Description of Major Muslim Communities in India: Muslim Bhumihar / Kamsar Pathan

In this post, I look another major Indian Muslim community, found mainly in eastern Uttar Pradesh and parts of north western Bihar. There preferred self-designation now is Kamsari Pathan, although history they were known as Muslim Babhan, or Muslim Bhumihar. The Kamsari are a community of rural Muslims, who are descended from the Hindu Bhumihar community.

To start off with, I will briefly discuss the origin of the Bhumihar community, from whom the Kamsar trace their descent. The Bhumihars claim Brahmin status, and are also referred to as Bhumihar Brahmin. In Bihar, they are also known as Babhan and they have also been called Bhuinhar. The word Bhumihar is itself of relatively recent origin, first used in the records of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh in 1865. It derives from the word bhoomi (“land”), referring to the caste’s landowner status. The term Bhumihar Brahmin was adopted by the community in the late-19th century to emphasize their claim of belonging to the priestly Brahmin class. The alternate name “Babhan” has been described as a distorted colloquial term for “Brahmin. As with many castes in India, there are numerous myths regarding the origins of the Bhumihar community. One legend claims that their ancestors were Brahmins who were set up to take the place of the Kshatriyas slain by Parashurama but some non-Bhumihars have implied that they are the mixed-race offspring of Brahmin men and Kshatriya women. Other legends state that they are the offspring of a union between Rajput men and Brahmin women, or that they derive from Brahman-Buddhists who lost their high position in Hindu society.

With regards to Ghazipur District, the terms Bhumihar and Rajput are somewhat elastic, since the line of demarcation between these two communities is often extremely vague, both claiming a common origin in several instances, such as the case of the Kamsar Pathans. The Kamsar Pathans, who are found mainly in the Ghazipur District of eastern Uttar Pradesh. According to tribal traditions, they ancestor was a Kam Deo, a Sikarwar Rajput who came from the region of Agra. According to tribal traditions, Kam Deo served in force led by his brother Dham Deo, a leader of four thousand troops and fought alongside Rana Sanga of Mewar, who led a large Rajput alliance against the Mughal Emperor in the battle of Khanwa, a place near Agra in 1527. The Mughals were victorious and the Rajput army was scattered. Dham Deo and his elder brother Kam Deo came down to Ghazipur with their families and followers. The refuges are said to have settled in a territory between Karmnasha and Ganges in what is now Ghazipur district, Dham Deo and his followers settled in Gahmar, while Kam Deo settled in Zamania. Kam Deo’s descendants intermarried with other settled Bhumihars in the region, and founded the clan of Kinwar Bhumihars.
Subsequent to their arrival, both brothers and their followers entered into the service of Tikam Deo, the Cheru tribal chieftain of Birpur and eventually overthrew him, seizing his capital and occupying his estate At the time of the arrival of the refugees, the Cheru were said to be the rulers of most of Ghazipur. After a couple of generation, the community split into three main branches; after the founders Rajdhar Rai, Mukund Rai, and Pithaur Rai. Rajdhar Rai captured Birpur and one of his subdivisions settled in the Bara taluka of Zamania, and converted to Islam. There is however some dispute as to when the conversion to Islam. According to some traditions, the conversion occurred during the period of Lodhi rule over Ghazipur district, while others traditions point to a much later date during the rule of Sher Shah Suri. The first to convert to Islam was a Narhar Dev, later called Narhar Khan after his accepting of Islam.

The Kamsari are now mainly a community of peasant cultivators, but historically were in possession of most of the Bara of Ghazipur District. They speak Bhojpuri, although most also understand Urdu. The Kamsar now occupy a compact territory near the town of Bara, between the Ganges river and the Bihar state border. The most important settlement in Kamsar region of Dildarnagar Kamsar. Each of their settlement contains an informal caste council known as a panchayat, which enforces communal norms as well as resolving intra-community disputes. This region is also known as Kamsar-O-Bar, and the following villages Usia, Rakasaha, Tajpur Kurrah, Gorasara, Mania, Khajuri, Kusi, Bhaksi, Jaburna, Dewaitha, Fufuao, Bahuara, Saraila, Chitarkoni, Akhini come in the Bar sub region. Other then the Kamsar, there are several lineages of Muslim Bhumihar found in Munger and Muzaffarpur of Bihar, where they are called as Diwani Pathan.

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Hoteel and Janhal tribes of Azad Kashmir

In this post I intend to look at two tribes, namely the Janhal and Hoteel, who both claim to be Mughals and are found in the Poonch Jagir. The word Mughal is simply the Farsi and Urdu version of the word Mongol, for the two words are only different forms of the same name, probably either entered the Punjab with Ẓahīr-ud-Dīn Muḥammad Babur (14 February 1483 – 26 December 1530), or were attracted to India during the period of Mughal rule (circa 16th Century to 18 Century). For this article, I have relied heavily on Munshi Muhammad Din Fauq’s Tareekh Aqwam Poonch as my main source.

