Author Archives: Balochi Linguist


By: Brian Spooner

The total number of Baluch in Baluchistan (in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan), the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and elsewhere in Asia and Africa is variously estimated at between three and five million. Their history up to the time when they were drawn into Western colonial history in the 19th century is poorly known. A copious literature has been produced on them since then, especially in English, but also in Persian and several other European and regional languages. But so far there has been no attempt to synthesize and interpret all the available material.
Baluchistan is generally understood by the Baluch and their neighbors to comprise an area of over half a million square kilometers in the southeastern part of the Iranian plateau, south of the central deserts and the Helmand river, and in the arid coastal lowlands between the Iranian plateau and the Gulf of Oman. Its boundaries are vague and not consistent with modern provincial boundaries. It appears to have been divided throughout history between Iranian (highland) and Indian (lowland) spheres of influence, and since 1870 it has been formally divided among Afghanistan, Iran, and India (later Pakistan). It is unclear when the name Baluchistan came into general use. It may date only from the 12th/18th century when Naṣīr Khan I of Kalat during his long reign in the second half of the 12th/18th century became the first indigenous ruler to establish autonomous control over a large part of the area.
The origins of the Balōč and of their name are similarly unclear. They appear to have lived in the northwestern part of the area (southeast of Kermān) at the time of the Arab conquest. But their activities may even at that time have extended a considerable distance to the east. They appear to have migrated farther east, and beyond Makrān, beginning around the time of the arrival of the Saljuqs in Kermān in the 5th/11th century, and continuing intermittently for the next five centuries, up to the spread of Safavid power in the 10th/16th century, with major movements probably in the 6th/12th and 9th/15th centuries.
How and when the Balōč arrived in the region of Kermān is unknown. Their claim (in their epic poetry; see baluchistan, iii, below) to be Arabs who migrated from Aleppo after fighting at Karbalāʾ cannot be taken at face value. The various inconclusive theories concerning their origins are reviewed by Dames (1904, pp. 7-16).
The scanty evidence for them between the Arab conquest and the arrival of the Saljuqs is also difficult to evaluate, partly because of the authors’ characteristic urban prejudice against nomadic tribes. But it suggests that they numbered in the tens of thousands at most; that they were pastoralists, herding sheep and goats; and that, like other Middle Eastern pastoralists, they were highly mobile, if not entirely nomadic, living in tribal communities (in the sense that they construed their social relations according to genealogical—patrilineal—criteria); and that they were poorly integrated into the settled polity, which they continually harassed.
In terms of general cultural values and world view, the Baluch in recent times resemble neighboring Muslim tribal populations in both the historical and the ethnographic records. What has emerged as distinctively Baluch, beside the language, Baluchi, is the structure of their social and political relations. But this structure is more likely to be a product of their recent pluralist experience in Baluchistan than a heritage of their earlier history. (It has not yet been changed significantly by their incorporation into modern state structures.) Baluch identity in Baluchistan has been closely tied to the use of the Baluchi language in intertribal relations. Modern Baluchi has a clear pedigree, with a number of grammatical features and vocabulary of the “Northwest” Iranian type (see baluchistan, iii, below). But Baluch ethnicity today cannot be so clearly defined. On the one hand, many communities generally recognized as Baluch by themselves and by others are of alien origin and have been assimilated over the last four centuries. On the other hand, there is no evidence that all the considerable number of scattered communities known as Baluch in other parts of Iran, Afghanistan, and Soviet Turkmenistan (most of which are not presently Baluchi-speaking) are in fact historically related, or, if they are related, that they separated from each other in Baluchistan.
Within Baluchistan the population is not ethnically homogeneous. Some communities are identified (by themselves and others) as Balōč (see 10 below), with the implication that they are descended from those who entered the area as Balōč; while others, though considered members of Baluch society now and identifying as Baluch in relation to the outside world, are known within Baluch society by other tribal (e.g., Nowšērvānī, Gīčkī, Bārakzay) and subethnic (e.g., Brahui, Dehwār, ḡolām, Jaḍgāl, Mēd) designations, with the implication that they have adopted Baluch identity relatively recently—but not that they are for that reason in any way outsiders. Some of these “Baluch” predate the arrival of the Balōč. Others (e.g., the Bārakzay, q.v., who are of recent Afghan origin) postdate them. There are also remnants of what were (under autonomous Baluch rule, as well as under the British, 1666-1947) larger non-Muslim communities, mostly Hindu, Sikh, Ismaʿili, or Bahai traders, who are not considered Baluch. The Baluchi language was the language of interethnic as well as intertribal relations. Although participation in Baluchi intercourse generally seems to have led to assimilation, being Muslim appears to have been a necessary precondition. However, the Baluch in the Makrān who became Ḏekrī (Zikri) in the 10/16th century did not for that reason cease to be Baluch. The Baluch generally claim that all Baluch are Hanafite Muslims, although, apart from the Ḏekrīs (who are known but rarely discussed), there are some small Shiʿite communities on the northwestern fringes of Iranian Baluchistan, a fact which is unknown farther east.
The vast territory of greater Baluchistan has been divided historically into a number of areas, among which Makrān (in the south), Sarḥadd (in the northwest), and the area known earlier as Tūrān that includes the modern towns of Kalat and Khuzdar (Qoṣdār/Qozdār; in the east), have been the most significant. Stronger Iranian and Indian political centers to the west, north, and east (particularly, Kermān, Sīstān, Qandahār, Delhi, Karachi), and even the sultan of Oman to the south, have intermittently claimed suzerainty over parts of these areas, and considered them as their legitimate hinterland. The idea of one Baluch community in a politically unified Baluchistan may have originated in Naṣīr Khan’s successes in the 12th/18th century. His successors were unable to maintain control of the part of the area he claimed to rule as khan, let alone continue to pursue what appear to have been his ambitions to incorporate all the Baluch into one nation. But the policy of indirect rule pursued by the British, who began to encroach in the area during the following generation, and maintained the khan irrespective of internal processes that would either have destroyed or transformed the khanate, kept alive the idea of a unified Baluchistan—against considerable odds—at least up to the borders that the British negotiated with the Qajar government in Iran, and the Afghan government in Kabul in the second half of the 13th/19th century. By 1947, the idea of Baluchistan was too firmly established to be superseded or transcended by the new concept of Pakistan. The political activities of the Baluch in Pakistan (who constitute probably two thirds of the total Baluch population) reinforce and confirm Baluch identity in Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
The Balōč appear to have become culturally dominant in the area in the late medieval period, along with the spread of Baluchi as a lingua franca—though the details and causes of each process are unclear. It was not until much later that the majority of the population of the area came to identify themselves as Baluch, probably as a result partly of the success of Naṣīr Khan’s policies, and partly because of the later British administrative classification. The assimilation of almost the whole population to Baluch identity and the dominance of Baluchi (at least for public, political purposes) is difficult to explain, since the tribesmen who established the khanate of Kalat (and therefore also the political autonomy and identity of the area) in the mid-11th/17th century spoke not Baluchi, but Brahui, and conducted their administration in Persian by means of a bureaucracy recruited among the Dehwār, who were Tajik peasants. Immigrant Baluchi speakers (Balōč) were probably not numerically dominant except in non-agricultural parts of the area.
Baluchistan remains a palimpsest of cultural and linguistic discontinuities. Although the existing literature is much greater than for other comparable tribal areas of the Iranian world, the underlying heterogeneity raises a number of problems for any systematic account of Baluchistan and the Baluch. These problems cannot yet be definitively treated. Far more historical and ethnographic research is needed. What follows is only a preliminary synthesis.


Baluch Carpets, Rugs, and Other Products

Baluch Carpets, Rugs, and Other Products

By: S. Azadi

A distinct group of carpets, woven by Baluch tribes in the northeastern Iranian province of Khorasan and the Sīstān area, is known as Baluch carpets (Edwards, p. 185). These carpets were not, as is frequently erroneously assumed, made in Makrān, where the main body of the Baluch tribes live (Wegner, 1980, pp. 57, 59).

In addition to the Baluch, many other ethnic groups in Khorasan weave carpets that look like the Baluch carpets and are designated as such. The tribes that make such carpets in the same region are the Tīmūrī, the Kurd, the Arab, the Brahui, the Jamšīdī, and the Barbarī (Azadi and Besim, pp. 15, 16). The main characteristics of carpets in the Baluch tradition are the following:

Colors. The use of dark colors like dark blue or blue-black, dark brownish red, dark reddish brown, dark brown verging on black (mainly for outlines), dark purplish brown, dark brownish violet, and occasionally some ivory is characteristic. Because of the almost black outlines the dark colors appear even darker. These carpets thus possess a somber charm that appeals to many connoisseurs and collectors.

Camel hair is sometimes woven into the niches (meḥrāb) of Baluch prayer carpets. These rugs are less somber, even occasionally light in ground color. The idea that this material is actually wool dyed with walnut husks (Edwards, p. l86) is incorrect; it is undyed camel hair.

Occasionally a few old carpets are found with ivory fields; most of them come from the Qāʾenāt and Sīstān areas. They sometimes seem more colorful than the normal Baluch carpets.

Ornament. Because of the prevalence of ornaments like rectangles, hexagons, and octagons, Baluch carpets belong to the geometric category of nomad carpets. Repeated or alternating lozenges and medallions, in regular or offset rows, play an extremely important role in the design of these carpets. Frequently the rows create a honeycomb pattern, so that the ground color of the field is no longer distinguishable. Indeed, this feature is characteristic of Baluch carpets. Plant motifs also occur in the Baluch repertoire of forms, but they have been rendered angular and geometric.

The nomenclature and meaning of Baluch motifs are not very well known. Statements in the carpet literature that the craftsmen did not understand what they were weaving are incorrect. Such statements are a sign of retreat before the extraordinarily difficult problems of research in this area. Such complex questions cannot be understood or explained through quick investigations. Rather, they require years of arduous study in the field, which have not yet taken place.

Technique. Baluch carpets are all knotted with the asymmetrical knot, that is, the so-called “Persian or Senna knot,” open to the left. In traditional pieces the warp (tār) always consists of two-ply wool, Z-spun and S-twisted (čap-o-rāst rīsīda), and is light in color. In newer pieces the warp can also be of cotton. The weft (pūd) of Baluch carpets consists of two sinuous brown or dark brown shoots, contrary to C. A. Edwards’ opinion that all Baluch carpets are single-wefted (p. 186). On rare occasions the first weft is drawn taut, thus creating a difference in levels, as for example in the Kurd Baluch. The weft is usually two-ply, Z-spun, and loosely twisted. Frequently, however, the weft can be a single strand.

The pile is also two-ply, Z-spun and loosely twisted. Many Baluch carpets, for example, the Sālār-ḵānī from the area of Torbat-e Ḥaydarī, include some silk in the pile of wedding and dowry carpets. This material is extremely expensive for the Baluch and represents the ultimate in luxury. They must buy or barter for the silk because they do not themselves manufacture it.

Selvedges. One of the most notable characteristics of Baluch carpets is the way in which their selvedges are handled. These can be up to 2 cm wide; the material is dark brown or black goat hair. In rare instances the selvedges may be worked in a form of braiding with supplementary wefts. Usually, however, they are produced by passing the supplementary wefts over and under groups of four or more warps two, three, or four times, thus creating respectively double-, triple-, or quadruple-corded selvedges.

Uses. The Baluch, like many other nomads, manufacture a number of objects in pile or flat-woven technique, which serve different functions. Such products include double saddlebags (ḵorjīn, asb-jol; cushion covers (bāleš); saddle covers (rūzīnī); horse blankets (rū-asbī); ground covers on which meals are served (sofra); weavings for catching flour as it comes from the mill (sofra-ye ārd); bags for special purposes (dārāk); donkey chest bands (gūr-band); blinders for donkeys, horses, and camels (čašm-bandān); etc.

Although we have general knowledge of the characteristics mentioned, it is nevertheless extremely difficult to attribute carpets to specific makers (tribes, subtribes, clans, etc.) and regions (Khorasan and Sīstān, Saraḵs, Torbat-e Ḥaydarī, etc.). The main reason is that there are almost no detailed publications on Baluch carpets, in contrast, for example, to Turkman carpets, on which there are many Russian field studies. Besides, it is still not known even which tribes and subtribes produce carpets at all. The single published monograph (Azadi and Besim, pp. 28-29) includes only the second attempt (the first being Edwards, p. 185) to provide a list of tribes that manufacture knotted-pile carpets. These tribes are as follows: ʿAlī Akbar-ḵānī from the Qāʾenāt region; ʿAbd-al-Sorḵ from the area around Saraḵs, Nīšāpūr, and Sabzavār; ʿAlī Mīrzāʾī, from the Saraḵs area; Bahlūlī (or Bahlūrī) from the vicinity of Ḵᵛāf, Jangal, and Torbat-e Ḥaydarī; the Bāyazīdī from around Maḥvalāt and Torbat-e Ḥaydarī; the Jān-Begī from the area of Rošḵᵛar and Torbat-e Ḥaydarī; the Jān-Mīrzāʾī from the Torbat-e Ḥaydarī district; the Fatḥ-Allāhī (Fatollāhī) from the northern Zābol area; the Ḥasanzāʾī found dispersed throughout the entire region; the Qarāʾī, who belong with the Sālaṟ-ḵānī, from Torbat-e Ḥaydarī; the Ḵānzāʾī from the Saraḵs area; the Kolāh-derāzī from the neighborhood of Kāšmar and Torbat-e Ḥaydarī; the Kūrḵa-īlī or Sālār-ḵānī in the area of Jangal and Torbat-e Ḥaydarī; the Kurd from around Saraḵs; the Lāḵī from the area of Saraḵs and Qāʾenāt; the Madad-ḵānī from the region of Zābol and Qāʾenāt; the Narīmānī from the area of Torbat-e Jām and Mašhad; the Raḥīm-ḵānī from the Saraḵs and Torbat-e Ḥaydarī area; the Sarbandī from Sīstān; the Šāhzāʾī from around Torbat-e Jām; the Tūḵī subtribes Jamālzāʾī and Sūrānī from the area south of Nehbandān and the Sīstān region; the Vāḵerī in the neighborhood of Seydābād in the Mašhad district.

