Gilgit Baltistan Geography, History, Politics and Languages

About Gilgit Baltistan

Gilgit Baltistan (GB) is located in between the great mountain ranges of the world , the Himalayas, Karakoram, Pamir and Hindukush. Geographically and historically GB is very important. GB covers an area of 72,971 sq km. It has been the center of studies for geologists, earth scientists, anthropologists, environmentalists and biologists. Gilgit Baltistan is bordered by China in north, Indian administered Kashmir in south, Afghanistan in west and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan in south west. Gilgit Baltistan population is approximately 2 million.

Gilgit Baltistan
Shangrila Resort, Skardu ,Gilgit Baltistan


Nearly 50-55 million years ago two continental plates Indian plate and Eurasian plate collided in present day Gilgit Baltistan region.  This collision and tremendous pressures created the mountains of Karakoram and Himalayas. These mountains are famous in the world for its height and geological importance. GB lies in between these mountains. There are thousands of glaciers in Karakoram and Himalayas Many rivers originate from these glaciers. Indus river originates from Himalayas. Shyok river originates from Karakoram.

Junction of Karakoram and Himalayas in Gilgit Baltistan
Junction point of Karakoram,Hindukush and Himalayas

Gilgit Baltistan is home to some of the highest mountains in the world 5 out of 14 eight thousanders peaks are located in GB. Majority of which lies in Concordia ‘the thorne room of mountain God’.

  1. K2 8611 m
  2. Gasherbrum 1 8080m
  3. Broad Peak 8051m
  4. Nanga Parbat 8126m
  5. Gasherbrum 2 8035m

Karakoram is home to largest glaciers in the world outside polar region. Famous glaciers are: Siachen glacier, Baltoro glacier, Batura glacier, Godwin Austin glacier and Biafo glacier. In addition there are more than 2000 high altitude lakes in GB. Some famous lakes are: Satpara , Ataabad Lake, Khalit Lake, Naltar Lake, Shangrial Lake and Kachura Lake.

GB is also one of the largest Gemstone producing territories in the world. Here some of the rarest gemstones are found which includes topaz, aquamarine, ruby, granite, sapphire, amethyst, blue and azure color gemstones.

History of Gilgit Baltistan

Early Gilgit Baltistan history can be traced from rock carvings  which are painted on different rocks in GB. The famous rock carvings are located in Chilas on the site of Diamer Bhasha dam. These rock arts tell us about the ancient history of Gilgit Baltistan. According to a survey there are twenty five thousand rock arts in Chilas. These paintings include animal painting, signs, scripts ,structures and buildings. According to Professor Ahmed Hassan Dani these rocks date back to 1000 BC. He writes that the names of kings and their history are written in the form of paintings on these rocks.

Karga Buddha Gilgit history of Gilgit Baltistan
Karga Buddha Gilgit

The ancient history of this region is mentioned in Faxian’s book. Faxian was a Chinese monk. He traveled from China to present day Pakistan via silk route Gilgit Baltistan in search of Buddhist texts. He writes that ” Pololo is a country which is stretched from east in Tibet to west in Ghandhara (Swat ).The king of Pololo lives in Hosalo (Khaplu)”. From his book many historians suggest that Khaplu was the capital of Pololo country. Gilgit and Hunza was called Little Pololo while Baltistan and Ladakh was called greater Pololo. Later Arab historians has also written this area as Bolore because Arabs can’t spell “p”.  Therefore some historians and nationalists use Boloristan and Balawaristan for Gilgit Blatistan.

In 6th to 7th century Buddhism was practiced here. The carved images of Buddha in Manthal village Skardu, Lamsa Shigar , Khaplu and Karga Gilgit are some of the monuments of Buddhism. In Manthal village Skardu Buddhist prayers are written in Tibetan scripts on a rock with carved image of Buddha. During this period Tibetans of Lhasa ruled on GB. Although Baltis are ethnically Tibetan but they were not part of central Tibetan empire before that.

Medieval History

The medieval history of Gilgit Baltistan is written in different historical books like Tarikh e Hindustan , Tarikh e Farishta, Tuhfat ul Ahbaba, Tarikh e Jammu , Raaj Trangni etc. Islam was introduced here by different Sufi missionaries from central Asia, Kashmir and Iran. The famous Sufi preacher Syed Ali Hamadani a.k.a Ameer e Kabir Shah e Hamadan inclined people towards Sufi Islam. He came from Hamadan Iran to Baltistan and Kashmir via central Asia. He introduced Sufi Islam in Baltistan and Kashmir. Later his disciples Syed Muhammad Noorbakhsh, Mir Shamsuddin Araki, Syed Mehmood and Mir Arif followed him and visited Baltistan. In 15th century a book was written by Muhammad Ali Kashmiri disciple of Mir Shamsuddin Araqi  a Noorbakhshi Sufi.

Mir Shamsuddin Araki traveled from Srinegar to Skardu to propagate Noorbakhshi Sufi order of Islam. One of his disciple wrote a book ” Tuhfat ul Ahbaba”. This is the most authentic history on Baltistan and Kashmir. The writer has mentioned the names of rulers of Skardu, Shigar and Khaplu. Maqpon Bukha was the ruler of Skardu and  Yabgo Behram was the ruler of Khaplu at the time of compilation of this book. Here is English translation of Tohfatuíl-Ahbab. Maqpon Bukha as mentioned in this book constructed Kharphocho fort in Skardu.

