Katoch, Malik, Thakkar and Safial tribes

In this post I shall look at four Chibhali tribes, namely the Katoch, Malik, Thakkar and Safiaal. While Katoch and Rathore are clearly of Rajput origin, the status of the Maliks, and their sub-group the Safial is more complicated. Finally, the Thakkar actual form a distinct caste, which can be called quasi-Rajput. What unite all these tribes is traditions of migration during the Mughal period, i.e. between the 16th and 18th Centuries to the Pir Panjal region. I will ask the reader to look at my post on the Sohlan and Kahlotra to get a further background on the Chibhali community.



In this post, I will start off by looking at the Katoch, and more specifically the Muslim Katoch of the Banihal and Doda regions of Jammu. The clans of the Chibhal like the Chib and Bhawpal are also branches of the Katoch clan, but the Chibhali are separated from Muslim Katoch by the Pir Panjaal mountains. Unlike the Chibhali groups who have strongly been influenced by Punjabi culture, the Muslim Katoch of Doda have strong Kashmiri influence.

The name Katoch is possibly derived from the words kot and ouch, meaning high status defenders of forts. Katoch themselves claim to belong to the Chandravanshi kshatriya lineage. Their traditional area of residence was the Trigarta Kingdom, the modern Jalandhar. The dynasty is considered to be one of the oldest surviving royal dynasty in the world. They first find mention in the mythological Hindu epic, Mahabharata and references are found is in the recorded history of Alexander the Great’s war records. According to clan traditions, it was in in 4300 BC when Rajanaka Bhumi Chand founded Katoch dynasty and he also made famous Jawalaji Temple. The state of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh was founded circa 1390 by Megh Chand. Other branches of the Katoch as the Jaswal and Guleria provided several petty rulers in Himachal Pradesh.
Groups of Katoch emigrated from the Kangra region during the rule of Aurengzeb. This migration was largely as a result of continuous conflict between the Mughals and the Hill Rajahs. The Katoch initially settled in Bhaderwah in Doda region. Conflict with rulers of Bhaderwah led to migration to Banihal and Doda. Most of these then converted to Islam in the 18th Century, as they had settled in a region which is largely Muslim. Most Muslim Katoch are bilingual, speaking both Bhaderwahi and Kashmiri language. Like most Muslims in Doda, Kashmiri culture has had a deep impact on the Katoch.


The Malik are a large tribal cluster found mainly along the slopes of the Pir Panjal, with a large concentration in the Darhal valley in Rajouri.

The Malik describe themselves as soldiers having been brought into Poonch region by the Mughal Emperor Akbar to guard the passes into Kashmir from the Punjab. These soldiers were probably of fairly diverse origin, with those of the Darhal valley claiming to be Rajput. According to tribal traditions, there name Malik was given to them as title by Akbar. They were required to defend the passes that led into Kashmir, and appear in the field for the Emperor whenever required. In return they were given villages and lands.


Malik, literally meaning a king was one of the used by local aristocrats throughout North India, more formally known as Zamindars under both the Mughals and the British. The earliest form of the name Malka was used to denote a prince or chieftain in the East Semitic Akkadian language of the Mesopotamian states of Akkad, Assyria, Babylonia and Chaldea. The Northwest Semitic mlk was the title of the rulers of the primarily Amorite, Sutean, Canaanite, Phoenician and Aramean city-states of the Levant and Canaan from the Late Bronze Age. Eventual derivatives include the Aramaic, Neo-Assyrian, Mandic and Arabic forms: Malik, Malek, Mallick, Malkha, Malka, Malkai and the Hebrew form Melek.

The Malik as a tribe are now found mainly in the Darhal Valley with scattered settlements in Poonch (both Indian & Pakistani administerd), Jammu and few are also found in the Kotli and Mirpur Districts of Azad Kashmir. According to the 1931 census, their male population numbered 19,000.


