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Hindko ( , हिन्दको /hindkoŭ/), also Hindku, or Hinko, is part of the Lahnda subgroup of Indo-Aryan languages spoken by Hindkowans in Pakistanmarker and northern Indiamarker,<. as="" well="" by="" the="" Hindki people of Afghanistanmarker. The literal meaning of the word "Hindko" is "Mountains of India"---a name the Persians gave to the entire Himalaya Mountainsmarker. The word "Hind" is the Persianised reference to the regions associated with the Indus Rivermarker immediately to the east of Persiamarker and "Ko" means mountains. The word Hindko has also been interpreted to mean the language of India. The term is also found in Greek references to the mountainous region in eastern Afghanistanmarker and northern Pakistan as Καύκασος Ινδικός (Caucasus Indicusmarker). The language is spoken in the areas of the North West Frontier Provincemarker (including Hazara), Punjab (including Attock), and Azad Jammu and Kashmirmarker by an estimated 2.2 to 4 million people.

There is no generic name for these people because they belong to diverse ethnicities and tend to identify themselves by the larger families or castes. However the people of the largest group in the districts of Haripur, Abbottabad and Mansehra are sometimes recognised collectively as Hazarawal, named after the defunct Hazara Division that comprised these districts. In Peshawar city they are called Peshawari or "Kharay" by Pashtuns meaning City-dwellers or Hindkowans.

History and Origin

During the pre-Buddhist era in present day Pakistan, the language of the masses was refined by the ancient grammarian Pāṇini, who set the rules of a language called Sanskrit which was used principally for Hindu scriptures (analogous to Latin in the Western world). Meanwhile, the vernacular language of the masses, Prakrit developed into many tongues and dialects which spread over the northern parts of South Asia. Hindko is believed to be closely related to Prakrit. Due to the geographic isolation of the regions, it has undergone very little grammatical corruption, but has borrowed considerable vocabulary from its neighbours, in particular Pashto. It shows close affinity to Punjabi and the Lahnda sub-group of Indo-Aryan tongues and can be sub-divided into a northern and southern dialect (the southern dialect shows some similarity with Saraiki as opposed to Punjabi).On the language is mutually intelligible with other Lahnda dialects such as Pothwari, western Punjbai, and Mirpuri.


The largest geographically contiguous group of Hindko speakers is concentrated in the districts of state Abbottabadmarker, Haripur, Mansehramarker, Attock, Muzaffarabad and Kaghan valley of Pakistan, while there are a substantial number of geographically isolated speakers of Hindko in cities like Peshawarmarker, Mardanmarker and Kohatmarker.

People here tend to associate themselves with the larger families instead of a language (or caste as it used to be called). The Awansmarker for example, have a great history of bravery and are known as lords of the Hazara Division. Other tribes are Turks, Tanoli, Tareen, Jadoon, Abbasi, Karlal, Kashmiri, Swati, Sarara, Mughal, Tahirkheli etc. People who speak Hindko are referred to by some academics as Pathans probably because of the many Pashtun tribes, for example Jadoons, Tareen,Tanolis and Tahirkhelis, who settled in places like Hazara, adopted Hindko as their first language and gained political power in these areas during the British rule, and also because of many ethnic Pashtuns such as Kakar, Durani, Popalzai, Sadozai, Ghaznavi and Khogyani, etc who speak Hindko as their first language in Peshawar and Kohat are Pashtuns by origin. The Hindko speaking people living in major cities Peshawar, Kohat, Nowshera are bilingual in Pashto and Hindko. Similarly many Pashto speaking people in districts like Abbottabad and Mansehra (especially in Agror Valley and northern Tanawal) have become bilingual in Pashto and Hindko.

The NWFP Imperial Gazetteer (1905) refers to the language as Hindko. More than one interpretation has been offered for the term Hindko. Some associate it with Hindustan (as the word may have been used during the medieval Muslim period in the Indian subcontinent), others with the Indus Rivermarker which is of course the etymological source of all these terms. Farigh Bukhari and South Asian language expert and historian Christopher Shackle believe that Hindko was a generic term applied to the Indo-Aryan dialect continuum in the northwest frontier territories and adjacent district of Attock in the Punjabmarker province to differentiate it from Pashto.

Linguists classify the language into the Indic subgroup of Indo-European languages and consider it to be one of the Indo-Iranian languages of the area. An estimated 2.4 per cent of the total population of Pakistan speak Hindko as their mother tongue, with more rural than urban households reporting Hindko as their household language.