Bibliography :

S. Azadi, Persian Carpets I: Inauguration of the Carpet Museum in Teheran/Iran, Hamburg and Tehran, 1977. Idem, “Einige Teppiche in Belutschtradition,” Weltkunst 48/8, 1978. Idem and A. Besim, Carpets in the Baluch Tradition, Munich, 1986. R. Barberie, Geknüpfte und gewebte Arbeiten der Belutsch-Nomaden, Vienna, 1982. P. Bausback, Alte Knupfarbeiten der Belutschen, Mannheim, 1980. I. Bennett, “Three Baluch Rugs,” Halı 1/4, 1978, pp. 399-400. D. Black, Rugs of the Wandering Baluchi, London, 1976. J. W. Boucher, “Baluchi Weaving of the 19th Century,” Halı 1/3, 1978, pp. 284-87. M. Craycraft, Belouch Prayer Rugs, Point Reyes Station, Calif., 1982. M. L. Dames, The Baloche Race, London, 1904. A. C. Edwards, The Persian Carpet, London, 1953, 1960, 1975. J. Elfenbein, “Balūčistān,” in EI2 I. M. E. Enay and Azadi, Einhundert Jahre Orientteppich-Literatur, Hanover, 1977. W. Geiger, Ethymologie des Baluči, in Abh. Königlich. Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, l. Kl., 19, Munich, 1899. S. A. Hilhofer, Die Teppiche Zentralasiens, Hanover, 1968. W. Ivanov, “Notes on the Ethnology of Khurassan,” The Geographical Journal 67/1, 1926, p. 143. A. Janata, “Die Bevölkerung von Ghor,” Archiv für Völkerkunde 17-18, 1962-63, pp. 73-156. Idem, “Völkerkundliche Forschungen in West-Afghanistan 1969,” Bustan 2-3, 1970, pp. 50-65. Idem, “Flachgewebe aus West-Afghanistan,” Heimtex 3, 1979, pp. 72-92. H. M. Jones and J. W. Boucher, Baluchi Rugs, Washington, D.C., 1974. M. G. Konieczny, Textiles of Baluchistan, London, 1979. P. W. Meister and S. Azadi, Persische Teppiche, Hamburg and Frankfurt am Main, 1971. Pakistan-American Cultural Centre, ed., Folk Craft of Baluchistan and Sind, Karachi, 1968. D. Schletzer, Alte und antike Teppiche der Belutsch und Ersari, Hamburg, 1974. W. Stanzer, “Balutsch-Teppiche Werden Salonfähig,” Afghanistan Journal 9/4, 1982, p. 146. B. and D. H. G. Wegner, “Stickereien in Afghanistan,” Textilhandwerk in Afghanistan [Bibliotheca Afghanica 3], Liestal, 1983, pp. 133-57. D. H. G. Wegner, “Nomaden- und Bauernteppiche in Afghanistan,” Baessler Archiv, N.S. 12, 1964, pp. 141-77. Idem, “Some Notes on the Rugs of Baluchi Nomads and Related Weavers,” Halı, 1/3, 1978, pp. 287-93. Idem, “Der Knüpfteppich bei Belutschen und ihren Nachbarn,” Tribus 29, 1980, pp. 57-105. J. Zick-Nissen, Nomadenkunst aus Belutchistan, Berlin, 1968.

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Posted by on April 6, 2011 in Baloch Culture


Clothing of the Baluch in Pakistan and Afghanistan

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By: Pamela Hunte

In contrast to the stark landscape of much of Paki­stan and Afghanistan (q.v.), the clothing of the Baluch is distinguished by colorful embroidery patterns that serve as ethnic markers, helping to differentiate Baluch from Pashtuns (Pathans), Punjabis, Sindhis, and other ethnic groups in these highly pluralistic areas The garb of the Brahui (q.v.), another ethnic group of central Baluchistan, is almost indistin­guishable from that of the Baluch, their close neigh­bors. Although linguistically quite distinct—Brahui is a Dravidian language and Baluchi (see baluchistan iii. baluchi language and literature) Iranian—in recent years the two groups have joined politically, economically, and in other ways, in order to compete more successfully with the numerically dominant Pashtuns of northern Pakistani Baluchistan and southern Afghanistan.

Baluch apparel, which is loose-fitting and made of many meters of lightweight material, is well suited to the harsh and dusty desert and mountain environments that the Baluch inhabit. The emphasis here is primarily on the garb of the Pakistani Baluch, who live in the province of Baluchistan (now officially Balochistan) in western Pakistan, and, to a lesser extent, of the Afghan Baluch, who are found in the extreme south­western section of Afghanistan. Among the major tribal groupings in Pakistan are the Rend, Raḵšānī, Marri-Bugti (Marī-Bogṭī), Mangal (Mengal), Lashari (Lāšārī), and Ghitchki (Gīčkī); in Afghanistan such groups as Madatkhan (Madadḵān), Mashkel (Maškēl), Shorawak (Šōrāwak), Adraskhan (Adrasḵān), and Mushwari (Mūšwārī) are found. All these tribes have a nomadic history, and today a large proportion persist in a transhumant life-style; the majority of the Baluch are, however, agriculturalists or town dwellers.

There is some variation in apparel among tribes, especially in specific embroidery designs and in the terminology applied to garments and embroidery patterns. Geographic nuances are also apparent: The northern tribes in both Pakistan and Afghanistan wear heavier clothing as protection in the colder climate. Despite these differences, however, there is a basic style of clothing that can be identified as that of present-day Baluch (Figure 67). Only a few decades ago the shirts or dresses (pašk) were considerably fuller and reached to the ankles; the loose trousers, or pajamas (pādak), were also longer; and men’s hair was not cut (Janmahmad, p. 53). This version can still be seen in Afghanistan and in isolated rural regions of Pakistani Baluchistan, especially among the Marri-Bugti; nevertheless, owing to increasing contact with urban centers and subsequent sedentarization, these traditional styles are undergoing change. At the same time, however, both political and economic competi­tion among various ethnic groups in the region is growing more intense, and identification with one’s tribal group can be most clearly expressed through traditional dress.

Embroidery designs and techniques. Most charac­teristic of Baluch costume is embroidery of a beauty and intricacy that contrast strongly with the simplicity of the remainder of Baluch material culture (Konieczny, p. 11). The designs, of which there are many, are composed primarily of geometric shapes suggestive of flowers and leaves arranged in symmetrical patterns. Women’s dresses and men’s hats provide the best examples of such careful handwork; the colors of both textiles and embroideries are vibrant, with shocking pink and parrot green among the most popular for both female and male. Certain specific embroidery patterns are very common in Pakistan: hapt-rang (seven colors; Figure 68a), kōṭrō (bungalow; Figure 68b), mīṛčūk (pepper; Figure 68c), and ḵām-kār/zūrattō (raw work; Figure 68d). Use of a single pattern is most common, though sometimes more than one are combined on a single garment. One of the most popular embroidery compositions is the “frame design” (Azadi and Besim, p. 63), in which medallions, or flowers (pūll), of complex shape—some complete (ṭīk) and others trun­cated (kapp)—fill an assigned rectangular space of field and borders (Figure 68a, d-e). Similar frame designs are also quite common on Baluch flat-weave and pile rugs (see baluchistan v. baluch carpets), as well as on classic Turkman rugs from farther north in Afghanistan.

In some pieces of embroidery only cotton thread in a multitude of colors is used, whereas in others small circular mirrors (šīša) are also incorporated into the designs (Figure 68a, f). Among the Baluch such work is part of an ancient tradition, in which small pieces of mica were used before thin mirror glass became avail­able. Intricate mirror work is also common in neighboring Sind province in Pakistan and the adjacent region of Rajasthan. The designs of the Marri­-Bugti tribes (Figure 68e), an isolated population in the eastern portion of the province (Yacopino, p. 32), are generally considered the most detailed of Baluch embroidery designs. The Afghan Baluch use bolder and heavier patterns than those of Pakistan (Figure 68f), reflecting in both colors and stitches the influ­ence of their more numerous and powerful Pashtun neighbors; indeed, Baluch garb is often influenced by that of neighboring groups, especially in the south, where designs from nearby Sind are incorporated (Janmahmad, p. 54).

Most Baluch women know how to embroider, but some are more skilled than others or take more interest in such work. They do not use charts or diagrams but instead create extremely complex designs from memory, often with assistance and suggestions from family members or neighbors. Many women set aside a few hours after completing their daily household tasks for embroidery work in the afternoons, either alone or in groups. Straight needles and commercial thread produced in Pakistan are most commonly used, though hooked needles are required for some patterns. The ground cloth may be of a solid color or a print; some of the cloth is produced in Pakistan, but some is imported from Japan and other countries. Once the embroidery is finished, the garment is assembled by a local tailor or by the woman herself if she is fortunate enough to own a sewing machine. Making clothing fulfills important family needs, but it also provides much enjoyment and recreation for women, who take great pride in their handiwork and consider it the essence of being Baluch. Most women labor for years embroidering fine works of art for their daughters’ dowries (j[ah]āz, dāj). Little girls begin to learn basic stitches and patterns at about the age of six or seven years. Extremely skilled embroiderers, or those who are quite poor, may also sell their work to other community members. The prices for their work vary considerably (e.g., $1-$75), depending on the difficulty of the pattern and other factors. Money earned from such transactions usually remains part of a woman’s own budget and is used for household expenses or for her children (Hunte and Sultana).

Women’s clothing. An outfit covered with detailed embroidery is everyday attire for the Baluch woman (Figure 67). She usually possesses at least two sets of matching dress and pajamas, which are worn until they are threadbare. The back of the Afghan Baluch dress often consists of a large square of cheap unembroidered cotton, which can be replaced when worn out without sacrificing the embroidery on the front of the dress. The woman may make a special costume for weddings, which, with the passage of time, becomes her everyday work dress. The embroi­dered pieces of the dress usually include a fully embroidered bodice (jīg/jēg) containing a central pat­terned strip (tōī), embroidered sleeves (bānzārī), and a large pocket (las, paddō/pandōl), stitched to the skirt of the dress, extending from waist to hem in front. This pocket is the major ethnic marker of Baluch female garb, a handy receptacle for the nomadic woman and more recently for the sedentary town dweller as well. It usually holds embroidery thread, small change, snuff (nāswār), medicines, and the like. The skirt is gathered at the waist on each side.

In accordance with the basic tenets of Islam, women must keep their heads covered; a Baluch woman wears a large scarf (čādar, sarēg), usually of light flower-printed cotton. Probably as a result of their nomadic history, strict veiling (parda) is not as common among the Baluch as among the Pashtuns, but most Baluch women do draw the corners of their scarves across their faces when unknown adult males are near. Most Baluch women today wear bright plastic sandals im­ported from Persia and sold at any town or city bāzār in Pakistan. Only a few decades ago, however, females wore the same shoes of heavy leather and old car tires or, in the hotter southern areas, of date-palm leaves that men wear (see below).

The Baluch woman’s everyday garb is completed by jewelry, which serves as an indicator of economic standing. Most characteristic and most impressive are earrings, which typically consist of thirteen or fourteen small rings inserted along the rim of each ear from the top of the ear to the bottom of the lobe (kārī). The weight of these rings causes the upper flap of the ear to fall forward, which is considered a sign of beauty. The earrings are most often of silver, though base metal and gold are also used; they are produced by Baluch silversmiths (zargar). A female baby’s ears are usu­ally pierced for such a series of small earrings shortly after birth. After marriage a woman may add huge earrings made of thick pieces of gold (tong), which are gifts from her husband. In addition, nose rings (būl) and nose pins (pūllī “flowers”) are very popular, as are heavy necklaces (tawk) and bracelets (dastē kangar). These pieces are usually made of metal, which is commonly believed to be a “strong” substance, help­ful in counteracting evil spirits (jenn). In addition, all females braid their long hair and tie the bottom of each braid with a single multicolored tassel (sāgī) made of hundreds of small glass beads and yarn pompons.

Men’s clothing. Although less colorful than women’s attire, men’s clothing is also characterized by special features that immediately identify the wearer as Baluch. Most important is the cap (tōpī), which has a charac­teristic blocked shape with a scalloped cutout in the front for ventilation (Figure 67). Women embroider these caps for their husbands and sons, using bright pink, orange, or red thread and gold or silver filament; in addition, a number of small, glittering pieces of mirror are incorporated into the intricate designs. Boys and young men wear only these caps, whereas older men add huge white turbans (pāg), each of light cotton cloth many meters long. The specific method of wrapping these turbans further serves to distinguish one tribe from another.

In addition to the loose shirt and pajamas men wear a tight-fitting vest (giḍḍī, jēkaṭ) embroidered on the edges of the front and pockets, usually in the ḵām-kār/zūrattō pattern (Figure 68d). The work is normally done by hand, though the dark-blue, brown, or black Marri-Bugti vest is machine-embroidered all over in floral and vine patterns. Historically only a white shirt and pajamas were worn, but today these garments are indistinguishable in color and cut from those worn by the Pashtuns, usually of such muted solid colors as beige, white, or gray, with which the colorful embroi­dered vest makes a striking contrast. Young men may wear bright blue or green garments, however.

Perhaps the best-known type of Baluch footwear is the heavy sandals (čabbaw) produced by men in hun­dreds of small shops throughout Baluchistan; the tops are of heavy leather and the soles cut from old automo­bile tires, which are excellent for walking on rough desert or mountain terrain and are comfortable in town as well. There are a score of different arrangements of straps and braids associated with various regions. In the hot south traditional footwear made from palm fronds is still to be seen, though it is no longer com­mon.

Children’s clothing. From birth to the age of six months infants are tightly swaddled in large pieces of cloth (bandūmī/bandōk) tied with colorful woven rope (čeṭṭ) that women make by hand. Attached to the end of the rope and serving as a fastener is a huge stuffed triangle colorfully embroidered in the ḵām-kār (Fig­ure 68d) or another pattern. Swaddling is said to prevent the infant from crying and also to keep him or her warm. The infant’s head is covered with a multi­colored bonnet edged with brilliant embroidery. Tod­dlers of both sexes are allowed to wander near home wearing frocks without pajamas. According to legend, boys cannot be killed in tribal feuding before they have begun to wear trousers, which is usually at the age of three or four years (Baluch, 1977).

The clothing of older children is simply a miniature version of adult garb. For example, as soon as a little girl is six months old she is fitted with a small frock covered with heavy embroidery and with a large front pocket. Small boys wear heavy sandals in styles similar to those of their fathers. Amulets (taʿwīḏ) are commonly worn by all infants and children, who are thus protected from evil spirits; the amulets may be small leather packets holding extracts from the Koran and strings of turquoise beads, fish bones, and the like worn round the neck.

