Tribes of the Thal: Bhidwal, Kachela, Kallu, and Sangra

This is my fortieth post, and it has been over a year since I began this blog to give much needed information on the internet on the lesser known tribes of the Punjab. My very first post looked at a region in western Punjab, known as the Thal, and in particular some of the tribes that inhabit it. In this post, I return to the same region, looking at four tribes, namely the Bhidwal, Kachela, Kallu and Sangra. Just a point of clarification, the Kallu and Kalru are distinct tribes.


To give some background, the Thal is a large desert situated between the Jhelum and Sindh rivers just south of the Pothohar Plateau. Its total length from north to south is a 190 miles, and its widest is 70 miles (110 km) and narrowest is 20 miles. The Thal is all that remains of the semi-arid uplands that existed between rivers of western Punjab prior to the 19th Century constructions of canals by the British colonial authorities that led to the creation of what is now a largely irrigated region. This process also involved settlement of peasant colonists from what is now Indian Punjab.

This region was also home to a number of tribes that can be loosely grouped under the name Jat. In the Thal, the term refers to any tribal grouping that practiced pastoral nomadism. Each tribe historically occupied distinct areas where they enjoyed prerogatives to grazing, and often claimed descent from a common ancestor. So far in several blogs, I have already looked at the Aheer, Bhachar, Dhudhi, Jhammat, Mekan, Talokar, Tiwana, Uttra and Wahla tribes. In terms of the tribe that I will look in this post, the Bhidwal and Kallu, who are near neighbours, they were effective rulers of their respective patches of the Thal, until the arrival of the British in the 19th Century.



I shall of by looking at the Bhidwal, or sometimes pronounced Bhadwal. According to their tribal traditions, their ancestors were Dogras from the town of Bhadu in present day Kathua District in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir. Interestingly, the region is still home to a tribe of Suryavanshi Rajputs called Bhadwal, which means the people of Bhadu. Interestingly, the Jammu region is still home to a tribe by name of Bhadwal, who it is likely is the same tribe.


The Bhidwal, together with the Chhina were earliest settlers of the Bhakkar District portion of the Thal Desert. After their migration from Jammu, the Bhidwal came to possess a somewhat small tract round Karluwala and Mahni Thal in Bhakkar District near the border of Jhang District. Hear, they remained effectively independent until the arrival of the British in the mid-19th century, practising a pastoral lifestyle. Like the Bandials, Bhachars, Talokars and Uttras already mentioned, they were masters of tribal territory, but unlike the Awans in Kalabagh or the Tiwanas further north, the Bhidwal never became a regional power. Currently they are found in several villages near Dhingana, such as Basti Bhidwal, Karlowala, Mahni Thal and Yarra Sulleh.


The Kachela are a tribe of Samma background, who are found all along the banks of the Indus, from Dera Ghazi Khan to Layyah. With regards to the Samma, there are various theories about their origin. According to Sadiq Ali Ansari, who wrote a brief description of Samma,  some Samma groups claim to be descendants of Sam (Shem), the eldest of the three surviving sons of the prophet Nuh (Noah). According to others they were the descendants of Sam, the son of Umar, son of Hashim, son of Abu Lahab, an uncle of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Yet others believe Sam was the son of Umar, son of Ikrimah ibn Abu Jahl, son of Abu Jahl, the tormentor of Islamic prophet Muhammad. Some argue that as the Samma rulers used the title of Jam, then Sammas are the descendants of Jamshid, the legendary king of Persia who could see in his wine cup (Jām-e Jam). However their are branches of the Samma that have remained Hindu in Gujarat, who claim descent from the mythical Yadava dynasty, to which belonged.

In Dera Ghazi Khan, the Kachela are closely connected with the Leghari Baloch, and in this region, the Kachela have adopted Baloch manners, customs and dress. While in Shujabad region near Multan, they are one of a number of Sindhi Jats, who use the title Jam. In Layyah District, they are found in the villages of Hydershahwala, Mahni Thal and Sadatnagar.




Kallu are found mainly in the borders of Khushab and Bhakkar districts, although they are related to the Kahlon tribe of Jats, who are found throughout central Punjab. In fact the word Kallu is simply the way Kahlon is pronounced in the Thallochi dialect of the Thal. So who exactly are the Kahlon. According to Kahlon tribal tradition, they claim descent from Raja Vikramajit of the famous Chandravanshi Rajput, through Raja Jagdeo of Daranagar, concerning whom they tell the well-worn legend that in his generosity he promised his sister whatsoever she might ask. She claimed his head and he fulfilled his promise, but was miraculously restored to life. The ancestor of the tribe, Kahlwan was a supposed great grandson of Raja Jagdeo. It was his great grandson, who is said to have left Dharanagri and settled in Punjab. The Kallu branch of the Kahlon left Sialkot, which is centre of the tribe in the Punjab, and arrived in the area of the Thal Desert between Pillo Waince, Roda and Nootpur Thal. Here the Kallu, like the Bhidwal maintained their independence until the arrival of the British in the 19th Century. Important Kallu villages include Biland, Dera Khwaja Kallu, Rangpur Baghoor and Noon Kallu. Further west in Bhakkar District, they are found in Mahni Thal. In Layyah District, they are found in Karlowala, Ghulam Hyder Kalluwala and Hyder Shahwala village. North of the Thal Desert, there a two Kallu villages in Chakwal, namely Kallu, and Kallu near Kallar Kahar. While in Dera Ghazi Khan District, there are several Kallu villages such Dhoraywala and Khakilwala.

Kallu Jats of the Sikh faith are found in East Punjab, in particular in Jalandhar District. In that district Muslim Kallu Jats were found in the village of Pachranga, while Sikh Kallu Jats were found in Mutadallur in Philaur Tehsil. The Muslim of Pachranga immigrated to Pakistan at the time of partition, settling in Raichand village in Sheikhupura District. It is not entirely clear how these Jalandhar Kallu relate to those of the Thal.


Sangra, unlike the other two tribes discussed, never really became independent in any sense. They are also found in numbers outside the Thal, in river valleys of the Chenab and Jhelum rivers. In Bahawalpur, the called Wagi clan was. In the 8th century of the Hijra the Sangras migrated from Rajputuna and settled in Kathala, then a large town on the Gurang or Hariari, the ruins of which are still to be seen near Tibba Tanwinwala.
Kathlaa was at that time held by the Joiyas. The Sangras when they reached Kathala. had never seen sugarcane, so they cut down the fields of it, thinking they contained reeds, and built huts hke those of the modern Marechas. The Wagis were converted to
Islam by .Abdulla Jahanian, at this period, and gathered together,all their janeos to make a tether for the saint’s horse. Hence they became known as Wagis-from wag, a tether. They have several clans:-
1. Pheru-de-(i) Sahlon-de, (ii) Sultan-de, (iii) Hakun-de,
(iv) Haji-de. .
2. Tole-de-(i) Shadi-de, (ii) Tatarli


They use the surname Rai, which also reflects a Rajasthani background. The Sangra are found throughout southern Punjab, with concentrations in Jhang District as well as some other southern Punjab districts like Layyah, Multan, Okara and Sahiwal.