By: Dr.Naseer Dashti
The ancient Baloch as part of Aryan tribes
For research on various stages and aspects of human biological growth studies on stature, head shape or cephalic index, the size, and structure of the brain, eye color, skin color, the texture of hair, the epicanthic fold, constitutional structure of the body, body odor and blood groups were considered as the determining factors in finding the racial origin of a person. However, in modern times, it has become difficult to arrive at some sound conclusions regarding race homogeneity on the theories based on classical comparison of races. The classical comparison is based on merely physical observation and measurement or upon differences or similarities in genetics or both. In this context, the only tool left for establishing the origin of a people can be the language, culture, and social traditions.
The Baloch were illogically declared by some of the writers as being Semitic, to have come from Arabian Peninsula. This is perhaps the direct result of great upheavals and deep controversies in Baloch society, its economic dependence, and inevitable value re-orientation brought in by foreign domination after many centuries of semi-independence and tribal sway. The author of Tohfat el Kiram traced their origin to Muhammad bin Harun, a descendant of Amir Hamza (an uncle of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), by a fairy. Some of the Baloch writers had perhaps similar considerations in tracing their racial origin, history, and faith. There might still be some cogent reasons for pursuing such historically erroneous presumptions like the Semitic or Arabic origin of the Baloch. This may be due to the desire to find some reactionary consolation by interpreting Baloch history in a particular way, linking it to some distinct people and digging out sketchy historical evidence of a golden era, and glorifying some father figures. Some less scrupulous writers visualized every great figure in history as essentially Baloch. Mesopotamia and its adjoining regions from time immemorable were the most fertile lands and the seat of a great civilization that attracted other peoples to these areas. There are virtually very few instances in history that there had been any migrations on a large scale from Mesopotamia or Chaldea to the east. If the Baloch were Semites inhabiting Mesopotamia or Chaldea, there must have been some vestige of these people in the Middle East. There is hardly any trace of them in the remote ages in those areas, save the Kurds who came from the Caspian region towards the west a few centuries earlier than the Baloch. The theory of Chaldean origin for the Baloch is implausible as civilized people like the Chaldeans, if migrated from the land, could not reverse to nomadism, agropastoralism, and tribalism soon after they migrated from their original country.
In any ultimate analysis of racial affinity, language is the first and foremost factor. It is the most important instrument of socialization in all human cultures. Language passes its myths, laws, customs, and beliefs to the next generation. It is only through language that one could appreciate the essence of any social structure. Culture and language go together. If language is transmitted as a part of the culture, it is no less true that culture is transmitted through language. Therefore, the language and literature of a particular people furnish a lot of facts regarding the general character of those people. The process of linguistic change makes it very difficult, however, to establish the language kinship or the fact that any existing speech represents the original or any ancient tongue except that of a possible affiliation which may be inferred only through an objective study of existing differences or similarities of present dialects which are no less than 2700 in the present world. Although the races cannot be determined based on language alone, it is perhaps the strongest element in such a study.
Balochi has the least influence whatsoever of any Semitic language except for a few Arabic words which have come after the 7th century A.D. through political and religious hegemony of the Arabs in Iran and Central Asia. Balochi also has quite a few loan words from Turkish and Dravidian languages. Turkish words might have come through Persian. Some of the Dravidian and Turkish words became part of the Balochi vocabulary after some of the migrating Baloch tribes settled in the central regions of Balochistan (Turan). This is logical as the migrating Baloch tribes after their final settlement in Turan have certainly absorbed many Turkish and Dravidian words into their speech. But any opinion based on a few loanwords about language kinship is superfluous.
Authentic works on the Balochi language have established beyond doubt that it is a member of the northwestern group of Iranian languages, along with Zazaki, Kurdish, Gilaki, Mazandarani, and Talyshi (Jahani, 2003; Axenov, 2006). Korn (2003) places Balochi among the transitional Western Iranian languages, categorizing it as a group in the sense of being a third member in-between north- and southwestern Iranian languages. Of ancient languages, Balochi bears affinities to both Middle Persian and Parthian (Pahlavi). However, it has also been identified that Balochi has a marked individuality of its own and differs from both of these languages in important aspects. Tedesco (1921) and MacKenzie (1961) developed the hypothesis which has not been contested by other researchers on Iran and Iranian languages that Persian, Balochi, and Kurdish share common phonetic isoglosses. MacKenzie (1961) observed that the speakers of these three languages might once have been in closer contact geographically and ethnically. Tedesco (1921) and Windfuhr (1975) saw various connections between Persian, Kurdish, and Balochi and in their works corroborated the close relationship between these languages. Balochi being in the family of Indo-Iranian languages is strong evidence of the Baloch belonging to that group of migrating Aryan tribes.
