A Chinese monk Faxian is known to be the ancient historian to write a historical book on the Baltistan and Gilgit region during his travel to these regions in quest of Buddhist text. He writes that “Pololo is a country which is stretched from east in Tibet to west in Ghandhara (Swat). The king of Pololo lives in Hosalo (Khaplu)”. Pololo divided into 2 ruling regions, greater Pololo includes Baltistan and Ladakh and little Pololo in which current Gilgit and Hunza were constituted.
Then the History of Baltistan from an Arab historians; they turned their way to this region and written as Bolore instead of Pololo, because Arabs can’t able pronounce ‘P’, later on some historians took these words in their writing as Boloristan and sometimes Balawaristan for Gilgit Baltistan. Currently, some nationalist fronts are also flattening their struggle on the tag of ‘Boloristan’.
We can trace back the Buddhist presence in this region back in the 6th to 7th centuries in history of Baltistan. Buddha rock Manthal Skardu, Karga Gilgit, and some crafting of Buddha in Khaplu and Shigar valley as well. All written crafting of Buddhist periods is in Tibetan scripts, which also opens up a reality that the Baltistan regions were the part of Tibet but separated from the Tibetan empire at a very early age. Middle age history of Baltistan.
Ladakhi Buddhists used to come all the way from Ladakh to pay obeisance at this Buddhist shrine. As late as 1950s and 60s, the Buddhist Lamas on a visit or business to Srinagar, used to pay obeisance by going round the mosque thereby reviving the memory of an ancient tradition. After the advent of Islam in Kashmir around A.D. 1339, and the replacement of the Buddhist shrines by Islamic mosques, the foundation of the ancient structures including that of Jamiía Masjid remained in place as almost of every shrine in the valley while the superstructures took different shapes and styles. The Jamiía Mosque became the seat of the biggest Friday congregations. With the beginning of a political movement under Sheikh Muhammad ëAbdullah in early 1930s for putting an end to Maharajaís rule, Jamiía Masjid became the main headequarter of the Bakra party while another ancient Buddhist shrine (converted into a mosque) at Hazratbal became the main seat of the Sher party. With the beginning of armed conflict in Kashmir in 1990, both of these places have also become the political venue for mobilizing public support for armed movement. Stray statues of Buddha or Bodhisattavas lying around the structure as late as 1960, are no more traceable.
Historical books of History of Baltistan
- Tarikh e Farishta
- Tarikh e Jammu
- Tarikh e Hindustan
- Tuhfat ul Ahbab (Download PDF book here)
- Raaj Trangni
- ‘Tareekh-e-Baltistan‘ by Yousaf Hussainabadi
Islam in History of Baltistan
In the middle age, the most important transformation occurred after propagation of Islam. Before islam, majority was buddhist including some other religions as well, Buddhism are still followed in balti native region of Leh (India occupied region). Shamsuíd-Din (Follower of the teachings of Nurbakhshiyah school of thoughts) came to this region, peddled the Islamic practices thereafter. (Below mentioned parts are taken Tohfatuíl-Ahbab, further page reference is mentioned at the end of each headings)
Reception at Skardu
Bukha of the ruling line of Maqpun dynasty was the ruler in Skardu when Shamsuíd-Din (Follower of the teachings of Nurbakhshiyah school of thoughts) arrived in those lands. He came out at the head of a lage crowd to receive Shamsuíd-Din Araki. At that time, there were no traces of a religion and community (of Muslims) in Tibet. Nobody knew anything about the religion and doctrines of Islam. The ruling class and the subjects in those lands were all infidels and heretics. There were big idol houses in all the forts. People used idols as objects of worship. With his auspicious steps on this soil, all rajas, nobles, elite, peasants and common people were admitted to the religion of Islam. High and low, declared his allegiance to Shamsuíd-Din Araki. Men, women, children and old people all embraced Islam and were admitted to its fold. They recited kelima in his presence and renounced the customs, traditions and practics of infidels. He ordered his sufis and dervishes to destroy the idol houses and prayer houses (temples) of the infidels wherever they found them.
These had to be demolished and razed to the ground leaving no trace behind. The Sufis carried out his instructions faithfully and raised mosques and hospices on the ruins of temples and idol houses. With the blessings and guidance of Shamsuíd-Din Araki, ruins of torched idol houses and idols yielded their place to the praying houses of the people of Islamic faith. The arch and the pulpit took the place of idols for the worshippers. Through the instrumentality of this virtuous saint, and guide on the path to the other world, doctrines of the religion of the Prophet and the law of Islamic religion flourished in each and every nook of that land. The hearts of the inhabitants of those lands were enlightened and illuminated by the love and allegiance they showed to the House of the Prophet and the descendents of Haider (meaning ëAli). Under the spiritual guidance of this saint of many parts, some people of those mountainous regions emerged as the bearers of high morals. (198 /A MUSLIM MISSIONARY IN MEDIAEVAL KASHMIR)
Raja of Khaplu
Raja Bahram was the ruler of Khaplu at this point of time. He told Shamsuíd-Din that the work of construction of a lofty mosque over the ruins of a temple destroyed by Amir Kabir (Sayyid ëAli Hamadani) was still incomplete. He requested Araki to leave behind one of his successors (khalifa) who would impart them the kelima and teach how to offer namaz. Araki acceded to their request and left behind Malik Haider whom he used to call by the name of Haideri but he submitted that he would proceed to Kashmir as part of his entourage and would return to Tibet in summer along with his son Mulla Ismail. Thereupon Araki advised Bahram Khan to wait till summer when his dervish would return along with his family. (MISSION IN KASHMIR/ 203)
Read history of Noorbakshia HERE or ‘write down your email below to get pdf book of Shamsud Din Araki’s biography’
In essence of ‘Tareekh e Baltistan’ by Yousaf Hussainabadi, Islam dominance in Baltistan remains after Shamsud Din Araki. Then a series of syed descendants from Iran visited this region for tableegh which continuous till the second half of 20th century.
Currently in Baltistan, almost 60% follows shia (Isne Asheri), 30% Noorbakshia and 10% sunni and ahl e hadees followers. Only church constructed in Skardu by a security agency for their staff recently, as their is not a single non-muslim believer in Baltistan region.