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Baig Daulat











19 July 2000


This is a long interview which provides much historical detail, especially on the tax system previously imposed on Shimshal and other communities by the Mirs (rulers of Hunza state up to 1974). Baig Daulat has an impressive memory and recalls the range of different taxes enforced by the Mir as well as the names of many different people who had different roles and positions in the community throughout his lifetime. At times the level of detail may not be of interest to non-Shimshalis but it does provide a valuable historical record for the community. The interview offers insights into the way in which the Mir imposed his law in Shimshal and also the Mir’s and Shimshal’s relationship with China (which borders some of Shimshal’s pastures).

Baig Daulat explains how the community was made up of two economic groups: “Those who possessed livestock and more family members and those on whom God had bestowed wealth were called lopan (literally elders; also refers to those wealthy enough to pay taxes to the Mir). They were required to pay yeelban (taxes)… Those who were poor were called borwar (those who carried the Mir’s load).” Baig Daulat, although a relative of the Mir, was orphaned and not granted his rightful position as a lopan. He therefore spent 14 years as a borwar. One day he met the Mir’s brother, who came to realise Baig Daulat’s family background. He put an end to his days as borwar and offered him a position: Baig Daulat became a yarpa (the Mir’s representative responsible for livestock production and supervision of the central grain store) for three years. After the abolition of the Mir’s state, with “the cooperation of the people” he became the numberdar (government representative in the village) for 21 years.

There are some interesting comments on the reduction in spending associated with birth, death and marriage ceremonies. This is a result of the Imam’s (the Aga Khan’s) advice that they should spend money on their children’s education instead of such ceremonies.

