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July 6, 1997

Episode 2: A Window to Gilgit-Baltistan

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A window to Northern Areas-II, The Muslim dated July 5, 1997.
Author: Syed Shams ud Din 

In the meantime, adverse winds started blowing again and its decay and disintegration ensued resulting in a ruthless split of the territory into tiny tribes each being ruled by an independent sovereign chieftain. With the emergence of this cluster of states, each of the rulers became at loggerheads solely aiming to expand influence which during the course, prompted outsiders to machinate against them all. In such an inhibitive milieu, Sheenaki Kohistan broke away in defiant tribalistic manner never to become re-galvanised afterwards. Centuries passed in this state of absolute pell-mell. At last, the Maqpoons of Baltistan were poised to reach the zenith of their pomp and prestige during the period 1565-1680. They successfully conquered all the adjoining areas areas and brought them under their dominion from Kargil (Ladkh) in the east to Chitral in the west.

The downfall of the Maqpoons however, resulted in yet another predicament by giving birth to resurgence of the fragile fiefdoms – countless in number, like Skardu, Khaplu, Kharmong, Shigar, Rondhu etc. In Baltistan region while around Gilgit, Astore, Hunza, Nagar, Puniyal, Yasin, Gupis and Ishkoman emerged as principalities. Chitral formed comparatively a larger fiefdom. The area of Yasin, Ishkoman and Gupis were then included in Chitral. The rulers of each of the above chieftaincies were always at daggers drawn with ominous expansionist designs while some at times, rivcen by intra-dynastic feuds. To cater to this desire, they did not even hesitate to seek foreign assistance.
Satellite view of Kharpocho Fort Skardu - Photo: Reddit
It redounds to the prudent research of Agha Syed Yahya Shah – a scholar known for his untiring efforts and painstaking research on the culture, language, ethnic background of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan which enabled him to draw irrefutable conclusions on the basis of historical evidence. As narrated earlier, his research divulged that the tiny kingdom of Brushal – a term connoting the habit of Brusho, attaches immense historical significance. It is noteworthy that Brushiski is spoken in both valleys of Hunza and Nagar besides a part of Yasin in Khohi-e-Ghizer while in the rest; Shina is largely spoken in Punyal, Gilgit, Chilas, Darel, Tanghir, Astore and Sheenaki Kohistan southwards.

In the Tibetan dictionary published from London 1818, the term Brusha denotes a country west of Tibet while in the Kingdom of Ladakh written in 1977, Brusha has been discussed in chapter one. Likewise, in Kacho Sikandar Khan’s book titled “Leh Ladakh”, this discussion emanates at page 49. The Tibetan name of Gilgit appears to be Brush or Broosh. In Yusuf Girgan’s history of Ladakh in Balti, the name of Gilgit has been described as Brushal. In the classics of Baltistan, it is invariably alluded to Brushalpa meaning the people of Brushal.

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