Description of Major Muslim Communities in Uttar Pradesh: Bhale Sultan

In this post, I stick with the state of Uttar Pradesh, and look at the Bhale Sultans, a community of Khanzadas found in Uttar Pradesh. There name is a combinationation of the Sanskrit, Bhala, a kind of arrow or spear and the Arabic word Sultan meaning lord. The Bhala in medieval India was a type of spear given only to army commanders, and possession signified leadership. So technically, any army commander was a Bhale Sultan, but the title is now restricted to a specific community of Hindu Thakurs and Muslim Khanzadas found in the Awadh region and Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh. In fact, when we talk of the Bhale Sultan, we are really talking about two distinct communities, those of Bulandshahr and those of Awadh, each with their own origin myths. In the introduction to my article on the Ahbans, I discuss the exact meaning of the word Khanzada, and I ask the reader to look at that post.

Bhale Sultan of Bulandshahr, Aligarh and Mathura

In Bulandshahr, the Bhale Sultans are found mainly in villages around the ancient town of Khurja. According to tribal traditions, there ancestor was Sidhrao Jai Sinh, a Solanki Rajput of Anhilwada Pattan in what is now Gujarat. A descendent of Sidhrao, Sarang Deo, a nephew of the then Solanki Raja of Gujarat, settled in the ancient city of Baran (now known as Bulandshahr), which was then part of a principality ruled by the Dor clan of Rajputs. These Solanki were then granted an estate of eight villages by Prithvi Raj Chauhan, as a reward for services rendered during the Mahoba war. Most of the country was inhabited by the Meo community, who Sarang Deo and his followers conquered. His grandson, Hamir Singh, obtained from Shah ab-ud-din Ghori the title of Bhala Sultan or lord of the lance.” From then on the clan became known as Bhale Sultan. Kirat Singh was seventh in descent from Hamir Singh, and his descendant, Khan Chand, seven generations later, converted to Islam during the rule of Khizr Khan and took the name of Malha Khan. His son, Lad Khan and his nephew, Narpat Singh, who divided the property between them, moved from their homes at Arniyan and Kakaur to Khurja during the reign of Akbar and received the office of Chaudhri. Over time, the Bhale Sultan, both the Muslim branch descended from Lad Khan and Hindu branch descended from Narpat Singh became effective rulers of Khurja. At their height, the Muslim branch owned forty-four villages and the Hindus of the same clan thirty-two villages and-a-half. However, with rise of Kheshgi Pathans of Khurja, the Bhale Sultan power declined, with further losses when the British conquered the Doab in the early 19th Century.

The Bhale Sultan of Mathura have a slightly different origin story. According to their traditions, they are descended from Sarang Deo, a nephew of the Raja of Gujarat, who took service under Prithviraj and perished in the war against the Gahadavala rulers of Kanauj. For this, his descendant was rewarded with the lands in Bulandshahr. It was his grandson, Hamir Singh, who took service with the Raja of Kanauj, and obtained through him and Shahabudin of Ghor (1149 – March 15, 1206) the title of Bhale Sultan. The seventh in descent from him, Kirat Singh, distinguished himself in the campaign of Delhi ruler Ghiasuddin ((reigned: 1266–1287) against the Meos, and obtained their lands as a reward; while Khan Chand, the seventh in descent from Kirat Singh, turned Muslim to please the Muslim governor under Khizr Khan.

Bhale Sultan of Awadh

In Awadh, there are several communities of Bhale Sultans, each with their own origin myths. The most important are those communities found in Faizabad and Sultanpur.

Among the Bhala Sultan of Sultanpur, there is a tradition that four hundred years ago Rai Barar, son of Amba Rai, brother of the then Raja of Morarmau, commanded a troop of cavalry recruited entirely from the Bais clan in the service of the Mughals, and was deputed to exterminate the trouble sum Bhars (an indigenous community) in the Isauli Pargana in present day Sultanpur District. Having accomplished his task, he returned to Delhi and presented himself at the head of his troop before the Emperor, who, struck with their manly bearing, exclaimed, “Aao, Bhale Sultan” meaning “come, spear of the Sultan”. Palhan Deo, great grandson of Rai Barar, is said to have been converted to Islam during the rule of Sher Shah Suri. From this branch of the Bhale Sultan descended the taluqdar families of Deogaon, Mahona and Unchgaon. In addition, the more minor Muslim Bhale Sultan formed the main landowning group in the north-west corner of Sultanpur district, then forming the parganas of Isauli, Musafirkhana and Jagdispur

In Faizabad, the Bhale Sultan claim descent from Rao Mardan Sinh, who is said to be a Bais Rajput, of Dundiya Khera, who was a horse-dealer by profession. During a visit Gajanpur, in Isauli Pargana, of the Sultanpur District, where there was a fort of the Rajbhars, which the Thakur is said to have captured. His son, Rao Barar, entered the service of the Sultan of Delhi, and as he was a good horseman and clever spearman, he obtained the title of Bhale Sultan. One of his descendants, Baram Deo, obtained the title Khanzada from a Sultan of Delhi, and from that period his descendants have been called Khanzada.

