres (23,622 ft) above sea level. In Wakhi language Lupghar Sar translates as "the top of the big rock".

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Gojal: Where Pakistan begins". pamirtimes.
  2. ^ https://simerg.com/2016/10/25/national-geographic-gojal-region-in-pakistan-where-20000-ismailis-live-is-nothing-like-youd-expect/
  3. ^ Gircha formation.

External links[edit]