The folk literature, oral in nature, which includes folk tales and lore, provides support for the institutions and behavior patterns of a deep-rooted culture. Folk stories though generally considered as pure fiction have great appeal to the people of all ages in the community who generally never challenge the essence of all that is narrated. The folklore, especially the proverbs and fables, serve to instruct and remind the members of the society of a wise code of conduct and social behavior. The similarity of the Baloch folk stories with that of other Indo-Iranian people like Kurds and Persians strongly suggests the Baloch Aryan origin.
The Baloch culture which should be the main criteria in closely examining not only its character but also the lost relationship of its language and people with other groups has its roots in socio-political and religious systems inherited from its Aryan ancestors. Like other Aryan people, the Baloch society was based on tribalism and had a clan system that is still intact in many parts of Balochistan. The tribal Chief (Sarɔār) was revered. He enjoyed great prestige. He had a pivotal position in all walks of tribal life. The tribes were organized as patriarchal groups. The Chief enjoyed tremendous powers. There is no trace of any permanent legal institutions at early ages. However, the Sarɔār, with the help of clan chiefs decided the disputes. Aryan social norms like polygamy, the re-marriage of a widow, generally with the husband’s brother was being practiced by the ancient Baloch.
According to Dashti (2020), the Balochi word ‘Wājā’ etymologically is ‘dwija’ in Sanskrit, connoting a superior status and place of respect. In Balochi, Wājā means noble, respected, and has the same etymological origin as that of Sanskrit, Dwija. It is however not clear whether the earlier Baloch connoted the word in the same philosophical sense as dwija or not.
Baloch mythologies have a great resemblance to those of the Aryans. Dashti (2020) observed that Kālān Kambaru, that is painting a boy to have an ugly look, carrying him to every house, repeating kālān kambaru, getting some articles from each house to be finally cooked in an isolated place; or the girls śiśalān śālu ťrampok ey āp ɔay exercises are clearly of the Aryan origin and widely practiced among the Baloch.
A range of mythological beliefs and cultural practices were common among the various Indo-European tribes including the Baloch. The Baloch associated certain species of animals with sorcerers and witches. They believed that an animal that is overpowered or whose soul is bound up to that of the sorcerer may be ordered to serve his evil master. The Baloch considered the fox as clever and mischievous while the owl was ominously evil. Like the beliefs of Aryan tribes, there is a lot of mention about marvelous creatures in Balochi folktales. Circumstantial meeting of these amorphous beings with humans was believed to result in pleasant omens or distressing fortunes. In some stories such creatures marry and consort with human beings. They reward human services and punish misdeeds.
The verbal element is considered a fundamental constituent of magical power. While narrating folk stories or legends, the storyteller most often interrupted their narration by uttering meaningless words and phrases which apart from inciting inattentive listeners must have invariably been aimed to have some magical effect. If anybody from among the listeners would say, ‘ay wallā’ the storyteller stopped the narrative and uttered some meaningless words like the following: Kock majoal ey, ɔanťān sohr ey, uśťiri neiś ey jangalā kapťag: cisťān cisťān panāh ey regeťān. Almost all the storytellers used similar words with slight variations or additions of their own. Dashti (2020), observed that this practice of the Baloch essentially is of Aryan origin.
It appears that as the early Aryans, among the Baloch, there were neither any rules for worship nor the presence of any priest during ceremonies was essential. The Baloch preserved this approach for centuries but subsequently while assimilating beliefs of other peoples, ritualistic ceremonies were more formalized among them.
The Balochi epics knit together a great mass of ancient traditions, customs, legends, prudential maxims, and spiritual discourses. As observed by Dashti (2020), there are great reminiscences to the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata or with Homeric Greek epics with Balochi war songs, which mostly depict a pastoral and nomadic way of living. The Indian sacred books or the Greek Homeric poems, the Iliad, and the Odyssey provide a rational background for many myths, social practices, and traditional outlook in a customary way. The Balochi epics while describing the heroes and their achievements contain the very essence of Baloch society and system. If properly analyzed, the fundamental pattern appears to be the same with Indian epics. Balochi ballads of the earliest period date back only to the fifteenth century in their present form, while the Indian epics were composed in nearly 1000 B.C. Surprisingly, minus the stories of gods and goddesses, both epics have the same lucidity, forceful expression, and style.
Dashti in his book ‘The Baloch cultural heritage’ has discussed the similarities of Balochi classical music and the musical traditions of the Aryans. He observed that the Aryan touch in music has not been lost until today. Indian music developed as a beautiful melange of Aryan and indigenous music, while Baloch classical pattern appears to be preserved with very few changes and has a great resemblance to Indian Ragas. Balochi raga Baśkarɔ which is an extension of Kurdi raga is very close in its structural form to Hindi Raga Darbari. Ragas, classified as Balochi, including miɔi, have a similar relationship in form and forcefulness with various Hindi ragas. Similarly, Balochi zahirag and nal o sor are undoubted of Aryan origin in essence, meaning, and structure. Some musical instruments, like nal and ťamburag, are undisputedly Central Asian instruments still used by the Baloch.
