Category Archives: Baloch Culture

Status of Women in the Baloch Society

(Research Paper)

Panah Baloch
Muhammad Afzal Qaisarani

The Baloch women, constitute like any other social group, about half of population. The Baloch women, as well in all communities, are more illiterate than men. Like other social groups, the Baloch women share problem related reproductive health. When primary and secondary subsistence activities are counted, women work more than men. The connectional framework to analyse women’s status comprise the seven roles women play in life and work:- parental, conjugal, domestic, kin, occupational, community and as an individual. In order to appraise the social status of women in these diverse ecological areas, the findings have been divided into subsequent categories:- (a) a girl; daughter, (b) mother, (c) married women and (d) common women. Role of women not only of importance economic activities, but her role in non-economic activities is equally important. The Baloch women work very hard, in some cases even more than men. However, in their own world women have a freedom, and self-expression. With the onset of developmental programmes economic changes are take place but Baloch women remains traditional in their dress, language, tools and resources. The Baloch women play very important and historical role in the field of politics, social, economy, literature, health etc. The structure of the society is being changing due to emerging the Baloch people from nomadic to semi-nomadic and agro-pastoral. Modernization is bringing changes, which affect man and women differently. The rapid changes and modernization in the structure of society not only bringing positive impacts but it is affecting and damaging constructive values, traditions and norms, prevails in Baloch society from the centuries, which are badly affecting the respect, honour and dignity of women. There is need of incorporation and promotion of constructive values, traditions and norms with recent rapid changes, revival of positive aspects and protection of the status women in the light of historical role and importance of women.

Baloch as a nation historically belongs to nomadic, semi- nomadic and a pastoral life style. They used to raise livestock as primary enterprise for their livelihoods, so the migration from highland to lowland was a permanent phenomenon in search of fodder for their animals. Their existence is based on collective, mutual interests, and losses. Baloch people have their own characteristics; like any other nation in terms of art, music, morals, and customs. Baloch have it own unique language and identity. Although Baloch have a history of a nomadic way of life but with the passage of time they in transitory process in settling themselves in modern life. Adoption of modern life influenced their norms and culture as they merge in a new society. However, educated and middle class generations carrying their own norms and values. Historically and socially Baloch belong to a secular school of thoughts. Hospitality is one of the best virtues among Baloch people. For instance, when an enemy entered in their house or huts for seeking protection, they are bound to give them protection and treat them with honor. There are many such stories in Baloch history; they gave the protection of their enemies. For hospitality, Baloch nomads, a century ago, has a separate tent for their guest and those whom are well off they have guest houses in Balochistan. Baloch poetry is one of the most beautiful poetry and one of the oldest in the World. In Baloch culture poetry has always been combined with music. Balochi music and folklore has been passed from generation to generation as a valuable art. Balochi handicrafts are world-renowned – be it Baloch carpets and rugs or embroidery. The Baloch are very hospitable, nice and friendly. They are generally intelligent, learned, well-informed, initiated, cultivated, socially accomplished and politically attentive. Culturally, they are rich and self-dependent.
Regardless of being a tribal society, Baloch consider their women as full partners. Baloch women have always played a major role being housewife, working in agriculture field for centuries during the cultivation period – nomadic women can help graze the flocks and much more. Women take care of feeding the livestock, cleaning the abodes and even in providing traditional care of diseases. They further involved in milking and milking process, poultry, and egg selling. Women have significant role in the development of livestock sector in Balochistan (Shafiq, M., 2008). Baloch women have helped their men during the war by treating their injuries and providing support in many ways. For centuries, Baloch do not have any segregation of sexes nor did they have veil in nomadic life. On the other hand, as respect of women in Baloch society, if she interferes during tribal feuds between two warring tribes – both parties will stop fighting. Baloch women have taken the responsibility of teaching their children moral principle and values. Particularly, killing women in Baloch culture is considered covertness. The role of Baloch women through history is of times oversimplified and misinterpreted through the lens of recent history for which there are far more records. A number of examples are on the record of our history where women have been assisted the rulers in their affairs or have exhibited tremendous intellectual efforts for the reform and betterment of the society.
Respect of mother and sister is mandatory in Baloch society. In old age, special care provided to mother. I personally observed that when old mother is sick, her son takes it in his hands. Her words never been ignored. In the tribes status of mother and wife of tribal chief is high. Tribal men have any complain against his chief then he approach the mother and wife of tribal chief then they try to provide justice to him. Baloch women are loyal to her husband. If her husband was killed, then she trained and asks her son for revenge ( Shah, 2008).
In the sixteenth century the Portuguese invaded Persian Gulf region, including the Baloch coast of Makran. Mir Hamal Jiand, a chief of Kalmat in the Makran resisted against then and finally arrested by them and they offered to marry with European girl. He refused to do so and he loves his native girls. Baloch poetess Bibi Khanun expresses his view about difference of Baloch and European girl, in her poetry ( Naseer, 1976):
On the score that they do not wash their eyes,
Nor pronounce the name of God;
They devour handfuls of dates with flies,
Their shirts are cut above the knees,
And the naval is exposed to view l;
Neither their address to God is decent,
Nor (do they) recite the Muslim way prayer;
Hamal loves his native girls having intoxicating eyes,
They wear shirts and trousers,
And cover their heads with shawls.

Before starting a discussion or any generalization of the role of Women in Baloch society, it is important to know the factors that help in interpreting the status that they enjoy in their own family.

Cultural Background
A woman life sphere consists of child to motherhood. These all stages have been discussed in the following chapter to give better understanding to the readers.

Girl Child
Girl child in Baloch tribe is called “Janekh” or Neyanrin”. Baloch too have son preference but don not discriminate against girls by female infanticide or sex determination tests. The elder sister is like mother where as they have love and respect for younger brother and sisters. Boys and girls don’t have similar inheritance laws. Baloch women do not have similar inherit land, except in matrilineal societies or under special circumstances. Nonetheless they are not abused, hated, or subjected to strict social norms. Girls are free to participate in social events, dancing and other family recreational programmes. Girls are not considered as burden because of their economic value. There is no dowry on marriage. However in some areas father of bridegroom pay a bride price in the shape of Lab to the father of girl. When there is a marriage by exchange, in which brother and sister in the family may marry a sister and brother belonging to other family, no bride price is paid. Girls care for younger siblings, perform household jobs and work in the fields with their brothers. The girls are trained to be good housewives and motherhood, together with behavioral pattern that are consistence with obedience, being ladylike and expected passive. A song sung by girl playing the game ( Dames, 1988).
The girls call you (so-and-so) to come close pleasant Gumbaz
(so-and-so) will not come, girls.
She is busy in needful work.
She is sewing her brother’s trousers.
She is sewing her father’s coat.
She is making a peg for her uncle’s bow.
She is embroidering a bodice for her mother.
She is making a close-fitting jacket for herself.

The education is a fundamental right that provides opportunities for socio-economic uplift. The girl child is deliberately denied and the future opportunity of to all development. The reasons associated with not educating girl child are financial constraints, early marriages, submissiveness, motherhood, and parental perception of education on women’s worldview. In absence of hired labour the girls, work at home and fields is of utmost importance and all considered the fact that eventually the girls have to get married and start their families. Where parents are enthusiastic about educating their daughters, they enroll their daughters in school but rarely allow them to complete their schooling. The grills study up to primary or middle level and get married. Sometimes girls are withdrawn from school after three or four years (when they have learned to write their names and able to read letter) to work, with preference for education given to boys. There is major gender disparity, in terms of more limited educational opportunities available for rural girls. Urban girls probably have benefited most from increased access to educational facilities.

Married Women
In Balochi, the wife called as “Banokh, Loghi, Halkh and Khad. Baloch behave to their wife well. Married women in the study of area carryout all types of work at home as well as outside that are required of mixed agro-pastoral economy. Apart from looking after the house, children and cattle, major portion of the agriculture is done by women who do planting, weeding, hoeing and harvesting and other indigenous Kasheedakari. Child rearing is also the responsibility of the women. There was dowry on marriage in tribal system but with the passage of time and spreading out of education in the society, the dowry system is discouraged. However in some areas father of bridegroom pay a bride price in the shape of Lab to the father of girl. Basically lab was to provide the social security to the girl. The parents of girl return back the money in shape of cloths, ornaments and other household items. However, exchange marriage is still prevailing in which brother and sister in the family may marry a sister and brother belonging to other family, no bride price is paid.
In the study of society monogamous, polygamous and polyandrous marriages are prevalent. There may be premature death, marital discard or infertility that threatens family continuation. Among some communities, it is socially expected and considered desirable that after to the death of her husband a women should marry her brother-in-law, but the women has the final say and she have right to refuse. She has also choice to marry any other person but mostly observed that she look after her kids and live with family of her late husband.
Divorce is uncommon among the Baloch society but practiced in urban areas and lower classes among whom it is given on trivial grounds, but seldom in the case of the dominant races. Both husband and wife possess the right of divorce. If the women desires divorce she loses her dower; if husband divorces her pay the “deferred haqmaher” amount (District Gazetteers, 2004).

Mother also plays a critical role in career building of her child, as mother best knows the capabilities, strengths and weaknesses in her kids and can better guide her children to choose the right profession. Mothers are the one who mould their children into bright, beautiful, pure and strong citizens. Mother in Baloch society is called “Mazh or mat”. Baloch mother have taken the responsibility of teaching their children moral principle and values. Through lullabies (loly), she teaches his son(s) and daughter(s) about the culture and tribal norms of life. In domestic affairs, the value of mother is as a king. Mother in Baloch society have strong hold decision making in the family affairs i.e. marriage of girls and boys. The son respects his mother a lot. Every kind of work is done by the advice of mother. If mother and wife quarrel, son stands by his mother, even though mother is at fault. Some lullabies (Hushabies) of mother for her boy and girl child is hereby indicated from the Book “ Popular Poetry of Baloches” M. Longworth Dames published by Balochi Academy, Quetta in 1988.
1. Hushaby to my little boy;
Sweet sleep to my son.
I will kill chicken and take of skin,
I must have a chicken’s skin.
I will make little skin bag of its legs and
Send it to my mother-in-law,
A bed of gasht-grass
I will spread in the shade of cliff.
A skin-bag full of yellow ghi,
And flesh of fat-tailed sheep,
Shall be the food of my son.
Hushaby baby;
May grow to be an old man.

2. Nazi has pitched her little tent near the boundaries of Gumbaz,
And the feathery tamarisk of Syahaf, Her grandfather’s grazing ground.
She calls to her father and her uncle, and her brother’s companions,
Fair to view, and her uncle’s tiger-like sons,
And her aunt’s well-trained children’s come all of you,
Into my tent, for the clouds have gathered overhead,
And perhaps your fine weapons and your quiver and arrows will be damp.
The shameless slave girls have gone away,
The cows have suckled their calves in the jungle,
And Gujar has driven away the herds of camels.
Lullaby, I sing to my little girl.

Common Women
Baloch is bashful nation and they respect the woman. If any male is going on the way and he sees any woman coming from opposite side, they put down their eyes. Baloch tribes consider it respectable to guard the respect of others. If any woman is in Bahot (refugee) of any tribe or person, they consider it their duty to guard her and its property. The history of Gohar (Bahot of Mir Chakar), the famous Baloch character during Chakar Khan Rind’s period which became the reason of Rind and Lashar 30 years historical feud and Sammi, a widow (Bahot of Doda, brother of Balach), becomes historical Balach and Bevargh long battle, are shows that there was respect of women and she right of personal property even in that medieval period for the women of Balochistan. Both women were living independently in the Baloch society when their property herds were killed and looted by a group of other tribal man, then long wars started for the consequences of hurting bahot.

Less work has been done on Baloch women’s role in the society. The authors took the challenge to document the role of Baloch women in the various spheres of life. The thematic concern of this study was to;
– Document the role of Baloch women in the society,
– Diagnose the women role in various sphere of practical life, and
– List the opportunities and problems encounter to them in their practical life.


Prior to conduct the social survey, secondary resources were explored to know the status of a Baloch working women. In various stages of the study, Baloch working women were approached to know their point of view about their working environment, opportunities, experiences and finally list problems when a woman enter in a job.

Baloch society generally contains nomadic, semi-nomadic and sedentary segments. Nomadism, which was one of the basic elements of Baloch socio-economic organization, retains its presence in Balochistan. Recent reports indicate that about 5% of the population in Pakistani in townships overlapping the old tribal structure of Baloch society. This Balochistan is living a mobile life. The other segment of Baloch society can be termed agro-pastoral nomads, which are roughly 15% of the population. The vast majority of contemporary Baloch live in the villages and small townships, which are scattered in the sparsely populated Balochistan. The recent development of agricultural infrastructure in several parts of Balochistan has produced a class of small feudal and small entrepreneurs in township overlapping the old tribal structure of Baloch society. This segment of society is increasingly absorbing the nomadic and semi-nomadic segments of the Baloch society as due political and ecological happening, their mode of survival is increasingly becoming untenable (Dashti, 2008).
Some working women are interviewed and they expressed that, they are facing troubles with their colleagues’ behavior. They pointed out that their colleagues who are not aware of Balochi culture and norms due to their urban background creating more troubles. It has been observed that a woman in tribal system is more protected than other societies. Combine or extended family system does not allow husband to humiliate his wife right. This is the moral responsibility of either household head or elder female members to intervene between them to solve the concern disagreement if any. Gradually this system is turn down considering many social and economic stresses.
The rapid changes and modernization in the structure of society not only bringing positive impacts but he is affecting and damaging constructive values, traditions and norms, prevails in Baloch society from the centuries, which are badly affecting the respect, honour and dignity of women. There is need of incorporation and promotion of constructive values, traditions and norms with recent rapid changes and protection of the status women in the light of historical role and importance of women.

