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Hindko (ہندکو ALA-LC: Hindko IPA: [hɪnd̪koː]) is a cover term for a diverse group of Lahnda (Western Punjabi) dialects spoken by people of various ethnic backgrounds in several discontinuous areas in northwestern Pakistan, primarily in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.[3] It is also spoken by Hindko-speaking migrants who live in India who identify with the broader Punjabi community.[4][5]

Hindko in Shahmukhi
Native toPakistan
Regionparts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Kashmir
Ethnicityvarious (Hindkowan)
Native speakers
3.7 million (2016)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
hnd – Southern Hindko
hno – Northern Hindko

There is a nascent language movement,[6] and in recent decades Hindko-speaking intellectuals have started promoting the view of Hindko as a separate language.[7] There is a literary tradition based on Peshawari,[8] the urban variety of Peshawar in the northwest, and another one based on the language of Abbottabad in the northeast.[9]

The term "Hindko" is a Pashto word most commonly taken to have originally meant "the Indian language" or "language of Hind",[a] but it has developed to denote the Indo-Aryan speech forms spoken in the northern Indian subcontinent, in contrast to the neighbouring Pashto, an Iranian language.[10] Hindko is mutually intelligible with Punjabi and Saraiki,[7] and has more affinities with the latter than with the former.[11] Differences with other Punjabi varieties are more pronounced in the morphology and phonology than in the syntax.[12]

An alternative local name for this language group is Hindki.[13][b]

Geographic distribution and dialectsEdit

Varieties of Hindko are primarily spoken in a core area in the district of Attock in the northwestern corner of the province of Punjab, and in two neighbouring regions: in Peshawar to the north-west, and Hazara to the north-east, both in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province). The Hindko of Hazara also extends east into nearby regions of Kashmir.

The central dialect group comprises Kohati (spoken in the city of Kohat and a few neighbouring villages in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and the three closely related dialects of Attock District, Punjab: Chacchi (spoken in Attock and Haripur Tehsils), Ghebi (spoken to the south in Pindi Gheb Tehsil) and Awankari (spoken in Talagang Tehsil, now part of Chakwal District).[14][15] Rensch's classification based on lexical similarity[c] also assigns to this group the rural dialects of Peshawar District.[16] Shackle, however, sees most[d] of them as closely related to the urban variety of Peshawar City.[17]

In a group of its own is Peshawari,[e] the prestigious urban variety spoken in the city of Peshawar and the one that is promoted as a standardised literary language.[18] It has a wide dialectal base[19] and has undergone the influence of Urdu and Standard Punjabi.[16][20]

A separate group is formed in the northeast by the relatively homogeneous dialects of the Hazara region,[21][22] which are variously known as "Hazara Hindko", "Northern Hindko" or "Kaghani" (after Kaghan Valley).[23] Hindko is also spoken further east into Kashmir. It is the predominant language of the Neelum Valley, in the north of Pakistan-administered Azad Kashmir, where it is locally known as Parmi (or Pārim; the name likely originated in the Kashmiri word apārim 'from the other side', which was the term used by the Kashmiris of the Vale of Kashmir to refer to the highlanders, who spoke this language).[24] This variety is also spoken across the Line of Control into Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.[25]

The whole dialect continuum of Hindko is partitioned by Ethnologue into two languages: Northern Hindko (ISO 639-3 code: hno)[23] for the dialects of Hazara, and Southern Hindko (ISO 639-3: hnd)[26] for the remaining varieties. This grouping finds support in the results of the intelligibility testing done by Rensch, which also found out that the southern dialects are more widely understood throughout the Hindko area than are the northern ones.[27]

Hindko dialects gradually transition into other varieties of Lahnda and Punjabi to the south. For example, to the southwest across the Salt Range are found dialects of Saraiki,[28] and at least one of these – the one spoken in the Dera Ismail Khan District – is sometimes also referred to as "Hindko".[29] To the southeast, Hindko is in a dialect continuum with Pahari–Pothwari, with the Galyat region of Abbottabad district and the area of Muzaffarabad in Azad Kashmir approximately falling on the boundary between the two.[30]