Bibliography :

S. Azadi and A. Besim, Teppiche in der Belutsch-Tradition/Carpets in the Baluch Tra­dition, Munich, 1986. M. S. K. Baluch, A Literary History of the Baluchis, Quetta, 1977. P. Hunte and F. Sultana, Women’s Income Generating Activities in Rural Baluchistan, Quetta, 1984. A. Jamāldīnī, “Baločī doč”/“Balochi Embroidery,” in J. Elfenbein, An Anthology of Classical and Modern Balochi Lit­erature I. Anthology, Wiesbaden, 1990, pp. 410-19. Jānmahmad, The Baloch Cultural Heritage, Karachi, 1982. M. G. Konieczny, Textiles of Baluchistan, London, 1979. F. Yacopino, Threadlines Pakistan, Islamabad, 1977.

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Posted by on April 6, 2011 in Baloch Culture


Baluch clothing and embroidery today

By: Mehremonīr Jahānbānī

Today the Baluch, while maintaining their tradi¬tional styles of clothing, work with an expanded palette of colorfully patterned commercial fabrics and threads. Local demand is increasingly satisfied by machine embroideries produced by men, who have introduced intricate stitches and new motifs. The increasing demand among urban and foreign connois¬seurs for hand embroideries, which take months to produce, has led women to specialize in this work for the marketplace Traditional men’s costume. The traditional costume worn by Baluch men is usually of white, cream, khaki, or light-gray cotton. The trousers are extremely wide, hanging in folds between the legs (plate cxlv). They are drawn in to a waistband and are tapered at the ankles. A loose shirt reaches to the knees or even lower and is worn over trousers. The older style has a round neckline with a buttoned opening on one shoulder. The more modern neckline has a collar and a buttoned opening down the front to the waist. Until the 1920s men in colder regions used to wear fully embroidered jackets over this basic costume. The material, woven by the men themselves, was of lamb’s wool or goat hair and was at most 40 cm wide. The women sewed these pieces into jackets, which they then embroidered with traditional motifs and colors. The headgear of men consists of a piece of cloth wrapped as a turban, which is gradually becoming less popular.
Traditional women’s dress. The women wear a straight, loose robe of cotton or light wool, extending to mid-calf. The simple round neckline is slit to the breastbone in front. Sleeves are long and loose and slightly tapered at the wrist. This robe is worn over loose-fitting trousers of a different color; the trousers are gathered at the waist with a drawstring and tapered at the ankles (plate cxlvi).
The most striking feature of the women’s costume is the hand embroidery covering the front of the dress and the cuffs of the sleeves and trousers. These embroidered pieces are prepared separately and later sewn onto the dresses. The piece for the front of the bodice (zī) is square and extends across the entire front from shoulders to waist. Another rectangular piece (koptān) extends from the waist to the hem of the dress and comes to a point at the top; the sides of this piece are left unstitched for approximately 30 cm, so that it can function as a large pocket. Two trapezoidal pieces 25 cm wide and 45 cm long are stitched onto the sleeves as cuffs, and two similar but slightly smaller pieces decorate the trouser hems.
A century ago silk thread was used for this fine needlework; the women raised the silkworms them¬selves; made the thread locally, then dyed it with vegetable dyes. Within the past century, however, cotton thread has been imported for this purpose, at first mostly from neighboring provinces of India and subsequently from Pakistan. The traditional colors used in the needlework were limited to six, the most important of which were two shades of red (a dark crimson and a lighter vermilion or orange); black and white were used to a lesser degree, with a few specks of green and blue. The material for these embroidered pieces was of a simple weave with clearly visible warp and weft threads, usually in a dark color.
The traditional embroidery technique remains the same. Initially the outline of each motif is sewn onto the back side of the material, a process called sīahkār. The outlines are then filled in with the various colors, each of which has its specific place in the design. The whole piece is worked from the back side, an arduous and lengthy process. When it is completed, the embroidery completely covers the base material (plate cxlvii).
There are approximately fifty to seventy motifs in Baluch embroidery (čakan-e balūčī), each with its own name, though the names may differ slightly in differ¬ent regions and simpler versions are identified by the names of the localities where they are made. In Persia this type of embroidery is practiced only by Baluch women and is still very much alive among the settled populations in Persian Baluchistan, especially in the villages of the central region and in the Āhorrān mountains. Within the last thirty years innovative techniques and about 390 new colors have been intro¬duced.
Until recently women’s headgear consisted simply of a rectangular piece of thin material (sarūk), em¬broidered on the edges with a simple pattern, which fell to a point just above the knees in back. Since the Revolution of 1358 Š./1979 women have been forced by the government to wear the čādor (q.v.), which covers their beautiful embroidered clothing entirely. Although economic conditions in Baluchistan are harsh, jewelry is accumulated by a woman and her family as a form of displayable wealth. Most pieces are crudely fashioned of silver, though gold is worn by those who can afford it. They are usually decorated with semiprecious stones, glass, or even plastic imita¬tions. The jewelry, which resembles that of the Turkmen and the women of Pakistan, includes headbands, chokers, necklaces, bracelets, earrings of various types, and nose ornaments.
[The author of this article first became interested in the textile arts of Baluchistan in 1960, and subse¬quently, in the course of numerous trips to that province, she acquainted herself with the traditional embroidery of Baluch women. She became a cham¬pion of this art, striving to make it better known outside Baluchistan. She also perceived areas in which the embroideries could be made more appeal¬ing, in terms of the variety of colors, designs, and materials. With her assistance, many Baluch women were able to find new outlets for their work in Tehran and abroad.]


Posted by on April 6, 2011 in Baloch Culture


Clothing of the Baluch in Persia

Traditional Baluch embroidered dress

By: Iran Ala Firouz

The area traditionally known as Baluchistan (q.v.) comprises the large southeastern portion of the Persian plateau and portions of southwestern Afghanistan and western Pakistan. The Persian province of Baluchistan is inhabited mainly by nomads and a settled rural population. This region is particularly noted for a distinctive type of richly embroidered women’s cos¬tume, which is still commonly worn in the villages. The embroidery, traditionally produced in cottage in¬dustries, is even now, despite inevitable changes, particularly in the color combinations of the needle¬work, one of the popular handicrafts for which an active market exists.
The basic garments are variations of the traditional and tribal costume characteristic of Persia as a whole: a long, loose robe with a round neckline, a slit down the center of the bodice, and long, wide sleeves tapering toward the wrists (plate cxliii), worn over a chemise and wide trousers narrowing at the ankles and with a drawstring at the waist. The fabric used today is synthetic. The material maybe plain or printed with an all-over design. Either black or solid bright colors, predominantly red, plum, and orange, provide fitting backgrounds to set off the very fine and colorful embroidery. As the available fabric comes in narrow widths, numerous seams cunningly fitted together are necessary for the wide chemise. Occasionally, the dress is made up of wide satin pieces in a variety of colors patched together in orderly stripes. The costume is completed with a long, rectangular headscarf of transparent fabric, usually black, colorfully embroi¬dered all around.
Baluch embroidery is worked on a base fabric of loosely woven cotton in panels, which facilitates de¬tailed needlework. The embroidered panels are sewn onto the dress, covering the wide, square bodice entirely (zī; plate cxliv); the long rectangular panel down the center front of the skirt (jīb) comes to a point at the top, where it touches the bodice. The cuffs of the trousers and sleeves in particular are also provided with wide bands of embroidery. Nowadays, however, the trouser cuffs are generally embroidered with a simple machine-made motif. The vertical seams of the robes can be ornamented with either narrow bands of machine-made motifs or gilt edging, and an unusual feature is a square patch of embroidery appliquéd on the back of the shoulders. The borders of the neckline, cuffs, and bodice closing are neatly finished in a distinctive fashion. In some areas of Baluchistan mirror work is also incorporated into the embroidery, anchored by buttonhole stitching; alternatively sequins are scattered over the embroidery, a type of ornamentation favored in Pakistani Baluchistan (see xix, below).
Embroidery is worked in strictly compartmentalized repeat geometric and angular designs; stylistic differ¬ences in the patterns and colors reflect different geographical areas within the province. The motifs may be stylized versions of flowers and plant forms.
The colorful and opulent ornamentation of Baluch dress may be a response to the harsh environment. Traditionally embroidery was worked in lustrous mercerized cotton thread, in a rich range of orange, red, and plum shades, crisply set off with touches of dark green, maroon, royal blue, and black and flecks of white; now it has generally been replaced by nylon thread. The embroidery itself is very fine, intricate and detailed. The stitches consist of large double back stitches (ṣarrāfī-dūzī), double braid stitches forming ridges, eyelet-hole stitches, running stitches, button¬hole stitches, ladder stitches, satin stitches sometimes forming a chevron design (ẓarīf-dūzī), fine interlacing stitches (perīvār-dūzī), and small blocks of satin stitches forming geometric shapes (balūčī-dūzī).
It is relevant to add a word about the traditional jewelry invariably worn by Baluch women with their embroidered costume. The wrists are ornamented with pairs of wide silver bracelets with raised designs. There may also be a choker of semiglobular gold roundels with granulations, topped with alternating red and turquoise stones and surrounded by a double border of plastic gold beads, the whole composition sewn on a band of black material. A profusion of different silver rings worn on the fingers and in the nostrils completes their adornment.
In contrast to the women, men traditionally wear sober white clothing consisting of long, very loose shirts over extremely full trousers (approximately 2.2 m wide), which fall between the legs in folds and taper only at the ankles. The headdress is a white turban with protruding ends.

Bibliography :

This article is based on personal observations. See also I. A. Firouz, “Needlework,” in J. Gluck and S. Gluck, eds., A Survey of Persian Handicraft, Tehran, 1977, pp. 256-58. Idem, “Countering the Anonymity of Daily Routine. Embroidery in Iran,” Asian Culture 34, 1983, p. 22.

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Posted by on April 6, 2011 in Baloch Culture



By:Joseph Elfenbein

The clearest way to describe Baluchi poetry is by dividing it into 4 periods: (1) classical, from ca. 1550-1700; (2) post-classical, from 1700-1800; (3) 19th century to early 20th century; (4) modern, after ca. 1930.

Historical development and genres. Up to the modern period, all Baluchi literature was oral and mostly poetical, saved only in the memories of professional reciters (ḍōmbs, lōṛīs, or lāngaws), but from the 1850s on, it was sometimes preserved in writing by collectors (mainly British) in India. By far the most important of these was Mansell Longworth Dames (1850-1922), an Indian Civil Servant, whose work in the 1890s superseded that of all his predecessors. Others followed, including in the 20th century some Baluchi collectors. Serious literary production in prose was not attempted before the 20th century. (The main written sources are given in the Bibliography.)

The preserved poetry of the classical period appears to consist entirely of ballads, whilst from the post-classical times onward some lyrical poems, mainly ghazals (lyric poems; see ḠAZAL) or similar types, make their appearance. The oldest classical ballads, called daptar šā’irī “register ballads” due to their lists of personal, tribal, and place names, may date back to the 16th century. The few that have been preserved are often badly corrupted. Their content does not vary a great deal: the first migrations of the Baluch tribes from their supposed original home in Aleppo, Syria, after the Battle of Karbalāʾ (680 CE) eastwards towards Persia, thence through present-day Iranian Baluchistan (q.v.) to Kech (Kēč, in the Makrān division of Baluchistan province, Pakistan). The Kech valley was a central meeting-point for the tribes, who then branched out on their further migrations. Only these parts of the ballads, providing details (place-names, etc.) after the Baluch arrival in Iranian Baluchistan, can have any historical value. Their origins in Aleppo are quite mythical; some of these daptars have been published.

The body of Baluchi classical poetry is more extensive than previously thought, and only a part of it has been collected and published. The main body may be conveniently classified in various cycles of heroic balladry, and the constant theme is that of tribal conflict. The structure of Baluch society in the 16th-18th centuries is clearly mirrored in them. It is a picture of a semi-nomadic tribal society, strongly hierarchical and male-dominated, in which concepts of duty and honor play the chief roles, superseding all individual inclinations, so that the outcomes of conflicts are almost always tragic. The chief code of conduct was riwāǰ “tribal law,” infringement of which usually meant death or banishment.

The most important, as well as extensive, cycle is the Čākur Cycle of ballads, a number of which have been collected and published. Its main subject is the events of the long, thirty years’ war between the Rind and Lāšārī tribes, leading to the virtual extermination of the latter. The events described probably belong to the period 1475-1525. It is difficult to vouch for the contemporary nature of many of the extant ballads, for they have been elaborated and reworked over the centuries by reciters; but certainly the core of them must be authentic. Little can be deduced from their language, for the extreme conservatism of Baluchi has kept it from important linguistic change: the Baluchi of a thousand years ago cannot have been very different from the Baluchi of today.

Another important classical cycle is the Dōdā-Bālāč Cycle (dateable perhaps to the 18th century), which begins with the description of a raid by the Buledi tribal chief Mīr Bībarg on Dōdā’s cattle, leading to a long and bloody series of retaliations on both sides until most of the principal actors are killed. Only Bālāč, Dōdā’s brother, and his friend, the slave Nakīb, survive; he and a few followers proceed to wreak their revenge on their foes.

Also noteworthy are the many ballads in the Hammal ǰīhand Cycle, describing the struggles of the Baluch of the Makrān coast with the Portuguese in the 16th century. At base certainly historical, the details have not as yet been studied or compared with possible material in Portuguese archives (for a more detailed description of these cycles, see BALUCHISTAN III. BALUCHI LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE ii. Baluchi Literature).

Besides these historical ballads, there exist a number of long compositions which could date from the 18th century, mainly based on well-known Persian romances, such as Leyli o Majnun and Љirin o Farhād; their authors are unknown. Of greater interest is the purely Baluchi epic Dōstēn o Šīrēn, of which several versions are known, including a first-rate modern version (1964) by the poet Gol Khān Naṣir.

In the post-classical period of the 18th century, we come to the poetry of named poets, of whom the earliest as well as the most important is ǰām Durrak, the chief poet at the court of Naṣir Khan I of Kalāt (1749-95). Whilst there are no extant manuscripts from his own time, much of what has come down to us seems genuine. His best work is characterized by a most individual style, of short lyric verses with irregular rhyme and a clipped meter; it has been much imitated. Several other poets of the 18th century are known by name, and brief examples of their work have been collected and published.

From the 19th century onwards, a much larger corpus of poetry is extant, and at least a half-dozen poets are well known, including two from Iranian Baluchistan and two from the eastern regions of Pakistani Baluchistan, and all of their poetry has been preserved in its original dialect form.

