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 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, Kamlak, and Sau 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 Tabaqat 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:
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.
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. However, according to another tradition, the Bhao are branch of the Jamwals, thereby related to the Minhas Rajputs. The ancestors of the both the Bhao and Jamwal were the Dev dynasty that ruled Jammu. The Devs largely remained loyal to the Mughal kings, but a feud within Dev dynasty was deepened with the Mughal agencies exploiting it, and during the late sixteenth century, the Devs virtually split into two factions (Jammu faction of Jammu city-fort, and Bahu faction across the Tawi river), while the actual Mughal supremacy over the region was established. The intra-dynasty feud and the Mughal supremacy were both terminated in Jammu during the reigns of Dhruv Dev (1707–33) and Ranjit Dev (1733–82). The Bahu is a hill located on the outskirts of Jammu. After their defeat, the Bahu Jamwals moved to Akhnur, Bhimber and the Kharian region of the Punjab.
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.
Distribution of Muslim Bhao Rajputs by District in Jammu and Kashmir State According 1911 Census of India
As the census figures, the bulk of the Muslim Bhao population was found in what is now Bhimber.
Distribution of Hindu Bhao Rajputs by District in Jammu and Kashmir State According 1911 Census of India
The Hindu Bhao were found largely in Akhnur, the region of Jammu bordering Bhimber. The difference of religion was largely due to the fact that the western branch of the Chibs, the largest of the Rajput clans in this region on the slopes of the Pir Panjal, had converted to Islam, and other smaller clans followed their example. Around Akhnur, most of the Dogras remained Hindus, and as did the Bhao.
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.
The Kamlak are a Dogra clan, and have much in common with the Bhao and Sohlan referred to in my earlier blogs. The clan claim that they are the descendants of Raja Azamat Khan Kamlak, who migrated from Budhal to the village of Azamatabad, situated in north Thanamandi Tehsil. They are a Rajputs tribe found mainly in the Rajauri District of Jammu and Kashmir. In Budhal Tehsil, there are still several villages of Kamlak, both Hindu and Muslim, such as Kandi, Dandwal, Rajnagar and Shahpur. Other then Azmatabad, Manyal in Thanamandi Tehsil of Rajouri District is an important Kamlak village. The Hindu Kamlak are a Dogra clan, and they intermarry with neighbouring clans such as the Charak, Chandial and Manhas. Both groups of Kamlak claim a common origin and have some common customs and rituals
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, Dheri Phali, Jabot, Khirri, Lakhora, Kot Qandu Khan and Unna (near Dadyal), often surrounded by Bains and Jat villages.
Distribution of Muslim Sao / Sahu Rajputs by District in Jammu and Kashmir State According 1911 Census of India
As this table shows, more then even the Bhao, the Sahu are a tribe of the Mirpur region.