Baluch people

Total population
Approximately 10 million
Regions with significant populations
 Pakistan approx 6,900,000 (2013)[1]
 Iran 1,557,000[2]
 Afghanistan 300,000 (2009)[3]
 Oman 434,000 (2009)[4][5][6]
 United Arab Emirates 100,000 [7]
 India 60,000 [8]
 Turkmenistan 30,000 [9]
Brahui, Persian, Urdu and Arabic are also spoken depending on area of residence.
Predominantly Islam
Related ethnic groups
Other Iranian people

The Baloch or Baluch (Balochi: بلوچ) are an Iranic ethnic group who are native to the Balochistan region in the Iranian plateau in Southwest Asia.

The Baloch people mainly speak Balochi language which itself is a branch of the Iranian languages, and more specifically of the Northwestern Iranian languages. The Baloch-speaking population worldwide is estimated to be in the range of 10 to 15 million. They make up 2% of Iran's population (1.5 million), there are many Baloch living in other parts of the world, with the bulk living in the GCC countries of the Persian Gulf. However, the exact number of Baloch and those who are or claim to be of Baloch ancestry is difficult to determine.

Baloch groups in Punjab speak the Seraiki language. The Brahui, having lived in proximity to the Baloch, have absorbed substantial linguistic and genetic admixture from the Baloch and in many cases are indistinguishable. Despite very few cultural differences from the Baloch, the Brahui are still regarded as a separate group on account of language difference.

About 60% percent of the Baloch live in East Balochistan, a western province of Pakistan.[10] Around 25% percent inhabit the eastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan Province in the Islamic Republic of Iran, 35 to 40% Pakistani Sindhis claim Baloch ancestry and are settled in Sindh and also a significant number of Baloch people in South Punjab of Pakistan. Many of the rest live in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, India, United Arab Emirates and in some parts of Africa, namely Kenya, and Tanzania (Tabora has a large community). Small communities of Baluch people also live in Europe particularly Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England and in Perth, Australia, where they arrived in the 19th century.


Historically, the Baloch are from Aleppo, Syria, and descendants of the legendary King Nimrod of Babylon. In 485 AD, once again, they had to move following the invasion of Iran by the White Huns, and transited all the way to Central Iran and again in the 12th century AD to southeastern Iran settling down in Seistan, Kirman and parts of Khorasan. They seeped into the neighbouring Balochistan and southeastern Afghanistan due to proximity. In this giant human whirlpool they linked up with the equally nettlesome Jats of Indian origin, who had settled in and around Kirman and Balochistan-Seistan. This belligerent twosome soon outlived their hospitality and in the 15th century AD had to move again for safer and more remote territories where they could pursue their favourite pastime. This time they moved to Mekran and the Central Kalat highlands. Basically, they were looking for a parched territory that attracted no imperial attention due to its non-productivity and ungovernability.[11]

They settled down in Mekran and began to maraud up and astride the Indus River into Sind, Punjab and the present day Balochistan. Between the Indus River and Iranian Seistan they chanced upon an ideal terrain for their kind of nomadic, predatory lifestyle. It was a vast and barren tract of treeless desert and bare mountains stretching thousands of kilometres from Mekran to Kandahar and west of the Indus River to Seistan and Herat.

They consistently place their first settlement in Aleppo, where they remained until, siding the sons of Ali and taking part in the Battle of Karbala, they were expelled by Yazid, the second of the Umayyad Caliphs, in 680 AD. Thence they first went to Kerman, and eventually to Sistan where they were hospitably received by Shams-ud-Din, ruler of that country. According to Dames there was a Shams-ud-Din, independent Malik of Sistan, who claimed descent from the Saffarids of Persia who died in 1164 AD (559 AH) or nearly 500 years after the Baloch migration from Aleppo. Badr-ud-Din appears to be unknown to history. His successor, Badr-ud-Din, demanded, according to eastern usage, a bride from each of the 44 bolaks or clans of the Baloch. But the Baloch race had never yet been tribute in this form to any ruler, and they sent therefore 44 boys dressed in girls' clothes and fled before the deception could be discovered. Badr-ud-Din sent the boys back but pursued the Baloch, who had fled south-eastwards, into Kech-Makran where he was defeated at their hands. At this period Mir Jalal Khan, son of Mir Jiand the first, was the ruler of all the Baloch. He left four sons, Rind, Lashar, Hooth, and Korai, and a daughter Jato, who married his nephew Murad. These five are the eponymous founders of the five great divisions of the tribe, the Rinds, Lasharis, Hooths, Korais,Kubras and Jatois.[12]


