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Baloch people

Total population
8.8 million (2009)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Pakistan approx 6,900,000 (2013)[2]
 Iran 1,557,000[3]
 Oman 434,000 (2009)[4][5][6]
 Afghanistan 300,000 (2009)[7]
 United Arab Emirates 100,000 [8]
 India 60,000 [9]
 Turkmenistan 30,000 [10][11]
Brahui, Persian, Pashto and Arabic are also spoken depending on area of residence.
Predominantly Sunni Islam[12]
Related ethnic groups
Other Iranian peoples

The Baloch or Baluch (Balochi: بلوچ) live mainly in the Balochistan region of the Iranian plateau in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

They are an Iranian people who mainly speak the Balochi language, a branch of Northwestern Iranian languages. In 2009, the author Vidya Prakash Tyaji estimated the worldwide Baloch population to be around 8.8 million.[1] About 50% of the total Baloch population live in East Balochistan, a western province of Pakistan;[13] 40% Baloch are settled in Sindh; and a significant number of Baloch people in South Punjab of Pakistan. They make nearly 3.6% of the Pakistani population, about 2% of Iran's population (1.5 million) and about 2% of Afghanistan's population.[2]


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
  • Balochi culture 3
    • Balochi music 3.1
  • Cuisine of Balochistan 4
  • Geographic distribution 5
    • Baloch in Oman 5.1
  • Balochi language 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Iranian Baloch khans in Qajar era, c. 1884
Baloch of Nimruz Province, Afghanistan

The exact origin of the word 'Baloch' is unclear. One theory is that the word came from the Median word brza-vak, which describes a loud aggressive way of speaking.[1] Others say the word came from the Babylonian king Belus.[1] Finally, the word is said to be a nickname meaning "cock's comb" based off the distinctive helmets Balochi forces wore when they fought the Median king Astyages.[1] Finally, there are some who believe it came from the Sanskrit words "Bal" (meaning strength or power) and "Och" (meaning high or magnificent).[1]

In the Punjab region, the word Baloch is associated with caring of camels and is used to refer to any Muslim camelperson.[14] Because of the importance of camel husbandry in that region, Baloch implies to be light-footed.[14]


According to Balochi myths, they are descendants of Hazrat Ameer Hamza, the uncle of the Islamic prophet Muhammad who settled in Halab (present-day Aleppo).[14][1] In 680, King Yazid I drove them out following the Battle of Karbala and they fled to the Sistan region.[14] They allegedly remained there for 500 years until they fled following a deception against the Sistan leader Badr-ud-Din to Khvosh Mardan.[14]

Historians on the other hand have a number of theories, from being Aryans from northern Elburz, Semites from Halleb and Allepe, to being Sumerians from Mesopotamia or simply the indigenous people of those regions they live in.[1]

Baloch and Alexander's empire
Baloch tribes and the paths that Alexander the Great took.

Gwadar in Makran
View of a beach in Makran region.

Balochi culture

A traditional Balochi dress worn by a teenage girl.

The Balochi generally live in remote mountainous and desert regions, which have protected them from invasion and allowed them to form a distinct cultural identity.[1] They are predominantly Sunni Muslim but a significant number in the Balochistan region are Shia Muslim.[1] Balochi customs and traditions are conducted according to codes imposed by tribal laws. Pir M. Zehi's account of his travel to the province of Sakestan, present-day Sistan province of Iran, have the first mentions of Baloch customs. The Baloch men wear long shirts with long sleeves and loose pants. The dress is occasionally accompanied by a pagh (turban) or a hat on their heads.

In contrast to Pakistan, the Iran Balochi dress code is more conservative in sense of length and material. Some Baloch women in Iran also cover their faces with thick red color wools (Burqah) and wear a (Sareeg) which is the head scarf and (Chadar) which is a long veil.

