Alpial, Gheba, Jodhra, and Khattar tribes

In this post, I shall concentrate on a number of tribes that are found largely in Attock District, a region where Pothohari culture and language gives way to Pashtun cultural norms. The Indus River flows along the western boundary of the district for about 130 Kilometres, dividing the district from the three bordering districts of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa. As such, identification with a tribe, a common feature of Pashtun cultural traditions, is an important source of identity in this border region. The four tribes that I will look at, namely the Alpial, Gheba, Jodhra,  and Khattar, all claim a non-Pashtun origin, either tracing Rajput ancestry or claiming a Mughal identity. Sources used here include D. Turner “The Attock District: A Detailed and Comprehensive Survey Updating Col Gracroft’s Report”, (1891) and Col. C. Gracroft. “Report on the Races and Tribes of the Attock and Rawalpindi Districts”, (1868). Below are a list of tribes classified as Rajput by 1911 Census of India:

Tribe Population
Alpial 9,180
Chatha 5,335
Bhatti 3,553
Jodhra 1,690
Janjua Chauhan  

Alpial

The Alpial are a Rajput tribe, found mainly in Attock and Rawalpindi districts. According to tribal traditions, the Alpials claim descent from the Manj Rajputs, and their claim to Rajput origin is generally admitted by neighbouring tribes. There ancestor was said to be a Rajah Alp Khan Manj, and the Alpial are the aals or descendents of this Alp Khan of the Manj tribe. I shall now say a little word on the Manj Rajputs. According to the traditions of the Manj, they are in fact Bhatti Rajputs, descended from Raja Salvahan (Salivahana), father of Raja Rasalu, a mythical figure that was said to ruled over much of Punjab, and founded Sialkot. There origin myths also make reference to a Tulsi Das (sometimes called Tulsi Ram), who was converted (to Islam) by the famous Sufi saint, Hazrat Makhdum Shah Jahaniya of Uchh, who died in 1383 A.D. After his conversion to Islam, Tulsi Ram assumed the name Shaikh Chachu, and the Manj had some influence in the valley of the Sutlej, in what is now Ludhiana and Jalandhar districts. Some six hundred years ago (13th Century) Shaikh Chachu and Shaikh Kilchi, are said to haved settled at Hatur in the southwest of Ludhiana, whence their descendents spread into the neighbouring country; and the Jallandhar traditions refer their conquest of the tract to the time of Ala-ud-din Khilji. After the dissolution of the Mughal Empire, the Manj Rais of Talwandi and Raikot ruled over an extensive territory south of the Sutlej, till dispossessed of it by the Ahluwalia Sikhs and later by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Coming back to the Alpials, they appear to have settled in their present locality about the same time as the Jodhras and Ghebas that is about the 15th Century, having first wandered through the country now contained in the Khushab and Chakwal districts before settling down in the southern corner of Fateh Jang. Thereafter, it seems little contact existed between the parent tribe in the Sutlej and the Alpials. According to 1931 census of India, their approximate population was 4,500. The author of the 1929 Attock District Gazetteer had this to say about them:

“ Hard-working and excellent cultivators, generally tilling their own land and working laboriously on their wells, they have taken only a small part in the more lurid history of the district. Socially they rank high, intermarrying freely with the Mughals. They are a bold, lawless set of men, of fine physique, much given to violent crime, sturdy, independent and wonderfully quarrelsome. ”

The Alpials occupy a compact block of villages on both banks of the Swaan River, in the Thana Chountra circle of Rawalpindi Tehsil, Rawalpindi District and the in the Sil Sohan circle of the Fateh Jang Tehsil,Attock District. They own 32 villages in all, the main Alpial villages being Sihal, Chakri, Ghila Kalan, Pind Malhu, Jhandhu Syedan, Dhalwali Mohra, Adhwal, Chak Beli Khan, Chountra, Chak-Dinal, Dhullial, Sangral, Khilri, Malkaal, Parial, Raika Maira, Hakeemal, Koliam Goru, Dhoke Gujri, Lamyran, Ramdev, Tatraal, Jaswal, Dheri Mohra, Kharri Murat, Gangainwala, Kolian Hameed, Chak Majhid, Gangal, Jada, Dhok Chach, Habtal, Bhutral, Dhok Cher, and Jodh.