In the modern period after ca. 1930, several magazines were started in Karachi and Quetta for the purpose of publishing Baluchi writing in general, and these always included examples of poetry in each issue; the script used was a modified Urdu type. Poetry competitions were held. After the partition of India in 1947, several “Baluchi Academies” were founded in Pakistan, the main purpose of which was literary publication. The earliest of these was the Balōčī Zubānē Dīwān (“Baluchi language group”) in Quetta in 1951, but it lasted only two years. Its most important publication was probably Gulbāng, a collection of poetry by the poet Gol Khān Naṣīr of Nushki (1914-84), the leading poet of his time.

The centers of Baluchi publication have always been Quetta and Karachi, and to a lesser degree, after 1978, also Kabul. Unfortunately, what promised to be an impressive program of literary publication in Kabul came to an end after the end of communist rule in 1992; and at the time of writing (2008) there is little prospect of a revival. But in Quetta and Karachi periodicals of note have been published (see Bibliography; Elfenbein, forthcoming). In Quetta, the most important literary magazine formerly was Māhtāk Balōčī, which appeared from 1956 at irregular intervals for over 30 years. Much material from the first collections of classical balladry first saw publication there. Nothing of note has been published in Iran, despite the large numbers of Baluchis living there.

Verse construction and metrics. Classical Baluchi balladry employs meters and rhyme schemes which have little or nothing in common with the traditions of Persian or Arabic poetry, and whilst some poets since the 19th century have written,for instance, ghazals in the Persian manner, most leading modern poets tend to avoid them, particularly since the literary revival of the 1930s.

Baluchi poetry depends above all on syllable count and stress; long and short syllables form its basis in various stress patterns. Stress is in principle restricted to long syllables, with one stress per foot, though exceptions are not infrequent. A long syllable is of the type VC or CVC; all other syllables are short. A short syllable may not follow a short syllable; various devices are used to scan a sequence of short syllables, one of the most common being to scan CV CV as CVC V. Sequences of vowels, such as the causative infix -āēn-, may be scanned as two syllables, or as a monosyllable, as required.

Rhyme is used as a punctuation device or for dramatic effect. Ultramodern poetry, influenced as it is by European models—principally English—is often composed in free verse, or in any other form which suits the poet’s fancy. When rhyme is employed, lines may rhyme in bands of 2, 3, or 4 lines, seldom more. But the poet Gol Khan, in a parade of poetical virtuosity, has composed poems consisting entirely of one rhyme (see example 9, below). A change of rhyme marks the end of a thought sequence; particularly dramatic is a single unrhymed line (sometimes with a caesura or a change of rhythm) standing in the midst of several rhymed lines.

As a standardized written Baluchi has not yet developed, each poet tends to write in his own dialect. But classical balladry has always been recited in the Coastal dialect, and more or less accurately imitated by speakers of other dialects. Eastern Hill Baluchi is also used for classical ballads. (Two examples below, nos. 2 and 11, have been quoted in this dialect.) Most non-Coastal-speaking poets have composed their work in a mixture of dialects in what is quite an artificial language; in particular the poet Gol Khān Naṣir has often used real (and imagined) Coastal dialect forms in his native Raxšānī. The poems below are cited in the form written or recited. The translations have been kept as literal as possible to facilitate understanding; no attempt has been made to do justice to the originals. Examples 2-11 are taken from Elfenbein, 1990. For the scansion pattern of each example, see TABLE 1.

Example 1. The following exhibits the meter and rhyme scheme of one of the earliest ballads, a daptar šā’ir dating from perhaps the 16th century. Accidents of its (oral) transmission have produced many corrupt versions (e.g., Grierson, 1921, pp. 370-75). Below are the first 4 lines of what could be its original form (see Elfenbein, forthcoming).

Rājā ač Ḥalab zahr bītant

Ā rōč ki Yazīd sar zītant

Sulṭān Šāh Ḥusayn kušta

Rāǰān purr hasad bad burta

The tribes from Aleppo became angry

On the day that their heads were attacked by Yazid

Sultan Shah Ḥosayn was killed

The tribes, full of jealousy, bore it badly.

The lines are of 8 syllables, in a triple rhythm of three feet with a truncated last foot. In line 3 one can scan Ḥosayn as three syllables: otherwise the line lacks a syllable. It will be noticed that many long syllables are scanned short, as needed. The lines rhyme in bands of two. This pattern is still in use today for some ballads.

Example 2. The following specimen from the Čākur Cycle is in the Eastern Hill Dialect, and probably dates from the late 17th century (Elfenbein, 1990, p.332, no. 55 [1]).

Sēwī ghōṛawī gaṛdān bāθ

Durrēn Gōharē margān bāθ

Gwahrām ža dō-ǰāh bē-ǰāh bāθ

May the Sihi troop of horse be as dust

May it be the death of pearly Gohar

May Gwahram be without either of his two places.

It is to be scanned in eight syllables, stressed as marked in Table 1. Line 3 has, irregularly, a short syllable on the first beat of the second foot.

Example 3. The following is from the Dōda-Bālāč Cycle, but perhaps dates from the post-classical period (Elfenbein, 1990, p.342, no. 57):

Dōdā manī kunḍī kaptā

Ērmānag o dast-ī mušta

Munḍ manā parmōš na-bīt

Dard-ant mān Bālāčē dilā

Dōdā is fallen at my knees

Depressed, and he wrung his hands

Never shall I forget

There are sorrows in Balač’s heart.

This poem also shows an eight-syllable line, in triple rhythm with a truncated last foot. There are many interchanges of long and short vowels for scansion; rhyme is irregular: there are bands of two or more rhymed lines, with an unrhymed line preceding the refrain, which itself does not rhyme.

Example 4. The following extract is from a typical lyric poem of ǰām Durrak, a court poet at Kalāt in the 18th century (Elfenbein, 1990, p.308, no. 53):

Gōšit kungurān

Bēl o kēnagān

Šāhī hambalān

Listen, O braves

Friends and enemies

Royal companions.

Durrak’s lyric poetry is characterized by short lines, usually with random rhyming schemes. This poem has a five-syllable line, with some longs scanned short.

The following examples, all of them modern, have been chosen to show a typical range of structures. I have restricted quotations to the first few lines; for further details the reader is referred to Elfenbein, 1990. Much used is a ten-syllable line of three feet in triple rhythm, with fixed stress on the first syllable of each foot. The last syllable of the line is also stressed.

Example 5.

Raptagē taw hamā ča payrīyā

Čamm manī kōr-ant ač zahīrīyā

Thou art only gone since yesterday

My eyes are blinded with yearning.

This poem, by Moḥammad ʿOnqā (ʿUnqā, Elfenbein, 1990, p.132, no. 19(1)) is to be scanned as shown in Table 1; long syllables are often taken as short.

Example 6. In “Bahār Gāh” (“Springtime”; Elfenbein, 1990, p.138, no. 21) a famous long lyric poem by Āzāt ǰamāldīnī, we have a five-syllable line which is to be scanned iambically; its refrain runs:

O dil ma-kan yāt

ranǰān ma-kan zyāt

ā māh o sālān

ā gapp o gālān!

O heart, do not remember

Do not grieve me so much

Those months and years

Those chats!

The main poem consists mainly of eight lines preceding each occurrence of the refrain, which itself rhymes in bands of two.

Example 7. Another example of the three-syllable foot is to be seen in Moḥammad Ašāq Šāmīm’s “Balōčī Zubān” (“The Balochi Language;” Elfenbein, 1990, p.150, no. 24), which uses a four-foot, ten- or eleven-syllable line with irregular caesuras:

Sarōkī nēst, nē rāhē nišān-int

guḍā ham kārawān sarsar ǰanān-int

agar manzil manā ča badgumān-int

hamē āwāz ča kōhān rasān-int

Balōčī mē watī sahdēn zubān-int

No leader, no road-marker is there

Even so the caravan makes its way ahead

If a stage is depressing for me

The same cry arrives from the mountains

Baluchi is our own honeyed tongue.

Note how watī in the refrain must be scanned wat-i and not wa-ti; each verse consists of four lines, each of one rhyme, followed by the refrain line which may or may not rhyme with what precedes it.

Example 8. In “Balōčistān, Balōčistān!” (Elfenbein, 1990, pp.162-65, no. 28) Gol Khan has written what has become almost a national anthem. Written in an iambic, eight-syllable line, the first syllable of each foot must be scanned short even if it is long. The first verse runs:

may nām o nang o burzēn šān

may haḍḍ o gōšt o hōn o sāh

dar āhtag ač tay hākā

taw ē may māt o sērēn lāp

bibē sarsabz o ham šādāp

taw ammē sāh o ammē ǰān

Balōčistān, Balōčistān!

Our name and honor and high fame

Our flesh and blood and bone and soul

Emerged from thy dust

Thou art our mother and full belly

Be thou evergreen and a greensward

Thou art our soul and our life

Baluchistan, Baluchistan!

Line 3 is deliberately irregular with only seven syllables (Table 1.8b), all of them long; a sudden caesura in its third foot adds to the tension.

Example 9. In “Tīr Gāl Kant” (“The Bullet Speaks;” Elfenbein, 1990, p.170, no. 30), Gul Khan exhibits a certain technical virtuosity, rhyming all lines in one rhyme, -ārīā:

byāit o bēlān may kačāhrīā

buškunit gālān pa dil-karārīā

kissagē kārān pa dawr-o-bārīā

Come O friends to our meeting

Hear verses with a contented heart

A story I bring for the times

The poem is mainly in eleven-syllable lines (cf. ten in Table 1.9a) with constant rhythm; note the displaced stress in line 3 (Table 1.9c).

Example 10. As an example of a modern treatment of a classical theme, Gul Khan in his modern epic Dōštēn o Šīrēn (Elfenbein, 1990, pp.203 ff.) has chosen an iambic, eight-syllable meter of four feet, in rhyming bands of two, three, or four bands; it begins:

byāit manī bēl o yalān

kōhnēn hikāyatē kanān

čō gwašta pēšī mardumān

Come, my friends and comrades

I shall sing an old tale

As people of yore told it.

Example 11. Finally, as an example of a modern epic of an entirely different type, I cite the opening of Raḥm-ʿAlī Marī’s Gumbaδa ǰanga Šā’ir “The Battle of Gumbad,” composed in the early 20th century (Elfenbein, 1990, pp.308 ff.). The dialect is Eastern Hill Baluchi:

ilāhī yāt-ēn o sattār

karīm o kādar o ḍātār

samad o sādīk o sačyār

khayā diθā thaī diδar

makā~ o dāīmī darbār.

I recall God the Veiler

The generous and powerful creator

The most high, honest, lover of truth;

Who has seen thy sight

Thy dwelling, thy eternal court?

The line is an eight-syllable, mostly three-beat foot. The fourth line is to be scanned in seven syllables (Table 1.11c).


Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker and Aqil Khan Mengal, A Course in Baluchi, 2 vols., Montreal, 1969 (especially II, units 29 and 30, “Introduction to Baluchi poetry”).

Mansell Longworth Dames, ed. and tr., Popular Poetry of the Baloches, 2 vols. in one, London, 1907.

Idem, A Textbook of the Balochi Language, 2nd ed., Lahore, 1909 (see especially Pt. II, “Legendary History of the Baloches” and Pt. III, “Poems”).

Josef Elfenbein, A Baluchi Miscellany of Erotica and Poetry. Codex Or. Add. 24,048 of the British Library, Naples, 1983.

Idem, An Anthology of Classical and Modern Balochi Literature, 2 vols., Wiesbaden, 1990.

Idem, “Balochi Literature,” in P. G. Kreyenbroek and U. Marzolph, eds., History of Persian Literature II, chap. 8, forthcoming.

G. A. Grierson, ed., Linguistic Survey of India X. Specimens of Languages of the Eranian Family, Calcutta, 1921; repr., Delhi,1968.

Mohammad Sardar Khan Baluch, A Literary History of the Baluchis, Baluchi Academy, Quetta, 1977.

Sher Muhammed Marri, Balōčī Kahnēn Šāhirī, Baluchi Academy, Quetta, 1970.

I. I. Zarubin, “K izucheniyu beludzhskogo yazyka i folʾklora” (On the study of the Baluchi language and folklore), in Zapiski Kollegii Vostokovedov 5, Leningrad, 1930, pp. 664-68.



Māhtāk Balōčī, 1956-58; 1978-81; 1986-.

Nōkēn Daur, 1961-71.

Ulus, 1961-.


Zamāna Balōčī, 1968-75.

Sawgāt, 1978-.

Bahārgān, 1989-.

Originally Published: July 28, 2008

Last Updated: July 28, 2008


Baluchi Language and Literature

By: J. Elfenbein

Baluchi Language and Literature
Baluchi (Balōčī), the language of the Baluch (Balōč), is a member of the Western Iranian group of languages, bearing affinities to both main representatives of Western Middle Iranian: Middle Persian and Parthian. Baluchi has, however, a marked individuality of its own, and differs from both of these languages in important respects (see below).

