Khoja Shaikhs of Punjab

In this post, I will at interesting community of Punjabi Muslims called the Khoja Shaikh, or Khawaja Shaikh. They are a mercantile community, that has provided many of the larger business houses of Pakistan. The rise of the Khoja, from a community of petty merchants at the beginning of the 20th Century to the founders of some of the largest businesses in Pakistan is truly extraordinary.

 

The common self-designation of this community is either Sheikh, Shaikh or Khwaja Shaikh. Sheikh (Arabic and Punjabi: شيخ ), is an Arabic word meaning elder of a tribe, lord, honourable revered old man, or Islamic scholar. The title shaikh in South Asia is given to a convert to Islam who convert individually, and not where individuals collectively convert as whole castes, in which case the caste name is maintained, such as the Jats. The title is then carried on by the decendent of the convert. Khawaja is also an honorific title used across the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Central Asia, particularly as a title held by Sufi teachers. The word comes from the Iranian word khwāja (Classical Persian: خواجه khwāja; Dari khājah; Tajik khoja) and translates as “master”, “lord”. According to the traditions of the Khoja of Bhera, the title was given to their ancestors, who were Khatri traders who accepted Islam at the hands of Moinudin Chishti.

 

So who are the Khoja Shaikhs. Almost every tradition points to either a Khatri or Arora ancestry, although in Lahore, the Khoja insist their ancestors were Bhatia. There is some argument as to when and how the ancestors of these communities converted to Islam, it certainly existed for at least over four centuries ago. Although conversions to Islam in the Punjab started in the 11th century, it is uncertain when the Khatri and Arora traders embraced Islam. The earliest reference to Khojas in the Punjabi literature is in the Heer Ranjha of Waris Shah (1735–1790):

 The beauty of her Heer’s red lips slays rich Khojas and Khatris in bazaar, like Qizilbash [Afghan soldiers] troopers riding out of the royal camp into bazaar with a sword

 

These verses of Heer- Ranjha, written by Waris Shah in 1766, describe the conditions of the post-Mughal Punjab. Khatris and Khojas occupied an important place in the economy of the Punjabi towns. This was probably the earliest reference to the emerging role of Hindu and Muslim Khatris as rich traders, instead of performing their Vedic functions as fighters and governors. Up to around the middle of the 20th Century, this community of traders self-designated themselves as Khojas. But as that name has been associated by another community found in Sindh and Gujarat, who are Ismaili Muslims therefore the entirely Sunni Khojas of Punjab adopted the name Khawaja Shaikh, or increasingly just Shaikh, to distinguish themselves from the other Khojas. There are several groups of Khoja in Punjab, but after an overview, I will focus on three such groups, the Shaikhs of Bhera and Jalandhar, and the Chiniotis. I hope to write a separate post on the Gadhioks of Chakwal, which has produced the famous Saigol business house.

Origin.

Traditionally, any Hindu trader converted to Islam was given the name of Khoja. Thus the Khojas of Bhera were almost entirely Khatris, while those of Jhang, on the other hand, were said to be converted Aroras; while some at least of the Lahore Khojas claim Bhatia origin, and one section of the Ambala Khojas were Kayastha. The Khojas of Layyah also have the Khatri section-names of Kapoor, Puri, Tandon and Gambhir, but as these are no longer exogamous and as wives may be taken from other castes, the old rules of hypergamy and endogamy are no longer in force. While the Khojas of Jhang have at least four clans, the Magoon, Vohra, Wadawana and Passija, the first two being Khatri and the last two Arora. By the beginning of the 20th Century, it does seem, that any distinction between Khatri and Arora among Khoja had disappeared. The 19th Century British ethnologist Rose wrote the following about them:

These Musalman traders, whether called Khoja or Paracha, are found all along the northern portion of the two Provinces under the hills from Amritsar to Peshawar, and have spread southwards into the central and eastern districts of the Western Plains, but have not entered the Derajat or Muzaffargarh in any numbers. Their eastern boundary is the Sutlej valley, their western the Jhelum-Chenab, and they are found throughout the whole of the Salt Range. Probably it is hardly correct to say of them that they have spread or entered for they apparently include many distinct classes who will have sprung from different centres of conversion. They appear to be most numerous in Lahore

 

Khoja Population According to the 1921 Census of India

 

District / State

 

Population
Lahore

 

13,831
Firozpur

 

10,079
Amritsar

 

8,296
Multan

 

7,484
Jhang

 

6,820
Bahawalpur State

 

5,239
Sheikhupura

 

5,045
Sialkot

 

4,025
Shahpur

 

3,890
Muzaffargarh

 

2,997
Jhelum

 

2,670
Dera Ghazi Khan

 

2,168
Gujrat

 

1,943
Attock

 

1,892
Gujranwala

 

1,688
Lyallpur

 

1,501
Kapurthala State 1,452

 

Montgomery

 

1,274
Gurdaspur

 

1,221
Jalandhar

 

1,119
Rawalpindi

 

683
Mianwali 626

 

Ambala 440

 

Patiala State

 

393
Hoshiarpur 182

 

Ludhiana 134

 

Other Districts

 

369
Total

 

87,461

The 1921 Census was the last that counted the Khoja seperately, in 1931, the last census that counted caste, the Khoja were included within the Shaikh category.

Like other Punjabi Muslims, the Khojas often associate there conversion to Islam at the hands of a Sufi saint. The Khwaja Shaikhs of Bhera have a tradition that they converted to Islam at the hands of Khwaja Moinudin Ajmeri, while those of Chiniot claim to have accepted Islam at the hands of Makhdum Jahanian Jahangasht.

 

Shaikhs of Bhera

 

Bhera is a city located in Sargodha District, located east of the river Jhelum. It is divided into an old walled city and a sprawl beyond the walls. The former is further split into neighbourhoods called mohallas. Each mohalla has distinct traits and is inhabited by different castes — Mohalla Piracha, Mohalla Sheikhanwala and Mohalla Sethian —were home to the Khojas of the city. The Imperial Gazetteer of India records the following about the history of Bhera:

In the seventh and eighth centuries, the Salt Range chieftain was a tributary of Kashmīr. Bhera was sacked by Mahmūd of Ghazni, and again two centuries later by the generals of Chingiz Khān. In 1519 Bābar held it to ransom; and in 1540 Sher Shāh founded a new town, which under Akbar became the headquarters of one of the subdivisions of the Sūbah of Lahore. In the reign of Muhammad Shāh, Rājā Salāmat Rai, a Rājput of the Anand tribe, administered Bhera and the surrounding country; while Khushāb was managed by Nawāb Ahmadyār Khān, and the south-eastern tract along the Chenāb formed part of the territories under the charge of Mahārājā Kaura Mal, governor of Multān.

 

As a centre of trade, the city of Bhera attracted merchants from all over western Punjab, with the Khojas trading as far north as Central Asia. At the beginning of the 20th Century, the Khojas had retained many traces of the Khatri caste organization. Thus at Bhera they had the following sub-divisions :—

Sehgal

Sethi

Vohra

Kapoor

Chopra

Duggal

Rawar or Ror

Gorawal

Magoon

Mahindru

And a tenth section, Matoli, does not appear to be a Khatri section, but it ranks with the first six, and from these seven the last three cannot obtain wives, though they give brides to them. Rose wrote the following of the Bhera Khojas:

Khojas of Bhera claim to be strictly monogamous, so much so that, as a rule, a Khoja cannot obtain a second wife in the caste, even though his first have died and ho is thus driven to take his second wife from some other Musalman tribe.

The Matoli section have an interesting history as to their conversion to Islam. As noted by Rose, Matoli were not a section of the Khatri, and according to the Matoli themselves, they were Brahmans. There ancestor was said to have accepted Islam at the hands of the famous Sufi Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (1142–1236 CE) of Ajmer. On his return to Bhera, there ancestor was disowned by his clansmen. Despondent, he returned to Ajmer, where the the Khwaja declared the henceforth they would be known as khwaja, and they should become traders. Over time, as members of the Khatri community in that city converted to Islam, and joined the Matoli, forming the Khwaja community.

