Kalash in traditional dress
|Regions with significant populations|
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Pakistan)
Jammu and Kashmir (India)
|majority Islam (Sunni, Shia, & Sofia Noorbakhshia), minority Hinduism, Kalash and Buddhism|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Dards are a group of Indo-Aryan peoples found predominantly in northern Pakistan, north-western India, and eastern Afghanistan. They speak Dardic languages, which belong to the Indo-Aryan family. The largest populations of Dards are in Gilgit–Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan and in the Kashmir Valley. There are smaller populations in Ladakh in India and in eastern Afghanistan. The Kashmiri people are the largest Dardic group, with a population of over 5.5 million.
Asko Parpola identifies "Proto-Dardic" with "Proto-Rigvedic", suggesting that the Dards are the linguistic descendants of the bearers of proto-Vedic culture ca. 1700 BC, pointing to features in certain Dardic dialects that continue peculiarities of Vedic Sanskrit, such as the gerund in -tvī.
The vast majority of Dardic peoples are Muslim. They follow a number of different sects. Kashmiris, Pashayis, Kohistanis, and Kho are majority Sunni, while the Shina are majority Ismaili and Twelver. Some in Gilgit-Baltistan follow Noorbakshia Islam. Kashmiri Pandits are mostly Shaiviet Hindus.
A minority in Chitral are polytheists, such as the Kalash. They are exceptional in having retained their ancestral polytheistic Dardic religion and are officially protected by the Government of Pakistan.
- "List of Scheduled Tribes". Census of India: Government of India. 7 March 2007. Archived from the original on 5 June 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
- Parpola, Asko (1999). "The formation of the Aryan branch of Indo-European". In Roger Blench; Matthew Spriggs. Archaeology and Language III: Artefacts, Languages and Texts. Routledge. p. 189. ISBN 978-1-134-85585-8.
- Inam-ur-Rahim; Alain M. Viaro (2002). Swat: an Afghan society in Pakistan : urbanisation and change in tribal environment. City Press. ISBN 978-969-8380-55-7.
During Swati rule Dard people were most probably non-believers and dominantly Hindu, frequent small scale Jihad against Dard might have [been] a routine and probably continued even some time after Yousafzai occupation.
- Minahan, James B. (10 February 2014). Ethnic Groups of North, East, and Central Asia: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 205. ISBN 9781610690188.
Living in the high mountain valleys, the Nuristani retained their ancient culture and their religion, a form of ancient Hinduism with many customs and rituals developed locally. Certain deities were revered only by one tribe or community, but one deity was universally worshipped by all Nuristani as the Creator, the Hindu god Yama Raja, called imr'o or imra by the Nuristani tribes. Around 700 CE, Arab invaders swept through the region now known as Afghanistan, destroying or forcibly converting the population to their new Islamic religion. Refugees from the invaders fled into the higher valleys to escape the onslaught. In their mountain strongholds, the Nuristani escaped conversion to Islam and retained their ancient religion and culture. The surrounding Muslim peoples used the name Kafir, meaning "unbeliever" or "infidel," to describe the independent Nuristani tribes and called their highland homeland Kafiristan.
- Harris, Ian Charles (1994). Longman guide to living religions. Stockton. ISBN 978-1-56159-089-6.
- The India magazine of her people and culture, Volume 14. A. H. Advani. Retrieved 2007-08-01.
Dardic religion in Ladakh, particularly in the villages of Da and Hann, retains marked traces of the pre-Buddhist animistic religion, Bon-chos