I. The Baluchi language.

The name. Concerning the name Balōč, despite the great deal that has been written, there is still no general agreement on either its linguistic connections or its meaning (see Dames, in EI1; Pikulin, 1959). If the word is Iranian, H. W. Bailey’s suggestion (apud Hansman, 1973) that it might represent Old Iranian *ṷadraṷatī “Gedrosia, the land of underground water channels” could explain why the people are unknown prior to their arrival in the southeast Iranian area more than a thousand years ago from the central Caspian region: in their original homeland they would have had another name, and their identification with any of the tribes living there in Sasanian times or earlier, mentioned by classical writers, is necessarily very difficult. The name is first recorded in Arabic as blwṣ and in Persian as blwj, in the Ḥodūd al-ʿālam (comp. 982), both spellings representing blwč. Their earliest reliable geographical location occurs in Masʿūdī (fl. 943; see Bailey, art. cit., p. 586), who couples the Balōč with the Kōfīč, locating the former in the deserts, and the latter in the mountains of eastern Persia. Moqaddasī (fl. 985; Bailey, ibid.) states that both western and eastern Makrān (present-day southeast Persian Baluchistan and Pakistani Baluchistan) were united and inhabited by the blwṣy, with a capital town at “bnnjbwr” (Bannajbūr), perhaps the Panjgur oasis in present day Pakistani Makrān.
Ṭabarī, enumerating the enemies of the Sasanian king Ḵosrow I Anōšīravān (531-79), does not mention the Baluch, and hence the reference to them in the same connection in the Šāh-nāma (comp. ca. 1020; “Kōč and Balōč”) cannot be historical, since Ferdowsī’s historical sources are known to be the same as those used by Ṭabarī. It seems likely that Ferdowsī has replaced another name, perhaps blnjr (balangar?) with what was by his time a stereotyped phrase denoting bandits or marauding freebooters.
Thus the Baluch tradition of a migration to their present habitat from the west in the 7th-8th centuries a.d. has an echo of history in it, strengthened by the linguistic connections of Baluchi, and one is led to the assignment of the original home of the Baluch to somewhere just east or southeast of the central Caspian region, the meeting point of Middle Persian and Parthian, and which then probably extended northward into present-day Soviet Turkmenistan.
It seems entirely likely that the first migrations eastward started much earlier, in late Sasanian times, initiated perhaps by the generally prevailing unsettled conditions in the Caspian area. These migrations most probably took place in several independent waves and over several centuries, some considerably antedating the Saljuq arrival in Kermān ca. 1060. Indeed, many areas of Kermān and Sīstān may have been at least partially occupied by Baluch migrants by the 8th century, for at the time of the Arab conquest of Kermān in 644, it is stated by later geographers that they came into contact with large numbers of Qwfṣ and Blwṣ, “Kōč and Balōč,” in the mountains of eastern Persia (see C. E. Bosworth, “The Kūfichīs or Qufṣ in Persian History,” Iran 14, 1976, p. 10, who quotes Tomaschek and Markwart; see also Le Strange, Lands, pp. 322f.).
Records of the Baluch are much more plentiful from the time of Maḥmūd of Ḡazna, as well as more circumstantial, and it is very likely that they were settled in their present-day habitat well before the 15th century (see Dames in EI1 I, pp. 625-40; Frye in EI2 I, pp. 1005-06).
Geographical distribution. Baluchi is the principal language of an area extending from the Marv (Mary) oasis in Soviet Turkmenistan southward to the Persian Gulf, from Persian Sīstān eastward along the Helmand valley in Afghanistan, throughout Pakistani Makrān eastward nearly to the Indus river, including in the south the city of Karachi, with a large and growing salient in the hills east and northeast of Quetta. There are also large populations of Baluchi speakers in the United Arab Emirates and in Kuwait.
Between the Marv region and about 100 km south of Bīrjand in Persia, colonies of Baluchi speakers are scattered and few. Baluchi becomes the principal local language at about 32° north latitude, extending westward to about 59° east longitude, and southward over the province of Sīstān o Balūčestān to the Persian Gulf.
In Afghanistan, Baluchi is the principal language of the Nīmrūz province. There are also colonies of Baluchi speakers scattered throughout the western part of the country, as far north as the Soviet frontier; but Baluchi is the principal local language only from Čaḵānsūr southward. It extends past Zaranj, the provincial capital, along the Helmand valley eastward to about 64° east longitude, and southward of the river to the Pakistan frontier in Chagai. (It is to be noted that in the middle Helmand region, Brahui enjoys equal status with Baluchi, most speakers being bilingual.) Baluchi is the main language of the whole of Pakistani Makrān as far east as a north-south line through Nushki (ca. 66° east longitude), where it meets Brahui. The latter extends northwest and south of Nushki in Pakistan over much of Sarawan and Jahlawan as far south as Las Bela, thus separating a large group of Baluchi speakers in the hills east and northeast of Quetta (the Marī-Būgṭī territory), concerning which see below Dialects. This territory extends north as far as Dera Ismail Khan (ca. 36° north latitude).
Most Baluchi speakers are Baluch tribesmen, the only substantial non-Baluch group to speak it being Brahui tribesmen; the status of Baluchi is higher, if only marginally so. Until recently Baluchi has had no official status in the four countries in which it is spoken, and as a consequence many Baluchi speakers are bi- or tri-lingual. In 1978, however, it was given the status of “national language” in Afghanistan. As a written language it has a short history: three manuscripts in the British Museum (see Elfenbein, 1960 and 1983) were written in the first half of the 19th century and represent the oldest datable monuments in the language known at present. (There have been reports of 19th-century manuscripts from Kalat in Pakistan, perhaps written at the court.)
Written literary cultivation began in earnest only about 1950 in Pakistan (see below), and at the present time Baluchi is printed only there, although a small amount has been printed in some other Middle Eastern countries and in India. In 1979 a modest start in Baluchi printing was made in Iran and in Kabul (see below).
It is not easy to give reliable estimates for the number of speakers of Baluchi, due to the lack of appropriate census material. The following figures are probably all rather conservative: In the Marv Oasis in Soviet Turkmenistan (mainly emigrants from Afghanistan from the late 19th century; Pikulin, 1959, p. 35 [quoting Ya. R. Vinnikov, Beludzhi Turkmenskoĭ SSR, n.d.], gives 40,000; but Gafferberg, 1969, gives 10,000; Vinnikov is more likely to be closer to the facts): 40,000.
In Afghanistan (from Čaḵānsūr in the west, eastward along the Helmand river to Lanḍī Moḥammad Āmīn Ḵān, ca. 64° east longitude: L. Dupree, Afghanistan, Princeton, New Jersey, 1973, p. 63, gives 100,000 Baluch and ca. 200,000 Brahuis: the figures seem to have been reversed); 200,000.
In Iran (mainly in the province Sīstān o Balūčestān, westward to a line ca. 59° east longitude, and from approximately Zābol in the north to the Gulf of Oman in the south, with colonies elsewhere as far north as the Soviet frontier; estimates vary from 500,000 [Spooner, 1971] to 750,000 [W. E. Griffith, “Iran’s Foreign Policy in the Pahlavi Era,” in G. Lenczowski, Iran under the Pahlavis, Palo Alto, 1978, p. 383, quoted in R. G. Wirsing, The Baluchis and Pathans, Minority Rights Groups Report no. 48, London, 1981, p. 17, n. 14]; both of these figures are probably underestimated): 750,000.
In the Arabian Peninsula (mainly in Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait; mainly emigrants from India [Pakistan] since Mughal times, as laborers and in the local armed forces; various estimates from local sources since 1979): 500,000.
In Pakistan (mainly in the provinces Baluchistan and Sind, excluding the Brahui strip between ca. 65°-67° east longitude; from the Pakistan censuses of 1961 and 1981): 750,000 in Sind, mainly in Karachi; and 1,500,000 in Baluchistan: total, 2,500,000; grand total ca. 3,600,000. It is very likely in fact somewhat more. (These figures are probably more reliable than those given by Elfenbein, 1983, p. 491.)
Three non-Baluchi languages are spoken within the mainly Baluchi-speaking area, namely Brahui (q.v.) and two Indo-Aryan languages: Jaḍgālī, spoken by the Jaṭṭ, immigrants from Sind, who inhabit Daštīārī, the extreme southeast corner of Persian Makrān, and Khetrani, spoken by Baluch in the extreme east of the Baluchi-speaking area, east of Dera Ghazi Khan.
Linguistic position. Baluchi is in all essentials a “northwestern” Iranian language, closely related to the Middle Iranian Parthian language and modern Kurdish, Tati, Ṭāleši, and other dialects (see MacKenzie on the dialectology of “southwestern” and “northwestern” Iranian). The following survey provides a picture of the ancestry of Baluchi.
1. Phonology. Baluchi ranges itself with Parthian against Middle Persian in the following cases: it has s and z from IE. *k and *g(h), e.g., asin “iron,” kasān “small,” zāmāt “bridegroom,” zān- “know,” zir “sea,” corresponding to Parth. ʾʾswn, ks, zʾmʾd, zān-, zyrh, Mid. Pers. ʾʾhwn, kyh, dʾmʾd, dʾn-, dryʾb; it has preserved OIr. intervocalic d and g, e.g., ōdā “there,” pād “foot,” nigōš- “listen,” Parth. ʾwwd, pʾd, ngwš-, Mid. Pers. ʾwy, pʾy, nywš-; OIr. initial j, e.g., jan- “strike,” Parth. jn-, Mid. Pers. zn-; OIr. rd, e.g., zird “heart,” Parth. zyrd, Mid. Pers. dyl. Note also p(i)tī “other,” from *bīdī, Parth. bdyg, Mid. Pers. dwdyg, NPers. dī(gar).
Baluchi agrees with (Middle) Persian against Parthian in the following cases: It has j from OIr. initial y, e.g., jitā, Pers., jodā, Parth. ywd; s from OIr. θr, e.g., se “three,” pusag “son,” Mid. Pers. sh (Pers. se), pws, Parth. hry, pwhr; note also ās “fire” (in all dialects except Raḵšāni, which has āč from NPers. ātaš).
Baluchi differs from most other modern West Iranian languages in the following cases: It has preserved OIr. intervocalic stops p, t, k, and č and j, e.g., āp “water,” būta “was,” hūk “swine,” brāt “brother,” rōč “day,” drāj “long” and has changed OIr. fricatives f, θ, x, into stops, p, t, k, e.g., kopag “shoulder,” cf. Av. kaofa-, OPers. kaufa; gūt “excrement,” Av. gūθa-; kar “ass,” Av. xara-; kānī “well, spring,” Parth., Pers. xān; note also (with metathesis) patka “cooked” < *paxta-, ātka “came” < *āxta < *āgata-. Baluchi has gwa- (or g-) from OIr. w-; w- or h- from OIr. xw-; mm and nn from OIr. šm and šn; and ša- g(w) in the Central dialect of Ḵūr (in the Dašt-e Kavīr) and in the “Southeast Iranian” languages Parāčī and Ōrmuṛī (see afghanistan, v. languages and vii. parāčī); a relative chronology for this sound change is provided by the loanwords gwahr “cold” from Khetrāni vahor, and gwač “calf” from Sindhi vachi which show that Baluchi still had w- on its first contact with these Indian languages. The change of xw > w is also found in Gōrāni (war- “eat”) and šm > hm in Ōrmuṛī (čim “eye”) and Baškardi (čehm “eye”). Baluchi šiš “louse” agrees with Baškardi šöš against forms from *spiša- in most other Iranian languages (Pers. šepeš).
2. Morphology. Baluchi, like most West Iranian languages (not Kurdish, Zāzā, Tāti, Sangesari) has lost the Old Iranian gender distinctions.
The commonest Baluchi ending for the oblique plural of nouns is -ān, characteristic of Western Iranian languages. Similarly, the originally collective suffix -gal, now used as a plural suffix (most frequently in Eastern Hill Baluchi), is found in Kurdish, Fārs dialects, and some Central dialects.
In the first person pronouns the old stem distinction between direct and oblique cases (Av. azəm, gen. mana, etc.) has been lost in Baluchi as in Persian and most other Western Iranian languages, except, e.g., Kurdish and Zāzā.
The present endings of the Baluchi verb, like those , e.g., of Parthian go back to Old Iranian forms in -aya-, cf. 1 sing. -īn (some dialects -ān, from the old subjunctive), 3 sing. -īt, e.g., gušīn, gušīt “I say,” “he says.” Some n-stems have short forms, e.g., kant “he does,” zānt “he knows,” but wānīt “he reads” (on the short forms see Gershevitch, in M. Boyce and I. Gershevitch, eds., W. B. Henning Memorial Volume, London, 1970, pp. 161-74). Persian, on the contrary, has a mixture of forms from Old Iranian -a- and -aya- (see W. B. Henning, “Das Verbum des Mittelpersischen der Turfanfragmente,” ZII 9, 1933, p. 232 [ = Acta Iranica 14, p. 139], Ghilain, Essai sur la langue parthe, Louvain, 1939, p. 112). The infinitive ends in -ag < MIr. -ak as in some East Iranian languages, including Parāčī and Ōrmuṛī. The Raḵšānī dialect, however, has -tin, possibly borrowed from Persian. The present tense durative prefix is a- in all dialects (also in Baškardi and Lārestāni), but this prefix is often without value. The prefix de- is heard sporadically in Raḵšāni (dede).
3. Syntax. The eżāfa construction characteristic of Persian and other (south)western Iranian languages, including Kurdish, is not used in Baluchi, except occasionally (as in most modern Iranian languages) in some types of formal poetry and in stereotyped phrases borrowed from Persian. Characteristic of most Baluchi dialects except Raḵšāni is the common Iranian passive (also called ergative) construction of past transitive verbs. Raḵšāni is the only dialect to have adopted the active construction, probably from Persian. North Raḵšāni is the only dialect to use exclusively the active construction; Central and Southern Raḵšāni (and all other dialects) use “ergative” constructions, either partly or entirely.
4. Lexicon. The Iranian lexicon of Baluchi contains a number of East Iranian “substrate” words, of which the following is a selection:
Baluchi nagan “bread,” Sogd. ṇγn, Pashto naγan, Par. naγȫn (but Mid. Pers. nʾn, Pers. nān); saγan “dung,” Par. saγȫn, Wakhi səgīn, Orm. skan (Khot. satana-) (but Pahl. sargēn, Pers. sargīn); gwanḍ “short,” Khot. vanda- “small,” Par. γanȫkȫ; gud “cloth, clothes,” cf. Par. āγun “to dress,” Pashto āγund- (but Man. Mid. Pers. pymwč-, Man. Parth. pdmwč-, Pers. pōš-); gar “cliff,” Wakhi, Pashto γar, Orm. grī “mountain”; zāhg “son,” Par. zāγa, Sogd. zʾʾk; but Parth., Mid. Pers. zhg (cf. Mid. Pers. pws, pwsr, Pers. pesar); šarr “good,” Sogd. šyr, Pashto ṧə, Orm. širr, Khot. śśära- (but Mid. Pers., Pers. xūb).
In other respects the vocabulary of Baluchi is typically “southwestern,” e.g., mūd “hair,” bard “spade,” sōčaq “burn,” rōč “day,” šōdag “wash.”