Women’s Role in Political Sphere
There is a general perception about Baloch women that the Baloch man not allowed their wives to go outside and take part in any social, economical activities but this is not right perception. History shows that Baloch women are very much dynamic in all parts of their social life. Baloch women plays vigorous role in the history. When study the history there are so many Baloch women who were found in the social and political sphere. The role women’s empowerment for a just society was highlighted in the Beijing Conference (1995). Women in Baloch society were not only involved in the political affairs of Baloch rulers but they plays active role in the many battle field and led the battalion of tribal army from the centuries. Bibi Banari, the sister of Mir Chakar Khan, Chief of the Baloch tribes, led the battalion of tribal army in war against Dehli in late 15th century and won the throne for Mughal emperor Humayun (Mengal, 1968). Bibi Beebo the sister of Khan Mir Ahmad Khan, Khan of Kalat (1666-1696) during battle against Baruzai of Sibi, feels his brother is very tense after many unsuccessful attacks and ask for permission to play her role. She led the battalion of tribal army and attacked on her enemy and martyred near Dadhar during battle (Naseer, 2010). After some time of the martyred of Bibi Beebo, the daughter Mir Ahmad Khan, Bibi Bano led the tribal army and attacked on Baruzai of Sibi and won the war and occupied the fort of enemy. She was awarded title of Sherzal (brave women). Mother of Naseer Khan Azam (1750-1794) Bibi Maryam during the rule of her son led the women and with wife of other tribal elite took part in many battles. They treat the injured and supply arms and ration to the fighters in the battle field. Wife of Malik Deenar Khan Gichki, ruler of Makran, Bibi Roz Khatoon was a noble lady and took part in the many tribal battles with her husband (Aseer, 2005). After death of, Mir Pahar Khan, Sradar of Lasbella in 1742, his widow Bibi Chhaguli become ruler of State. However Jam Ali Khan was opposed her and tried to take over the state affairs but he becomes unsuccessful after many efforts and she rules on the state till her death in well manner (Lehri, 1955). Bibi Zainab was sister of Mir Mahmood Khan was a people loving and daring lady. She was against her brother’s policies and wants make Mir Mustafa Khan as a Khan of Kalat but her youngest brother Mir Muhammad Rahim was opposed her and killed Mustafa Khan. When she hear the sad news and together a big army at place Panjnama (Gandwah)and fight with him and killed Mir Mustafa Khan ( Naseer, 2010). Daughter of Khan Mehrab Khan, Bibi Allah Dini was chairs the Deewan (meeting) of tribal chiefs, advised them and decided the tribal feuds (Aseer, 2005).. Bibi Ganjan wife of Mir Mehrab Khan Shaheed was not only advisor of her husband but was his friend in the many battlefields and took part in many tribal wars as a comrade of her husband. She also took part in battle against British rulers on 13-11-1839 (Aseer, 1978). Bibi Mehnaz was daughter of Mir Azad Khan Nausherwani, Ruler of Kharan and married with Mir Naseer Khan II, Khan of Kalat. When 1857 Mir Naseer Khan was died and his brother Mir Khudadad Khan becomes ruler wants to marry with her, she refused to do so and goes to her father’s home at Kharan. After sometimes Mir Khudadad Khan suddenly attacked on Kharan with a big army of tribes. Ruler of Kharan when feels he is not capable to fight with him and goes to Afghanistan for help. But Bibi Mehnaz form her fort face the army of Khan of Kalat and on seventh day Khan of Kalat finally agreed for ceasefire (Aseer, 1978). Another Baloch woman Gul Bibi from Iranian border area also plays historical role, when 1916 Indian Government appointed General Dyer to curb the border baghawat. General Dyer with his tactics controls over on Baloch sardars and occupied on the forts. Gul Bibi wife of Shahsawar learned about control of General Dyer on Khawash Fort, she abuses her Sardar Jeeand and her husband on their loosing. She sent gift to General Dyer and meets with him, after talks she freed her husband and other prisoners ( Naseer, 1979).
Above indicated all women belongs to the rulers families and their efforts have been reported but I think there was large numbers of Baloch women, they plays major role but remain unknown in chapters of history. Women in Baloch society still playing important role in the social and political sphere and becomes part of upcoming history. This shows that women have more importance in public affairs and decision-making in Baloch society.

Women’s Role in Economic Sphere
In traditional societies which lack of market system, the business of everyday living is usually carried on gender division of labour (Illich, 1982). In the study of area, the division of labour is mainly between herding and agriculture. In all other tasks concerned with the rural life, such as handicrafts, house building, water collection, food and work on boundary walls, there is division between men’s and women’s work. However, the boundaries are not so clearly marked, as there is overlapping and deviations from rule. There as well as cases where rule is inflexible and times when changes.
Major portion of agriculture is done by the women who do planting, weeding, hoeing and harvesting in the fields adjacent to houses or far off fields. The other activities of women include looking after house activities, children and animals. Food processing and cooking is women’s job. It is the women who with assistance of children are largely responsible for the cattle, water, fuel and fodder. Women take care of feeding the livestock, cleaning the abodes and even in providing traditional care of diseases. They further involved in milking and milking process, poultry, and egg selling. This permits them considerable time away from home and village; they are free to talk to whom so ever they please, male or female, of the area. As a consequence, communication among women and between women is as high as it is among men.
The embroideries work of Baloch women are highly artistic and enjoy the considerable local and international reputation and source of earning of the women. A variety of pattern of embroidery is worked, and almost everyone wear some garments which has embroidery upon it. The parts of the dress which are generally embroidered are the front packet and sleeves of the pashk (women trouser), the end of men and women drawer, caps and coats. Shawls, Bed sheets and carpet badges are made. The needle work of Balochi women is very fine. There are several descriptions, which are known kantlo/katlo, kallah, Gagha, Adengo, Siho, bandola, bunhi, siahkash kopgo, Hasht Adengoen jeeg, Karch, Dahdari, Nagul, Zehgani Jamug, Cheeno, Kah yabooti, Charen Adeng, Lolowali, Zorka, Chum-o-srumag, mosam, kapogo mosam, Cheenuk or Daz, bakkali, tattuk, dagardoch, robar, chilko, pravez, pariwar, ohakan etc.
Baloch women are very strong and courageous in the handling of environmental imperatives as can be demonstrated in the trekking and work pattern under the several limitations of the harsh environment. Several studies dealing with pastoral societies indicates that the portion of women in such societies is not very high because the actual care of the livestock and handling of economic affairs is entirely a male domain. However, among some communities do not directly help in handling of livestock, they look after household work. Women play an important role in their household economy. They work in most operations of all sectors of the local economy and for the longer hours each day than man. In addition to the domestic and reproductive activities associated with household maintenance, they also collect and gather free goods especially fuel, fodder and water. Women operate effectively in most economic and social institutions, participating in the both local and migrant labour activities.
A young lady was approached to get her point of view on the subject. Actually she is working woman and supports her family. She mentioned that working women have certain problems while working in male dominated society and the same I am facing. Actually males have duel face; once he is in home, he pay respect his sister as sister, mother as mother and daughter as daughter as they deserve but away from house he thinks that every women is corrupt. They have little access to, and exercise limited control over resources; and few are free from threat and violence at the hands of their husbands. Working for wages is not necessarily an indicator of autonomy. It is further noticed that role of women in the economy was not considered at official level also. It is surprise to mention here that women’s contribution in GDP not indicated at all.

Women’s Role in Social Sphere
Role of Baloch women is not only of important in the economic activities, but her role in non-economic activities is equally important. Formation and continuity of family hearth and home is the domain of women. Women’s roles as wives, mother, and organizer are the basic foundations of other dimensions of social life have extreme importance. Among rural population, as men are out for pastoral duties, the socialization of children automatically becomes mother’s business, in the early years of their life. The role woman in child birth, funerals and fairs and festivals is an important part of rural life. In the Baloch society women are carrier of traditional information in the absence of written record. They are crucial actors in the preservation and dissemination of such knowledge. They are not only competent food producers and house makers but are transmitters of rich local oral traditions.
There is a large number of Baloch women are playing her role in social sphere as politician, educationist, doctor, engineer, journalist, anchor, social and development worker and taking part socio-economic development of Baloch society.

Women’s Role in literature Sphere
As stated in the quotation by C.S. Lewis, literature not only describes reality but also adds to it. Yes, literature is not merely a depiction of reality; it is rather a value-addition. Literary works are portrayals of the thinking patterns and social norms prevalent in society. They are a depiction of the different facets of common man’s life. Classical literary works serve as a food for thought and a tonic for imagination and creativity. Exposing an individual to good literary works, is equivalent to providing him/her with the finest of educational opportunities. On the other hand, the lack of exposure to classic literary works is equal to depriving an individual from an opportunity to grow as an individual in the society.

Literature plays a pivotal role in molding one’s thoughts, ideas and, above all, the way of life. It also helps in cultivating moderation and tolerance in the society. Similarly, literature available to a child leaves drastic impact on his/her mind and also help set the course of his/her future. Besides, it not only broadens the horizons of their imagination but also helps them in understanding their society. As, very well said by a wise man-“The mother’s lap is the first school for every child”. Baloch women have great contribution in the character building of child and literature, being mother she sing lullaby for son and daughter being grand-mother. She sings wedding songs. These are unrecognized contribution of Baloch women in the promotion of culture and literature at the initial level of life.
The loly (Lullaby) from of poetry is the function of female folk, and the versifier of lullaby, are therefore, mainly females. The art of poetry versification by the female folk is deemed most opprobrious in the Baloch society. We seldom hear the name of a Baloch poetess. It is through this branch of poetry ‘loly’ that poetess express her poetic instincts and ambitions, which are mainly devoted and dedicated to the newly born child. We can name this form of verse as the ‘poetry of cradle, foe when child is placed in the cradle, the mother starts singing lullaby. ‘Halo’ which is celebrated by the females of the family and tribe at the time of marriage ceremonies and festivals. The ‘ Halos’ are generally versified by women gifted with poetic art, and such, the names of versifiers of ‘halo’ and ‘Loly’ are unknown, unmentioned and unheeded. We reproduce a lullaby ‘ Loly’ which clearly manifests the burning zeal and impatient ambition of Baloch mother who pray for boon, regarding her infants son to become a great lover, a warrior and a highway man in the flower of life ( Baloch, 1984):

Alam Din, thou art of young man,
Dressed with white garments,
Fasten thine six war weapons,
The shield, musket and the dagger;
Gird the bow around thy shoulder,
Take the trenchant sword of Shiraz;
Beguile the youthful girls of Jat tribe,
Give them as gift the fine cloths of Dera Ghazi Khan;
Present them red-coloured cloths,
(Ask them) that ye will give them money in cash;
Feed thee with neat of young goat,
(Also) supply them sugar-candy brought from city;
When moon-faced girl of Jat feels pleased,
Then she will ask thee;
When the sun places it knees on earth (a little before sunset),
Bends on the top of the mountains,
(And) the stars shine in the darkness of the night;
(Then) at that time saddle thine sprightly horse,
Mount on the boastful steed;
Come near to my residence,
Tie the horse with the tree of tamarisk;
Sit and keep waiting under the tree,
When Punnun (her husband),
Starts going towards the cowshed;
Drives the buffaloes,
(And) the maid-servant, old and lean like saw,
Enjoy a full sleep;
Then slowly and step by step,
I will come to see thy graceful form and figure;
Will sit together with pleasing heart,
And pleasing manner,
When the morning star arises;
(Then) leave me to go away,
Perhaps the coward Punnun may come back,
Perchance the vulgar maid-servant too awake from sleep;
Ye should (then) return back to join the,
The graceful assembly of the Rinds,
The chief will send a messenger,
To bring the highway-man ‘Alam Din’;
I have to wage war against the bitter enemy,
The men of Dajal and Harrand;
We have to comb a formidable force,
Will array in fight thousands of our warriors;
Will ransack the headquarter of bloody enemy;
I sing lullaby for my son,
May god accept my prayers?

Hani, Mehnaz, Seemuk and Girannaz are not only major player in the Balochi literature but their poetry is evidence of their sadness. In the culture of previous era there were no prohibition and ban on women to express point of view through poetry. They were suitable environment regarding freely expression of their feelings (Buzdar, 2012). Lollaby, wedding songs and folk lore are a great literary creation of Baloch women, despite being part of tribal society; women of Balochistan have been expressing themselves through the medium of folk and wedding songs. Women want to raise their voice against the discriminatory attitude of tribal society, express her difficulties and negative attitude of society through her poetry. Role of the Baloch women i.e. Rabia Khuzdari, Hani, Simuk, Mehnaz, Saddo, Mehruk, Shireen, Bibi Khanun, Taj Bano, Bibi Gohar Malik,Umtul-Wajid, Neelam Momal, Abida Dashti, Ain Ain Dashti, Banul Dashtiari, Tahira Ehsas Jatak, Dr, Ambreen Menagal, Jahanara Tansum, Amna Yusf Maoj, Naela Qadri, Uzma Qadri, Naushen Qambrani, Saeeda Hassan, Mah Jabeen Baloch, Fouzia Baloch, Humera Sadaf, Sabeeha Karim, Mehlab Naseer in literature never been ignored.

Women’s Role in Health Sphere
Women have always been central in providing medical care, whether offering remedies in the home, nursing or acting as family healer and herbalist. The elderly women in Baloch household are often specialists in the knowledge and techniques of popular treatments. They have some knowledge of home remedies for numbers of problems. In sometime settlements, an elderly female of one household acts by default as the sole herbalist, masseur, and traditional midwife (Baluk) for the whole settlement. These women collect different wild herbs from the fields or surrounding jugle. Medicinal herbs are also acquired from the wandering herbalists, who trade raw medicines. These women healer transfer their expertise to their offspring or daughter-in-laws. The remedies used frequently at home could include herbs and plants that are easily available. Elaborate preparations for making home remedies (pounding, grinding, mixing and cooking) are also carried out by these elderly women. They often specialize in certain diseases for which they have specific treatments. Elderly women are also expert in extracting foreign bodies or fish bones and thorns from body. The majority of traditional midwives (Baluk) would also have knowledge of giving herbal medicine and massage (Dashti, 2008).