Although a lengthy interview, there are very few questions. The narrator had much to contribute, and given his position it may not have been appropriate for the interviewer to interrupt him. The narrator and interviewer are particularly polite to each other throughout the interview.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-2  Introduction by interviewer setting the scene. Family history: Baig Daulat’s mother belonged to Passu and her grandfather was the son of one of the Mirs of Hunza. His mother’s death: “I didn’t know what happened to my mother and nobody told me; they would only show me the shoes of my mother hanging on one of the pillars of my house... I was orphaned when I was two years and three months old.” Baig Daulat was married at the age of 13, and at 15 his father died.
Section 2  Explanation of those who provided the tax (in kind) to the Mir (lopan) and those who carried these goods to the Mir. Baig Daulat was rightfully a lopan due to his family background but three years after his father’s death the arbob (representative of the Mir) suggested that due to his small number of livestock he must “take the rope and carry the load. So I became a borwar. I started carrying the load of the Mir along with other borwars.” Different roles of those involved in organising and transporting the load (taxes). Produce from Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures) would be carried to Shimshal by yak but “from Shimshal down to Hunza these loads were carried by the borwars on their backs...”
Section 3-4  A slightly confusing section recounting how his uncle prevented him taking his rightful position as a lopan. While a borwar if he found the Mir’s representatives to be taking any of the loads he would “straight away go to the Mir and…tell him that a certain quantity of goat…[etc] had been misappropriated...” Later on Baig Daulat started herding the Mir’s livestock in Pamir, he ended up meeting the Mir’s brother who realised who he was and “expressed his anger and said nobody from our family could be borwar. He said why had I not informed him of my social status. I told him that my uncle had instructed me to silently serve the kings (Mir) by herding their livestock then God would bless me with good days.” Subsequently he “was blessed with a position and from then afterwards I became eligible to be treated as a lopan.” Description of the salt tax and going to Pamir to extract and refine this salt. More details of the load (taxes) carried by the borwar. The presentation of the load and individual gifts from the lopan to the Mir.
Section 5  Carrying certain Mir’s representatives to Shimshal: “On returning back to Shimshal after delivery of the sufra (literally gifts; refers to some of the taxes) goods, the people of Shimshal would bring with them the thrangpa (representative of Mir from Hunza who visited Shimshal once a year to monitor tax collection) and a mahram (Mir’s personal servant). These two were carried on their (borwars’) backs all the way up to Shimshal…we would ford the river…for 29 times… Our legs would get bruised due to the crossing of icy river, everyone would be exhausted at the end of the trip…”
Section 5-6  Baig Daulat collected firewood for the Mir who had the contract to supply the army at Quz. The Mir was pleased with his work and increased his pay. Baig Daulat was asked whether he would like to take the next position of arbob or yarpa. He spent three years as yarpa and then: “After this responsibility I got the position of numberdar with the cooperation of the people of Shimshal.” He spent 21 years as numberdar. Two of his three sons died suddenly.
Section 6-7  Story of how just after his father died the Mir’s representatives took away part of his only carpet and “the next day I was informed that I should carry the load… Then my cousin…went to arbob and made him aware of the injustice… Then I was exempt from carrying the load via Qaroon. There was tremendous cruelty and poverty.” The borwars were involved in constructing trails etc which were sponsored by wealthy members of the community. The Mirs instructed the wealthier Shimshalis which activities they should sponsor.
Section 8-9  Slightly confusing description of the construction of a bridge which required the Shimshalis to cut wood from a forest belonging to the people of Moorkhun. Story of how the Mir made someone his foster son on account of his wealth in apricot kernels. Comment on the Mir: “The Mir was very loyal and would always think about this village. When the government started constructing the road in the down valley (refers to Hunza and Gojal) the Mir of the time also demanded a link road for Shimshal.” Although Baig Daulat was offered the position of numberdar by the Mir, he did not become numberdar until after the Mir’s kingdom had been abolished.
Section 9-10  Description of the various rites of passage a male in Shimshal goes through, from: birth celebrations; first birthday; naming ceremony; circumcision ceremony; pre-marriage and marriage celebrations.
Section 11  Nomus: “…people would get inspiration from each other and they would enthusiastically offer part of their wealth to nomus. They built bridges, trails, irrigation channels… they would discharge their duties as descendents by offering their wealth in the name of their parents. There was no compulsion; only those rich people…would perform nomus.” Baig Daulat claims that nomus has helped Shimshal survive. He questions who else would have helped them and explains: “Right from the construction of channels and huts to the construction of houses and trails, our parents, our forefathers and our ancestors spent tremendous resources to build Shimshal.”
Section 11-13  Marriages etc in the past and now: “…the customs of marriages in former times were so hard that people were forced to sell their fields just to bear the expenses… The expenses that would be incurred on the birth, naming and circumcision celebrations of a child are [now] used to meet the educational expenses of our children today.” Detail of customs at the time of death; how the Imam advised a reduction in spending at this time. Baig Daulat credits the Imam with removing “the difference between the rich and the poor”. His feelings about the past: “we had limited knowledge but we had unity.” In the past women managed the pastures.
Section 14-15  Villages in Hunza had different taxes according to their available produce. Arrangement with borwar of Gulmit: “we would prepare purified cubes of salt and would transport them to Gulmit and the borwar of Gulmit would transport them down to Hunza but they would charge us two goats per house per year as wage for transportation to Hunza.” More about the Mir’s relationship with different villages. The store for the grain tax was looked after by the yarpa. There was also a store for the poor. The borwar transported refined salt. Explanation of refining process. Salt was “so precious that when we would give a piece of salt to the people from down valley, they would first kiss it and then would take it.” Different types of bett (coarse woollen cloth) given as tax. Summer tax and autumn tax.
Section 16  Handkerchief tax: when the Mir’s representatives came to Shimshal “they would bring with them pieces of cloth as handkerchiefs as a present to the lopan. In turn the lopan would collectively give them two goats.” Gold and lead tax: “Two yaks per year were collectively given to the Mir as gold tax and a cow per year as lead tax…The lead tax was such that it was abstracted from the lead mines in Chipursan. Since there was no lead mine in Shimshal, we would give two yaks instead of lead to the Mir.” The Mir of Hunza was paying tax to China.
Section 17  The Mir’s representatives took the law into their own hands and only granted positions to those who were financially well-off Unclear discussion about government guns used to defend the border.