By the beginning of the 20th Century, the Khoja of Bhera were involved in the cotton and grain trade, especially as the British began a process of settling the Kirana Bar, introducing widespread production of cotton, Bhera Khojas became extremely wealthy, with there trade networks expanding to Bukhara on end, and the newly expanding port city of Karachi on the other hand. The Bhera Khojas were among the earliest of this caste to enter the textile trade in the newly built city of Lyallpur.

 

Qanungoh Shaikhs of Jalandhar

Jalandhar is an important city located in the Doaba region of Indian Punjab. Like Bhera, the city was associated with Khoja merchant families, who used the title qanungoh.

The Khoja of Jalandhar belonged two such families of Qanungohs, one was that of the Sehgals. They were the traditional proprietors of the city, the other being the Thapars, who were a landowning family, owning the village of Chak Husaina. The Khatris of Jalandhar were divided into two groups, the Darbari, who were involved in government service, and the bazari, who were merchants. The four darbari gotras were the Sodhi, Saigal, Thapar and Bhalla, with the Khojas of Jalandhar all originating from darbari families.

I just want to add a brief note about the title qanungoh. This was an administrative position under the Delhi Sultans and Mughals and referred to employees of the court and judicial system. The title Qanungoh literally referring to an “expounder of law” or the Qanun. These included judges; qazi who were styled sahib or sahibzada, lawyers and a wide variety of other legal functionaries, who would form the principal officers in district or regional courts of investigation, in criminal matters and in offences of a “spiritual nature”. By the Mughal period, the position of Qanungoh had become hereditary, who were now government agents and “permanent repositories of information concerning the revenue receipts, area statistics, local revenue rates and (the) practice and customs” of local areas and municipalities, across the various empires that existed in the subcontinent. Members of the Khatri caste often occupied these positions in Punjab, and some, not all of these families converted to Islam. In Jalandhar, although many of the darbari Khatris converted to Islam, however in Jalandhar there were several families of Sehgal and Thapar Khatris that remained Hindus.

The Jalandhar Khojas immigrated to Pakistan and have settled largely in Faisalabad. Here they provided some of the earliest investors in the textile industry.

 

Chinioti Shaikh

 

Perhaps, the most important group of Khoja families are those of the city of Chiniot, historically part of Jhang District, but now a district in itself. Chiniot is a small town of 200,000 inhabitants, on the banks of River Chenab, in Southwestern Punjab famous for it woodwork. It also associated with the Khojas, who are called Chinyoti, literally a resident of Chiniot. About Chiniot, the Imperial Gazetteer of India gives the following information:

The town is a very old one, and is perhaps identified with Sakala, the capital of the White Huns, which was visited by Hiuen Tsiang. It suffered much from Durrani inroads during the last half of the 18th Century, and also during the troubles of 1848, being the scene of constant sanguinary struggles between leaders of the local factions. It now bears a prosperous aspect, most of the houses being of excellent brickwork, lofty and commodious, especially those of the Khoja traders, who have business dealings with Amritsar, Calcuta, Bombay and Karachi.

 

In Chiniot, the Khojas are mainly of Khatri origin, although some Arora sections over time have been absorbed. About the the Khoja sections of Chiniot, Rose described them as fallows:

 

Khatri Immigrants from the south-west:

Adal.

Behrara.

Churra.

Maggun.

Sehgal.

Wadhwa.

Vohra

Khatri section indigenous to Chiniot:

Talwar.

Puri.

Chopra.

Arora sections.

Tarneja,

Goruwala.

Khurana.

Dhingra

Chawla

 

Rose also makes an interesting obsrvation on the social system of the Chiniot Khojas:

The original Khatri classification into Bari and Bunjahi groups is said to be still preserved. Formerly the Khatri sections used not to intermarry with the Aroras, but this restriction is said to be no longer absolute, though such marriages are not usual

 

In late 19th Century, as the British built in ports and railways in their Indian Empire, allowing groups of Khoja to migrate to Calcutta and other parts of the united India to deal in hides in the 19th century since Hindus who dominated trade in India did not want to deal with leather due to religious taboos, giving these Khoja traders an opportunity. Out of 100,000 people who proudly call themselves Chinioti today, only 5,000 live in Chiniot and an estimated 2,000 of them are still living in Calcutta where they had the biggest concentration in the undivided India, with pockets at Kanpur and Madras. Compared to the Memons who had sailed to far off places, as early as 18th century, the Chinioti’s migration was limited to India.

 

At the time of partition, Chiniotis were mostly rooted in leather, hides and skins trade and there was only one Chinioti group, Mohammad Ismaeel Maula Baksh group which had ventured and Haji Sheikh Maula Baksh who had set up their first ginning factory in 1889 and by 1946, when they split, the group comprised 14 ginning factories, four flour mills and oil extraction plants. The remnants of Maula Baksh group are still active in the Sunshine group of Aftab Ahmad Sheikh. Partition saw most Chiniotis move back to Pakistan, and took opportunity of the fact business in Punjab had been in the hands of their unconverted Khatri kinsmen, who all moved to India. By the 1970’s, three Chinioti groups – Colony, Crescent and Nishat – were already vast behemoths, and were counted among the richest 22 Families’ in the country, a somewhat demeaning term coined by the world-renowned development economics guru, Dr Mahbub-ul-Haq, then the chief economist at the Planning Commission of Pakistan, suggesting that this lofty eminence was actually obtained through capturing and monopolising national resources, which had resulted in inequitable distribution of wealth at the national level.

 

In 1970 there were only five Chinioti groups among the top 42 families including Colony at no 5, Crescent at no 9, Nishat at 15, Monnoos at 26 and Maulabaksh at 27. However while nationalization shattered the will of the Karachi-based groups to invest in Pakistan and triggered a flight of capital, it proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Chiniotis who had been hitherto disadvantaged for lack of access to banking and other facilities, traditionally dominated by Gujarati groups such as the Bohra, Khoja and Memon. This change can be seen by the fact that by 1997, Chiniotis had 14 places among the top 45 groups controlling at least 110 companies at the Karachi Stock Exchange. There are several other Chinioti groups like Mahboob Elahi, Diamond, Guard, Kaisar group of Kaisar A Sheikh, MNA, Kaisar Apparel group and JKB which are known to be immensely rich but have little or no presence at the stock exchange and therefore, it was not possible to rank them.

 

 

 

 

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Bahirwal and Nagra Jats

In this post, I will look at two tribes of Jats called the Bahirwal and Nagra. Both these tribes claim descent from the Chauhan Rajputs, and are found in northern Punjab, the Bahirwal in Gujrat and the Nagra in Sialkot and Gurdaspur. Briefly, the Chauhan are a clan of Agnivanshi Rajputs, whose kingdom was based in Ajmer in Rajasthan and over time they extended control over north west India, and conquered Delhi and its neighborhood in the 12th century. They suffered a set-back in 1192 when their leader, Prithviraj Chauhan, was defeated at the Second Battle of Tarain, but this did not signify their demise. The kingdom broke into the Satyapura and Devda branches after the invasion of Qutbu l-Din Aibak in 1197. In Punjab, several petty Chauhans ranas survived, many eventually marrying in Jat and Gujar families.

 

Chauhans, along with the Solankis, the Paramaras, and the Pariharas, call themselves agnikulas or fire-born tribes. According to the Agnikula legend, after the original Kshatriyas had been exterminated by Parashurama , the Brahmans found themselves in need of protection from the demons that were harassing them, and so they prayed and made a special sacrifice to the god Shiva for assistance. Then, through divine intercession, there emerged from the sacrificial fire the ancestors of the four Rajput clans known as the Fire Tribes, and they vanquished the demons.

