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Tibetans in Pakistan
Regions with significant populations
Parts of Gilgit-Baltistan (mainly Baltistan)
Tibetan · Balti · Urdu
Islam · Tibetan Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Tibetan diaspora, Baltis

Tibetans in Pakistan comprise residents of Pakistan who are of Tibetan origin. There is a small Tibetan presence in the country, historically concentrated in the northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan.[1][2][3]

History[change | change source]

Map of the Tibetan Empire at its greatest extent, 780-790 CE. Included in the empire are areas of modern Gilgit-Baltistan.

The northern Pakistani region of Baltistan, which forms part of Gilgit-Baltistan and borders China, has historically been referred to as "Little Tibet" due to its close ties with Tibet.[4] The Mughals referred to it as Tibet-e-Khurd (تبت خرد‎) which has the same definition.[5] Geographically, Baltistan is located on the western fringes of the Tibetan Plateau and is part of the greater Kashmir region.[6][7][8] The ethnic Balti residents of the region are a Tibetan Muslim group of Dardic admixture who speak the Balti language, a Tibetic dialect which is considered an archaic form of Standard Tibetan.[9] During the 8th century, Baltistan remained part of the Tibetan Empire for several decades. The region was annexed during the westward expansions of the Tibetans, who captured neighbouring Ladakh first and then followed the trail of the Indus River to access Baltistan.[9] The Tibetan settlers assimilated and intermarried with the local Indo-Aryan tribes over time, giving rise to the mixed community of ethnic Baltis.[9]

According to an entry in the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica:

Baltistan forms the west extremity of Tibet...separating a comparatively peaceful Tibetan population from the fiercer Aryan tribes beyond. Mahommedan writers about the 16th century speak of Baltistan as "Little Tibet," and of Ladakh as "Great Tibet," thus ignoring the really Great Tibet altogether. The Balti call Gilgit "a Tibet," and Dr. Leitner says that the Chilasi call themselves Bot or Tibetans; but although these districts may have been overrun by the Tibetans, or have received rulers of that race, the ethnological frontier coincides with the geographical one given.[4]

Up until the twentieth century, Tibetan pilgrims frequently traveled to parts of modern-day Pakistan to visit sacred Hindu/Sikh and Buddhist sites, particularly those thought to have been associated with their guru Padmasambhava. These pilgrimage locations included Swat and extended as far as sites in the Punjab, such as Lahore. The Tibetan pilgrimages occurred throughout the course of several centuries but began to fade as Buddhism declined in the region.[10]

Culture[change | change source]

Tibetan influences are present in the local culture through means of architecture, language, cuisine and traditions. A modified version of the old Tibetan script is still used to record and write the Balti language along with an alternative Perso-Arabic (Urdu) script.[9] Street signs in the old Tibetan script are common in the towns of Skardu and Khaplu.[9] Balti cooking is a fusion of Tibetan, Chinese and Kashmiri-Mughal culinary influences.[11]

See also[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Languages of China & Inner Asia at SOAS: Tibetan". SOAS, University of London. Retrieved 24 March 2016. Outside of Tibet, Tibetan speaking populations are found in Bhutan, Burma, India, Nepal, and Pakistan.
  2. "Cultural History of Tibet". SOAS, University of London. Retrieved 24 March 2015. Beginning with Tibetan geography and prehistory, the course introduces the land and people of Tibet and the Tibetan cultural area, which extends into the PRC, Nepal, India and Pakistan.
  3. "Tibetan broadcaster in Pakistan to cover conflict". International Campaign for Tibet. 18 January 2002. Retrieved 24 March 2016. This is the first time a Tibetan broadcaster has started filing stories from Pakistan, which has a sizable ethnic Tibetan population in the region of Baltistan.
  4. 4.0 4.1  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ladakh and Baltistan". Encyclopædia Britannica. 16 (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 58.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  5. Mohammad, Jigar. Epilogue, Vol 4, Issue 9. Epilogue Press. p. 52. Tibet Kalan (Great Tibet) was used by the Mughals for Ladakh and Tibet-i-Khurd (Little Tibet) was used for Baltistan.
  6. Bellezza, John Vincent. The Dawn of Tibet: The Ancient Civilization on the Roof of the World. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 144. ISBN 9781442234628. Although the early archaeology and ethnohistory of the western fringe of the Tibetan Plateau is still obscure, we know that Ladakh and Baltistan were impacted by prehistoric waves of Indo-European migrants.
  7. Kapstein, Matthew T. The Tibetans. John Wiley & Sons. p. 171. ISBN 9781118725375. The most important of these is no doubt Islam, which has small Tibetan followings in Amdo and in some western parts of the Tibetan plateau, chiefly Ladakh and Baltistan...
  8. Akasoy, Anna; Burnett, Charles S. F.; Yoeli-Tlalim, Ronit. Islam and Tibet: Interactions Along the Musk Routes. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 359. ISBN 9780754669562. Indian historians have named [Baltistan] Little Tibet, the majority of the population being ethnically and linguistically of Tibetan origin and the area is geographically located on the Tibetan plateau and for centuries remained a part of the Tibetan Empire.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Rashid, Salman (26 September 2011). "Tibetans in Baltistan". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  10. Huber, Toni. The Holy Land Reborn: Pilgrimage and the Tibetan Reinvention of Buddhist India. University of Chicago Press. pp. 238–243. ISBN 9780226356501.
  11. Chapman, Pat (1993). Curry Club Balti Curry Cookbook. Piatkus London. ISBN 9780749912147. The origins of Balti cooking are wide ranging and owe as much to China (with a slight resemblance to the spicy cooking of Szechuan) and Tibet as well as to the ancestry of the Mirpuris, the tastes of the Moghul emperors, the aromatic spices of Kashmir, and the 'winter foods' of lands high in the mountains.

[1] Bon, replaced by Tibetan Buddhism [2][1], replaced by Islam (quote: "Indeed, the Balti's most ancient roots seem to extend toward Tibet for Balti, as spoken even today, is an archaic dialect of Buddhist Tibet But just as Buddhism superceded the Balti's earlier pagan religion of Bon, so too did Islam replace ...") [3]

Template:Tibetan diaspora Template:Immigration to Pakistan Template:Baltistan Template:China–Pakistan relations


  1. Edwards, Stephen R. (2006). Saving Biodiversity for Human Lives in Northern Pakistan. IUCN. p. 3. ISBN 978-969-8141-86-8.