Baloch women put on loose dresses and pants with sophisticated and colourful needlework, including a large pocket at the front of the dress to hold their accessories. The upper part of the dress and sleeves are also decorated with needlework, a form of artistry that is specific to the clothing of the Baloch women. Often the dress also contains round or square pieces of glass to further enhance the presentation. They cover their hair with a scarf, called a sarig in the local dialect.[15]

These customs are unique to the people of Iran and the art of this needlework on women's clothing may provide one with a picture of the freedom and high status of Baloch women in Achaemenid era.[16]

Gold ornaments such as necklaces and bracelets are an important aspect of Baloch women's traditions and among their most favoured items of jewellery are dorr, heavy earrings that are fastened to the head with gold chains so that the heavy weight will not cause harm to the ears. They usually wear a gold brooch (tasni) that is made by local jewellers in different shapes and sizes and is used to fasten the two parts of the dress together over the chest. In ancient times, especially during the pre-Islamic era, it was common for Baloch women to perform dances and sing folk songs at different events. The tradition of a Baloch mother singing lullabies to her children has played an important role in the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation since ancient times. Apart from the dressing style of the Baloch, indigenous and local traditions and customs are also of great importance to the Baloch.[17]

Balochi music

Folk music has always played a great role in Balochi traditions. Balochi music belong to the same branch of Iranian music performed by many other Iranian peoples including Persians, Kurds, Lurs, Tajiks and others. Traditions like the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation by singing lullabies to children and praising warriors also have a significant role in Balochi music traditions. The fact that both men and women participate in folk music reflects on the pre-Islamic significance of folk music in Balochi culture. Many years of invasions, wars and later adopted religious values have prevented Balouchi music from prevailing further in the 21st century. However, a Swedish folk band, Golbang and Padik with the lead singer Rostam Mirlashari originally from Zahedan & Lashar in Balochistan, has made progress in introducing Balouchi folk music to the Western world. The most commonly used instruments in Balouchi folk music are tanbur, long-necked lutes. Lutes have been present in Mesopotamia since the Akkadian era, or the 3rd millennium BC. The dohol, a large cylindrical drum with two skin heads, is the principal accompaniment for the surna, an ancient Iranian woodwind instrument that dates back to the Achaemenid Dynasty (550-330 BC). The ney is also commonly played, using single or double flutes. The Suroz, a Balochi folk violin, which is considered as the official instrument of the Baloch. Other Baloch musical instruments include the tar and the saz.

Cuisine of Balochistan

Geographic distribution

The total population of ethnic Baloch people is estimated to be around 15 million worldwide. However, the exact number of those who are Baloch or claim to be of Baloch ancestry is difficult to determine. As of 2012, the Baloch are 7.11% of Pakistan's 177 million people
Major ethnic groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the surrounding areas, 1980. The Baluch are shown in pink.

Baloch ancestry is also claimed in the neighboring areas that adjoin Baloch majority lands. Those who speak Brahui are known as Brahuis.[18] Many Baloch outside of Balochistan are also bilingual or of mixed ancestry due to their proximity to other ethnic groups, including the Sindhis, Saraikis and Pashtuns. A large number of Baloch have been migrating to or living in provinces adjacent to Balochistan for centuries. In addition, there are many Baloch living in other parts of the world, with the bulk living in the GCC countries of the Persian Gulf. The Baloch are an important community in Oman, where they make up a sizable minority.

Many Baloch over the years have migrated to Punjab for its lush green fertility and they can be found in large numbers in South Punjab, Central Punjab and in Lahore but most of them identify themselves now as Punjabis. There is a small population of Baloch in several Western countries such as Sweden and Australia. Some Baloch settled in Australia in the 19th century; some fourth-generation Baloch still live there, mainly in the western city of Perth.

Baloch in Oman

The Baloch in Oman have maintained their ethnic and linguistic distinctions. The Southern Baloch comprise approximately 25% of the country's population. The traditional economy of Baloch in Oman is based on a combination of trade, farming and semi-nomadic shepherding.[19]

Balochi language

The Balochi language is spoken in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf Arab states, Turkmenistan, and as far as East Africa and some Western countries. It is classified as a member of the Iranian group of the Indo-European language family, which includes Kurdish, Persian, Pashto, Dari, Tajik and Ossetian. The Balochi language has the closest similarities to Kurdish, Avestan, old Persian and other Iranian languages.

