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Explicating Shina Terms and Terminologies (I)


CULTURALLY SPEAKING, Chitral and Kohistan form parts of Gilgit-Baltistan whilst intra-regionally, the people living here in G-B, despite ostensible dialectic difference, are of the same origin in strict ethnological context. As becoming very well discernible from a piece containing research of Abdul Khaliq Taj, famous poet of Gilgit adept in both Shina and Urdu poetry, some people from Kohistan, Chilas and Gilgit migrated to Chitral from their permanent abodes for one reason or the other and eventually got settled there. Likewise, a few from the latter emigrated to Chilas, Ghizar and Gilgit taking their abode in these parts. Thus this diasporas in Chitral came to speak Gilgiti-Khowar while the migrant Chitralis of Gilgit, Chilas and Ghizar speak what is called Chitrali-Shina or both. Significantly, there is commonality or to put it, identity among all of them in terms of poetry, music, dance and other allied customs and conventions as the enlightening summation embodied into and made part of the book titled ‘Urdu Literature of Gilgit-Baltistan (Part: Prose) published by the Literary Circle, Gilgit divulges. There is, nonetheless, another aspect unmentioned therein is the cultural affinity insofar as the Wakhi people living in Upper Hunza and Ishkoman are concerned while they too, identically practice music and dancing in like manner. Be it as it may, there is convergence of opinion among all the people this area on the folklores, folk music and the tenor of songs having a bearing on and dove-tailing with each other and are identical all across these parts. The popular folk-music to him, includes Ashur Jan, Khush Begum, Yurman Hameen, Lozhum Gushpur, Chak Matar, Yurmas Begum etc. which are called ‘dane’ in both Shina and Khowar. All these are essentially premised on and expressive of failed or aborted love. When these ‘danees’ or tunes blare, the people from both the region dance to the same tune in the like manner with similar bodily movements and pirouetting in a circle individually or collectively.

Generally speaking, folk culture is the oldest type of group expression. It is an indigenous development arising from the daily involvements of the average individual within a circumscribed environment. It threads its way into earlier history through the innate heritage and accumulated traditions of the particular tribe. Though folk culture is essentially a thing of the past in the developed world, some the vestigial remnants remain in contemporary life. It needs to be mentioned that popular culture has all along had an inexorably pervasive influence in contemporary living insinuating its way into every nook and cranny of existence and as such necessitates a particular mention. Let it be said that an emerging culture or to put it popular culture permeates ubiquitously and influences the contemporary living which is nevertheless, a process unmistakably forming and constantly evolving with all rapidity – thanks immense scientific and technological progress achieved by humankind.

Cybernetics, automation, amazing speeds shrinking and decimating distances for travel, and above all, the internet have all remarkably sophisticated as a result of fruitful experimentation and scientific researches in physics, biology, chemistry and other physical and natural areas of objective study, as well as in the behavioral sciences, are all shaping a culture predicated upon universal physical and technological principles. These in turn, will mean a drastic redirection of daily living to affect everything cultural or linguistic in profound terms in addition to affecting a revolutionary change in the environment. The art resulting from and expressing such change can only be different from what has already been created. The art has to create this open quality, anticipating its needs and character. It should shape the emerging culture where it can and generally provide the individual with a personal aesthetic and expressive fulcrum from which point there may be an independent reaching out for the possibilities, adventures and marked insights of experience. Having said that marked changes are taking place in linguistic and cultural terms and that too, quite profoundly everywhere with the G-B not immune from it.

Shina, as alluded to before, has witnessed a transformation generally given the above phenomenon with concomitant changes wrought by way of osmosis notwithstanding the fact that it has generally and charitably entertained new ideas, terms and terminologies resulting from the fore-going processes. One having a peep into John Biddulph’s ‘Tribes of Hindu Kush’, would be flabbergasted to find Shina having undergone a sea-change since then with a litany of its words having callously been allowed to run into desuetude or substituted. Those getting thus obliterated or substituted for others during the course have aptly yet precisely been referred to by Abdul Khaliq Taj in his note under reference. To say with him, ‘Bale zash’, ‘gatal bula’, ‘leesh ga pesh’, ‘belle balla’ and ‘shallay’ have all intriguingly been taken over by the present ubiquitous sports of international character – thanks strange linguistic engineering remaining on the anvil as a result of cultural onslaught of the electronic media. Abdul Khaliq Taj further wistfully says how the Shina words like ‘chin’ were replaced by ‘muhabbat’, ‘astoom’ by ‘adalat’, ‘chakur by ‘jawan’, ‘aagae’ by ‘asman’, ‘berdee’ by zameen’, ‘shudher’ by ‘chaprasi’, ‘maykooh’ by ‘mustakil’, ‘gaboon’ by ‘bunyad’, ‘hayon’ by ‘neshan’, ‘barree duke’ by ‘rishvat’ so on and so forth. However, the Literary Circle, Gilgit, in tandem with PBC’s Shina program, have been struggling hard for the revival of pure and chaste Shina id est in its original form and preservation of values thereof. Undeniably, their role is pivotal as they remain wary over these developments which can be made a success provided there be consistency in governmental patronage. It is certainly they who can serve the best as the direct and immensely influential channels for inculcating the thought, the awareness, the understanding and the values in the society at large.

Admittedly, such a responsibility though onerous it is, insists upon keen, sophisticated and knowing individuals who are engaged in a fruitful dialogue with emerging culture in juxtaposition to the cultural ethos, social mores and personal realization at this critical juncture when there is an intermingling of the real and pseudo values, yielding space by the older to the new value. It is to be seen that the educated class now tends to proudly substitute even English words for those of Shina as a mare fashion. If the propensity goes on unchecked, it will cause an irreparable dent to Shina language. It is pertinent here to refer precisely to some of the literary work on Shina language as referred to in the book published by the Literary Circle, Gilgit. Professor Muhammad Amin Zia – poet of both Shina and Urdu and a linguist – has authored books titled ‘San’, ‘Saveenao Mooree’, ‘Shina Qaeeda’ and Grammer, ‘Shina-Urdu dictionay’ and his ‘Saroosh-i-Zia’. Abdul Khaliq Taj brought out ‘Shina Qaeeda’ (1989) and ‘Shina Language and Literature published under the aegis of the Academy of Literature, Pakistan (1990). There is a graphic reference to the researches of Razwal Kohistani to whom, Shina having Pushto tinge and color is spoken in Konarh province of Afghanistan. It is learnt that late Abdul Hamid Khawar had undertaken a painstaking research in the fore-going context. In short, hectic efforts have all along been afoot on the part of great literary people as those in the domain of Shina poetry, to purify the language of all the weeds that have crept in with passage of time.

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The writer belongs to Gilgit and is an alumnus from KIU. He can be reached at 

This article was originally posted on Pamir Times


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