In practice, the herbalists working among the Baloch, besides administering medicinal herbs also use many animal extracts for treating their patients but the foundation of their knowledge is concerned with herbal therapy. An herbalist prepares medicines from various plant parts such as roots, shoots, bark, leaf, flower, seed, and fruit. The patient is also advised on diet. The herbalist makes a detail enquiry of the type of sickness or suffering from the patient. The color of eye and skin is checked. The herbalist also enquires from the patient type of food he or she consumed during the illness. Generally, all herbalists are expert masseurs. Use of mustard oil is common among the herbalist. Many of them also use pain- relieving ointments available at town chemist. (Dashti, 2008). Women are also involved in the traditional care livestock in the Baloch society.

Domestic Violence
Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behavior that frightens, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone. Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.
It is reality that women in Baloch society work more than men and facilities are not available for them but study of Baloch women history is clarifying domestic violence is exist in Baloch society like other society but its shape is different because of values, tradition and norms of the society. Rapid changes in the structure of tribal society are increasing domestic violence like any other society.

Honor Killings
A form of gender-based violence, an honour killing is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the belief the victim has brought dishonor upon the family or community. The killing is viewed as a way to restore the reputation and honour of the family (Goldstein, Matthew 2002). Siah Kari (Honor Killing) is an act of murder, in which a person is killed for his or her actual or perceived immoral behavior. Such “immoral behavior” may take the form of alleged marital infidelity, refusal to submit to an arranged marriage, demanding a divorce, perceived flirtatious behaviour and being raped. Suspicion and accusations alone are many times enough to defile a family’s honour and therefore enough to warrant the killing of the woman.
History of honour killing in Baloch society indicated in the fifteenth and sisteenth century. The principle of Siahkari (honour killing) in its present form was not initially a part of Balochimayar. According to the epic poetry of the fifteenth and sixteenth century, Siahkari was punishable under the law of talaq (divorce). Many Baloch warrior poets were involved in adultery, which can be noticed from the war ballads. The Baloch society of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was similar to European societies (Khan, 1987).According Arab writer Salman Tajir, honour killing is available in the Sindh from the early centuries. Discussing marriage traditions, he writes “If any man done adultery with a women, then both man and woman should be punished with the death penalty, it is mandatory in the whole country” (Memon, 1984). The limited cases of most honour killings is being reported from the southern parts of Balochistan bordering area with Sindh and Punjab, where large numbers of the cases are being reported in every year. Above mentioned statement indicating that the honour killing is transferred from the other surrounding societies in to Baloch society.

In order to appraise the social status of women in these diverse ecological areas, the findings have been divided into subsequent categories; (a) a girl; daughter, (b) mother, (c) married women and (d) common women, e) working women etc. Role of women not only of importance in economic activities, but her role in non-economic activities is equally important. The Baloch women work very hard, in some cases even more than men. However, in their own world women have a freedom, and self-expression. With the onset of developmental programmes economic changes are under way but Baloch women remains traditional in their dress, language, tools and resources. The Baloch women play very important and historical role in the field of politics, social, economy, literature, health etc.
Enrollment of female children in primary, middle, high, college and universities are enormously increasing in urban areas. Rural areas are still behind due to non-availability of girls schools in small villages. At present one can see that Baloch females are working in government and private sector. This improvement will bring healthier change in young generations.
Women’s role as wives, mother, and organizer are the basic foundation of other dimensions of social life has extreme importance. Among rural population, as men are out for pastoral duties, the socialization of children automatically becomes mother’s business, in the early years of their life. The role woman in child birth, funerals and fairs and festivals is an important part of rural life. In the Baloch society women are carrier of traditional information in the absence of written record.
This has been noticed while interviewing young females that working in offices are facing troubles with their colleagues’ behavior. Actually they are not aware of Balochi culture and norms due to their urban background. It has been observed that a woman in tribal system is more protected than other societies. Combine or extended family system does not allow husband to humiliate his wife right. This is the moral responsibility of either household head or elder female members to intervene between them to solve the concern disagreement if any. Gradually this system is turn down considering many social and economic stresses.
The structure of the Baloch society is being changing, due to emerging the population from nomadic to semi-nomadic and agro-pastoral. The rapid changes and modernization of society, not only bringing positive impacts but it is affecting and damaging constructive values, traditions and norms; prevails in Baloch society from the centuries, which are badly affecting the respect, honour and dignity of women. There is need of incorporation constructive values, traditions and norms with recent rapid changes, revival and promotion of their positive aspects and protection of the status women in the light of historical role and importance of women.

Asser Abdul Qadir Shahwani, 1978. Aeena-e-Kharan. Balochi Academy, Quetta: 125
Asser Abdul Qadir Shahwani, 1978. Balochi Dunya, Multan
Asser Abdul Qadir Shahwani, 2005. Dialy Jang, Quetta:05-03-2005
District Gazetteer, 2004. District Gazetteer Series. Directorate of Archives, Balochistan, Quetta
Goldstein, Matthew (2002). “The Biological Roots of Heat-of-Passion Crimes and Honor Killings”. Politics and the Life Sciences 21 (2): 31
Illich, I 1982, Gender. Pantheon Books, New York
Innayatullah Khan, 1987. The problems of greater Balochistan. Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden GMBH, Stuttgart.
M. L. Dames, 1988. Popular Poetries of the Baloches. Balochi Acedemy, Quetta:184
Mehmood. A. Shah, 2008. Aapbeeti Balochistan Beeti. Classic Publishers, Lahore.:214
Memon Abdul Hameed Sindhi, 1987. Sindh je Tarikh ja wikhrial warq. Mehran Academy, Karachi:68
Mir Gul Khan Naseer, 1990. Balochistan ki Kahani Shairon Ki Zibani. Balochi Academy, Quetta: 257
Mir Gul Khan Naseer, 1990. Balochistan ke Srahadi Chapamar. Mr. Reprints, Quetta:172-181
Mir Gul Khan Naseer, 2010. Tarikh-e-Balochistan. Kalat Publishers, Quetta: 20-21/117
Malik Muhmmad Saleh Lehri, 1955. Balochistan One unit Se Pehle, Faizullah Khan Baloch, Quetta:168
Muhammad Sardar Khan, 1988. Literary History of Balochis. Balochi Academy, Quetta,: 474-481
Naseer Dashti, 2008. The Cultural context of Health: A Baloch Perspective. Balochi Academy, Quetta, p. 137-138.
Shafiq,M., 2008. Analysis of the role of women in livestock of Balochistan. Pakistan. J. Agri. Soc.Sci.,4:18-22
Wahid Buzdar, 2012. Mahtak Balochi, July, 2012: 11

Published: Hanken Volume, N0. 4, 2012, ISSN: 2070-5573, Annual Research Journal of Department of Balochi, University of Balochistan, Quetta

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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Baloch Culture


Zikri rituals in Harar, Ethiopia

By: Dr. Simone Tarsitani


View of Harar

View of Harar

Introduction to zikri rituals
Zikri is the Harari word for the Arabic “dhikr” and refers to an exercise (typical of Sufism), which consists of the repetition of the name of God in order to receive his blessing. The rituals performed in the city of Harar, important centre of Islamic learning in Ethiopia, are derived from the influence of Sufi orders, widespread in the Islamized areas of the Horn of Africa. However, the cult of saints in Harar developed particular beliefs and rules that go beyond the discipline of Sufi orders and zikri rituals can be considered an original expression and one of the unique elements of the culture of this town. The wide repertoire of texts written in the local language, the sung melodies and their rhythmic accompaniment, the ritual and social function of their performance developed distinctive characteristics. Historically and contemporaneously, zikri rituals have permeated Harari life and the repertoire of songs has expanded beyond its origin of liturgical hymns, to become one of the facets of Harari identity.

Zikri is a devotional activity characterized by hymns praising Allah, the Prophet and the Saints. The singing usually follows a responsorial structure lead by a shaykh and accompanied by drums (karabu) and wooden sticks (kabal). The term zikri in Harar means not only the chanting and its ritual context, but also the single devotional song performed in the zikri ritual. What is commonly referred to as ‘zikri ritual’ can comprise slightly different kinds of practices. The most common features consist in the reading of suras from the Quran, recital of prayers, singing of zikri songs, prolonged consumption of khat leaves, tea and coffee, all concluded by a shared blessed meal. Great importance in Harar is given to the Mawlūd, a sacred book widespread in Islamic world, which contains the poetic narration in prose and verses of the birth of the Prophet. In Harar there developed a peculiar ceremony (here described as Mawlūd recital) for the reading of this sacred text, which includes the performance of zikri songs.

Shaykh during performance of a zikri ritual

Shaykh during performance of a zikri ritual

Cultural, historical and religious considerations can highlight the role that this practice has today. In recent history, the ritual traditions have been challenged by the restrictions imposed by the Christian Empire and later by the ruling Derg military regime. More recently the reformist action of Wahabiyya, especially influent during the 1980s and 1990s, accused the ritual activities at the shrine of being un-Islamic and promoted to establish more orthodox customs. Despite all the historical vicissitudes, Harari rituals are still practiced and, over the last ten years, has been revived in the daily life and especially in the major festivities collective celebrations, becoming, more than ever before, a major symbol of the cultural identity of the community.

Places, occasions and forms of the rituals

Harari rituals are performed in a variety of places, including the numerous local Muslim shrines, local worship places called Nabi gār (literally “House of the Prophet”), private houses and public spaces. It is possible to distinguish two main ritual forms: the zikri ritual and the Mawlūd recital, associated to several different occasions. In the Nabi gār and in the most important shrines, gatherings are held on a weekly base, mostly during the night between Thursday and Friday, at the beginning of the day devoted to prayer in Islam. Rituals are also organized whenever pilgrims pay a visit (ziyara) to a holy place. All the major festivities of the Islamic calendar are celebrated with zikri rituals or Mawlūd recitals. Furthermore, Mawlūd recitals are typically performed on Sunday morning, during the celebration of weddings. Finally, specific zikri rituals, called amuta karabu, are after a funeral.

Participants and drum players during a zikri ritual

Participants and drum players during a zikri ritual

The Nabi gār is a very distinctive devotional place. It is usually built beside a shrine and a Koranic school. Nabi gār have an important value as places of gatherings. Anyone can attend zikri rituals with no distinction of social status and limited distinctions based on gender. The most common and recognised form of zikri ritual takes place here on Friday eves. It is in the Nabi gār that Harari zikri songs were developed in their highest and original form, becoming an important instrument of devotion and, through their lyrics, a way to learn religion. The zikri repertoire accompanied by rhythms that are unique of this city probably developed inside the Nabi gār to fulfil teaching needs. Still today, in the Nabi gār it is possible to find some of the best zikri singers and karabu players.

The most important rituals in Harar are based on the reading of the Mawlūd, the sacred text about the birth of the Prophet. Even if there are slight variations according to groups, places and occasions, it is possible to describe the most common features of Mawlūd recitals in Harar. After selected passages from the Koran, including the first sura al-Fātihah, sura 36 Yā-Sīn, and sura 67 Tabāraka (or al-Mulk), the reading of the Mawlūd text is alternated with the performance of zikri songs; the ritual is concluded by a shared blessed meal. Mawlūd recital is an essential part of Harari wedding celebration and is typically organised during the morning of Sunday. The reading of the Koran usually starts between 08:00 and 09:00. The recital of the Mawlūd text begins between 09:00 and 10:00 and typically ends around noon, when, after a blessing for the bridegroom, the wedding lunch is served. During the singing of zikri , most of the assembly stands and some of the men dance in a circle, joined at some point by the bridegroom. The zikri performance is considered by many one of the most intense moments and, in order to make it successful, many families invite well-reputed zikri singers to the ceremony.

There is a peculiar form of zikri ritual, called amuta karabu , which is performed during the mourning time that follows a funeral. A shaykh is invited to the mourning house where all the women of the family’s neighbourhood association ( afocha ) are sitting together. He sings for them and with them a specific repertoire of hymns with texts pertaining to death and afterlife, together with some of the ordinary zikri. The ritual takes place in the morning hours, for two or three days.

Musical elements

The religious poems performed as zikri songs form a wide selection. Most of them come from a centuries-old tradition and their texts are written in manuscripts, often hand-copied by older religious men. The body of texts, in Arabic, Harari, and other local languages, despite being largely formulaic and referring to a widespread tradition of mystical literature, was developed significantly by local authors.



The responsorial structure of these songs is given by a solo voice, usually the conductor of the ritual, and by the assembly of participants. The texts themselves, chanted by the leading voice, are rather long and their performance may last up to almost one hour. The chanting is accompanied by two percussion instruments: karabu and kabal. Karabu is a kettledrum made from a bowl of wood that is covered at the top with cow or goat hide. It is played by hand or with two wooden sticks, usually wrapped at the top with a piece of fabric. Every important Muslim shrine in Harar keeps at least two drums for the ceremonies. Kabal are handheld wooden blocks that are clapped together by any of the participants in a zikri ritual.

The accompaniment to the singing is made according to three main rhythmic models.

The qasida karabu is based on a binary form, which consists of a continuous alternation of a high-pitched and a low-pitched beat. The qasida karabu is the most common beat and is often used for dancing.

Figure 1: Qasida karabu rhythm
Audio example

The quč quč is a binary form too. Here the high pitched beat can last double than the low pitched one, generating accents that usually follow those of the text. The percussive part stops when the solo voice is singing.

Figure 2: Quč quč rhythm
Audio example

The harat chāla is a more complex model generated by combinations of four different patterns, this combination depending apparently on the organization of the text. The combination of these patterns is always repeated in the same way and it usually lasts as long as the whole refrain; during the solo singing, the percussive part stops.

Figure 3: Harat chala rhythm
Audio example

While the qasida karabu is played continuously and is suitable for dancing, the quč quč and the harat chāla , characterized by the interruption of the rhythmic part during the solo sung section, allow the participants to follow more carefully the meaning of the text sung by the main singer. The second and the third rhythmic models seem to be peculiar of the Harari performance tradition.



