In this post, I shall look at four tribes, the Chib, Katil, Minhas and Sulehria, who are all of Dogra stock, with traditional homeland comprising the plains bellow the Pir Panjal hills. My posts on the Bhao and Sohlan looked into some detail as to the origin of the Dogra, and reasons for their conversions to Islam. These four tribes all still have branches that have remained Hindu. Historically, the Chib were found mainly in the Bhimber and Kharian region, and have given their name to the Chibhal, the region between the Jhelum and Chenab. The Katil and Sulehria are eastern neighbours of the Chib, which concentrations between the Chenab and Ravi, in Jammu, Sialkot and prior to partition in Gurdaspur District. While the Minhas stretch all the way from Rawalpindi in the west to Hoshiarpur in the east, at least prior to partition in 1947.
I shall start by looking at the Chib, sometimes also writen as Chibh, who are found mainly in Bhimber, the Kharian areas of Gujrat and the Pabbi hills portion of Jhelum. As I have stated in my earlier posts on the Bhao tribe, the Chib have given their name to the Chibhal region lying between the Jhelum and Chenab rivers, and on the southern edges of the Pir Panjal range. This is because the Chib ruled of Bhimber effectively covered the territory that latter became known as the Chibhal. Furthermore, it was there conversion to Islam that also led to many other tribes such as the Bhawpal, Domaal and Kamlak following suite. They are in essence Dogras who have converted to Islam.
The Chibs trace their descent from Partab Chand, a Katoch Rajput prince of Kangra, who said to have ended Thakial rule in the Mirpur-Bhimber region, and established the Chib dynasty. According tribal tradition, this rule was established by the overthrow of the last Thakial ruler of the region named Siripat. When Partab Chand reached the hilltop near Bhimber, he observed that it was very difficult to capture the state. He then set up camp there and named this hilltop as Kangra and the village still exists by that same name. Partab Chand stayed for a long time with his troops on the hilltop waiting for a suitable opportunity to attack and capture the state, but this did not take place as he had run short of supplies for his men. Partab Chand sent his soldiers in disguise with his own jewellery to go down to the markets of Bhimber to get the much needed supplies. His men went to a jeweller who was astonished when he saw the royal jewels. Siripat Thakial also learned about the man with the royal jewels and found out about the deployment of the Kangra troops on hill. He sent his ambassador to Partab Chand which resulted a friendly meeting between the Partab Chand and the Maharaja of Bhimber.
Maharaja Siripat Thakial had no sons but had a daughter. He married the princess to the oldest son of Partab Chand, Chib Chand. On the death of Maharaja Siripat, Chib Chand became the new Maharaja of Bhimber. Raja Dharam Chand was the seventh Raja of the Chib Chand line, who converted to Islam. The following story is related in connection with the conversion:
The first of the tribe to become a Muslim was one Sur Sadi , which died a violent death in Aurangzeb s reign. He is still venerated as a martyr and the Muslim Chib offer the scalp locks of their male children at his tomb, till which ceremony the child is not considered a true Chibh , nor is his mother allowed to eat meat.
This is how their conversion tradition has been related by Sir Denzil Ibbetson, a late 19th Century British ethnographer. By the 17th Century, the Chib state split into two, with Bhimber home to the elder branch and Khari Khalyari in present day Mirpur District home to the younger branch. The Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh’s armies defeated the last rajah of Bhimber, ending Chib independence.
In Mirpur District, there villages include Lehri Rajgan There is a concentration of Chib villages in Bhimber District such as Kalri and in Kotli District there villages include Khoi Ratta, Segyum and Supplah. These Chib claim descent from Raja Shadab Khan, also known as Hazrat Sheikh Baba Shadi Shaheed. There are also several Chib villages in Gujrat District, the most important being Thatha Rai Bahadur and in the Pabbi Hill region of Jhelum District such as Dak Chibhan.
