From the earliest times, the Indus River valley region has been both a transmitter of cultures and a receptacle of different ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. Indus Valley civilization (known also as Harappan culture) appeared around 2500 B.C. along the Indus River valley in Punjab and Sindh. This civilization, which had a writing system, urban centers, and a diversified social and economic system, was discovered in the 1920s at its two most important sites: Mohenjo-daro, in Sindh near Sukkur, and Harappa, in Punjab south of Lahore. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

A number of other lesser sites stretching from the Himalayan foothills in Indian Punjab to Gujarat east of the Indus River and to Balochistan to the west have also been discovered and studied. How closely these places were connected to Mohenjo-daro and Harappa is not clearly known, but evidence indicates that there was some link and that the people inhabiting these places were probably related. *

An abundance of artifacts have been found at Harappa--so much so, that the name of that city has been equated with the Indus Valley civilization (Harappan culture) it represents. Yet the site was damaged in the latter part of the nineteenth century when engineers constructing the Lahore-Multan railroad used brick from the ancient city for ballast. Fortunately, the site at Mohenjo-daro has been less disturbed in modern times and shows a well-planned and well-constructed city of brick. *

Although historians agree that the civilization ceased abruptly, at least in Mohenjo-daro and Harappa there is disagreement on the possible causes for its end. Invaders from central and western Asia are considered by some historians to have been "destroyers" of Indus Valley civilization, but this view is open to reinterpretation. More plausible explanations are recurrent floods caused by tectonic earth movement, soil salinity, and desertification. *

Indus Valley Culture

Indus Valley civilization was essentially a city culture sustained by surplus agricultural produce and extensive commerce, which included trade with Sumer in southern Mesopotamia in what is today modern Iraq. Copper and bronze were in use, but not iron. Mohenjo-daro and Harappa were cities built on similar plans of well-laid-out streets, elaborate drainage systems, public baths, differentiated residential areas, flat-roofed brick houses and fortified administrative and religious centers enclosing meeting halls and granaries. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Weights and measures were standardized. Distinctive engraved stamp seals were used, perhaps to identify property. Cotton was spun, woven, and dyed for clothing. Wheat, rice, and other food crops were cultivated, and a variety of animals were domesticated. Wheel-made pottery--some of it adorned with animal and geometric motifs--has been found in profusion at all the major Indus sites. A centralized administration has been inferred from the cultural uniformity revealed, but it remains uncertain whether authority lay with a priestly or a commercial oligarchy. *

By far the most exquisite but most obscure artifacts unearthed to date are the small, square steatite seals engraved with human or animal motifs. Large numbers of the seals have been found at Mohenjo-daro, many bearing pictographic inscriptions generally thought to be a kind of script. Despite the efforts of philologists from all parts of the world, however, and despite the use of computers, the script remains undeciphered, and it is unknown if it is proto-Dravidian or proto-Sanskrit. Nevertheless, extensive research on the Indus Valley sites, which has led to speculations on both the archaeological and the linguistic contributions of the pre--Aryan population to Hinduism's subsequent development, has offered new insights into the cultural heritage of the Dravidian population still dominant in southern India. Artifacts with motifs relating to asceticism and fertility rites suggest that these concepts entered Hinduism from the earlier civilization. *

Aryans (Indo-Europeans)

The Aryans (Indo-Europeans) arrived in Pakistan in two major waves: one around 2000 B.C. and a large one around 1400 B.C. after they were displaced by people from Iran. In Pakistan, they were based mostly in the Punjab. Over time they migrated eastwards and displaced the people in the Indus Valley. The Aryans established a few significant principalities including Gandhara, but were never strong or unified enough to form a great kingdom

Until the entry of the Europeans by sea in the late fifteenth century, and with the exception of the Arab conquests of Muhammad bin Qasim in the early eighth century, the route taken by peoples who migrated to India has been through the mountain passes, most notably the Khyber Pass, in northwestern Pakistan. Although unrecorded migrations may have taken place earlier, it is certain that migrations increased in the second millennium B.C. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

The records of these people--who spoke an Indo-European language--are literary, not archaeological, and were preserved in the Vedas, collections of orally transmitted hymns. In the greatest of these, the "Rig Veda," the Aryan speakers appear as a tribally organized, pastoral, and pantheistic people. The later Vedas and other Sanskritic sources, such as the Puranas (literally, "old writings"--an encyclopedic collection of Hindu legends, myths, and genealogy), indicate an eastward movement from the Indus Valley into the Ganges Valley (called Ganga in Asia) and southward at least as far as the Vindhya Range, in central India. A social and political system evolved in which the Aryans dominated, but various indigenous peoples and ideas were accommodated and absorbed. The caste system that remained characteristic of Hinduism also evolved. One theory is that the three highest castes--Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas--were composed of Aryans, while a lower caste--the Sudras--came from the indigenous peoples.

