About Hunza – History

The early history of Hunza is recorded only in legends. Alexander the Great is reported to explore the mighty mountains of the Karakoram and reach Hunza in 325 B.C. Some proofs of ancient history of Hunza are visible on a huge rock near Ganesh village. It is richly carved and inscribed in Kharoshthi, Brahmi, Gupta, Sogdian and Tibetan scripts. There is a portrait of Gondophares, the Kushan king of Gandhara in the first century A.D. The portrait is labeled with his name and the date. Another inscription reads, ‘Chandra Vikramaditya conquers, 419 AD.’ Then, there are Tibetan inscriptions depicting hunters and Ibex. Bactrian writings indicate the invasion of Sassanians from Central Asia. A Chinese inscription depicts the passage of a royal ambassador, Ta Wei. Similarly, Buddhist stupas and horsemen tell their own stories. In fact, the rock served as a guestbook for ancient travelers.

 

Hunza appears in Tibetan history as a part of Gilgit. Tibetans called it Bruza and the people of the area were called Burushos. In 11th century A.D., the invading Shinas drove them to the valleys of Hunza and Yasin where they set up Altit, Baltit and Ganesh villages. These were the only villages until the 18th century, when new techniques of cultivation caused the colony to expand.

 

In the 15th century, Hunza was a part of Nagar kingdom. The kingdom broke away in the 15th century and was divided into Nagar and Hunza valleys between two warring brothers because of religious conflict.

 

For a long time, Hunza remained under Chinese influence. The Hunzakuts paid tribute to Xingjian and enjoyed internal autonomy. They earned their livelihood by taxing the caravans passing through the famous Silk Route. They even made frequent raids and plundered the rich caravans. They used to bury food at different places on their route in order to survive and wait for the caravans to pass for weeks together. They earned loads of silks and jewels

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in this way and sold young hostages as slaves in Kashgar.

 

Hunza had always enjoyed close proximity with China, Afghanistan and Russia. However, the Russians were the first to realize its strategic importance. They signed a deal with Hunza in 1888 and set up a post in return of weapons and military training. The British realized the danger. The next year, they sent Francis Younghusband with some offers to negotiate with the ruler of Hunza. However, Hunzakuts calculated that the Russian offer was more profitable. They refused the British who, in return, decided to capture the valley by force. On November 30, 1891, the ruler of Hunza declared a state of emergency. All night long, drums were beaten in the royal fort summoning the people to defend the kingdom. Young men received weapons, set up their posts and put a heroic resistance however; the British penetrated the kingdom and seized the state. They installed Mir Nazim Khan as the new ruler and enjoyed free passage to Kashgar. In 1895, they made a border agreement with Russia and declared Wakhan as the boundary between the two empires. Thus, the British consolidated themselves in Hunza. After partition, Hunza became a legal part of Pakistan in 1947. There started some clashes over the boundary line between China and Pakistan. However, the conflict ended at a reasonable agreement in 1963.

 

Following Pakistan’s Independence little changed in Hunza until 1974 when the building of the Karakoram Highway began opening the entire area to trade and other cultural influences.

 

In 1972 the Government of Pakistan incorporated the autonomous feudal Kingdoms along the Gilgit and Hunza rivers into Pakistan creating The Northern Areas – an area now divided into five administrative districts: Diamer, Baltistan, Ghizer, Gilgit and Ghanche.