The Baluchis (also Baluch, or Baluchi) are a seminomadic people (they travel with their herds on a seasonal basis but also have a home area where they grow some food crops). They live in the southern mountain range and coastal areas of South Asia’s western borderlands. Their traditional homeland is among Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.

The Baluchis believe they are descendants of Amir Hamza, an uncle of the Prophet Muhammad. They settled in their present homeland sometime between the fifth and seventh centuries AD. Persians, Arabs, Hindus, and others have claimed to parts of Baluchistan, the traditional Baluchi homeland. Conflict within tribes and rivalries between tribes were frequent throughout the region. The reason was often competition for land, money, and resources.

Sistan and Balochestan

Sistan and Balochestan


Living Place

The Baluchis population today estimates at 7.5 million. In addition, many people are Baluchis in culture but have adopted the language of their neighbors. The Baluchis could total over 11 million in number.

The traditional homeland of the Baluchis extends west from the borders of the Punjab and the Sind (a province of Pakistan in the valley of the Indus River), across a small section of Afghanistan, to the areas of the Iranian Plateau southeast of Kerman. The southern boundary defines by the coast of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman.

The Province of Baluchistan, in which some 6 million people (80 percent of the total Baluchis population) live in Pakistan. Just over 1 million Baluchis live within the borders of Iran, and there are 300,000 more in Afghanistan.


The Baluchi language is an Indo-Iranian language of the Indo-European family. Modern Baluchi language is a kind of combination of Persian, Arabic, Sindhi, and other languages. No written form of the language existed before the early nineteenth century. Persian was only used for official purposes until that time.


The Baluchi are known as bravery and courage. Also, Many tribal heroes are honored in folk songs and ballads.


The Baluchis are Muslim, mostly Sunni.

Major Holidays

The Baluchi observe the festivals of Eid al-Fitr, which is at the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice that falls at the end of the Islamic year. On these occasions, people wear clean clothes and begin the day with prayer. The rest of the holiday spends in gambling, horseracing, and general merrymaking.

Eid al-Adha is celebrated with the sacrifice of goats and sheep. The meat is distributed among relatives, friends, and the poor. Alms (donations) are given to beggars. The tenth day of the month of Muharram is observed by visits to the graves of relatives, followed by prayers and the giving of alms to the poor. In general, the Baluchis pay less attention to celebrating festivals than do other Muslim peoples in South Asia.

Rites of Passage 

The birth of a child is greeted with rejoicing, music, and singing. Food and sweets are prepared and given out. The birth of a boy is cause for greater celebration, and some groups barely recognize the arrival of a girl. Names common among the Baluchis include Lalla, Bijjar, Kannar, and Jihand.

Other ceremonies mark occasions such as the circumcision of boys, the time when a child begins to walk, and the first wearing of trousers. This last event, occurring around the age of fifteen, was traditionally an important stage in a boy’s life. It shows his becoming an adult and the time when he took up arms and joined his people in warfare.


Baluchi nomads live in tents (gidam) made of palm matting stretched on poles. A coarse goat-hair carpet forms the floor of the tent. There are permanent settlements to live in during the summer months. More recently, houses build of sundried brick. They are scattered along narrow, long village lanes. Both old and newer houses have an open courtyard in front, enclosed by a low mud wall or palm fence.



Traditional clothing for the Baluchi man is a long, loose shirt (jamag or kurta) that reaches below the knees, worn with baggy trousers (salwar), and a turban (pag). The turban is a long cloth wound around a turban cap on the head. Leather shoes or palm-leaf sandals are worn. A shawl or wrap (chaddar) provides extra warmth in winter but can also be used as a towel, sash, or head-cloth; it can be used to carry things.

Balouchi Dress

Balouchi Dress

Women wear a long shift (pashk) reaching to the ankles, with a wrap used to cover the head, shoulders, and upper body. The wearing of pants under the shift has been restricted to women of high status. Bright colors are usually avoided, but scarlet is popular among girls of married age. Widows wear black. Women wear an assortment of jewelry, including rings (nose rings, earrings, rings on fingers and toes), necklaces, bracelets, and hair ornaments. Jewelry is made of gold or silver, depending on what a person can afford.


The Baluchis have two meals a day, in the morning and evening. The food for the whole family is cooked together, but men and women eat separately. The most important grain is wheat, but millet and rice are also eaten. Grains are ground into flour and made into unleavened bread (flat bread, without any ingredients to make it rise), which is baked in mud ovens.



Meat is an important part of the Baluchis diet. Sajji is a favorite dish that is mostly served to honored guests. A sheep is killed, skinned, and carved into joints. The meat is sprinkled with salt. The pieces of meat are spitted on green twigs, which are stuck into the ground in front of a blazing log. Once cooked, this dish is eaten with a knife, although Baluchi usually eat with their hands.

