In this post I will look at the Nagyal, or Nagial sometimes pronounced Nangyal, with n sound hardly stressed, are a tribe of Jat and Rajput status. The Nagyal are very widespread in the Pothohar and neighbouring Chibhal region. In customs and traditions, they have more in common with the tribes referred to in my earlier posts such as Bangyal and Dhamial. They are distinct from Nagrial and Nagrawal, who are clans of the Bhatti Rajputs, with whom the Nagyal are often confused with. They are a Rajput-Jat tribe found mainly in Rawalpindi , in particular in Gujar Khan Tehsil, Jhelum and Gujrat districts of Punjab, Mirpur District of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. There are also Hindu Nagyal Jatt found in Jammu and Samba districts in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir.
Map of Mirpr District
Map of the Gujar Khan Region
Just a brief background to the Jat population of the Potohar plateau. The Jats are clearly sub-divided into tribes, who refer to themselves as quoms or rarely zats, having a common name and generally supposed to be descended from a traditional common ancestor by agnatic descent, i.e. through males only. Another interesting thing about the various tribes in the region is that there name often ends in al, which is patronymic, for example, the sons of Kals, are the Kalyal and so on, very similar to the Arabic Bin or Slavic ovich or ov. The aals started off as clans of a larger tribe, such as Kanyal being an aal of the Chauhan tribe, which overtime grew in numbers, leading separation from the parent stock. For example, very few tribes in the region are simply known as Bhatti, Chauhan or Panwar, but often as Bhatti Gungal, Chauhan Kanyal or Panwar Bangial. Some Nagyal claim to be an aal, or clan of the Minhas Rajputs.
So who are the Nagyals, and short answer is that they are a clan of the Minhas tribe of Jammu. They claim descent from a Nag Singh, a Jamwal Minhas, who is said to left his homeland migrated to Akhnur. But it quite possible the Nagyal have some connection with a ancient people called the Nagas. The Nagas were mentioned as an snake-worshipping tribe of ancient India, and Puranic legends have constructed the genealogy of the Nagavanshis as a sub-clan of the Suryavansha. Interestingly, the snake was used as a tribal totem among the peoples of Himalayas. Like Matyals mentioned in my earlier post, who are said to be worshipers of Mata, we may conjecture that the Nagyals were somehow connected with the snake cult.
According to their own tribal traditions, the tribe came to be called Nagyal due to an event that took place. The mother of the ancestor of the tribe left her son in a cradle asleep. She had gone out to visit someone, and shortly she came back and saw that her son was awake and happily playing with a cobra. She was shocked to see that the wild venomous snake had not bitten the child but, in fact, was trying to protect. From there onwards she and her family vowed not to kill snakes, and hence the child and its descendants were referred to as Nagyals. This legend itself indicates that at one point in their history, the Nagyal were followers of the cult of the Nag.
However, according to another tradition, common among the Hindu Nagyals of Jammu, the word Nagyal is said to be derived from Nag-wale meaning those who are connected to Nag. Nag here is pronounced as Nug (rhyming with jug or mug). The Nagyal according to this history are migrants from Afghanistan, in particular from the region of Nagarhar (pronounced Nugur-arh). It must be said that traditions of immigration from Afghanistan are not restricted to the Nagyals, and are also common other tribes of Punjab such as the Bhatti and Sandhu.I now return to the Nagyal, who are said to have started migrating eastwards, towards the Punjab, where they began to be called as Nag-wale, which later changed into Nagyal. The Nagyal are concentrated in the Jhelum-Jammu belt, in the foothills of the Himalyas. The Hindu Nagyals have two clans based on their origin – Saamkariyé Nagyals, and Rubaiyé Nagyals. The Saamkariyé Nagyals claim to have originated from Samarkand, while the latter from somewhere further west within Afghanistan. This region was historically home to Dardic speaking tribes, the last group were the Tirahi, who only disappeared at the beginning of the 20th Century, so it just possible the ancestors of the Nagyal belonged to one such Dard tribe.
