The Balti people or Baltis are an ethnic group of Dardic-admixed Tibetan descent who are native to the Pakistani-administered territory of Gilgit−Baltistan. They are also found in the Indian-administered territory of Ladakh—predominantly in the Kargil district with smaller concentrations present in the Leh district. Outside of the greater Kashmir region, Baltis are scattered throughout Pakistan, with the majority inhabiting prominent urban centres such as Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi.


The origin of the name ''Balti'' is unknown. The first written mention of the Balti people occurs in the second century BCE, by the Alexandrian astronomer and geographer Ptolemy, who refers to the region as ''Byaltae''. The Balti people themselves refer to their native land as ''Balti-yul'' (); the modern name of ''Baltistan'' is the Persian rendering of this name.


The Balti language belongs to the Tibetic language family. Read (1934) considers it a dialect of Ladakhi, while Nicolas Tournadre (2005) instead considers it a sister language of Ladakhi.


Bön and Tibetan Buddhism were the dominant religions amongst Baltis until the arrival of Islam in Baltistan during the 14th century, predominantly through Sufi missionaries such as Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani. The Noorbakshia Sufi sect further propagated the Islamic faith in the region, and most of the Balti people had accepted Islam by the end of the 17th century. With the passage of time, a large number of Baltis converted to Shia Islam, while a few converted to Sunni Islam. The Baltis still retain many cultural traits of pre-Islamic Bön and Tibetan Buddhist rituals within their society, making them a unique demographic in Pakistan. The Balti language remains highly archaic and conservative, closer to Classical Tibetan than other Tibetan languages. Baltis see congregation in mosques and Sufi Khanqahs as an important religious ritual. Khanqahs are training schools introduced by early Sufi saints who arrived in the region. The students gain spiritual purity (tazkiah) through this training (meditations and contemplations) under well-practiced spiritual guides who have already attained a certain degree of spirituality. Mosques in Baltistan are predominantly built in the Tibetan style of architecture, though several mosques have wood-finishings and decorations in the Mughal style, which is also seen in the Kargil district of Indian-administered Ladakh, across the Line of Control. Today, around 60% of Baltis are Shia Muslims, while some 30% practice Noorbakshia Sufi Islam, and 10% are Sunni Muslims.


Balti cuisine is rather well-known. One delicacy includes spicy curry, cooked in a karahi (a heavy, bowl-shaped cast-iron pan with two handles). This dish is often eaten with thick naan.

See also

* Gilgit−Baltistan **Baltistan *Balti language * Balti (dish) * Genocide of Kashmiri Shias * Tibetan Muslims * ''Three Cups of Tea'', a book about an American humanitarian involved in building schools in Baltistan (as part of a larger AfPak campaign) * Sart


Further reading

*Muhammad Yousuf Hussainabadi, 'Baltistan per aik Nazar'. 1984. *Hussainabadi, Mohamad Yusuf. Balti Zaban. 1990. *Muhammad Yousuf Hussainabadi, 'Tareekh-e-Baltistan'. 2003.
Addition of new four letter to tibetan scripts by Yusuf Hussainabadi
Indian Muslim. *Akhond Muhammad Hussain Kashif "Malumaat e Gilgit Baltistan" 2013. *Shumal kay Sitarey by Ehsan Ali Danish Sermik. *Azadi e Gilgit Baltistan by Muhammad Yousuf. *Documentary film

Fathima the Oracle (2020, dir. Geleck Palsang)

description at IMDB.com {{Ethnic groups in Pakistan Category:Balti people| Category:Himalayan peoples Category:Social groups of Jammu and Kashmir Category:Shia communities Category:Muslim communities of India Category:Social groups of Gilgit Baltistan Category:Tibetan people Category:Ethnic groups in Pakistan