Hoteel

We now take a look at the Hoteel, a fairly compact tribe found only within the historic Poonch Jageer, in the region which is now Bagh District. Like the Douli, the Hoteel claim a Mughal origin, descended from Taimurlane or Amir Timur, the Barlas ruler of Central Asia. There ancestor was a Sultan Khalil Mirza, an uncle of the first Mughal Emperor Babar (14 February 1483 – 26 December 1530). Fourth in descend from Sultan Khalil was a Hot Yar Khan, who is said to have given the tribe its name. He is said of settled in the Poonch region during the rule of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, while his son Sanjar Khan, the first two be given the surname Hoteel established a principality in the Poonch region, around the settlemet of Bngion. The present Hoteel tribe claims descent from Buj Khan and Bunga Khan, Sanjar Khan’s sons. Their main settlement is Bangion, in present Bagh District of Azad Kashmir. This town gets its name from the Bango Khan, who is said to founded the town. This family tree would make the Hoteel to be members of the Barlas, the tribe of the Mughal Dynasty of India. However, despite this pedigree, the Hoteel do not claim to Barlas, but allege a Chagtai ancestry. I shall just briefly to look at who these Chagtai are. Chughtai’s were Turkic or Tatar nomads of Central Asia, who were followers or descendants of Chagatai Khan, the second son of Genghis Khan, who founded the Chagatai Khanate in 1226, which covered an area of most of what are now the five Central Asian republics. The Chagatai language, which the lingua franca in Central Asia for at least eight centuries and Chagatai Turks take their names from him. There is tradition of Chaghtai migration to India, after the Mughal conquest, so it is just about possible that the Hoteel are by origin Chaghtai.

The Hoteel are found mainly in Bagh District, with important villages of Bangion, Jandala, Qamrota, Pachiot, Tahla and Samrota.

Janhal

Looking now at the Juhnal, or sometimes pronounced Janhal or even Janhaal, they too have a number of traditions as to their origin. According to some traditions, the Junhal are Rajputs, however most Janhal oclaim a Barlas Mughal origin. The Junhal are said to be descended from Mughal troopers who were settled in the mountainous region of Kahuta to keep watch over the hill tribes of Murree and the Dogras who inhabited the slopes of Pir Panjal mountains. Most Janhal families claim descent from two sons of Amir Timur, founder of the Timurid / Mughal dynasty of Central Asia and India, namely Ghayasudin Mansour and Mansour Mirza. Mirza Bhakar Khan, the founder of the Janhal tribe was a decendent of Ghayasudin Mansour, arrived in the Kahuta region during the 16th Century. The tribe gets its name from Mirza Jahan Khan, the Jahan aals, or sons of Jahan that was corrupted to Janhaal or Janhal. Sixth in descent from Mirza Jahan were two brothers, Mirza Bhuga Khan and Mirza Kuna Khan. The descendents of Mirza Kuna are found in Kahuta, where they founded an independent state, while Bhuga Khan’s clansmen crossed the Jhelum and settled in what was then the Poonch state. According to tribal tradition, Bugga Khan married into the locally dominant Rai Zada family, and founded the village of Bugga in Kotli. A decendent of Buagga Khan, Noor Khan founded the town of Norsa, which became a centre of another Janhal principality. Norsa gets its name from Noor Khan Janhal.

Up to the 18th Century, the Junhal were a considerably power occupying a tract of the Jhelum River valley that now forms part of Kahuta Tehsil of Rawalpindi District, and a part of Bagh District. However, their independence was destroyed by the Gakhars, and the tribe was reduced to cluster of villages near the town of Beor in Kahuta Tehsil, where they are still found. The Junhal are now one of a number of agrarian tribes, such as Maldiyal and Douli who claim a Mughal ancestry, and are found in the hill country covering parts of Rawalpindi District and Azad Kashmir.

In terms of the settlements, outside the town of Beor itself, which is still largely Janhal, important villages in Kahuta Tehsil include Bharuthi, Chanor, Janhatal, Khalol, Sail, Sanj, Seri and Sweri. Across the Jhelum river in Sudhanoti District, their villages stretch from a cluster of villages near the river bank such Bloch, Bethok Thalyan, Sahar, Janga Bagla, Kalar, Kharand, Norsa, Gallah, Janhal Chawkian, Pakhonar, Gaam Kotli, Chana Gali, and Poti Chaharian. In Kotli District, there villages include Pooral, Noi, Nigai, Sersawa, Bugga and Bandhoor. Near the line of Control, there are number of Janhal villages such an Manarhol and Tahi, and Tattapani town contains several Janhal families.