Like other Chibhalis groups referred to such as the Kanyal, once the Nagyal lefts the hills of the Chibhal and arrived in the Pothohar plateau, a process of conversion to Islam occurs. Different Nagyal groups have different tradition is to their history of settlement. The Ghik, a clan of the Nagyal, now settled in Gujar Khan Tehsil, have a tradition that they descend from four brothers that came to settle in this region during the rule of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. One of the brothers settled at Ghik Badhal, from whom descend the Ghik Rajputs, second brother settled in Dhok Nagyal, from whom descend the Nagyals of that village, third brother settled in Bagwal and fourth brother settled at Qutbal. So, it seems small groups of Nagyal left the hills and settled land that must have been lightly settled.
The Hindu Nagyal were concentrated in the Deva-Batala, a region that is now part of Bhimber District. At the division of Jammu and Kashmir, they had leave this region, and are now found in Jammu, Punjab and Haryana. Like other Jammu Jats, they have traditions of Kul-Devta and Kul-Guru. At present, there are three kul-devta temples in India where Nagyals collect on a half yearly basis – Naushera (North of Akhnoor), Sai (South of Bishnah in Jammu) and Rajpura (near Kathua). In fact, until early 20th Centrury, Nagyals were either Hindu or Muslim; conversion to Sikhism was linked to the British Army’s policy of enrolling Jat Sikhs in Punjab. Since the Jhelum Valley – Chhamb belt was located on the Northern edge of Punjab but fell under the jurisdiction of Jammu and Kashmir State, the British had no formal record of Jats in the region. As a result, a significant section of the community converted to Sikhism and enrolled in the British Army. It became a common practice for one son to convert to Sikhism later. Military service is a tradition which continues today– both for Indian and Pakistani Armies..
Presently, the Nagyal are found in Jhelum, Mirpur and Rawalpindi districts, with those of Rawalpindi generally being acknowledged to be of Rajput status, while those of Jhelum and Mirpur considering themselves as Jats. Starting off with the Islamabad Capital Territory, the Nagyal are found in Mohra Nagyal village. In neighbouring Rawalpindi District, they all found in all the tehsils bar Murree.
In Kahuta Tehsil the villages of Hardogher and Nagyal, and in Rawalpindi Tehsil, their villages are Banda Nagyal, Mohra Nagyal and Maira Nagyal, while in Kallar Syedan they are found in Basanta, Bhalla, Dhamali (Chak Mirza), Doberan Kalan (in Dhok Allah Rakha), Jocha Mamdot and Nala Musalmanan. There is a whole clusters of villages in Gujar Khan Tehsil that entirely inhabited by the Nagyal, or they form an important element, and these include Bagwal, Bhatta, Begwal, Bhai Khan, Chak Bagwal, Cheena, Dhok Baba Kali Shaheed, Dhok Badhal, Nagial Umer, Dera Syedan, Dhok Nagyal (near Gharmala), Gagian, Gharmala, Ghick Badhal, Hoshang, Katyam (near Ratala), Karyali, Kaniat Khalil, Nata Mohra, Mohra Nagyal, Qutbal, Sasral, Nagial Sohal, Saib, Mohra Jundi, Dhok Nagyal in Bewal and Nagial Pahlwan. Mohra Nagyal is a single Nagyal village in the Islamabad Capital Territory.
Other Nagyal Villages
In Jhelum District, Chautala, Dhok Kanyal, Dhok Masyal, Dhok Nagyal, Gora Nagyal, Nagyal, Sohan and Wagh (near Pind Dadan Khan) are important villages, while in the neighbouring Chakwal District, their villages include Ghazial, Mohri, and Potha. There is one Nagyal village near Sarai Alamgir in Gujrat District, called Mandi Majuwa. In Azad Kashmir, they are found mainly in Mirpur District, an important Nagyal settlement is the village of Nagial.
Hindu Nagyals of Samba District
There are several villages of Hindu Nagyal Jats in the Ramgarh Tehsil of Samba District, such as Nanga, Rakh Flora and Tupsari.
Distribution of Nagyal According to the 1911 Census of India
The Nagyal of Punjab were all Muslim in 1911, found almost entirely in Jhelum and Rawalpindi, with a single Nagyal village in Gujrat. Most of the Jhelum (including Chakwal in 1911) Nagyals consider themselves as Jats, although a few did register themselves as Rajputs. The opposite was the case in Rawalpindi, where most Nagyal had registered themselves as Rajputs, showing the dual identity of the tribe. To give some idea, in 1911, the total population of British Punjab was 24,187,750, and presently the just the population of Pakistani Punjab is 110,012,442.