Gheba
The Gheba are also ound in the District of Attock, and claim to be Mughal. In fact, the tribe is often referred to the Rawal Mughals of Kot Fateh Khan, which is their most important village. The Ghebas have either given their name, or received it, from the Gheb ( a region forming the south east of Attock District) , they explain it as the latter reason and prefer to be known as Mughals. A not improbable conjecture is that they were a small band of broken Rajput families, fleeing from the central Punjab, who joined the Jodhras and settled down on their borders. As regards to the ancestry of the tribe, some traditions refer to the story of three brothers who were born to a Panwar Rajput by the name of Rai Shanker who were named Ghaiyyo, Taiyyo and Saiyyo and from whom descend the Sial tribe of Jhang, Tiwanas of Khushab and Ghebas. Rai Shanker is said to have lived in Daranagar, located in the midway between AlIahabad and Fatehpur, in what is now Uttar Pradesh. According to another tradition Sial was the only son of Rai Shanker and those forefathers of Tiwanas and Ghebas were merely related to Shanker by paternal descent. After their arrival in Punjab, the Ghebas converted to Islam at the hands of the Sufi saint Baba Farid of Pakpattan, and eventually settled in Fatehjanj, expelling the Jodhras, and become effective rulers of the region.. Another tradition makes the Gheba a clan Barlas Mughal (see my post of the Phaphras for more information on the Barlas), who get there name from Mirza Gheba Khan a distant cousin of the Mughal Emperor Babar, who came here with his army during the Mughal invasion of India in 15th century with Zaheeruddin Babar. Therefore it was the Ghebas who gave the area of Gheb its name, and not vice versa. A claim of Mughal origin has now been accepted, the family of the Sardars of Kot Fateh Khan play an important role in the politics of Attock District. Prior to the arrival of the Sikhs in early 19th Century, the Ghebas were effectively independent. They are now considered equal in rank with the Jodhras and Alpials, and intermarriage with the Alpials, Jodhras and Khattars is common.

Like other tribes of this region, the Gheba are further sub-divided into three main muhis (clans), the Rawal, Bhandial and Sihal. The Sardars of Kot Fateh Khan belong to the Rawal branch of the family, and current Sardar is Sher Ali Khan. The Ghebas are found mainly in the western portion of the Fateh Jang Tehsil of Attock District, where they occupy solid block of villages reaching to the Kala Chita on the north, to Fateh Jang and Sagar to the east, and almost to the Sil river in the south. There main villages are Kot Fateh Khan, Manjia, Dhurnal, Gullial, Malal, Mari, Shahr Rai Saidullah, Sikhwal and Dhari-Rai-Ditta all in Fatehjang Tehsil of Attock District.

 

Jodhra

We now look at the Jodhra, who account for themselves as being of Rajput origin, and derive their name from Jodhra who was converted to Islam by Mahmud of Ghazni, and who settled initially in Kashmir. They appear, however, to have come to the Attock District about the end of the 15th century as a small band of military adventurers. They possessed themselves of the Sohan (Swaan river) and Sill ” illaquas ” (areas) and much of Talagang. The Awans, the original owners, were not evicted but remained as tenants under the conquering Jodhras, who never themselves cultivated.

The Jodhras became independent chiefs keeping up a large body of armed retainers. Their power was recognised by the Mughals, and Malik Aulia Khan, their first chief known to history, held a revenue assignment of Pindigheb, Talagang and parts of Chakwal. Owing to family feuds and other causes the tribe has lost much of its original prosperity and is now much less well-to-do than its neighbours, the Ghebas, who have been their ancient rivals and enemies. The two tribes now inter-marry and are on friendly terms.

The Jodhras inhabit the south-eastern portion of the Pindi Gheb Tehsil and the valley of the Swaan River extending, on the south, to the border of Talagang of Chakwal District. Almost all the Jodhra villages are found in Fateh Jang Tehsil of Attock District and Pindi Gheb Tehsil of Attock District, with a few settlements in the Haripur District of Hazara. Their main villages in Pindi Gheb are Khunda, Domial Ahmadal, Ikhlas, Noushehra, Parri, Dandi, Gharibwal, Ganda Kas, Kamrial, Sidrihaal, Kharauba, Kamalpur Sher Jang, Kanat, Mirwal and Saura. In Fatehjang, they are found in Ahmadal, Chauntra, and Langrial, while there also found in the villages of Baldher, Bandi Sherkhan and Akhoon Bandi in Haripur district. The current chief of the tribe is Malik Atta Mohammad Khan