Two main dialects are spoken in Sistan va Balochestan and Balochestan: Eastern and Western. The exact number of Baloch speakers is difficult to know, but the estimated number could be around 15 million. The majority speak Western Balochi, which is also the dialect that has been most widely used in Balochi literature. Within the Western dialect are two further dialects, Rakhshani and Nousherwani (spoken mainly in the northern areas) and Makurani (in the south).[20]

The Baloch have several tribes and sub-tribes. Some of these tribes speak Brahui, while most speak Balochi. Multilingualism is common, with many Baloch speaking both Brahui and Balochi. The Rind Marri, Magsi, Domki, Umrani and Bugti tribe speak Balochi. The Mengal tribe, who live in the Chagai, Khuzdar, Kharan districts of Balochistan. the sarpara tribe, who live in kardigap, Meskan Qalat/Kharan, Larkana, and they speak both Brahui and balochi, The Meskanzai (sarpara) tribe who live in the Meskan Qalat kharna, and Quetta, and they speak Balochi and Brahui. and in southern parts of Afghanistan, speak Brahui. The Muhammad Hasni tribe speak Brahui, Balochi and some other languages according to the area they are living. The Lango tribe, who live in central Balochistan in the Mangochar area, speak Brahui as their first language and Balochi as their second. The Bizenjo tribe speak both languages. The Bangulzai tribe mostly speaks Brahui, but has a Balochi-speaking minority known as Garani.

The Mazari tribe, Talpur, Mastoi, Jatoi, Wahocha, Gabol, Chandio, Mirani, Nutkani, Ahmedani, Jagirani, Marri, Khushk, Magsi, Domki, Khosa, Bozdar, Jiskani, Bijarani, Hesbani, Leghari, Lashari, Muhammad Hasni, Kalpar, Korai, Zardari, Rind, Mandwani or Bhurgari, MirJat, Jakhrani, and other Baloch tribes that are settled in Sindh speak Sindhi, Balochi and Seraiki. The Gadi and Qaisrani Baloch living near Taunsa Sharif in the Punjab province of Pakistan speak Seraiki and Balochi, while their clansmen living in Dera Ghazi Khan tribal areas speak Balochi. The Lund Baloch living in Shadan Lund speak Sindhi, Seraiki and Balochi.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Tyagi, Vidya Prakash (2009). Martial Races of Undivided India. Gyan Publishing House. pp. 7–9.  
  2. ^ a b Central Intelligence Agency (2013). "The World Factbook: Ethnic Groups". Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  3. ^ Iran, Library of Congress, Country Profile . Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  4. ^ Joshua Project (2006-10-28). "Baloch, Southern of Oman Ethnic People Profile". Retrieved 2012-08-01. 
  5. ^ Languages of Oman, . Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  6. ^ Oman, CIA World Factbook . Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  7. ^ Afghanistan, CIA World Factbook . Retrieved December 5, 2009.
  8. ^ Languages of United Arab Emirates, (retrieved 5 December 2009)
  9. ^ Baloch, Eastern of India Ethnic People Profile. (2008-08-01). Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  10. ^ Volume 13, Issue 3, 2012, p. 45-55.Central Asia and The Caucasus. Journal of Social and Political Studies.KOKAISLOVÁ, Pavla, KOKAISL Petr. Ethnic Identity of The Baloch People. , ISSN 1404-6091
  11. ^ Baloch people in Turkmenistan (1926–1989),
  12. ^ "Demography of Religion in the Gulf".  
  13. ^ Blood, Peter, ed. "Baloch". Pakistan: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1995.
  14. ^ a b c d e Kumar, Raj (2008). Encyclopaedia of Untouchables Ancient, Medieval and Modern. Gyan Publishing House. pp. 336–337.  
  15. ^ "People of Iran: A Cultural Anthropology of Balochis". Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  16. ^ "The World of Achaemenid Persia". Retrieved 2010-09-13. 
  17. ^ "Baloch Society & culture". Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  18. ^ Well Come to Pasni Online - The Brahui People. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  19. ^ "Joshua Project - Baloch, Southern of Oman Ethnic People Profile". Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  20. ^ "Languages of Iran. Iran at Middle East Explorer". Retrieved 2010-09-07. 

External links

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