Milk is drunk and made into fresh cheese, buttermilk, and butter. In summer, a sherbet (lassi) is made with milk, molasses, and sugar. Dates and wild fruits and vegetables also form an important part of the Baluchi diet.


Although the majority of Iranian are Muslims and follow Islamic practices, one can find a mysterious ritual practice  too.

What is Zar?

In southern coastal regions of Iran such as Qeshm Island, people believe in the existence of winds that can be either vicious or peaceful, believer (Muslim) or non-believer (infidel). The latter are considered more dangerous than the former and Zar belongs to this group of winds. Most types of Zar are very dangerous and cause disease, discomfort, and at times serious illnesses for the victim. Everyone is subject to the action of the Zar, but the poor and the deprived seem to be the most common victims. These beliefs are common to many areas in south and southwest Iran, including Baluchistan where harmful winds are usually called Gowat (wind or air).

Zar is a disease?

Special ceremonies are held to calm down the Zar and lessen the patient’s symptoms. These ceremonies, called by a leader, bring together the patient and those previously afflicted by the Zar and involve incense, music, and movement. Based on records regarding the Zar ceremony in Qeshm Island, roughly two phases in the ritual can be recognized: separation and incorporation. Preparations for the Zar constitute the separation phase. This phase begins with a person complaining from feelings of disease and discomfort to cult leaders (the male Baba Zar or the female Mama Zar). As some cult leaders have already been possessed by Zars and have managed to control them, they can help others in controlling their Zars.

Baba Zar & Mama Zar

Having opted for a remedy from Baba or Mama Zar, the patient will prepare to stay in isolation for up to seven days. During this period, only Baba Zar or Mama Zar can visit the patient and use specific treatments such as rubbing a combination of aromatic herbs, such as Guraku and Gešt, and spices on the patient’s body. After the separation phase ends, the patient’s body is cleaned and washed, and preparations are made for the incorporation phase. Members of the cult inform everyone about the upcoming ceremony and, as it is considered a sin not to attend a ceremony, every member of the cult attends.

How is it done?

Everyone gathers in a circle with the patient in the center while a piece of cloth, with eggs, dates, confetti, and aromatic herbs, is spread on the floor. After the patient’s head is covered with a piece of white cloth to keep him/her from the glances of strangers, a tray holding aromatic herbs on charcoal is passed around and the patient and the participants are frequently incensed with the smoke from the mixture. The Zar leader takes the lead on music (drums) and is followed by musicians and others present. The leader usually knows the name of the Zars and the music (specific beat of drums) that goes with them. Baba or Mama Zars also sing and the participants respond in turn. During the singing of the incantations, which can be in different languages or dialects or pure melodic sounds containing no discernible words, a Zar makes itself known by means of a sign that is recognized by the possessed person, who then feels a strong inner urge to move. Every piece of music goes with a specific spirit; with each type of music, some members of the cult may start moving and shaking. If there is no reaction from the patient, musicians change the tune until they see a reaction that helps the healer identify the spirit who has taken over the afflicted. The reaction is usually expressed as a swinging of the upper body, vertical movements of the head, and the shaking of the shoulders. When the Zar is identified, the healer starts a conversation where she/he tries to find out what the spirit wants in exchange for leaving the patient alone. Mama Zar or Baba Zar speak with the spirit through the patient and ask the Zar about the reasons behind the affliction as well as its demands for leaving the patient alone.

The belief among the cult is that if the Zar’s wishes are not granted, the Zar will return and create more problems for the patient. If the demands of the Zar can be easily obtained, they are quickly attended to through the initiation of a ceremony with music, food, and the offering that the Zar has demanded. Otherwise, the demands will be met at a later time in a similar ceremony. For example, if the Zar asks for a sacrifice or blood, there will be a ceremony where the sacrificial animal is brought in (with the patient riding it) and slaughtered, after which the blood is drunk by the leader and the patient. At this point, the incorporation phase is completed, the patient becomes a member of the cult and is expected to participate in all future ceremonies. These ceremonies may take up to seven days beyond the separation phase. Members of the cult must follow certain rules regarding their outfits (clean and white) and must adhere to prohibitions on the touching of corpses (animal or human), the drinking of alcohol, sex with unlawful partners Selling or letting go of the object the Zar has asked for is prohibited as well; if the Zar has asked for an outfit or an accessory, the patient must have that particular outfit/accessory on in all future ceremonies. It is believed that if these rules are broken, the Zars will rise again, thus necessitating another ceremony to appease them.