Dardic peoples
Kalasha girls in traditional dress
Regions with significant populations
Northern Pakistan (Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
Northwestern India (Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh)
Eastern Afghanistan (Nuristan)
Dardic languages
Predominantly: Islam (Sunni, Shia and Sofia Noorbakhshia)[1]
Minority: Hinduism,[2] Ancient Hinduism/Animism (Kalash people)[3]
Related ethnic groups
Other Indo-Aryan peoples

The Dards are a group of Indo-Aryan peoples found predominantly in northern Pakistan, northwestern India and eastern Afghanistan. They speak Dardic languages, which belong to the Indo-Aryan group of the Indo-European language family. The largest populations of Dards are in Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan and in the Kashmir Valley, Chenab Valley and Pir Panjal range in Indian Administered Kashmir. There are smaller populations in the Indian union territory of Ladakh and in eastern Afghanistan, such as the Pashai people.[4] The Kashmiri people are the largest Dardic group, with a population of over 6.797 million in India in addition to 352,954 in Pakistan excluding Azad Jammu and Kashmir and 132,450 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. This only counts the number of speakers of Kashmiri language. There are millions others in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan who identify as Kashmiris and have Kashmiri roots.[5][6][7]

A cultural performance of Dardi Shina group in Kargil, Ladakh near Jammu and Kashmir
A cultural performance of Dardi Shina group in Kargil, Ladakh near Jammu and Kashmir


Asko Parpola identifies "Proto-Dardic" with "Proto-Rigvedic", suggesting that the Dards are the linguistic descendants of the bearers of proto-Vedic culture ca. 1700 BC, pointing to features in certain Dardic dialects that continue peculiarities of Vedic Sanskrit, such as the gerund in -tvī.[8] According to Gerard Fussman, the word Dard is only used in the field of linguistics, not as a country or ethnicity.[9]

During early Swati rule, the Dards of Swat valley predominantly followed a form of Hinduism.[10]


The Dards historically practiced Shamanism, with a rich amount of Historical Vedic religion[citation needed].

The Dardic peoples are now predominantly Muslim, the majority of Kashmiris, Pashayis, Kohistanis, Brokpas, Nuristanis and Kho are Sunni. The majority of Shias either follow Ismaili and Twelver. Some in Gilgit-Baltistan follow Noorbakshia Islam.

A significant minority were able to preserve their age old ancestral culture of ethnic Kashmiris and are still Shaivite Hindus, known locally as Kashmiri Pandits.[2]

The Kalash people of Chitral who still follow a form of ancient Hinduism while a minority follow Islam, though their population is experiencing decline.[11][12][13]

In the Ladakhi villages of Da and Hanoo, the majority of the population are Buddhists, although some still follow ancient traditions of Historical Vedic religion.[3][14]

Social status

As of 2001, the Brokpas and Bakkerwals had been classified as a Scheduled Tribe under the Indian government's reservation program of affirmative action.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "Introduction to Dardistan".
  2. ^ a b Harris, Ian Charles (1994). Longman guide to living religions. Stockton. ISBN 978-1-56159-089-6.
  3. ^ a b The India magazine of her people and culture, Volume 14. A. H. Advani. 1993. Retrieved 1 August 2007. Dardic religion in Ladakh, particularly in the villages of Da and Hann, retains marked traces of the pre-Buddhist Hindu religion, Bon-chos.
  4. ^ a b "List of Scheduled Tribes". Census of India: Government of India. 7 March 2007. Archived from the original on 5 June 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  5. ^ https://www.censusindia.gov.in/(S(2scoev45b4mhlg45mz5jq345))/Census_Data_2001/Census_Data_Online/Language/Statement1.aspx. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ https://www.dawn.com/news/1624375. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ https://www.academia.edu/6485567/Languages_of_Erstwhile_State_of_Jammu_Kashmir_A_Preliminary_Study_. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Parpola, Asko (1999). "The formation of the Aryan branch of Indo-European". In Roger Blench; Matthew Spriggs (eds.). Archaeology and Language III: Artefacts, Languages and Texts. Routledge. p. 189. ISBN 978-1-134-85585-8.
  9. ^ Dani, Ahmad Hasan (1989). History of Northern Areas of Pakistan. National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research. ISBN 9789694150161. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  10. ^ Inam-ur-Rahim; Alain M. Viaro (2002). Swat: an Afghan society in Pakistan : urbanisation and change in tribal environment. City Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-969-8380-55-7. During Swati rule Dard people were most probably non-believers and dominantly Hindu, frequent small scale Jihad against Dard might have [been] a routine and probably continued even some time after Yousafzai occupation.
  11. ^ West, Barbara A. (19 May 2010). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania. Infobase Publishing. p. 357. ISBN 9781438119137. The Kalasha are a unique people living in just three valleys near Chitral, Pakistan, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, which borders Afghanistan. Unlike their neighbors in the Hindu Kush Mountains on both the Afghani and Pakistani sides of the border the Kalasha have not converted to Islam and retained their Vedic Hindu beliefs and practices. During the mid-20th century a few Kalasha villages in Pakistan were forcibly converted to this dominantreligion of Islam, but the people fought the conversion and once official pressure was removed the vast majority continued to practice their own form of ancient Hindu Dharmā[citation needed]. Their religion is a form of Hinduism that recognizes many gods and spirits ... given their Indo-Aryan language, ... the religion of the Kalasha is linked to Hinduism and having no ties to religion of Alexander the Great and his armies.
  12. ^ Bezhan, Frud (19 April 2017). "Pakistan's Forgotten Pagans Get Their Due". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Retrieved 11 July 2017. About half of the Kalash practice a form of ancient Hinduism.
  13. ^ Minahan, James B. (10 February 2014). Ethnic Groups of North, East, and Central Asia: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 205. ISBN 9781610690188. Retrieved 26 June 2016. Living in the high mountain valleys, the Nuristani retained their ancient culture and their religion, a form of ancient Hinduism with many customs and rituals developed locally. Certain deities were revered only by one tribe or community, but one deity was universally worshipped by all Nuristani as the Creator, the Hindu god Yama Raja, called imr'o or imra by the Nuristani tribes. Around 700 CE, Arab invaders swept through the region now known as Afghanistan, destroying or forcibly converting the population to their new Islamic religion[citation needed]. It was a past full of blood, Islam was imposed on people on the cost of their lives which lead to Refugees fledging into the higher valleys to escape the onslaught. In their mountain strongholds, the Nuristani escaped conversion to Islam and retained their ancient Vedic Hinduism. The surrounding Muslim peoples used the name Kafir, meaning "unbeliever" or "infidel," to describe the independent Nuristani tribes and called their highland homeland Kafiristan. The Nuristani are sometimes called Kalasha though this name is more appropriate for the closely related Kalash in the neighboring Chitral region of Pakistan. The differences between the Nuristani and the Kalash are religious as the Kalash mostly retain their ancient Hinduism. beliefs.
  14. ^ "Religion Data of Census 2011: XXXIII JK-HP-ST". Retrieved 23 February 2020.