Kahut, Kassar and Mair Minhas tribes of the Chakwal Dhani

In this post I shall look at three tribes that are found in the Dhani region of Chakwal. The Dhani is a large plain, the centre of which now stands the city of Chakwal. These three tribes, namely, the Kassar, Kahut and Mair-Minhas are intimately connected with the history of the Dhani.
The area of Dhanni for a long time in history was an uninhabited. Although the powerful tribes like Ghakkars and Janjuas ruled the adjoining territories in Potohar, the Kahoon valley and the ancient Thirchak Mahal, Dhanni remained a hunting ground for the various local rulers. As the tradition goes, in the year 1190 C.E, Raja Bhagir Dev, a Jamwal prince, while on a hunting expedition fell in love with a Muslim woman belonging to a tribe of wandering Gujjar grazers. In order to marry her, he converted to Islam and consequently was asked by his father to stay away from Jammu and settle in this tract along with his men. Raja Bhagir Dev was named Muhammed Mair after his conversion to Islam and his descendants as Mair-Minhas Rajputs. The Mairs preferred pastoral rather than agricultural pursuits for the next few centuries; but remained confined to this area. When around 1525 C.E, the Mughal King Babur stopped by in this area on his way to Kashmir, his army was ambushed by the hostile tribes from the adjoining areas. Babar decided not to confront the Mair, but instead invited Raja Sidhar and offered him two thirds of the land of Dhanni, if he provided labour to help the Kassar tribesmen to drain the water from the great lake which then covered all the eastern part of the tehsil, up to the ridge followed by the Bhon-Dhudial road. Raja Sidhar, chief of the Mair-Minhas Rajputs and Gharka Kassar, chief of the Kassars, a Mughal sub-tribe took up the job along with their respective tribesmen. They drained the lake water by cutting through Ghori- Gala, by which the Bunha stream now flows. Subsequently, they proceeded to divide up the country. The Emperor also awarded them the title of Chaudhry, and administration of the newly formed Taluka, which ever since has been called Dhan Chaurasia or Maluki Dhanâ Chaudhry. Sidhar, settled villages named after his sons Chaku, Murid and Karhan and as Chaku Khan became the chief, he decided to settle in Chakwal, the village named after him and make it the administrative centre of the Taluka. Whereas, Kassar chiefs founded the villages of Bal-Kassar and Dhudial. Latter, the Kahuts, a tribe of Qureshi Arabs also arrived, completing the picture.

Before I giver a more detailed description of the three tribes, just a note about the Dhani country or Chakwal Tehsil as it known as now, other then the three tribes referred to, it also home to several Jat clans such as the Bhutta, Gondal, Hurgan, Jethal, Lilla and Phaphra, who now make up a third of the population of the Dhani. Therefore the Dhani is no longer the exclusive patrimony of these three tribes.

Kahut

I will start off by looking at Kahut sometimes pronounced as Koot (especially in Sargodha), Kut or Kahout. Like most Punjabi tribes, there are several traditions as to their origin.

Most Kahut now claim to be Qureshi Arabs, whose ancestors settled in the Dhani after the arrival of the Mair. It is believed that when the ancestors of the Kahut first arrived in this area they had to fight with the locals to find a place to settle. This war is said to have taken place at the location of the village of Janga in Chakwal District, which is derived from ‘Jang Gah’, meaning place of war. About the year A.D.1359 their ancestor Said Nawab Ali, nicknamed Kahut, migrated to Delhi, and on the way defeated a pagan king of Sialkot, named Sain Pal. On reaching Delhi they paid their respect to the Delhi Sultan who ordered them to hold the Dhanni and the Salt Range on his behalf. They accordingly retraced their steps and settled at the foot of the Salt Range. Once settled, they began to tax the Janjua and the Gujar graziers and remitting it to Delhi. Their first settlement in the Dhani was at a site near village Waryamal. The eastern part of Dhanni was then a lake, which on coming of Mughal Emperor Babur was drained at his command; the Kahuts taking part in the work and colonising the land. Chaudhry Sahnsar, 8th in descent from Kahut was their ancestor at the time of the drainage of the lake. During the Mughal period (around 15th Century), the Kahut rose to prominence until there power was destroyed by the Sikhs in 18th Century. The southern part of Chakwal tehsil where Kahuts predominate is still known as the Kahutani, a reflexion of their past dominance. Sometime during the Sikh period, groups of Kahut immigrated to Sargodha and Mandi Bahauddin. In the local Shahpuri dialect of Saegodha, they are referred to as Koot, and like most other tribes of the area, they consider themselves and are also considered by all other people as Jats and have intermarried with all the tribes of the area.