 

I would ask the reader to look at my post on the Basra Jats, which gives some more background about the history of the Jats of the Gujrat, Sialkot . Jats are found all over this region and form the backbone of the agricultural community. They are divided into numerous clans and historically belonged to different religions. It was not uncommon to find in a village a few Jat families practicing Sikhism while others Islam. Along the border with the Jammu and Kashmir state, many Jats had remained Hindu, and many Hindu Nagra Jats are still found in the  Jammu Region

File:Sialkot District.svg

Map of Gujrat and Sialkot: Source Wikipedia

Bahirwal

The Bhararwal are found mainly in Gujrat District, and are a clan of Chauhan Rajputs. There ancestor was an individual by the name of Merath, a Chauhan nobleman of Delhi, who had four sons, called called Nano, Barwala, Kharowala and Kano, who of whom were all non-Muslim. When Kano converted to Islam, he was outcasted by the rest of the tribe. The Punjabi word bahar wal, means an outsider, on the account of Kano being thrown out of the tribe. This conversion is said to have taken place during the rule of Mohammad Ghori, in 12th Century. Kano, with his family members left Delhi, and settled in Gujrat. Here he founded the town of Baharwal, which has remained the centre of the tribe. The Baharwal contracted marriages with the neighbouring Jats tribes, and as such became Jats.

Nagra

According to tribal traditions, the clan claim descent from Nagra, who is said to be a Chauhan Rajput, and the tribe also claim a common origin with the Cheema. The ancestor of both tribes was Cheema, a Chauhan nobleman, who fled Delhi, after the defeat of Prithvi Raj Chauhan by Mohammad Ghori. Cheema is said to have sought refuge in Kangra, present day Himachal Pradesh. Chima’s son Chotu Mal settled in Amritsar, and founded a village along the Beas. His great-grandson, Dhol during the rule of Alauddin Khilji (rule 1296 to 1316) moved to Sialkot. He had four sons, Duggal, Mohtil, Nagra and Cheema, from whom descend these four Jat tribes. However, in another account, Nagra himself is said to have left Delhi during the rule of Alauddin Khilji (rule 1296 to 1316), and settled initially in Jalandhar, and them moved to Pasrur, near Sialkot. The Sikh Nagra consider the Sikh Cheema to be their collaterals, and as such these two clans do not intermarry.

 

There are a number of traditions as where the tribe got its name. According to one such tradition, their ancestor got the name nagra, because as a child he had no fear of snakes and even the most dangerous snakes were docile around him. The word nag means snake in Sanskrit, and the cult of snake worship was common among the tribes of the Jammu hills. The Nagyals of this region have similar traditions. The connection with snake worship suggests that the Nagra were clan of Dogras, who immigrated to the Punjab plains. There are still several villages of Hindu Nagra in the Jammu region, further confirming the liklyhood of a Dogra connection. However, according to another tradition, the Nagras get their name name from the town of Nagaur in Rajasthan. Overtime, nagaure, or people from Nagaur, was corrupted to Nagra. Some Nagra claim to have accepted Islam at the hands of Daud Bandagi Kirmani (1513-1575), a Muslim saint from Multan Province, who said to have converted a number Jat clans of the Bar region. He also appears in the origin stories of the Goraya and Tarar clans. Others claim to have converted during the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.

The Sikh Nagra consider the Sikh Cheema to be their collaterals, and as such these two clans do not intermarry. After the partition of India in 1947, the Sikh Nagra of Sialkot District moved to India, while the Muslim Nagra undertook a similar migration from Gurdaspur District.

Distribution of the Nagras

They now have 17 villages in Pasrur and Daska tehsils of Sialkot District. Until partition, these Nagra villages had both Sikh and Muslim members.  As already mentioned, there are several Hindu Nagras villages in Jammu such as Sai Kalan and Sai Lag. In neighbouring Gurdaspur district of Punjab, the Sikh Nagra are found in Metla and Warah, while Sikh Nagra of Jalandhar district, all claim to have come from Pasrur. There villages include Kohala, Jabowal and Nagra.

In Sialkot, the most important village is Kalekay Nagra, said to be founded by Kali Singh, who was supposed to have lived in the 18th Century. Other Nagra villages in Sialkot include Adamkay Nagra, Firuzke Nagra, Mattokey Nagra, Ralioke Nagra and Seheko Nagra. Many Nagras, like other Jat clans were settled in the Canal Colonies of Lyalpur and Montgomery in the 19th and early 20th Century. One such Nagra village in the canal colonies is Chak 351 GB Nagra in Toba Tek Singh District, another one is 24 JB , Lahorian Chak in Faisalabad District.

Goraya Jats

In this post, I will look at the Goraya, a large Jat caste that is found mainly in the Rechna Doaba, in particular a region called the Gujranwala Bar. The Goraya were a largely pastoralist tribe, common with many Jats in the region. I will ask the reader to look at my post on the Gondal and Tarar, which gives some more information on the cultural practices of the Bar Jats

Map showing the Doabs of Punjab: Source Wikipedia

Writing about the Jats of the Bar, Captain Nisbett, author of the First Gujranwala Settlement report said the following:

The agricultural tribes are very numerous and a large portion claim a Rajput origin, and are sub-divisions of tribes located in the surrounding districts of Lahore, Sialkot and Amritsar, where the elder branch of the original family having set up home, the younger sons soon wondered a few miles further north and founded new colonies in to this district.

The Goraya too claim a Rajput origin, with an ancestor said to have come from a neighbouring region. Like all Punjabi tribes and clans, the Goraya also have a number of origin stories. The northern half off the Rechna Doaba, the present day districts of Narowal, Sialkot and Gujranwala, has always been dominated by Jats. Jat clans such as the Bajwa, Chatha, Tarar, and Waraich, being the majority of the rural population. In custom and tradition, the Goraya share much with these tribes.

Map of Gujranwala, Punjab, Pakistan

Map of Gujranwala District: Source Wikipedia

Origin Myths

As Captain Nisbett noted, like other Jat tribes, the Goraya also claim a Rajput ancestry, in this case from a tribe called Saroya or Saraoha. Little is known of them, but they appear in the origin stories of several Jats tribes, such as the Hanjra for example. Almost all Goraya myths make reference to an individual by the name of Goraya, as their ancestor. However, after this agreement, the consensus breaks down. Interestingly, the word goraya is also used for the nilgai, a type of a large antelope. Therefore, it is possible that Goraya could have been a nickname for their ancestor. In some stories, he said to have leftSirsa, in what is now Haryana, in search greener pastures, here I use the word in the literal sense. He was looking for a place where there to find pasturage for his cattle.

In Gurdaspur, the Goraya claimed that they are descendants of a person named Lu, who was a Suryavanshi ancestry. Lu lived at a place called Kharmor in the Malwa, and held an official position at the court of a Sultan. He is said to have fallen out with the Sultan, and fled with his family to the banks of the Ravi. Among the Sikh Goraya, there is a tradition that they ate really a branch of the Dhillon Jat, who they do not intermarry, as marriage within a Jat clan is forbidden in Sikhism.

However, a tradition that is prevalent among the Gujranwala Goraya, is that the tribe is descended from a Chandravanshi Rajput called Goraya whose grandson Mai came from the Lakki Thal, in what is now Bhakkar District. The tribe settled in the Jammu region, just north of Sialkot.  Here they were until under Rana their then chief, they came down from the Jammu hills, after a fallout with a Dogra chieftain. This is said to have occurred during the period of Mughal rule over Punjab (circa 15 -17 AD).

 

The next name that occurs in tribal genealogies is that of Budh or Budha, who is said have had twenty sons, one of whom all the Goraya claim descent from. The word budha means an old man, but here it is being used to in the sense of father or founder of the tribe. For example, the Gondals also have a Budha as their ancestor. The word budha here really means the founder or first settler of the tribe. Another name that occurs among the Goraya is that of a Baba Midh, who said to resolved disputes within the tribe, and allocated lands to each chaudhary. This Baba Midh may refer to the Sufi Pir Madha Shah Sultan, whose shrine is in the village of Budha Goraya. Some Goraya claim to have accepted Islam at the hands of Daud Bandagi Kirmani(1513-1575), a Muslim saint from Multan Province, who said to have converted a number Jat clans of the Bar region. He also appears in the origin stories of the Tarar and Chatha clans.

