In this post, I will examine the 1931 Census of what was then the Hazara District of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), which is now the Hazara Division. Ethnologically this region is interesting, in that forms a transition zone between the Pashtun dominated areas in the west, the very diverse regions of Kohistan and Gilgit to the north, and the Lahnda speaking areas of Pakistani Kashmir and Punjab to the south and east. I would also ask the reader to look at my post on the 1931 Census of Mirpur District, a region that shares many culture similarities with Hazara.
Hazara is bounded on the north and east by the Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir. To the south are the Islamabad Capital Territory and the province of Punjab, whilst to the west lies the rest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). The river Indus runs through the division in a north-south line, forming much of the western border of the division. The total area of Hazara is 18,013 km². The region is a classic in-between place, which is influenced by both the tribal Pashtun society as well the more settled village based structure of the Punjab and mountainous culture of the Chibhal. Indeed, Hazara has probably the closest linkages with Chibhal, the Hindko language almost merges into Chibhali. Certain castes such as the Dhund and Gakhar are found in equal numbers in both regions. In this post, I analyse the results of the 1931 Census of India. At that time the region had not seen substantial migration of Pashtuns from other regions of the KPK. Most of the population spoke Hindko, which in 1931 was included in the Lahnda category. I have split the post into three categories, the first bit will give an overview of the languages spoken, the second on religion and finally on caste identity.
As these results show, the majority of the population spoke a language called Lahnda in 1931 Census. Its worth mentioning Lahnda itself is an exonyms and even in 1931 was not used by the speakers themselves.The emerging languages of this dialect area are Saraiki, Hindko and Pothohari. Lahnda means “western” in Punjabi, and was a term coined by William St. Clair Tisdall (in the form Lahindā) probably around 1890 and later adopted by a number of linguists — notably George Abraham Grierson — for a dialect group that had no general local name. Locally, the term to describe the language, at least from the late 19th Century is Hindko, and its speakers are known as Hindkowan, literally in Farsi those who speak the Hindko language. Hindko almost merges seamlessly into Chibhali, the two languages acquiring their own unique identity, largely because each was spoken in distinct political units. In the case of Chibhali, it was spoken in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir and came under the influence of Punjabi and Kashmiri. Dhundi-Kairali, spoken by the Dhund and Karlal tribes of eastern Hazara and western Poonch is an intermediate dialect between Chibhali and Hindko. This dialect is now spoken largely in Abbottabad District, and the adjoining Murree Hills and Galyat areas.
The other two languages that are indigenous to the region are Pashto and Gojri. Briefly about Pashto, it was largely spoken in the Kala Dhaka region, home to five major tribes, Bassi khel, Mada khel, Akazai, Hassanzai, and Nasrat khel, all of whom were clans of the Yousafzai. Some Swati clans also continued to speak Pashto. It is worth pointing out most of the Pathans belonging to the larger tribes such as the Jadoon, Tareen and Dilazak were Hindko speaking. In Hazara tribal and linguistic identity often did not match. The other indigenous language was Gojri, which had 287 speakers. As the language of the Gujjar caste, who numbered 98,599, the figure of 987 is extremely small. It is very likely, that the number of Gojri speakers have been undercounted, as many were Gujars at that time were nomadic, this was especially the case in the Kaghan Valley.
In terms of religion, the Hazara region was largely Islamized by the 1931 census. The region was home to a Hindu minority, many of whom belonged Khatri, Arora and Brahman castes. The region was uniquely home to the Muhial community, traditionally landowning Brahmans.
Tribes and Castes
|Religion||Caste or Tribe||Sub-Caste||Population|
|Khoja (Punjabi Sheikh)||934|
With regards to caste grouping, the British Administration had divided the population by the Land Alienation Act into those who could own land, and those who were ineligible.The tribes of the District, that were notified as agricultural under the Punjab Alienation Act, were the Awans, Bambas, Bibs, Dhunds, Dilazaks, Gakhars, Gujars, Karrals, Malliars, Mishwanis, Mughals, Pathans, Qureshis, Rajputs, Sararas, Swathis, Sayeds, Tareens, Tanaolis, and Turks. The large non-agriculturalist groups included Julaha (Bafinda), Tarkhan, Lohar, Mochi and Nai groups, who were often referred to by the derogatory term kami. The number of kami castes had fallen over the period, as many of families were absorbed into agricultural castes.Below is a brief description of the largest grouping by population.
