Tribes and Castes of Mirpur District, Azad Kashmir

In this post, I will give the breakdown of the population of the old Mirpur District of the princely state Jammu and Kashmir, roughly covering the current districts of Mirpur, Bhimber, Kotli, as well as a portion of Bhimber Tehsil which now forms part of the Nowshera Tehsil of Rajouri in Indian administered Kashmir. The results are from the Census of 1931. Ethnologically, Mirpur region has much in common with neighbouring Pothohar, in particular the Gujar Khan Region, with Jat cultivators, a smaller Rajput aristocracy and a group of castes connected with particular occupation often derogatorily refereed to as Kammi. Traditionally, landownership was associated with particular groups, such as the Jat, while the kammi were largely landless. Almost all the population, including the large ethnic Kashmiri population spoke Mirpur Punjabi, aalso referred to as Pahari or Pothwari. This language is extremely close to the Pothwari spoken in Gujarkhan.

The old district formed the heart of the Chibhal region, with the Tawi forming the eastern portion and Jhelum the west, Punjab in the south and Poonch and the Pir Panjaal in the north. This region formed the easiest route into the Kashmir valley along the Bhimber, Rajouri and Shopian route, also known as the Mughal Road. Over 80% of the population was Muslim, and most of the population spoke Pahari. After the first Indo-Pak War of 1948, the district was divided by the armistice line that later became known as Line of Control. There was also an exchange of population, with Nawshera now about 90% Hindu and Sikh, while the Mirpur Division is now entirely Muslim. About one third of the district was Jat, who belonged to all three religions. Most of the larger clans such as the Kalial, Nagyal and Thathaal had sections which belonged to all three religion.

Brief Description of the Muslim Groups

Jats

As I have said more then 80% of the population in the district was Muslim, of whom the Jat formed almost 40% of the districts Muslim population. In Mirpur, Jats still reside in their traditional heartlands of Chakswari, Dadyal, the city of Mirpur and the countryside surrounding Mirpur, which is overwhelmingly Jat. The main Jat villages near Mirpur are Ban Khurma, Chitterpury, Balah-Gala, Kas Kalyal, Khambal, Khroota, Purkhan, Sangot and Dheri Thothal as well as many villages around the Khari Sharif area.The Jat population was in term divided into numerous clans, all claiming descent from a common ancestor. Among the larger clans were Aasar, Bangial, Badhan, Dhamial, Kalyal, Kanjial, Kanyal, Karyal, Khabal, Manjaal, Matyal, Nagyal, Nathyal, Rachyal, Ranyal, Rupyal, Thathaal, Pakhreel and Punyal.

Rajputs

The second largest group were the Rajputs, almost 13% of the total Muslim population. The Chibs were the dominant clan in Bhimber, while the Gakhars (including Sakhaal sub-clan)  and the Mangral in Kotli. Along the Punjab border, there were several communities of Bhao and Sohlan. Included within the Rajputs were the Bains, who were heavily concentrated in the Mirpur tehsil, most of which now forms part the Mirpur Distric

Gujars

The Gujjars came third, making up almost 10% of the population. Most of these Gujjars were connected with those of northern Punjab, speaking Pothwari and not Gojri, the language spoken by the Gujjars of the rest of the state, including the Kashmir valley. Among the larger Gujjar clans we find the Banya,Bagri, Bajar, Bhumbla, Bjarh, Chandpuri, Chauhan, Chechi, Gorsi, Hans, Kallas, Kasana, Khatana, Khepar Poswal and Meelu.

Bafinda

The next community, the Bafinda, whose traditional activity was weaving, differ from the previous three. They were village artisans, practising there traditional occupation of weaving. There was not a single village that did not contain a few houses.

Other Agriculturists

The other large groups associated with agriculture were the Awan, Arain, Maliks and Sudhans, the last two groups were found only in Kotli.

Kashmiri Muslims

By the early 20th Century, the district was home to a substantial community of Kashmiri Muslims. Most of them had switched to speaking Pahari, as this was the language of the dominant Rajputs. By 1931 they numbered 8,554, and in the Mirpur region now formed a distinct caste, in status slightly above the artisan groups, but below the landowning community.

Artisan Castes

About 20% of the district population was made up of castes that were associated with certain occupations such as Tarkhan (carpenters), Jogi (labourers), Lohar (smiths), Nai (barbers), Jheer (water carriers), Darzi (taylors), Khatik (butchers), and Machi (bakers). Slightly seperate from these kammi groups were the Mussali (2,068) and Mirasi (1,235), who like the Chamars and Meghs among the Hindus, were communities of outcastes.