There are Hindko diasporas in neighbouring countries. Some Hindu Hindkowans and Sikh Hindowans migrated to India after the partition of India in 1947.[5][31] These Hindko speakers in India identify with the broader Punjabi community.[4] There is also a small diaspora in Afghanistan, which includes members of the Sikh community who became established there during the Sikh Empire in the first half othe 19th century. Most of them have emigrated since the rise of the Taliban, and the total population of Sikhs, Hindko-speaking or not, is estimated at around 300 families (as of 2018).[32]

Social settingEdit

There is no generic name for the speakers of Hindko because they belong to diverse ethnic groups and tend to identify themselves by the larger families or castes. However, the people of the largest group in the districts of Haripur, Abbottabad, Mansehra, Battagram and Kohistan are sometimes recognised collectively as Hazarawal, named after the defunct Hazara Division that comprised these districts.[citation needed] The ethnic groups that speak Hindko include various Pashtun tribes (Tahir Kheli, Swati Pathans, Tanoli,[33][verification needed] Dilazak,[citation needed] Yusufzai, the Jadun and the Tarin), as well as Saiyids, Avans, Moughals, Bulghadris, Turks, Qureshis, Gujars,.[34]

The Hindu Hindkowans and Sikh Hindkowans, prior to the partition of India exercised economic power in the North-West Frontier Province and because they spoke Hindko, this was perceived as an opposition to the influx Pashto-speaking Pashtuns in the region.[35][36][5][37][38]

The most common second language for Hindko-speakers in Pakistan is Urdu and the second most common one is Pashto.[39] In most Hindko-speaking areas, speakers of Pashto live in the same or neighbouring communities (although this is less true in Abbottabad and Kaghan Valley). The relationship between Hindko and Pashto is not one of stable bilingualism. In terms of domains of use and number of speakers, Hindko is dominant and growing in the northeast, whereas in the southwest it is losing ground.[40] Hindko is also gaining ground in Neelum Valley, where it is a lingua franca and speakers of minority languages are shifting to it.[41]


The Gandhara Hindko Board is a leading organisation that has been active in the preservation and promotion of the Hindko and culture since 1993. The board was launched in Peshawar in year 1993 to preserve and promote Hindko —the second most spoken of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. It brings out four regular publications— Hindkowan, The Gandhara Voice, " Sarkhail" and "Tarey" and a number of occasional publications. Late professor Zahoor Ahmad Awan of Peshawar city, the author of 61 books and publications, was the founding-chairman of the board. Now the board is headed by Ejaz Ahmad Qureshi. The board has published first Hindko dictionary and several other books on a variety of topics. With head office in Peshawar, the organisation has regional offices in other cities of the province where Hindko is spoken and understood. The organisation has arranged a number of mega events to raise awareness among the Hindkowans about the importance of their language and culture. The board seeks respect for and due attention to all the languages spoken in Gandhara.

In 2003 the Gandhara Hindko Board published first a Hindko dictionary which was compiled by a prominent linguists from Abbottabad, Sultan Sakoon. The board published a second more comprehensive Hindko dictionary in 2007 prepared by Elahi Bakhsh Awan of the University of London. He is the author of Sarzamin e Hindko, and Hindko Sautiyat. His three booklets on Hindko phonology were published by the University of Peshawar in the late 1970s.

The Idara-e-Faroghe Hindko based in Peshawar is another body that is promoting the Hindko. Riffat Akbar Swati and Aurangzeb Ghaznavi are main people of this organisation. The Idara has published the first Hindko translation of the Quran by Haider Zaman Haider and the first Ph.D. thesis on Hindko by E.B.A. Awan. A monthly magazine Faroogh is also published regularly from Peshawar under supervision of Aurangzeb Ghaznavi. In Karachi Syed Mehboob is working for the promotion of Hindko. His articles are frequently published in Farogh monthly. He is organiser of Hindko Falahi Forum.

Many organisations like Bazm-e-Ilm-o-Fun Abbottabad and Halqa-e-Yaraan Shinkyari are contributing in their own way to the cause of promoting Hindko and literature. Asif Saqib, Sufi Abdur Rasheed, Fazal-e-Akbar Kamal, Sharif Hussain Shah, Muhammad Farid, Yahya Khalid, Nazir Kasalvi, and Muhammad Hanif have contributed a lot in this regard. Sultan Sakoon has written the First Hindko dictionary that has been published by Gandhara Hindko Board. Sultan Sakoon stands out for his literary contribution as he is a prolific writer and his books including those on Hindko proverbs and Hindko riddles have been published.

