Balti people

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For the similarly named ethnic group inhabiting northern Europe, see Balts.
Balti people of khaplu.jpg
Baltis of Khaplu
Total population
28% of Gilgit-Baltisan (247,520) (1998)
Regions with significant populations
Gilgit–Baltistan (Pakistan)
Ladakh (India)
Shia Islam majority,[1] minorities of Sufia Nurbakhshia, Sunni Islam, Tibetan Buddhism and Bon.
Related ethnic groups
Burig, Ladakhis, Tibetans, Dards

The Balti are an ethnic group of Tibetan descent with Dardic admixture who live in the Gilgit–Baltistan region of Pakistan and the Kargil region of India. Smaller populations are found in the Leh region; others are scattered in Pakistan's major urban centres of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad/Rawalpindi.


The Balti language belongs to the Tibetic language family. Read (1934) considers it a dialect of Ladakhi,[2] while Tournadre (2005) considers it a sister language of Ladakhi.[3]


The Baltis historically practiced Bön and Tibetan Buddhism. Islam arrived in Baltistan via Sufi missionaries Ameer Kabeer Syed Ali Hamadani (r.a) in the 15th century, and soon became dominant. They still retain many traits of pre-Islamic Bön and Lamaist rituals, making them unique in Pakistan.[4] The swastika (Yung drung) sign is considered auspicious and is carved on wooden planks that can be seen in historical mosques and Khanqahs. Showing respect to Lha and Lhu (Bön gods) is customary during many village rituals.

They regard congregation in the Mosques and Khanqahs as an important religious ritual. The Khanqahs are a kind of typical training school to which was introduced by the early saints arrived in the region. The students gain spiritual purity (tazkiah) through these trainings (meditations and contemplations) under well-practiced spiritual guides, who have already attained certain degree of spirituality. Mosques in Baltistan are mainly built in the Tibetan style, though several mosques constructed have wood-finish and decorations of Mughal origin which can also be seen in ladakh. Kargil. On every Friday, the men folk would generally attend the prayers sometime a little after noon. All Muslims will fast by day during the month of the Ramadan, and a celebration will be held at the end of the celebration.

During the 19th century, many Baltis converted to Shi'a and Sunni Islam.

Today, the Baltis are 60% Shi'a, 30% Sufia Imamia Nurbakhshia, and 10% Sunni.[5]

Small pockets of Bön and Tibetan Buddhist believers in Kharmang valley and West Kargil amount to about 3000 people.[6]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Muhammad Yousuf Hussainabadi, 'Baltistan per aik Nazar'. 1984.
  • Hussainabadi, Mohamad Yusuf. Balti Zaban. 1990.
  • Muhammad Yousuf Hussainabadi, 'Tareekh-e-Baltistan'. 2003.
  • Addition of new four letter to tibetan scripts by Yusuf Hussainabadi Indian Muslim.
  • Akhond Muhammad Hussain Kashif "Malumaat e Gilgit Baltistan" 2013.
  • Shumal kay Sitarey by Ehsan Ali Danish Sermik.
  • Azadi e Gilgit Baltistan by Muhammad Yousuf.