Asia, Culture

The Brahui: A Tale of the Mountain Dwellers of South Asia

Every place has a story of a past hidden away from the outside world. Obscure from the modern world, the Brahui group is a part of one such fascinating story from the hills of Pakistan.

Source: ancient pakistan

The tribes of these pastoral nomads live in some of the most isolated and harshest regions of Pakistan. Social isolation has restricted the world in knowing about a group that has survived through centuries. So, what is this ancient group we are talking about? Come, let’s find out!

The Brahui: A Diverse Ethnic Group Living in South Asia

Source: balochilinguist

The Brahui is an ethnic group majorly found in South-Asian countries such as Balochistan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Brahuis are also found in small numbers in Iran and a few other Middle-Eastern states. This Dravidian-speaking group is quite large, with a strength of about 2.2 million people.

Also called Brohi or Brahvi group, these people mainly occupy Balochistan from Bolan Pass to Ras Muari, Karachi. The Bolan Pass is a mountain range through the Toba Kakar Range of Balochistan province in Western Pakistan. Ras Muari or Cape Monze is a beach located off the shore of the Arabian Sea in Karachi. The Brahui group mostly comprises of Sunni Muslims. Sunni comes from Sunnah, which refers to the behaviour of the prophet, Prophet Muhammad.

Brahui: A Life of Superstition and Religious beliefs

They follow religious practices mentioned in the holy book Qu’ran. Brahui group speaks of a culture involving revered saints or pirs. Every family worship a particular holy being. A few people even store mud from the saint’s shrine for religious purposes. The Brahui group is quite superstitious and believes in the practices of exorcism involving evil spirits. This group even conducted events to ward off evil whenever a male child is born in a family.

Oral Folk Literature- Story of the Mulla and Qadi

Source: wikipedia

The culture of Brahuis is quite rich in oral folk literature. One popular story is of Mulla Mansur who worked for a Qadi. Even though the Mulla served the religious leader with utmost dedication and loyalty, he was treated with a beating over very small things. However, after a couple of years, Mansur left working for the Qadi and traveled to different parts of the world. When he went back home after some time, everyone including the king was in awe of his wife’s beauty.

The story takes a different turn when the Qadi tries to entice the Mullah’s wife into sexual activity but miserably failed in his endeavors. She then publicly condemned the religious leader’s actions. This folk tale represents a culture about leaders who claim to be men of god but indulge in unholy practices.

The Rural “Mountain Dwellers” of South Asia

The mountain dwellers living in the rugged mountains of South Asia have always lured historians and writers into their world. One main point of interest is the mystery behind the origins and very little shreds of historical evidence on the Brahuis. Even though the story to explain that the Brahui language belongs to the Dravidian language family is quite fascinating, a few are of the opinion that the ethnic Brahui group are descendants of people of the Indus Valley Civilization.

What’s big than the mystery of how one of the world’s first civilizations perished. If writers and historians are to be believed, all those who survived the end, migrated to present-day Baluchistan to ensure the continuity of their ancient language. However, one should not believe this because there is no proper evidence to support the theory.

The rise and fall of the Khanate of Kalat

Source: wikipedia

The dusty pages of a history book mention that the Brahuis first came into picture sometime around the 17th century when the Khanate of Kalat was an independent political entity. It existed from 1666 to 1955. Located in the modern-day province of Baluchistan, Khanate of Kalat was founded by Mir Ahmad Khan. The Khanate’s last ruler was Mir Ahmad Yar Khan Ahmadzai.

The self-governing state entered into an alliance with British India in 1839. However, after more than 300 years of independent rule, the Khanate of Kalat acceded into the princely state of Pakistan in 1948. It remained a part of the princely state till 1955 when it was incorporated into the country.

A diverse linguistic connection

One unique thing about this group is the diverse languages spoken amongst its people. A few of the groups speak Brahui, a language spoken in the central part of Balochistan, majorly in Kalat, Khuzdar, and Mastung districts. However, according to reports, many people have stopped speaking Brahui. Some Brahuis are fluent in both Balochi (North-western Iranian Language) and Brahui. Although, there also people who speak only Balochi.

Sarawan Barahuis and Jhalawan Brahuis constitute a significant part of the Brahui group. However, there is another small part of Iltazai, Kalandari, Mirwari, Rodeni, Sumalari, Kambrani, Achmadzai, and Gurguari Brahuis.

Origin based on a Hypothesis

There are many contradicting theories about the origin of the Brahui language. According to a few individuals, the “ethnic” language has only recently been a part of Balochistan. Whereas, others believe it is an old part of a family of Dravidian languages. Professor Josef Elfenbein said that the Brahui was part of a Dravidian “invasion” of North-Western India in the 3rd millennium BC.

In addition to this, Elfenbein told that other than the Dravidians who moved to the Southern region, lived in the Jahlawan and Sarawan since before 2000 BC. Brahui is influenced by other languages spoken in the area- Pashto, Persian.

Brahui migrated from Central India?

Source: balochilinguist

Another popular belief is that Brahui migrated to Balochistan from the central part of India after 1000 AD. The non-existence of any older Iranian (Avestan- a language of Zoroastrian scripture) in the Brahui language supports this hypothesis. Brahui language borrows a lot of vocabulary from Balochi. It migrated to this particular area from the West only around 1000 AD. However, some people argue that the migration took place sometime between the 13th or 14th century.

Is Brahui not a Dravidian Language?

According to a hypothesis, Brahui is not a Dravidian language. It can still be connected with other Dravidian languages and Elamite (extinct language) to create the Zagrosian language family, which originated in Southwest Asia (South Iran). It was widely spread in South Asia and a few parts of Eastern West Asia before the Indo-Aryan migration.

So, if you are a traveler intrigued by the way the Brahui group lives, works, and adheres to “societal” norms, pack your bags, and head to the rugged mountains of South Asia.

Curated by Ruchit Rastogi