Akera, Chadhar, Gilotar, and Lali tribes

In this post, I shall be looking a bit south of the Pothohar plateau, and looking at some of the tribes that inhabit the valley of the Jhelum and Chenab rivers. Most claim to be of Jat status, however among the Chadhars and the Kalyars, there are sections which claim to be Rajput. While my first post dealt with tribes that inhabit the desert region of the Thal, this will focus on the tribes that lived in the river valleys and uplands, called the Bar in the various dialects of Punjabi. Most of the Bar now is agricultural land, being cleared in the nineteenth century for the canal irrigation, was a thick barren forest areas which covered parts of central Punjab. The soil of the Bar however was fertile, the plains have been made by the alluvium driven by rivers flowing from the Himalayas. The Bar is further divided into four regions: the Sandal Bar (the area between the Ravi and Chenab rivers), Kirana Bar (the area between the Chenab and Jhelum rivers), Neeli Bar (the area between the Ravi and Sutlej rivers) and Ganji Bar (the area between the Sutlej and dry river bed of the Hakra).

The tribes that I will look at reside mainly in the Kirana Bar region, although with canal colonization, much of their traditional territory is now home to a variety of settlers. Most of the Bar now forms part Chiniot, Jhang and Sargodha districts, Below is a list of tribes that were classified as Jat by 1911 Census of India in the Shahpur (now Sargodha) district:

 

Tribe Population
Gondal 28,623
Ranjha 7,536
Mekan 5,435
Khichi 5,288
Bhatti 4,211
Chadhar 4,001
Waraich 3,483
Lak 3,156
Johiya 2,844
Cheema 2,708
Sujal 2,594
Harral 2,110
Rehan 1,880
Sipra 1,763
Tarar 1,716
Bajwa 1,685
Dhudhi 1,405
Tulla 1,311
Chhina 1,299
Jhawari 1,092
Tatri 1,122
Ghumman 1,065
Khokhar 1,055
Khat 1,055
Talokar 966
Burana 935
Ves 913
Kalera 855
Sohal 810
Parhar 807
Baghoor 807
Dhako 799
Hanjra 790
Bhutta 753
Hattar 739
Jora 718
Kalyar 715
Sagoo 715
Bains 712
Noon 708
Dhal 691
Lali 684
Goraya 652
Langah 638
Kharal 633
Virk 626
Panjutha 596
Sandrana 577
Heer 553
Jarola 550
Marath 548
Nissowana 505
Sandhu 504

 

From the list we can see that the two larger tribes were the Gondal and Ranjha, but in Sargodha, we also begin to see the presence of the some of the better known Jat tribes of central Punjab, such as the Bajwa, Cheema and Sandhu. Many of these latter tribes were actually settlers brought in from Gujrat, Gujranwala and Sialkot districts. Incidentally, the Gondal and Ranjha are also found north of Salt Range in Jhelum district, and I hope to dedicate the later post on these tribes. Reference can also be made on my earlier post on the Hattar, Baghoor and Talokar tribes, with the former found mainly in the north of the Kirana Bar, and latter two in the Thal Desert portion of the old Shahpur District (made of the modern Khushab and Sargodha Districts). One more thing I wish to add, while in Pothohar the addition of the word aal signifies descent, in the Bar, the suffix added is aana. For example the Tiwana, looked in my first post, are the children of Teu, while the Nissowana are the children of Nisso and so on. This is especially seen among the clans of the Gondals, such as the Sandrana, sons of Sandra, Salmanas, sons of Salman and so forth.

In Jhang District (which included Chiniot), the following were the main Jat clans according to the 1911 Census of India:

 

Tribe Population
Khokhar 8,666
Harral 4,988
Chadhar 3,414
Sipra 3,092
Naul 2,136
Kharal 1,792
Johiya 1,721
Lali 1,640
Gilotar 1,497
Mahun 1,471
Lak 1,310
Gujjar 1,265
Rajoke 1,262
Hanjra 1,176
Noon 1,089
Kudhan 1,045
Thabal 1,019
Lana 1,011
Sahmal 994
Nonari 983
Maru 956
Hidan 914
Gondal 900
Marral 826
Awrah 814
Sattar 801
Kanwan 678
Kaloke 638
Ganda 637
Dhudhi 600
Mahra 597
Sial 595
Heer 584
Khichi 581
Gill 588
Juta 544
Kalasan 533

Some of these tribes listed separately are actually clans of the Chadhar, such as the Thabal, Kaloke and Rajoke, while the Sial were listed as both Jat and Rajput, while the bulk of the Chadhar clans were recorded under a single entry under Rajput. In this post, I shall look at the very large and influential tribe of the Chadhars, as well as more localized tribes like the Akera, Gilotar, Lali, Nissowana and Rehan.