Persians in Pakistan

Because the Aryans were never strong enough to control the entire region, the area occupied by Pakistan was vulnerable to invasions, particularly from Persia. In 530 B.C., Cyrus the Great cross the Hindu Kush to receive tribute and within a decade made Gandhara part of the Achaemenid Empire. Darius I of Persia annexed the states of Sindh and Punjab in present-day Pakistan in 518 B.C.

People of the Indus valley ("Hindush" in Persian) paid tribute to the Persian king in textiles and precious local resources By the end of the sixth century B.C., India's northwest was integrated into the Persian Achaemenid Empire and became one of its satrapies. This integration marked the beginning of administrative contacts between Central Asia and India. Much of what is now present-day Afghanistan and most of Pakistan was ruled by the Persian Achaemenid Empire from 520 B.C. during the reign of Darius I. The region of present-day Punjab, the Indus River from the borders of Gandhara down to the Arabian Sea, and some other parts of the Indus plain, became part of the empire later. [Source: Library of Congress, Glorious India]

Gandhara and Taxila in Punjab became part of the Achaemenid empire in 518 B.C. During this time, Pushkarasakti was the king of Gandhara. The upper Indus region, comprising regions of Gandhara and Kamboja became the seventh satrapy and the lower and middle Indus comprising Sindh and Sauvira became the 20th satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire. This area was the most fertile and populous satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire.

The political contact between the two countries was beneficial to both in several respects. Trade received a fillip, and perhaps the spectacle of a unified empire stirred Indian ambition to strive after a similar end. Persian scribes introduced into India the Armaic form of writing, which in Indian environments later developed into Kharosthi, written from right to left like Arabic. Scholars have even traced Persian influences in Candragupta Maurya’s court ceremonial, and in certain words and the preamble of the edicts and in the monuments, particularly the bell-shaped capitals, of Ashoka’s time.

During the Achaemenid rule, a system of centralized administration with a bureaucratic system was introduced in the region. Famous scholars such as Pan.ini and Kautilya lived during this period. Indus Valley people were recruited to the Persian army and during the rule of Achaemenid emperor Xerxes, they took part in wars against the Greeks. Achaemenid rule lasted about 186 years. By about 380 B.C., the Persian hold on the region was weakening, but the region continued to be a part of the Achaemenid Empire until it was conquered by Alexander.

The Achaemenids used the Aramaic script for the Persian language. After the end of Achaemenid rule, the use of Aramaic in the Indus plain diminished, although we know from inscriptions from the time of Emperor Asoka that it was still in use two centuries later. Other scripts, such as Kharosthi (a script derived from Aramaic) and Greek became more common after the arrival of Alexander.

Alexander the Great and the Greeks

The Persian Empire fell to Alexander the Great in 330 B.C. Between 330 and 325 B.C., Alexander’s armies marched though present-day Afghanistan, crossed the Indus and entered India briefly before following the Indus across Pakistan to the Arabian Sea and then made their way back to the Middle East.

Alexander defeated Porus, the Gandharan ruler of Taxila, in 326 B.C. and marched on to the Ravi River before turning back. The area of Pakistan conquered by Alexander the Great was the easternmost region of his brief empire. Alexander’s armies marched across the Salt Range south of Taxila to the Beas River from where he sailed down the Indus River to the sea and then marched across the Makaran desert and Balochistan to Babylon, where Alexander died in 323 B.C.

Alexander the Great spread knowledge of the world to India (and Pakistan). Greek chroniclers described widow burning and the selling of daughters by their parents at local market places and oxen that were so string Alexander order 200,000 of them to be sent back to Greece. But despite al this there are no references to the Greeks in Indian texts.

Alexander the Great incursion opened up new trade routes between Europe and the East. A number of settlements were established, including Boukephala on the Jhelum and Alexandria in Sindh, but survived for that ling. From the 2nd century B.C. to the 4th century A.D. Gandhara, produced wonderful art that combined East and West. Sculptures had “togalike robes and halos modeled after statuary of the Greek gods, yet typically possessed the serene expression of devotion traditionally found in South Asian religious artworks.