 

The current village of Budha Goraya, located south west of Gujranwala city, is said to be the site of the camp of Budha. The site was initially known as Buddha Gorayan Da , in Punjabi meaning the founders village. The village was said to be destroyed by the earthquake, the original village being about 3 km (1.9 mi) south of Buddha Goraya. After the destruction of the village, the survivors settled in the surroundings areas while some fled further afield. There are now several settlements of the Goraya in Gujranwala, that are named after an individual that left Budha Goraya and founded the settlement. These include Bupra Kalan Goraya, Bupra Khurd Goraya, Chitti Goraya, Harchoki Goraya, Lonkay, Jajoki Goraya, Dhair Virkan, Pipli Goraya, Saddu Goraya, Ratta Goraya, and Mahiya Goraya.

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A village with the name Budha Goraya is also occurs in Sialkot district near Daska, which was also settled by a descendent of the Budha, after the earthquake destroyed the original village. The Goraya now found in Gujranwala, Sialkot, Narowal and Gurdaspur all connect themselves with the village of Budha Goraya. They own 31 villages in Gujranwala. In Sialkot, there villages are located ibn the north-east of the Pasrur Tehsil.

Distribution of the Goraya in Punjab According to the 1901 Census of India

 

District/ State Muslim Sikh Hindu

 

Total
 

Sialkot

4,647 681 1,574 6,902
Gujranwala

 

3,534 965 752 5,251
Gurdaspur

 

1,300 2,062 1,008 4,370
Chenab Colony

 

2,132 787 182 3,101
Patiala State

 

283 834 1,117
Amritsar

 

412 501 46 959
Lahore

 

568 53 22 643
Mianwali

 

365 365
Hoshiarpur

 

135 16 146 297
Montgomery 180 180

 

Gujrat

 

146 146
Other Districts/ State 936
Total

 

14,076 5,443 4,748 24,267

 

 

As the Census showed, over 90% of the tribe was found in the Rechna Doab, Gurdaspur at that time included Shakargarh tehsil, which was also located within the Doab. Another point, is that the Hindu Goraya were all Sultani Hindus, followers of the saint Sakhi Sarwar. Almost all of these converted to Sikhism by mid 20th Century. The Goraya now either Muslim or Sikh.

 

 

Hans and Khagga tribes of Pakistani Punjab

In this post, I will look at the history and origin of the Hans and Khagga tribes. The homeland of both tribes is located in the Neeli Bar, and I would ask the reader to look at my post on the Arar tribe, which describes the region in greater detail. The Hans are found further east then the Khagga in the Sutlej valley. Both these tribes claim an Arab origin.

Hans

The Hans claim to be of Quraishi origin and were one of the many tribes that occupied the upland of the Neeli Bar before the start of colonization of the Punjab by the British Imperial authorities in the 19th century. The Quraishi, or Quraish are the Arab tribe to wich the Prophet belonged too. According to Hans traditions, their ancestors left Arabia and settled in the Bar during the period of Muhammad bin Tughluq, the Sultan of Delhi from 1325 to 1351. Their ancestors had initially settled in Afghanistan, and from their moved to Punjab, where they settled in Pukka Sidhar in what is now Pakpattan District. For the next 5 centuries, the Hans were simple land-holders, living a little to the north-west of the city of Pakpattan. However, small numbers of Hans were found as east as Fazilka. They were a classic tribe of Bar nomads, raising cattle, and moving along the Sutlej. During the rule of the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan (5 January 1592  – 22 January 1666), the town of Malka Hans was founded by Malik Mohammad Hans, and became the most important centre of the tribe, replacing Pakka Sidhar.

 

The fortune of the Hans changed the during the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. A Hans by the name of Shaikh Qutub Hans, a learned men and apparently a teacher of some of the nobility at the court of the Emperor Aurangzeb in Delhi, obtained a grant of several villages from the Emperor in what became known the taluka Qutbabad.  Shaikh Qutub became powerful, owing to his ability and influence at court, and wealthy, as the Para, Sohag and Dhadder streams flowed through his lands. Aurangzeb, as the gratitude to the Shaikh created a tappa or tract of the Hans which formed the parganas of Kabula and Alamgirpur, the modern Okara District.

 

Mughal authority began to decline shortly after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, and in the Bar, the local chieftains became independent. Like other Bar nomads, Shaikh Qutub’s descendant made themselves independent and about 1764 Muhammed Azam was chief of the clan. He seized as much of the country round Malika Hans as he could, but in 1766 the Sikhs overran it and took him prisoner by treachery. His brother is said to have called in the Bahrwal Sikhs to assist him, promising them half his territory, but instead of helping him against his rival, the Chishti diwan of Pakpattan, they put down cow-killing and the call to prayer, and so he called in the help Dogars, one of the larger tribes along the Sutlej, who lands lay directly north of the Hans. The combined Dogar and Hans force drove out the Sikhs. But about this time the streams which watered his lands had dried up and he was unable to resist the Sikhs when they returned, and he had to seek refuge with the diwan of Pakpattan. The Hans land fell under  Sikh rule, when Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Sikh Empire seized Pakpattan in 1810, removing the political autonomy of the Chishti Diwan. With the arrival of the British in 1848, the Bar was opened for canal colonization. Most of the Hans land became part of the Montgomery District.

Waris Shah and Heer Ranjha

During the rule of the Muhammad Azam, Waris Shah arrived and lived in Malika Hans. He is said to have written Heer Ranjha in the town. The poem in some way is a tribute to the culture of the Bar nomads, such as the Hans.

Distribution and Villages

 

They are now found as propritors a few villages in Okara District. There are also isolated settlements of the Hans in Muzaffargarh and Layyah districts.

 

In Dipalpur Tehsil of Okara District, the villages of Hans Uttar Wali and Hans Hitharwali are important settlements of the tribe.

 

In Pakpattan District, Pakka Sidhar, Malka Hans, Bakka Hans, Hamma Rath and Chak 35 SP are important centres of the tribe.

 

In Layyah District, the villages of Chak No. 280/TDA, Chak No. 387/TDA, Chak No. 356/TDA, Chak No 151 TDA LAYYAH, and Ghulam Haider Kalluwala

In Multan District, the village of Azam Hans near the town of Qadirpur Ran, is an important settlement of the tribe.

In Lodhran District, the village of Mallan Hans.

In Kot Addu Tehsil of Muzaffargarh District, the village of Hans is an important centre of the tribe.

Khagga

Moving now on the Khagga, who also claim a Hashmi Qureshi background. According to their traditions, they are descended from Khawaja Shah Jalal Din Muhammad Awais Jaafri Quraishi Hashm also known as Khawaja Awais Khagga. He was a disciple of Shaikh Muhammad Iraqi, a saint of Awaisi chain of Sufis. He is believed to have arrived in Multan during the times of Hazrat Sadruddin (son of famous Sufi Hazrat Baha-ud-Din Zakariya) and died in the year 700AH/1300AD.

Khagga is said to mean a particular kind of fish; and the name was given to Shah Jalal-ud-Din by his spiritual teacher on the occasion of his rescuing a boat overtaken by a storm. There is also a traditions, that during the period of Sikh rule (late 18th and early 19th Century), if anyone was distressed they could take refuge in the home of any Khagga. One has to understand that this was a time of great number of tribal feuds, and it was almost necessary to have someone who could be brought in as an arbitrator.

The Khagga are mostly found in south-west Punjab, with concentrations in FaisalabadBahawalpurVehariMultanMuzaffargarhKhanewalSahiwal and Pakpattan districts. In Sahiwal and Pakpattan districts are said to have come from Multan in the 19th century after the invasion of Ranjit Singh.

Important Khagga villages include Moza Ahmad Shah Khagga, Moza Akbar Shah and Moza Noor Shah Khagga in Sahiwal, Chak Shahana, Bherowal, Pakka Majeed (near Mian Channu) and Vehniwal in Khanewal. Other Khaga villages include Moza Allam Shah Khagga in Faisalabad District, Chak 418 TDA in Layyah District, Chak Shah Khagga in Pakpatan District and Basti Patal, Bastti Kot Saleemwala and Basti Shahwala, all near the town of Kot Addu in Muzaffargarh District.