However, according to the 19th Century British ethnographer Sir Denzil Ibbetson, the Kahuts are probably of Rajput origin and have come from Jammu hills to Chakwal area. The only evidence of such a migration is are the “Kahuta” hills of the Rawalpindi district are supposed to have derived their name from the tribe, but no record of remains of them in that tract. Other then reference to the Kahuta hills, there seems little connection with Jammu. The Mair, who are their neighbours, have maintained a strong tradition of Jammu migration, so if the Kahut were of Jammu origin, they have at least some tradition.

The most important Kahut family is settled in the village of Kariala in Chakwal. Other Kahut villages include Bhalla, Bhawan, Bhuchal Kalan, Chakora, Dhok Tallian, Dullah, Hasola, Langah, Domali, Musa Kahoot, Kahut, Kassowal, Nikka Kahut, Tatral, Thirpal, Thoha Bahader, Janga, Sadwal, Waryamal and Warwal

In Mandi Bahauddin District, they are found in villages in Union Council Ahla Haryah, and Bhikhi. While in Sargodha, their villages include Pindi Kootan near Bhera, and Kahut in the Sahiwal Tehsil

There is also cluster of Kahut villages in Union Council Khaur of Attock district

Kassar

The next Dhani tribe I will look are the Kassar,which holds lands in the northern part of Dhani, called ‘Babial and Chaupeda’, with the Kahut and Mair located to the east.

According to some tribal traditions, the Kassar came originally from Jammu along with the Mair-Minhas tribe and had been settled in the Dhani during the rule of the Mughal Emperor, Zaheerudin Babur. According to this tradition, their ancestor came from Kashgar and settled in Khalana (near Muzafarabad); they then migrated to Poonch, and eventually accompanied to the Mair when they arrived in the Dhanni country.
However, like most Punjab tribes the above is not their only origin myth, with several other linking them directly to the Mughal dunasty. One such tradition traces their lineage to the Mughal Emperor Babur, with ancestor Kassar (who was said to be a Barlas Mughal) as a distant cousin of Babur. In this origin myth, the Kassar are said to have come with Babur’s army as his fellow tribesmen and were settled in Dhani along with the Mairs and Kahuts by the Emperor himself. According to the 1931 census of India, their male population was approximately 4000. The customs of the Kassar are very similar to the Mair and Kahut, with whom the tribe intermarries. Unlike other Mughals, but like neighbouring Jars such as the Gondal, they use the title Chaudhary. Most Kassar are Sunni, with a Shia minority.

Apart from Chakwal, they are also settled in Attock, Sargodha, Mandi Bahauddin, Gujrat, Khushab, Jhelum, and Rawalpindi districts.

Important Kassar villages in Chakwal include Fim Kassar, Farid Kassar, Balkassar, Balokassar, Sarkal Kassar, Bhagwal, Karsal, Saral, Miswall, Doray, Chauli, Mangwal, Dingi, Munwall, Bikhari Kalan, Kuthiala Sheikhan Bikhari Khurd, Pind Haraj, Dhok Peeli, Dhudial, Tattral, Latifal, Dhalal, Hastal, Maari, Thoha Bahadur, and Lakhwal.

Further south in Sargodha District, there are several Kassar villages in Kot Momin Union Council such as Chak 10sb, 20sb, 9sb, 67sb, 65sb and 66sb. These Kassar originate in the Dhani and moved to Kot Momin in the 19th Century, where the British built canals to improve agriculture and settled Kassar from Chakwal.

