Balti people

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For the similarly named ethnic group inhabiting northern Europe, see Balts.
Regions with significant populations
Gilgit–Baltistan (Pakistan)
Jammu and Kashmir (India)
Shia Islam majority, minorities of Sufia Nurbakhshia, Sunni Islam, Tibetan Buddhism and Bon.
Related ethnic groups
Burig, Dards, Ladakhis, Tibetans

The Balti is an ethnic group of Tibetan descent with Dardic admixture, who live in the Gilgit–Baltistan region of Pakistan. In addition, smaller populations also exist in Ladakh, a region of Jammu and Kashmir, India; others are scattered in Pakistan's major urban centres of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad/Rawalpindi. The Balti language belongs to the Tibetan language family and is a sub-dialect of Ladakhi.[1] Balti, Ladakhi and Burig are mutually intelligible.


Islam came into Baltistan by different scholars from the Muslim world during 15th century A.D. Soon the whole region converted to Noorbakshia Islam.

During the start of the 19th century, the predominant population converted to other Islamic schools of thought such as Shia and Sunnis. Today, the Baltis are; Sufia Nurbakhshia (60); Shi'a denomination (80%), and Sunni sect (10%). Today, Nurbakhshis are found in Baltistan and Ladakh regions of Jammu and Kashmir as well.

Local Muslims, who converted from Bön-po and Tibetan Buddhism still retain many traits of pre-Islamic Bön and Lamaist rituals, which makes Islam of Baltistan and Ladakh unique from other Muslim societies. Swastika (Yung drung) sign is considered auspicious and is carved on wooden planks that can be seen in historical mosques and Khankas. Showing respect to Lha and Lhu (Bön gods) is customary during many village rituals.

The Balti, who converted to Islam from Tibetan Buddhism in the 16th century, regard congregation in the Mosques and Khankah as an important religious ritual. The Khankahs 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 and 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.

Small pockets of Bön and Tibetan Buddhist believers that amounted up to 3000 people are found in Kharmang valley of Baltistan[2] and in West Kargil. East Ladakh (Leh district and Zanskar) are predominantly Buddhist.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Balti Grammar, by A. F. C. Read. London: The Royal Asiatic society, 1934.
  2. ^ [1]

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.