Burusho - Orientation

The Burusho are a mountain people inhabiting a small number of rocky terraces in the independent Pakistani states of Hunza and Nagir. The region is mountainous and is characterized by deep valleys carved by the Hunza River. The geographical focus of the Burusho homeland extends from 36° 00′ to 37° 10′ N and from 74° 10′ to 75° 40′ E. The area is dry and quite barren and the terraces occupied by the Burusho require considerable ingenuity to be rendered habitable. The major portion of the area occupied by them falls within the boundaries of Hunza. In 1959 the population of Hunza totaled some 25,000 persons. This figure represents a significant increase from the figures of 1894 (6,000) and 1934 (15,000).

Burushaski, a language unrelated to any language spoken in the region, is the lingua franca. Burushaski is believed to be a survival of an aboriginal language once spoken in much of northern India before the arrival of Aryan settlers. The dialect of Burushaski spoken in Hunza is thought to be a pure form of its archaic (i.e., pre-Aryan) progenitor, while the dialect spoken in Nagir is believed to have been influenced Partially by Shina, the native language of the state of Nagir. A few Arabic and Persian loanwords can be found in Burushaski as a result of the influence of Islam in the region.

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