Khattar
The Khattar are perhaps the most interesting in terms of their exact origin. According to the traditions of the tribe, the Khattar were an Arab tribe that enetered in Spain with Tariq ibn Ziyad. The head of the tribe, Abu Al-Khattar was said to be a popular governor of al-Andalusia, Spain. After the downfall of Muslim rule in Spain, the tribe left and moved to Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, India and north west of Pakistan. The bulk of the tribe is now found in the in Attock and Rawalpindi districts. In due course, the Khattars split up into two major sections, the ‘Kala’ (Black) and ‘Chitta’ (White); of which the Kala Khattars were mostly of mixed Muslim and Hindu population whereas the Chitta section were almost entirely Muslims, and married extensively with various Afghan, Turkish and Kashmiri tribes. The Hayat family of Wah village, from which some of the most notable Khattars have descended in recent times, are from the ‘Chitta’ Khattars, though Wah village itself was founded much later c 17th century, originally as ‘Jalal Sar’ village, renamed ‘Wah’ by the Mughal Emperor Jehangir, and a pleasure garden was later built here by the Emperor Shah Jehangir. A small of Khattar also claim descent from Qutub Shah, the supposed ancestor of the Awan tribe, which would give the Khattar an Alawi Arab ancestry.
Other theories of their descent include:

“ The Khattars are generally credited with a Hindu origin,from Khatris but they are divided in belief as to their descent .Some admit Hindu origin , while those who deny it claim an Arab descent , alleging they are closely connected with Awans . ”

“ In order to meet the generally accepted belief that they were originally Hindus , even those who claim a Mussalman origin admit that while at Bagh Nilab they became Hindu and were reconverted ”

“ Khattar wedding rites used to closely resemble those of Hindus , Brahmans even being present , but they are now solemnised according to strict Muhammadan rules . ”

A further claim is that the Khattars are of Turkic ancestry; which is based on two factors: (a) supposed physical features and temperament (b) their later inter-marriages with Pakhtun/Afghan tribes living mainly in North-West Pakistan, in the Attock and Hazara regions. However, this theory neglects the Khattars’ actual and close genealogical links to various neighbouring tribes and blood kin, of Attock (Pakistan) and nearby areas, such as the Ghebas, Jodhras etc. This confusion, as to the origin, is not unique to the Khattars, in a region where many tribes, have multiple theories as to their origin.

The Khattars now occupy a stretch of land, known as Khattar, on both sides of the Kala Chita Range, and runs in a narrow strip east and west from the Indus, and across the district, in Rawalpindi, where they own, fourteen villages. They own twenty nine villages in Attock Tehsil, forty-three in Fateh Jang Tehsil, and a fair number in Pindigheb Tehsil. Their main villages in Attock District include Dhrek, Bahtar, Bhagowi, Kot Shadi, Thatha , Kutbal and Pind Sultan. The town Wah, as already mentioned, was historically an Khattar settlement. In Rawalpindi District, there villages are mostly in the Kharora Circle, in the present Taxila Tehsil, and include Dhok Phor, Pind Nosheri, Garhi Sikander and Usman Khattar. The Khattar are largely a class of feudal landlords, never really forming a majority of the population in their villages, leaving cultivation to groups they consider inferior.

 

Jalap, Jethal, Khoti, Lila, and Phaphra tribes

Moving on from my previous post on the tribes of the Chibhal, I now shall now look some tribes settled in Jhelum and Chakwal districts, which are situated directly to the south of Chibhal, that have generally fallen under the rubric of Jat, although many also claim a Middle Eastern or Central Asian ancestry. As this region lies between Rajput dominated Pothohar, and central districts of Sialkot and Gujrat, where the Jat dominate, it perhaps more than most areas of the Punjab where the term Jat is used loosely. It can be applied any cultivator who does not claim foreign ancestry or Rajput ancestry, and does not belong to one of the larger tribes of the region such as the Gakhar or Janjua. However it may include groups that may have historically belonged to one of the larger tribes, but over time intermarried and merged into the general cultivating class. The tribes I shall look at all have traditions of a Central Asian or Middle Eastern, but as far as local traditions are concerned are of for the use of a better word of Jat status. Perhaps the largest of these tribes are the Gondal (whom I will look at in a latter blog), who are found all along the Jhelum river valley, with some sections in one village claiming to be Jats, and those in the following village claiming to be Rajputs. Below are a list of tribes, starting with largest tribe in terms of population, which were and probably still are the Gondal, that were enumerated as Jat by population in the 1911 Census of India:

Tribe Population
Gondal 6,549
Dhamial 4,730
Bhatti 3,146
Kalyal 3,039
Kanyal 2,603
Bhakral 2,147
Bangial 1,869
Nagyal 1,830
Raya 1,790
Jhammat 1,471
Thathaal 1,230
Bhans 1,188
Khatarmal 1,184
Matyal 1,147
Khinger 1,146
Sial 1,125
Gungal 1,049
Gujjral 788
Tarar 744
Khanda 734
Jatal 710
Ghogha 710
Phaphra 663
Khoti 646
Bhutta 632
Jandral 618
Tama 617
Chadhar 196
Hariar 579
Jangal 572
Serwal 572
Dhudhi 526
Haral 500
Minhas 457
Bains 309

As the table shows, the eastern parts of the Jhelum-Chakwal region is home to fair number of number of tribes that have a large presence further east and south of Punjab such as the Chadhar, Gondal, Haral, Mekan, Tarar, Ranjha and Sial, while as one moves north and west, we find tribes such as the Bhakral, Gungal, Kalyal, Kanyal Khinger and Nagyal, which are essentially Chibhali, with roots in the Mirpur-Jammu region. In terms of the fluidity of identity between Jat and Rajput, it is interesting to note that the Sial, who in Jhang and Multan are perceived as Rajput, are consider themselves as Jats in the Jhelum region, while some groups of Minhas have recorded themselves as Jat and other as Rajput. In this blog, I shall look into some details at the following tribes, the Jalap, Jethal, Khoti, Lilla, Paphra and Tama. In the 1911 Census, the Jalap and Jethal were assigned Rajput status, while the other tribes were recorded as Jat. Most of these tribes are found along and near the banks of the river Jhelum. Readers can make reference to my earlier postings that look at the origins of the Bangial, Dhamial, Kalyal, Kanyal, Khinger, Jatal and Jhammat clans, all of whom have significant presence in the Jhelum, Chakwal and Pind Dadan Khan region. Time permitting; I hope to dedicate future postings on the Chadhar, Dhudhi and Mekan, all of whom are large tribes of the Jhelum and Chenab valleys. Below are a list of tribes that were tabulated as Rajput by the 1911 Census of India:

 

Tribe Population
Mair-Minhas 15,075
Janjua 10,572
Bhatti 6,586
Chauhan 4,394
Minhas 1,329
Chauhan Taubl
Jalap 1,172
Ranjha 866
Khokhar 770
Sohlan 606
Panwar 518
Bhakral 465
Gondal 7

Jalap

The Jalap, sometimes spelt Jalip, are the predominant tribe in the Jalap Illaqa, the rich well tract situated between the Jhelum River and the Salt Range. According to the 1931 Census of India, the last that counted caste, they numbered 400. The Jalap are generally recognised as Rajputs by their neighbours, although they do intermarry with the Gondals, who are their neighbours, and considered as Jat. Most of the tribe is found the Pind Dadan Khan Tehsil of the Jhelum district, there are also a few small villages in the Bhalwal tehsil of Sargodha District.

According to one of their origin myths, at the time of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, they were settled along the banks of the Chenab river. Jalap was the chief of the tribe, and the Emperor asked him to give his daughter in marriage, as other Rajputs had done. Jalap agreed, but the rest of the clan disapproved, and when he came home, they set upon him and killed him. Shah Jahan then sent an army to punish them, and being driven from their home they crossed the Jhelum, and after many fights with the Janjua established themselves where they are found.

Most Jalaps however prefer another tradition, that their ancestor was named Jalap, a holy man, and is buried in Sargodha. Jalap is said to be buried at Ramdiani in Sargodha District. Sidharan, who was several generations in descent from Jalap led the tribe to its present location. The Pind Dadan Khan plain was at that time held by the Janjua Rajputs, whom the Jalap ousted. Both traditions make reference to the fact that Jalap was a Khokhar Rajput, and the well known Khokhar Rajput family of Ahmedabad in Pind Dadan Khan acknowledge the connection with the Jalap. Closely connected with the Jalaps are two liitle known clans, the Bharat and Khiwa clans, that also reside in the Pind Dadan Khan Tehsil.

The best known families reside at Chak Shadi, Chak Jani and Pinnanwal in Pind Dadan Khan Tehsil. Other Jalap settlements include Addowal, Chak Ali Shah, Chak Danial, Dhudhi Thal, Dharyala Jalap, Khotian Jalap, Kot Shumali, Kotli Piran, Mirzabad and Nawanloke, all of which are also in Pind Dadan Khan Tehsil of Jhelum District. A smattering of Jalap are also found across the Jhelum River in the Bhalwal Tehsil of Sargodha District, in particularly in the villages of Chak 4 NB Phullarwan, Chani Mohammad Qazi, Jalap, Lakseen, Salaam and Verowal. Smaller numbers are found in Chakwal District at Lehr SultanpurMandi Bahaudin District at Jayya and Sanda, Gujrat District, at Jalapwala and Sialkot District at Jalap Wali.