Systematic analysis of the zikri songs performed in Harar showed that the style of Harari chanting is usually strictly syllabic and does not present significant melodic ornamentation. Most of the melodies of the songs are based on varying ranges of a diatonic scale and they belong to three different modes, according to the pitch of their ending note.

Modes of Harari zikri melodies
Not available

Selected bibliography on zikri rituals

Banti, G. 2005 “Remarks about the orthography of the earliest c ajam ī texts in Harari” in S. M. Bernardini & N. Tornesello (eds.), Scritti in onore di Giovanni M. D’Erme, vol. I, Napoli, Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”, pp. 75-102.

Bekele, Z. 1987 Music in the Horn… A preliminary analytical approach to the study of Ethiopian Music, Stockholm.

Braukamper, U. 1980 Islamicization and Muslim Shrines of the Harar Plateau, Addis Ababa, Addis Ababa University.

Braukamper, U. 1984 “Notes on the Islamicization and the Muslim shrines of the Harar Plateau” in Thomas Labahn (ed.), Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Somali Studies (University of Hamburg, August 1-6, 1983), vol. 2, Hamburg, pp. 145-174.

Cerulli E. 1936 Studi Etiopici. La lingua e la storia di Harar, Roma, Istituto per L’Oriente.

Cerulli E. 1971 L’Islam di ieri e di oggi, Pubblicazioni dell’Istituto per l’Oriente, vol. 64, Roma, Istituto per l’Oriente.

Foucher, E. 1988 Names of Muslimans venerated in Harar and its surroundings. A list, Zeitschrifder Deutschen Morgenlandiscen Gesellschaft, Stuttgart, pp. 263-282.

Foucher, E. 1994 “The cult of Muslim Saints in Harar: Religious Dimension” in Zewde B., Pankhurst R. & Beyene T. (eds.) Proceedings of the 11th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, vol. II, Addis Ababa, Institute of Ethiopian Studies, pp. 71-83.

Gibb, C. 1996 In the city of Saints: Religion, Politics and Gender in Harar, Ethiopia, PhD Thesis, University of Oxford.

Gibb, C. 1998a “Sharing the Faith. Religion and Ethnicity in the city of Harar” in Horn of Africa, vol.16, pp. 144-162.

Gibb, C. 1998b “Constructing past and present in Harar. Ethiopia in a broader perspective” in Proceedings of the XII International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, vol. 2, pp. 378-390.

Gibb, C. 1999 “Baraka without borders: integrating communities in the city of Saints” in Journal of Religion in Africa, vol. 29, pp. 88-108.

Gori A., Bianchini R., Mohamud K.A. & Maimone F. 2003 Cultural Heritage of Harar. Mosques, Islamic Holy Graves and Traditional Houses. A comprehensive Map, CIRPS and Harari People National Regional State.

Tarsitani, S., 2007-2008 
“ Mawlūd: celebrating the birth of the Prophet in Islamic religious festivals and wedding ceremonies in Harar, Ethiopia” in Annales d’Ethiopie Vol. XXIII, Addis Ababa, French Center of Ethiopian Studies (CFEE), pp. 153-176.

Tarsitani, S., 2007a 
“Kabal” in Encyclopaedia Aethiopica Vol. 3, edited by Sigbert Uhlig, Wiesbaden, Harassowitz Verlag, p. 311.

Tarsitani, S., 2007b 
“Karabu” in Encyclopaedia Aethiopica Vol. 3, edited by Sigbert Uhlig, Wiesbaden, Harassowitz Verlag, pp. 341-342.

Tarsitani, S., 2007c 
“Mawlid in Harar” in Encyclopaedia Aethiopica Vol. 3, edited by Sigbert Uhlig, Wiesbaden, Harassowitz Verlag, pp. 879-880.

Tarsitani, S., 2006a 
“Musica religiosa islamica a Harar (Etiopia): i rituali di zikri ” (Islamic religious music in Harar, Ethiopia. Zikri rituals – article with audio and video examples on attached DVD), EM Rivista degli Archivi di Etnomusicologia, 2, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, pp. 127-148.

Tarsitani, S., 2006b 
“Zikri Rituals in Harar: a Musical Analysis”, Proceedings of the XVth International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Hamburg, pp. 478-484.

Tarsitani, S., 2005 
“Dhikr in Harar” in Encyclopaedia Aethiopica Vol. 2, edited by Sigbert Uhlig, Wiesbaden, Harassowitz Verlag, pp. 158-159.

Trimingham, J.S. 1952 Islam in Ethiopia, London, Frank Cass & Co.

Wagner, E. 1973 “Eine Liste der Heiligen von Harar” in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Band 123, Wiesbaden, Kommissionsverlag Franz Steiner GMBH, pp. 269-292.

Wagner, E. 1975 “Arabische Heiligenlieder aus Harar” in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Leipzig – Wiesbaden – Stuttgart, pp. 28-65.

Waldron, S.R. 1975 Within the Wall and Beyond: Harari Ethnic identity and its future, History Society of Ethiopia, The History and culture of the peoples of Harar province (mimeograph).

Waldron, S.R. 1984 “Harari” in Weekes R. V. (ed.), Muslim Peoples: a world Ethnographic Survey vol. 1, London, Aldrich Press, pp. 313-319.

Zekaria, A. 2003 “Some remarks on the Shrines of Harar”, in Krupp & Hirsch (eds.), Saints, Hagiography and History in Africa, Frankfurt, Peter Lang, pp. 19-29.

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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Baloch Culture


Clothing of People in Sistan during Parthian Period with Reference to the Frescos of Koh-E Khajeh

Dr. Reza Mehrafarin
Associate Professor
Archaeology Department
Sistan & Baluchistan University.

Zoheir Vasegh Abbasi
M.A Graduate of Archeology
Sistan & Baluchistan University.

Mojtaba Saadatiyan
M.A Graduate of Archaeology
Sistan & Baluchistan University.

Covering the body against various natural factors (heat, coldness, and wind) as well as doctrine, cultural, and social factors has been prevalent since old ages and with the passage of time and changes of conditions it has undergone many alterations and transformations. Iranian clothing in Parthian period following the conquest of Iran by Alexander the Macedonian and due to the effects of Hellenistic beliefs and culture has been transformed in a way that in addition to protecting the body against the natural factors and observing ethical and cultural issues, aesthetical element, shape, and color of garment have been highly considered too.
With respect to the wide territory of the Parthian dynasty, this period are divided into two extensive groups of the eastern and western territories which are different to some extent from the artistic aspect. Sistan, in the east of Iran, by having abundant works remained from Parthian period, particularlyPalace of Koh-e Khajeh,represents the special Iranians’ culture of clothing in the eastern territory. Through investigating the frescos in the Palace of Koh-e Khajeh, one can realize the different types of common clothing in this region and the neighboring areas during the Parthian period; and also, we can specify the extent to which Greek clothing has affected the clothing during the Parthian period and then it helps to differentiate it from the local and native garments.
Investigating and study of frescos in the Palace of Koh-e Khajeh suggest that its inhabitants’ clothing in addition to imitating the color and form of Greeks’ clothinghas been also influenced by natural and local factors of the region and religious beliefs.

Overthrow of the Achaemenian dynasty which occurred by the invasion of Alexander the Macedonian to Iran and defeating Darush III in 333 B.C, resulted in the expansion and penetration of Greek art and civilization in Iran (Kokh,2000:244). Alexander and his successors, Seleucids, in order to govern their extensive and wide Empire needed to Hellenize the Iranians, this could create a sense of cultural and doctorine unity among the Iranian and Greek tribes and as a result, prevent the Iranians’ revolt against the Greeks. Marriage of Greek solders and generals with Iranian girls and women, training Iranian solders with Greek war methods and clothing them with garments of the Greek army, constructing police in the Iranian strategic areas and immigration of Greek families to these polices, accommodation of blue-bloods and feudal families of Iran in these polices, building Greek temples in various parts of Iran, and spreading the Greek belief and mythical culture were part of their policy to Hellenize the Iranians. This policy of the Greeks caused their culture and civilization to penetrate into most aspects of the Iranian life: so that, its effects can be clearly observed in the architecture and art of the ancient Iran. Despite this, in 255 B.C, one of the Iranian tribes called Parthian in the northeast of Iran arose against the Greeks and in a short time they could get out an extensive part of the Iranian eastern regions from the Greeks’ hands.
Therefore, they created one of the pre-Islamic dynasties in Iran which lasted about 500 years (from 255 B.C to 224 A.D). This reign replaced many elements of the eastern Iranians’ life with the previous period namely Achaemanians, particularly their clothing. Their remained traces can be observed and investigated in the Frescos, reliefs, figures, coins, stamps, and etc.
The Parthian people in addition to using the Iranian local tradition (Persian), at first were highly influenced by the Greek culture, but by passage of time, the Iranian and Greek culture were blended and a new culture with definitely Iranian properties was emerged. One of the highly important regions of Parthian Empire was Sistan which was located in the east of the country (map. 1). In early 2nd century B.C, Sistan state (Dernigiana) was conquered by the western Greeks and Seleucids lost their domination in that region. This event occurred during the reign of Demetrius I. He started some activities in order to expand his territory towards the south of Hindu and northwest of India and made the states of Arakhozia and Dernigiana (Sistan)as parts of his Empire. Dominance of Greeks on Sistan lasted till about 145 B.C. In this year, Mehrdad I, the Parthian king, conquered Sistan and demolished the remains of the western Greek reign in his borders in about 139 B.C (Mehrafarin,2012:128).

Palace of Koh-e Khajeh and its Frescos

In the centre of Sistan and at the heart of the Hamoon Lake, there is a small mountain with the width of 2 km andheight of 120 m called Koh-e Khajeh whose distance from the city of Zabol, center of Sistan, is nearly 30 km. This mountain is considered as one of the important historical sites in this region whose specific location has resulted in the construction of many significant monuments on its flat surface and steep hillsidesince the ancient times (Fig. 1).
According to the archeological excavations performed on the surface and hillside of this mountain, some traces of Parthian, Sasanian, and Islamic periods have been identified in it (Mehrafarin et al.). One of the most important buildings of this black and basalticmountain is the Palace of Koh-e Khajeh on the eastern hillside. This palace is also known as Kaferoon castle and GhahghaheyShahr.
The first serious step to identify this work was taken by a Hungarian archeologist called Orell Stein who visited this place in 1915; and he published a primary report in 1916, and then in 1928, published a thorough report along with some pictures of the paintings existed in the main citadel (Kaferoon castle) in his famous work called “Deep in Asia” (Stein،1928). Duringhis excavation on this building, Stein cut out some pieces of the frescosand sent them to the New Delhi museum (Faccenna,1981:87).Ernest Hartsfield, the German scholar and archeologist during the years 1925 and 1929 excavated and investigated this monument, but unfortunately the complete report of these excavations was never published and information which is available about his excavations in Koh-e Khajeh has been derived from his papers and books onvarious subjects related to the history of the Iranian culture and civilization (Hartsfield,2002:297-300). He has cut out some of the paintings from this building two pieces of which are now kept in the Metropolitan museum. Palace of Koh-e Khajehinvolves a fence, two entrances, porch, veranda, and a long chamber which is believed to have some beautiful decorations according to the existing reports. In the northern parts of the yard, there is a stairway which make possible to access the structures in the northern part of the palace. In the northern section, there is a roofed long and narrow hall with dimensions of 2.5×50 m that according to Stein and Hartsfield’s reports all of which had had frescosand so, due to this reason it has been called a painting gallery. Unfortunately, many of these frescoshave been disappeared and the remains are maintained in foreign museums. In order to recognize the Parthian clothing and restructuring the garments of people of Sistan and their rulers during the B.C centuries, frescos obtained from Koh-e Khajeh and the designs which are now available will be used here. Few archeological excavations of Koh-e Khajeh indicated that this place in addition to its unique brick
architecture has had wonderful decorations too. This issue adds to artistic significance of this place. Frescos, stucco-work, clay reliefs, vault and arch, treasure and pesto, half-round column and etc. are considered as the decoration elements of this palace. Among these decorations, the frescos collection has been noticed more than the other artistic subjects and till the present time, investigators with their special purposes have researched on this field.