After Alexander the Great

In the centuries that followed Alexander the Great incursion’s, was occupied by waves of invaders from India, Persia, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Greek rule did not survive in northwestern India, although a school of art known as Indo-Greek developed and influenced art as far as Central Asia. The region of Gandhara was conquered by Chandragupta (r. ca. 321-ca. 297 B.C.), the founder of the Mauryan Empire, the first universal state of northern India, with its capital at present-day Patna in Bihar. His grandson, Ashoka (r. ca. 274-ca. 236 B.C.), became a Buddhist. Taxila became a leading center of Buddhist learning. Successors to Alexander at times controlled the northwestern of region present-day Pakistan and even Punjab after Maurya power waned in the region.

The Mauryan Empire was able to claim parts of Pakistan that even the British were unable to claim. The deciding battle tool place in the Indus Valley in 305 B.C., with Chandragupta getting the best Selecucus, one of Alexander’s generals and the founder of the Seleucid dynasty in Iran.

In the centuries that followed Alexander the Great incursions, India was attacked and occupied by waves of invaders from India, Persia, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Sometimes activities far from India often had a bearing it on it. For example when the horseman tribe Yeuhchi were pushed out of Xinjiang in western China it began moving southward and pushed the Scythians from the Aral Sea area,. The Scythians in turn moved into the Indus Valley and pushed as far east as Delhi around 75 B.C. They conquered the Bactria at Gandhara but in turn were defeated by another group of tribesmen, the Parthains form east of the Caspian Sea. The Parthians endured into the 1st century A.D. They were driven out by the Kushans, cousin of the Yeuhchi.

After the fall of the Mauryas in the 2d century B.C., the Indo-Greek Bactrian kingdom rose to power, but was in turn overrun (c.97 B.C.) by Scythian nomads called Saka and then by the Parthians (c .A.D. 7). The Parthians, of Persian stock, were replaced by the Kushans; the Kushan Kanishka ruled (A.D. 2d century) all of what is now Pakistan from his capital at Peshawar. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., The Columbia University Press]


“Gandhara” is a broad term that describes a region that existed over a relatively long period of time in the present-day Pakistani districts of Swat, Punjab and about 1,000 kilometers miles north of present-day Karachi. A hallowed centre of Buddhism and the cradle of the world famous Gandhara art, culture and knowledge, it embraces the archaeological remains found in Taxila, Peshawar, Charsadda, Shahbaz Garhi, Jamal Garhi, Takht Bahi, Swat and rock carvings along the ancient Silk Road (KKH) have well recorded the history of Gandhara. Lying in Haro river valley near Islamabad, Taxila, the main centre of Gandhara, is over 3,000 years old. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Kingdoms in Gandhara lasted from the 6th Century B.C. to A.D. 6th Century. In the sixth to fourth centuries B.C. Gandhara was dominated under the Achaemenid Dynasty of Iran. The successors of Alexander the Great maintained themselves in Bactria and Gandhara from 322 B.C. to about 50 B.C.. Rejoined to India under the Maurya Dynasty, the Gandhara province became the object of intense missionary activity by the Buddhist emperor Asoka (reigned c. 273-232 B.C.). In the A.D. first century the Kushans, a tribe of Turkic-Scythian stock from western China took over Gandhara. Their rule, however, was interrupted by the invasion of the Persian King Shapur I in A.D. 242. The Buddhist civilization of Gandhara was finally completely destroyed by the White Huns, the Hephthalites, in the sixth century. After that the name Gandhara disapearred from the historical record. [Source: Glorious India]

Gandhara is perhaps best known for its very early Buddhist art and early Greco-Roman-influenced art. Many different schools of Buddhist art in Pakistan and Afghanistan have been labeled Gandhara. Holland Cotter wrote in the New York Times: “The multilayered and time-obscured history of ancient Gandhara is particularly difficult to grasp. The area, which encompassed what is now northwestern Pakistan and a sliver of Afghanistan, was a crossroads for international traffic. If you had business that took you to or from the Indian subcontinent, you passed through Gandhara. If you were in the business of empire building, you made every effort to control it. Persia, under Darius I, colonized the area in the sixth century B.C. Two centuries later Alexander the Great, a Macedonian Greek and a conquest addict, charged in and charged out, leaving behind a Hellenistic occupation, which held firm even as Gandhara was absorbed into the Mauryan empire of India, South Asia’s first great Buddhist power. Over time Greco-Bactrians, Scythians and Parthians dominated the terrain. Then, around the first century A.D., the Kushans, originally nomads from the steppe-lands north of China, settled in, extending their reach down into the Indian subcontinent. They were genuine cosmopolitans, linked to the Mediterranean, Persia and China, and tolerant of religions. It was under their aegis that Gandharan Buddhist art, compounded of foreign and local ingredients, flourished. [Source: Holland Cotter, New York Times, August 10, 2011]

