Brahui people

The Brahui (Brahui: براہوئی‎), Brahvi or Brohi, are a Dravidian-speaking ethnic group of about 2.2 million people with the vast majority found in Balochistan, Pakistan.[1] They are also found in small numbers in Afghanistan and Iran, where they are native, but they are also found through their diaspora in other Middle Eastern states.[2] They mainly occupy the area in Balochistan from Bolan Pass through the Bolan Hills to Ras Muari (Cape Monze) on the Arabian sea, separating the Baloch people of Balochistan to the west and the Sindhi people of Sindh in the east. The Brahuis are almost entirely Sunni Muslims.[3] There is a varied pattern of language use among the Brahui: some of the constituent groups predominantly speak the Brahui language, a Dravidian language contrasting with the Indo-Iranian languages spoken throughout most of the region, some Brahuis are bilingual in Balochi and Brahui, while others are speakers only of Balochi.

Brahui people
Brahui people of Quetta.jpg
A photograph from 1910 with the caption reading "Brahui of Quetta"
Brahui, Balochi
Sunni Islam (Hanafi)


The fact that other Dravidian languages only exist further south in India has led to several speculations about the origins of the Brahui. There are three hypotheses regarding the Brahui that have been proposed by academics. One theory is that the Brahui are a relict population of Dravidians, surrounded by speakers of Indo-Iranian languages, remaining from a time when Dravidian was more widespread. A second theory is that they migrated to Baluchistan from inner India during the early Muslim period of the 13th or 14th centuries.[4] The third theory says the Brahui migrated to Balochistan from Central India after 1000 AD. The absence of any older Iranian (Avestan) influence in Brahui supports this last hypothesis. The main Iranian contributor to Brahui vocabulary is a northwestern Iranian language, Baluchi, Sindhi and southeastern Iranian language, Pashto.[5] However, the Brahui do not have higher genetic affinity with Dravidian populations in India than other neighboring Indo-Iranian Pakistanis. Pagani, et al., conclude that this shows that the Brahui, although speaking a Dravidian language, had their Dravidian genetic component completely replaced by Indo-Iranian speakers, suggesting that the Brahui are descendants of a previous relict population whose genomes were replaced when more recent Indo-Iranian speakers arrived in South Asia.[6] Linguistic findings and oral histories of the Brahui however say otherwise.[7][8][9][10][11]

The history of the Brahui emerges from total darkness with the displacement of a shadowy Hindu dynasty in Kalat called Sewa by the Mirwani Brahuis. There is a Mughal interlude and then Brahui ascendancy again.[12]

— Murray Barnson Emeneau, Language and Linguistic Area: page 334

It is said that a Hindu dynasty, the Sewa by name, ruled over this part of the country prior to the seventh century, Kalat is still known as Kalat-i-Sewa.[13]


There are three groups of Brahui tribes. The "nucleus" consists of the Achmadzai, Gurguari, Iltazai, Kalandari, Kambrani, Mirwari, Rodeni and the Sumalari, which altogether account for only a small proportion of the total number of Brahuis. The majority of the population is divided up between the Jhalawan Brahuis (which include the tribes of the Nathwani's (Sulaiman's Nathwani) Bizanjars, Harunis, Muhammad Hasnis, Mengals, Siapad, Nicharis, Pandranis, Sajdis and the Zahris), and the Sarawan Brahuis (comprising the tribes of the Muhammad Shahi, Bangulzai, Kūrd, Langov, Raisani, Rustamzai, Sarparah, Satakzai, Shahwani and Zagar-Mengal).[14]


The Brahui language is a Dravidian language, even though it is very far from South India. It is mainly spoken in the Kalat areas of Balochistan, Pakistan, and in Southern Afghanistan, as well as by an unknown very small number of expatriates in the Persian Gulf states, Turkmenistan, as well as Iranian Balochistan.[15] It has three dialects: Sarawani (spoken in the north), Jhalawani (spoken in the southeast), and Chaghi (spoken in the northwest and west) The 2013 edition of Ethnologue reports that there are some 4.2 million speakers; 4 million live in Pakistan, mainly in the province of Balochistan. Due to its isolation, Brahui's vocabulary is only 15% Dravidian, while the remainder is dominated by Balochi, and Indo-Aryan languages (for example, of the number names from "one" to "ten," "four" through "ten" are borrowed from Persian). Brahui is generally written in the Perso-Arabic script and there is even a Latin alphabet that has been developed for use with Brahui.


Dialects of Brahui include Kalat, Jhalawan, and Sarawan, with Kalat as the standard dialect.

At present Brahui is spoken in Pakistani Balochistan, Afghanistan, Sindh and the Persian Gulf Arab states.