Read 5 Surprising facts about Gilgit Baltistan that may amaze you

GB was ruled by many local rulers. Among them Maqpuns of Skardu are famous. In 16th century AD Maqpoun ruler Ali Sher Khan Anchan unified Gilgit Baltistan, Ladakh ,Western Tibet and Chitral. Ali Sher Khan Anchan had friendly relation with Mughal empire. He brought Mughal music and arts in Baltistan. He married with a Mughal princess namely Gul Khatoon. A palace namely “Mondoq Khar” was constructed for Mughal princess.

Languages and Culture of Gilgit Baltistan

Gilgit Baltistan is a multi ethnic and multi lingual area. More than six different languages are spoken in GB. Shina language is primarily spoken in Diamer, Astore, Gilgit ,Ghizer and Nagar. There are small amount of Shina speakers in Skardu , Kharmang and Hunza too. Shina is a Dardic language which is Indo Arian language.

Balti language is spoken in Skardu, Shigar , Kharmang and Ghanche in Baltistan division. Balti is a branch of Tibetan language. Its sister language is Ladakhi. Balti is one of the classic Tibetan language. Tibetan language is spoken in Tibet, Nepal. Bhutan, Sikkim India, western provinces of China and Ladakh.

Brushaski language is spoken in Hunza Yasin and Nagar valley. Brushaski is an isolated language. It has no connection with any language in the world. In Hunza valley a group of people speak a language namely Domaki. While Wakhi is spoken in upper parts of Hunza valley. It is an Indo Aryan language. Khwar is a sister language of Shina . People of Chitral and upper parts of Ghizer speak this language.

Political Status of Gilgit Baltistan

Gilgit Baltistan is now an administrative unit of Pakistan with Gilgit city as its capital. GB is neither a province of Pakistan nor a state. It has semi provincial system of government with a local assembly namely Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly GBLA. GBLA has limited powers of legislation. Beside GBLA there is a council in Islamabad namely GB Council. The head of GB council is prime minister of Pakistan. Gilgit Baltistan Government has limited power.

Gilgit Baltistan Tourism

GB is the center of tourism in Pakistan. Read more here Top Places to Visit in Winter in Gilgit Baltistan

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5 Comments on “Gilgit Baltistan Geography, History, Politics and Languages”

  1. Gilgit Baltistan should have an elected government . Why pak prime minister is its head ?

    1. Inspite of all these things then why pak occupied GB,why torturing locals,why voilating human rights why grabing our land and so many more why???

  2. All of the information you have shared well but left some of popular and beautiful parts Hindukush has been ignored. I would like to add the most beautiful Karumber lake and Attar lake and many other. You can contact me for information about Hindukush. My E.mail is (

  3. I was excited to find a rare picture of the Triple Junction on your artifact. The Triple Junction is related to my Paper: Greater Pakistan Subcontinent, Seismotectonic Identification.

    Herewith is some information on the Siesmotectonic status of Gilgit Baltistan that I wish to share with you and your visitors:
    Available evidence suggests that prior to initial Gondwana-Eurasia collision during most of Paleocene,, there was deposition of mature quartzarenite in humid equatorial climate on the Indian continental margin, e.g. basal part of the Patala Formation in the Pamir-Himalaya Arc, Kashmir-Hazara syntaxis (4,5, 6, 7, 8,9, 10).
    Indian plate came into contact with Kohistan-Ladakh belt and subducted under Kohistan-Ladakh belt that formed the magmatic arc. This collision uplifted the western Indus suture, Hinterland like Kohistan-Ladakh and initiated the Hindukush-Karakoram system. The cretaceous-tertiary Shyok Suture Zone is located in Gilgit-Baltistan which separates the Karakoram from the Kohistan–Ladakh oceanic arc. Shyok Suture Zone marks the site of subduction of Tethys Ocean, besides representing an early cretaceous intra-continental marginal basin along the southern margin of Asia. To the south of the Shyok Suture Zone in this area is the Ladakh Arc and its Late Cretaceous, mainly volcanogenic, sedimentary cover (Burje-La Formation). The Shyok Suture Zone extends northwards (ca. 30 km) to the late tertiary Main Karakoram Thrust that transported Asian, mainly high-grade metamorphic rocks southwards over the suture zone.
    The uplift also initiated the Paleo Indus River systems. The northeastern segment of GPS geo-tectonically comprises the Pamir-Himalaya Arc which encloses the Hindukush and Karakorum Ranges on the west, and the Hazara-Kashmir Syntaxis within its concave side on the east. Gilgit Baltistan, Jammu and Kashmir state, Aksai Chin area together comprise the northeastern region of GPS. The southern curvature of the Syntaxis and the northeastern boundary of GPS is bent around the Nanga Parbat-Harmosh massif, which is inserted in the ESE oriented Karakorum range (11). It may be noted that the Western Himalayas have a much greater depth or width, than the Eastern Himalayas. A transverse section drawn from the plains of Greater Punjab, through Kashmir onto the Karakorums, is three times longer than anywhere in Eastern Himalayas.
    The above is Seismo-Tectonic History. Invasion by Indian Plate has not altered the Boundaries that I have identified as Greater Pakistan Subcontinent in my Paper: Greater Pakistan Subcontinent, Seismotectonic Identification. Published on ResearchGate at, and Scribd :

    Dr. Mirza Arshad Ali Beg
    Former Director General , PCSIR , Karachi 75210

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