ORIGIN OF BALTIS

By on April 25, 2014
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Vigne is of the view that Baltis seem to be a race of Tartar origin and their physiognomy partakes of an admixture of the Mongolian or Tartar, and the more noble features of the India or Persian races which originally met from the north and the south upon the banks of the Indus.

It is generally said that Tibetans from Ladakh side came to Khaplu via Nobra and Mongolians from Yarkand came to Khaplu via Kondus valley. Cunningham places the Bhotis of Ladakh as an off-shoot of the Great Mongolians race. He says:

“The Botis or Bhotiyas, are usually considered as a distinct race of people, chiefly I believe on account of their peculiar language. Regarding their origin, therefore, nothing but a conjecture can be hazarded. Judging from their language and features, which have much in common with those of the Chinese, the Botis must be pronounced to be an off-shoot of the Great Mongolian race; and all differences both physical and moral, may be easily accounted for by the severe cold and extreme dryness of the Tibetan climate, and by the former intimate connection of the people with the Caucasian Hindus of India for many centuries during the flourishing period of Buddhism.

Of the physical characteristics of the Botis, little has been made known beyond the facts that they have “a strong marked Tartarian or Mongolian countenance, and that they are superior both in vigor of body and in stature to the other Mongolian race of Kalmaks and Tungusis.” Their peculiarly Tartarian physiognomy must be considered as a presumptive proof of their Mongolian origin”.

It is generally said that Mongolians came into Shigar from Yarkand via Mustagh pass and inhabited Braldo Valley while Aryans from Hunza and Nagar came to Basha and settled there.

All Sher Khan Anchan and Shah Murad brought ‘Dards’ (Aryans) prisoners of war from conquering expeditions and settled them in Baltistan. Durand has made a through study of the ‘Dard’ and has proved conclusively that they were Aryans. He is of the view that the Baltis are of Tibetan race. He writes:

 

“The Baltis of today are quiet inoffensive race, though in old days they were ruled by adventurous kings, who carried their conquering arms as far as Gilgit and Astore. They resemble the Tibetans in appearance, and are for the most part flat-faced and short of stature, though the mixture of Dogra and Kashmiri blood is often noticeable. This is attributable to the lax morality of the women, a casual alliance with outside strangers being apparently looked upon as an honor”.

According to Drew, Dogras, Paharis, Chabhalis, Kashmiris and Dards are Aryans while Baltis, Laddakhis and Champas are Tibetans.

The Dards were driven from their homes either by want, or oppression and they inhabited a narrow part of the Indus valley, which lies about half-way between Skardu and Leh. The following places – villages and hamlets – were inhabited by the Buddhist Dards: Grugurd, Sanacha, Uruds, Darchik, Garkon, Dah, Phindur, Baldes, Hanu, Lower and Upper.

The Dards reached Rondu and Basho. At Rondu they are nearly equal to Baltis while at Basho they are about half and half. Wherever the Dards came in contact with Baltis or with Bhots, they were called Brokpa or Blokpa by them. The word Brok or Blok means in Tibetan a high pasture-ground and Brokpa or Blokpa must mean a ‘high-lander’. The origin of this word seems to be that the Dards first came in contact with the Baltis by coming over the passes and settling in the higher parts of the valleys which perhaps had been left unoccupied.

Drew says that Baltis are of the Tibetan race and they undoubtedly came originally from the south-east and east, where now live the great mass of the Tibetans, and in their migrations, the most westerly point they reached was Rondu. According to him “ the Baltis have part of the Turanian Physiognomy marked. The high cheek-bones are generally noticeable, and the eyes drawn out at the corners. Their eye-brows are often brought near each other with a wrinkling of the brow; but the noses not so often has the depressed form as it has with Bhots, nor are the Baltis quite as scantily bearded as these are. The Baltis have disused the pigtail, and they partly follow the Mohammedan custom of shaving the head, only they leave long side-locks growing from behind the temples, which are sometimes lank, sometimes thick and curly, and sometimes plaited”.

Drew has mentioned that it would be interesting to trace whether any of those Baltis who went for work to Simla and elsewhere in the former British country i.e. undivided India, will stay there permanently or return to their homes. It may be recorded that Baltis settled in the hill-stations of Bharat especially in Simla where they numbered more than ten thousand. Free from the tyranny and high-handedness of the Dogra officials, many of them prospered and attained high social status. In this connection the instances of Khan Bahadur Mirza Badaruddin and Khan Bahadur Syed Mehdi Ali Shah can be quoted. Their fathers migrated from Shigar and settled in Simla where they acquired immense wealth and prosperity. Both Mirza Badruddin and Syed Mehdi Ali Shah were awarded the title of Khan Bahadur by the then British Government. Khan Bahadur Syed Mehdi Ali Shah was elected vice President of the Simla Municipality as well. Khan Bahadur Mirza Badruddin and, his brother Mirza Hussain Abbas took part in the Pakistan movement, the latter being the Secretary of the Simla Branch Muslim league till the partition day. Mr. Naseeb Ali and Mr. Shukur Ali of Shigar and Mr. Abdus Salam of Khaplu were big contractors. When Pakistan came into being, Baltis migrated to Pakistan, and settled in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi etc. etc.

The Imperial Gazetteer of India has the following words to say about the Baltis:

“The Baltis are of the same stock as the Ladakhis.

They have Mongolian features, high cheek bones, and eyed drawn out at the corners, but the nose is not as depressed as is the case with Bhotis of Ladakh”.

Knight is also of the view that the Baltis are of Mongolian stock somewhat resembling the Ladakhis, but having an admixture of Aryan blood, due to considerable inter marriage between them and the Astoris, Gilgitis and others of the so-called Dard race. Skull-caps are worn by Balti men, the top of the head is shaven, but the long black hairs hang down over either cheek in wild, curling elf-locks. The women are of fairer complexion and could be described as pretty.

Neve is of the opinion that majority of the Baltis are of Tibetan origin and that the upper classes are distinctly Aryans.

According to Fosco Maraini “from the point of view of physical appearance, the 150,000 inhabitants of this region clearly belong to the ‘Europiod group’. He says that “Ujfalvy, in 1881, was the first to publish a series of anthropological measurements which were later followed up and confirmed by Giotto Dainelli (1913) and Gino Allergi (1929). According to him the Balti people possess a dolichocephalism cranium, smooth black hair, chestnut-colored eyes without the Mongol slant to them, and a middling stature – all characteristics which safely permit of their classification under the Indo-Afghan type (Allegri-Biasuttin). One porter from Khaplu who had blue eyes and a light skin appeared to be of pure Nordic breed to Fosco Maraini and another Balti of black complexion appeared Negro to him. Another seemed to be of Mongol Negro type to him. I am afraid that exceptions do not make rule. Persons of white and black colors can be found in one particular area through out the world, A white complexioned Balti cannot be an European and a dark skinned balti cannot become a Negro. Therefore, one cannot subscribe to the view of Fosco Maraini that Baltis belong to “Eoropoid group”.

According to Allama Iqbal the Tatars are composed of the following sub-racial groups:

 

  1. Central Asian Tatars
  2. Mongolians (Kashghari and Tibetans)
  3. Chinese Muslims
  4. Ottoman Turks.

Biddulph is also of the view that Baltis are of Tatar blood. He is supported by Vigne who says that Baltis seem to be an admixture of Mongolian or Tartar origin.

From the above account, it is clear that over-whelming majority of Baltis are Tartars of the great Mongolian group. Some of the Dards who came to Baltistan via Rondu valley and into Basha from Hunza and Nagar are Aryans.

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