On the whole, however, the linguistic position of Baluchi is obscured by its numerous borrowings, principally lexical (though there are some syntactic ones as well; see below on Syntax); there are also certainly substrate influences from languages spoken in areas in which Baluch have dwelt for long periods during their migrations, or with whom they have had close contact. All Baluchi dialects possess numerous loanwords from several different Indo-Aryan languages, which may be the result of independent Baluch migrations at different times.
Dialects. Six major dialects can be distinguished, differing from each other in phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon. Of these, Raḵšāni is by far the most widely spoken, and can itself be subdivided into three regional varieties. The other five dialects are fairly uniform. The first comprehensive survey of all Baluchi dialects was Elfenbein’s The Baluchi Language (1966), and the dialect description given there is now in need of correction in the light of fuller knowledge; the dialect name Lāšāri is to be preferred to Loṭūni.
It is important to realize that Baluchi is a very conservative language, and its dialects, in spite of the vastness of the area in which they are spoken, are quite remarkably similar; with the exception of Eastern Hill Baluchi (see below), speakers from all areas readily understand one another. Proceeding roughly from north to south the dialects are:
(1) Raḵšāni, extending from Marv in Soviet Turkmenistan southward in Persia and Afghanistan through Sīstān to ca. 28° north latitude, southward of Ḵāš (Bal. Hwāš), and as far to the west of these areas as Baluchi is spoken. There are three subdialects: (a) Kalati, in Pakistan from Las Bela northward throughout Jahlawan and Sarawan (where the main language is Brahui), up to just south of Quetta where it meets Pashto; (b) Panjguri, in Pakistani Makrān, including most of Ḵārān from Kolwa in the east to Kech in the west; its southern boundary is just north of the Kech valley, whence it spreads approximately to the Raḵšān river in the north; (c) Sarḥaddi, over by far the largest area, including Pakistani Chagai from Nushki in the east, westward along the Persian frontier as far as Baluchi is spoken, about 59° east longitude; southward approximately to 28° north latitude where, in Pakistan, it meets Panjguri in Ḵārān, and in Persia, Sarāvāni north of Īrānšahr; northward it includes all the parts of Afghanistan where Baluchi is spoken, along the Helmand river from ca. 64° east longitude westward to Čaḵānsūr and across the Persian frontier with all parts of Sīstān where Baluchi is spoken, and thence northward in both Afghanistan and Persia to Marv in Soviet Turkmenistan. Its north-south extension is thus nearly 10° of latitude, and its east-west extension nearly 6° of longitude. Sarḥaddi is the principal dialect used for radio broadcasts in both Quetta and Kabul.
(2) Sarāvāni, a dialect enjoying considerable prestige in Persia, is centered on the village of Sarāvān (ca. 62° east longitude, 27° north latitude) roughly 150 km southeast of Ḵāš. The main dialect of Baluchi radio broadcasts from Zāhedān, it extends from Gašt (Bal. Gōšt) some 60 km north of Ḵāš to Kūhak (Bal. Kūwag) on the Persia-Pakistan frontier. It crosses the frontier into Pakistan, but its principal territory lies in Persia. Southward it extends nearly as far as Rāsk, and thence northward it includes most villages up to ca. 30 km north of Īrānšahr. Both the towns Bampūr and Īrānšahr are in the Sarāvāni area, although Sarḥaddi is as often heard in Īrānšahr as is Sarāvāni, as is to be expected, since Īrānšahr is the largest town in the province south of Zāhedān.
(3) Lāšāri, centered on the village of Lāšār, ca. 120 km south of Īrānšahr by road. It is a very conservative dialect, whose boundaries are Espaka in the north, southward through Pīp nearly to Nīkšahr and Qaṣr-e Qand in the east, and Fanūč (Bal. Pannūč) in the west, where Baluchi meets Persian and Baškardi.
(4) Kechi, spoken principally in the Kech valley of Pakistani Makrān, south of the central Makrān range; it extends from Hirōk westward to Tump, excluding the village of Mand, but including the villages to the north of the Giš river.
(5) Coastal dialects, spoken from Bīābān in Persia eastward along the coast to Čāhbahār, and extending northward to include Nīkšahr, Qaṣr-e Qand, and Hūdar; in Pakistan Mand, Dašt, and the coastal strip from the Persian frontier eastward to include Gwādar, Pasnī, and Ormāṛa; in Karachi there live more than 700,000 Baluchi speakers, with no one dialect predominant.
(6) Eastern Hill Baluchi, spoken almost entirely in the hilly tribal area east of Quetta mainly by members of the Marī and Bugṭi tribes, extending from somewhat north of Jacobabad in the Upper Sind Frontier northward to Dera Ghazi Khan, and from Sibi in the west nearly to the Indus river in the east. The area is almost entirely Baluchi-speaking, although other languages coexist with it. Fingers of Baluchi are probing northward, mainly at the expense of Pashto, and at present the area between Dera Ghazi Khan and Dera Ismail Khan is dominated by Baluchi. This dialect has played a dominant role in early published descriptions of the language, due to its location in former British India (Pakistani Makrān was in Kalat State), a role disproportionate to its real importance.
Writing. The oldest written Baluchi is represented by a manuscript in the British Museum (see Elfenbein, 1961, 1983), dating from early in the 19th century. There was little literary cultivation in the language during the rest of the century; it was not until the 1930s that a few individuals, led by Moḥammad Ḥosayn “ʿAnqā,” began to write for a public in Baluchi, producing a short-lived weekly paper Bōlān. The impetus to write for publication in the language continued, however, and after the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Baluchi academies were established in Karachi in 1956 and Quetta in 1959 for the purpose of encouraging publication of Baluchi literature. The academy in Karachi ceased to exist in the late 1950s, but the Baluchi Academy in Quetta is still (1987) flourishing. The efforts of these enthusiasts have, however, met with little response outside Pakistan, and only in 1978 were the first stirrings of effort to publish in Baluchi elsewhere to be felt: These took the form of a magazine Sōb (Victory) from Kabul and a short-lived newspaper from Persia. The Baluch cultural center remains at Quetta. (For details see Literature below.)
The script commonly used (except in Kabul, where Pashto script is employed) to write Baluchi is a modified Urdu script, with the retroflex consonants ṭ, ḍ, ṛ, ṇ marked by a superscript ṭā and nasalized final vowels indicated by nūn without the diacritic point following the vowel, when the writer wishes to do so. There is less agreement in writing the morphemes of the language, where more divergence from Urdu writing customs is necessary: Endings are sometimes written in a “phonetic” style, using hamza to separate them from the nominal or verbal stem; sometimes the endings are joined to the stems without hamza; often both systems are used together. Some conventions from Arabic used to be employed, such as tanwīn, which was used in very early writing to indicate the ending -ēn. Tašdīd is used very occasionally, but vowels and diphthongs are very haphazardly indicated: short a, i, u usually not at all, but long ā, ī, ū usually in Perso-Urdu style, with no distinction made between internal ē and ī, or between ō and ū, all four of which are separate phonemes in Baluchi. Final -ē and -ī are distinguished as in Urdu. Sokūn is seldom used, and the diphthongs ay and aw are indicated, or not, according to the whim of the writer, so that a printed text is very difficult to read accurately.
All Pakistani dialects are represented in writing (a northern Raḵšāni in Kabul), no standard written language having as yet evolved, and most writers mix dialects freely, using theoretical forms from other dialects, so that very often a wholly artificial written language results. Sarḥaddi speakers especially tend to use Coastal forms, real and imagined, at whim. The Coastal dialect retains a particular prestige as that in which much of the extensive traditional literature is preserved, and its forms easily penetrate other dialects.
Linguistic description. 1. Phonology. Baluchi has a particularly simple phonemic structure: Vowels, a, i, u, ā, ī, ū, ē, ō; diphthongs ay, aw. Consonants: stops p, t, k, b, d, g, ṭ, ḍ; affricates č, j; sibilants s, z, š, `; continuants w, y, l, m, n, r, ṛ, ṇ; the spirants f, x, γ are common in loanwords in all dialects, but tend rapidly to p, k, g respectively as the words become naturalized. Eastern Hill Baluchi, uniquely, keeps them, and in addition has also developed θ and ’ from postvocalic t and d; and intervocalic b tends to become v.
2. Morphology. The following grammatical outline is based on the Coastal dialect, with Raḵšāni forms given in parentheses.
Noun declension. There is no nominal gender, all nouns being declined alike in a three-case system, singular and plural (Chart 7). A suffixed, unstressed -ē functions as indefinite article, cf. Persian -ī.
Pronouns are treated differently depending on whether or not the dialect construes the past transitive verbs passively. Pronominal declension is perhaps the most economically described by means of a four-case system (Chart 8), except in Raḵšāni, which, lacking the passive (ergative) construction, has a three-case system.
The Raḵšāni form mnīyā is only used in northern Raḵšāni, after prepositions. Note the difference between the nominative and oblique forms of the Raḵšāni 3rd person pronoun in the singular.
By far the most commonly used suffixed pronouns are the 3rd sing. -ī/e@, 3rd plur. -iš (often interchanged, the plural being used for the singular, and vice versa); suffixed to nouns they mean “his, their; for him, for them”; suffixed to the endings of verbs, “him, them; for him, for them”; as agent for the past transitives, often suffixed to the preceding word, “he/by him, they/by them.” The pronominal suffixes for the other persons and numbers are less used in most dialects (except in poetry) but are still common is spoken Kechi, Sarāvāni, and Lāšāri.
The demonstrative pronouns (Chart 9) are also used adjectivally. The forms of “that” are often mixed with those of the 3rd person pronoun by many speakers.
The interrogative pronouns are kay “who?”, gen. kay, kayī, obl. kayā; and čē “what?”, gen. čē, obl. čēā (čēwā). Conjugation. The suffixed substantive verb (copula) and the present/future endings are shown in Chart 10.
Past tense transitives have no ending in the singular and -ant in the plural, where the agreement (only in number) is with the “grammatical subject” (“ergative” construction). Some Raḵšāni dialects, however, have adopted the New Persian construction. Past intransitives take the full set of endings in all dialects. There is, however, much “mixed construction,” especially in Sarāvāni, and in most Raḵšāni.
There is a durative-continuative prefix a- (cf. Pers. mī-) which has, however, lost its semantic function in many dialects, and k- is prefixed to the present/future stems of some verbs with an initial vowel (often to the past as well). This prefix also has a durative meaning (see below on semantics). All verbs are inflected alike, but this simple system is complicated by an involved set of periphrastic constructions, and the large number of irregular verbs, whose past stems are not formed with -ita suffixed to the present stem.
A verbal noun (infinitive) is formed by the suffix -ag joined to the present verbal stem (except in Raḵšāni, which usually prefers -tin joined to the past stem). Examples of periphrastic constructions are shown in Chart 11.
The suffix -ōk is freely productive, joined to present verbal stems it means “one who does …,” joined to nouns “one who is …”: nindōk “a sitter,” kanōk “a doer,” barōk “a carryer,” ārōk “a bringer,” kušōk “a killer”; it can also be attached to nouns, e.g., sarōk “president,” watanōk “patriot.”
Semantics. There is a continuative verbal form man gušagā-hān (man gušagā-un) “I am speaking,” formed on Urdu models, and common in all dialects spoken in Pakistan, and not unknown elsewhere. The simple verbal form with prefixed a-, e.g., man a-gušān (man a-gušīn) has the same meaning, cf. Raḵš. man a-gušīn trā “I’m telling you”, vs. man gušīn ki “I say that …,” kēčī man a gušt “I was saying,” vs. man gušt “I said” (note the passive construction). Also man edā kōštīn “I’m standing here,” man edā kōštun “I was standing here,” vs. man eda ōštātun “I stood here.” The a- prefix is present in nearly all dialects regularly, but seems to have lost its significance except in Raḵšāni, where its use is semantically significant. It is hardly ever indicated in native writing now; older writers suffixed alef to a preceding word.
The irrealis construction is formed by prefixing bi- to the past stem of the verb, to which is then suffixed -ēn and the copula in Raḵš.: aga man drōg bibastēnun, tō ā manī sarā patt na kurt “If I had lied, then he would not have trusted me”; age ā manī haddā biyātkēn, tō man ayrā hamē gappā guštun “If he had come to my place, then I would have told him this matter.” In dialects with the “ergative” construction we get: aga man drōg bibastēn, tō āyā manī sarā patt nakut; aga āy manī haddā biyātkēn, tō man āyrā hame gapp gwašt. Examples containing 1st and 2nd plural pronouns: āyā mā (šumā) jatant, āy mārā (šumārā) jatant, or mā jatant-ī (the last in only one dialect) “he struck us (you)”; one also hears āyā mā jat or mā jat-ī.
There is also an important causative formation, for the most part by means of the suifix -ēn added to the present stems of verbs, which are then conjugated like verbs in -ēnag: man trā rasēnīn-ī “I’ll send it to you”; but there are many irregular formations.
Syntax. The main difference from Persian syntax are the following:
(a) The eżāfa construction is absent; Pers. sar-e man “my head” is expressed by manī sar; Pers. asb-e dūst-e šomā “your friend’s horse” by šumē dōstē asp.
(b) The past tenses of transitive verbs are construed passively in all dialects except in some Raḵšāni dialects, where the Persian active construction is more common. Examples: Coastal man gūnī zurtant o šutān “I took the sacks and went”; zī manī brātān gwašt-iš ki, ēdā bnind, mā kayēn “yesterday my brothers said, wait here, we shall come”; active construction: Raḵš. tay piss manī sundukān pāč kurt “thy father opened my boxes”; ta watī lingān prōštay “thou hast broken thy legs”; but also, in the same dialect, ta watī lingān prōšt; ḍrēwar lārīā āwurt “the driver brought the lorry”, cf. ḍrēwarā lārī āwurt “the lorry brought the driver”: both these sentences are ambiguous, and each could mean the other. To be certain, one has to say ḍrēwarārā lārī āwurt “the lorry brought the driver,” or ā ḍrēwar-int, ki lārī āyā (āwā) āwurt “that is the driver whom the lorry brought.”