Brahuis display a variety of Y-DNA haplogroups, the most important being haplogroup R1a1a-M17(35% to 39.09%) - with its mass diffusion among populations of Central/South Asia and associated with the early eastern migrations of Indo-Iranian nomads.[16][17] Haplogroup J, which is found among other South Asian peoples and more typical of Near-Eastern populations occurs at 28%.[17][18] Other, relatively minor, low-frequency haplogroups among the Brahui are those of G, L, E1b1a, and N.[17][18] These haplogroups show that the Brahui population genetics are largely indistinguishable from those of Indo-Iranian speakers which are adjacent to them, like the Balochi and Makrani, but different from those further away, such as Sindhi.[6]

According to Quintana-Murci et al. (2004), the Brahui population has a high prevalence (55%) of western Eurasian mtDNAs and the lowest frequency in the region (21%) of haplogroup M*, which is common (∼60%) among the Dravidian-speaking Indians. So the possibility of the Dravidian presence in Baluchistan originating from recent entry of Dravidians of India should be excluded. It also shows their maternal gene pool is similar to Indo-Iranian speakers. The present Brahui population may have originated from ancient Indian Dravidian-speakers who may have relocated to Baluchistan and admixed with locals; however, no historical record supports this. So it is suggested that they are the last northern survivors of a larger Dravidian-speaking region before Indo-Iranian arrival. This would, if true, reinforce the proto-Elamo-Dravidian hypothesis.[19]


  1. ^ Venkatesh, Karthik (2017-02-18). "A slice of south India in Balochistan". Retrieved 2017-12-27.
  2. ^ James B. Minahan (2012-08-30). "Brahuis". Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia. ISBN 9781598846607. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  3. ^ Dictionary of Languages: The Definitive Reference to More Than 400 Languages. Columbia University Press. 2004-03-01. ISBN 9780231115698. Retrieved 2010-09-09.
  4. ^ [Sergent, Genèse de l'Inde]
  5. ^ Elfenbein, J. H. (1987). "A periplous of the 'Brahui problem'". Studia Iranica. 16 (2): 215–233. doi:10.2143/si.16.2.2014604.
  6. ^ a b Pagani, Luca; Colonna, Vincenza; Tyler-Smith, Chris; Ayub, Qasim (2017). "An Ethnolinguistic and Genetic Perspective on the Origins of the Dravidian-Speaking Brahui in Pakistan". Man in India. 97 (1): 267–278. ISSN 0025-1569. PMC 5378296. PMID 28381901.
  7. ^ Pagani (2017) states in its "Conclusion" that there is "No historical or linguistic data support" the possibility that "the Brahui ancestors were Indo-European speakers, who later adopted a Dravidian language."
  8. ^ Elfenbein, Josef (1987). "A periplus of the 'Brahui problem'". Studia Iranica. 16 (2): 215–233. doi:10.2143/SI.16.2.2014604.
  9. ^ PP. 27, 142, Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju (2003), The Dravidian Languages, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-77111-0.
  10. ^ P. 12 Origin and Spread of the Tamils By V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar
  11. ^ P. 32 Ideology and status of Sanskrit : contributions to the history of the Sanskrit language by Jan E M Houben
  12. ^ Language and linguistic area: essays By Murray Barnson Emeneau, Selected and introduced by Anwar S. Dil, Stanford University Press. Page 334
  13. ^ Population Census Organisation, Statistics Division, Govt. of Pakistan, 1999, 1998 district census report of Kalat Page 7.
  14. ^ Scholz 2002, p. 28.
  15. ^ "International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics". 2007.
  16. ^ Underhill, PA; Myres, NM; Rootsi, S; Metspalu, M; Zhivotovsky, LA; King, RJ; Lin, AA; Chow, CE; Semino, O; Battaglia, V; Kutuev, I; Järve, M; Chaubey, G; Ayub, Q; Mohyuddin, A; Mehdi, SQ; Sengupta, S; Rogaev, EI; Khusnutdinova, EK; Pshenichnov, A; Balanovsky, O; Balanovska, E; Jeran, N; Augustin, DH; Baldovic, M; Herrera, RJ; Thangaraj, K; Singh, V; Singh, L; Majumder, P; Rudan, P; Primorac, D; Villems, R; Kivisild, T (2010). "Separating the post-Glacial coancestry of European and Asian Y chromosomes within haplogroup R1a". Eur. J. Hum. Genet. 18 (4): 479–84. doi:10.1038/ejhg.2009.194. PMC 2987245. PMID 19888303.
  17. ^ a b c Qamar, R; Ayub, Q; Mohyuddin, A; et al. (May 2002). "Y-Chromosomal DNA Variation in Pakistan". Am. J. Hum. Genet. 70 (5): 1107–24. doi:10.1086/339929. PMC 447589. PMID 11898125.
  18. ^ a b Sengupta, S; Zhivotovsky, LA; King, R; et al. (February 2006). "Polarity and Temporality of High-Resolution Y-Chromosome Distributions in India Identify Both Indigenous and Exogenous Expansions and Reveal Minor Genetic Influence of Central Asian Pastoralists". Am. J. Hum. Genet. 78 (2): 202–21. doi:10.1086/499411. PMC 1380230. PMID 16400607.
  19. ^ Quintana-Murci, Lluís; Chaix, Raphaëlle; Wells, R. Spencer; Behar, Doron M.; Sayar, Hamid; Scozzari, Rosaria; Rengo, Chiara; Al-Zahery, Nadia; Semino, Ornella (May 2004). "Where West Meets East: The Complex mtDNA Landscape of the Southwest and Central Asian Corridor". The American Journal of Human Genetics. 74 (5): 827–845. doi:10.1086/383236. ISSN 0002-9297. PMC 1181978. PMID 15077202.


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