Saraiki people

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Saraiki People Saraiki waseb.JPG
Depiction of Saraiki men near Derawar Fort
Total population
c. 26 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
Star and Crescent.svg Islam
Christian cross.svg ChristianityOm.svg HinduismKhanda.svg Sikhism
Related ethnic groups
Other Indo-Aryan peoples

The Saraikis (Saraiki: سرائیکی), are an Indo-Aryan ethnolinguistic group inhabiting parts of central and southeastern Pakistan, primarily in the southern part of the Pakistani province of Punjab.[3]

They are mainly found in a region of southern Punjab known as Saraikistan, as well as in most parts of Derajat, which is located in the region where southwestern Punjab, southeastern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and northeastern Balochistan meet.[4][5][6] Derajat is bound by the Indus River to the east and the Sulaiman Mountains to the west.


The present extent of the meaning of Sirāikī is a recent development, and the term most probably gained its currency during the nationalist movement of the 1960s.[7] It has been in use for much longer in Sindh to refer to the speech of the immigrants from the north, principally Siraiki-speaking Baloch tribes who settled there between the 16th and the 19th centuries. In this context, the term can most plausibly be explained as originally having had the meaning "the language of the north", from the Sindhi word siro 'up-river, north'.[8] This name can ambiguously refer to the northern dialects of Sindhi, but these are nowadays more commonly known as "Siroli"[9] or "Sireli".[10]

An alternative hypothesis is that Sarākī originated in the word sauvīrā, or Sauvira,[11] an ancient kingdom which was also mentioned in the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata.[12]

Currently, the most common rendering of the term is Saraiki.[a] However, Seraiki and Siraiki are also commonly used.


The Saraiki region formed part of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization more than 40,000 years ago.[3] Multan, the Saraiki metropolis, was the capital of the Trigarta Kingdom.[3] The region was an important part of ancient Hindu mythology.[3] The Saraiki homeland, lying on the major invasion routes between South and Central Asia, have seen numerous invasions and migrations, including the Indo-Aryans and the Greeks of Alexander the Great.[3] The region formed part of several ancient empires, and the spread of agriculture and the extension of trade led to the growth of large urban populations.[3]

The Saraikis followed a number of faiths, such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism when the Muslims conquered the region in 712.[3] Islam spread rapidly through the Saraiki people, whose homeland became an important Islamic center.[3] The Muslim Mughals ruled the region from 1524 to 1739, lavishing the region with vast mosques and gardens.[3] The decline of the Mughals allowed Nader Shah to cross the Indus River to sack the Punjab region in 1739.[3] Later, the region formed part of the Durrani Empire until 1762.[3] The Sikhs, a religious and military formation, wrestled control of the region from the Durrani Afghans and Saraikistan, and the rest of the Punjab formed part of the Sikh Empire.[3]

At the breakup of the Durrani Empire, the Sikhs took control of most of the region, but in the southwest a Muslim leader founded a new state called Bahawalpur.[3] The kings, or nawabs, of Bahawalpur ruled an area that was largely populated by Saraikis.[3] The nawab of Bahawalpur signed an alliance with the British in 1833 that guaranteed his rule under British protection.[3] The death of the Sikh ruler threw the Sikh Empire into chaos in 1839 and led to border clashes with territories under British suzerainty.[3] The British fought two wars with the Sikh Empire in the 1840s that ended with the annexation of the Punjab, including most of the area.[3] In 1863 and 1866, insurrections broke out against the nawab in Bahawalpur but were defeated.[3] The death of the nawab in 1866 led to chaos in the principality and a marked increase of British influence and control, though the state remained a protectorate separate from the British possessions in the Punjab.[3] The increasingly poor relations between Hindus and Muslims also impacted the Saraiki homeland up to World War II.[3] At the end of the war, as the British prepared to leave the subcontinent, the issue of religion became paramount in local politics.[3] At the partition of India, the nawab of Bahawalpur opted for inclusion in Muslim Pakistan, partly in an effort to maintain the Saraiki ethnic group within one nation.[3] The Saraiki people follow many religions, though most are predominantly followers of Islam. A small minority of Saraikis follow Chistianity, Hinduism and Sikhism. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, many Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India where they are known as Multanis, Derawalis and Bhawalpuris.[20] The Saraikis did not see themselves as a distinct ethnic group until the 1960s.[21] An Islamic identity formed the basis of the majority community's group consciousness for centuries prior to the establishment of Pakistan.[21]


