The Burusho, also known as the Burushas, are known to inhabit three rugged mountainous areas of northern Pakistan known as the Hunza, the Nagar, and the Yasin Valleys. However, most of the Burusho live in the Hunza Valley. No one seems to know the exact origin of the Burusho but according to a legend, three soldiers from the army of Alexander the Great came and settled in the Hunza Valley around 300 BC. Another legend that says that the Burusho were driven from northwestern India into Pakistan by Indo-Aryan invaders. For hundreds of years the territory of Hunza was ruled by a prince. Then from 1892 until 1949 the British ruled this territory. In 1949, Pakistan gained control of Hunza when a truce made by the United Nations brought an end to the fighting between Pakistan and India. The Burusho are a proud people and they are very warm and friendly. Most of them are farmers but some are involved in tourism and trade.
Some of the Burushas serve in the military or work for the government. The family ties of the Burusho are very important. The husband is always the head of the household. The Burusho usually do not intermarry with other ethnic groups in the area, not even the Hunza or Nagar Burusho. Their houses are built of concrete or stone and are not very warm during the winter months. Kerosene is often used for heating because wood is scarce. The Burusho eat mainly fruits, grains, and vegetables. Some of their favorites are peaches , apricots, and nuts. They raise sheep, cattle, and goats for milk and wool. Their chief industries are production of woolen cloth and dried apricots.
The spoken language of the Burusho people is Burushaski. It is their primary language but is not yet a written language. Qualified workers are needed to develop a written language for the Burusho so that the Bible can be translated into their language. The Hunza, Nagar, and Yasin Valleys all have a distinct dialect. Most similarities are found between the Hunza and Nagar dialects. Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and is also the secondary language of the Burusho.
Traditionally, the Burusho were animistic, believing that non-human objects have spirits, but Islam is now their primary religion. The Burusho differ from valley to valley as to which faction of Islam they follow. Most are Ismailis, while others may be Shia or Sunni Muslims. The Aga Khan is the spiritual leader for the Ismaili Muslims and is believed to be the only one who has the Holy Spirit. They also believe that not only is he in the world to lead and guide the people but also that he is a representative of Gods speech and actions. He is the only one who can fully understand the Koran and God. The Ismaili do not believe that Jesus was the son of God. Instead they believe that He was simply a great prophet. The Burusho have no hostility toward Christians because they are accepted as their spiritual relatives. They are even open to discussions about God and do not discourage Bible reading. The Shia are not as open to the Gospel.
Due to poor water quality and poor nutrition, the Burusho have many health problems. Eye diseases and dental problems are common. Dentists and doctors are needed among the Burusho. Education is highly favored, especially for girls, but the need for teachers is great. The name Islamic Republic of Pakistan shows that their national foundation is built on the Islamic religion. Pakistan is closed to Christianity and is opposed to the presence of missionaries there. The Aga Khan has even instructed the people not to listen to foreigners. Political oppression and the struggle for control have made life extremely difficult for the Burusho for many years.
Though this page has been carefully researched, the author does not claim expertise on the Burusho.
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By: Sadie Anderson