Maka is mentioned by Greek historian Herodotus as one of the early satraps of Cyrus the Great, who successfully united several ancient Iranian tribes to create an empire.[13][14] In the Behistun Inscription, Darius the Great mentions Maka as one of his eastern territories.[15] Darius is recorded to have personally led his elite forces, whose ranks were restricted to those with Persian, Mede or Elamite ancestry, to fight the invading Scythians of Asia[16] and then led the conquests in South Asia,[17][18][19] where he conquered Sindh in 519 BC, constituted it as his 20th Satrapy, and made use of the oceans there.[20][21] Darius wanted to know more about Asia, according to Herodotus; he also wished to know where the "Indus (which is the only river save one that produces crocodiles) emptied itself into the sea".[22]

The present region of Makran, which is inhabited by Baluch people, derived its name from the word "Maka". The Babylonians made voyages using Maka to communicate with India.[23] Maka communicated with Euphrates, Tigris and Indus valley; objects from the Harappan culture have been found in modern-day Oman, other archaeology suggest that Maka was exporting copper. Herodotus mentions the inhabitants of Maka as "Mykians" who were previously involved in several conquests with Cyrus the Great. After the conquest of Egypt with Cambyses,[24] they went to Sindh in command of Darius I and took in army of Xerxes the great at the battle of Thermopylae, where they were equipped the same as Pactyans, Utians and Paricanians, the tribes adjacent to the Mykians. The word Maka later became Makran as it is common in closely related ancient Avestan and Old Persian languages to use "an" and "ran" at the end of plurals,[25] which then translates as "the land of Mykians". They are mentioned as "the men from Maka" in daeva inscriptions. The "daeva inscription" is one of the most important of all Achaemenid inscriptions; in the Baluchi language, dêw translates as "giant devil or monster".

Mykians were responsible for many inventions, such as qanats and underground drainage galleries that brought water from aquifers on the piedmont to gardens or palm groves on the plains. These inventions were important reasons behind the success of the Achaemenid Empire and survival of Mykians in their largely harsh natural environment. Other inscriptions record that gold, silver, lapis lazuli, turquise, cornalin, cedar wood, wood and the decoration for the relief at Susa were from Maka.[26] The Mykians of the other side of ancient Maka, the present-day region of Baluchistan and Sindh, had later taken independence because they are not mentioned in the book written by Arrian of Nicomedia about campaigns of Alexander the Great. He only mentions the Oman side of Maka which he calls "Maketa". The reasons for this may have been the arguably unjust rule of Xerxes.[27][27][28] they are not mentioned as one of the ancient Iranian tribes that Cyrus the Great and Darius I had fought with. Cyrus himself was of Persian and Median ancestry as his father was Cambyses I, who is believed to have married Mandane of Media, the daughter of Astyages, a Median king.[29]

Historical evidence suggests that Baluch people were the ancient inhabitants of the Maka satrapy in Achaemenid empire. Baluch inhabiting the coastal areas in the region of Makran Chabahar, Gwadar, Gulf Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain) and Arabian Sea Karachi and other parts of Sindh and tribes including the Jatoi, Mirani, Rind, Bizenjo, Brahui and Gabol are highly skilled in designing boats, fishing and other skills required to survive in their environment. Herodotus mentions that Darius had made use of the ocean in this region of Sindh. The Sulemani Baluch who inhabit the region of Balochistan including Makran—for example, tribes including the Marri, dasti or dashti Bugti, Buzdar, Lund, Ranjhani, Ahmedani, Mazari, Mengal, Nutkani, Jiskani, Laghari, Chandio, Muhammad Hassani, Nausherwani, MirJat, Rind, Bizenjo, Zehri, Dehwar, Changwani and others—carry different skills to survive in their mostly mountainous environment and have a history of aggressive behavior towards invasions. These tribes are not confined to one specific location as they also contain sub-tribes and can be found all over the region.

The origin of the word "Baluch" or "Baloch" is shrouded in controversy. According to an English researcher says that Baloch is a modified form of "Barlooch", which means "Plunderer" or "Desert Fighter".