One point on the Badhan and Bhatti, most of both groups registered themselves as either Jat in the case of the Badhan and Rajput in the case of the Bhatti. The Bazigar, were an interesting tribe of peripatetic nomads provided entertainment to settled village communities. They were probably undercounted on account of there nomadic lifestyles.

Major Hindu Communities

Among the Hindus of Mirpur, the Jat, formed a significant elements, with the larger clans being the Aasar, Aassle, Bhatti, Bhangre, Chahal, Gill, Dhoor, Jhal, Kjaal, Nagyals, Nathyal, Ranyal, Pajhaal, Smotra, Thathaal, and Tohre. The Rajputs, mainly Bhao, Charak, Chib and Minhas formed an important element in Bhimber. Three interesting communities that were only found in the region were the Basith, Mahajan and Muhial. The Basith claimed a Rajput status, were generally cultivators and outside Mirpur were only found in Poonch. After the 1948 War, the Basith community was made refugees. The Mahajan or Pahari Mahajan were found in the all the towns such as Koti, Mirpur and Nawshera, and were largely traders. The Mahajan of Mirpur town were a particularly wealthy community. The Muhial Brahmans were the landowners and soldiers of the Pothohar region, and a substantial section found in the Mirpur region. In addition, the district was home to two large Dalit communities, the Megh (weavers) and Chamars.

Major Sikh Communities

Mirpur was the western most region that was inhabited by Jatt Sikhs. The Sikh population of Mirpur differed considerably from those of Poonch and the Kashmir valley, who are largely Brahman. In Mirpur, the Sikhs were divided almost evenly between the Jatts and the Khatri/Arora castes, who were traditionally associated with trade.

 

Religion-wise

 

Religion Population Percentage
Muslim 277,631 80.5%
Hindu 57,594 16.7%
Sikh 9,432 3%
Christian 82
Jain 8
Total 344,747 100%

 

Caste-wise

 

 

Awan6,507

Religion Caste or tribe Population
Muslims
Jat 103,096
Rajput 35,534
Gujjar 26,414
Bafinda 9,958
Kashmiri 8,554
Malik 7,512
Mughal 6,467
Tarkhan 6,340
Arain 5,776
Sayyid 5,074
Lohar 4,675
Machhi 4,551
Kumhar (Ghumiar) 4,493
Teli 3,988
Hajjam (Nai) 3,783
Sudhan 2,521
Shaikh 2,106
Mussali (Muslim Shaikh) 2,068
Darzi 1,889
Bhatti 1,664
Jhinwar (Jheer) 1,635
Jogi 1,328
Pathan 1,239
Mirasi 1,235
Dhobi 589
Badhan 532
Rangrez 514
Bazigar 345
Sonar 127
Domaal 97
Khatik 94
Khoja 81
Bharai 61
Dervesh 45
Mochi 45
Qalandar 33
Bakarwal 29
Safiada 9
Turk 7
Banjara 3
Other Muslims 6,928
Hindus
Jat 14,460
Brahman 11,685
Rajput 7,475
Chamar 6,014
Khatri 3,641
Mahajan 3,365
Basith (Vashith Rajput) 2,817
Megh 1,573
Brahman Muhial 1,565
Barwala 695
Sonar (Soni) 629
Jhinwar (Jheer) 483
Tarkhan 446
Lohar 291
Kumhar (Ghumiar) 239
Gorkha 234
Sadhu 157
Dom 151
Jogi 143
Arora 129
Labana 127
Nai 106
Chhimba 91
Gardi 51
Chuhra 40
Others 931
Sikh
Jat 4,951
Arora 1,168
Khatri 1,045
Sonar (Soni) 145
Rajput 93
Brahman 68
Kumhar (Ghumiar) 41
Tarkhan 23
Mahajan 16
Jhinwar (Jheer) 11
Megh 10
Christians 82
Jains 8
Total 344,747

 

Major Clans of the Rajout caste in Mirpur District

The 1931 Census of India was the last one that collected information on the various clans of the Rajput community. Below is a list of clans belonging to the Muslim Rajputs:

Tribe Population
Chib 7,376
Mangral 6,827
Ghakkar 5,085
Jaral 3,470
Narma 2,048
Manhas 1,161
Khokhar 1,009
Sao / Sahoo 834
Bains 678
Bhao 569
Chauhan 279
Janjua 218
Salehria/Sulehri 45
Bomba 7
Other Clans 836

 

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Baddun and Barwala Castes of Punjab

In this post, I will look at two little known communities found mainly in north eastern Punjab province, roughly the area stretching from Lahore to the Himalayan foothills of Sialkot and Narowal districts, between the Ravi and the Chenab rivers. Unlike earlier groups looked at, neither the Baddun nor the Barwala have played a major roles in the history of this region. However, they form an important element of the population of the upper Rechna Doab. On account of their lifestyles, they also suffered persecution at the hands of the British colonial regimes, particularly the Punjab Land Alienation Act, which restricted land ownership to certain communities. Its effect on both the Baddun and Barwala was that they were deprived the right to own property, rendering them landless. This legacy still affects both groups, with many members still in poor economic circumstances.