Akera

The Akera are a very localized clan of Jat status, found along both banks of Jhelum River, just above the town of Kot Khan. According to their traditions, their ancestor Khizar was granted a jagir by the 18th Century Sial ruler, Walidad Khan. Little is known of the their tribal origin, but they are one of number tribes found along the banks of Jhelum river, who claim to have always been their. Their are however traditions of migration from Sindh, and the Akera could be one of the earliest of these migrants. They therefore need to be distinguished from tribes such as the Chadhar, who claim to be Rajput, with strong traditions of migration from Rajasthan or Delhi.


Chadhar

Moving now on to 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 are Chandra Vanshis, 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 from Rajputana.

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. From Bahawalpur, they migrated north, along the course of the rivers Ravi River and River Chenab. They clashed wit those tribes already settled in the region such as the Kharal, Harals and Sial tribes over the possession of essential water resources.

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.

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.

Rajputs or Jats?


Jhang Chadhars claim that they are Rajputs, while Chadhras of some areas of Punjab claim to be Jats. 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.

 

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.

 

Gilotar
Moving on to the Gilotar are entirely confined to Jhang District, and their villages are situated on the banks of the Chenab river, north of the Chadhars. With regards to their origins, they are considered as Jat, and this is accepted by their neighbours. Their own tradition makes references to their migration from Hansi, in what is now Haryana, to Uch Sharif, where they are said to have converted to Islam at the hands of the Sufi saint Jahaniyan Jahangasht (1307–1383). These Gilotars were said to have belonged to the Ahir caste, but after their settlement in Jhang, they contracted marriages with neighbouring Jat tribes, and as such became Jat.

Their villages are all in Shorkot Tehsil, and the neighbouring Chiniot District. In Chiniot, they are found in Gandhlanwali, Burj Mal,Burj Umer ,Chhani Chuhr and Gilotaranwala and in Shorkot their main village is Jhangar Gloteran.

 Lali
The Lali, or sometimes written as Lalee, are a Jat clan, found mainly in Chiniot and Jhang districts. They are one of a number of Jat clans that have lived in the Kirana Bar for centuries, and were historically a pastoral tribe. The Lali have several sub-divisions, the most important being the Miana, Kahana, Wanoka, Lohry, Kawain and Bodhar. The tribe has produced a famous Sufi saint, Mian Muhammad Siddique Lali, who has given them a status of sanctity among the other Bar tribes. Their traditional seat of power was at the village of Kanweinwala, but this was reduced to a petty chieftainship with the arrival of the British. A secondary chieftainship also existed at the village of Jakoky, but was extinguished by the Sikhs. The Lali also founded the town of Lalian, literally the place of the Lali, where a good number are still found.

Outside Chiniot and Jhang districts, and they also have a few settlements such as Aasianwala, Chak No 60 S.B and Chak No 61 S.B in Sargodha District. Within Jhang/Chiniot, important villages include Lalian, Ismailkot, Jallaywala. Kanainwala, Jabana, Jagokay, Wallah, Mumtazabad, Miana Thein, Kahana Mauza Bahuddin, Thata Mian Laala, Wanoka, Dawar, Kot Bahadur, Thatta Mian Lala, Kahana Lali, Judhi Sultan and Mohsinabad.

 

 

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Tribes of the Thal Desert: Aheer, Bhachar, and Talokar

I am interested in the history of Pakistan, and in particular its people. Trawling through the net, I find that there is little or no information on the history of this great nation. By history, I don’t mean descriptions of major events or incidents, but rather the history of its local traditions and customs. This is my first attempt at blog writing, so please bear that in mind when reading the rest of this article.