Major Muslim Groups
The Awans and Bibs
The Awans made up one-sixth of the total population in Hazara, and were found almost everywhere other then the Kala-Dhaka. I will not go into too much detail as to there origin, other then to say they claim descent from Qutab Shah, an Arab, and a descendent of Ali, who arrived in the region with Mahmud of Ghazni. The Awans were are entirely Hindko speaking group, and connected with the Awans of the Pothohar region of neighbouring Punjab. Closely connected to the Awans are the Bib who are small tribe found Abbotabad District, occupying two villages between the Rash plains and Thandiani range. They claim a common origin with the Awans, and in 1931 were not counted separately but included within the Awans.
The Gujars are among the oldest inhabitants of the region, and make up the second largest ethnic group in Hazara. They were in occupation of the Hazara plain before the Dilazaks, Utmanzais, and Tareens migrated there. In Mansehra, the Kathana Gujars of Kot Najibullah and in Haripur the Jagal Gujars are most prominent families. The Kaghan Valley right up to the Babusar pass is entirely inhabited by the Gujjars. The Kaghan Gujjars are largely Gojri speaking, while those in the southern part of Hazara are now largely Hindko speaking.
The Pathans and Mashwani
In Hazara, as in most cis-Indus regions, the Pashtun tribes describe themselves as Pathan, with the exception of those from the Kala Dhaka, speaking the Yousafzai dialect, call themselves Pakhtoon. In 1931, the total Pathan population, including the Kala Dhaka tribes was 54,544, about 8% of the total population. After Independence in 1947, the Pathan population has increased considerable, as migrants from other parts of KPK have settled there. Related to the Pathans were the Mishwanis, who numbered 5,361, and inhabit the villages of Sirikot, Kundi, Amarkhana, and Gadwalian at the north-east end of the Gandgar range. The Mishwani claim to be Saiads in origin, Mishwani, their ancestor, being one of the four sons of the Sufi Saiad Muhammad-i-Gisu Daraz. He is said to have married a daughter or granddaughter of Kakar, and to have been adopted by Danai, Kakar’s father. In customs, the Mishwanis had much in common with the other Pathans tribes such as the Jadoons and Tareens. However, on account of their Sayed ancestry, they were seperately enumerated.
The Swatis were the fourth largest group in the region. They claim to be Pathans, and to be connected with the Yusafzais. or rather with the Ranazais, from whom the Yusafzais are derived from. When the Swat valley was invaded by the Yusafzais, the Swati fled eastward in northern Hazara. They are divided into two main sections — the Ghabri or Utli (Upper) Pakhli, and the Mamiali-Mitrawi or Tarli (Lower) Pakhli. The former occupy the Kagan, Balakot, Garhi Habibullah, Mansehra, Shinkiari, Bhogarmang, and Konsh valley. The Konshi Swatis are the most distinct and in the earlier censuses were seperately enumerated. Most Swatis are Hindko speaking except for a few communities in Shinkiari who speak Pashto.
British colonial ethnologist believed tha the Dhunds were of converted Hindus in origin. But they have always claimed to be of Abbasi origin. Like the Karrals, they were for a time subservient to the Gakhars until the Sikh occupation in the early 19th Century. They occupy the Bakot tract between the Dunga Gali range up to the Jhelum river, and the country on either side of the eastern or Dhund branch of the Harroh before its junction with the Karral branch. They also extend across the border to the hills round Murree, and also found in the Poonch region. The Dhund and the Karlal speak their own version of Hindko called Dhundi-Kairali, which is closer to the Chibhali language then standard Hindko.
All Sayyads claim descent from the Prophet Mohammad. In the District they number 27,629 , and belong to the Bukhari, Tarimzai, Mashadi, Bakri, and Gilani sections. They are scattered all over the region. The Sayyads of the Kaghan valley stand somewhat apart from the rest. Descendants of Jalal Baba, who led the Swathi invasion into Hazara, they for long remained virtually independent masters of the upper end of the valley. They are entirely Hindko speaking.
The Karal or Karlal
The Karrals, sometimes pronounced as Karlal, numbered 127,117 in 1931. They are found mainly in the Nara tract between the Rajoia plain and the Dunga Gali range, but are also found in the Boi hills. They claim to be Mughals, who came from Kian in Iran. Their ancestor, Kallar Shah, was, they say, was in the service of an Emperor of Delhi, with whom he went to Kashmir. On his return he took the Nara hills and the Bakot tract from the Gakhars. They are closely connected to the Dhunds, and speak the Dhundi-Kairali dialect.