Outside these two clusters, important Kassar villages include Kasra in Attock District and Turkwal is situated in Gujar Khan Tehsil of Rawalpindi.

Clans

Important Kassar clans include the Balkassar, Bhagwal, Chawli, Dullah, Haraj, Karsal, Mangwal, Mehrou

Mair-Minhas of Chakwal

Looking now at the Mair Minhas, the tribe takes its name from Raja Mair, a Jamwal Rajput ruler of Jammu. According to tribal legends, Raja Mair (whose name before his conversion was Raja Bhagir Dev) was son of the Raja of Jammu and had come to the Dhanni area (present day Chakwal) for hunting. He fell in love with a local Muslim Gujjar woman, converted to Islam and married her.
The city of Chakwal is named after their Mair chief, Chaku Khan whose father, Raja Sidhar ruled the area at the time of Mughal ruler Babar]s invasion of India. The Mughal emperor Zaheerudin Babur conferred upon Raja Sidhar, the title of chaudhry and made him the taluqdar (area administrator) over eighty four villages of the Dhani country. The Mair-Minhas tribe rose to further prominence during the short rule of Sher Shah Suri who handed them the control over the adjoining territories, as far as Swan River in Potohar and Kahoon in the South.
However, after the Mughal King [[Humayun]] returned to India with the help of the Persians, he handed over the entire Potohar including Dhani to the Gakhar, who had helped him escape from India during Sher Shah’s revolt.
The Mair-Minhas tribe again rose to power after collapse of Mughal authority as a result of the death of Aurangzeb. They had supported his son Moazzam in his quest for power and in return he re-appointed their chief Gadabeg Khan as the Taluqdar and chaudhry of the ‘Dhan Chaurasi’. Their rule over Dhani continued during the Sikh era as one of their chiefs Chaudhry Ghulam Mehdi had invited Sirdar Maha Singh to this side of river Jhellum. Also, their Dogra cousins Raja Gulab Singh and Dhian Singh were very powerful in the Lahore Durbar, so the influence of Chakwal Chaudhrials during the Sikh era was considerable and they were considered one of the biggest Muslim land holders of the era.
In the Second Anglo-Sikh War at Chaillianwala in 1849, the Chakwal Chaudhrials were among the very few Muslim feudal families who supported the Sikhs. Consequently, after the defeat of the Sikhs all Jagirs and titles of the ‘Chakwal Chaudhrials’ were confiscated. Due to their general good conduct in the mutiny of 1857, some of their rights were restored and small Jagirs were granted to their chiefs in Chakwal. Chief of the tribe Jehan Khan and later his son Aurangzeb Khan were conferred an ‘inam’ of Rs.312/- per annum and the title of “Raja Sahib” as a mark of hereditary distinction. The Chaudhrials of Kot Chaudhrian were able to get more concessions with the aid of Maharaja Gulab Singh and almost half of their original lands were regained.

According to the census of 1931, their male population was 7800. The ‘Chaudhrials’ or the Talukdars reside in the following villages: Kot Sarfraz Khan, Kot Choudrai|, Behkri, Dhudial, Badsahan, Bhoun, Mohra Kudlathi, Murid, Punjain Shariff, Sarkal-Mair, Udhwal, Oudherwal, Dhaab Kalaan Mohra Sheikhan, Mohra Korechisham, Kotha Abdal, Chatal, Sutwal, Karhan, Chak Malook, Chak Norang and Bhagwal.

Advertisements

Chib, Katil, Minhas /Manhas and Sulehria tribes

In this post, I shall look at four tribes, the Chib, Katil, Minhas and Sulehria, who are all of Dogra stock, with traditional homeland comprising the plains bellow the Pir Panjal hills. My posts on the Bhao and Sohlan looked into some detail as to the origin of the Dogra, and reasons for their conversions to Islam. These four tribes all still have branches that have remained Hindu. Historically, the Chib were found mainly in the Bhimber and Kharian region, and have given their name to the Chibhal, the region between the Jhelum and Chenab. The Katil and Sulehria are eastern neighbours of the Chib, which concentrations between the Chenab and Ravi, in Jammu, Sialkot and prior to partition in Gurdaspur District. While the Minhas stretch all the way from Rawalpindi in the west to Hoshiarpur in the east, at least prior to partition in 1947.