I thought that I should start off by looking at a region in western Punjab, known as the Thal, and in particular some of the tribes that inhabit it. 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 is 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. Among the larger tribes of the region that come under the rubric Jat include the Aheer, Aulakh, Baghoor, Bhachar, Chhina, Gahi, Ghallu, Jhammat, Johiya, Kanyal, Khokhar, Majoka, Mammak, Naich, Parhar, Panwar, Rahdari, Saigra, Sandhila, Sial, Talokar, Tiwana, Uttra and Wahla. In addition, this desert region is also home to some Baloch tribes such as the Kulachi, Lashari, and Waghra Magsi. I shall in this blog look at five such tribes, the Aheer, Bhachar, and Talokar individually. I would also ask the reader to look at my article on the Tiwana, which gives some further background on the history of the Thal.

Hopefully, time permitting; I shall expand this by looking at some of the others mentioned in the list. Below is a list of tribes that were categorised as Jat by 1911 Census of India for what was then the Khushab Tehsil, which occupied a significant area of the Thal desert.

Tribe Population
Aheer 656
Bhatti 264
Bhutta 101
Burana 147
Bains 482
Chadhar 211
Chhina 245
Dhako 118
Dhudhi 774
Dhal 188
Gondal 5,224
Haral 16
Hatiar 92
Jarola 33
Johiya 1,960
Jora 718
Kalera 29
Kalyar 133
Kharal 141
Khichi 609
Lak 71
Lali 11
Langah 440
Mekan 822
Noon 61
Parhar 13
Rehan 13
Ranjha 209
Sandrana 71
Sipra 72
Sujal 445
Talokar 5
Thaheem 650
Virk 100
Waraich 119

While in Bhakkar Tehsil of the then Mianwali District, the following were labelled as Jats by 1911 Census of India:

Tribe Population
Aheer 124
Assar 640
Asran 584
Aulakh 819
Auler Khel 492
Aulara 526
Bhander 588
Bhatti 1,517
Bhawan 375
Bhamb 101
Bhidwal 1,236
Bhutta 75
Brakha 456
Chadhar 1,048
Chahura 21
Chhajra 575
Chhina 2,716
Dahral 163
Dhal 1,250
Dhudhi 1,019
Ghallu 1,458
Ghorhawal 587
Hansi 661
Jakhar 1,415
Janjua 130
Jhammat 237
Johiya 1,612
Jora 104
Kallu 281
Kanera 526
Kalhar 120
Kharal 378
Kanyal 458
Khar 850
Khohawer 173
Kundi 149
Makkal 86
Mallana
Unu 667
Pumma 570
Sahi 499
Samtia 77
Saand 24
Sandi 892
Sangra 568
Sial 1,905
Soomra 575
Targar 129
Turkhel 19
Waince 133

Most of these tribes are no longer pastoral, having all settled down to a sedentary agricultural based lifestyle. Furthermore, as the Thal was the site of large scale settlement of refugees from eastern Punjab by the Pakistan government, cases of compact territory are rare, and restricted to those areas of the Thal which have not seen canal colonisation, for example Rahdari still occupy a compact territory near the village of the same name. Despite differences, the tribes share a common language, Thalochi, and other customs and traditions. They also all share a common traditions of migration, with an ancestor leaving territory in India and migrating to the Thal, and converting to Islam at the hands of the Sufi saint during the course of this migration. In addition, almost all the tribes claim to belonging to larger tribal grouping, such as the Panwar of central India, or claims to be sub-groups of larger categories such as Khokhar or Bhatti. For exambly, the Baghoor and Bhachar both are clans of the Khokhar tribe, while the Tiwana claim to Panwar ancestry. I shall however start with a tribe that makes no such claim, the Aheer, who are one of the larger tribes of the Thal, with their villages scattered from Khushab all way down to Noorpur Thal.

