Do you know where Little Tibet is?

A B Jan Balti
5 min readApr 16, 2020
Khaplu Fort Now Serena Hotel just like Potala Lhasa architecture

Little Tibet mostly refers to:

A union area in northern India, called Ladakh

And the area in northern Pakistan, Baltistan or Balti Yul

But here, I am telling you about Baltistan or Balti Yul or Little Tibet.

Baltistan (Urdu: بلتستان‎, Balti: སྦལ་ཏི་སྟཱན), also known as Baltiyul or Little Tibet (Balti: སྦལ་ ཏི་ ཡུལ་ །), is a mountainous region in Pakistan near the Karakoram Mountains just south of K2 (the second-highest mountain in the world). Borders of Gilgit border to the west, Xinjiang (China) to the north, Ladakh to the southeast, and the Kashmir valley to the southwest. Its average height is over 3,350 meters (10,990 feet). The region is mainly inhabited by Balti people of Tibetan descent.

Kids in Balti Traditional Dress, Photo By Tariq Haider

The Encyclopedia Britannica of 1911 distinguishes Baltistan as the western end of Tibet, its natural limits being the Indus River from its sudden curvature in the south around the map point 35.86 ° N 74.72 ° E and the mountains to the North and West. These features separate the relatively peaceful Tibetans from the violent Indo-Aryan tribes to the west. Muslim writers in the sixteenth century called Baltistan as “Little Tibet”, and Ladakh as “Greater Tibet”, stressing their ethnic similarity.

According to Ahmed Hassan Danny, “Baltistan spreads upward from the Indus and is separated by the Siachen Glacier from Ladakh. It includes the Indus Valley and the Lower Valley of the Shyok River”.

Baltistan was known as Little Tibet, and the name was expanded to include Ladakh. Ladakh later became known as Greater Tibet. Domestically, it is known by the name of Baltiyul, Baltistan and Ladakh.

Festivals with Balti/ Tibetan Music in Baltistan

The Balti people of Baltistan in Pakistan and Kargil in India are descendants of Tibetan Buddhists who converted to Islam around the 14th and 15th centuries. Their Balti language is very old, conservative, and closer to classical Tibetan more than other Tibetan languages.

Now it’s a trend to write Signboards in Balti/Tibetan Script in Baltistan

Baltis are a Tibetan ethnic group living in the region of Gilgit Baltistan in Pakistan and the Kargil region of India. The Baltis historically practiced Bon and Tibetan Buddhism. Islam arrived in Baltistan through Sufi missionaries such as Amir Kabir Syed Ali Hamdani in the fifteenth century and soon became dominant. The Balti’s still retain many features of pre-Islamic Bon rituals and Tibetan Buddhist rituals like LOSAR(Tibetan New Year), which make them unique in Pakistan.

MeyFung or LOSAR Night in Baltistan

“Most people are Balti people, descendants of Tibetans. Their language, Balti, is an ancient form of Tibet. Thus, the name of the area is famous as Baltistan or Little Tibet in Pakistan. We wouldn’t say that the area has a lot of Tibetan flare, though. Tibetans have embraced Islam for centuries, and the main religion today is Islam. Therefore, you will not see anything Buddhist there”. (From Skardu Little Tibet of Pakistan)

Amburig Mosque in Shigar Photo By IHH Balti

The Balti/Tibetan monastic architecture reflects the remaining Buddhist footprint in the region. Buddhist-style frescoes can be seen in the forts and the Grand Mosques, including the Chaqchan Mosque in Khaplu, the Amburik Mosque in Shigar, the Grand Mosque of Shigar, Khaplu Fort, the Shigar Fort, Skardu Fort, and Altit, Baltit Forts in Hunza. Like the Ladakhi Islamic buildings, ancient mosques show a mixture of Persian and Tibetan architecture.

Kharphocho (King of all Forts) on Mountain Top in Skardu

The main issue facing the development of Balti literature is its centuries-old isolation from Tibet, due to political divisions, strong religious differences, and even from its immediate neighbor to Ladakh during the past fifty years. Balti is separated from her linguistic relatives and is under pressure from mainstream languages ​​such as Urdu. This is exacerbated by the lack of a suitable method for transcribing the language after abandoning its original Tibetan text.

Flag of Baltistan Students Federation with The YungDrung symbol is over 18 thousand years old from the time of Tonpa (Buddha) Shenrab. Tonpa Shenrab was born in the ancient Zhang Zhung kingdom to the west of Tibet, called Olmo-lung ring, in 16017 BCE.

Although Balti’s converted to Islam still they practicing same culture, language (trying to restore Tibetan script), norms, rituals performing on old or new balti music and dance, with slightly different living style (Islamic) while playing Polo, using Yaks for breeding still same plowing fields with Zou and drinking the milk of ZouMo along with old traditional Foods.

1. Polo Match at Moqpon Polo Ground Skardu 2. Yak Fighting in the Neighbourhoods 3.Traditional plowing fields



A B Jan Balti

Proud Balti,Student & Youth Activist, iT Graduate,Digital & Social Media Marketer & Activist,Political Learner