Chib

I shall start by looking at the Chib, sometimes also writen as Chibh, who are found mainly in Bhimber, the Kharian areas of Gujrat and the Pabbi hills portion of Jhelum. As I have stated in my earlier posts on the Bhao tribe, the Chib have given their name to the Chibhal region lying between the Jhelum and Chenab rivers, and on the southern edges of the Pir Panjal range. This is because the Chib ruled of Bhimber effectively covered the territory that latter became known as the Chibhal. Furthermore, it was there conversion to Islam that also led to many other tribes such as the Bhawpal, Domaal and Kamlak following suite. They are in essence Dogras who have converted to Islam.

The Chibs trace their descent from Partab Chand, a Katoch Rajput prince of Kangra, who said to have ended Thakial rule in the Mirpur-Bhimber region, and established the Chib dynasty. According tribal tradition, this rule was established by the overthrow of the last Thakial ruler of the region named Siripat. When Partab Chand reached the hilltop near Bhimber, he observed that it was very difficult to capture the state. He then set up camp there and named this hilltop as Kangra and the village still exists by that same name. Partab Chand stayed for a long time with his troops on the hilltop waiting for a suitable opportunity to attack and capture the state, but this did not take place as he had run short of supplies for his men. Partab Chand sent his soldiers in disguise with his own jewellery to go down to the markets of Bhimber to get the much needed supplies. His men went to a jeweller who was astonished when he saw the royal jewels. Siripat Thakial also learned about the man with the royal jewels and found out about the deployment of the Kangra troops on hill. He sent his ambassador to Partab Chand which resulted a friendly meeting between the Partab Chand and the Maharaja of Bhimber.

Maharaja Siripat Thakial had no sons but had a daughter. He married the princess to the oldest son of Partab Chand, Chib Chand. On the death of Maharaja Siripat, Chib Chand became the new Maharaja of Bhimber. Raja Dharam Chand was the seventh Raja of the Chib Chand line, who converted to Islam. The following story is related in connection with the conversion:

The first of the tribe to become a Muslim was one Sur Sadi , which died a violent death in Aurangzeb s reign. He is still venerated as a martyr and the Muslim Chib offer the scalp locks of their male children at his tomb, till which ceremony the child is not considered a true Chibh , nor is his mother allowed to eat meat.

This is how their conversion tradition has been related by Sir Denzil Ibbetson, a late 19th Century British ethnographer. By the 17th Century, the Chib state split into two, with Bhimber home to the elder branch and Khari Khalyari in present day Mirpur District home to the younger branch. The Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh’s armies defeated the last rajah of Bhimber, ending Chib independence.

In Mirpur District, there villages include Lehri Rajgan There is a concentration of Chib villages in Bhimber District such as Kalri and in Kotli District there villages include Khoi Ratta, Segyum and Supplah. These Chib claim descent from Raja Shadab Khan, also known as Hazrat Sheikh Baba Shadi Shaheed. There are also several Chib villages in Gujrat District, the most important being Thatha Rai Bahadur and in the Pabbi Hill region of Jhelum District such as Dak Chibhan.

Katil

 

The next clan I intend to look at are the Katil, sometimes spelt Katal or even Kateel. They belong to the Survanshi branch of Rajput community. According to their traditions, their founder Raja Karet, driven from the plains of Punjab by the Turkish conqueror Mahmud of Ghazna, settled in Mangla Devi, a fort in Jammu. One of his descendents took to robbery in the forest near the town of Samba, and captured a Sambial (a Survayavanshi Dogra clan found in Samba, Jammu) girl, so in return of her release, the girls kinsmen gave him a large tract of land in Shakargarh tehsil of Narowal District. He is then said to have founded the town of Katli, and his descendents were called Katil. The tribe is said to have 360 founded villages, of which a 100 are found in Gurdaspur and Narowal districts, and the remainder in Jammu. There are other traditions, which reference to the fact that the Katil are in fact a branch of the Khokhar tribe, and until recently, there was no intermarriage between the Khokhars and Katils on account of this common descent.

