Maliar/Malyar caste of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa

In this post, I will look at the Maliar, sometimes written as Malyar, a community that is found mainly in the Pothohar region of Punjab and Hazara and Peshawar Valley regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Maliar are a large community, of which little has been written about. There has always been some confusion as to their connection with the Arain, as both groups have been associated with growing vegetables. My post on the distribution of the Maliar according to the 1901 Census also gives additional information about the tribe.

 

British colonial ethnographers, such as Denzil Ibbetson, argued that the term covered a large class of petty cultivators and market gardeners. Indeed Ibbetson author of the Punjab castes noted that:

Baghban, Mali, and Maliar are in Jhang and Rawalpindi a very mixed body of men, the names denoting occupation rather than caste

The author of the 1907 Attock District Gazetteer makes the same point:

Maliar appears to denote the occupation of the holder rather than the caste to which he belongs or the tribe from which he originally sprang. There can be no doubt that many of the present  day Maliars are descended from an ancestor of some other tribe  who took to market-gardening as an occupation

This was seen by the fact many Maliar of the Rawalpindi division returned their clans as Janjua, Qutbshahi (Awan), Khokhar, or Bhatti for 1891 Census of India, though some of them give what are apparently true Arain clans, such as Wahand. It does suggest that the Maliar are of a mixed background, which over time have formed into a distinct caste.

The origin of the word maliar has been uncertain, but is very likely connected with the term Mali, another caste of mixed origin, that practices market gardening. A point to note is that there were no Malis in the Pothohar and Hazara regions, while there no Maliar south and east of the Jhelum river. It is likely that like the term Maliar, like Mali comes from the Sanskrit Malakara, meaning the makers of garland, but according to other traditions its roots are from the Persian and Arabic word Mal which means wealth or land e.g. Malir Kotla in India or Malir an area in Karachi, the equivalent of Bagh in Urdu or garden in English.

Like most castes found among the Punjabi Muslims, the community has an origin myth that claims its origins outside South Asia. According to their traditions their ancestor Mahbub accompanied Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna to India. The Sultan assigned him gardening as a vocation, and as such the community became horticulturists. There is no consensus as to the ethnic identity of this Mahbub. If we accept this account, the community thus settled in India at the start of the 11th century. However, as I have already alluded too, some Maliar groups claimed to be connected to one of the larger groups in the Pothohar such as the Janjua and Awan.

 

The Maliar as caste were given agriculture tribal status, under the Punjab Land Alienation Act, 1900, which meant that they were  allowed to own land. However, unlike other tribes found in the Potohar region, military recruitment was not open to them, because they were deemed not to be a martial race. These British discriminating policies sadly have had a lasting impact on the Maliar. After independence, an argument that has broken out within the Maliar community as to whether they are a distinct caste or simply Janjuas and Bhattis who practice market gardening. This was noted by Makhdum Tasadduq Ahmad in his book Systems of social stratification in India and Pakistan. However, the Maliar castes members intermarry with each other and not with families of Awan or Janjua status. Historically, the community was at a disadvantage, particularly in the Peshawar valley, where it suffered at the hands of Pashtun landlords. The Maliar like other Potohar communities, have started to emigrate to the west particularly the United Kingdom. They have also benefited from the loosening of social restrictions in Pakistan, and as successful horticulturists have entered into the wholesale fruit and vegetable business.

 

Distribution

 

According to the 1901 Census of India, there numbers in Jhelum District were 23,000, in Rawalpindi District, they numbered 17,000 and in Attock District they numbered 37,000. In that particular district, they are the fourth largest tribe. Shahpur District, the modern day Sargodha District was home to a further 4,000. They are found through the Potohar region, with especial concentrations in the Attock District. They also extend into the neighbouring Peshawar valley and into Haripur district of Hazara, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There are also settled in a few villages in the Mirpur District of Azad Kashmir.

Villages

 

They are found in just about every village in the Pothohar region, but there are a few villages which they occupy as the dominant tribe. In Jhelum District, Kazi Hussain and Rajjo Pindi are two important Maliar villages.

 

Batala, Chahal, Maniand are important Maliar villages within Kahuta Tehsil, in Gujar Khan Tehsil Bhatta Maliar, Kant Maliar and Bagh Sangra, Jabbar Derwaish,Kuri Malrian are important villages and in the Rawalpindi Tehsil, Dhalla, Dughal, Khasala Kalan, Gulidana Maliar, and Salargarh are important villages. In Attock District, Dhok Maliaran in Fateh Jang Tehsil is a major Maliar village. They are also found in the town of Mansar.

 

In Chakwal District, Mohra Maliaran, Marjan Maliran and Saloi in Choa Saidan Shah Tehsil are important villages.

 

in Jhelum District, the villages of Dheri Malliaran and Maliar in Pind Dadan Khan Tehsil are important settlements.

 

In Gujrat District, the village of Dandi Maliar.

 

Language

 

They speak either the Potwari language, or the closely related Hindko language