(c) Prepositions are uncommon and usually occur in conjunction with postpositions, as in Pashto. Postpositions require the genitive of the governed noun: kitāb mēzē sarā-int “the book is on the table,” dračk gisay dēmā-int “the tree is in front of the house,” biyā gōn man pajā “come along with me,” man šutun pa Ahmadē randā “I went after Ahmad,” ča ēšī guḍā, man hiččī na dīt (dīst, dīstun) “after this, I saw nothing.”
(d) The use of nominal case endings in conjunction with the absence of the eżāfa construction make syntactical constructions and word order much freer in Baluchi than they are in Persian, as the following examples of prose narrative illustrate.
An account, in ordinary Raḵšāni colloquial style: Aga kassē aš watī badīgānī dastā bitačīt, ō yakk Balōčēay bāhōṭ bibīt, tō balōčī riwājā āyī nigādārī parz-int. Balōč watī bāhōṭā hičč bar badīgānī dastā na dayant, ō ayī nang-ō-mālā a-sambant. Bāz barān Balōč pa bāhōṭā jang ham kanant, ō āyī nangā pān-ant. Walē gēštir hamē ki bāhōṭā watī haddā dārant, tānki ā wat diga jāgāē marot. [From Barker and Mangal I, pp. 425-26.] “If anyone flees from the hands of his enemies and becomes the refugee of a Baluch, then by Baluchi tribal law his protector-duty is (i.e., it is the duty of a Baluch to act as his protector). The Baluch never deliver their refugees into the hands of their enemies, and protect their honor and property. Many times the Baluch will also fight for a refugee, and are guardians of his honor. But most often (those who keep a refugee) will keep a refugee in their place (only), until he himself goes to another place.”
Literary and formal style:
Ča drustēn jawān ō dēmātirēn adabē zāntkārānī ṭōlīyē xayālē padā, adabārā bāyd-int ki zindagīyē ādēnk bibīt, zindagīyē drustēn rang-ō-dāng, kad-ō-bālād hamē ādēnkē tahā yakk-pa-yakkā sāf-zāhir bibant; aga zindagī bēḍawl ō badrang-int, adabārā bāyd-int ki āyārā hamā rangā pēš bidārīt, āyī habarē pardāhā ma-kant, ki čārōkānā zindagī badrang gindagā kāyt, har paym ki zindagīyē rang-ō-drōšum-int, ča āyā mūdē kisāsā ham pad-kinzag ma-bīt. Aga zindagī hōn-ō-rēm-ō-gandagīyē mazanēn kumbē, ō adīb wašš-zēmulēn šiʾrānī pirr-bandag, ō širkinēn labzānī tarrēnag-ō-tāb dayagā, yakk ṭūhēn durōgē bandīt o gušīt ki “na! ā yakk sarsabz ō prāh-dāmānēn malguzārē,” guḍā ē yakk haṇčēn radē, ki zindagī wat āyā hičč bar na bakšīt. Hamē rangēn adīb zūt yā dēr juhlēn kōr-čātēyā kapīt, o haṇčō gār-ō-gumsār bīt ki diga barē kasse āyī sōjā ham na-dant.” [From the Preface to Mistāg, by ʿAbd-Allāhjān Jamāldīnī, Karachi, 1959, one of the earliest literary publications. Arabic words are written in their Arabic spelling in the original publication, the usual practice. The above extract indicates actual pronunciation.] “According to the thought of all sections of the better and forward-looking scholars of literature, literature has to be a mirror of life; all of life’s sorts and sizes must each individually, clean and clear, be seen in the mirror; if life is confused and wicked, literature must show it so; it must not draw a veil over the fact that to some observers of it, life comes wicked to the sight; whatever the features of life may appear to be, there is to be no flinching from it, not even by a hair’s breadth. If life is really a great pool of blood, pus, and filth, and the writer is a composer of pleasing melodic verses, a giver of sweet twists and turns to words, he tells a huge lie, and says, “No! It is a greensward and a broad mountain pasture”—then he is so mistaken that life itself will never forgive him. This sort of writer will sooner or later fall into a deep blind well, and will be so lost and forgotten that nobody will ever give news of him again.”
Loanwords. The main source of loanwords is Persian, through which most of the Arabic loanwords also come.
This Persian source has been until quite recently the eastern, Afghani, variety, and many words such as zūt “quickly” which seem Baluchi because of the final voiceless stop, can just as well be loanwords from Afghani Persian, which devoices final stops. Many Baluchi words are old Persian loanwords now lost to the original language, e.g., ēr “under, down” (Mid. Pers. ēr, cf. NPers. z-īr “under”), gudar “crossing” (Pers. goḏar).
Another rich source for borrowings has been Indian languages and to a lesser extent the language of the Brahui, with whom the Baluch have been for centuries in close contact. The Indian languages concerned are in the main Sindhi and Lahndā, and now latterly Urdu.
II. Baluchi literature.
The literature of Baluchi—until quite recently entirely oral and still largely so—consists of a large amount of history and occasional balladry (epic poetry), stories and legends, romantic ballads, and religious and didactic poetry, of which there is an extensive corpus; in addition there is a large variety of domestic verse: work songs, lullabies, and riddles. Possibly the first modest attempt to collect some of this extensive literature is represented by the manuscript BM Cod. Add. 24048 (Elfenbein, 1982). In any case it is quite certain that no systematic attempts were made to collect and reduce to written form any sizeable part of this literature prior to the European (mainly British) interest in it in the 19th century. Of these collections, the earliest of note was made by A. Lewis in 1855; the next important one was by T. J. L. Mayer in 1900. By far the most important and systematic, however, are those by M. Longworth Dames, in 1891, 1907, and 1909. Unfortunately all of these works deal with material which came only from one small area, and in Eastern Hill Baluchi only, thus giving a misleadingly restricted picture of the real extent and variety of this literature, and an inflated estimate of the importance of the dialect in which it was collected. The language of classical Baluchi poetry is traditionally in three dialects (in order of their status and importance): Coastal, Eastern Hill Baluchi, and Kechi.
Historical ballads. The oldest historical ballads (called daptar šāʾirī “ballads of origins”) deal with the first emigrations of the Baluch from Aleppo, their traditional (and legendary) home. There are many of these ballads, only a few of which have been collected (a poor example of one in Linguistic Survey of India; see Grierson, 1927). Some of these ballads may go back to the 16th century. They all agree that the Baluch are the sons of Mīr Ḥamza, and rose up in Aleppo, where they sided with Ḥosayn in his struggle with Caliph Yazīd, fighting at Karbalā. (The “history” up to this point is of course quite imaginary.) There are two main tribes, the Rind and the Lāšārī, with one chief of chiefs, Šayhakk, as well as many subtribes and several inferior slave tribes. They depart after the battle, and the next centuries are passed over in silence. We next hear that they have reached Sīstān, settling in the region of Rūdbār, “where they live for a time in relative peace, until a change in ruler from “Šams-al-Dīn” (perhaps Šams-al-Dīn Moḥammad Kort, ruler of Herat 1246-77, see āl-e kart), who is friendly to them, to “Badr-al-Dīn,” who is not, causes them to separate. Some go southeastward to Makrān, while most go southwestward toward Lār, Pahrā (now Īrānšahr), and Bampūr, where they wander for three years looking for a place to settle. Thereafter, under the leadership of Mīr Jalāl Khan, the main body enters Makrān, passing Mand, Kech, as far as Kolwa, wandering one further year. At Āšal in Kolwa, Mīr Čākur, son of Šayhakk, is born, perhaps in the middle of the 15th century.
Most accounts describe this part of Makrān as very uncongenial to the Baluch, barren and waterless as it is, and it is not until they reach the more eastern portions near Kalat that they begin to settle, perhaps meeting there earlier settlers from a previous wave.
Heroic ballads. It is at this point that the principal cycles of classical Baluchi heroic balladry begin. The first and most important of them can be conveniently called the Čākur cycle, which comprises the numerous ballads concerning Mīr Čākur, the leading hero of Baluchi legend altogether. Most of these ballads are concerned with a long and destructive thirty years’ war between the Rind and the Lāšārī, and comprise some very fine epic poetry. While it is true that the events described in these ballads are not to be found in other sources for the history of the region, poor as they are, still it is possible from internal evidence to estimate the dates to lie between the years 1475-1525 with some degree of likelihood.
Relations between the Rind and the Lāšārī were never easy, and after the descent through the Bolān pass into the Indus valley and the settlement of the Sibi and Kacchi region, the overall chief Šayhakk died, and the two tribes could no longer contain their differences. Mīr Čākur, son of Šayhakk, became the leader of the Rind, while his rival Mīr Gwaharām, the son of Nōdbandag (another venerated chief) became the leader of the Lāšārī. Dealings between the two tribes were plagued by jealousy and distrust, and to add to their difficulties both leaders conceived a passion for the same lady, the Lāšārī Gōhar, who for her part preferred the Rind chief Mīr Čākur. Several small events, each the subject of ballads, set the stage for an explosion which, when it came, resulted in a long and pitilessly destructive struggle, which tradition states to have lasted thirty years. The various events are celebrated in many poems, some said to be written by Bībarg, a lieutenant of Mīr Čākur. Although defeated in the first battles, the Rind were finally victorious. An alliance with “the Turk” (perhaps Ḏu’l-Nūn Beg Arḡūn of Qandahār, ca. 1480) by the Rind so strengthened their final attack on the Lāšārī that the latter were virtually wiped out and ceased to play much part in subsequent Baluchi history. Gwaharām is said to have escaped south into Sind with a few followers. The Rind settled at first mainly around Sibi and then spread northward and southward. Some traveled as far south as the coast, thence spreading out westward toward Persia, eventually settling the whole Makrān coast as far as Bīābān. These coastal Baluch, together with those settled in the Upper Sind Frontier in the “Tribal Areas” constitute the oldest settlements today, and speak the most archaic dialects, often called “Rindī.”
There are ballads describing their participation in various adventures as freebooters in battles with the “Turks,” i.e., the Mughals, in India in particular in the campaign of Emperor Homāyūn in 1555 against Delhi. Mīr Čākur is said to have had a palace at Sibi, and to have engaged in campaigns in Multan and Punjab; he is buried at Saṭgarh in the Multan district, in what was an impressive tomb.
The Dōdā-Bālāč cycle. Perhaps the most important cycle after the Čākur cycle is what can be called the Dōdā-Bālāč cycle. The lady Sammī and her husband, both Bulēdī, take refuge with Dōdā the chief of the Gorgēj Rind. Upon the death of Sammī’s husband there is a dispute about the inheritance, in which Sammī withholds from the heirs of her dead husband a small part of the herd of cattle which is her own private property (allowed by tribal law). In some versions, Bībarg, the Bulēdī chief, organizes a raid in which the disputed cattle are carried off by force, while Dōdā is asleep in the sun. The raid thus takes place, exceptionally, in full daylight, and is thus all the greater insult to the Gorgēj and to Dōdā who has given Sammī refuge. Dōdā is rudely awakened by two women, variously described as his mother-in-law, sister-in-law, neighbors, or other relations, who tell him what has happened. Dōdā is at first reluctant to pursue and punish the raiders, but after taunts and jibes by the women, who accuse him of cowardice and lawbreaking, he gathers together a few companions and sallies forth to meet the Bulēdī at the Garmāp pass (near Sangsilā in Bugṭī country) and is killed.
For his attempt Dōdā is highly regarded in Baluchi legend, and by some is considered a hero comparable even to Čākur or Nōdbandag. The parallel to the war of the Rind and Lāšārī is explicit in many versions of the subsequent events. The Bulēdī, emboldened by their initial successes, continue to raid, and the Gorgēj to defend themselves even though numerically and otherwise weaker, until they are nearly exterminated; in some versions only Bālāč, the son (in some versions the brother) of Dōdā, and his half brother Nakīb are left alive among the Gorgēj.
Nakīb, whose mother was a slave girl, is the more mettlesome of the two. Though described as “black” and a slave (slaves in Baluchi legend are always “black,” often in fact Negroid), he is very courageous, while Bālāč is dilatory like his father. For three years Nakīb exhorts the “lazy, cowardly, unworthy” Bālāč to act, but it is not until the latter has a dream in which he attacks the Bulēdī alone and wins revenge for his father that he at last decides to take action. He and Nakīb proceed alone to harass the Bulēdī over the whole of their territory, slaying threescore-and-one Bulēdī in one famous encounter. Bībarg is also slain, and the Bulēdī retreat to settle in the southern plains of Sind.
Bībarg’s taunts of cowardice and indecision, Bālāč’s agony of shame, fury, and doubt, Nakīb’s urgings to action are the subject of a large ballad literature, some of it of as fine an epic quality as is to be found, in which the conditions of life in all their stark bleakness are described for a Baluch who dedicates himself to do his duty. Some of it has been collected and published.
The Mazārī cycle. The wars of the Mazārī also form a cycle. In the early years of the 19th century, when Bahrām Khan was chief, a band of Mazārī raided the cattle of Gol Moḥammad Brāhōī, of the Jamālī Brāhōī, and subsequently, after negotiations, refused to return more than twenty-four female camels. The original causes of the raid lay, as so often, in disputed ownership of grazing grounds, and Gol Moḥammad decided to attack the Mazārī in force. He was at first driven off, but in a second engagement he succeeded in capturing a whole camel herd. Threescore Mazārīs pursued; all dismounted at Jarōpošt and fought hand to hand. Gol Moḥammad and fourscore of his men were killed.
Other literature. Mīr Hammal Jīhand “Sultan of Kalmat” is the subject of several ballads. A ruler of Makrān in the 16th century, he was often engaged with the Portuguese, who frequently raided the coast during this time, burning Gwādar and Pasnī in 1581. Mīr Hammal boasted that he could easily drive them away, but in a naval battle he was decisively beaten, captured alive by the Portuguese, and taken to south India (in some versions to Portugal), where he was imprisoned. Efforts to ransom him failed, whereupon the Portuguese tried to persuade him to settle and take as wife one of them. Mīr Hammal refused to marry a “kafīr” woman, and eventually died in prison. He is reputed to have written a history of his years in captivity and to have sent it to Kalmat, but no trace of it has been found. The ballads about him also describe the local custom women since adopted of mourning for him by binding their hair on Saturdays.