 

 

Daha Rajput

In this post, I wll look at the Daha Rajput tribe, now found mainly in Khanewal District of Punjab. The Daha were rulers of an independent principality in the Neeli Bar and are an extremely influential tribe in Khanewal District. I would ask the reader to look at my post on the Kathiato give more information on the Bar nomad tribes.

The Daha are a branch of the Panwar Rajputs (also pronounced as Parmar), who ancestor was Mahrajah Shri Khand, ruler of the state of Dharanagri in Malwa region of Central India. The ancient Paramar kings of Dharanagri claimed to be members of the Agnikula or Agnivansha (“fire clan”). The Agnikula myth of origin, which appears in several of their inscriptions and literary works, goes like this: The sage Vishvamitra forcibly took a wish-granting cow from another sage Vashistha on the Arbuda mountain (Mount Abu). Vashistha then conjured a hero from a sacrificial fire pit (agni-kunda), who defeated Vashistha’s enemies and brought back the cow. Vashistha then gave the hero the title Paramara (“enemy killer”). The earliest known source to mention this story is the Nava-sahasanka-charita of Padmagupta Parimala, who was a court-poet of the Paramara king Sindhuraja (ca. 997-1010). The Parmar ruled an important state in Malwa until their decline in the 13th Century.

Coming back now to the the Daha, 20th in descent of Shrikhand was an individual by the name of Dohaj. Dohaj was a prince of Dharanagri, and it was his son Daha, from which the Daha Rajputs get their name. Twentieth in descent from Daha, was an individual who converted to Islam and took the name Taqi Khan. A descentdant of Taqi Khan by name of Singhaar Khan left Malwa and settled in the Neeli Bar, near where Khanewal is located. This migration is set to have occurred in the 13th Century. The Daha were pastoralist at this point, although they built a fort near present day Khanewal. Both the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire maintained a very light control over the Bar nomads.

According to another tribal tradition, Daha, who was said to be a Muslim holy man, was married the daughter of Parihar Rajput, who were said to be the rulers of Multan. They claim kinship with the Bohar and Parhar Jats, who are also of Parihar Rajput ancestry. While another tribal tradition claims the tribe originated in Dharwar in central India, from where they migrated to Pakpattan. The tribe then spread to Khanewal and Multan. There original name was dharawal, or in English people of the town of Dharwar, which was shortened to Daha. During the period which saw the break up of the Mughal Empire (circa 18th Century), the Daha became effective rulers of the portion of the Neeli Bar that forms the modern Khanewal District. The town of Khanewal is name after Khan Daha, the founder.

With the collapse of Mughal authority in the 18th Century, the Daha chief Hasan Khan carved out an independent principality. The principality included Tulamba, Luddan and Tibbi Sultanpur. However, like many of these petty Muslim Rajput principalities, the Daha also saw the arrival of the Sikhs. During the rule of Ziarat Khan, the Daha chiefs acknowledged Sikh overlordship (around 1790). The Daha chiefs were granted lands in Bahawalpur such as Khairpur Tamiwali, to which they paid tribute to the Daudputra rulers of that state. When the region came under British rule in 1849, the Daha chief was Khan Mohammad Khan, who was made a zamindar by the new authorities. Like other Bar chiefs, Khan Mohammad lost his indipendence. When Khanewal was founded by the British, and the area opened up to canal colonization, the Daha were granted extensive estates by the colonial authorities. The current member of national assembly from Khanewal is Muhammad Khan Daha .

In terms of distribution, they are found mainly in Vehari, Khanewal, D G Khan, D I Khan,Faisalabad, Multan and Rajanpur districts. Important Daha villages starting with Khanewal District include Dera Nishat Khan Daha, Rajanpur District Kotla Esan and Kotla Daha, and in Muzaffargarh District, their main villages are Head Bakaini, Mahiwal Daha, Sardar Mohammed Daha, Mohammed Daha, Chak Ali Daha and Ali Daha. 

Noon / Nun Rajput

In this post, I will look at the Noon, sometimes spelt Nun, tribe of Rajputs. Two of their branches, those of Shujabad near Multan and Hamooka near Khushab achieved political power, although Noons are  also found in Bhakkar, Jhang and Faisalabad.  The Noons of Khushab are closely connected with  the Tiwana, and I would ask the reader to look at my post on that tribe.

Origin Myth
The Noon are a tribe of Jat and Rajput status, found in mainly in Shujabad Tehsil of Multan District. According to one of their traditions, they are descended Noon, a Bhatti Rajput, who said to have left Delhi. According to other traditions, Kalyar was a son of Rana Raj Wadhan, who had four other sons, (1) Utterā, (2) Nun, (3) Kanjun, (4) Hatar. The tradition is that the ancestors of Raj Wadhan lived in ancient times near Ghajni (which is said to have existed near Rawalpindi), from where they migrated to Delhi, which after a time they left for Bhatner (now known as Hanumangarh). In the 7th century of the Hijra Raj Wadhan together with his tribe left Bhatner and settled near Chhanb Kulyar (now in the Lodhran District), which in those days lay on the southern bank of the Sutlej and formed part of the dominions of Rai Bhutta, the ruler of a city, the greater part of which was destroyed by the Sutlej flowing over it; but parts of its ruins are still to be seen on the right bank of the Ghāra (in Lodhran District). Rana, Raj Wadhan had a beautiful daughter whom Rai Bhutta, desired to marry. The request was refused by Kalyar, the eldest son of Raj Wadhan ; and the result was that a sanguinary battle took place in which Rai Bhutta, was slain. The tract of the country thus conquered by the Kalyars became known as Chhanb Kalyar, which name it still retains. At this time Sher Shah Sayyid Jalal was living in Uch, where Rana Raj Wadhan and his sons went to see him and embraced Islam. Raj Wadhan remained at Uch, Uttera, occupied the  Viah  (Bias), Nun, also known as Nano began to live on the banks of the Ravi, (and that tribe is now dominant in Shujabad tahsil), Kanjun at the Donari Mari, and Kalyar made Chhanb Kulyar his residence. Hatar was deprived of his share of the inheritance. Although, as my post on the Hattars show, they are now a substantial tribe in Sargodha District. Rajah Nanoo had sevens sons. One was said to have settled in Mitha Tiwana, another at Kahror Pacca in Lodhran District, one was settled in Shikarpur in Sindh and four were settled in Shujabad in Multan after accepting Islam on the hands of Makhdoom Jalaluddin Jahanian Jahangasht of Uch. All Noons except of those Sargodha write Rana as their title, except those of Mitha Tiwana, who use the title Malik.

Noon of Shujabad

There is however another tradition among the Noon of Shujabad, who claims descent from a Rajah Ganj, a Chandravanshi Rajput. The Rajah was prince of Thana Bhawan, which is a town in Uttar Pradesh, located  near the city of Delhi. A descendent of Rajah by the name of Nano converted to Islam at the hands of Makhdum Jahanian (b 1308- d 1384). The tribe, according to this tradition, gets its name Noon from Nano, and after their conversion to Islam they settled near Multan. They remained a pastoralist tribe living near the banks of the Chenab until the rule of the Mughal Emperor Akbar (r. 1556 to 1605). He granted the title of rana, which is a historical title meaning lord, and used by Rajput groups in South Asia, to their chiefs. The various Noon of Shujabad claim descent from six brothers, Ranjha, Janah, Ali Sher, Langa, Umar and Walan. These six brothers are said to have fled from near Multan, and founded the town of Bangala. From this original settlement, they founded further villages such as Basirpur, Mohanpur, Kachotha, Sat Burji and Jalalabad. A number of further settlements were established during the rule of the  governor of Multan, Nawab Muzaffar Khan. Two of the most important villages were those of Basti Mithu, Mari Noon and Dadu, while their other villages include Garwezpur, Basti Dad and Panoi. During the later Mughal period (18th Century), the Noon of Shujabad were independent, their most important chief being Rana Mithu. Rana Mithu’s son, Rana Gamah acknowledge Sikh sovereignity, and was an important courtier in Ranjit Singh’s court. When Sikh rule ended in 1848, his nephew, Rana Ahmed Yar Khan  was appointed zaildar. The Noon’s of Shujabad are still active in politics, with Rana Ijaz Ahmad Noon , serving as a Member of the Punjab Assembly.

