By Dr Inayatullah Faizi
In Chitral, each piece of land, each single plot, each single house and each estate has a typical name. Even mountain slopes, gorges and patches have been given certain names. The etymology of nomenclature goes back to distant past or near past to be determined by the language which bears the name.
The name Balim, according to Akbarnama, means ‘boat’ in Sanskrit. Balim is situated at 8,500 feet above sea level on the left bank of rive Chitral on Shandur Road, 115 kolometres to the east of the district headquarters of Chitral. It was called Balim perhaps because of its shape resembling an air-driven boat with a river flowing under its feet.
II. Early History:
Watered by two springs – Drokosh and Tharwagh – Balim was settled in 800 BC or around 900 BC. Some burials were found by the villagers during excavations for irrigation channels or reclaiming wastelands which have toys, beads and utensils of early Aryan and pre-Aryan age. The names of some patches of lands suggest that some ancient languages were spoken in the village. For example, Dongiran, Nilobat, Logaya, ect., are derived from such unknown languages.
According to available records, oral history and traditional knowledge, at the initial stage the village was covered by forests. Main species were sea-buck thorn, wild rose, juniper, willow and birch. There are houses 600-900 years old in which pillars and lentils of sea-buck thorn, wild rose, birch or juniper wood can still be seen in quite good condition. With the passage of time, poplar, Russian olive, apricot, apple, walnut, mulberry and other trees were introduced in farms and backyard gardens. Along with exotic species, some alien species like ailanthus and acacia have also been planted in the village. Wheat, barley, maize, beans and millet are the major crops of the village in the single crop zone. The crops are irrigated by three irrigation channels built over the past 700 years (Sumalik, Raise and Katoor period). Currently, Balim has a population of 280 households (3,000 souls).
The population is heterogeneous in nature. There are six ethnic groups from different origins.
1. Ukil: Locally known as Shakarey, the Ukil clan traces its lineage to Turkistan from where their ancestors migrated to Chitral in the remote past.
2. Bozhokey: Predominant in the valley, this clan is S hin in origin, their forefathers migrated from Chilas during the Raise rule around 1380 A.D. Their majority lives in adjacent village of Sorlaspur.
3. Khoshey: This clan also traces its origin to Turkistan.
4. Bedechey: History shows that Bedachey are also traced back to Turkistan.
5. Jekaney: Basically Dardic and emigrants from Indus Kohistan upper Swat, the Jekaney clan lives in Balim, Chitral and Golamuli Ghazur.
6. Laghey: Laghey is the clan of aborigines or first settlers in the village in 800 B.C. Their number and possession is on decline.
V. Historic monuments
There are a number of historical monuments in Balim. On the southern outskirts of the village, there are bunkers, some caver and stone pollors (Panji) which are reminiscent of the invasion of Sangin Ali II via Bashqargol from Kalam, Swat, in 1660 A.D. There are also traces of an old pologround and forts in the heartland which is still called Junaili (the pologround). Next to the pologround is a piece of land called Noghormuli (below the fort). In oral traditions, it is narrated that the fort was intact until the rule of Khairullah Khoshwaqtia (1761-1786). The pologround was converted into croplands during later Katur period by H.H. Shujaul Mulk (1895-1936). It was replaced by another pologround to the north of Balim.
There is a piece of land called “Bashalieni”. The name suggests that the village was abode of Kalash at some stage of history.
VI. Current Status:
Balim is connected to Chitral-Shandur Road by a hanging bridge over the river. The village has its own hydel power station with a capacity of 125KV which provides round-the-clock electricity to the residents, sufficient to meet their needs for lighting, heating, cooking and running machines like sawmills and flour mills. The village has one primary school for girls, one primary school for boys, one middle school for boys and a high school for boys. The Aga Khan Education Service has also established its community-based school for girls up to the secondary level in the village. (May 22, 2013).