Poetry exampleEdit

An excerpt from the Kalām of Ahmed Ali Saaein:[42]

الف اول ہے عالم ہست سی او
ہاتف آپ پکاریا بسمہ اللہ
فیر قلم نوں حکم نوشت ہویا
ہس کے قلم سر ماریا بسمہ اللہ
نقشہ لوح محفوظ دے وچ سینے
قلم صاف اتاریا بسمہ اللہ
اس تحریر نوں پڑھ کے فرشتیاں نے
سائیاں شکر گزاریا بسمہ اللہ

Transliteration: Alif-Awal hai Alam e hast si o
Hatif aap pukara Bismillah
Fir Qalam nu hukm e Nawisht hoya
Hus k qalam sir mariya Bismillah
Naqsha Loh e Mehfooz dy wich sine
Qalam saaf utariya Bismillah
Is Tehreer nu parh ke Farishtian ne
Saaiyan Shukar guzariya Bismillah

Translation: "He is the foremost from the world of existence
Voice of the unseen exclaimed Bismillah
The pen was ordered to write
Pen carried out the order to write Bismillah
When angels read this composition
Saaieaan, they showed their thankfulness with Bismillah"


Hindko has a rich heritage of proverbs (Hindko matlaan, sg. matal).[43][44] An example of a proverb:

جدھر سر ادھر سرہانڑا

Transliteration: Jidur sir udur sarhanra

Translation: "Good person gains respect everywhere."


  1. ^ "Indian" here refers to the historic meaning of India as the northern Indian subcontinent, which was known as Hindustan or Hind.
  2. ^ The term Hindki normally refers to a Hindko speaker and Shackle (1980, p. 482) reports that in Pashto the term has slightly pejorative connotations, which are avoided with the recently introduced term Hindkūn.
  3. ^ Lexical similarity was calculated on the basis of a 210-item wordlist elicited in the following localities:
  4. ^ The exception is the divergent Khālsavī dialect of the Tappa Khālsā group of villages east of the city.
  5. ^ The local pronunciation is [pɪʃʌori]) (Shackle 1980, p. 497).