The Saraiki culture is based on the Indus Valley culture that flourished in the region in ancient times.[3] Amended by the later Muslim influences, it forms a strong regional culture with its own language and traditions.[3] Most of the yearly festivals and fairs are based on the Islamic calendar and the institution of Sufi saints in the region.[3] The Sufis spread Islam and preached and lived the Muslim way of life.[3] Many festivals are held to commemorate these Muslim traditions.[3] Many fairs are held annually at the shrines of the Sufi saints, usually marking the death of the saint.[3] Saraiki cultural traditions feature many arts and crafts, including rural customs and products that flourished in the Saraiki urban centres such as Multan and Bahawalpur.[3] Music and dance remain important cultural elements and are part of every Saraiki celebration or ceremony.[3] Seraiki culture consists of Jhumar danceform and cameleering.[22]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Saraiki is the spelling used in universities of Pakistan (the Islamia University of Bahawalpur, department of Saraiki established in 1989,[13] Bahauddin Zakariya University, in Multan, department of Saraiki established in 2006,[14] and Allama Iqbal Open University, in Islamabad, department of Pakistani languages established in 1998),[15] and by the district governments of Bahawalpur[16] and Multan,[17] as well as by the federal institutions of the Government of Pakistan like Population Census Organization[18] and Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation.[19]
  1. ^ "Saraiki". Ethnologue.
  2. ^ "Pakistan Census 2017" (PDF). Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad Minahan, James (2012). Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 283–284. ISBN 9781598846591.
  4. ^ "About Punjab: Geography". Tourism Development Corporation, Government of the Punjab. Archived from the original on 2007-12-02. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
  5. ^ "People & Culture". Government of the North-West Frontier Province. Archived from the original on 2007-11-17. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
  6. ^ Qadeer, Mohammad (2006-11-22). Pakistan – Social and Cultural Transformations in a Muslim Nation. Routledge. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-134-18617-4. Punjab's diversity of dialects, Saraiki and Pothohari contrasting with the heartland Punjabi, was striking at the time of independence. Since then, the increased mobility of the population and the absorption of refugees from India have stimulated homogenizing tendencies both linguistically and ethnically. NWFP, although symbolically a Pashtoon is also a province of many ethnicities and languages, for example, Hindku-speaking people inhabit the Peshawar Valley and Hazara district, and Saraiki speakers are found in the Derajats.
  7. ^ Rahman 1995, p. 3.
  8. ^ Rahman 1995, p. 4; Shackle 1976, p. 2; Shackle 1977, p. 388
  9. ^ Shackle 2007, p. 114.
  10. ^ Shackle 1976, p. 24.
  11. ^ Dani 1981, p. 36.
  12. ^ Shackle 1977.
  13. ^ "The Islamia University of Bahawalpur Pakistan – Department".
  14. ^ "Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan, Pakistan".
  15. ^ "Department Detail".
  16. ^ "History of Bahawalpur". Archived from the original on 11 June 2012.
  17. ^ "Introduction -City District Government Multan".
  18. ^ Population by Mother Tongue Archived 12 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine, website of the Population Census organization of Pakistan
  19. ^ Saraiki News Bulletins Archived 6 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine, website of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation
  20. ^ Bhatia, Tej K.; Ritchie, William C. (2008-04-15). The Handbook of Bilingualism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 803. ISBN 9780470756744.
  21. ^ a b Minahan, James (2012). Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781598846591.
  22. ^ "Jhumar Dance – Folk Dance Performed on Marriage Ceremonies by Men". 2015-08-29. Archived from the original on 2015-08-29. Retrieved 2020-12-24.

External links[edit]