The speakers of Hindko live primarily in six districts: Mansehra, Abbottabadmarker, Haripurmarker, Peshawarmarker, Nowshera and Kohatmarker in NWFP, Attockmarker and Rawalpindimarker in Punjabmarker and parts of Pakistan-administered Kashmirmarker including Muzaffarabadmarker; Jonathan Addleton states that "Hindko is the linguistic majority in the NWFP, represented in nearly one-fifth of the province's total households." (NWFP referring to North-West Frontier Provincemarker.) In Abbottabad District 98 per cent of households reported speaking Hindko, in Mansehra District 77 per cent, in Peshawar District 17 per cent, and in Kohat District 10 per cent (1986). Testing of inherent intelligibility among Hindko dialects through the use of recorded tests has shown that there is a northern (Hazara) dialect group and a southern group. The southern dialects are more widely understood throughout the dialect network than are the northern dialects. The dialects of rural Peshawar and Talagang are the most widely understood of the dialects tested. The dialect of Balakot is the least widely understood.

In most Hindko-speaking areas, speakers of Pashto live in the same or neighbouring communities (although this is less true in Abbottabad and Kaghan Valley than elsewhere). In Abottabad, it is now being advanced due to usage of Urdu words. It is Spoken by the Mashwanis,Jadoons, Tanoli, Mughals, and Awans. In the mixed areas, many people speak both languages. The relationship between Hindko and Pashto is not one of stable bilingualism. In the northeast, Hindko is the dominant language both in terms of domain of usage and in terms of the number of speakers, whereas in the southwest, Pashto seems to be advancing in those same areas.

The Gandhara Hindko Board has published the first dictionary of the language and its launching ceremony was held on March 16, 2003. According to a press release, Sultan Sakoon, a prominent Hindko poet, compiled the dictionary.

Some Hindko speakers are found in northern India because after the partition of India, many Hindu Hindko speakers emigrated to Indiamarker, preserving their language and passing it on to their children. Hindko speakers are also found throughout Afghanistan, where they are known as Hindkis, and are also primarily practice Hinduism.

Literature and writers

The Gandhara Hindko Board an organisation that has been active in the preservation and promotion of the Hindko language and Hindkowan culture since 1993. The board was launched in Peshawar in year 1993 to preserve and promote Hindko language—the second language of the North-West Frontier Province (also called Gandhara province) of Pakistan. It brings out two regular publications-- "Hindkowan" and "The Gandhara Voice" and a number of occasional publications. The board is headed by Professor Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan of Peshawar city who has to his credit 60 books and publications. The board has published first Hindko dictionary and several other books on a variety of topics. With head office in Peshawar, the organisation has regional offices in other cities of the province where Hindko language is spoken and understood. The organisation has arranged a number of mega events to raise awareness among the Hindkowans about the importance of their language and culture. The board seeks respect for and due attention to all the languages spoken in Gandhara province.

In 2003 the Gandhara Hindko Board published first a Hindko dictionary which was compiled by a proment language researcher from Abbottabad, Sultan Sakoon. The board publishhed second more comprehensive Hindko dictionary in 2007 which has been prepared by an internationally known linguist from Walled City of Peshawar, Professor Dr Elahi Bakhsh Awan of University of London.

The Idara-e-Faroghe Hindko based in Peshawar is another body that is promoting the Hindko language. Riffat Swati and Aurangzeb Ghaznavi are main people of this organisation. The Idara has published the first Hindko translation of the Quran by Haider Zaman Haider. A monthly Magazine Faroogh is also published regularly from Peshawar under supervision of Aurangzeb Ghaznavi. In Karachi Dr.Syed Mehboob is also working for the promotion of Hindko language.

Many organisations like Bazm-e-Ilm-o-Fun Abbottabad and Halqa-e-Yaraan Shinkyari are contributing in their own way to the cause of promoting Hindko language and literature. Mr. Asif Saqib, Prof. Sufi Abdur Rasheed, Col. Fazal-e-Akbar Kamal, Mr. Sharif Hussain Shah, Prof. Muhammad Farid, Prof.Yahya Khalid, Mr. Nazir Kasalvi and Muhammad Hanif have contributed a lot in this regard. Mr. Sultan Sakoon has written the First Hindko dictionary that has been published by Gandhara Hindko Board. Mr Sultan Sakoon stands out for his literary contribution as he is a prolific writer and his books including those on Hindko proverbs and Hindko riddles have been published.

See also


  • 1974: Phonology of Verbal Phrase in Hindko,Dr E.B.A. Awan published by Idara-e-Farogh-e-Hindko Peshawar in 1992.
  • 2004: Hindko Sautiyat,Dr E.B.A. Awan, published by Gandhara Hindko Board Peshawar in 2004.
  • 2005: Hindko Land - a thesis presented by Dr E.B.A. Awan at the World Hindko Conference at Peshawar in 2005.
  • 1980: "Hindko in Kohat and Peshawar." Bulletin of SOAS, 1980, 482-510
  • 1978: "Rival linguistic identities in Pakistan Punjab." Rule, protest, identity: aspects of modern South Asia (ed. P. Robb & D. Taylor), 213-34. London: Curzon
  • 1986: Addleton, Jonathan S., "The Importance of Regional Languages in Pakistan," al'Mushir, Vol. 28, No. 2 (1986), pp. 55–80.

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