 

Baddun

The Baddun or sometimes called Badu are a community of Punjabi Muslims. So how did this community of Punjabi Muslims get the name Baddun. According to their own traditions, the word Baddun is a Punjabi mispronunciation of the Arabic Bedu, or nomad, and until the arrival of the British in 1848, the Baddun were entirely nomadic. Their ancestors are said to have first settled in Sindh, having come from Iraq. They then moved into the Rachna Doab, sometime during the rule of the Mughals. Here in the Rechna, the Baddun became classic peripatetic nomads. In this kind of nomadism, those who move from place to place offering services in specific trades to the settled communities. The Baddun provided work in straw, made pipe- bowls, with their women peddling goods. In addition, they also captured and trained bears, taking them from the hill country of Jammu just north of Sialkot. Most of these bears were latter sold on to the Qalandar communities, which are associated with bear entertainment. However, with partition in 1947, they have discontinued this activity, as Jammu now lies within Indian territory.

 

The etymology of the word Baddun is most likely from in Arabic bidun, meaning without, or in some cases outside. As peripatetic nomads, the Baddun would be seen as outside the community of settled villagers, therefore bidun or outsiders. A further distinction from the settled villagers was that the Baddun were and are followers of Imam Al-Shafi‘i, as opposed to the settled population who are followers of Imam Abu Hanifa. As Shāfiʿī Sunnis, the Baddun did eat crocodiles, tortoises and frogs, although this is no longer the case, which caused some tensions with other Muslim groups. The Baddun are further divided into three clans, the Wahla, Dhara and Balara, although all three intermarry.

 

 

Barwala

The other community that I will look in this post are the Barwala tribe, historically found in Sialkot, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur districts. They are largely Muslim, with a Hindu minority. Both groups lived interspersed prior to partition in 1947. In addition to the Hindu Barwala, the Muslim Barwala are said to have close relations with the Hindu Batwal caste. According Arthur Horace Rose, the early 20th Century British administrator and ethnographers, both the Barwala and Batwal are the same community. However, geographically, Batwals were found largely in Jammu and the Himachal region, and were Hindu, while the Barwala were found in the plains stretching from Hoshiarpur to Sialkot, and were largely Muslim.

There are essentially two traditions as to the origin of the Barwala. The traditional occupation of the Barwala was the manufacture of mats and winnowing fans, and the name is probably derived from bara or baria, the kind of grass used as the main raw material. Another tradition is that in Barwala is the mispronunciation of the word. Batwal or batwar, which means a tax collector in the Pahari dialect of Kangra region of Himachal. When the Batwals, migrated from the Himalayan hills of the Kangra and Chamba region, their name was changed to Barwala. While in the hills, the Batwal are largely Hindu, there migration to the plains led to a significant portion also converting to Islam. In this region, other than the manufacture of mats, the Barwala were also the traditional village watchmen. In the plain country, according to Rose, other groups of lower castes who took to the occupation of manufacturing of mats and winnowing fans, were are all included under the generic term of Barwala, if they were involved. Perhaps the most outlandish origin story is that the name of Barwala is said to be a corruption of baharwala or “outsider,” because, like all outcasts, they live in the outskirts of the village.

 

But the beginning of the 20th Century, many Barwala in the Sialkot and Gurdaspur areas had begun to till land, largely as tenants and field labourers of the Rajputs, whose caste traditions prevented them from cultivating with their own hands. In the traditionally feudal setup of early 20th Century village Punjab, the Barwala were required to attend upon village guests, fill pipes, bear torches, and carry the bridegroom’s palanquin at weddings and the like, and receive fixed fees for doing so. The post of village chaukidar was also heredity within particular Barwala communities. The Barwala community is sub-divided into clans or gots, who traditionally did not intermarry. In Sialkot the Barwala gots are

Dhaggi

Jhanjotra

Kiath

Nandan

Lakhutra

Sangotra

Lahoria

Sargotra

Mohan

Sindhia

Bhagga

Kaith

 

Distribution of Muslim Barwala in Punjab by District According to 1901 Census of India

 

District Muslim
Amritsar 15,772
Sialkot 14,960
Gurdaspur 11,363
Gujranwala 6,089
Lahore 5,676
Chenab Colony 2,672
Hoshiarpur 2,344
Jalandhar 2,198
Kapurthala State 672
Gujrat 373
Other districts 350
Total Population 62,466