1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Brahui

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BRAHUI, a people of Baluchistan, inhabiting the Brahui mountains, which extend continuously from near the Bolan Pass to Cape Monze on the Arabian Sea. The khan of Kalat, the native ruler of Baluchistan, is himself a Brahui, and a lineal descendant of Kumbar, former chief of the Kumbarini, a Brahui tribe. The origin of the Brahuis is an ethnological mystery. Bishop Robert Caldwell and other authorities declare them Dravidians, and regard them as the western borderers of Dravidian India. Others believe them to be Scythians,[1] and others again connect them with Tatar mountaineers who early settled in southern parts of Asia. The origin of the word itself is in doubt. It is variously derived as a corruption of the Persian Ba Rohi (literally “of the hills”); as an eponym from Braho, otherwise Brahin or Ibrahim, a legendary hero of alleged Arab descent who led his people “out of the west,” while Dr Gustav Oppert believes that the name is in some way related to, if not identical with, that of the Baluchis. He recognizes in the name of the Paratas and Paradas, who dwelt in north-eastern Baluchistan, the origin of the modern Brahui. He gives reasons for regarding the Bra as a contraction of Bara and obtains “thus in Barahui a name whose resemblance to that of the ancient Barrhai (the modern Bhars), as well as to that of the Paratas and Paravar and their kindred the Maratha Paravari and Dravidian Parheyas of Palaman, is striking.” The Brahuis declare themselves to be the aborigines of the country they now occupy, their ancestors coming from Aleppo. For this there seems little foundation, and their language, which has no affinities with Persian, Pushtu or Baluchi, must be, according to the most eminent scholars, classed among the Dravidian tongues of southern India. Probably the Brahuis are of Dravidian stock, a branch long isolated from their kindred and much Arabized, and thus exhibiting a marked hybridism.

Whatever their origin, the Brahuis are found in a position of considerable power in Baluchistan from earliest times. Their authentic history begins with Mir Ahmad, who was their chief in the 17th century. The title of “khan” was assumed by Nasir the Great in the middle of the 18th century. The Brahuis are a confederacy of tribes possessing common lands and uniting from time to time for purposes of offence or defence. At their head is the khan, who formerly seems to have been regarded as semi-divine, it being customary for the tribesmen on visiting Kalat to make offerings at the Ahmadzai gate before entering. The Brahuis are a nomadic race, who dwell in tents made of goats' hair, black or striped, and live chiefly on the products of their herds. They are Sunnite Mahommedans, but are not fanatical. In physique they are very easily distinguished from their neighbours, the Baluchis and Pathans, being a smaller, sturdier people with rounder faces characterized by the flat, blunt and coarse features of the Dravidian races. They are of a dark brown colour, their hair and beards being often brown not black. They are an active, hardy race, and though as avaricious as the Pathans, are more trustworthy and less turbulent. Their ordinary dress is a tunic or shirt, trousers gathered in at the ankles and a cloak usually of brown felt. A few wear turbans, but generally their headgear is a round skullcap with tassel or button. Their women are not strictly veiled. Sandals of deer or goat skin are worn by all classes. Their weapons are rifles, swords and shields. They do not use the Afghan knife or any spears. Some few Brahuis are enlisted in the Bombay Native Infantry.

See Dr Bellew, Indus to Euphrates (London, 1874); Gustav Oppert, The Original Inhabitants of India (1893); Dr Theodore Duka, Essay on the Brahui Grammar (after the German of Dr Trumpp of Munich University).

  1. Compare Mountstuart Elphinstone's (History of India, 9th ed., 1905, p. 249) description of Scythians with physique of Brahuis. A relationship between the Jats (q.v.) and the Brahuis has been suggested, and it is generally held that the former were of Scythic stock. The Mengals, Bizanjos and Zehris, the three largest Brahui tribes, are called Jadgal or Jagdal, i.e. Jats, by some of their neighbours. The Zaghar Mengal, a superior division of the Mengal tribe, believe they themselves came from a district called Zughd, somewhere near Samarkand in central Asia. Gal appears to be a collective suffix in Baluchi, and Men or Min occurs on the lists of the Behistun inscriptions as the name of one of the Scythian tribes deported by Darius, the Achaemenian, for their turbulence (see Kalat, A Memoir on the County and Family of the Ahmadzai Khans of Kalat, by G. P. Tate). Sajdi, another Brahui tribal name, is Scythian, the principal clan of which tribe is the Saga, both names being identifiable with the Sagetae and Saki of ancient writers. Thus there seems some reason for believing that the former occupants of at least some portions of the Brahui domain were of Scythian blood.