Jethal

Like the Jalap, the Jethal are Rajput clan, who claim Bhatti Rajput descent, but their pedigree is traced to a Bhutta, who some 12 or 14 generations ago, married the sister of a Ghori Sultan. The king, however, drove Bhutta with his 21 sons in the Kirana Bar. Bhutta eventually crossed the Jhelum River, and settled at Ratta Pind, now a mound near the town of Kandwal. According to other traditions, they are in fact Bhutta Jat by origin, a tribe found mainly in the Multan Bahawalpur region. Interestingly, Jethal legends refer to the tribe being settled at Ucch Shah Jalal, the modern town of Uch in Bahawalpur, an area with a fairly large Bhutta population.

The Jethal are found mainly in the Pind Dadan Khan Tehsil of Jhelum District, where they hold five villages, of which Pind Saidpur is the largest, and are also found in neighbouring Dhudi Thal, Jethal, Chak Musiana, and Kahana villages. In addition, they are found in the villages of Jethal, Munday and Thoha Bahadar in Chakwal District. They are also found in the village of Chak 21 S.B. in Sargodha District and these Jethals are immigrants from the four Jethal villages in Pind Dadan Khan Tehsil.

Khoti

Moving now on to the Khoti or sometimes written as Khothi, are a tribe found almost entirely in Chakwal District. Like most of the tribes in the region, they have multiple traditions as to their origin. One such tradition makes the Khoti descendents a Raja Kang of Ludhiana. Sohi, the grandson of the Raja, moved from Ludhiana and settled in Sialkot, and from him descend the Sohi tribe of the Jats. One of his descendents, Khoti, left Sialkot and settled in Pind Dadan Khan, founding the village of Chak Hamid, which is the centre of the tribe, and where the bulk of the tribe is still found. However, a second tradition makes the Khoti are a muhi, or clan of the larger Awan tribe. As the bulk of the Khoti live in a region dominated by the Awans, it makes some sense of the Khoti to claim descent from Qutub Shah. However, their neighbours such as the Mair-Minhas and Kahut consider the Khoti to be Jats, and intermarry with other Jat tribes of the area such as the Jhammat, Khinger and Serwal. The Khoti are sub-divided into a number of lineages, the largest being the Arbal, Babka, Jewal, Malkal and Nawabal.

The Khoti occupy several villages, Azampur, Baghanwala, Chak Hamid , Chak Mujahid Shumali, Daulatpur, Dhingwal, Karimpur, Khotian Jalap and Nawanloke being the main ones, in the Pind Dadan Khan Tehsil, at a distant from Jhelum river. They are also the main Jat clan of Chakwal District, with the villages of Dheedwal, Munday and Khotian, near Chakwal and Khotian near Choa Syedan Shah are centres of the tribe. The village of Khotian, in Chakwal is incidentally also home to the famous Sahgal family, who have remained it Saigalabad.

Lilla

The Lilla tribe is a small tribe of Jat status, which claims Quraishi descent. According to their traditions, the tribe was originally settled in Arabia, being relations of the Prophet Mohammad, on his mother’s side. Their ancestor Haras or Haris, arrived in India with Mahmud of Ghazna ( circa 10th Century). The tribe originally settled in Masnad in India. After seven generations, their forefathers moved to Multan, where a well known Pir chose one Ghaus Shah to be their spiritual Pir.

 

Accompanied by Ghaus Shah, the tribe settled in Shahidiwalian, near present day Gujranwala. The local governor was ordered to expel them and succeeded in dividing the tribe into two factions, which fought a pitched battle. The defeated party dispersed and its descendants are now found near the Chenab, while the others, weakened by the struggle, migrated to the Pind Dadan Khan plain, led by Lilla Buzurg, whose is considered the ancestor by all the present Lillas. When Lilla arrived at their present location, the tract was then occupied a tribe of Hal Jats. As I have already mentioned in the section on the Hal, the Lillas proceeded exterminated this tribe, barring one pregnant woman, who had managed to escape. Despite the claim to Qureshi ancestry, the Lilla are considered as Jats by their neighbours and intermarry with other tribes of Jat status such as the Phaphra and Wariaches.

