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The Baloch and Balochistan A historical account from the Beginning to the fall of the Baloch State By Naseer Dashti

Koch as Brahui

Naseer Dashti

Naming a group of the Baloch tribes as Brahui probably began during the Arab encounters with the Baloch. However, it was during the Buyids and Seljuqs periods that some of the Baloch tribes from Barez Mountains of Kerman were forced to migrate and were identified first as Barezui. Later, with their settlement in Turan, the Barezui tribes became Brahui, and with the formation of a powerful tribal confederacy, they created the Baloch state of Kalat in later medieval times. These Baloch tribes from Barez Mountain in Kerman had been mentioned by Arab historians as Kufici (mountaineers), distinguishing them from other Baloch tribes who were dwelling mostly in the deserts of Kerman and Sistan. Hudud- al-Alam describes Jebel Barez (Kuh-e-Kufij) as a chain of seven mountains running from Jiruft to the sea, with seven tribes, each with its own chief and being “professional looters” (see Bosworth, 1976). Later, the term Koch o Baloch was used for the Baloch tribes as a whole in historical accounts. Some of the Arab writers, including Ibn Haukal (see Istakhri, 1800), did mention a Baloch tribe called Brahui among his list of ethnic groups. Other writers linked them with the Baloch as barbarians, imperfectly Islamized, if Islamized at all, who terrorized the great central deserts of Persia by their raids and preyed upon travelers and caravans (Bosworth, 1976; Le Strange, 1905). 

From various historical narrations, it appeared that there was not much difference between the language of Koch and the Baloch at that time; however, the Brahui tribes may have their own dialect that may not be much different from Balochi. European linguists had investigated the origin of the Brahui group of the Baloch tribes from a particular angle. However, from the investigations of Dr. Gershevitch, it can be deduced that the Brahui were among the tribal confederacy of the Baloch tribes in Kerman. Dr. Gershevitch, investigating the Bashkardi dialect, observed that apart from having absorbed some Brahui and Arabic, the Bashkardi dialects are pure Iranian. It is interesting to note that Bashkard is surrounded by the Baloch territory as mentioned by the Arab writers of the seventh century. If we assume the original country of the Brahui tribes in Turan, how can one explain the loan Brahui words in the Bashkardi dialects, keeping in mind the distance of Turan and Kerman or Bashkard? 

Minorsky (1958) believed that the Brahui are the Koch. Gershevitch (1962a, b) traced the origin of Bashkardi dialects to the Bradazhui tribe of central Persia during the Achaemenid period. There is a possibility that the people of Barez Mountain, who became known as the Koch in the writings of Arab scholars, were from that tribe of Bradazhui who were deported by Cyrus the Great into the hills of Kerman. There is also mention of a people from Barez Mountain along with the Baloch as part of the Xerxes Army when he marched against the Greek. 

Koch o Baloch entered in the accounts of Arab writers of the medieval Iran mainly in respect of their encounters with Buyids. Many authorities on medieval Iranian history, including Bosworth, observed that Koch was a separate ethnic entity that later merged with the Baloch entity; however, they failed to prove this on authentic ground. Some of the Baloch writers, including Mari (1974) and Janmahmad (1982) believed that the Koch were the Baloch tribes living in Barez Mountain (the Kuh-e-Kufij of the Arab writers), who were among the early migrating Baloch tribes and who finally settled in Turan. 

It can safely be deduced that it was after the arrival of a great number of the Baloch tribes in Kerman in later Sassanid period that was responsible for the merging of the Koch into the greater Baloch ethnic entity. Arabic writer Ibn Haukal, writing in the tenth century in his “Belad-al-Islam” quoted by Mari (1974), mentioned Bradazhui tribe living around the Fars country with Koch o Baloch. Maqaddesi (1906) observed that by the tenth century, the Baloch had spread as far as Turan, and, obviously, these Baloch most probably were from the Bradazhui Baloch tribes of Barez Mountain who, later, became Brahui of modern-day Balochistan. 

During early Islamic times, the Brahui tribes inhabited Barez Mountain (the naming of the mountain as Kuh-e-Barez or Jebel Barez by the Arabs probably was after that tribe) in Kerman. It is not improbable that some of these tribes might have been part of the larger Baloch migrating tribes toward east into their present abode during Sassanid era. However, it appeared that Brahui were the first among the Baloch tribes who fled en masse from Kerman after the Buyids incursions, taking the eastward routes, traversing the Great desert, and resting in Sistan for a while before settling in present-day central Balochistan in Pakistan. This assumption makes sense as from the time of the Buyids genocide of the Baloch in Kerman; the mention of the Koch along with the Baloch vanished altogether. It appears that during their journey eastward, this group of the Baloch tribes took the identity of Barezui Baloch that, later, changed to modern Brahui. From the works of Dr. Gershevitch, it became apparent that the present Brahui language is an admixture of Balochi, Bashkardi, and some of the Dravidian languages. This is most plausible as there is evidence of the presence of Jats among the Baloch tribes in Kerman speaking a Dravidian language. At the time of the Baloch migration into Turan, there was a significant presence of Hephthalites Turks in the region. The influence of the Dravidian and Turkic dialects must have influenced the language when the Baloch tribes, who finally settled and intermarried with the indigenous Dravidian and Turkic population of Turan of that time. 

Extract from The Baloch and Balochistan”

A historical account from the Beginning to the fall of the Baloch StateBy Naseer Dashti         Chapter 7: Baloch in Medieval Times

About the Author:

Dr Naseer Dashti is a London based writer on south-central Asian affairs. His books included; The Baloch Conflict with Iran and Pakistan: aspects of a national liberation struggle (2017), The Baloch and Balochistan: a historical account from the beginning to the fall of the Baloch State (2012), The Voice of Reason (2008) and In a Baloch Perspective (2008). He has contributed numerous articles on current affairs related to South Central Asia in general and on Balochistan and Sindh in particular.

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