This region, together with the Indo-Greek kings that succeeded him, introduced classical traditions that became an important part of Gandhara's artistic taste over the next seven centuries. This contact resulted in the establishment of overland trade routes through the Parthian empire and Indo-Greek cities like Ai-Khanoum in northern Afghanistan. Starting about 50 B.C., this trade dramatically increased with the introduction of ocean routes employing monsoon winds to cross the Arabian Sea. These sea routes supplied an expanding overland trade network that passed through Gandhara and continued on to Central Asia and China. Gandharan control of the high mountain passes vital to this international commerce made the region wealthy; the resulting cosmopolitan elites became some of the most powerful Buddhist patrons in all of South Asia. [Source: Kurt Behrendt, Department of Asian Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York]

Buddhism in Pakistan

Buddhism was brought to Pakistan in the third century B.C. by the Indian ruler Ashoka (See India). Buddhism endured for several centuries. During the first centuries B.C. the Gandhara was a major center of Buddhist art.

By the sixth century B.C., knowledge of Indian history becomes more focused because of the available Buddhist and Jain sources of a later period. Northern India was populated by a number of small princely states that rose and fell in the sixth century B.C. In this milieu, a phenomenon arose that affected the history of the region for several centuries--Buddhism. Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, the "Enlightened One" (ca. 563-483 B.C.), was born in the Ganges Valley. His teachings were spread in all directions by monks, missionaries, and merchants. The Buddha's teachings proved enormously popular when considered against the more obscure and highly complicated rituals and philosophy of Vedic Hinduism. The original doctrines of the Buddha also constituted a protest against the inequities of the caste system, attracting large numbers of followers.

From Gandhara Buddhism was carried along the Silk Road into China, Tibet and Central Asia. Buddhist engravings dating back to these period can be seen on rock faces along the Karakoram Highway. Buddhism took hold in the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan where it remained strong until the A.D. 10th century.


The Kushan Kingdom (135 B.C. to A.D. 375) was founded in the Bactria region of northern Afghanistan by Yuezhi nomads who migrated there from Xinjiang in present-day western China due to Chinese Han Dynasty campaigns. Once there, they displaced the Greco-Bactrian kingdom and expanded over the Hindu Kush mountains into today’s India and Pakistan. The Kushans controlled parts of Afghanistan and Iran, and in India the realm stretched from Purushapura (modern Peshawar, Pakistan) in the northwest, to Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) in the east, and to Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh) in the south. For a short period, the kingdom reached still farther east, to Pataliputra. The Kushana Kingdom was the crucible of trade among the Indian, Persian, Chinese, and Roman empires and controlled a critical part of the legendary Silk Road. [Source: Library of Congress]

Originally nomadic horsemen, the Kushans were enamored with Greco-Roman culture and converted to Buddhism in the 1st century B.C. The Kushans were patrons of Gandharan art, a synthesis between Greek and Indian styles, and Sanskrit literature. They initiated a new era called Shaka in A.D. 78, and their calendar, which was formally recognized by India for civil purposes starting on March 22, 1957, is still in use.

The Kushans established what is regarded as the first Silk Road kingdom. Operating out of their winter capital of Pursapura, near Peshawar, and a summer capital in Gandhara, they extracted duties from caravans and traded a variety of goods and art work. The Kushans grew wealthy on trade between East and West— that included trade between China and Rome—and helped to spread Buddhism and Buddhist Culture throughout Asia.

Early in the second century A.D. under Kanishka, the most powerful of the Kushan rulers, the empire reached its greatest geographic and cultural breadth to become a center of literature and art. Kanishka extended Kushan control to the mouth of the Indus River on the Arabian Sea, into Kashmir, and into what is today the Chinese-controlled area north of Tibet. Kanishka was a patron of religion and the arts. It was during his reign that Mahayana Buddhism, imported to northern India earlier by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (ca. 260-232 B.C.), reached its zenith in Central Asia.

