Love and elopement in northern Pakistan


Centre of South Asian Studies, Laundress Lane, Cambridge CB2 1SD, UK.


This article focuses on conceptions of romantic love held by Khowar-speaking Muslim people in the Chitral region of northern Pakistan. It shows the ways in which romantic love in Chitral is expressed through a local poetic genre that has its cultural roots in Persian Sufi poetry. This body of literature is cherished by Chitralis, and now engaged in an interaction with very different images of romance emerging from an ‘alternative’ site of Asian modernity: the Bollywood film. Romantic love in Chitral is not only confined to a fantasy-like realm of poetic discourse, however; elopement marriages are also a regular feature of Chitrali life. These marriages a source not only of considerable anxiety but also of open reflection by Chitralis, and this article seeks to document the range of insights this open reflection furnishes into the changing shape of Chitral society today.