The tribe holds about 40 square miles of territory between Pind Dadan Khan town and the Salt Range in the Jhelum District, and form the majority in the villages of Chak Hameed, Jalalpur Sharif, Lilla Handwana, Lilla Goj, Lilla Bhera and Rawal in Pind Dadan Khan Tehsil. There also a second cluster of Lilla villages on the banks of the Jhelum River in Khushab District, such as Kotla Jagir, Mohibpur and Waheer. While in Mandi Bahauddin District, they are found in Bohat, and further south in Sargodha District, they are found in Bhikhi Khurd.

Phaphra

Phaphra is small tribe of Mughal status, also found in Pind Dadan Khan plains located north of the river Jhelum.

The tribe claims to be Barlas Mughals, and cccording to their tradition, the tribe came from the direction of Faridkot in Indian East Punjab, and settled in the district as traders and agriculturists. The tribe claims descent from a Phaphra, a Barlas Mughal, who settled in the district in the 15th Century. So who exactly are the Barlas, and I shall briefly look at this group of medieval Mongols. According to the Secret History of the Mongols, written during the reign of Ögedei Khan [r. 1229-1241], the Barlas shared ancestry with the Borjigin, the imperial clan of Genghis Khan and his successors, and other Mongol clans. The leading clan of the Barlas traced its origin to Qarchar Barlas, head of one of Chagatai’s regiments. Qarchar Barlas was a descendant of the legendary Mongol warlord Bodonchir (Bodon Achir; Bodon’ar Mungqaq), who was also considered a direct ancestor of Genghis Khan. Due to extensive contacts with the native population of Central Asia, the tribe had adopted the religion of Islam, and the Chagatai language, a Turkic language of the Qarluq branch, which was heavily influenced by Arabic and Persian. Timur, the ancestor of the Mughal dynasty belonged to the Barlas clan, and therefore that would connect the Paphra with the Mughals. As their little historic evidence to connect the Phaphra with the Mughals, there is some scepticism as to their claim of Mughal ancestry.

The Phaphra are now divided into two rival clans, the Dhudhial, from the village of Dhudhi Paphra and Sadowalia from those who belong to the village of Sadowal. Despite claims to a Barlas origin, the Paphra are perceived to be Jats, and intermarry with neighbouring tribes such as the Lilla and Gondal, who are considered as Jat.

The Paphra occupy a compact area of about 25 square miles at the foot of the Salt Range, east of Pind Dadan Khan in Jhelum District .The main Mughals Phaphra villages are Chak Danial, Chak Shadi, Chakri Karam Khan, Dewanpur, Dhudi Paphra, Ghareebwal, Jutana, Karimpur, Kaslian, Kot Phaphra, Kot Shumali, Rawal, Sidhandi, Sammanwal, Sadowal, Saowall, Shah Kamir, Qadirpur, Thil, Warnali, and Warra Phaphra, all in Pind Dadan Khan Tehsil of Jhelum District. In Chakwal District they are found in Dhok Virk and Jotana. Mohra Phaphra is a lone Phaphra village in Rawalpindi District. Accross the Jhelum, in Mandi Bahauddin District the Paphra are also found in villages of Phaphra, Chak No 29 and Nurpur Piran.

 

Bhao, Kahlotra, Rachyal, Sau and Sohlan Tribes

Many of the tribes that I have so far looked at, such as the Kanyal, for example, have traditions that they migrated from the Chibhal region of Jammu and Kashmir, and I shall now look at some of the tribes that still have a presence in that region, in addition to having branches settled in Pothohar. I shall start off by giving a brief descriptions of the Bhao, Kahlotra, Rachyal, Sau and Sohlan tribes. All these tribes are by origin Dogra, and question then arises, who exactly then are the Dogras? They are largely Hindu ethnic community concentrated in the region between Tawi and Chenab river in Jammu and Kashmir, and the word Dogra is said to have arisen from the fact that the cradle of the Dogra people lies between the two lakes of Sruinsar and Mansar. Its derivations is therefore from the word Dwigart Desh (meaning country of two hollows), which was converted into Duggar and Dugra, which then became Dogra. The term Dogra does not refer to a single caste, but is more a linguistic category. For example, included within the Dogra category are groups that identify themselves as Rajputs or Brahman. Most of the Dogra Rajputs follow the Hindu faith, however the region lying to the west of the Chenab River saw the conversion to Islam of most of the Rajput clans. This happened largely as the Rajput population in Jammu was thickest around the Mughal road leading from the plains of western Punjab into Kashmir, through the Bhimber-Rajauri-Shupian route across the Pir Panjal. This was the route historically used by various Muslim armies on their march to Kashmir. The first Rajput chiefs said to have embraced were those of the Khokhar tribe. One of the first to convert was the Khokhar chief Rai, according to the Tabakat-i-Nasiri had embraced Islam in the time of Mohammed Ghori. Manhas and Sulehria Rajputs became Muslims in large numbers on the borders of Jammu in the region called Salahar-Tappa and Manhas-Tappa. Communities such as the Jarral, Sulehria, Mangral, Bhao and Manhas converted in large numbers in the 16th Century. The territory between Tawi and Jhelum, became known as the Chibhal, after the largest tribe in the region, the Chib. With their conversion to Islam, many other clans such as the Bhawpal, Sau and Kamlak also converted to Islam.In the pre-independence period the Muslim Rajput population was more than double that of the Hindu Rajputs.