With regards to their conversation to Islam, it is said that during the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, three Katils Rao (chiefs), namely Balel, Mal and Nihala accepted Islam. However, a good many Katil have remained Hindu, and in Gurdaspur make up the largest Dogra clan.

Minhas 

The Minhas, sometimes pronounced Manhas or Minhas-Dogra are Suryavanshi Rajput clan. In this post, I shall only be looking at the Muslim branch of the tribe, and not the quite substantial community of Minhas that follow Hinduism or Sikhism. In terms of distribution, they are found in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir regions that lie divided between India and Pakistan. According to their tradition, they are an off-shoot of the Jamwal-Dogra Rajputs, the founders of the city and state of Jammu and its rulers from ancient times to 1948 C.E.

 

As I have said in my introduction, the Minhas Rajputs belong to the Suryavanshi branch of the Rajput caste, and claim descent from Rama a legendary king of Ayodhya. In Rajputana, their closest cousins are the Kachwaha and Bargujar Rajputs of Jaipur. They trace their ancestry to the Ikshvaku dynasty of Northern India (The same clan in which Lord Rama was born). He, therefore is the ‘kuldevta’ (family deity) of the Hindu Minhas Rajputs). Specifically, they claim descent from Kusha younger of the twin sons of Rama, hero of the Ramayana, to whom patrilineal descent from Surya is in turn ascribed. His later descendants, the Dogras ruled over the state for hundreds of years till 1948 C.E, when the state of Jammu and Kashmir officially acceded to India. Maharaja Hari Singh was the last in the long list of the Dogra rulers of Jammu.

 

All the descendants of Raja Jambu Lochan were called Jamwal Rajputs, until according to tradition, Raja Malan Hans Dev(while on a hunting trip)was tricked by his brother to help a poor old farmer working under hot sun with ploughing. According the traditions of the Kshatriya caste, the stigma of touching a plough was so great, that Raja Malan had to immediately give up the kingship and take up agriculture as a profession and his throne passed to his cunning younger brother, Raja Suraj Hans Dev. Rajputs in general and those in the Punjab hills in particular have had a strong prejudice against taking up agriculture as a profession and therefore Raja Malan Hans and his descendants were styled Minhas. Therefore, any  member of the Jamwal clan who took up agriculture or converted to Islam, was called Minhas, whereas the name Jamwal has been confined to the royal branch including the Maharajas of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Muslim Minhas are perhaps the most widespread of the Islmasized Dogras, stretching from Rawalpindi District in the west to historically Horshiarpur, all along the foothills of the Himalayas. In Chakwal, the Mair branch of the Minhas is extremely important, I shall look at them in a separate post. Similarly the Lodhra and Manes of southern Punjab, also important branches of the Minhas will be looked at separately. In Sialkot, Gujrat, and the Jammu region, the Muslim Minhas are generally a compact tribe, but as we move west, the term Minhas covers a multitude of clans. Perhaps the Nagyal are the most important, but we have the Dolchial, Kanyal, and Ratial, who are all important clans in their own respect. In Gujarkhan and Jhelum, and neighbouring Mirpur, the Minhas are after the tribes that call themselves Bhatti, the largest component of the population. In Jhelum, the Minhas clans such as the Kanyal and Nagyal call themselves Jats, and intermarry with other Jat clans. In Rawalpindi, and neighbouring Kotli, Rajouri and Poonch regions, the Minhas generally identify themselves as Rajputs.