Color and Design in the Parthian Period

In the Parthian period, coloring and painting was expanded a lot and colors were generally pure and bright and shiny. Illustration (visual) narrative in painting can be seen in the frescosof the Parthian period for the first time;so that works of this type have been discovered in Dora-Oropus in Syria and in the Palace of Koh-e Khajeh Complex in Sistan of Iran. In the Parthian frescos of Koh-e Khajeh, mostly, mineral pigments (Batter, 2010, 333) have been used. In the early periods of the Parthian dynasty, they had been integrated with Greek naturalism and in the late Parthian periods it has been replaced with frescoswith level (flat) compositions, full-face an multi-piece (Yung et al, 2006:160).
Proportion and beauty of colors are impressive and paintings are without shade but the colors have harmony and coordination. Colors which are observed more than other colors on the frescosinclude: brown, orange, pink, red, purple, violet, green, turquoise cross, and white. Respecting the type of application of the building, the paintingsare also varied. Ritual-religious designs, imperial Glory, vulgar scenes (ordinary people, musicians, tightrope walkers, solders, hunting, collective escape of animals and etc) constitute the most main subjects of frescosin this

Frescosof Koh-e Khajeh in Sistan

According to the objective of the present study which deals with the investigation of people’s clothing in Sistan during the Parthian period, it is inevitable to study the paintings obtained from the Palace of Koh-e Khajeh in order meet this aim;because till the present time no other artistic element like human statue, relief and etc has not been discovered in Sistan region that represents people’s clothing in the intended region.
One of the features of the Parthian art is fresco. The significant example of this art which has been probably borrowed from Greeks has been realized on plaster (stucco). One of the most outstanding examples of this art related to the Parthian period can be seen in the Palace of Koh-e Khajeh in Sistan. In the long corridor of this palace, colorful remains that have been influenced by the westernare observed (Sarfaraz and Firouzmani, 2007:218). The most important scenes obtained from this place are as follows:
1. Quadrangular Frames insides of which have decorated by beautiful lily flowers or acanthus.
2. Riding on horse (Fig.2)
3. Riding on panther; probably Aurous, the god of love in Greek mythology (Fig.3)
4. Banquet scene (musician, dancer and tightrope walker)
5. Picture of king and queen (Fig. 4)
6. Effigy of three gods (Fig.5)
7. Collective picture of some people standing beside each other and some of which are holding flower or loop (Fig.6)
8. Single portrait of a young person without beard (Fig.7)
9. Single portrait of a man with beard and a branch of olive (Fig.8)
10. Portrait of a young female piper (Fig. 9)
11. Portrait of a man with a crescent on his head and light halo (Fig.10)
Fresco’s motifs of the Palace of Koh-e Khajeh can be classified into three categories: a. human motifs b.
vegetative motifs c. animal motifs. In order to recognize the clothingof the people in this period, human motifs should be mentioned. However, before this, one issue must be notice that clothing of people attending these frescos does not indicate the clothing of people of Sistan during this period. Because based on the historical and artistic studies, many of the motifs, figurative (figures) of individuals and their clothing are not Iranian and they have been affected by the western-Greek culture. Two riders that one of them is riding a horse and the other one is riding a panther, according to Hartsfield, narrate the Greek mythology. Hartsfield believes them to represent “Aurous Effigies of three gods that are beside each other and their faces have been displayed in a three-quarter side view and one of them is wearing a winged hat (Fig. 5); in Greek art, represents Hermes. This symbol here has three wings and it is the sign of war god (Hartsfield, 2002:302).
The collective painting of five people who are positioning parallel to each other and some of them are holding flower or loop (Fig. 6), reminds the motifs of Sasanian period. Picture of king and queen (Fig.4) by three gods (Fig.5) attract the attention more than other paintings in the collection of painting galleries. In the picture of king and queen, the natural and free posture of the individuals and beautiful curvature of the queen’s body is considerable and inclination of the empress’s figure is an excuse to express a sensational state. Subject of this design contradicts with Achaemenian designs. The eastern style in which the man’s head has a side view and his body has a full side view has been more significantly observed in this picture; here, face pattern which is drawn by simple lines changes its natural make-up to a decorative design (Girshman, 2000:42).
Two portraits of the beard man with an olive branch in his headband and the young man without beard with almond eyes and arch-shaped long eyebrows (Figs. 7 & 8), reflects the combination of two eastern and Greek cultures and in the single designs it is observed that the spear has three heads (Fig. 11); this design for western people is the symbol of “Poseidon”, the ruler of waters; but here, it is the symbol of “Shiva”, the Indian god (Hartsfield 2002:302). The image of people who are attending a banquet and one of them is playing the music, another one is dancing while a tightrope walker is standing on his head (Fig.12) belongs to the typical Greek style (Hartsfield, 1975:124).
In the hall’s ceiling (painting gallery), some paintings have been obtained which have been framed wholly and in every other frame, there is a vegetative decoration design and in the next frame, a human image has been placed; however, since they have been destructed, the clothing designs cannot be restructured and only their general shape is observed. In these paintings, individuals’ heads have side views and their bodies are represented in a full view; i.e. the eastern style has been observed more (Ghadyani, 2005: 200).
Frescos of the Palace of Koh-e Khajeh had been more than what Stein and Hartsfield have introduced. Most of these paintings have been covered and destructed during constructions in subsequent periods. Remains of these designs (paintings) have been demolished to a much extent by the red bees in Sistan that make nests among the clayey walls and also climatic factors (wind and rain) and human factors. However, it is likely that by archeological excavations (investigations) in the future more designs can be obtained from there, mentioning that discovering other traces representing people and their clothing would not be cancelled.

Clothing of People in Sistan during the Parthian Period

There is not much information and data about the clothing of common people. Because the role of these people in artistic works had not been so important, perhaps it can be guessed that the clothing of peasants had been the same traditional garment which has been prevalent during the history till the contemporary era (Aghajani, 2009:58).
The clothing of the Parthianis classified into four categories that each of which can be divided into smaller groups as follow:

1. Headgears
The Parthian people instead of a hat, used to fasten something like a headband around their heads that from two ends led to a long strip and they placed a deep crown which was special for Achaemenian kings on their heads (same: 58-59). Sikes also mentions that, the Parthian people used to bind something like strip around their heads instead of hat. (Mehrasa, 2008:168). Head cover in the Parthian period was itself divided into smaller groups including: crown, headband, hat, shawl and etc. Crown was special for blue-bloods and grandees and it had no status among the ordinary people, according to the paintings obtained from Koh-e Khajeh, headband and hat had been widely used in this region. In this part, only three types of head covers in the frescos of Koh-e Khajeh will be mentioned.
Picture of king and queen: the king’s crown resembles the Medians’ hat. Only differs in the way that it has lower height and is decorated by diamond-shape geometric shapes, this hat is very similar to the contemporary felt hats A cylinder-shape crown is seen on the queen’s head and in front of the hat and on her hair, there is a headband which has a four-plume shape and a symbol of sun can be seen in the middle of it which represents majesty and greatness (Tab. 1, No. 2). Picture of three gods: in this painting, three individuals are observed; the person on the right side is wearing a winged-hat which in the Greek culture represents Hermes, this half-round hat has two white wings and probably it has had a blue color (Tab. 1, No. 3). The side view of a man which has been extremely destructed is one of the other paintings of this gallery who has a headband. Probably, the headband of this person had had a tail, but due to serious destruction, nothing can be observed; the headband has been simple and ordinary people could use it (Tab. 1, No.4). In some of the other paintings which have been extremely destructed, this type of headband can be seen.

2. Shirt
The Parthian people used to have a shirt that lower part of which had been very loose from waistline downward and occasionally armpits and it had not been suitable for formal works and used only for horse riding (Saeedian,1996:75). The material of the clothes varied depending on the region and climate; in the eastern parts of the empire, due to the hot weather thin cloths had been used for sewing the garments. However, these clothing had not been suitable for farmers and laborers at all (Kalej,2001:81) so, they used to wear short clothes while fighting (Mehrin,1964:80). In the picture of the king and queen, the king’s garment has some beautiful ornamentation on the collar and sleeves(Tab. 2, No. 5). The reason for the garment to be loose was due to the heat existed in the region. Loose clothes could cause the movement of air flow on the body and prevent sweating.
Shirts can be divided into two groups of men’s shirts and women’s dress; men usually used to wear a long
costumes that an open mantle was occasionally worn under it that was put on alone (Ghavami,2004:78). Men’s shirts typically had bright colors as a remedy against the burning sun and hot weather, these loose shirts had long sleeves, straight upper part and plain collars (Tab. 2, No. 6) and the skirt of the shirt had plenty of folds.
In short, the Parthian women’s clothing can be described as a long, bulky dress which was pleated to the ankles, sleeved and with straight collar that was constringed on the waistline and sometimes, a shorter low-necked shirt was worn on it (Matin,2007:25). The underside dress was pleated, looser and longer than the second dress and it was dragged on the ground, its very tight and loose sleeves were constringed by a strip under the bosom and as a result, the entire pleated clothes were concentrated on the body and they used to wear a vial on these two dresses (Ziapour,1999:11). This type of dress had not been probably used in this region and a special kind of dress can be observed in Koh-e Khajeh: a dress without sleeves having narrow shoulder-high that were connected to each other two by two by a button or buckle and its collar is completely open (Tab. 2, No. 7), it is likely that, this type of dress had been remained in Iran influenced by Hellenism, since its equivalent has not been observed in Iran beforethe arrival of Greeks.

3. Pants
The Parthian pants are well-known due to their looseness and having abundant pleats (Matin,2004:22) and some people believe that, these pants had been worn like leather leggings to protect the legs while horseback riding.
Although in the frescos of Koh-e Khajeh the lower parts of the body have been rarely considered, according to the paintings obtained from the god of love (Aurous) who is seen riding (Figs. 2 & 3), pants of this region can be imagined as having many pleats. Ziapour, referring to the written documents and works of great scholars argues that: the Parthian people’s pans are very similar to today’s pants that are worn by people in the east of Iran (Khorasan and Sisatn), these trousers are consisted of two stalks with a broad band girdle and the pant were become tight at the lower part of two stalks on the place of ankles (Ziapour,1999:11).

4. Footgear
Our information about footgear is very insufficient, because in the paintings of the Parthian period, more attention has been given to the upper parts of the body. This tradition is also seen in the frescos of Koh-e Khajeh and only in two cases the foot gear can be observed; one is Aurous riding a horse and another his riding a pantheon that these two paintings would not give much information about this clothing due to severe destruction in the feet part.

Referring to the frescos of Dora-Uropostemple, it can be concluded that foot gears of people in Sistan Conclusion After investigating the history of Iran during the Parthian period, this era can be divided into three main parts. In the first period, which lasted about one hundred years, the Parthian people dealt with strength ening the foundations of their young government. The second period, in which the kings introduced themselves as adherents of Greece and were highly influenced by the Greek art the third period is the superiority of the Iranian art over the Greek ones and considered as a return to the traditional customs. The Parthian tribes entered to Iran from the east parts and after overcoming the Seleucid government, they established a big empire; and gradually, the Iranian culture and civilization dominated the Greek culture.
Frescos of Koh-e Khajeh related to the first century A.D, can apparently display the design and color of people’s clothing and enough attention has been pertained to the details of clothing, artists’ attention; this focus on demonstrating the details is mainly an eastern inclination. Parthian artists have had high tendency to show the details, appearance and clothing that their goal of displaying these details has been to represent the governmental or social authorities. With respect to the fact that Koh-e Khajeh belongs to the third period of the Parthian dynasty and it is located on the eastern borders, influence of the Greek art has been very insignificant, yet it cannot be ignored at all. Drawing lines with free and soft circulation, imaginativeness of some paintings as well as creating a box (frame) is specific to the Greek art and it can indicate the profound impact of the Hellenistic art and its mixing with the Iranian art.

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Posted by on August 11, 2013 in Baloch Culture



Prof Dr. Abdul Razzaq Sabir

Prof Dr. Abdul Razzaq Sabir

Dr. Abdul Razzaq Sabir

Professor and Director
Balochistan Study Centre,

University of Balochistan, Quetta

Waheed Razzaq
M.Phil Scholar,
University of Balochistan, Quetta

In terms of area Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan. Balochistan had been a cradle of world’s leading civilizations. There are sufficient evidences from the pre-historic and historic period supports this argument. The area had remained a cross-road of civilization generally in South Asia and particularly in the sub-continent. As a result today Balochistan can take pride of its role of safeguarding the remnants of early cultures that had left their abiding marks and the circumstances which makes Balochistan rich in terms of archeology as well as ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity. The paper will looks at the following main issues. Firstly, a brief about multiculturalism in the country with special reference to the province will be discussed. Much of the writings on Balochistan’s history, culture and politics are marked by some kind of multicultural concern.
The central question replied in this paper will be that how a vast multi-ethnic province – in terms of religion, language, community, caste and tribe can retain its distinct identity in conditions of underdevelopment, mass poverty, illiteracy, extremism, and regional disparities.

Ethnically, Balochistan is a plural society. The pluralist character of society in Balochistan draws upon the existence of different ethno-linguistic communities mainly, Baloch, Pashtun and Brahuis and partially Sindhi, Persian and Siraiki communities. All these have their distinct linguistic, historical, cultural identities. Within the larger ethno-regional communities the sub-regional groups have protected and projected their separate identities. The ancient inhabitant of the Central Balochistan known as Brahuis belonging ancient Dravidian stock have their separate language, culture and identity. Other groups have their own separate identity.
The ethnic composition of Balochistan reveals three main groups, with distinct languages and cultural backgrounds: the Baloch, the Brahui and the Pashtoon. It is difficult to document the origins and the movement of the population during the past centuries because the earlier period is wrapped in legends and mysteries. However, an attempt will be made to show the general trends about the ethnic and linguistic diversity of Balochistan. An effort will also be made to delineate the interaction of the three main components of the population of Balochistan. (Jawed: 2008: 22) The ethnic composition of this area was highlighted for the first time in the Census of 1931. This Census also shows how its ethnic composition has undergone changes during the different phases of history. During the pre-British period, movements in and out of Balochistan were mostly voluntary or activated by the usual ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors indicated generally by the sociologists. (Jawed: 2008:

The anthropologists of the world have defined culture in different ways. Culture of a particular region consists of language, ideas, beliefs, customs, values, attributes, codes of honor, institutions, tools, works and arts, religion, law, ethics, rituals, fairs and festivals of a specific group of people. Culture is a collective means of achievement and of progress. As the light and heat are necessary for human life, likewise culture is the inner and outer development of the behavior of the individuals and nations.
In terms of both ethnicity and religion Pakistan is a plural society. In Pakistan the pluralist character of the society draws upon the existence of four major historical ethno-linguistic communities: Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun and Baloch. A large number of Urdu-and Gujarati-speaking people migrated from India who came to Pakistan after partition and settled largely in the province of Sindh emerged as a distinct community more than a quarter of a century after the bulk of migration took place in the late 1940s and early 1950s. All communities living in the country have their own distinct geographical, historical and linguistic identities which have become an essential part of their political expression in an organisational, electoral or agitational context. Within the larger ethno-regional communities, there are some sub regional groups have struggled to project their separate identities, such as the Siraiki-speaking community in southern Punjab and adjoining areas of Sindh, the Hindko-speaking people in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Brahui of Baluchistan, along with a sprinkling of smaller groups across the country. At the same time, religious pluralism is characterised by the presence of two major minority groups, Christians and Hindus, followed by Ahmadis, and several miniscule groups such as Parsis, Buddhists and Sikhs together accounting for 3.54 per cent of the population. 96.46 per cent of the population is Muslims. (Waseem: 2003: 164)
Culturally, Pakistan having diverse communities with particular cultural traditions, value systems, life styles, belief systems, languages, dialects and aspirations which determine the objectives of the policy. They aim at providing an environment beneficial to the growth and promotion of Pakistani culture as protected in the Constitution of the country.