The next community I am going to look at are the Muslim Thakkars. They are found mainly in Reasi, Rajouri, Udhampur and Kishtwar districts of Indian administered Kashmir. In Reasi and Rajouri, the Muslim Thakkar prefer the self-designation Nagvanshi or Nagi. The word Thakkar really is simply the Pahari version of the word Thakur, which can mean lord, god or master.


The Dogra Rajput population of the Jammu region is divided into hypergamous clans. Their position in the hierarchy is an outcome of the history of the region. Throughout the middle ages, the Duggar (Jammu) region saw conflicts between the Devs and Khokhars and then between the Jammu Devs and Bahu Devs, both left their marks on the order among Jammu’s Rajput clans. Today, at the top of the Rajput hierarchy are the descendants of Jammu Devs and their close allies: Jamwals of Jammu (city), Mankotias of Mankot (Ramnagar), Sambyals of Samba and Jasrotias of Jasrota. Most of the Muslim Thakkars claim descent from Sambyal Dogras.

In the foothills of the Pir Panjaal, the term Thakkar used to describe a group of clans that were at the lowest level within the system of marriage hypergamy that existed within the Rajputs of the Duggar and Chibhal. They were also connected with tilling the land, which supposedly made them the lowest of the Jammu Rajputs. The community known as the Thakkar came about because the Hindu Rajputs of the Himalaya follow a system known as hypergamy, namely the act or practice of a woman marrying a man of higher caste or social status than herself. For example, those clans designated as Rajputs may exchange wives, while Thakkars groups can give girls in marriage from those of Rajput status, but may not take from. In Himachal Pradesh, a particularly complex system of hypergamy existed, with Thakkars giving girls to Rathi, and Rathi to Kannet. The line between Thakar and Rathi was roughly said to consist in the fact that Rathis did and Thakkars did not ordinarily practise widow-marriage; though the term Rathi was commonly applied by Rajputs of the ruling houses the princely states of what is now Himachal Pradesh and Jammu to all below them.

In Udhampur, Kishtwar and Reasi, the Thakkars over time began to form a distinct caste now, generally intermarrying with themselves. It is among these western Thakkars, that conversion to Islam took place. These communities are found north of the Chibhali groups, and their customs are similar to those of Kashmiri Muslims. Most Thakkar groups give their clan as Nagi or Nagvanshi. Other important Thakkar clans are the Katoch and Sambyal, with the former found mainly in Kishtwar and the latter in Reasi.


In the Rajouri-Reaasi region, almost all of the Thakkars groups converted to Islam, forming a distinct community of Thakkar Muslims. According to their tribal traditions, the Thakkars are said to have come from Samba, a tehsil of Jammu district, as such are really Sambyal and not Thakkars. The last census that counted the Muslim Thakkar was that of 1911, and they numbered 10,451. In Rajouri, the Thakkars are settled in Budhal, Saj and some other villages of Rajouri and Poonch.




The Safiaal Rajputs, also spelled Sufial and Sufiaal, are sub-group found within the Malik community, found mainly in the Darhal valley of Rajouri. According to their tribal traditions, they are of Malkana Rajput stock, who like other Malik groups came to the Pir Panjaal during the period of Akbar’s rule. The question then is who are or were the Malkana Rajputs.


The Malkana are a well known Rajput found mainly in the Agra region of western Uttar Pradesh. The Malkana claimed descent from a number of Hindu castes. Those of Kiraoli, where they occupy five villages, claim descent from a Jat. Other Malkana families in the district claim descent from Panwar, Chauhan, Parihar and Sikarwar Rajputs. In Hathras District, they were found mainly near the town of Sadabad. They belonged to Jat and Gaurwa communities that had converted to Islam. At the term of the 20th Century, the Malkana were a community that was on the religious faultline, as there customs were a mixture of Hindu and Muslim traditions. They kept Hindu names, used the salutation Ram Ram, and were endogamous. But the community buried their dead, practiced circumcision, and visited mosques on special occasions. This eclectic nature of the community led to attempts by both Hindu and Muslim revivalist to target them.

Coming back to the Safiaal, they now have much in common with otherChibhali groups, now speaking the Pahari language, and practices alpine agriculture.

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