When the Kushan Empire was at its peak in first three centuries after Christ, it ranked with Rome, China and Parthia as one of the great powers off the world. Ruling over an empire that stretched from the Oxus River in present-day Uzbekistan to the Ganges, the Kushans controlled most of the Ganges valley and an arc that extended through Afghanistan and Central Asia into Xinjiang. It was under their reign that trade routes developed between India, China, Persia, and Rome. Ultimately, however, the empire fragmented into many principalities and was replaced in North India by the resurgent Hindu Gupta Empire while its Afghan territories became tributary to the Persian Sassanid Empire. [Source: Akhilesh Pillalamarri, The National Interest, May 8, 2015]


The Kushan empire began to decline after the death of King Kanishka. By the middle of the 3rd century the Kushans controled only Gandhara and Kashmir while the rest of their territory was swallowed up by the Sassanids and ultimately became their vassals. The Sassanids (A.D. 226-651) ruled mainly over what is now Iran and Iraq. At its height it ruled over what is now the Caucasus, southwestern side of the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. During this period India was under the of the Gupta Empire. The Guptas never really had much direct control over Pakistan but they did have a strong cultural influence. See Guptas.

The Sassanids (A.D. 226-651) were native Persians. Their homeland was the original homeland of the Persians. They were the last great Persian dynasty before the arrival of Islam. The Sassanids (also known as Sassanians or Sasanians) emerged from the Persian-speaking people in the Fars region of southern Iran. They were dominated by a single family and ruled through a hierarchy of officials and used Zoroastrianism as means of unifying their subjects. According to one tradition, the Sassanians were named after a 1st century prince or king by the name of Sasan, from whom Papak — the first recognized Sassanid leader — claimed to be descended.

Richard Frye wrote in “The Heritage of Persia”: “Although the Sassanids have been characterised as representing an `Iranian reaction to Hellenism, under Shapur we see the last Greek used in inscriptions in Iran, and his patronage of Greek philosophers and savants has come down in Persian tradition. Likewise the mosaics of his new city Bishapur in Fars reveal a strong Western influence not to be attributed solely to artisans among the prisoners from Roman armies. One may suggest that under Shapur there is really a revival of Greek cultural influences in Iran which, however, hardly survives his death.” [Source: Richard Frye, “The Heritage of Persia,” starting with pg. 198 +/ ]

Early History of the Sindh

Sindhis are the natives of the Sindh province, which includes Karachi, the lower part of the Indus River, the southeast coast of Pakistan and a lot of desert. Sindhi’s history goes back deep to the misty past as it is home to the Indus Valley culture, which dates back to around 3000 B.C. and ranks with ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and China as being one of the world’s first civilizations. D. O. Lodrick wrote in the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”: “The Indus is central to the history of the Sindhis. It was along this river that the Harappan (or Indus Valley) civilization developed during the 3rd millennium bc. Usually identified with Dravidian peoples, this sophisticated urban culture matched the achievements of Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. The Harappans left an archeological record of contemporary life in Sindh, but we know less of the centuries following their decline. [Source: D. O. Lodrick “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009 *]

“From around 1700 B.C. onward, successive waves of Aryan invaders entered the Indian subcontinent from the northwest. The earliest of these nomadic tribes settled in the Punjab, where the outlines of Hindu Vedic religion and society emerged. This was quite different from urban Harappan culture. It was nonurban, based on the herding of cattle; its religion was dominated by male deities and sacrificial ritual; and its society was organized into a hierarchy of classes (castes), with the Aryans at the top and local non-Aryan peoples at the lowest levels. As the Aryans pressed steadily southward along the Indus Valley, their culture replaced that of the Harap-pans. The Harappan towns and cities disappeared, with Aryan (Hindu) civilization emerging as the dominant culture of Sindh. Subsequently, groups such as the Persians, Greeks, Scythians, and White Huns who entered the region were absorbed into the existing structure of the Aryan-dominated society. During the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C., Sindh formed part of the Mauryan Empire. At this time, Buddhism was the main religion in the region, though it was subsequently reabsorbed by Hinduism.

“Arabs reached the mouth of the Indus by sea in A.D. 711 and within a few years gained control of Sindh. From this time on, the region was dominated by Muslims and the culture of Islam. Around ad 900, the Arab governors of Sindh — at first subject to the Caliph in Baghdad — established their own dynastic rule. Of mixed Arab and local blood, Sumra and Samma chieftains governed for several centuries, eventually being replaced by invaders from Afghanistan between 1518 and 1522. By the end of the 16th century, Sindh was annexed by the Mughals. It remained part of the Mughal Empire until the mid-18th century.