The next clan I intend to look at are the Katil, sometimes spelt Katal or even Kateel. They belong to the Survanshi branch of Rajput community. According to their traditions, their founder Raja Karet, driven from the plains of Punjab by the Turkish conqueror Mahmud of Ghazna, settled in Mangla Devi, a fort in Jammu. One of his descendents took to robbery in the forest near the town of Samba, and captured a Sambial (a Survayavanshi Dogra clan found in Samba, Jammu) girl, so in return of her release, the girls kinsmen gave him a large tract of land in Shakargarh tehsil of Narowal District. He is then said to have founded the town of Katli, and his descendents were called Katil. The tribe is said to have 360 founded villages, of which a 100 are found in Gurdaspur and Narowal districts, and the remainder in Jammu. There are other traditions, which reference to the fact that the Katil are in fact a branch of the Khokhar tribe, and until recently, there was no intermarriage between the Khokhars and Katils on account of this common descent.
With regards to their conversation to Islam, it is said that during the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, three Katils Rao (chiefs), namely Balel, Mal and Nihala accepted Islam. However, a good many Katil have remained Hindu, and in Gurdaspur make up the largest Dogra clan.
The Minhas, sometimes pronounced Manhas or Minhas-Dogra are Suryavanshi Rajput clan. In this post, I shall only be looking at the Muslim branch of the tribe, and not the quite substantial community of Minhas that follow Hinduism or Sikhism. In terms of distribution, they are found in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir regions that lie divided between India and Pakistan. According to their tradition, they are an off-shoot of the Jamwal-Dogra Rajputs, the founders of the city and state of Jammu and its rulers from ancient times to 1948 C.E.
As I have said in my introduction, the Minhas Rajputs belong to the Suryavanshi branch of the Rajput caste, and claim descent from Rama a legendary king of Ayodhya. In Rajputana, their closest cousins are the Kachwaha and Bargujar Rajputs of Jaipur. They trace their ancestry to the Ikshvaku dynasty of Northern India (The same clan in which Lord Rama was born). He, therefore is the ‘kuldevta’ (family deity) of the Hindu Minhas Rajputs). Specifically, they claim descent from Kusha younger of the twin sons of Rama, hero of the Ramayana, to whom patrilineal descent from Surya is in turn ascribed. His later descendants, the Dogras ruled over the state for hundreds of years till 1948 C.E, when the state of Jammu and Kashmir officially acceded to India. Maharaja Hari Singh was the last in the long list of the Dogra rulers of Jammu.
All the descendants of Raja Jambu Lochan were called Jamwal Rajputs, until according to tradition, Raja Malan Hans Dev(while on a hunting trip)was tricked by his brother to help a poor old farmer working under hot sun with ploughing. According the traditions of the Kshatriya caste, the stigma of touching a plough was so great, that Raja Malan had to immediately give up the kingship and take up agriculture as a profession and his throne passed to his cunning younger brother, Raja Suraj Hans Dev. Rajputs in general and those in the Punjab hills in particular have had a strong prejudice against taking up agriculture as a profession and therefore Raja Malan Hans and his descendants were styled Minhas. Therefore, any member of the Jamwal clan who took up agriculture or converted to Islam, was called Minhas, whereas the name Jamwal has been confined to the royal branch including the Maharajas of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Muslim Minhas are perhaps the most widespread of the Islmasized Dogras, stretching from Rawalpindi District in the west to historically Horshiarpur, all along the foothills of the Himalayas. In Chakwal, the Mair branch of the Minhas is extremely important, I shall look at them in a separate post. Similarly the Lodhra and Manes of southern Punjab, also important branches of the Minhas will be looked at separately. In Sialkot, Gujrat, and the Jammu region, the Muslim Minhas are generally a compact tribe, but as we move west, the term Minhas covers a multitude of clans. Perhaps the Nagyal are the most important, but we have the Dolchial, Kanyal, and Ratial, who are all important clans in their own respect. In Gujarkhan and Jhelum, and neighbouring Mirpur, the Minhas are after the tribes that call themselves Bhatti, the largest component of the population. In Jhelum, the Minhas clans such as the Kanyal and Nagyal call themselves Jats, and intermarry with other Jat clans. In Rawalpindi, and neighbouring Kotli, Rajouri and Poonch regions, the Minhas generally identify themselves as Rajputs.
