People of Khaplu

The Balti are an ethnic group of Tibetan descent with some Dardic admixture located in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan and Ladakh, a region in Jammu & Kashmir, India; as well as scattered in Pakistan's major urban center of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad/Rawalpindi. 

Tibetan Khampa and Dardic tribes came to Baltistan prior to civilisation, and these groups eventually settled down, creating the Balti people. It was believed that the Balti people came under the Sphere of influence from the kingdom of Zhang Zhung. Most of the rich and affluent Balti people are of Arabic descent.

The modern world Balti people, however, are not all from Tibetan stock. With the passage of time, many other tribes namely, Shins, Yashkuns (Dardic people), Kashmiris (called Khache in local language), Arabs (mostly Sayeds), Persian (Sufis) and Turks (especially Uygurs from central Asia) made their enroads to Baltistan and gradually merged with the local population. After second or third generation they became Baltis. Today, in Skardu(land of Sakas), the capital of Baltistan region of Pakistan, the most hardened Baltis are outsiders namely Kashmiris or Dard tribes.

Baltistan came under the control of the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. Under Tibetan cultural influence, the Bön and Animist Baltis began to adopt Tibetan Buddhism from Indian Buddhism. Religious artefacts such as the Gompas and Chörtens were erected, and Lamas played an important role in the lives of the Baltis.

History of Islam in Baltistan starts with arrival of Ameer Kabeer Syed Ali Hamadani from Iran during 15th Century. He was followed by other Sufi legends afterwards, such asShah Syed Muhammad Noorbaksh & Syed Shansuddin Iraqi. Soon the whole region converted to Noorbakshi order of Islamic Sufism. During the start of 19th century, however, the predominant population converted to other Islamic schools of thought such as Shias and Sunnis. The pure Islamic (Noorkbakhsia)sect is still there. Today, the Baltis are; Shia' denomination (22%), Nurbakhshi (45%), and Sunni-Ahlehadith sect (3%). With the decline of power of Central Tibet during the 11th century, the Balti people came under the control of the local ruling families namely Maqpon in Skardu, Amacha in Shigar and Yabgo in Khaplu. They fostered a close relationship with Ladakh in the east. Similar linguistic and cultural characteristics of Baltiyul and Ladakh helped in forging an administrative unit that existed until 1948 when Balties revolted against the Dogras and joined Pakistan. The Dogra Maharajas of Jammu kept the administrative unit intact and converted it into a province called Ladakh Wazarat (a province composed of Baltistan, central Ladakh, Purik, Zanskar and Changthang areas). Skardo, capital of Baltiyul became the winter capital of province while Leh, capital of Central Ladakh became the summer capital. The province was divided into three districts namely Skardo, Leh and Kargil.

             Two Grooms in marriage ceremony



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