Balochistan is a multi-cultural province that comprises of different sub-cultures. The province is a plural and multicultural society in terms of linguistic and ethnic. The pluralist character of the province besides on three main historical ethno-linguistic communities: Baloch, Pashtun and Brahui while the small ethnic groups are Hazaras in Quetta city, Sindhi and Siraiki speaking Jat or Jadgals in the plains of Kachhi, Naseerabad and Lasbela areas while Persian speaking Dehwars in Mastung and Kalat. A reasonable number of Urdu speakers, Panjabi and Hindko speakers also reside in Quetta city since long.
The ethnic composition of Balochistan reveals three main groups, with distinct languages and cultural backgrounds: the Baloch, the Brahui and the Pashtoon. It is difficult to document the origins and the movement of the population during the past centuries because the earlier period is wrapped in legends and mysteries. However, an attempt will be made to show the general trends about the ethnic and linguistic diversity of Balochistan. An effort will also be made to delineate the interaction of the three main components of the population of Balochistan. (Jawed: 2008: 22)
Linguistically, Balochi is an Indi-Iranian language having three major dialects known as Western or Mekrani, Eastern or Sulaimani and in the Chagi, Kharan, and Panjgur district known as Rakhshani Balochi. Brahui a north Dravidian language bifurcate the Balochi language is spoken in the Central Balochistan from Quetta valley to Gizri Karachi. Pashto an Indo-Aryan language is spoken in the northern areas of the province. Other minority languages are Hazargi a kind of Persian is spoken in the Quetta city by the Hazara community while Sindhi and Siraiki in the plain areas mostly adjourning areas to the Sindh province.

The thickly populated Asia, having major proportion of population of the world, consisting variety of religions, human races and language families has played an important role in the history of the man and civilization. The rich Asian culture distinguishes Asia as a bouquet of civilizations in the world. The dominating Arab, Iranian, Mongolian, Central Asian, Chinese, Russian, Far East Asian, Arian, Turkic and Dravidian cultures are the main components of the Asian culture. Five main religions of the world i.e. Islam, Jewish, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism are also in vogue in the different parts of the continent. With reference to archaeology, Asia has played a leading role in the glorious past of the world. Central Asian, Mesopotamian, Indus and Chinese civilizations have played a significance role in the history of man and civilization. While the land where Balochistan is situated had also been a cradle of world’s leading Civilizations. Sufficient evidence from the pre-historic and historic period supports this argument.(Sabir: 2005)
The presence of human race in this region is traceable from the Paleolithic period. Many stone tools of the Paleolithic culture of the primitive human race have been discovered from Sone Valley of Punjab and different parts of Balochistan. There are thousands years old cave and rock shelters having paintings and engraving of the stone age man have also been found at Suleman range and other mountainous Balochistan region. These all facts indicate the progress and achievements of stone-age man towards civilization in Pakistan.( Kellehear: 2001:23)
In the course of time, these stone using agricultural communities were first time established in Balochistan at the site of Mehrgarh near Bolan by 7000 BC some 9000 years ago. This ancient settlement is familiar about cultivation and domestication of animals in South Asia; the results of excavations at the site of Mehrgarh, at the foot of the Bolan Pass, in Balochistan indicate that large settlements may have existed as early as the 7th millennium BC in these parts of the Asia.( Rafique:1992:15)
The Indus valley civilization is one of the ancient civilizations in South Asia, some 4500 years old. This is also known as the Harappan civilization, named for the site of Harappa, one of its major ancient cities found in Punjab. The Mohenjo Daro an ancient city near Larkana along the west bank of famous Indus River, like other cities of the Indus civilization is a well managed and planned urban town. The script used in Indus valley remains still un-deciphered, the Indus civilization is known only from archaeological evidence. Its origins traditionally were viewed as the result of the diffusion of farming and technology from other advanced cultures in Mesopotamia and on the Iranian plateau to Balochistan and ultimately to the Indus Valley.( Usman:1987:45).
Most of the archaeologists are of the opinion that Indus Valley Civilization is related to Dravidians. In the South India, Malayalam, Telegue and Tamil languages are remnants of Dravidian, while Brahui: the old Dravidian language in Balochistan is belonged to this ancient language group is a living evidence of Dravidian existence in past in the region.( Rafique:1992:14)
After the Dravidians, Aryans came from Central Asia and occupied the Indus plains. They looted cities and occupied various towns. Aryans were militant, aggressive and physically strong. They were nomads and had their own traditions and folklore. They were part of great Aryan people some of whom went to Europe, some to Persia and some came to Sindh from where they migrated to India. Mostly they pushed Dravidian from the planes of Sindh and Punjab and continued to stay in mountains, seashore, desert and forests only. They left their influences and language in Sindh and other parts of the country.

Islam came in this part of the world as early as 40 AD when the Arabs captured Iran and entered in the Mekran the present day administrative zone of Balochistan province in Pakistan. Later on they established their principalities as Daulat Mehdania Mekran in Mekran and Daulat Mutaghaliba Tooran (in the present days Kalat zone of Balochistan). The second invasion of Arabs was made in 712 A.D. from the west in the command of Arab General Muhammad bin Qasim while during the 10th century A.D. from the north with the Turk Sultan Mahmmud of Ghaznah (known as Mahmmud Ghaznavi). Later on, Mughals ruled over this part of Asia more than two hundred year. Islam replaced the early way of life in the region of worshipping idols and introduced new philosophy of faith in one God. (Mubarakpuri: 1987:255)

In Balochistan, social life is very simple. Baloch people are much conscious about their social traditions and they feel pride in following those values and norms. Cultural norms and values, customs and traditions, in some extant reflect Islamic values as well. The traditional dresses are intended according to cover human body but men dresses are also designed and intended according to defensive point of view. The Baloch, Pashtun and Brahui people wear simple dresses according to the climatic conditions. In the plain areas of the Kachi, Naseerabad and Lasbela people wear dohtee, while in the mountainous areas people tie turban. Chaader wearing is a common practice among women.
The Baloch culture is the dominating and province is always known throughout the world due to rich and beautiful Baloch culture and ancient Balochi and Brahui languages. The Baloch and Brahui cultures have many commonalities; therefore, sometimes it is difficult for an outsider to differentiate between the both. Pashtun culture is also a rich and strong culture in the northern parts of the province. Besides three major cultures there are some other minority cultures as Jatuki, Dehwar and Hazara also existent in some parts of the province.

The Baloch culture is rich, varied and deep-rooted. There are plenty of evidence and artifacts concerning the richness of Baloch culture throughout centuries. The cultural heritage of Baloch is very rich they had a very successful methodology in irrigation known as Karezes scattered throughout Balochistan as well as in cultivation and husbandry. Balochi poetry is one of the most beautiful poetry and one of the oldest in the region. In Baloch culture, poetry has always been combined with music. Balochi and Brahui music and folklore have been passed from generation to generation as a valuable art. Baloch handicraft is world-renowned. The Baloch are very hospitable, nice and friendly. They are generally intelligent, learned,
cultivated and socially accomplished. Culturally, they are rich and self-dependent. (Baloch: 2002:09-11)
The Pashtun culture is the second major component of Balochistani culture. They speak a language Pashto belongs from Indo Arian group. The ancient songs, religious traditions, and ancient goods are all preserved their culture contains various important elements of ancient Aryans civilization. Pashtunwali is the major code of life of the Pashtuns which confers on them certain rights and requires of them certain duties. They are bound to honor to respect it and abide by it. If someone found contempt of this code, he brings disgrace to himself and to his family members and he is also likely to be banished at ex-communicated. The main sections of this honorable code are bravery, hospitality, patriotism, love of independence, to protect neighbor, to cooperate with each other, The Jirga or Tribal Assembly is a very useful and ancient institution in Pashtun society. (Panezai: 1999:78-79)
After Russian invasion of Afghanistan a large number of Pashtun Refugees came to Balochistan they on the one hand brought many new cultural values and traditions which were not in practice among the Pashtuns living in Balochistan, some of them were easily accepted and are still in vogue in the Pashtun society.
The other important group of people is Brahui. They speak a language from Dravidian group. Being ancient inhabitants of the area the Brahui culture having its own individual identity is also a very ancient and rich culture. Besides their own identity many cultural values of these people are most common and similar to Balochi culture. Their day to day life and all cultural norms and values are same. The Brahui is the oldest language of the province. There are different opinions about origin of this language but most of the linguists consider it as a Dravidian language. The other important Dravidian languages are Tamil, Telegu, Malyalam, Kurukh and Malto etc in India. The folk literature of Brahui is also very rich. (Sindhi: 2005:51)
Culturally Brahuis are very similar to its closes neighbors Baloch, due to close cultural; historical; geo-political and economically relationship most of the Brahui in modern time consider themselves as Baloch. While generally following Islamic tenants, there are many variations in the life cycle rites and customs of Brahuis which differentiate them from their neighborus. (Sabir: 2007:182)
The Dehwars living in Mastung and Kalat are also ancient inhabitants of the region they claim themselves Tajik origin speak a language close to Persian known as Dewari. The Hazara community from Mongol origin mainly lives in Quetta city has their distinct culture and language known as Hazargi. The Lasis and jams in Lesbela district and people living close to the Sindh boarder in Naseerabad and jaffarabad also speak Sindhi and Siraiki languages. Each of the small communities have their distinct cultures.

In this context, in the story of man and civilization, Balochistan has an important role and unique status in the world in general and in S.Asia in particular. It has evidence of early age man, his gradual development and his struggle for existence. The antiquity of the cultural heritage of the province is oldest one. This area had remained a cross-road of civilizations between Central Asia, Mesopotamia and Indus region in Asia. Balochistan can take pride of its role of safeguarding the remnants of early cultures that had left their abiding marks and the circumstances which as per their wake have left Balochistan rich in ethnic, linguistic and cultural variety.
The study provides the nature of diversity among different ethnic groups in the provinces along with some insights into these differences. All ethnic groups showed similar cultural nature with some differences in the severity of their closeness. When we thoroughly study the social life in Balochistan we find it very simple. The people of Balochistan are very much conscious about their social traditions and feel pride of it. Shalwar Qamis is the popular dress among all tribes in Balochistan. In the rural areas people tie turban also. Different tribes have their own turban tying styles. A Keteran from Duki District can easily be distinguished from a Rind of Suni and Soran also a Bungulzai of Ispilinji is different from a Sunjarani of Chagi area. Wearing of chaader is a common practice among Baloch, Brahui and Pashtun women. The Baloch tribes mainly Mekrani people living at coastal line near Arabian Sea have their own customs and traditions, dances, and ceremonies. Fishing is their main occupation and source of livelihood.
People in Balochistan either they are Baloch or non Baloch even nowadays besides spending a luxurious life in the cities and towns; a reasonable number of them is still passing nomadic life in the different parts of the province which they have inherited from their ancestors.

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Posted by on April 21, 2013 in Baloch Culture



Ghulam Nabi Sajid

Research Officer (Balochi)
Balochistan Study Centre
University of Balochistan Quetta-Pakistan.

Wahid Bakhsh Buzdar
 Assistant Professor (Balochi) NIPS
 Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad.

Dukhaan men rab na daasee ں میں رب نہ داثی ڈکھا
Doste ar ghaten roshe دوستے ار گھٹیں روشءِ
Chee ae she mengaan gon dasee. چی اے شے منیگاں گوں داثی
(Lohar Kalu:Feb, 12, 2010)
(May Allah keep safe my beloved from all worries and if her days of life even come short, add my remaining days of my life to her life). This study will be focused on the importance of classical Balochi poetry in general and usage of Balochi Dehee in special. Folklorists are agreed that the folk and classical poetry is the foundation of expression. Although Dehee is not some epic poetry but there are so many characteristics of epic in Dehee as well. Dehee can tell long tales and stories relating the early past of Baloch people. In this study some Dehees of ancient age will be included with English translation, telling the migration rote and different war events of Baloch migration from Halab to Seestan.

Dahee and Zaheerook (زہیروک ﴿are very near to each other. Same as Zeerook, Dehee also expresses the feeling of lovers whom are very far away from their beloveds.
Some time there is sigh and moaning of lovers when wishing to see one glance of their beloveds.
As Example:
Burzen Kandhee shall thu de Dhahaa se
ں میں رب نہ داثی ڈکھا
Men nazaan logha zurthu oodhar dase
منی ناذاں لوغا زُڑتھو اوڈھر داثے .
The high mountain may you fell down
You are a barrier between me and my beloved’s home.
Dehee is not only the poetry of love songs but there are prays for heavy rains in drought and famine. Dahee plays some time the role of social codes by tautening, the member of that society to act on the rules established by the society. Dahee reminds that people which are no more with us and also addresses the death angle in very hatred way on killing of some very near and respected persons.
Arzeel thu khudaan panda se ارزیل تھو کھنڈاں پنداثے
Zee se men nazzan زیثے منی ناذاں
Shall joaa aen roshaan mah ginda se.شل جوایں روشاں مہ گنداثے
O death angle may you beg from door to door
You have snatched my beloved
May you never see good days.
About the general introduction of Dehi, Muhammad Sardar Khan Baloch says,
“The Caravan song Dehi to the nomads was their favourite muse and in their estimation, the first form of singing. The Balochies of the classical age used as their principal instrument the square tambourine “dap” in Arabic (daff), the reed pipe “Nar” and Saroz or Sarundaw.
The Dehi are the choicest productions of the common mind. Some of the ballads in the form of Dehi show all that is best in nomad vein, but less admirable in the high and cultured society of the Balochs. The Dehies are a rough and ready expression of romance expressed by the rough and rude mind of the nomad folk. Many of these songs and ballads were composed in the vulgar dialect and without regard or heed to the rules of classical prosody, and none of the authors of folksongs endeavored to raise the so called Dehis to literary rank. We seldom find in this form of poetry, any reference to the beauties of nature, but a faint feeling that sometimes anticipates the attitude of medieval chivalry.
The dehies are mainly composed by minstrels, the Loris who occupy a low place in the social scale. The Lories are the gypsies of Balochistan and are found throughout the length and breadth of the country. They are handicrafts men, rather the mechanics of the Balochs, for they make all the instruments and implements needed for agricultural and domestic purpose. Moreover, the Loris are the musicians and composers of musical songs and tunes. Their women function as midwives, and sing ballads and other songs at the time of marriage ceremonies and celebrations on the birth of a male child.
We shall quote here the true picture of their life and code of conduct by their own words.
“Wanderers we were born.
Wanderers we live and
Wanderers we shall die,
When our bellies are stocked,
We pray, when bellies are empty,
We cheat, for are we.
Not the rightful sharers in
The food and the drink of you all,
No birth place or home or burying ground is Ours
Our birth is in the jungle
And the desert
The desert and the jungle are our home and our grave.”
The dehi, form of song prevalent in the Baloch society is perhaps, the outcome of the laxity of life introduced by the levity and luxury of the western culture, planted and propagated by the British rule over Balochistan”. (M.S.K.Baloch:1984:472) As it is agreed that Dahee is a kind folk poetry so before going onward the folk poetry need to be discussed.