There is beside this particular literature of Baluch concerns, an extensive literature regarding many of the famous Islamic stories common to all Muslim peoples: stories of parīs, of ʿĪsā and Bārī, Laylā and Majnūn, Farhād and Šīrēn. More especially Baluch is the ballad of Dōstēn and Šīrēn, and those about Šēh (Shaikh) Morīd. Modern poets, foremost among them Gol Khan Naṣīr, have written new versions of these legends.
The time has not yet arrived for a comprehensive survey of Baluchi literature, for which the material at hand is as yet far too incomplete.
Many of the actors in events are themselves held to be bards (Bībarg, Bālāč, Qabīl Jaṭ, Gwaharām), many individual ballads being attributed to them. Some of these “attributed” classical poems were collected by Dames in 1909 and by Šēr Moḥammad Marī in 1970, but neither their age nor authenticity can be verified.
The earliest important poet for whom definite information is available is Jām Durrak, court poet at the court of Naṣīr Khan I of Kalat (1749-95), whose love poetry is still remembered and recited. Some of it has been collected and published (see the bibliography).
The 19th century saw a large literary flowering, and nearly every event of public or private importance (battles, celebrations, political events) saw the composition of a ballad to commemorate it, often by poets whose names and localities are known. In the western Kech valley, the town of Mand was of special importance, the home of Mollā Fażl and Mollā Qasīm, both in the first part of the century. Also important are ʿEzzat Lalla from Panjgur, Bālāč from Sibi, Nūr Moḥammad Bampoštī from Bampošt in Persian Baluchistan, Mollā Balnāma Ḥassān from Bāhō Kalāt in the same area.
In the latter half of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century there have also been major poets: Faqīr Šēr Jān of Nushki, Mollā Esmāʿīl of Tump (Kech), Ostā Ḥassān Zargar also of Kech, Mollā Ḡolām Nabī Ḵārānī of Kolwa, among others, all writers of narrative ballads as well as romantic ones on important themes of the day.
The British Afghan wars were productive of, among other things, some important historical narrative ballads: one describes the expedition of General Willshire against Kalat in 1839, and there are many descriptions of the prevailing state of tribal unrest in Kalat State and in British Baluchistan, a state which continued until Sir Robert Sandeman in 1867 established a measure of control over the anarchic tribes by negotiating treaties, the first such ever concluded with them; as a result Baluch tribes kept the peace during the Second Afghan War in 1878, itself the subject of balladry. Sandeman himself became a legend, and there are many poems about Sanman Sāhb.
Modern literature. After the turn of the century, and particularly at the end of the first World War (for which Marī Baluch had refused to recruit soldiers for the Indian Army), a new national consciousness among Baluch generally produced a generation of writers who by the 1930s created an entirely new Baluchi cultural scene—one in which the printed word began to play a role for the first time. While it was nominally mainly literary in character, politics played an important role from the start, and one of the purposes of many writers was the awakening of a national consciousness, in which the mother tongue of course played a major part.
The first of this new generation of writers to become widely known was Moḥammad Ḥosayn “Anqā” (b. 1909, d. 1977) whose weekly newspaper in Baluchi, Bōlān, was the first of its kind; it survived, remarkably, for several years at Mach near Quetta until the end of the 1930s. Groups of enthusiasts were not lacking, however, to continue such efforts, and a bewildering variety of newspapers and “little magazines” have been born and died in the past 50 years, the first after Bōlān of the 1930s being Ōmān, ed. by Maulvī (Mawlawī) Ḵayr Moḥammad Nadvī in Karachi in the early 1950s. These literary activities have usually had a marked political content, so that relationships with central governments have never been easy. Other early writers include ʿAbd-al-ʿAzīz Kūrd (d. ca. 1970), Sayyed Hašīmī (d. 1980), Raḥm-ʿAlī Marī (d. ca. 1940). Probably the most important single events were the foundation of Baluchi academies for the publication of all types of written material: in Karachi ca. 1956 by Sayyed Hašīmī, and in Quetta in 1959, the latter being preceded there by the Balūčī Zubānē Diwān in 1950 (ʿAbd-Allāhān Jamāldīnī, b. 1922, Gol Khan Naṣīr, 1914-84, and Ḡolām Moḥammad Šāhwānī, d. ca. 1957). While the academy in Karachi lasted only a few years, it did important work; the academy in Quetta, on the other hand, is still flourishing, with some 60 titles td its credit, many of which are still in print. Gol Khan Našīr’s Gulbāng (Balūčī Zubānē Diwān, Quetta, 1952), a collection of poems, was one of the first publications. Gol Khan was the leading poet of the years after 1950, with many works published by the Baluchi Academy in Quetta, including four large volumes of poetry, written for the most part in traditional Baluchi styles. By contrast, ʿAṭā Šād (b. ca. 1940) is a leading poet in new, nontraditional styles, including free verse. Other leading poets in the classical and modern style are Mīr ʿĪsā Qomī (b. ca. 1915) of Torbat, and ʿAbd-al-Waḥīd Āzāt Jamāldīnī (1915-81 ) of Nūški. Āzāt founded the monthly Balōčī (Karachi, 1956-69; Quetta, 1969-) and was its editor until his death.
See also BRAHUI.
Bibliography : Older (pre-1889) works. The only works still worth consulting are C. E. Gladstone, Biluchi Handbook, Lahore, 1874; E. W. Marston, Grammar and Vocabulary of the Mekranee Belonchee Dialect, Bombay, 1877; Major E. Mockler, A Grammer of the Baloochee Language, as it is Spoken in Makrān, in the Persi-Arabic Character, London, 1877; E. Pierce, “A Description of the Mekranee-Beloochee Dialect,” JRAS Bombay 11, pp. 1-98 (fairly accurate descriptions, mainly of the Coastal dialect but phonologically very hard to follow and differing dialect forms are mixed without discrimination); A. Lewis, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Allahabad, 1884; idem, Balochi Stories, as Spoken by the Nomad Tribes of the Sulaiman Hills, Allahabad, 1855 (accurate and quite reliable; Eastern Hill Baluchi).
Early work (1889-1920). The first scientific and comparative studies of the phonology, history, and etymology of Baluchi by an authority on the subject are the following works by W. Geiger: “Dialektspaltung in Balūčī,” Sb. Bayr. Akad. d. Wiss. 1, Munich, 1889, pp. 65-92; “Balūčische Texte mit Übersetzung I, II,” ZDMG 43, 1889, pp. 579-89, 47, 1893, pp. 440-49; “Etymologie des Balūčī,” Abh. Bayr. Akad. d. Wiss. 19, 1890, pp. 107-53; “Lautlehre des Balūčī,” ibid., pp. 399-443 (most of this is still useful but it must be remembered that Geiger had little other Middle Iranian material than the older Pahlavi studies at his disposal), culminating in his classical account of the language from the standpoint of Iranian philology: “Die Sprache der Balutschen,” in Grundriss I, pp. 231-48 and 417-23. By M. L. Dames we have the following important works: A Textbook of the Balochi Language, Lahore, 1891; Balochi Tales, London, I-II, 1892, III-IV, 1893, V, 1897; The Baloch Race, London, 1904; Popular Poetry of the Baloches, London, 1907 (the most ambitious and comprehensive collection of Baluchi ballads ever published, containing Baluchi texts with English translation; unfortunately marred by many inaccuracies in the Baluchi text and far too free English translations); “Balōčistan, Language and Literature,” in EI1, 1913, pp. 633-34 (useful particularly for the historical and ethnographic survey). Usable but inaccurate, with many misprints, are the two works by J. L. Mayer (Eastern Hill Baluchi): Biluch Classics, Fort Munro-Agra, 1901; English-Biluchi Dictionary, Lahore, 1909 (the earliest and in many ways most interesting of such dictionaries).
Modern works (1920-). H. W. Bailey, “Maka,” JRAS, 1982, pp. 10-13. M. Barker and A. Kh. Mengal, A Course in Baluchi, 2 vols., Montreal, 1969 (modern language course in Raḵšāni Baluchi, laden with “drills” and exercises; the most thorough description to date of any Baluchi dialect; texts and glossaries; painstaking and accurate). A. Bausani, “La letteratura Beluci,” in O. Botto, Storia delle letterature orientali, Milan, 1969, II, pp. 643-48 (poorish summaries of a few tales taken from Dames, Popular Poetry; Jām Dorrak is also mentioned). G. Buddruss, “Buttern in Baluchistan,” in Wort und Wirklichkeit. Studien zur Afrikanistik und Orientalistik Eugen Ludwig Rapp zum 70. Geburtstag, ed. B. Benzing, O. Böcher, and G. Mayer, II, Meisenheim am Glan, 1978, pp. 1-16 (an interesting specimen of Afghani Baluchi, with notes and tr.). N. A. Collett, A Grammar, Phrase Book and Vocabulary of Baluchi (As Spoken in the Sultanate of Oman), 1983, 2nd ed., 1986, Abingdon, Kent (Kēči dialect used by Balōč recruits from Pakistan in the Omani forces; the vocabulary includes occasional Raḵšāni and Coastal forms, and some words unrecorded in Baluchi so far). W. Eilers, “Das Volk der Maka vor und nach den Achaemeniden,” in H. Koch and D. N. MacKenzie, eds., Kunst, Kultur, und Geschichte der Achaemenidenzeit und ihr Fortleben, AMI, Ergänzungsband 10, Berlin, 1983, pp. 101-19. J. Elfenbein, “Baluchistan, Language,” in EI2, 1960, pp. 1006-07 (in the historical part read “northwestern” for “eastern” and “southwestern” for “western”; the dialect geography is completely revised in the text above). Idem, “Baluchi Mss. in the British Museum,” in Trudy XXV Mezhdunarodnogo Kongressa Vostokovedov II, Moscow, 1960, pp. 364-66 (preliminary discussion of the three mss.). Idem, “A Balūčī Text, with Translation and Notes,” BSOAS 24, 1961, pp. 86-103 (ed., tr. of one story with notes from the most interesting of the three mss). Idem, A Vocabulary of Marw Baluchi, Naples, 1963 (etymological vocabulary of all Marv Baluchi texts). Idem, The Baluchi Language, a Dialectology with Texts, London, 1966 (a first attempt at a comprehensive first-hand account of all Baluchi dialects, with some texts and a small, poor word list; mainly descriptive, with a few historical notes on the development of dialects; for the most part still valid). Idem, “Report on a Linguistic Mission to Helmand and Nīmrūz,” Journal of Afghan Studies 2, 1979, pp. 39-44 (dialectology of Afghani Baluchi). Idem, A Baluchi Miscellanea of Erotica and Poetry: Codex Oriental Additional 24048 of the British Library, AION 43/2, Supp. 35, Naples, 1983 (the oldest of the three mss. in the British Library, perhaps written ca. 1820 at the request of H. H. Wilson, 1786-1860, professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University, whose wife donated the ms. to the British Library in 1861; the dialect is an unusual variety of Coastal Baluchi, probably from Kalmat in present-day Pakistani Makrān). Idem, “Notes on the Balochī-Brāhūī Linguistic Commensality,” TPS, 1982, pp. 77-98 (description of some important phonological and morphological borrowings by Brahui from Baluchi). Idem, “Balochi from Khotan,” Studia Iranica 14, 1985, pp. 223-38 (176 Baluchi words noted in H. W. Bailey, Dictionary of Khotan Saka, with corrections and comments). Idem, “Mythologie der Balutschen,” in Klett and Cotta, Wörterbuch der Mythologie, 2nd ed., H. W. Haussig, Stuttgart, 1983-, pp. 491-507. V. A. Frolova, Beludzhskiĭ yazyk, Moscow, 1960 (no history or dialectology). R. N. Frye, “Remarks an Baluchi History,” Central Asiatic Journal 6, 1961, pp. 44-50 (Baluchi history in Islamic sources). E. G. Gafferberg, Beludzhi Turkmenskoĭ SSR, Moscow, 1969. G. W. Gilbertson, English-Balochi Colloquial Dictionary I-II, Hertford, 1925. Sir G. A. Grierson, “Balōchī,” in Linguistic Survey of India X: Eranian Family, Calcutta, 1921, pp. 327-421 (useful summary of phonology and grammar, with many texts and list of words). J. Hansman, “A Periplus of Magan and Meluhha,” BSOAS 36, 1973, pp. 554-84, with an annex by H. W. Bailey, pp. 584-87. V. A. Livshits, “Beludzhskiĭ yazyk,” in Narody Sredneĭ Azii i Kazakhstana, Moscow, 1962, pp. 157-58. D. N. MacKenzie, “Origins of Kurdish,” TPS, 1961, pp. 68-86 (on the dialectology of western Iranian languages). G. Morgenstierne, Report on a Linguistic Mission to North-Western India, Oslo, 1932, pp. 4-25. Idem, “Notes on Balochi Etymology,” NTS 5, 1932, pp. 37-53 (with important new material). Idem, “Balochi Miscellanea,” Acta Orientalia 20, 1948, pp. 253-92 (remarks on phonology; historical and etymological notes). Idem, “Neu-Iranische Sprachen,” in HO I, IV/1, Leiden and Cologne, 1958, pp. 169-70. I. M. Oranskiĭ, “Beludzhskiĭ yazyk,” in Iranskie yazyki, Moscow, 1963, pp. 141-45, 170-71, tr. J. Blau, Paris, 1977, pp. 146-50, 196 (fairly complete survey of published material). M. G. Pikulin, Beludzhi, Moscow, 1959 (summary of material published abroad). V. S. Rastorgueva, “Beludzhskiĭ yazyk,” in Yazyki narodov SSSR I, Moscow, 1966, pp. 323-41. G. Redard, “Balōčī,” in Current Trends in Linguistics VI, The Hague, 1970, pp. 107-08 (state of the art and bibliography). S. N. Sokolov, Grammaticheskiĭ ocherk yazyka beludzheĭ Sovetskogo Soyuza, Trudy Instituta Yazykoznaniya 6, Moscow, 1956, pp. 57-91 (detailed grammatical description of the Zarubin texts). V. S. Sokolova, Beludzhskiĭ yazyk, Novye svedeniya o fonetiki iranskikh yazykov II/6, Moscow and Leningrad, 1950 (first Russian sketch). Idem, Beludzhskiĭ yazyk, Ocherki po fonetike iranskikh yazykov I, Moscow and Leningrad, 1953 (detailed phonological analysis; some word lists and texts). Idem, “Beludzhskiĭ yazyk,” in Sovremennyĭ Iran, Moscow, 1957, pp. 83-93 (brief sketch). B. Spooner, “Notes on Baluchī spoken in Persian Baluchistan,” Iran 5, 1967, pp. 51-71 (short description and word list; Sarḥaddi and “Makrāni” Baluchi by an anthropologist; inaccurate phonology; unselective bibliography). I. I. Zarubin, “K izucheniyu beludzhskogo yazyka i fol’klora,” Zapiski Kollegii Vostokovedov 5, Leningrad, 1932, pp. 653-79 (the first Baluchi text with good Russian translation; useful). Idem, Beludzhskie skazki, Leningrad, I, 1932, II, 1949 (a huge collection of prose stories in the Marv dialect with Russian translation; accurate and reliable).
Modern literary Baluchi texts: Bašīr Aḥmad Balōč, ed., Durṛčīn, Quetta, 1963 (some of the work of Jām Dorrak). A. J. Jamāldīnī, ed., Mistāg, Karachi, 1959 (an early and fairly representative collection of new Baluchi poetry). Miṭha Khan Marī, Raḥm-ʿAlī Marī, Quetta, 1978 (poetry of an important poet). Šēr-Moḥammad Marī, ed., Balōčī kōhnēn šāḥirī, Quetta, 1970 (the first collection of classical Baluchi ballads since Dames, 1907; Eastern Hill Baluchi in Sindhi script; introd. and notes in Baluchi; many printing errors). Gol Khan Naṣīr, Gulbāng, Quetta, 1952 (one of the first indigenous publications). Idem, Šap girōk, Quetta, 1973: Grand, Quetta, 1975; Dōstēn o Šīrēn, Quetta, 1977 (collections of poetry; the last a lengthy recast of a classical Baluchi story of two lovers).

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