Description of Major Muslim Communities in India: Muslim Kamboh

In this post, I return to the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), and the Muslim communities that inhabit it. In particular, I will look at the Muslim Kambohs, a Muslim community that is part of the wider Kamboh ethnic group of South Asia. They are also known as Zubairi. The Muslim Kamboh are found mainly in the Rohilkhand and Doab region. They are entirely Sunni and speak Urdu. They are fairly small community, but played a major role in the history of Western Uttar Pradesh. Like the Gujjars and Bhattis discussed in my earlier posts, they are likely to have been immigrants from Punjab.

Origin

There are a number of different traditions as to the origin of the Kamboh. Some Kamboh claim Afghan origin, others claim Arab origin, while others simply claim to be Muslim converts from the Hindu Kamboh caste.

• Those who claim Indian ancestry claim descent from Raja Sodakhsh of Kamboja, an ancient Indian kingdom. The Rajah was a descendent of the god Chandra Verman, and the Kambojas are referred to in the Mahabharata. They are said to have inhabited Afghanistan, which was known as Kamboja desa, or land of the Kamboh.
• Those who claim Afghan origin, claim to belong to the famous Kayani dynasty of ancient Iran. The word Kamboh is said to be a compound of the word Kai Ambo, after an ancestor. The descendents of this king were known as the Kamboh, and Ghazni in Afghanistan was a centre of their power.
• Those who claim Arab ancestry claim descent from Zubair ibn al-Awam, the first cousin of the Prophet Mohammad. According to this tradition, the original homeland of the Kamboh wasMultan and not Afghanistan.

It seems clear is that most Uttar Pradesh Kamboh have strong traditions of migrating from Punjab. Some groups, such as those of Bareilly claim that they were part of the army of Shahbaz Khan Kamboh, a general in the army of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir. He was asked to pacify a rebellion in Assam, and said to have come from Jalandhar in Punjab. Many in his army were Punjabi Kamboh, who instead of returning to Punjab settled in various locations in western Uttar Pradesh.

Hindu origin

The tradition of a Hindu origin seems more prevalent among the Kamboh of Saharanpur District. According to tribal myths, they originally  lived about Mathura and were Kshatriyas. When Parasu Rama was slaughtering the Kshatriyas, he found their ancestor Bhup  Rae armed and ready resist. He, therefore, proposed  slaying him; and on Bhup Rae saying that he was not a Kshatriya,Parasu Ram is said to have replied that he was demenour was that of a  Kshatriyas. Bhup Rae at once objected that he was not qaim buu (of any fixed  odour) at all and was saved. He was afterwards was known as Qaimbn,
which gradually got changed into Kamboh. This legend was recorded in the late 19th Century by the ethnologist William Crooke, at the time most Hindu and Sikh Kamboh were making claims to Kshatriya.  What was clear was that both in Punjab, where the majority of Kambohs lived, and in western UP, they were seem by their neighbours as quasi-kshatriya.

 

Those who claim a Hindu origin, claim their conversion to Islam occurred during the early years of Islam in India, one of the groups of this clan embraced Islam at the instance of Shaikh Bahauddin Zakariya Suhrawardi (of Multan) and his son Shaikh Sadruddin. Their tradition refers to their migration from Multan to Saharanpur under during the rule of the Lodhi dynasty. It is interesting that Saharanpur District is also home to a large community of Hindu Kambohs. These Kamboh have largely remained affiliated with agriculture. In this district, they are believed to be one of sub caste of Jatts. This region may be the site of their earliest settlement in Uttar Pradesh.

 

Arab origin

The tradition of an Arab origin is more common among the Kamboh of Etah and Bareilly districts. They generally now prefer to be known as Zubairi. Zubairi literally means in Arabic a descendant of Zubair, and the Zubairi Kamboh claim descent Zubair ibn al-Awam. Zubair ibn al-Awam was the first cousin of the Prophet but was also one of his closest companions. He was known for his valor and bravery and is remembered as the conqueror of Egypt in 19 AH, and embraced martyrdom in 36 AH. Zubair was laid to rest in Basra, near the borders of Kuwait and Iraq. This town was named as Al-Zubair. Zubair had twelve sons and nine daughters. Three of his famous sons were Abdullah, Musab and Urwah. Abdullah was a Muslim caliph at Makkah, Musab was the governor of Kufa in 73 AH and Urwa was the first Muslim historian.

After almost fifty years of the conquest of Sindh by Muhammad Bin Qasim, Zuberis started migrating from Makkah and Medina towards Sindh. Most of them settled at place near modern Dadu. By the end of 4th century AH, Zuberis started migrating from Sindh to Multan. During 14th century AD, portion of Zuberi clan migrated to Delhi. Sheikh Samauddin Zuberi was a famous Sufi who led this migration.

Afterwards Zuberi family flourished in Lahore, Panipat, Delhi and Sambhal. During the regime of Mughal Emperor Akbar, Zuberis also got settled in Meerut. Marehra also became a centre of the family activities in the 15th century AD. Marehra has a Kanboh Mohallah. At the start of the 20th Century, around a hundred of the houses at Marehra were then owned by Zuberis.

Distribution of Muslim Kamboh in Uttar Pradesh by District According to 1891 Census of India

 

District Hindu Muslim
Saharanpur  3,271  689
Muzaffarnagar  920  8
Dehra Dun 290 5
Meerut 760 480
Bulandshahr  11
 Aligarh  38
 Agra  1
 Farrukhabad  67
 Mainpuri  2
 Etawah  2
Etah 437
 Bijnor  274  16
 Badaun  11
 Moradabad  308  294
Shahjahanpur  19
Kanpur  7
Fatehpur 62
Banda 17
Hamirpur 2
Allahabad  50
 Jhansi  24
 Jalaun  23
 Ghazipur  8
 Gorakhpur  6
 Basti  13
 Nainital  309
 Lucknow  9
 Sitapur  10
 Barabanki  2
 Bahraich  9
Total Population in UP 6,222 2,322

 

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