The 1911 Census of India was the last one that collected information on the various clans of the Pahari Rajput. According to the 1911 Census of India, the main clans were:

Tribe Population
Badhan 6,856
Bais 6,193
Bhatti 4,451
Bhao 592
Bomba 1,462
Chauhan 3,646
Chib 9,665
Domaal 6,953
Douli 3,009
Gakhar 13,825
Janjua 8,062
Jarral 8,506
Khakha 1,391
Khokhar 7,736
Mangral 7,027
Manhas 6,707
Narma 6,617
Sau 2,961
Thakhar 10,451
Other Clans 64,003

 

As this table shows, the largest clan in Chibhal region were the Gakhars, in particular in what is now Mirpur and Kotli Districts. In latter posts I intend to look at the Mangral and Douli tribes, and hopefully time permitting the Bomba and Khakha. Among the tribes to be discussed, the Rachyal stand out as being Jats, although it is quite possible that they are also of Dogra stock.

 

 

 

Bhao

Let start with the Bhao or sometime pronounced Bhau or even Bahu , who are a Rajput clan, found in Punjab, Pakistan as well as both Indian administered Jammu & Kashmir as well as Azad Kashmir. According to the tribe’s tradition, they are Raghbansi Rajputs, originally from Ayodhya in North India. This migration is said to have occurred a thousand years ago, with the Bhoas first migrating to Jammu, where they settled near Akhnur on the banks of the Chenab river. In the 14th Century, small groups began to move into what is now Gujrat District. At the time of their settlement in Gujrat, they also started to convert to Islam.

The name Bhao is said to mean those who inspire fear in the local Dogri language, which is spoken in Jammu. They have said to have acquired this name when the tribe was settling in Jammu, it inspired fear among its enemies, and hence got the name but others say the Bhao were free booters or looters and hence earned the title.

 

The Muslim branch of the Bhao are found in the Kharian Tehsil of Gujrat District, as well as a few villages in the Bhimber District of Azad Kashmir. The Hindu branch is still found in Akhnur in Jammu District. Historically, Muslim Bhao were also found in Gurdaspur District, but all these Bhao Rajput emigrated to Pakistan at the time of the partition of India. Their customs and traditions are similar to the Chib and Sohlan Rajputs, tribes of Dogra extraction who are there neighbours.

 

 

Kahlotra

Looking now at the Kahlotra, sometimes pronounced as Kalotri, a tribe historically found Naushera and Rajauri tehsils of what was then Riasi District till 1947, with a smaller number found in the south eastern portions of Kotli District. The Kahlotra are sub-group of the Dogra community. Among those clans of the Dogras that converted to Islam, the foremost are the Kahlotra. However, there are still a good many Kahlotra who have remained Hindu. According to some traditions, the Kahlotra are a clan of Suryavanshi Rajputs, while others make them a clan of the Manhas Rajput tribe. The Muslim Kahlotra also played an important role in Adam malia (Non payment of land tax) and Quit Kashmir movement.

 

In 1947, at the partition of India, entire Muslim branch of the Kahlotra tribe migrated from  the Jammu region to Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. A significant number are now settled in villages such as Thoa Khalsa in Rawalpindi District, but are still distinguished from their neighbours by the continuied use of the Dogri language.