Aheer

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. The Tehreek Aqwam e Punjab is silent on this issue, however most Aheers claim descent from Qutab Shah, the ancestor of the Awan and Khokhar tribes, and deny any conection 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. 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 “an ordinary Musalman peasants, like their neighbours”. So I started off this paragraph 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

 

Bhachar

Leaving the Aheer, another interesting tribe found mainly in the periphery of the Thal are the Bhachars, who are found mainly in the town of Wan Bhachran, and villages nearby such as Dera Atta Mohammadwala at the northern edge of the Thal desert. The Bhachars are a clan of the historic and large Khokhar tribe. They state that their original home was in the Gujrat District, from where they migrated, first to Buggi Bhooki near Girot in Khushab District, and later to their present site, which was chosen on account of the “wan” or large well said to be built by the Emperor Sher Shah Suri. These wells were placed at intervals of about a day’s march apart on the road from Gujrat to Bannu in what is now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The name “Bhachar” seems to have been a form of endearment applied to them by some forgotten Pir, from the word bhachra meaning a calf.  According to the 19th Century gazetteer of Bannu District, the Bhachars are really a branch of the Bandial tribe, also Khokhars.  The lands surrounding Wan Bhachran were acquired by a Bandial chief named Malik Surkhru Khan, who established a fort from where he ruled the adjoining region till the rise of the Sikhs in the 19th Century. The Maliks of Wan Bachran are descended from him. Whether they are branch of the Bandial are not, what is clear that they are closely connected with the Khokhar clans of the Sindh Sagar Doab, such as the Bandial, Ghanjera and Ganjial

 

Like the neighbouring Pathan tribes such as the Niazis, the Bhachars are subdivided into clans that go by the name khels. Among larger Bhachar clans are the Dadukhel, Mohammad khel, Arori khel, Wadoo khel, Tahir khel, Pehlwan khel, Bego khel, Basharat khel, Jany khel, Kory khel, Mamo khel, Ali khel, Mian Ahmad khel, Mian sher khel, Shaho khel, Sui and Dharoi.

 

Interestingly, there is still village called Bhachar near the town of Mandi Bahauddin, although the population of the village is largely Gondal, with no Bhachar families. However, the Wara Chamian near Malakwal in Mandi Bahauddin districts is still home some Bhachar families. In neighbouring Khushab District, there are several Bhachar families in the village of Mohibpur along the banks of the Jhelum. The presence of these Bhachar settlement does suggest that there was some sort of migration from the east, and valley of Jhelum where the districts of Jhelum and Khushab meet is also home to several other Khokhar clans such as the Bandial, Gunjial and Jalap. Other then Mohibpur, Bhachar are also found in the villages of Dera Atta Muhammadwala, Jhajha, Mehro and Shahwala Shumali near the Khushab Mianwali border, not far from Wan Bhachran. Outside this core area, Bhachar are also found in Talokar village. From what I know, there is no link left between the Mandi Bahauddin Bhachars and those of Wan Bachran.

 

Talokar

The Talokar are another large an important Jat tribe of the Thal. Like the Jhammats, the Talokar claim to by descent Panwar Rajputs. According to their traditions, they are the related to Sial and Tiwana tribes. Supposedly all three tribes descend from three brothers, Tila, Sila and Taloka. Once again, like the Jhammat, the Talokar traditions state that they accepted Islam at the hands of the famous Sufi Baba Farid Shukar Gunj. The Talokars came from East Punjab in India, and first settled near Bhera in Sargodha District. Their first settlements were the villages were Kalara and Kurrar Talokar. From there, they spread to the east side of the Indus River, founding the villages of Bakharra (Kacha), Ding and Khola (Thal), in Mianwali District. Like the Niazi Pashtuns, who are their neighbours in Mianwali, the Talokar are subdivided in clans, referred to as khels. Important Talokar khels in Mianwali include the Lato Khel,Shahbaz Khel,Baqir Khel,Yaroo Khel, and Rangay Khel

Important Talokar villages include Talokar, Talokar Shumali, Talokar Jannubi and Chak Talokaranwala and a good many other villages near the town of Noor Pur Thal in Khushab District. A small number of Talokar are also found in Bandial village near the border with Mianwali District. In Mianwali itself, there villages include Ding Khola Talokar (New Ding Sharif, Saeed Abad (Sharqi and Gharbi), Lal Khelan wala, Zaman Kelan wala, Hashim Naggar, Tahir Abad, Shahbaz Khelanwala and Khanqah Sirrajia.