In addition to the Shujabad Noons, another branch of the family is settled in Kahror Pacca in Lodhran District.

Noon of Kahror Pakka

Another branch of the Noon are found in the town of Kahror Pakka, in Lodhran District. According to some traditions, the Noon are a branch of the Kanju tribe. Rana Alhaj Rabnawaz Noon, a Kahror Pakka who authored the Tareekh Noon Rajput (Moeenabad, 1986), wrote the following about the Kehror Pakka branch:

 

The Noon clan resides mostly in Sargodha district and Multan district of Punjab.The Noon clan migrated from Dehli and settled in the Bhalwal and the Shujabad areas. Great legater of Noon cast was Rana Fateh Mohammad who with his family came from District Shahpur (Sargodha) and settled in Mouzas Sangu and Chori Noon Tehsil Shorkot District Jhang. After settlement of a half century here, they populated in Khanqah Shah Hussain near Shatabgarh in Tehsil Mailsi. During this settlement Rana Fateh Mohammad came with his family to Noqabilwah of Kahror Pacca which was known as chak Bangar Shirqi and permanently settled here

According to the Kehror Pakka. they arrived in the region from Sargodha and Jhang almost 250 years ago. Alhaj Rabnawaz writes further:

In Sikhs regime, a senior member of Joiya family constructed a rivulet from Qabilwah to Mari Bhagowah. That part of rivulet which was constructed in the area of Bhago Khan was known as Mari Bhagowah and remaining part of rivulet which was constructed in Bangar Shirqi was given the name of Noqabilwah. That is why the old name was converted into new name Noqabilwah and majority of Noon family of Kahror Pacca is resided in Noqabilwah.

The Noon’s were subject to the Pathan Nawabs of Multan, but were semi-independent, until Multan fell to the armies of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1817. The Noon then sack to the position of zamindars under Sikh and then from 1848, British rule/

Noon of Khushab / Sargodha

This branch of the Noon tribe also traces its descent from Rajah Ganj. Rajah Nano here did not settle in Shujabad, but arrived with his kinsmen in the Thal.  Here they established close relationship with their neighbours, the Tiwanas, with whom they have long inter-married. While the arrival of the Sikh reduced the power of the Shujabad Noons, the Sikh power strengthened the Khushab Noons. Their chiefs, Malik Bakhsh Khan and his son Malik Jahan Khan served in the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and held some villages in jagir, which were then lost in the last period of Sikh rule. Malik Fateh Khan, the Noon chief at time of the annexation of Punjab by the British in 1848, helped the British put down a Sikh uprising in 1849. The Malik was giving an estate by the British as a reward. From this branch of the Noon family came the Pakistani prime minister Feroze Khan Noon.

The Noon established fifteen villages in Sargodha District in the late 19th Century, after a grant of the large jagir. The most important of which are Alipur Noon, Nurpur Noon, Sardarpur Noon and Sultanpur Noon.

Distribution of Noon Rajputs According to the 1901 Census of India

District / State
Population
Multan 3,653
Shahpur 1,213
Total Population 4,866

Population of Noon Jats According to the 1901 Census

District / State
Population
Chenab Colony 172
Other Districts 205
Total Population 377

Chadhar

This post will look at the Chadhar, a tribe found among both Rajputs and Jats. Interestingly, in different parts of Punjab, the way to pronounce the word Chadhar differs. For example it is commonly pronounced Chadhar but in some areas of the Punjab, like the cities of Jhang and other adjoining districts, it is pronounced as Chadhrar, while in the Majha, Doaba and Malwa areas it is pronounced as Chandhar.
Chadhars claim descent from Chandarh, the son of Raja Ravilan of the lineage of king Pandu of the Mahabharata. They belong to the Chandra Vanshi branch of the Rajputs, and it is widely believed that they are a branch of the Tomar Rajputs, with the branch of the tribe of in Jhang saying that they are the descendants of Raja Toor and that they migrated into the Punjab fromRajputana.

Origin

Found along the whole length of the Chenab and Ravi valleys, but far most numerous in Jhang, where they for the most part regard themselves as Rajputs, the Chadhars claim to be descended from Rajah Tur, Tunwar.  According to their traditions, in 1193 AD, when Mohammad Shahabuddin Ghauri invaded India, the clan moved from Rajasthan to the Punjab. Some went to Bahawalpur, where they were converted to Islam by Pir Shershah (Jalaluddin Surkh-Posh Bukhari) of Uchch Sharif. If this tradition iss correct, they have been Muslims now for over 8 centuries. However, its worth mentioning, there are still Chadhars in the Doaba who are Sikh by faith.

From Bahawalpur, they migrated north, along the course of the rivers Ravi River and River Chenab. They clashed with those tribes already settled in the region such as the Kharal, Harals and Sial tribes over the possession of essential water resources. They are generally recognized by their neighbours as a branch of the Tomar Rajputs. The northern most Chadhar are found in villages in Pind Dadan Khan tehsil of Jhelum, as such the tribe is very widely spread.

Interestingly, the Chandarhs were the villains in the famous Punjabi romance story of Mirza Sahiban. It is said that Mirza Kharal, the hero of the story, was slain by Chadhars as Sahiban, the heroine was betrothed to Zahir Khan, the son of Jham Khan, a Chandarh Jatts. Because of this murder, it is said that there were many battles between Chandarh and Kharals.
Chadhar sub clans.

 According Chadhar genealogists, they are divided into several sub-clans, most of which are found in Jhang. These include:
1. Aasi
2. Wejhwe
3. Wijhalke
4. Warbhu
5. Kulle
6. Kaloke
7. Jappa
8. Lune or Loone
9. Sajanke
10. Nalere (sometimes pronounced Lalere)
11. Kangar
12. Rajoke
13. Kamoke
14. Harya
15. Paroke
16. Jatoke
17. Deoke
18. Moona
19. Majoka
20. Paajike
21. Chookhia
22. Wallara
23. Thabal,
24. Sajankey,

Many Chadar villages are named after these sub-tribes like Wijhalke and Kaloke and Chak Sajanke and Chak Loone and Mauza Wllara on the right and left banks of the Chenab in the Chiniot District. Well known villages of Chandarhs in other areas of Punjab include Chandarh, Rajeana, Dhaaban, Awan and Rampur.

About their clans, the British colonial ethnographer E. D. Maclagan wrote the following:

The Chaddrars are Tunwars. Their chief tribes in the Sandal Bar are the Rajokes, Kamokes, Jappas, Luns, Pajikes, Deokes, Ballankes, Saiokes, etc. The Chadhars of the Bar are said to have expanded from Dhaban, a small rahna or encampment south-west of Khurianwala. The Luns of Awanwala in the Bar say they have been there for seven generations. At Bajla rahna there is a separate class of Luns or Lunas called Bala Luns, who celebrate marriages, wash the dead and so forth, and act more or less as mullas

Rajputs or Jats?


Jhang Chadhars claim that they are Rajputs, while Chadhras of some areas of Punjab claim to be Jats, in particular those found in the Manjha and Sialkot-Gujrat sub-mountain region. According to the Census of 1881, 26404 Chandars recorded themselves as Jats and 177,746 recorded themselves as Rajputs. Furthermore, the gazetteer of Jhang District (1881 – 1884), Chandarhs are considered to be good farmers and rarely indulged in cattle rustling or theft unlike their neighbours, the Sials, Kharals and others. The distinction in the valley of the Jhelum is not quite that clear, however, with regards to the Chadhars, their neighbours generally if sometimes grudgingly accept their status as Rajput

Distribution

Chadhars occupy a large area of land on the left bank of the Chenab, in the Jhang District, starting from Khiwa (along the boundaries of the Sials) to the adjoining areas of Sayyids of Rajoea Sadaat. Their main village is Tahli Mangeeni which is said to be their throne or Takht. Other villages include Chak 20 Gagh and Thatha Jhamb.

