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Hindkowans (ہندکووان) are an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group native to the North-West Frontier Provincemarker and Punjabmarker provinces of Pakistanmarker and the Jammu and Kashmir statemarker of Indiamarker. However, an indeterminate number have left the region and now live in other parts of South Asia.

Hindkowans speak Hindko, Lahnda language that is primary in northern Punjab. In Afghanistan, Hindus still continue to speak Hindko and are referred to as Hindki.


H.A. Rose, author of Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North West Frontier has defined Hindkowans or Hindkis as follows:

The NWFP Imperial Gazetteer (1905) regularly refers to the language as Hindko, which means "Indian mountains." More than one interpretation has been offered for the term Hindko. Some associate it with Indus rivermarker which is of course the etymological source for this term and others such as Hindus, Hindustan, Sindhmarker and India.

Hindkowans who are sometimes referred to as Punjabi Pathans, but this nomenclature is totally incorrect as Pathans are people of the NWFP and parts of Afghanistan, a Punjabi is anyone from the region of Punjab; therefore a person living in the NWFP and linguistically Hindkowan cannot be termed a Punjabi or Pathan or Punjabi Pathan. However, this term of Punjabi Pathan can only be more correctly used to refer to Afghan/Pashtoon/Pathan tribes settled in Punjab, for example the Niazis of Mianwali and speak Seraiki language and those living in Attock district of Punjab who speak Hindko language. The Hindkowans speak the Hindko language and are considered to have mixed Afghan/Pashtun and local origins. Being Afghans /Arabs/Turks/Pashtuns/ by origin, they often practice customs which are not different from those of Pashtoons. They are a large minority in major cities such as Peshawar, Kohat , Nowshera,Haripur, Abbottabad and Mansehra of NWFP. [414436]

Long before the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan, Grierson, in the Linguistic Survey of India, employed the term Hindko to mean "the language of Hindus" (viii, 1:34). 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 Pakistani northwest frontier territories and the adjacent district of Attockmarker in the Punjabmarker province to differentiate it in function and form from Pashto. Linguists classify the language into the Indic subgroup of the Indo-Iranian languages, which is in turn a subgroup of Indo-European languages.

Hindkowans are also called Pathans because a great number of Hindkowans basically Afghan/Pashtoon by origin. For example Kakar, Durrani,Tanoli, Jadoon, Tareen, Swati,Popalzai, Sadozai, Khogyani, Ghaznavi, Ghauris, Rohillas, Dilazak and Bangash, etc native peoples who live in North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, especially in the cities of Peshawarmarker, Kohat, Nowshera and Hazara region(Haripur, Abbottabad, Mansehra and Battagram) are Afghan/Pashtoon by ethnicity and speak Hindko as their first language.The Awan who speak Hindko language and live in NWFP are Arab by origin but they are descendents of Qutab Shah, the ruler of Herat province of Afghanistan.Siqqiquis and Syeds of NWFP also speak Hindko and are Arab by origin.


There are no fresh and authentic figures on the speakers of Hindko language. However, according to indirect method of household rate employed in the 4th Population Census of 1981, an estimated 2.4 per cent of the total population of Pakistan and estimated 27 per cent of NWFP speak Hindko as their mother language, with more rural than urban households reporting Hindko as their household language.No information was gathered on the Hindko language in the 5th Population Census carried out in 1998 as Hindko language column was removed from the census form much to the dismay of Hindkowans.

The largest geographically contiguous group of Hindko-speakers is concentrated in the districts of Peshawarmarker, Abbottabadmarker, Kohat, Attock Districtmarker, Nowshera, Haripurmarker, Mansehra and Mardanmarker of Pakistan

Tribal Communities

People here tend to associate themselves with larger families instead of a language (or caste as it was formerly known) like the Maliar, the Paracha, the Awan,the Sarrara, the Gujar, the Gakhar, the Dhund Abbasi, and the Karlal. People who speak Hindko are referred to by some academics as Pathans probably because many ethnic people, for example Mashwanis,Tanolis,Tareens, Swatis, Tahirkhelis, Dilazaks,Jadoons, alizai, Khattak,barakzai, kakar,umerzai and yousafzai who settled in Districts like Abbotabad, Haripur, and Mansehra, adopted Hindko as their first language and had gained political power in these areas during the British rule and also because of many ethnic Pushtun people who speak Hinkdo as their first language in Peshawar and Kohat . The Hindko speaking people living in major cities Peshawar, Kohat, Noweshera are bilingual in Pashto and Hindko. Similarly many Pashto speaking people in districts like Mansehra especially in Agror Valley and northern Tanawal (Shergarh), have become bilingual in Pashto and Hindko. 7


The speakers of Hindko live primarily in seven districts in NWFP: Mansehra, Mardanmarker, Abbottabadmarker, Haripurmarker, Peshawarmarker, Nowshera and Kohatmarker in NWFP, as well as the Attockmarker and Rawalpindimarker districts in the Punjabmarker and parts of Kashmirmarker; Jonathan Addleton states that Hindko is the most significant linguistic minority in the NWFP, represented in nearly one-fifth of the province's total households." In Abbotabadmarker, 98 per cent of households reported speaking Hindko, in Mansehra District 79 per cent, in Haripur Districtmarker around 90 per cent, in Peshawar Districtmarker 27 per cent, and in Kohat Districtmarker 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 Peshawarmarker and Talagangmarker are the most widely understood of the dialects tested. The dialect of Balakotmarker 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 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.

Historically, there were two languages each in upper Afghanistanmarker and lower Afghanistan: Persian and Pashto and Hindko and Pashto. Chach Hazara was a great centre of resistance to the British.

The Gandhara Hindko Board has published the first dictionary of the language and its launching ceremony was held on March 16, 2003. Sultan Sakoon, a prominent Hindko poet, has compiled the dictionary.The board launched second more comprehensive dictionary on November 19, 2008. The dictionary has been compiled by an eminent linguist, Professor Dr Elahi Bakhsh Awan of Peshawar city who did his doctorate in linguistics from University of London in 1968 by researching on Hindko phonolgy. The board has also published the history of the Hindko language " Sarzameen-e-Hindko" by Professor Dr Elahi Bakhsh Awan which was launched on November 20, 2008. He now lives in England. The board has also published a versified Hindko translation of the Holy Quran on March 29, 2009. The translation has been rendered by Abdul Ghafoor Malik (late) of Sylhed, Abbottabad, Hazara Division.

Notable Hindkowans

See also


  1. The Hindu: Mad about theatre
  2. Rediff: Bollywood's First Family

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