Baluchi culture

Baluchi customs and traditions are conducted according to codes imposed by tribal laws. These strong traditions and cultural values are important to Baluch people and have enabled them to keep their distinctive ancient cultural identity and way of life with little change to this day. The culture and traditions of the Baluch have historically been passed down from mother to daughter, and from father to son.

Baluchi culture is mentioned in the Pir M. Zehi's account of his travel to the province of Sakestan, or the present-day Sistan province of Iran, which holds strong significance to the culture of Baluch people. Baluch people have preserved their traditional dress with little change over the centuries. The Baluch men wear long shirts with long sleeves and loose pants. The dress is occasionally accompanied by a pagh (turban) or a hat on their heads.

The Baluchi costume varies from Iran to Pakistan. Iran Baluch dress code is more conservative in sense of length and material. Some Baluch women in Iran also cover their faces with thick red color wools (Burqah) and wear a (Sareeg) which is the head scarf and (Chadar) which is a long veil.

The dress worn by Baluch women is one of the most interesting aspects of Baluchi culture. They are of strong significance to the culture of Iran and hold a special place in the society. The women put on loose dress and pants with sophisticated and colourful needlework, including a large pocket at the front of the dress to hold their accessories. The upper part of the dress and sleeves are also decorated with needlework, a form of artistry that is specific to the clothing of the Baluch women. Often the dress also contains round or square pieces of glass to further enhance the presentation. They cover their hair with a scarf, called a sarig in the local dialect.[30]

These customs are unique to the people of Iran and the art of this needlework on women's clothing may provide one with a picture of the freedom and high status of Baluch women in Achaemenid era.[31]

Gold ornaments such as necklaces and bracelets are an important aspect of Baluch women's traditions and among their most favoured items of jewellery are dorr, heavy earrings that are fastened to the head with gold chains so that the heavy weight will not cause harm to the ears. They usually wear a gold brooch (tasni) that is made by local jewellers in different shapes and sizes and is used to fasten the two parts of the dress together over the chest. In ancient times, especially during the pre-Islamic era, it was common for Baluch women to perform dances and sing folk songs at different events. The tradition of a Baluch mother singing lullabies to her children has played an important role in the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation since ancient times. Apart from the dressing style of the Baluch, indigenous and local traditions and customs are also of great importance to the Baluch.[32]

Baluch people are culturally and traditionally regarded as secular. However, Baluch people are a minority, and growing Islamic fundamentalism in the region is seen as a threat to Baluchi culture.

Baluchi music

Main article: Balochi music

Folk music has always played a great role in Baluchi traditions. Baluchi music belong to the same branch of Iranian music performed by many other Iranian peoples including Persians, Kurds, Lurs, Tajiks and others. Traditions like the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation by singing lullabies to children and praising warriors also have a significant role in Baluchi music traditions. The fact that both men and women participate in folk music reflects on the pre-Islamic significance of folk music in Baluchi culture. Many years of invasions, wars and later adopted religious values have prevented Balouchi music from prevailing further in the 21st century. However, a Swedish folk band, Golbang and Padik with the lead singer Rostam Mirlashari originally from Zahedan & Lashar in Balochistan, has made progress in introducing Balouchi folk music to the Western world. The most commonly used instruments in Balouchi folk music are tanbur, long-necked lutes. Lutes have been present in Mesopotamia since the Akkadian era, or the 3rd millennium BC. The dohol, a large cylindrical drum with two skin heads, is the principal accompaniment for the surna, an ancient Iranian woodwind instrument that dates back to the Achaemenid Dynasty (550-330 BC). The ney is also commonly played, using single or double flutes. The suroz, a Baluchi folk violin, which is considered as the official instrument of the Baluches. Other Baluchi musical instruments include the tar and the saz.


Main article: Baloch cuisine

Geographic distribution

The total population of ethnic Baluch people is estimated to be around 15 million worldwide. However, the exact number of those who are Baluch or claim to be of Baluch ancestry is difficult to determine. As of 2012, the Baluch are 7.11% of Pakistan's 177 million people

Baluch ancestry is also claimed in the neighboring areas that adjoin Baluch majority lands. Those who speak Brahui are known as Brahuis.[33] Many Baluch outside of Balochistan are also bilingual or of mixed ancestry due to their proximity to other ethnic groups, including the Sindhis, Saraikis and Pashtuns. A large number of Baluch have been migrating to or living in provinces adjacent to Balochistan for centuries. In addition, there are many Baluch living in other parts of the world, with the bulk living in the GCC countries of the Persian Gulf. The Baluch are an important community in Oman, where they make up a sizable minority.

