Incredible India – Part-3 – Gandahara Language

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

The myth is that Aryans brought civilization to this part of the world. This implies that there was no civilization in the subcontinent before the arrival of the Aryans. The indigenous people were deaf and dumb. They had no language. They did not have any customs. They lived either in open jungles or caves and so on and so forth.


Hindko is a language spoken by Hindkowans in Pakistan and northern India, some Pashtun tribes in Pakistan, as well as by the Hindki people of Afghanistan. Hindko, has also been interpreted to mean the language of India and most probably Indus which of course is the source of etymology for all these words. The term is also found in Greek references to the mountainous region in eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan as Caucasus Indicus, or (Hindu Kush).

The language is spoken in the areas of the North West Frontier Province including Hazara, Punjab including Attock, and Pakistan Administered Kashmir by an estimated 1.2 to 2 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 recognized collectively as Hazarawal, named after the defunct Hazara Division that comprised these districts. In Peshawar city they are called Peshawari.

During the pre-Islamic era in present day Pakistan, the language of the masses was refined by the ancient grammarian Pāṇini, who set the rules of an ancient 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. It has undergone very little grammatical corruption, but has borrowed considerable vocabulary from its neighbors, 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). The language is mutually intelligible with other Lahnda dialects such as Pothwari and western Punjabi.


The main language of Gandahara region was Hindko, although another major language emerge afterwards, but cannot be historically linked to this area.

Pashto also spelled Pashtu, also called Pakhtu, member of the Iranian division of the Indo-Iranian group of Indo-European languages. Extensive borrowing has caused Pashto to share many features of the Indo-Aryan group of the Indo-European languages as well. Scholars have found it difficult to reach consensus regarding specific claims about Pashto’s origins. Nonetheless, it is clear that the speech community’s location in a contested part of the ancient world instigated extensive contact with, and borrowing from, other languages, including varieties of ancient Greek, Saka, Parthian, and Persian. Pashto also converged with the northwestern Indian languages, especially the Prakrits, Balochi, and Sindhi.


East Iranian and West Iranian (which includes Persian) are major sub-groups of the Iranian group of the Indo Iranian branch of the Indo European family of languages. Indo-Iranian languages are spoken in a wide area stretching from portions of eastern Turkey and eastern Iraq to western India. The other main division of Indo- Iranian, in addition to Iranian, is the Indo-Aryan languages, a group comprised of many languages of the Indian subcontinent. There are two major dialects of Pashto: Western Pashto spoken in Afghanistan and in the capital, Kabul, and Eastern Pashto spoken in northeastern Pakistan. Most speakers of Pashto speak these two dialects. Two other dialects are also distinguished: Southern Pashto, spoken in Baluchistan (western Pakistan and eastern Iran) and in Kandahar, Afghanistan.


The origins of the Pashtun are unclear. Pashtun tradition asserts that they are descended from Afghana, grandson of King Saul of Israel, though most scholars believe it more likely that they arose from an intermingling of ancient Aryans from the north or west with subsequent invaders. Several Pashtun tribes are known to have moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan between the 13th and 16th centuries. Each tribe, consisting of kinsmen who trace descent in the male bloodline from a common tribal ancestor, is divided into clans, subclans, and patriarchal families. Tribal genealogies establish rights of succession and inheritance and the right to use tribal lands and to speak in tribal council. Disputes over property, women, and personal injury often result in blood feuds between families and whole clans; these may be inherited unless settled by the intervention of clan chiefs or by tribal council. 


Can you identify this renown Indian actor born into a Hindko speaking family of Peshawar?

Part 4 - Raja Dahir – The fallen hero of India

Part 2 - Gandhara Civilization

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