Early Baloch History

The Baloch, also know the Balochi, Baluch or Baluchi, are an ethnic group that live primarily in the sandy plains, deserts and barren mountains of southeast Iran, southwest Pakistan and southern Afghanistan.

According to legend the Baloch are descendants of Amir Hamza, one of Mohammed’s uncles, and the migrated to Balochistan from the area around Aleppo in Syria. The Baloch are probably Persian in origin. Their language is related to Persian. Their origin and terms of their arrival in Balochistan is still a matter of debate. Linguistic information indicates they originated in the Caspian Sea region, where the Persians and Kurds also emerged from, and they migrated eastward, arriving in Balochistan as early as the A.D.5th century and had established themselves there by the 7th century.

Before the 12th century the Baloch were made up of autonomous seminomadic groups organized around clan affiliation rather than by region. As these groups became large, access to water and valued land grew in importance a system of tribes, with associations with certain areas, developed. Baloch tribes were united under Mir Jalal Han in the 12th century. In the 15th century, there was a great deal of inter-tribe warfare. By the 16th century the Baloch were more or less divided into three separate political entities: the Makran state, the Dodai Confederacy and the khanate of Balochistan. In the 18th century, Mir Abdullah Khan of the Kalat Confederacy established a centralized government based on the “rawaj”, the custom Baloch people.

Early Punjabi History

Punjabis are the largest linguistic group in Pakistan. The speak the Punjabi language and live in or have family in or ancestors from the Punjab region. Historically, Punjab has played host to a number of ethnicities, including the Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Afghans and Mongols, thus bestowed with a rich tangible heritage. Reflecting this history are the countless sites that dot the state: impressive forts & palaces, ancient monuments, architectural marvels and many a battlefield.

Most Punjabis trace their ancestry to pre-Islamic Jat and Rajput castes. However, as they intermarried with other ethnic groups who came to the area, certain qaums (clan or tribal groups) came to predominate, especially Gujjars, Awans, Arains, and Khokkars in northern Punjab, and Gilanis, Gardezis, Qureshis, and Abbasis in the south. Other Punjabis trace their heritage to Arabia, Persia, Balochistan, Afghanistan, and Kashmir. Thus, in contrast with many other areas, where people often remained isolated, Punjabis had very diverse origins. The extent of this diversity facilitated their coalescence into a coherent ethnic community that has historically placed great emphasis both on farming and on fighting. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

The coalescence of the various tribes, castes and the inhabitants of the Punjab into a broader common "Punjabi" identity initiated from the onset of the 18th century CE. Prior to that the sense and perception of a common "Punjabi" ethno-cultural identity and community did not exist, even though the majority of the various communities of the Punjab had long shared linguistic, cultural and racial commonalities. [Source: Wikipedia]

Kalash History

The Kalash (Kalasha) is a tiny group of animists living in Pakistan near the Afghanistan border in the Birir, Bumburet and Rambur valleys off of the Chitral Valley in the North-West Frontier Province. The Kalash are said to claim descent from Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and there is a a story of Alexander the Great enjoying 's bacchanal with mountain dwellers in the Hindu Kush. The mountain dwellers of Alexander the Great’s time "were likely the forbears of the Kalash, who still worship a pantheon of gods, make wine, practice animal sacrifice — and resist conversion to Islam." Although Alexander’s armies passed through the Chitral region there is little evidence that they reached the remote valleys where the Kalash live today. The stories linking the Kalash to Alexander the Great seem to have been mostly attached to them by outsiders. Scholars and villagers say that neither the tribe’s written history nor its oral traditions, including song and poetry, mention reference to Alexander.

As outsiders and Muslim moved into what is now northern Pakistan and Afghanistan the Kalash descended down the status scale. Until Pakistan independence the Kalash were virtual slaves of the rulers of the semi-autonomous Muslim state of Chitral, and were subjected to forced labor. Laws required Kalash who visited the town to wear hats and beads or feathers to differentiate them from Muslims. [Source: Debra Denker, National Geographic, October 1981 ♂]

During the 1950s several Kalash villages were forcibly converted to Islam because of the purported “immorality” of their women. There have been periodic disputes between the Kalash and local Muslim people. Muslims have encroached in the valleys that traditionally belonging to the Kalash. There have been many property disputes on the dockets of the Pakistani courts related to the Kalash. Most of the hotels in the area are owned by Muslims.♂

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (, Official Gateway to the Government of Pakistan (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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