Many Baloch over the years have migrated to Punjab for its lush green fertility and they can be found in large numbers in South Punjab, Central Punjab and in Lahore but most of them identify themselves now as Punjabis. There is a small population of Baluch in several Western countries such as Sweden and Australia. Some Baluch settled in Australia in the 19th century; some fourth-generation Baluch still live there, mainly in the western city of Perth.

Balochs in Oman

The Baluch in Oman have maintained their ethnic and linguistic distinctions. The Southern Baluch comprise approximately 22% of the country's population. The traditional economy of Baluch in Oman is based on a combination of trade, farming and semi-nomadic shepherding.[34]

Balochi language

The Balochi language is spoken in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf Arab states, Turkmenistan, and as far as East Africa and some Western countries. It is classified as a member of the Iranian group of the Indo-European language family, which includes Kurdish, Persian, Pashto, Dari, Tajik and Ossetian. The Baluchi language has the closest similarities to Kurdish, Avestan, old Persian and other Iranian languages.

Two main dialects are spoken in Sistan va Balochestan and Balochestan: Eastern and Western. The exact number of Baluch speakers is difficult to know, but the estimated number could be around 15 million. The majority speak Western Baluchi, which is also the dialect that has been most widely used in Baluchi literature. Within the Western dialect are two further dialects, Rakhshani and Nousherwani (spoken mainly in the northern areas) and Makurani (in the south).[35]

The Baluch have several tribes and sub-tribes. Some of these tribes speak Brahui, while most speak Balochi. Multilingualism is common, with many Baluch speaking both Brahui and Baluchi. The Rind Marri, Magsi, Domki and Bugti tribe speak Balochi. The Mengal tribe, who live in the Chagai, Khuzdar, Kharan districts of Balochistan. the sarpara tribe, who live in kardigap, Meskan Qalat/Kharan,Larkana, and they speak both Brahui and balochi, The Meskanzai (sarpara) tribe who live in the Meskan Qalat kharna, and Quetta, and they speak Balochi and Brahui. and in southern parts of Afghanistan, speak Brahui. The Muhammad Hasni tribe speak Brahui, Balochi and some other languages according to the area they are living. The Lango tribe, who live in central Balochistan in the Mangochar area, speak Brahui as their first language and Balochi as their second. The Bizenjo tribe speak both languages. The Bangulzai tribe mostly speaks Brahui, but has a Baluchi-speaking minority known as Garani.

The Mazari tribe, Jamali tribe, and Malkani family of Laghari tribe, widely speak Baluchi or both dialects as well as Sindhi language. The Malghani are part of the Nutkani tribe, which is the largest tribe in the Tehsil. The Talpur, Mastoi(sub-tribe of Rind), Jatoi, Wahocha, Gabol, Chandio, Mirani, Nutkani, Ahmedani, Jagirani, Marri, Magsi, Domki, Khosa, Bozdar, Jiskani, Bijarani, Hesbani, Magsi, Leghari, Lashari, Muhammad Hasni, Kalpar, Korai, Zardari, Rind, Bhurgri or Bhurgari, MirJat, Jakhrani, Sarki and other Baluch tribes that are settled in Sindh speak Sindhi, Baluchi and Seraiki. The Gadi and Qaisrani Baluch living near Taunsa Sharif in the Punjab province of Pakistan speak Seraiki and Baluchi, while their clansmen living in Dera Ghazi Khan tribal areas speak Baluchi. The Lund Baluch living in Shadan Lund speak Sindhi, Seraiki and Baluchi. The Leghari, Lashari, Dasti, Soomrani, Pitafi, Korai, and Kanera khel descendant from Azam Khel clan of Lashari Baluch in the Dera Ismail Khan and Mianwali districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa speak Seraiki as their first language. The Tauqi Baluch in the Khara, Noshki, Chaghai and Washuk districts of Balochistan can speak both Baluchi and Brahui, but their primary language is Baluchi. The Buzdar is one of the largest tribes of Baluch in southern Punjab, living in the Koh-e-Suleman range tribes speak Seraiki and Baluchi. Changwani Baluch with lands in Chotti Zaren speak Seraiki and Baluchi.

See also


External links

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