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Brokpa men in Ladakh, dressed up for Bona-na festival
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Predominantly: Buddhism;
Minority: Islam
Related ethnic groups
Other Indo-Aryan peoples

The Brokpa (Tibetan: འབྲོག་པ་, Wylie: ’brog pa, THL: drok pa), sometimes referred to as Minaro, are a small ethnic group mostly found in the union territory of Ladakh, India around the villages of Dha and Hanu. Some of the community are also located across the Line of Control in Baltistan in the villages around Ganokh. They speak an Indo-Aryan language called Brokskat.[3] The Brokpa are mostly Vajrayana Buddhist while some are Muslim.[4]


According to the British Raj commentators, the name 'Brogpa' was given by the Baltis to the Dardic people living among them. The term means "highlander". The reason for this is that the Brogpa tended to occupy the higher pasture lands in the valleys.[5] Frederic Drew states, "Wherever the Dards are in contact with Baltis or with Bhots, these others call them (...) Brokpa or Blokpa."[6] As the Tibetan language pronunciation varies by region, the same name is pronounced by Ladakhis as Drokpa or Dokpa.[a]

Over time, the term "Brokpa" fell out of use in Baltistan and the Drass area, in favour of ethnic labels such as "Dards" and "Shins".[7] Only the Brokpa of the lower Indus valley in Ladakh Dah Hanu region continue to retain the name, and their language is called Brokskat.[2][8] They use the endonym Minaro.

Identity and geographic distribution[edit]

The Brokpa speak an Indo-Aryan language called Brokskat, which is a variety of the Shina language currently spoken in the Gilgit region.[9] (During the British Raj, it became common to refer to the people of the Gilgit region as "Dards" using ancient nomenclature. The Brokpa are thus "Dards" living in the midst of Tibetic Ladakhi and Balti people.)[b] While the two languages share similar phonological developments, Brokskat converged with Purgi to the extent of being mutually intelligible at the present time.[11][9][12]

The Brokpa might have expanded from the Gilgit region upstream along the Indus valley until reaching their current habitat, viz., the lower Indus valley of Ladakh next to the border with Baltistan.[13] The time frame of this expansion or dispersion is uncertain, but their chiefs are believed to have ruled at Khalatse until the 12th century, where the remnants of their forts can still be found. Their rule over this region ended during the reign of the Ladakhi kings Lhachen Utpala and his successor Lhachen Naglug.[14]

Another group of Brokpa appear to have settled in the Turtuk region in the lower Shyok river valley, where also remnants of their fort can be found. They appear to have faced a defeat at the hands of raiders from Baltistan, and moved to the Hanu valley below the Chorbat La pass.[15]

Scholar Rohit Vohra states that the Brokpa can be found all along the Indus Valley from Leh, but Achina-Thang is the first wholly Brokpa village, however they have adopted Ladakhi culture a long ago.[16] Their major villages are, in addition to Dah and Hanu, Garkon, Darchik, and Batalik. A few of them live in the villages of Silmo (34°37′37″N 76°19′12″E / 34.627°N 76.320°E / 34.627; 76.320 (Silmo)) and Lalung (34°35′28″N 76°17′53″E / 34.591°N 76.298°E / 34.591; 76.298 (Lalung)) en route to Kargil.[16] In the 17th century, the stream and village of Gurugurdo (34°39′40″N 76°19′59″E / 34.661°N 76.333°E / 34.661; 76.333 (Gurugurdo)) was set as the border between Baltistan and Ladakh.[17][18] To the north of here, there are Muslim Brokpa villages, such as Chulichan, Ganokh, and possibly Marol.[16][17] Ganokh and Marol are at present in Pakistan-administered Gilgit-Baltistan.