  1. ^ Hindko at Ethnologue (20th ed., 2017), citing the 2014 World Factbook.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Hindko". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ For the heterogeneity of the dialects, see Rensch (1992, p. 53); Masica (1991, pp. 18–19); Shackle (1980, p. 482): the term Hindko is a "collective label" which "embraces dialects of very different groups, not all of which are even geographically contiguous.". For the ethnic diversity, see Rensch (1992, pp. 10–11)
  4. ^ a b Venkatesh, Karthik (6 July 2019). "The strange and little-known case of Hindko". Mint. Retrieved 24 September 2019. In India, Hindko is little known, and while there are Hindko speakers in parts of Jammu and Kashmir as well as among other communities who migrated to India post Partition, by and large it has been absorbed under the broad umbrella of Punjabi.
  5. ^ a b c The rise and development of Urdu and the importance of regional languages in Pakistan. Christian Study Centre. p. 38. Shackle suggests Hindko simply means "Indian language" and describes it as a "collective label for the variety of Indo-Aryan dialects either alongside or in vicinity of Pushto in the northwest of the country". Hindko is the most significant linguistic minority in the NWFP, represented in nearly one-fifth (18.7%) of the province's total households. ... The Influence of Pushto on Hazara appears to have become more pronounced, due in part to an Influx of Pashtuns replacing the Hindko-speaking Sikhs and Hindus who formerly held key trading positions and who departed at independence.
  6. ^ Shackle 1979, p. 198.
  7. ^ a b Rahman 1996, p. 211.
  8. ^ Shackle 1980, pp. 486, 497, 509: Peshawari is the basis of "an incipient literary standard for the different varieties of NWFP 'Hindko'".
  9. ^ Rahman 1996, pp. 211–14.
  10. ^ Shackle 1980, p. 482; Rensch 1992, pp. 3–4. See there for alternative etymologies.
  11. ^ Shackle 1979, pp. 200–1.
  12. ^ Shackle 1980, p. 486.
  13. ^ Rensch 1992, p. 4.
  14. ^ Shackle 1980, pp. 484–86.
  15. ^ Rensch 1992, pp. 57, 85.
  16. ^ a b Rensch 1992, pp. 55–56.
  17. ^ Shackle 1980, pp. 497–98.
  18. ^ For its literature and status in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, see Shackle (1980, pp. 486, 509); for the emerging prestige of Peshawari in Hazara, see Rensch (1992, pp. 76–77).
  19. ^ Shackle 1980, p. 497.
  20. ^ Shackle 1980, p. 509.
  21. ^ Shackle 1980, p. 485.
  22. ^ Rensch 1992, p. 56.
  23. ^ a b Northern Hindko at Ethnologue (20th ed., 2017)
  24. ^ Akhtar & Rehman 2007, pp. 68–69.
  25. ^ Sohail, Rehman & Kiani 2016.
  26. ^ Southern Hindko at Ethnologue (20th ed., 2017)
  27. ^ Rensch 1992, pp. 58–62.
  28. ^ Shackle 1980, p. 484.
  29. ^ Rensch 1992, pp. 7–8, 57.
  30. ^ Lothers & Lothers 2010. The speech of Muzaffarabad is locally called "Hindko", but in its vocabulary it is closer to Pahari.
  31. ^ "Peshawarites still remember the Kapoor family". Daily Times. 29 December 2003.
  32. ^ Wyeth 2018.
  33. ^ Ghulam Nabi Khan"Alafghan Tanoli"(Urdu), Pub. Rawalpindi, 2001, pp.244
  34. ^ Rensch 1992, pp. 10–11.
  35. ^ Papers in language and linguistics, Volume 1. Bahri Publications. 1986. p. 50. Essentially, what has occurred is an occupation by Pashto-speaking Pathans of key areas in the urban economy of the province which before 1947 were traditionally exercised by Hindko- speaking Hindus and Sikhs.
  36. ^ Language forum, Volume 9. Bahri Publications. 1984. p. 50. Essentially, what has occurred is an occupation by Pashto-speaking Pathans of key areas in the urban economy of the province which before 1947 were traditionally exercised by Hindko- speaking Hindus and Sikhs.
  37. ^ Journal of Asian history, Volumes 35-36. O. Harrassowitz. 2001. The real opposition to Pashto came, however, from the speakers of Hindko. A large number of Sikhs and Hindus, all speaking Hindko, lived in the cities of N.W.F.P. and had a voice in the legislative assembly, this was often perceived as the non-Muslim opposition to Pashto.
  38. ^ Language, ideology and power: language learning among the Muslims of Pakistan and North India. Oxford University Press. 2002. p. 367. The real opposition to Pashto came, however, from the speakers of Hindko. A large number of Sikhs and Hindus, all speaking Hindko, lived in the cities of N.W.F.P. and had a voice in the legislative assembly, this was often perceived as the non-Muslim opposition to Pashto.
  39. ^ Rensch 1992, p. 80.
  40. ^ Rensch 1992, pp. 4–5.
  41. ^ Akhtar & Rehman 2007, p. 69.
  42. ^ الف اول ہے عالم ہست سی او
  43. ^ Hindko, Matlaan (2015). Hindko Matlaa'n: 151 Hindko Proverbs. Gandhara Hindko Board.
  44. ^ "The Gandhara Hindko Academy Launched an App of the Hindko language proverbs". 2018.


Further readingEdit

  • 1974: Phonology of Verbal Phrase in Hindko, Dr E.B.A. Awan published by Idara-e-Farogh-e-Hindko Peshawar in 1992.
  • 2004: Hindko Sautiyat, Dr E.B.A. Awan, published by Gandhara Hindko Board Peshawar in 2004.
  • 2005: Hindko Land - a thesis presented by Dr E.B.A. Awan at the World Hindko Conference at Peshawar in 2005.
  • 1978: "Rival linguistic identities in Pakistan Punjab." Rule, protest, identity: aspects of modern South Asia (ed. P. Robb & D. Taylor), 213-34. London: Curzon
  • Monthly Farogh Peshawar Hindko magazine March 2010.
  • Karachi main Hindko zaban o adab Dr.Syed Mehboob ka kirdar " by Kamal Shah
  • Toker, Halil (2014). A practical guide to Hindko Grammar. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4907-2379-2. (based on the Hindko of Peshawar)