The Chadhars are found in districts of Jhang, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Sahiwal, Sheikhupura, Gujrat, Gujranwala, Lahore, Khanewal, Multan, Bhakkar, Bahawalpur, Okara and also in some parts of Sindh. There is also a village named Chadhrar near Tank, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Some of the Chadhars settled in the Firozpur District in Indian Punjab and founded the village of Chandarh near Mudki. Others settled in Nakodar near Jalandhar. As Muslim Jats, most of the Chadhar Jats shifted from Ferozepur to Amritsar, and Gurdaspur after partition. Most of these Chadhars are now found in Faisalabad.

Chadhars of Chakwal, Jhelum, Khushab and Mianwali:

In Chakwal District, where the northern most Chadhar settlements are found, important villages include Dhok Chadhar, Dhok Miyal, Punjain and Chak Baqar Shah. In Jhelum District, they are found in the village of Abdullahpur and in Lilla town. While accross the Jhelum river in Mandi Bahauddin, they are found in the villages of Beerpindi Jharana, Bosaal, Bukkan, Gohri and Mangat, Mian da Lok. In Mianwali District, they are found in Sultanwala.

Distribution of Chadhar Jats According to the 1901 Census of India

District Population
Chenab Colony 8,691
Jhang 6,345
Multan 3,734
Shahpur 3,303
Montgomery 2,495
Amritsar 1,733
Mianwali 1,226
Montgomery 525
Other Districts 1,128
Total Population 29,180

 

 

Tribes of the Thal: The Muslim Aheer/Ahir of Punjab

In this post, I return the tribes that inhabit the Thal desert region, located in western Punjab, and look at the Aheer or sometimes written as Ahir. The Thal is a vast arid region which is located between the Jhelum and Sindh rivers near the Pothohar Plateau, with a total length from north to south 190 miles, and a maximum breadth of 70 miles (110 km) and minimum breadth 20 miles. The desert covers the districts of Bhakkar, Khushab, Mianwali, Layyah, Muzaffargarh as well as Jhang, from the left bank of the river Jhelum. It is the last remaining desert region in the Doabs of the Punjab, the others now have been arable through a vast networks of canals. As an arid region, the tribes that inhabit it are largely pastoral. I would ask the reader to look at my post on the Bhachars, which gives some background on the ethnology of the Thal region.

 

 

The Aheer, are found throughout the western districts of the Punjab, In the Thal region, they are found mainly in Khushab District, concentrated in the headquarters in Khushab. The Khushab Aheer, are often in the news in Pakistan, due mainly to their active participatiojn in politics, having produced Malik Nasim Aheer, a former interior Minister under General Zia. This article will not concentrate on that family, but will be a general description of the tribe. Urdu sources, which often dismissed by those who either have no knowledge of the language, or pretend they don’t, will be the main basis of this summary. My main source shall be Aqvam-i Panjab by SultÌan Shahbaz Anjum.

 

So who are the Aheer, and the answer is not that simple, in fact with regards to tribal origins, it never is. The name Ahir, which is actually pronounced as Aheer, is used for a large caste cluster found throughout North India, many of whom prefer to call themselves Yadavs. An obvious conclusion would be therefore to conclude the Aheer of the Thal, and others parts of western Punjab, are one and the same as the Ahir. According to the author of the Tehreek Aqwam e Punjab, the Aheers claim descent from Qutab Shah, the ancestor of the Awan and Khokhar tribes, and deny any connection with the Ahir of North India. Denzil Ibbetson, the colonial ethnographer, in his account of the 1881 Census of Punjab, argued that Aheer and Heer was one in the same tribe. There is a single exception, the famous Malik family of Khushab connects itself with the Roas of Rewari. Those who spoke dialects of Lahanda, such as Seraiki or Thalochi tended to refer to themselves as Aheer, while those found in central Punjab refered to themselves as Heer. The Heer, a large Jat clan found throughout central Punjab, stretching from Gujrat to Patiala, together with the Bhullar and Maan clans, claim to be the nucleus of the Jat ethnic group, all other tribes were said to be latter incorporated into the Jat. There is a further division as the Heer can be either Muslim or Sikh, while the Aheer are always Muslim. The 1917 District Gazetteer of Shahpur District, which then occupied most of the Thal, simply refers to the Aheer as ordinary Musalman tribe like their neighbours.

 

I will briefly here go over the origin myths of the Ahir in Punjab. At the beginning of the 20th Century, the Ahir population in British Punjab were found chiefly in the south-east namely in the districts of Dehli, Gurgaon, and Rohtak and the PEPSU States bordering upon these districts. I would ask the reader to look at my post on the distribution of the Ahirs in Punjab at the turn of the 20th Century. These Ahirs were entirely Hindu, and included among them were the family of the Roas of Rewari, which I will come to latter in this article. However, separated from these were communities of Aheer found in the Sindh Sagar Doad, the land between the Indus and the Jhelum-Chenab, who were entirely Muslim. Both groups of Ahir were pastoral caste, with their name said to be derived from the Abhira, an ancient community mentioned in the Mahabharat. In Punjab, most of the Hindu Ahir belong to the Yadubans sub-divisions, which claims to be descended from Krishna.

 

The Aheer of Khushab

 

The landowning Ahirs of Khushab and Sahiwal in present day Sargodha district claim descent from the Raos of Rewari, a Ahir principality in present day Haryana. Until the arrival of the British in the mid 19th Century, the Aheer were practical rulers of the region around the town of Khushab. However, as the power of the Tiwanas rose, the Aheer were reduced to simple zamindars. Thisfamily connects themselves with the Rewari state, based in present day Haryana. The state of Rewari was established by an Ahir  chieftain, Rao Nandram, during the reign of Farrukhsiyar, the Mughal emperor of Delhi. The emperor pleased with military support he received from Nandram, gave him a jagir of 360 villages around Rewari and legitimized Nandram‟s supremacy over the region by conferring upon him the title of chaudhari. He belonged to the Yaduvamsi sub-caste of the Ahirs and to the Abhiriya clan. According to Khushab traditions, they decend from a nephew of Nandram. The jagir was expandedby Rao Gujarmal who got mansab of  5,000 zat and sanad from the emperor Muhammad Shah. Rao Gujarmal built many forts and issued his own coin, but later the kingdom came under the control of Marathas for a brief spell  The last Rao, Tula Ram played an important role in the 1857 mutiny against the British. He proclaimed independence and assumed the title of Raja, and supported the rebels at Delhi and on 16 November 1857 he fought a losing battle against the British at Narvane. After his defeat, he went to Iran and Afghanistan to raise an Army, but died in Kabul on 2 September 1863. The British confiscated the estate of Rao Tula Ram and this marked the end of Ahir Kingdom.

 

So I started off this article by asking the question, who are the Aheer, and the only fact that be confirmed is that they were once a large pastoral tribe, occupying the northern portion of the Thal, whose chiefs or Maliks in the 19th Century confirmed ownership of their lands, which helped to transform them into large landowners in what became Khushab.

 

 

Villages in Thal

In Khushab District, there villages include Aheerpur, Rakh Baghoor, Aheer Jagir, Rahdari and Girote near Khushab city. Staying within the Thal, but outside Khushab, important Aheer villages include Aheeranwala, Aba Khel, Ahheranwala, Jandanwala and Wandhi Aheeranwali near Pai-Khel, all in Mianwali District, while across the Jhelum, in Sargodha District, there are several Aheer villages near the town of Sahiwal, such as Ahir Fateh Shah and Ahir Surkhru, and Lakseem near Kot Momin.  In Mandi Bahauddin District, Chak Nizam near the town of Malakwal is an important village. Finally in Bhakkar District, they are found in Aheeranwala and Wadhaywala.

Outside the Thal,

 

The Aheer are found in Rawalpindi, Lodhran, Khanewal, Sahiwal and Faisalabad districts In the canal colonies of central Punjab, Aheers from the Thal, like many others have settled in chaks, or settlements, with important ones being Chak 142J.B (Khai Aheeran), Chak 235JB (Haiboana), Langrana and Mouza Lodhran in Chiniot District, Chak 452 JB (Aheeranwala) in Jhang District, Chak 7 (Aheeranwala) in Mandi Bahauddin District, Chak 77/12-L in Sahiwal District. In southern Punjab, the Aheer are found in scattered settlements in Khanewal District in villages near the towns of Kabirwala and Qadirpur Raan, and in Lodhran District, their most important villages being Basti Aheer and Jhok Aheer.