Distribution of Muslim Minhas by District According to 1901 Census of Punjab

 

District Population
Rawalpindi 3,972
Gurdaspur 3,665
Multan 1,255
Sialkot 825
Gujrat 723
Hoshiarpur 511
Jhelum 441
Chenab Colony 332
Lahore 304
Gujranwala 234
Jalandhar 192
Amritsar 170
Firuzpur 100
Other districts 757
Total Population 13,471

 

In terms of distribution, the Minhas territory stretched from Rawalpindi to Hoshiarpur, with the densest population in Sialkot and Gurdaspur. In Jhelum and Rawalpindi, the Minhas were divided into several clans, the most important being the Nagyal, and Ratial. In Multan, many members of the Lodhra clan, based around the town of Lodhran, which is named after the tribe declared themselves as Minhas, hence the large numbers in that district. One interesting point to note are the Muslim Minhas of Jalandhar district, they were converts from Mahton caste, a quasi-Rajput group that was largely Sikh.

Distribution of Muslim Minhas by District According to 1911 Census of Jammu and Kashmir

 

District Population
Poonch Jagir 3,620
Muzaffarabad 1,024
Jammu 1,000
Mirpur 490
Reeasi 403
Udhampur 110
Jasrota (Kathua) 42
Other districts 189
Total Population 6,797

 

In the old Jammu and Kashmir state, the Minhas of Jammu were identical with those of Sialkot and Gurdaspur. Like other Muslim Dogras of the Jammu region, most moved to Pakistan in 1948. A second cluster of Minhas was found in the Poonch Jageer, and the adjoining areas of Muzaffarabad and Mirpur. These Minhas had strong connections with those in Rawalpindi and Jhelum.

Sulehria

The last tribe I intend to look at are the Sulehria, sometimes pronounced as Suleri or occasionally Salaria. Like most tribes, there are several theories as to their origin.

According to Sir

Denzil Ibbetson, author of the Census report of the Punjab 1892, the Sulehris are:

… a tribe ofRajput who trace there descendents from Shal of fabulous antiquity. They say that their eponymous ancestor came from Deccan in the time of Sultan Mamdah as commander of a force sent to suppress the insurrection of Shuja* (*Shaikha is the usual form of his name) and settled in Sialkot; and that his in the time of Bahlol Lodi. They are for the most part Muhammadans, but still employ Brahmans. As a rule they do not marry within the tribe.

Sulehrias traditions also refer to the tribe settling around Sialkot during Bahlul Lodi’s rule According to Najmuttawarikh by Munshi Natiq, a Sulehri historian, the tribe were effective rulers of the Sialkot region until the rise of the Bajju Rajputs around the 16th Century. The Sulehri Raja Sahn Pal Sulehria is said to have converted to Islam due to the preachings of Hazrat Abdul Jalil Chorh Bandgi Qureshi in the reign of Bahlol Lodhi, while his other brother Raja Jeet Pal Sulehria and his descendants remain of the Hindu religion.

In Pakistan, the Sulehris inhabit a long chain of border villages in Sialkot, Shakargarh and Narowal districts along the working boundary between Pakistan and the province of Jammu (Indian Administered Jammu-Kashmir).

In Punjab

In Sialkot District, Sulehri villages include Darwal. Bini Sulehrian, Chak Maral, Charwah, Tigray, Nakhnal, , Tursipur, Nogran, Aal, Kharkara, Rangore, Jabbal, Malanay Rajputaan, Dharkalian, Khadral, Sangrayal and Chhowni Sulehrian. While in Narowal, Sulehri villages include Bhagiare, Fattowal Sulehrian, Lagwal Minhasan, Nadala Sulehrian, Masial, Kingra, Najuchak, Ropochak, Shahpur, Jarpal, and Pindi Bohri.

Refugees Salahria are found in Shaikhupura District, in particular in the villages of Ghang, Jhamkay, Nokhar, Chumbar, Kujar, Dera Khurshaid, and Dera Kala Singh

In Azad Kashmir 

In Azad Kashmir, the Salaria are found mainly in Kotli, Bagh and Poonch districts, while in Indian administered Kashmir, Salaria inhabited districts include Rajouri and Poonch.