The poetry of old time when the authorship in unknown and had been preserved and adapted through oral tradition. Folk songs usually have an easily remembered melody and a simple poetic form. A song that is traditionally sung by the common people of a region and forms of their culture. Dr. Abdul Haq Mehr says, “The folk music and literature is a common effort of the people. (Buzdar Wahid:)
Muhammad Sardar Khan says, “Folklore is the body of the traditions, customs, beliefs, tales and songs that are transmitted from tribe to tribe, territory to territory and hut to hut by word of mouth from one generation of a society to the next. On the other hand, we should also note that many tales and traditions are actually the product of a single man singularly famous in his time to frame and propagate tales and traditions. The Baloch race is among those historic nations whose history and origins go back thousands of years, and, therefore the search for identity is not difficult and tradition is the main ingredient in any identification. The Baloch people are a traditional race and tradition in most countries is based to a great extent in folklore, history and geography. By tradition, folklore is the traditional knowledge of the folk. Literally “folk” are small groups of families living in isolation, and live and thrive in their isolated world, taking pride in their limited usages, customs, opinions and information. It is therefore, that folklore material has no known and definite author or source. The wisdom, imagination, spirit and superstition of the Balochis, more or less can be judged in the folklore songs and traditions. Variations, progress evolution are not among the laws that a nomadic people readily obeys.
Deprived of all the comforts and benefits of civilization the nomadic Baloch is not immune to the invasion of exotic ideas and aims. Though contented in tents of goat’s and camel’s hair, yet to his heart and mind, the occupations worthy of his blood are hospitality swordsmanship and romance. All other varieties of trade, skill, art and education are beneath his dignity. The monotony, simplicity and dryness of the mountain habitat are truly reflected in the nomad Baloch physical and mental makeup. Anatomically he is a firm from and figure of strong veins and fine chiseled bones. The hardihood of their profession and mountain life is fully displayed by his physique, displaying his fantastic forbearance, tenacity and temerity. A nomad Baloch is seldom able to raise himself to the state of a social being of the civilized man, but is always devoted to the common good and tradition of his tribe. Discipline and development are foreign to the ideals of his simple life. His daily prayer to the providence would be “O God, have mercy upon me, my family and the herd of sheep.” However, horrible as an enemy he may be, yet with in the laws of friendship, he is a most sincere, reliable and a generous friend. In the ballads and folksong, we note on the one hand, the nomad Baloch’ courage, resolution, contempt of death and fear of dishonor, his tender regard and affection for the men of his own flesh and blood, on the other hand, his relentless temper, his heedless ferocity and traitorous cruelty towards his foe. In fact, the folksongs and ballads are the mirror of the mind and occupation of the common folk. (S.K.Baloch:1984:470)
1. A song belonging to the folk music of a people or area, often existing in several versions or with regional variations.
2. A song composed in the style of traditional folk music.
The most prominent categories are the love‐song, but the term also covers the social values and norms as well. Generally it is believed that folk is passing the cultural information on from one generation to the next by storytellers. The forms of oral tradition include classical poetry (often chanted or sung), folktales, and classical poetry, as well as magical spells, religious instruction, and recollections of the past.
Music and rhyme commonly serve as both entertainment and aids to memory. Epic poems concerning the destiny of a society or summarizing its myths often begin as oral tradition and are later written down. In oral cultures, oral tradition is the only means of communicating knowledge. The prevalence of radio, television, and newspapers in Western culture has led to the decline of oral tradition, but in the east especially in eastern Balochistan (Sulemani Baloch) it survives among old people and some minority groups as well as among children, whose games, counting rhymes, and songs are transmitted orally from generation to generation.
Same is with Dehee people do remember old Dehees and their generating factor as well. In case of Dehee there are two different kind of end rhyme. In very classical Dehee there are three lines in one complete Dehee. The end rhyme of first line will necessarily match with the end rhyme of third line.
See example.
1. Dodo banaani , ینانب وڈوڈ
Bilaan deh Karanki بلاں دہ کرانکی
Ashen men lal wataani استیں میں لال وطنانی
2. Tharaa sokha saaeen kaan تھرا سوکھا ساءیں کھاں
laal thai kahnen khulqaan لال تھی کہنیں خُلقاں
Roohrhi men wallar daaeen kaan روحڑی میں ولر داءیں کھاں
Roshaa manaan raa nen galwaari روشا مناں را نیں گالواری
thu wasi babaa bache تو وثی بابا بچھءِ Begaa gudaa sogo kaan daari یگھا گُڈا سوگوہ کن داری
(Shahir Saed Khan:Feb,21, 2010)
Mula men horaan guaaren nee, مولا منی ہوراں گوارینی
wasee dehrhee, وسیث ڈہڑی
Naazaan men guarkaan chaaren nee. ناذاں منی گورکھاں چارینی
Naazaan thu der kane kaa aey, نازاں تھو دیر کھنے کھاءے
Go hame baazen deraa گوں ہمے بازین دیراں
Roshe laal aekau sar kaa aey روشے لال ایکھو سر کھاءے

Dehee As Folklorist
As the Dehee is poetry of singing and mainly it is composed by shepherds on heights of mountains or by lories or young people in wedding ceremonies so the length and meter of the stanza is given keen attention, so that the rhyme may be same and beautiful.
Some time the first line is constructed only to create a rhyme and has no meaning and concern with the body and message of main Dehee. As,
Do do banaanee ینانب وڈ وڈ
Belaan de karaankee بلاں دہ کرانکی
Atseen men lal watanaanee استیں مین لال وطنانی
Allah Bakhsh Buzdar a well-known Baloch poet says about the rhyme of Dehee, “If someone considers Dehee as beginning of Balochi poetry, to me it is not wrong. I have never felt so enthusiasm and excitement by hearing any poetry, which real pleasure gives the Dehee. I am poet (if I am) of Poem and I also wrote some Dehee to express my inner feelings”. As,
Go lakh murazaan man thi logha kaatkaan
گو لکھ مُراذاں تھی لوغا کھاتکاں
Gandaan Dhange mare dardaan walar wartaan
  گنداں ڈنگے ماری درداں ولرواڑتھاں
I thought throughout a long night of winter about my sorrow and worries at last came to your home with countless hopes but there the enemies has bitten me like snake and pain kept moving in my heart.
The real beauty of Dehee is its shortness. The Dahee covers all those ideas in very short (two or three lines) which can only be expressed in a long poem (Nazam/dastanag). Dehee is unique form poetry. Its form, its rhyme, its calculated meter, its depth and its musical sweetness are different then the other forms of poetry” (Buzdar: 2010)
Symbol: in general terms, anything that stands for something else. Obvious examples are flags, which symbolize a nation; the cross is a symbol for Christianity; Uncle Sam a symbol for the United States. In literature, a symbol is expected to have significance. Keats starts his ode with a real nightingale, but quickly it becomes a symbol, standing for a life of pure, unmixed joy; then before the end of the poem it becomes only a bird again.
In Balochi Dehee the symbol is used to express the feeling of poet and the situation of that age. As,
Dahaan Maskeenee khilaan, داہاں مسکینی کھلاں
Lal thi monjaan choshaan, لال تھی مونجھاں چوشاں
Chuke chon maas merree chilaan چکے چو ماث مری چلاں

(I do cry like an orphan or a men without any relation in journey of desert, O my beloved I am so grieved in your absence as the baby who’s mother had died within early forty days of his/her birth).
The miserable condition and difficulties of some orphan baby especially in early childhood is symbol of grieve ness to the poet.
There are so many symbols used in Balochi Dehee, as for the beauty of beloved, moon, zuhraa, flowers, light of morning, rain in desert, flowers, deer’s eyes hoors/fairies of heaven and so many other things.
There is great love for human being in Dehee and folk poetry.
Manaan dosten makhlook aeshaan pedaash Rabe.
مناں دوستیں مخلوق ایشاں پیدایش ربء
Same Sakhi Sultan Bahoo a ever popular saint of Saraaiki literature says.
“kujh bughz di reet wich nai melda کُج بغض دی ریت وچ نیں ملدا
O. haar te jeet wich nai meldaاو ہار تہ جیت وچ نین ملدا
Makhlooq-e- khuda naal peyar te kar مخلوق اے خدا نال پیار تہ کر
Rabb sirf maseet wich nai melda.رب صرف مسیت وچ نین ملدا
(You cannot find the divine content in enmity and hatred and nor in winning or losing from any opponent Please do love the people of God as the God is not only be traced or found in mosques)

Dahee is the most classical term of Balochi poetry. It is important and impressive form of poetry among Baloch of Eastern Balochistan. Dahee is the shortest way of impression which can convey its message in very impressive way and mostly in two lines or verse. In Dehee poetic form tells the historical events with true references can be narrated. Mostly, Dahee is the folk poetic form composed by the women folk but man has also composes dahees. Like all other poetic.forms Dahee is also mourning of lovers. Dahee is a famous Balochi poetic form which depects the social raelities of the society.

1. Baloch Muhammad Sardar Khan, Literary history of the Balochis 1984, Balochi Academy Quetta,
2. Buzdar Allah Bakhsh, personal interview on Feb 21, 2010 at Tounsa Shareef Buzdar, Wahid Bakhsh, Dehee e Darosham, Balochi Academy.
3. Shahir Saed Khan, personal interview Feb,21, 2010 at Tounsa Shareef.
4. .Lohar Kalo, personal interview on Feb, 12, 2010 Koh e Suleman, Musakhail.


Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Baloch Culture


Baluch Style or “Baluch Aesthetics”

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By: Tom Cole

Baluch rugs are intriguing; their designs provide a window onto the past, an exceptionally graphic reflection of old traditions. The common thread throughout the literature of Baluch rug weaving is one of ethnographic information, with analysis mainly confined to technique and craft. Baluch enthusiasts and ‘experts’ typically debate which tribe or subtribe made which type, where and when, with artistic composition and aesthetic impact assuming a secondary role.


The Khorasan (northeast Persian) style is the most familiar of the three, and in a sense may be considered ‘classical’. In a provocative interview in HALI 76, Jerry Anderson proposed that Khorasan Baluch rugs are closely related to those of their Turkmen neighbours, although some also employ historic Persianate motifs and design conventions. A restricted red and blue palette, with white highlights, predominates, and many motifs echo archetypal Turkic themes which are also seen in the ‘classical’ weavings of the Turkmen tribes. Indeed, it can be argued that the oldest Khorasan Baluch rugs retain many of the design characteristics of old Turkmen (and Turkic) weavings.

The Khorasan weaving area is geographically contiguous to Turkmenistan, where the town of Sarakhs is no great distance from Mashad. The design within the rectangular panels of a camel-ground Baluch balisht from this area (1) bears comparison to that found on rare Tekke Turkmen ‘white-panel’ kaps.
A very pretty Khorasan khorjin face (2) demonstrates the kinship between traditional Turkic design and ‘Baluch’ tribal weavings of Khorasan. The motifs on its deep red ground are reminiscent of Mughal floral ornamentation, as well as of later Turkic weavings from the Caucasus. A Khorasan rug (3) employs a similar field aesthetic, but with a border more often associated with rare Turkmen weavings made by the so-called Eagle-göl groups of the wider Yomut Turkmen family.
Another northeast Persian khorjin face (4), features a zoomorphic design within the familiar octagonal gül found on Salor, Saryk, Tekke and Ersari chuvals. This small bag is one of the most extraordinary examples of its type; the weave is very fine and the drawing precise with wonderful composition of the elements.
Other recurrent themes within the Khorasan repertoire that bring to mind aspects of ‘animal-style’ iconography on Turkic weavings from the steppes include the decoration of the ubiquitous ‘bird-bag’ design type (5). There is little doubt that the bird forms are derived from a Turkic prototype, perhaps the best known example of which is a Seljuk period rug from the Mevlana Museum, Konya ( 841; Ölçer et al., Turkish Carpets of the 13th to 18th Centuries, 1996, pl.13).
A particularly pleasing Khorasan rug (6) confirms the connection of Baluch design and aesthetic to weavings from Central Asia. The rather random arrangement of dark blue-black crab-like palmette forms ‘crawling’ up the blood-red ground is very close to (though more interesting than) that seen on certain Kirghiz rugs from Central Asia. The similarity of its primary field elements to those found on one of the well-known Seljuk carpets now in the Türk ve Islam Eserleri Museum, Istanbul, is striking ( 688; Ölçer et al., pl.4), and exemplifies a commonplace, if as yet unpublished, discussion concerning the design relationship between Baluch rugs and the carpets of the Seljuks from Konya and Beysehir.