Isolated from other Aheer settlements are the villages of Ahir and Bher Ahir in the Gujar Khan Tehsil of Rawalpindi. These Aheer claim Rajput status, and have customs similar to other groups Rajput groups.

 

Distribution of Muslim Ahir in Punjab by District According to 1911 Census of India

 

District Population
Shahpur (Sargodha & Khushab districts) 1,017
Mianwali 843
Chenab Colony (Faisalabad) 345
Multan 234
Jhang 167
Other districts 195
Total Population 2,801

 

Khichi Chauhans of Punjab

In this post, I will look at the clan of the Khichi Chauhans, a tribe that was centred and still found in the Neeli Bar region. The Neeli Bar is a geographical region in Punjab, Pakistan. It consists of the uplands between the rivers Ravi and Satluj. “Bar” is the name given to areas in Punjab which were thick forests before the arrival of the modern canal irrigation system. Its soil is very fertile, as this plain is formed by the mud that has been collected by rivers flowing from the Himalayas. This region consists of the districts Sahiwal, Okara and Pakpattan . In my post on the Kathia, I give a bit more on the conditions and history of the tribal communities found in this region of Punjab. The Khichi family of Mailsi, are often referred to as the classic feudals of Punjab, having dominated local politics of Mailsi for the last seventy years since independence from the British. The current Member of the Punjab Assembly is for Mailsi is Muhammad Jahanzeb Khan Khichi. However, most present day Khichi are largely farmers.

Khichi, sometimes spelt Khichee, are a branch of the Chauhan clan of Agnivanshi Rajputs (please look at posting on Tribes of Potohar for a definition of Rajput). I shall start off by giving some brief information on the Chauhans. The Chauhan kingdom became the leading Rajput state in Northern India under Prithviraj III (1165–1192), also known as Prithviraj Chauhan or Rai Pithora . The Chauhan state collapsed after Prithviraj was defeated by Mohammed of Ghor in 1192 at the Second Battle of Tarain, but the Chauhans remained in Ajmer as feudatories of Mohammed of Ghor and the Sultans of Delhi until 1365, when Ajmer was captured by the rulers of Mewar, finally ending Chauhan rule. This also led to the dispersal of the Chauhans, with some migrating towards Punjab. The Chauhan kingdom collapsed after Prithviraj was defeated by Mohammed of Ghor in 1192 at the Second Battle of Tarain, but the Chauhans remained in Ajmer as feudatories of Mohammed of Ghor and the Sultans of Delhi until 1365, when Ajmer was captured by the rulers of Mewar. According to Khichi tribal traditions, the descend from Manak Rai, a semi-mythical Chauhan ruler of Ajmer. Manik Rai was said to be the brother of Dula Rai, the Chauhan king of Ajmer. In 684 CE, he fled from Ajmer after Dula Rai was killed by their enemies, and regained control managed of the area around Sambhar Lake with the blessings of the goddess Shakambh. The Khichi claim descent from Ajai Rao, the second son of Manik Rai, the legendry seventh century ruler of Sambhar in Rajasthan.

While the main Chauhan state was extinguished by 1365, cadet branches such as the Khichi, split up, some groups nmoving to the central Indian region of Malwa such as Asalgarh in Nimar. After being driven from Asalgarh, the Malwa Khichi founded the principality of Khilchipur, which lasted till the end of British rule in India and formed part of the Bhopal Agency under the administration of the Central India Agency. Another branch moved to Gagraun, in central Rajasthan, where they became tributaries of the Jhala Rajputs. The Khichi of Chota Udaipur state claim descent from this branch of the Khichis.

The Khichi of Punjab have slightly different origin story. According to their traditions, they claim descent from a Khichi ruler of Ajmer. Driven out of Delhi by one of the Sultan of Delhi, his descendants Sisan and Vidar migrated to Multan. The Khichis then fought with the Joiyas, then paramount in the region, expelling them from the Sutlej valley near the where the town of Mailsi is located. At sometime following their settlement in the Neeli Bar, the tribe converted to Islam. According to tribal traditions, they founded the villages of Shitab Garh, Sargana, Sheer Garh, Haleem Khichi, Aliwah, Tarki, Omar Khichi, Dhoda, and Fadda. One of their tradition refers to their conversion at the hands of the Sufi Bahaudin Zakaria of Multan. They then established a state based in the town of Mailsi, which finally conquered by the Sikhs in the 18th Century. Another branch established a state near the town of Gugera. Mailsi however remains the centre of the tribe. In addition to Punjab, branches of the Khichi tribe are still found in Rajasthan, especially in Jaisalmer, in India, who have remained Hindu, and have very similar origin stories as the Khichi of Punjab.

Groups of Khichi began migrating northwards, and the largest concentration of the Khichi are found in the Bhera Bar, a portion of the Kirana Bar located near the town of Bhera in Sargodha District. Khichi villages include Khichi Jagir, and Daulutpur Khichi in the Sahiwal Tehsil of Sargodha District, Khichi in the Talagang Tehsil and Khichi in Chakwal Tehsil of Chakwal District, and Khichi in Pind Dadan Khan Tehsil of Jhelum District. According to the 1901 Census of India, the Khichi were distributed in the following districts.

Khichi Rajput Population According to the 1901 Census of India

District Population
Chenab Colony 1,870
Multan 1,563
Montgomery 1,342
Bahawalpur 921
Shahpur 838
Jhang 733
Firuzpur 717
Mianwali 514
Other Districts 1,632
Total Population 10,130

Most of the Khichi population is still concentrated in the regions where they were found in 1901. The Khichi of Multan District were found near the town of Mailsi, which is now in Vehari, while the bulk of the Mianwali Khichi were found in the Bhakkar Tehsil, which is now a separate district.
Major Khichi Villages By District

Bhakkar District

1) Basti Cheena,

2) Chah Khichi

3) Khichi Kalan,

4) Khichi Khurd

5) Jhok Khichi

6) Wadhay Wali

Layyah District

1) Chak 459 TDA

2) Chak 465 TDA

Chiniot District

Chani Khichi

Faisalabad District

Chak106JB Khichian,

Shakeel Ahmed Khichi,

Chak 275 Mudooana

Hafizabad District.

Dera Mian Ali Khichi

Khanewal District

Khichiwala

Mandi Bahauddin District

1) Chakori

2) Sanda

Sargodha District

Chak No. 132 NB (Silanwali Tehsil),

Chak No. 139 SB (Silanwali Tehsil)

Okara District

Dholi Khichi,

Jawaya Khich

Nota Khichi

Sialkot District

Rahimpur Khichian

Khichi of Mailsi Region

But the greatest number of Khichi villages are still found in Mailsi region of Vehari District and include Sargana, Aliwah, Fadah, Halim Khichi, Umar Khichi, Shergarh, Shatabgarh, Tarki, Kilanj, Dhamakki, Dhodan and Jiwan Khichi. The Khichi have dominated the local politics in Vehari District, providing many of the members of the National Assembly.

The Population of Kharal and Kathia tribes according to the 1901 Census of Punjab

In this post, I look at the distribution of the Kathia and Kharal tribes according to the 1901 Census. Like the Khokhars, these two tribes were separately enumerated from the general Rajput category. Both claim Panwar Rajput ancestry. I would ask the reader to look at my post on the Kathia. Time permitting, I wish to write a post on the Kharals.

 

Kharal Population

District / States

Muslim

Hindu

Sikh

Total

Montgomery

20,866     20,866
Chenab Colony 7,244   7,244
Bahawalpur State 5,738     5,738
Multan 4,748     4,748
Gujranwala 3,035     3,035
Jhang 1,785     1,785
Patiala State   1,177 532 1,709
Mianwali 1,207 1,207
Firuzpur 903    903
Muzaffargarh 723 723
Lahore 193 193

Other Districts

 

 

 

 

Total

47,331

 

 

49,040

Kathia Population of the Punjab

 

District Population
Montgomery 2,419
Total Population 2,419