From ancient times, the Baloch has been preserving a dress suitable for colder areas- a long shirt, big trousers, and a large pāg (turban). Many among the Baloch still have their houses open to the east. It may be because they perhaps unconsciously are keeping the tradition of respect towards the sun, which was revered by them in the ancient past, or due to their habits of the cold Caspian region. When they first started moving and settled in the hot regions of the Iranian Plateau and later in areas adjacent to the subcontinent, their cultural pattern in matters of dress and tastes must have undergone considerable changes. But it can be observed that the dress code of the ancient Baloch had striking similarities with other Indo-Iranian tribes of ancient times.
The deep sense of pride and being highly egoistic are traits among the Baloch which were common among the Aryans. Like the early Aryans, the Baloch is a proud people with a great sense of self-esteem. A Baloch usually swore by his head or by the head of his father. Although the caste system among the Baloch had not that strictness as created and maintained by other Aryan groups who settled in the subcontinent, nevertheless, the non-Baloch tribes and the natives were never accorded equal status in the ancient Baloch tribal set-up.
Like the Aryan kula, the Baloch kahoal was the elementary cell of the culture, providing the norms of conduct, and training its members from birth to death on all aspects of the Baloch traditional values (Dashti, 2020). It inspired the love and pride of parentage. It was the perennial source of stability, vitality, and continuity of the Baloch culture. In its essence, the Baloch family is undoubtedly the prototype of the kula of the Aryans. The Aryan sabha and semiti, the tribal assemblies, have their reminiscences among the Baloch. The sabha may have been a council of tribal elders deciding important matters, whereas the semiti may have been a general assembly of the entire tribe convened only in cases of grave emergency. In the Baloch tribal set-up, these assemblies, however, were called less frequently.
Like the Aryans, the educational and entertainment center of the Baloch was the house of the Chief or elder where history, legends, ballads, and dramas were told and sung. Lyrics and tales of romance were recited. The posing of riddles in such gatherings was also common. In a later stage, perhaps due to the different conditions there were permanent storytellers or bards. This became a sort of institution, and the bards did invariably add or delete some of the folktales and folklores to suit the changing mythological, religious, and social requirements. The ancient Baloch most probably were not accustomed to writing until medieval epochs and memories of the bards were the only living literature passing from generation to generation. They have their legendary history, folk, and poetry crystallized in bardic recitations, epics, and war ballads.
The Baloch culture, its religion, mythologies, and language have no similarity or resemblance with the Semites. If there is any minor similarity, it should be viewed from a wider perspective of general external influences, mainly Mesopotamian and Assyrian. On the other hand, as regards Medes, Parthians, and Persians, their cultural influence on the Baloch is fairly visible.
It is a fact that the present Baloch cultural values are not devoid of Middle Eastern imprints. But this does not provide any base for the suggestion that the Baloch were Semites. Arab domination of the region for a long time and the religion of Islam are the factors that resulted in leaving a mark on Baloch traditions. Nevertheless, great dissimilarities and fundamental differences in social and cultural outlook are visible between the ancient Semites and the Baloch. Baloch culture is overwhelmingly Central Asian in its essence and Aryan by racial or linguistic affiliation.
Similarly, one must not disregard the fact that there was a long line of Semitic prophets and religious reformers throughout the ages which must have resulted in a general religious tendency among the Semites and a refined approach towards God and the universe. This is evident from the Old Testament. The Aryans, or for that matter Central Asian peoples, had fewer reformers or religious preachers. Most of the Aryan people including the Baloch have still preserved their primitive cults in most respects. The Baloch still adopt names of animals, plants, colors, and even parts of the body, which was not in vogue among the Semites perhaps due to their religious outlook. As a continuation of Aryan traditions, Baloch still prefers to have one-word names for their children. Until a few hundred years ago, there were absolutely no traces of any Semitic names among the Baloch.
Language; folklore and literature; religion and mythologies; social and political institutions; cultural affinity; geography and history are important factors in determining a people’s racial or ethnic origin. With the analyses of these factors, it is now a consensus opinion among the researchers that the Baloch belongs to the family of those Indo-European tribes who migrated from Central Asia and settled in the Iranian Plateau some three thousand years ago. Taking into consideration, linguistic, cultural, and geographical factors, it can be postulated that the ancient Baloch were either part of or associated with the Parthians, Medes, and Persian groups of tribes who settled in ancient Iran. However, this assumption only indicates the relationship of the Baloch with other ethnic entities of the ancient period. As will be discussed in the following section, the Baloch was a well-established ethnic entity, having their territorial region while living in alliance with other ethnic groups on regional or linguistic and cultural grounds and, most probably, sharing some of the cultural and linguistic features with their neighbors and allies. In the same way, it would not be wrong to say that because of the historical happenings of the last 15 hundred years and because of the imposition of a particular religion in the region, the Baloch have absorbed some of the social and cultural practices of the Middle East.