Balti Culture, the Tibetan culture has not changed yet

When you search the web you would find many things related to Balti, somewhere it is a group of people and somewhere it is a dish and somewhere it is a personal name or family name. But what we are discussing here is the culture of the ethnic group who live in the northern part of Pakistan known as the Baltistan region. 

Who are Balti people? 

Balti people are an ethnic group living in the Karakorum and Himalaya regions of Pakistan. The people inhibits one of the worlds densely mountainous regions of the world and 4 of the 14 eight-thousanders (14 peaks in the world having a height of 8000 meters) are located in the Baltistan region. 
The Balti people were mostly Buddhist until the 14th century and converted to wholly to Islam in the 14th century onward and now almost 100% population is Muslim. 

What is special about the Balti people? 

Culture represents people, nation, regions and ethnic groups. It encompasses religion and can't be altered or forgotten by the inhabitants regardless of their religion. This is what the Balti people have adopted in the past. Though the whole region converted to Islam, they didn't forget their culture and today not only the locals but the outsiders and even foreignness like their culture. 
Culture tells everything about a region like what are their cuisines, what are their architectural styles, what are their style of musical expressions. What are the recreational activities, how people behave with outsiders and much more like these? 
If you visit the region of Baltistan you would be stunned by their culture, their living styles, musical expressions, recreational activities and most of the important the acceptance of the digital world, though not more a few decade has been elapsed the region connected to the outside world but their development in the digital world is phenomenal. 

What are the main components which represent the Balti culture? 

Though there are many things to mention here we would try to keep it short and mention the main things which we could say are the representations of Balti culture. 

  1. Music
Balti Music consists of many types of musical expressions, and it can be divided into two categories; early music which still exists in the region and the musical expressions which came to the region with the advent of Islam. 
In Balti culture, though there are many instruments which have been used for centuries the most important and prominent instrument which was used and still is used for musical expression is the Dhol (drum) and Zurna (wind instrument) and Dhang (small size drum, mostly in a pair). 

Balti musicians playing Dhol, Zurma and Dhang
Dancing of Balti people while playing the musical instruments mentioned above are most common, especially during festivals and wedding ceremonies. The most famous kind of dance is the SWORD DANCE, a kind of dance in which the dancer dances while holding a sword in on hand a scarf in another hand. 

Balti people performing sword dance

Music with the advent of Islam

Though the old musical instruments are still used, with the advent of Islam in the region new form of music had been introduced and still it is one of the inseparable components of the culture of Balti people. 
There are no specific instruments for these because these are recited without any musical instruments to pay tribute to The Fourteen Infallibles (Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), his daughter and 12 Imams of Shia Islam), and Ahl al-Bayt (Family of Prophet Muhammad, PBUH). There are many ways for this kind of expression of paying tribute. These kinds of singing are; Marsiya, Noha, Qaseeda, Bahr Taweel, Naat, Manqabat etc. If you visit Skardu in Muharram (First month of lunar calendar) or during summer 21st July to 10th of August you would observe the Balti people observing the mourning of Imam Hussain (AS). 

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