The number of Brokstat speakers was estimated as 3,000 people in 1996.[11]


Brokpa celebrate Bono-na festival which is a festival of thank giving to deities for good crops and prosperity.[19]

Brokpa Men during Bono-na festival in Dha-Hanu village


The traditional Brogpa diet is based on locally grown foods such as barley and hardy wheat prepared most often as tsampa/sattu (roasted flour). It takes in different ways.[clarification needed] Other important foods include potatoes, radishes, turnips, and Gur-Gur Cha, a brewed tea made of black tea, butter and salt.

Dairy and poultry sources are not eaten because of religious taboos. Brogpa eat three meals a day: Choalu Unis (breakfast), Beali (lunch) and Rata Unis (dinner). Brogpa vary with respect to the amount of meat (mainly mutton) that they eat. A household's economic position decides the consumption of meat. It is only during festivals and rituals that all have greater access to mutton.[20]

Economy and employment[edit]

The Brogpa economy has shifted from agropastoralism to wage labour, and the division of labour that relied on stratifications of age and gender is now obsolete. For many years, brokpa predominantly engaged in high-altitude grazing (3000 to 4500 meter) and lowland agriculture. The Brogpa transition to private property, monogamy, nuclear families, formal education, wage labour, and their incorporation into a highly militarised economy of soldiering and portering illuminates the complex workings of modernity in Ladakh.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Many pastoral groups on the Tibetan plateau and the surrounding Himalayan regions have been given the name Brogpa/Drokpa. They are not necessarily related to each other.
  2. ^ In current parlance, the term "Dards" is used for the speakers of Dardic languages. The Brokpa are "Dards" on this account as well.[10]


  1. ^ Indian Antiquary. Popular Prakashan. 1905. p. 93. Minaro ,as they call themselves
  2. ^ a b Ethnologue, 15th Edition, SIL International, 2005 – via
  3. ^ Cardona & Jain, Indo-Aryan Languages (2007), p. 889.
  4. ^ Vohra, Ethnographic Notes on the Buddhist Dards (1982).
  5. ^ Gazetteer of Kashmir and Ladak (1890), p. 238.
  6. ^ Drew, The Jummoo and Kashmir Territories (1875), p. 433.
  7. ^ Radloff, The Dialects of Shina (1992), note 8.
  8. ^ "Brokskat". Ethnologue. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  9. ^ a b Radloff, The Dialects of Shina (1992), p. 99.
  10. ^ Kogan, On possible Dardic and Burushaski influence (2019), p. 263, footnote 1.
  11. ^ a b Cardona & Jain, Indo-Aryan Languages (2007), p. 984.
  12. ^ Schmidt, Ruth Laila; Kaul, Vijay Kumar (1 January 1970). "A Comparative Analysis of Shina and Kashmiri Vocabularies". Acta Orientalia. 69: 235–236, 247. doi:10.5617/ao.7372. ISSN 1600-0439.
  13. ^ Jina, Ladakh (1996), p. 93.
  14. ^ Vohra, Ethnographic Notes on the Buddhist Dards (1982), p. 70.
  15. ^ Vohra, Rohit (1990), "Mythic Lore and Historical Documents from Nubra Valley in Ladakh", Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 44 (1/2), Akadémiai Kiadó: 225–239, JSTOR 23658122
  16. ^ a b c Vohra, Ethnographic Notes on the Buddhist Dards (1982), p. 72.
  17. ^ a b Bhasin, Tribals of Ladakh (2004), pp. 137–138.
  18. ^ Vohra, Ethnographic Notes on the Buddhist Dards (1982), p. 76.
  19. ^ "5-day Bonona festival of Brokpas concludes". dailyexcelsior. 12 October 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2023.
  20. ^ "Bhasin, Veena: Social Change, Religion and Medicine among Brokpas of Ladakh, Ethno-Med., 2(2): 77-102 (2008)" (PDF).
  21. ^ Bhan, Mona (2013). Counterinsurgency, Democracy and the Politics of Identity in India. Routledge. Chapter 1: Becoming Brogpa. ISBN 9781138948426.


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