In this post I shall look at three tribes that are found in the Dhani region of Chakwal. The Dhani is a large plain, the centre of which now stands the city of Chakwal. These three tribes, namely, the Kassar, Kahut and Mair-Minhas are intimately connected with the history of the Dhani.
The area of Dhanni for a long time in history was an uninhabited. Although the powerful tribes like Ghakkars and Janjuas ruled the adjoining territories in Potohar, the Kahoon valley and the ancient Thirchak Mahal, Dhanni remained a hunting ground for the various local rulers. As the tradition goes, in the year 1190 C.E, Raja Bhagir Dev, a Jamwal prince, while on a hunting expedition fell in love with a Muslim woman belonging to a tribe of wandering Gujjar grazers. In order to marry her, he converted to Islam and consequently was asked by his father to stay away from Jammu and settle in this tract along with his men. Raja Bhagir Dev was named Muhammed Mair after his conversion to Islam and his descendants as Mair-Minhas Rajputs. The Mairs preferred pastoral rather than agricultural pursuits for the next few centuries; but remained confined to this area. When around 1525 C.E, the Mughal King Babur stopped by in this area on his way to Kashmir, his army was ambushed by the hostile tribes from the adjoining areas. Babar decided not to confront the Mair, but instead invited Raja Sidhar and offered him two thirds of the land of Dhanni, if he provided labour to help the Kassar tribesmen to drain the water from the great lake which then covered all the eastern part of the tehsil, up to the ridge followed by the Bhon-Dhudial road. Raja Sidhar, chief of the Mair-Minhas Rajputs and Gharka Kassar, chief of the Kassars, a Mughal sub-tribe took up the job along with their respective tribesmen. They drained the lake water by cutting through Ghori- Gala, by which the Bunha stream now flows. Subsequently, they proceeded to divide up the country. The Emperor also awarded them the title of Chaudhry, and administration of the newly formed Taluka, which ever since has been called Dhan Chaurasia or Maluki Dhanâ Chaudhry. Sidhar, settled villages named after his sons Chaku, Murid and Karhan and as Chaku Khan became the chief, he decided to settle in Chakwal, the village named after him and make it the administrative centre of the Taluka. Whereas, Kassar chiefs founded the villages of Bal-Kassar and Dhudial. Latter, the Kahuts, a tribe of Qureshi Arabs also arrived, completing the picture.
Before I giver a more detailed description of the three tribes, just a note about the Dhani country or Chakwal Tehsil as it known as now, other then the three tribes referred to, it also home to several Jat clans such as the Bhutta, Gondal, Hurgan, Jethal, Lilla and Phaphra, who now make up a third of the population of the Dhani. Therefore the Dhani is no longer the exclusive patrimony of these three tribes.
I will start off by looking at Kahut sometimes pronounced as Koot (especially in Sargodha), Kut or Kahout. Like most Punjabi tribes, there are several traditions as to their origin.
Most Kahut now claim to be Qureshi Arabs, whose ancestors settled in the Dhani after the arrival of the Mair. It is believed that when the ancestors of the Kahut first arrived in this area they had to fight with the locals to find a place to settle. This war is said to have taken place at the location of the village of Janga in Chakwal District, which is derived from ‘Jang Gah’, meaning place of war. About the year A.D.1359 their ancestor Said Nawab Ali, nicknamed Kahut, migrated to Delhi, and on the way defeated a pagan king of Sialkot, named Sain Pal. On reaching Delhi they paid their respect to the Delhi Sultan who ordered them to hold the Dhanni and the Salt Range on his behalf. They accordingly retraced their steps and settled at the foot of the Salt Range. Once settled, they began to tax the Janjua and the Gujar graziers and remitting it to Delhi. Their first settlement in the Dhani was at a site near village Waryamal. The eastern part of Dhanni was then a lake, which on coming of Mughal Emperor Babur was drained at his command; the Kahuts taking part in the work and colonising the land. Chaudhry Sahnsar, 8th in descent from Kahut was their ancestor at the time of the drainage of the lake. During the Mughal period (around 15th Century), the Kahut rose to prominence until there power was destroyed by the Sikhs in 18th Century. The southern part of Chakwal tehsil where Kahuts predominate is still known as the Kahutani, a reflexion of their past dominance. Sometime during the Sikh period, groups of Kahut immigrated to Sargodha and Mandi Bahauddin. In the local Shahpuri dialect of Saegodha, they are referred to as Koot, and like most other tribes of the area, they consider themselves and are also considered by all other people as Jats and have intermarried with all the tribes of the area.
However, according to the 19th Century British ethnographer Sir Denzil Ibbetson, the Kahuts are probably of Rajput origin and have come from Jammu hills to Chakwal area. The only evidence of such a migration is are the “Kahuta” hills of the Rawalpindi district are supposed to have derived their name from the tribe, but no record of remains of them in that tract. Other then reference to the Kahuta hills, there seems little connection with Jammu. The Mair, who are their neighbours, have maintained a strong tradition of Jammu migration, so if the Kahut were of Jammu origin, they have at least some tradition.
The most important Kahut family is settled in the village of Kariala in Chakwal. Other Kahut villages include Bhalla, Bhawan, Bhuchal Kalan, Chakora, Dhok Tallian, Dullah, Hasola, Langah, Domali, Musa Kahoot, Kahut, Kassowal, Nikka Kahut, Tatral, Thirpal, Thoha Bahader, Janga, Sadwal, Waryamal and Warwal
In Mandi Bahauddin District, they are found in villages in Union Council Ahla Haryah, and Bhikhi. While in Sargodha, their villages include Pindi Kootan near Bhera, and Kahut in the Sahiwal Tehsil
There is also cluster of Kahut villages in Union Council Khaur of Attock district
The next Dhani tribe I will look are the Kassar,which holds lands in the northern part of Dhani, called ‘Babial and Chaupeda’, with the Kahut and Mair located to the east.