The Julaha or Bafinda
The Julaha or as they are locally known as Bafinda were the weavers of the Hazara region. They were probably under counted, as many had regitered themselves either as Awan or Pathan, inflating the numbers of those castes. As non-agricultural tribe, the Bafinda were not allowed to own land. Although large, and in the 1901 Census they outnumbered the Sayyad and Karlal, the Bafinda are one of the most marganalized community in Hazara. This tragically has remained the case. They are entirely Hindko speaking.
By 1931, the Hazara region was home to 13,218, many settled in the town of Abbotabad. They had arrived later in the 19th Century, and included some Chibhali groups. Largely an urban community of petty traders. Almost all spoke to Hindko by 1931.
The Tarkhan and Lohar
Although seperately counted, both groups were close and intermarried. Like the Bafinda, British policy meant they could not buy land. As a result, both groups were entirely tennants. Increasingly, these groups were making claims to a Mughal origin, so that they could own land. The figures for the Mughal were therefore very likely to be inflated. The traditional occupation of the Tarkhan is carpentry and Lohar were smiths.
Like the Dhunds, the Sararas claim to be a branch of the Abbasi tribe,with whom they intermarry. According to their traditions, the Sarraras came from Pakpattan in Punjab. It is possible that, like the Dhunds and Karrals, they may be Hindus in origin. It is noticeable that with all three tribes the names of the subsections terminate in ‘al,’ like those of the Jat and Rajput tribes of the Chibhal and Pothohar regions. In 1931, they lived almost exclusively in the Boi tract between the Thandiani range and the Kunhar river.
Mostly found in the urban areas, mainly in Mansehra. As already said, a large number of Tarkhans and Lohars had made claims to Mughal ancestry, and the boundary between the three castes was less then clear.
Mochi means cobbler, and those who followed this occupation were the most marganalized group in the region. Working with leather had a stigma, and Mochi neighbourhoods in villages in the Hazara region were always found some distance from the main centre of the village. It is probable, that they are converts from the Hindu Chamar caste. Largely found in Gakhar, Awan, Jadoon or Tareen Pathan villages, rarely found in villages of mountain tribes such as the Karlal, Dhund or Sarraras.
Like the Mochi, the Nai or barbers were also very stigmatised. Some groups claimed Janjua Rajput origin, others an Awan origin. This may be the case, but in 1931, the Nai formed a distinct community, although they were less marganalized then the Mochi. In Hazara in 1931, the landowning castes were ascendent, and sadly this has remained the case.
Unlike the previous two tribes, the Gakhars have dominated the history of the District. They trace their descent from Nausherwan, King of Iran, and his grandson Yazdgurd, Kiani, said to be an ancestor of Mahmud of Ghazni. According to their traditions, Yazdgurd’s son, Firoz Shah, went to China in the seventh century a.d., was made commander of the Emperor’s Bodyguard, and given Tibet to rule over. In the ninth century, having been converted to Islam, his descendants left Tibet for Kabul. After remaining there 200 years, they moved to Ghazni. They came to India about a.d. 1,000 with Mahmud of Ghazni, who made the Sind Sagar Doab over to them. They returned to Ghazni with Mahmud, but continued to take tribute from the conquered territory. On the break-up of Mahmud’s dynasty the Kashmiris took possession of the Doab, but in the fifteenth century Malik Kad Gakhar recovered it from them. This much is tradition only, but we now come to historical facts. In a.d. 1519 the Emperor Babar came into contact with the tribe, and found them ruled by two chiefs who wore cousins, and named Tatar and Hati respectively. While the Emperor was in their country, Hati attacked Tatar, killed him, and took possession of liis territory. Babar’s force thereupon marched against Hati, and captured his stronghold. Hati fled, but afterwards made his submission. In Akbar’s time, according bo the ‘ Ain-ul-Akbari,’ the Gakhar chiefs were Sultan Sarang and his brother Adam. The Hazara Gakhars are descended from Fateh Khan, son of Sultan Said Khan, who founded Khanpur about the end of the sixteenth century. The tract made over to him by his grandfather, Sultan Sarang Khan, included the Karral and Dhund hills, as well as those of Khanpur, but during the decline of the Moghal dynasty the Karrals and Dhunds, as above stated, managed to assert their independence. Under the Durani rule the Gakhars of Hazara were tributary rulers, given the lower portions of Hazara to adminster, until the arrival of the Sikhs which ended their independence. Most Gakhars were found in Haripur region.