Balūchī PRONUNCIATION: bal-OOCH-i ALTERNATE NAMES: Baloch; Balochi LOCATION: Pakistan (Province of Baluchistan); Iran; Afghanistan; Turkmenistan; Oman; East African coast POPULATION: 7.5–11 million LANGUAGE: Baluchi RELIGION: Islam 1 • INTRODUCTION The Baluch i (also Baloch, or Balochi) are a seminomadic people (they travel with their herds on a seasonal basis but also have a home area where they grow some food crops). They live in the southern mountains and coastal regions of South Asia's western borderlands. Their traditional homeland is divided among Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.
The Baluch i believe they are descendants of Amir Hamza, an uncle of the Prophet Muhammad. They settled in their present homeland sometime between the fifth and seventh centuries ad. Persians, Arabs, Hindus, and others have laid claim to parts of Baluch i stan, the traditional Baluch i home-land, at various times. Conflict within tribes and rivalries between tribes were frequent throughout the region. The reason was often competition for land, money, and resources. In the eighteenth century, almost all of the Baluch i tribes were loosely united.
In 1843, the frontier of British India bordered Baluch i stan. By the early twentieth century, the British had control over much of the region. The British Province of Baluch i stan passed to Pakistan when that country came into being in 1947. Pakistan also inherited the problems of the region. Opposition to the central government led to brutal battles with the Pakistani military in the mid-1970s. The military bombed villages and civilians in an effort to subdue the Baluchi rebels. Today, the Baluchi see themselves as a neglected minority in a country whose government is controlled by non-Baluch i ethnic groups such as the Punjabis.
2 • LOCATION The Baluch i population today is estimated at 7.5 million. In addition, there are many more people who are Baluch i in culture but have adopted the language of their neighbors. The Baluch i could total over 11 million in number.
The traditional homeland of the Baluch i extends west from the borders of the Punjab and the Sind (a province of Pakistan in the valley of the Indus River), across a small section of Afghanistan, to the areas of the Iranian Plateau southeast of Kirman. The southern boundary is defined by the coast of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman.
The Province of Baluch i stan, in which some 6 million people (80 percent of the total Baluch i population) live lies within Pakistan. Just over 1 million Baluch i live within the borders of Iran, and there are 300,000 more in Afghanistan.
3 • LANGUAGE The Baluchi language is an Indo-Iranian language of the Indo-European family. Modern Baluch i shows borrowings from Persian, Arabic, Sindhi, and other languages. No written form of the language existed before the early nineteenth century. Persian was used for official purposes until that time.
4 • FOLKLORE The Baluch i respect bravery and cour a e. Many tribal heroes are honored in folk songs and ballads.
Doda, for example, is remembered for defending the principle of ahot, or protection. Legend tells of a wealthy widow, Sammi, who sought protection in the village of Doda Gorgez. One day, Beebagr, a relative of Sammi's deceased husband, carried off some of Sammi's cows. Even though Doda had just been married, he pursued the thieves because he was honor-bound to safeguard the property, as well as the life, of the widow. Doda was killed in the battle that followed. In keeping with Baluch i tradition, Doda's death was eventually avenged by his brother Balach.
5 • RELIGION The Baluch i are Muslim, mostly Sunni, but also including members of the Zikr i sect. Zikr i s (pronounced "ZIG-ris" in Baluch i) are estimated to number over 750,000. They live mostly in southern Pakistan. They are followers of a fifteenth-century mahdi, an Islamic messiah, called Nur Pak (Pure Light).
The Baluch i do not support the idea of a religious nation that underlies national policies put in place by Pakistani governments in the 1990s.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS The Baluch i observe the festivals of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice that falls at the end of the Islamic year. On these occasions, people put on clean clothes and begin the day with prayer. The rest of the holiday is spent in gambling, horseracing, and general merrymaking.
Eid al-Adha is celebrated with the sacrifice of goats and sheep. The meat is distributed among relatives, friends, and the poor. Alms (donations) are given to beggars. The tenth day of the month of Muharram is observed by visits to the graves of relatives, followed by prayers and the giving of alms to the poor. In general, the Baluch i pay less attention to celebrating festivals than do other Muslim peoples in South Asia.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE The birth of a child is greeted with rejoicing, music, and singing. Food and sweets are prepared and given out. The birth of a boy is cause for greater celebration, and some groups barely recognize the arrival of a girl. Names common among the Baluch i include Lalla, Bijjar, Kannar, and Jihand.
Other ceremonies mark occasions such as the circumcision of boys, the time when a child begins to walk, and the first wearing of trousers. This last event, occurring around the age of fifteeen, was traditionally an important stage in a boy's life. It marked his becoming an adult and the time when he took up arms and joined his people in warfare.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS When Baluchi greet each other, they normally shake hands. However, if an ordinary tribesperson meets a religious leader, the tribesperson reverently touches the leader's feet. A meeting usually begins with inquiries after health (durahi) and then goes on to an exchange of news (hal). It is considered the height of rudeness not to ask for news from the person one is meeting.
The Baluch i are guided in their daily lives and social relations by a code of conduct known as Baluchmayar, or "the Baluch i way." A Baluch i is expected to be generous in hospitality to guests, offer refuge to people who seek protection, and be honest in dealings with others. A Baluch i man must be merciful to women and refrain from killing a man who has found sanctuary in the shrine of a pir (Sufi saint). He is also expected to defend his honor (izzat) and the honor of the women in his family, and his other relatives.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS Baluchi nomads live in tents (gidam) made of palm matting stretched on poles. A coarse goat-hair carpet forms the floor of the tent. There are permanent settlements to live in during the summer months. More recently, houses have been built of sundried brick. They are scattered along narrow, winding village lanes. Both old and newer houses have an open courtyard in front, enclosed by a low mud wall or palm fence.
10 • FAMILY LIFE Baluch i women are seen as inferior to men and are expected to be obedient to their hus
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