I have not seen another Baluch weaving remotely similar to this one, a fact which suggests to me that it may be of an earlier period. The border design, palette, and slight warp depression may indicate an origin in the region of Torbat-e Heydari, about a hundred miles southwest of the city of Mashad.
Prayer rugs made by the various Baluch tribes have always commanded significant collector interest, but rarely seem to me to be anything other than commercial production, judging by the fact that few old examples show a pattern of wear consistent with use. One of the most common design types is the tree-of-life, usually on a camel-ground. The incorporation of Turkic elements in the hand panels and field may assist in identifying the genealogy of the people who wove them, but does not diminish the commercial nature of the weaving. One might expect an older example of the type to look like (8). Note the spacious treatment of the tree, the boldly articulated Turkic design elements and the remnants of a heavy four-cord selvedge. The handle of this piece is more substantial than that of most Baluch rugs, rather like an Ersari Turkmen piece. It is likely that this prayer rug was made by Baluch tribes in southern Turkmenistan, possibly no later than the mid 19th century.
One of the most extraordinary design types in the Khorasan repertoire may be of Taimuri origin (7). Siawosch Azadi published one example (Carpets in the Baluch Tradition, pl.1), assigning it to Sistan and dating it to the 18th-19th century. As it appears to incorporate elements of 18th century northwest Persian ‘tree’ carpet design, the earlier date is not impossible. The present fragment has lost most of its borders, but traces remain at top and bottom. These borders too suggest greater age; the ‘lightning’ motifs are well drawn and relatively rare on Baluch rugs (seen mainly on Taimuri pieces). The trace of a cartouche element in the third border is unfamiliar to me, and may also indicate an early date, as does the dense profusion of Turkic ornamentation, including the jewellery-like elements, the representation of water and the shamanistic anthropomorphic winged figure in the trunk of the tree.
Other excellent examples of the type have recently appeared at auction (Rippon Boswell, Wiesbaden, 22 November 1997, lot 116), and in a dealer’s exhibition in New Hampshire.


The Sistan (southeast Persian) aesthetic is a different animal altogether, employing hardly any of the ‘classical’ themes of Khorasan and rarely echoing the Afghan renditions. Few if any Turkmen relationships are apparent; individual repeat patterns (perceived as continuing beyond the borders to infinity) are seldom used. On the other hand, the use of colour and space in abstract form may be the single most obvious characteristic of typical Sistan weavings. These pieces are often similar to the flatweaves of the same area in both palette and design.
The serrated medallions of the so-called ‘Mushwani’ types (9, 10) probably represent the essential Sistan motif. These medallions serve as a visual focal point, radiating from within, as do mandalas. Such simple motifs may be dated mainly through a critical assessment of colour and space; older pieces tend to have a diverse palette comprising a profusion of green and teal blue-green coupled with the sparing use of white (usually confined to highlights). Later examples tend to have a darker, more limited palette which is at times harshly contrasted with substantial amounts of bleached white wool.

The loosely drawn serrated medallions are ultimately more pleasing in my view than regular, stiffer renditions. Similarly, those pieces with more upright, ‘taller’ medallions (9), possibly representing older drawing, seem to me more attractive than those with a more elliptical orientation (10). The absence of specific imagery, replaced by abstract motifs, recalls the refreshingly accessible ‘contemporary art’ aesthetic of Persian gabbehs.

The boteh motif is perennially popular in Baluch rugs. The Khorasan version often appears to derive from the Persian model and, perhaps ultimately, the Kashmir shawl, representing a ‘classical’ inspiration. The Sistan boteh is very different. It may have initially entered the Sistan design pool through the migration of the Sharakhi and Sarabani Mushwani tribes from the Caucasus region. While it is easy and convenient to label this a provincial rendition, I believe it may represent an animal or bird form. Sistan botehs may appear less interesting to an eye more accustomed to the familiar classical form, but when well executed, are colourful and suggest zoomorphic elements, often composed of simply drawn figures (11) or squares (12).

Western Afghanistan

The third group, Baluch pile weavings from western Afghan tribes, has a style related to that of the neighbouring Khorasan tribes, but with a less austere, warmer palette. The saturated blood-red of Khorasan is seldom found as a primary ground colour. The designs are related to those of Khorasan weavings, but are usually executed in a less formal manner.

While prayer rugs may be an essentially commercial production, examples do exist which appear to be ‘real’ pieces, in the sense that commercial influences are reduced to a minimum, if not completely absent. In (13), the field design is reminiscent of Central Asian felt and appliqué work, while the hour-glass motifs in the hand panels recall tertiary elements in Uzbek weavings. The bold drawing of the border system suggests an older aesthetic, with a pleasing scale, which, combined with skilful use of colour, imparts a sense of movement. However, the rug cannot be dated to earlier than about 1870, as it contains early synthetic dyes, including the yellow (faded from red) guard stripes in the barber’s-pole minor border, as well as the light orange of the reciprocal trefoil motif. Some of the warps were once bright purple, but have since faded. We assume the use of such newly imported dyestuffs was considered attractive by the weaver at the time of manufacture. I have never seen another prayer rug with anything approaching this layout and believe it to be an ‘authentic’ weaving, reflecting a local design tradition rather than commercial market demands. One of a pair of khorjin that I place in the west Afghan group shows particularly artful drawing of the ubiquitous Memling gül motif (14).

Another familiar Baluch theme, derived from the Seljuk repertoire, features diagonally placed cartouches arranged to form octagonal medallions in a way that recalls some Azerbaijan embroideries (Orient Stars, pls. 48, 50) and later Alpan Kuba rugs, but executed in a rather looser manner than one normally encounters (15). Zoomorphic imagery is common to the art of many Central Asian tribes, but the way in which the Baluch express it here, with one design grid laid over another, is typical of their aesthetic sensibilities. The Khorasan version, far more mathematical in concept, is visually dazzling, but lacks the idiosyncrasies associated with ‘tribal’ (or rural) weavings.


The study of Turkmen rugs has produced a strict codification of the various weaving groups, contributing to a relative chronology which is generally agreed upon, if not actual hard dates. Nothing similar has occurred for the weavings of the Baluch. No single aesthetic quality truly defines Baluch rugs from disparate regions, and there are always exceptions to general rules – for instance, Arab rugs from the Qain region are very different in palette to other pieces woven in Khorasan.

While the Baluch design pool has often been considered derivative of other Central Asian weaving cultures, few authors show any real understanding of the antecedents of the variety of nomadic peoples whose rugs are loosely labelled ‘Baluch’. For example, the ‘Mushwani’ (according to a Pushtu text translated into English by a young lawyer in Quetta, Baluchistan) may trace their earliest origins to Syria, then to the Transcaucasus region, primarily in an area of present day Armenia, before their dispersal throughout the Sistan region. Other segments of the tribe went to Afghanistan, adopted the Pushtu language and are not thought of as weavers of pile rugs. One may equally ask who are the Taimuri tribes and from where do they come?

Who are the people who wove the camel-ground prayer rugs with bold Turkic motifs? The clues lie within the rugs themselves.

The traditions of design and palette are integral components of the puzzle and, in their purest forms, a tangible view of a distant past. Commercial rug patterns are like a written language, stored on paper, unwavering and static. The unwritten language of tribal (nomadic) rugs is retained in the minds of the weavers and subject to the diverse influences a clan or tribe may experience over generations. Many interesting Baluch rugs survive, but the truly significant and beautiful ones offer clear reflections of an old and developed art tradition. Great rugs endure as a physical manifestation of myth and meaning in the pan-tribal consciousness of the weaver’s mind.


The poster session at the Philadelphia ICOC and this particular article grew out of, was a natural extension from the HALI 76 article, From the Horse’s Mouth. Given the confusion wreaked by Jerry’s confident as well as controversial attributions and the rebuttal it inspired not only by Andrew Hale but many others, it became apparent that there really is a Baluch style that appears to be, more or less, predicated by provenance rather than by specific tribal attributions. Given the attempts to assign a tribal name to a 19th century weaving, and the odds for error, such a method seemed to be much easier to understand. As time has passed, the Sistan identification has grown in popularity, entering the everyday lexicon of the committed Baluchophile. Afghan Baluch pieces seemed to have gained some notoriety based upon actually having been identified while Khorasan Baluch weavings have always enjoyed a certain amount of respect within the genre.

The relationship of some Baluch weavings to an earlier Anatolian and/or Turkic aesthetic, while not unknown at the time of publication, still demands further research and exploration, something that I attempted to do at the recent seminar on Central Asian rugs sponsored by Itinerant Eden featuring Elena Tsareva with myself in a subsidiary role. Given time, this concept, too, will become an essential element in the mind of the average Baluch rug enthusiast.

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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Baloch Culture


Baluch Rugs in Afghanistan

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By: Tom Cole

The market in and the study of Baluch carpets have evolved dramatically over the past decade. Even a symposium dedicated to these pile rugs and flatweaves from eastern Iran and western Afghanistan has recently taken place, an unimaginable event a few years ago when Baluch rugs were often given by dealers to buyers of costlier weavings. But many specialist collectors still demonstrate an undemanding level of aesthetic awareness, paying lip service to the quality of affordable but pedestrian examples of the genre.
My first Baluch encounters occurred in the early 1980s at Adraskand, Inc. in Point Reyes, north of San Francisco. At that time, Anne Halley was assembling her acclaimed collection of Baluch rugs and Michael Craycraft was engaged in creative Hajji Faizullah and his brothers manned a small shop in Quetta’s Suraj Gunj Bazaar. Their association with one of the groups confronting the Kabul regime was well known, and the huge amounts of cash at their disposal led to talk that they had been given license to operate with impunity, using the rug trade as a front for their activities, which offered material support to the fundamentalist resistance to the communist puppet government in Kabul and the coalition regime which followed.
Their tiny cement cubicle with rugs piled up along the walls and a dim light bulb hanging from the peeling whitewashed ceiling was hardly an ideal atmosphere for rug appreciation. A Pashtun tribesman from Kandahar, with no background in the art trade and addicted to opium, Hajji was always huddled on a cushionin the corner beside an electric heater, a blanket wrapped around his hunched shoulders, drinking tea. His appreciation of tribal rugs was minimal, preferring ornate Safe home a few weeks later I realised that this was a carpet I had to have. But I was unable to return to Baluchistan for another six months. In the meantime, rumours had spread throughout the market in Pakistan. Dealers in the Peshawar bazaar whispered about a fantastic rug of great size and beauty, and a few foreigners had ventured to Quetta to see it. But none had pulled the trigger. So I paid Hajji the money and with some difficulty carried the carpet to Peshawar and shipped it back to California.
Even then I did not appreciate the true magnitude of the rug. Its sheer size was obvious, but its history, and the composition of the design remained enigmatic. Special circumstances accounted for its entering the market. Originally belonging to a Khan’s family in the Chakhansur region of western Afghanistan, south of Herat and close to the Persian border, and in their hands since it was woven, it was first taken to a small Baluchistan village between Quetta and Nushki, where the Khan and his family sought refuge, then on to Quetta.
Rugs of this type have been referred to in Afghan marketplace vernacular as “Taimani”, an attempt to indicate their unmistakeable Afghan provenance, but an inadequate attribution based solely upon a slightly coarser weave type. The palette of the true Afghan Baluch weaves (including the Taimani) is never so saturated, nor as diverse as those from Chakhansur, while the mainly dark red and blue tones of Khorasan pale beside similarly patterned rugs from this region.
The people of Chakhansur are said to be ‘cousins’ of the Sistan tribes. musings on tribal rug classification. My initial interest was kindled there, but my real initiation into the world of Baluch rugs occured a little later in Baluchistan in southwest Pakistan.
Unusual circumstances dictated the direction that the region’s rug trade was to follow during the 1980s and 1990s. War raged in Afghanistan, and Baluchistan’s villages, towns and its only city, the provincial capital Quetta, overflowed with refugees. Trade in arms, financed by the parallel trade in drugs, flourished, financing the struggle in Afghanistan against the Soviet invaders and their communist vassals. As the refugees’ need for cash increased, a trade in antique rugs and textiles also developed. But only those with cash could participate, and the only people with cash were drug dealers and gun runners.
Persian town carpets to the coarser weavings of the peoples of Central Asia, but some of the best Baluch rugs in Pakistan passed through his hands. One day in December 1994 he took me up to the roof to look at a carpet which could not be properly seen within the confines of the shop. We climbed the crumbling stairs to the top of the one-storey building. The cold, clear winter air and views of the city and the surrounding snow-capped mountains were refreshing, but any preconceptions of what I might see were immediately dashed. There lay a rug of unimaginable size, unbelievable colour and unexpected design. My senses reeled as my mind struggled to assimilate the information when, in response to my enquiry in Farsi, “Chan ast?”, Hajji uttered what seemed to be an unbelievable, certainly unprecedented, price. No one had ever asked such a sum in Pakistan for any rug, and few Baluch weavings in the international marketplace had ever achieved such a level.
The Chakhansur origin is important in understanding the rug in art historical terms. The so-called ‘crab’ border is a ‘classic’ configuration depicting a convergence of animal heads around a central motif, often an ashik device or floral element. This scrolling dragon head/serrated leaf border also occurs in Transcaucasian rugs, and within the Baluch context is often associated with ‘Timuri’ weavings from Khorasan.
The field design incorporates both Timuri ‘shield palmette’ elements and the hooked forms of west Afghan rugs generally known as ‘Mushwani’. Such synthesis defies conventional wisdom. The more formal, evolved aesthetics of the Chakhansur weavers’ northern neighbours, with ‘classic’ themes executed true to the Khorasan prototype, are combined with the aesthetic and chromatic sensibilities of their tribal cousins from Sistan in the west. Their use of colour is less restrained than in Khorasan. Indeed, the total embrace of a diverse palette is a distinguishing characteristic of this group of rugs.
A study of their weavings, including flatweaves, supports this suggestion, as they show shared tastes in palette and design, albeit with some divergent traits as well. In this carpet we find a true confluence of traditions, with ‘Timuri’ themes in conjunction with the striking palette of Sistan and the boldly articulated hooked medallions of the ‘Mushwani’. This has produced a true masterpiece of woven art, transcending the Baluch aesthetic as it is generally understood. Such a grand and beautiful carpet raises the bar for our evaluation of Baluch weavings as a whole.

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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Baloch Culture

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