The eastward migrations of the Balōč.

07 Apr

By: Brian Spooner

Although many Balōč moved into and through Makrān starting in the 5th/11th century, others were probably already present in the general area east of Kermān. Evidence for the migration is sparse. There are two major types: the corpus of traditional Baluchi poetry and later Mughal histories.
The poems claim that the Balōč are descended from Mīr Ḥamza (Mīr is a Baluchi title for leaders, Arabic amīr), the uncle of the Prophet; that they fought with the sons of ʿAlī at Karbalāʾ, whence they migrated to Baluchistan. There are two possible interpretations of this epic history. First, tribal populations in the Muslim world have typically traced their genealogies back to the time of the Prophet as a way of legitimizing their Islam in their own tribal (i.e., genealogical) terms. Second, there are a number of ways in which Arab groups could have found their way into the heterogeneous tribal population that eventually assimilated Baluch identity east of Kermān, whether or not their forebears had fought at Karbalāʾ. Some of the original Arab invaders may have remained in the area, and there is evidence of migration across the Persian Gulf from Arabia into the Kermān region in the early centuries of Islam.
The poems tell of arrival in Sīstān and of the hospitality of a king named Šams-al-Dīn. A ruler (malek) by that name claiming descent from the Saffarids is known to have died in 559/1164. After a time another ruler called Badr-al-Dīn (of whom we have no independent record, unless he was a Ghurid) persecuted them and drove them out. Little else of any significance is identifiable, except the occasional place name in Makrān (see discussion in Dames, 1904b, pp. 35-36). It seems likely that this sort of eastward progress was determined by the use that various minor rulers may have had for a mercenary force.
The first record of movement into Sind is from the 7-8th/13-14th centuries. The main divisions of the Balōč tribes described in the poems presumably reflect events during this period. According to the poems a Mīr Jalāl Khan who was leader of all the Balōč left four sons, Rind, Lāšār, Hōt, and Kōraī, and a daughter named Jātō, who married his nephew Morād. These five became the eponymous founders of the five main tribes of the poems, the Rind, Lāšārī, Hōt, Kōraī and Jātōī. The poems tell of forty-four tribes (called tuman or bōlak), of which forty were Balōč, and four were servile tribes dependent on them. Other important names that have survived to the present are Drīšak, Mazārī, Dumbkī, Khōsā. The Hōt seem to have been in the area earlier than the others. It may be significant that some names are derived from known place names in Baluchistan. Many of the prominent tribes of today are not mentioned in the poems, such as Būgṭī, Bulēdī, Buzdār, Kasrānī, Lēgarī, Lund, Marī. Since these tribes were probably there in the 9th/15th century, the absence of their names in the poems suggests that either they are later branches of the old tribes, or they were not then Balōč and have been assimilated since.
In the 9th/15th century another wave carried the Balōč into southern Punjab. This was the period of Mīr Čākar (Čākor) Rind, the greatest of Baluchistan heroes. Some groups from the Rind tribe migrated from Sibi to Punjab, and spread up the valleys of the Chenab, Ravi, and Satlej rivers. Meanwhile, the Dōdaī (probably a Sindhi tribe assimilated during the previous 200 years) and Hōt moved up the Indus and the Jhelam. Bābor, the first Mughal emperor, found Balōč in Punjab in 925/1519. He hired them, as did his successor, Homāyūn. The first actual settlement of Balōč in Punjab appears to have been made in the reign of Shah Ḥosayn in Multan 874-908/1469-70-1502, who gave them a jāgīr (probably in return for military service)—an act which attracted more Balōč into the area. In Punjab many Balōč turned to settled agriculture in the 10th/16th century. (The references for this period are listed and discussed in more detail by Dames, 1904b, pp. 34-43.)
Although large numbers of Balōč moved into the Indus valley, there has never been any question of moving the boundaries of Baluchistan eastward to incorporate them. Balōč who settled in the lowlands, with the exception of Kacchi, tended to assimilate linguistically with the surrounding population, and lose their ties with kin in the highlands, though many (we cannot know what proportion) have retained their Balōč identity.


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