According to some tribal traditions, the Kassar came originally from Jammu along with the Mair-Minhas tribe and had been settled in the Dhani during the rule of the Mughal Emperor, Zaheerudin Babur. According to this tradition, their ancestor came from Kashgar and settled in Khalana (near Muzafarabad); they then migrated to Poonch, and eventually accompanied to the Mair when they arrived in the Dhanni country.
However, like most Punjab tribes the above is not their only origin myth, with several other linking them directly to the Mughal dunasty. One such tradition traces their lineage to the Mughal Emperor Babur, with ancestor Kassar (who was said to be a Barlas Mughal) as a distant cousin of Babur. In this origin myth, the Kassar are said to have come with Babur’s army as his fellow tribesmen and were settled in Dhani along with the Mairs and Kahuts by the Emperor himself. According to the 1931 census of India, their male population was approximately 4000. The customs of the Kassar are very similar to the Mair and Kahut, with whom the tribe intermarries. Unlike other Mughals, but like neighbouring Jars such as the Gondal, they use the title Chaudhary. Most Kassar are Sunni, with a Shia minority.
Apart from Chakwal, they are also settled in Attock, Sargodha, Mandi Bahauddin, Gujrat, Khushab, Jhelum, and Rawalpindi districts.
Important Kassar villages in Chakwal include Fim Kassar, Farid Kassar, Balkassar, Balokassar, Sarkal Kassar, Bhagwal, Karsal, Saral, Miswall, Doray, Chauli, Mangwal, Dingi, Munwall, Bikhari Kalan, Kuthiala Sheikhan Bikhari Khurd, Pind Haraj, Dhok Peeli, Dhudial, Tattral, Latifal, Dhalal, Hastal, Maari, Thoha Bahadur, and Lakhwal.
Further south in Sargodha District, there are several Kassar villages in Kot Momin Union Council such as Chak 10sb, 20sb, 9sb, 67sb, 65sb and 66sb. These Kassar originate in the Dhani and moved to Kot Momin in the 19th Century, where the British built canals to improve agriculture and settled Kassar from Chakwal.
Outside these two clusters, important Kassar villages include Kasra in Attock District and Turkwal is situated in Gujar Khan Tehsil of Rawalpindi.
Important Kassar clans include the Balkassar, Bhagwal, Chawli, Dullah, Haraj, Karsal, Mangwal, Mehrou
Mair-Minhas of Chakwal
Looking now at the Mair Minhas, the tribe takes its name from Raja Mair, a Jamwal Rajput ruler of Jammu. According to tribal legends, Raja Mair (whose name before his conversion was Raja Bhagir Dev) was son of the Raja of Jammu and had come to the Dhanni area (present day Chakwal) for hunting. He fell in love with a local Muslim Gujjar woman, converted to Islam and married her.
The city of Chakwal is named after their Mair chief, Chaku Khan whose father, Raja Sidhar ruled the area at the time of Mughal ruler Babar]s invasion of India. The Mughal emperor Zaheerudin Babur conferred upon Raja Sidhar, the title of chaudhry and made him the taluqdar (area administrator) over eighty four villages of the Dhani country. The Mair-Minhas tribe rose to further prominence during the short rule of Sher Shah Suri who handed them the control over the adjoining territories, as far as Swan River in Potohar and Kahoon in the South.
However, after the Mughal King [[Humayun]] returned to India with the help of the Persians, he handed over the entire Potohar including Dhani to the Gakhar, who had helped him escape from India during Sher Shah’s revolt.
The Mair-Minhas tribe again rose to power after collapse of Mughal authority as a result of the death of Aurangzeb. They had supported his son Moazzam in his quest for power and in return he re-appointed their chief Gadabeg Khan as the Taluqdar and chaudhry of the ‘Dhan Chaurasi’. Their rule over Dhani continued during the Sikh era as one of their chiefs Chaudhry Ghulam Mehdi had invited Sirdar Maha Singh to this side of river Jhellum. Also, their Dogra cousins Raja Gulab Singh and Dhian Singh were very powerful in the Lahore Durbar, so the influence of Chakwal Chaudhrials during the Sikh era was considerable and they were considered one of the biggest Muslim land holders of the era.
In the Second Anglo-Sikh War at Chaillianwala in 1849, the Chakwal Chaudhrials were among the very few Muslim feudal families who supported the Sikhs. Consequently, after the defeat of the Sikhs all Jagirs and titles of the ‘Chakwal Chaudhrials’ were confiscated. Due to their general good conduct in the mutiny of 1857, some of their rights were restored and small Jagirs were granted to their chiefs in Chakwal. Chief of the tribe Jehan Khan and later his son Aurangzeb Khan were conferred an ‘inam’ of Rs.312/- per annum and the title of “Raja Sahib” as a mark of hereditary distinction. The Chaudhrials of Kot Chaudhrian were able to get more concessions with the aid of Maharaja Gulab Singh and almost half of their original lands were regained.
According to the census of 1931, their male population was 7800. The ‘Chaudhrials’ or the Talukdars reside in the following villages: Kot Sarfraz Khan, Kot Choudrai|, Behkri, Dhudial, Badsahan, Bhoun, Mohra Kudlathi, Murid, Punjain Shariff, Sarkal-Mair, Udhwal, Oudherwal, Dhaab Kalaan Mohra Sheikhan, Mohra Korechisham, Kotha Abdal, Chatal, Sutwal, Karhan, Chak Malook, Chak Norang and Bhagwal.