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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.