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:
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.
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.
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
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.