 

 

 

 

Rachyal

 

Coming next to the Rachyal, sometimes spelt Richyal, who are a Jat tribe, found mainly in the Kotli and Mirpur districts of Azad Kashmir. Like the Kahlotra already mentioned,the Rachyal are a clan of Dogras, whose roots like in the Chamba region of what is now Himachal Pradesh. According to tribal folklore, once the Rachyals converted to Islam they were forced out of Chamba and its surroundings and we see them migrating to Sialkot, Sheikhupura, and Jhang areas of Punjab in Pakistan. The tribe then re-entered the Jammu state via Dhuki village through Sarai-Alamgir (near Kharian, Punjab, Pakistan) which lies in district of Mirpur around three hundred years ago. They then moved to Mangla and eventually to a place called Ladna near now Chakswari. From here the Rachyals spread farther west and the estate of Panyam came into existence. Most of the Rachyal are still found either in Chakswari or Panyam, where several of their villages are found such as Poth,and Chamba. Some Rachyals travelled further North towards Naar, Rajdhani, Poonch and Rajouri. Today small pockets of Rachyals also have a presence in Pakistan Punjab. There are still some Hindu Rachyals found in the Chamba region of Himachal Pradesh.

 

Sau

I will now look at the Sau, or sometimes pronounced as Shau. They are a branch of the Minhas Rajputs, but of all the Rajputs clans found in Mirpur, they have the least written about them. The word Sau is a corruption of Sahu, or well born, and they claim a higher status from other Minhas descended clans. It is in fact a corruption of word saha which the Sanskrit version of old Persian word Shaha or emperor. In the Pothohar and Chibhali regions, tribes such as the Gakhar and Janjua use the term to describe themselves in distinction from those tribe such as the Kanyal or Nagyal, who are called zamindar. Found now mainly in Mirpur District, in villages such as Chatroh, Jabot, Khirri, Lakhora, Kot Qandu Khan and Unna (near Dadyal), often surrounded by Bains and Jat villages.

Sohlan

Finally looking at the Sohlan, who are a tribe of Rajputs claiming descent from the Panwar Rajputs of Malwa in central India. Like other Panwar tribes, their ancestor Sohlan is said to have emigrated from Malwa in the middle ages, settling in the foothills of the Pir Panjal mountains, and converting to Islam. The Sohlan established a principality based on the town of the Khari Sharif and during the time of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughals the reigning authorities never levied taxes in the Solhan ruled areas, in lieu of peaceful passage to Kabul. There are however other traditions which connect the Sohlan clan with the royal family from Kishtawar; with Raja Sohlan Singh quarrelling with his relations and settling in Khari, and expelling the Gujjar population. Legend also has it that Mangla Devi an ancestor of the tribe and after whom Mangla is named after was the first person from the tribe to convert to Islam. This site has now been inundated by the construction of the Mangla Dam in Mirpur District. After the collapse of the Mughal Empire, the Sohlan areas came under the rule of the Sikhs. This rule lasted until 1846 when Sohlan inhabited areas north of the Jhelum river were handed over to the Gulab Singh Dogra in an agreement with the British as part of the Treaty of Amritsar. As result of this treaty, Sohlan territory was effectively partitioned, with Sohlan south of the Jhelum coming under direct British areas, in what became the district of Jhelum and sub-district of Gujar Khan. Despite this separation, both the Chibhal territory of Jammu State and British Pothohar continued to share common cultural traditions, with minor dialectial differences between Pothwari and Pahari languages.

 

Presently, the Sohlan are found chiefly in the Mirpur District of Azad Kashmir, with small numbers found in Jhelum, Gujar Khan, and Rawalpindi.

Starting with Mirpur District, their villages include Bani (Mirpur), Dalyala, Ghaseetpur Sohalian, Koonjarai Nawab, Mehmunpur, and Sahang. Sohlan villages in Mirpur are located mainly around the town of Khari Sharif which has historically been ruled by this clan. Since the development of the Mangla Dam, old Jabot Village, which was also an important Sohlan village was submerged underwater causing many families to move to Khari Sharif, and establishing the village of New Jabot. The Sohlan village in Jhelum District are located north of the city of Jhelum near the border with Mirpur, the principal settlement being Sohan. Other villages include Gatyali or Patan Gatalyan, Chak Khasa, Pakhwal Rajgan, Chitti Rajgan, Pind Ratwal Tahlianwala, Dhok Sohlnan, Piraghaib and Langerpur. They are closely connected to with both the Bhao and Chibs, who are their neighbours, and with whom they share good many customs and traditions. Outside this core area, Sohlan villages include Sahang and Dhok Sohlan in Tehsil Gujar Khan district, Morah Sohlan, Pehount in the Islamabad Capital Territory and Naar Mandho in Kotli District.