Distribution of Muslim Minhas by District According to 1901 Census of Punjab
In terms of distribution, the Minhas territory stretched from Rawalpindi to Hoshiarpur, with the densest population in Sialkot and Gurdaspur. In Jhelum and Rawalpindi, the Minhas were divided into several clans, the most important being the Nagyal, and Ratial. In Multan, many members of the Lodhra clan, based around the town of Lodhran, which is named after the tribe declared themselves as Minhas, hence the large numbers in that district. One interesting point to note are the Muslim Minhas of Jalandhar district, they were converts from Mahton caste, a quasi-Rajput group that was largely Sikh.
Distribution of Muslim Minhas by District According to 1911 Census of Jammu and Kashmir
In the old Jammu and Kashmir state, the Minhas of Jammu were identical with those of Sialkot and Gurdaspur. Like other Muslim Dogras of the Jammu region, most moved to Pakistan in 1948. A second cluster of Minhas was found in the Poonch Jageer, and the adjoining areas of Muzaffarabad and Mirpur. These Minhas had strong connections with those in Rawalpindi and Jhelum.
The last tribe I intend to look at are the Sulehria, sometimes pronounced as Suleri or occasionally Salaria. Like most tribes, there are several theories as to their origin.
According to Sir
Denzil Ibbetson, author of the Census report of the Punjab 1892, the Sulehris are:
… a tribe ofRajput who trace there descendents from Shal of fabulous antiquity. They say that their eponymous ancestor came from Deccan in the time of Sultan Mamdah as commander of a force sent to suppress the insurrection of Shuja* (*Shaikha is the usual form of his name) and settled in Sialkot; and that his in the time of Bahlol Lodi. They are for the most part Muhammadans, but still employ Brahmans. As a rule they do not marry within the tribe.
Sulehrias traditions also refer to the tribe settling around Sialkot during Bahlul Lodi’s rule According to Najmuttawarikh by Munshi Natiq, a Sulehri historian, the tribe were effective rulers of the Sialkot region until the rise of the Bajju Rajputs around the 16th Century. The Sulehri Raja Sahn Pal Sulehria is said to have converted to Islam due to the preachings of Hazrat Abdul Jalil Chorh Bandgi Qureshi in the reign of Bahlol Lodhi, while his other brother Raja Jeet Pal Sulehria and his descendants remain of the Hindu religion.
In Pakistan, the Sulehris inhabit a long chain of border villages in Sialkot, Shakargarh and Narowal districts along the working boundary between Pakistan and the province of Jammu (Indian Administered Jammu-Kashmir).
In Sialkot District, Sulehri villages include Darwal. Bini Sulehrian, Chak Maral, Charwah, Tigray, Nakhnal, , Tursipur, Nogran, Aal, Kharkara, Rangore, Jabbal, Malanay Rajputaan, Dharkalian, Khadral, Sangrayal and Chhowni Sulehrian. While in Narowal, Sulehri villages include Bhagiare, Fattowal Sulehrian, Lagwal Minhasan, Nadala Sulehrian, Masial, Kingra, Najuchak, Ropochak, Shahpur, Jarpal, and Pindi Bohri.
Refugees Salahria are found in Shaikhupura District, in particular in the villages of Ghang, Jhamkay, Nokhar, Chumbar, Kujar, Dera Khurshaid, and Dera Kala Singh
In Azad Kashmir
In Azad Kashmir, the Salaria are found mainly in Kotli, Bagh and Poonch districts, while in Indian administered Kashmir, Salaria inhabited districts include Rajouri and Poonch.