 

While a little known tradition, in Rae Bareli claims that they were Ahirs who were raised to the rank of Rajputs by Tilok Chand, a legendary figure in Awadh history. Outside Faizabad and Sultanpur, Bhale Sultan are found in Barabanki District, in several villages near the town of Subeha. While in Sultanpur District, there are several settlements near Jagdishpur, such Makhdumpur, Kachhnaon, and Nasura. Other settlements are found in Gonda, Bahraich, Balrampur, Shravasti, Kheri and Raebareli districts.

The Bhale Sultan Taluqdars

In Awadh, several Bhale Sultan families held the position of Taluqdar. A Taluq or district under the Mughals usually comprised over 84 villages and a central town. The Talukdar was required to collect taxes, maintain law and order, and provide military supplies/manpower to the provincial government (similar to the role of feudal lords in Europe). In most cases the Talukdars were entitled to keep one tenth of the collected revenue. However, some privileged Talukdars were entitled to one quarter and hence were called Chaudhry, which literally means owner of the fourth part.

In the Kingdom of Awadh, by beginning of the 19th Century, about 60% of its territory was in the control of taluqdars, who were practically independent. They held judicial rights over there subjects, and maintained small armies. With the arrival of the British in 1856, the taluqdar lost their semi-independence, all they remained substantial landowners. The Bhale Sultan Khanzadas, who had control of substantial parts of Faizabad and Sultanpur. As already discussed, Palhan Deo, the great-grandson of Rai Barar, is said to have converted to Islam in the reign of Sher Shah Suri, and from him are descended the three Khanzada taluqdars of the clan. Fifth in descent from Palhan Deo came Munnu Khan, who had two sons, Mubarak Khan and Pahar Khan.

The Taluqdar of Deogaon

 

Palhan Deo is the first Bhale Sultan to have converted to Islam is the ancestor all three of the Bhale Sultan taluqdari families. Fifth in descent from Palhan Deo came Munnu Khan, who had two sons, Mubarak Khan and Pahar Khan. The descendants of the Pahar Khan became the taluqdars of Deogaon, while from the former come the taluqdars of Mahona and Unchgaon in Sultanpur.

The taluqdar of Deogaon were styled as Raja till 1850, when Raja Bhure Khan was ejected by the British colonial authorities for the supposed ill-treatment of his tenants and his property made over to Jamshed Ali Khan, the son of his brother, Azam Ali Khan. Jamshed Ali obtained the sanad for the taluqa, but his property at his death passed to his father, Azam Ali Khan, who held the estate for many years. He was succeeded by his second son, Mustafa Ali Khan, from who descend the Rajah of Deogaon. The taluqdari included lands that lay partly in Faizabad and partly in Sultanpur: in the latter the estate owned four villages and three pattis, and also, conjointly with the Makhdumpur estate of seven villages and four pattis in Isauli and Jagdispur; while in Faizabad possessions lay in the Khandasa pargana and comprised ten villages.In Sultanpur district, the Deogaon family were in possession of  Kishni, Kachnaon, Fatehpur, and Alamau, four villages and three pattis, and the estates that lay in the parganas of Isauli and Jagdispur.

Mahona and Unchagoan

The grandson of Mubarak Khan was a Parwez Khan, who had three sons, Lahras Khan, Darya Khan, and Sadi Khan. The Mahona Taluqdars decend from Nihal Khan, the son of the first, was the greatest of the Bhale Sultans. He succeeded to an estate comprising the greater part of the old Sathanpur pargana in 1715 in present day Sultanpur; and erected the fort of Nihalgarh as a base of operations for plundering and annexing the lands of his neighbours. During the course of thirty years, he acquired almost all the lands of the Mandarkyas of Kishni, a rival Khanzada community He was killed in 1745 in a quarrel with Maigal Khan, the son of Sadi Khan, who acquired the Jagdispur estate, but lost it in 1750. ·He was succeeded by Raja Arre Khan, a nephew of Nihal Khan. After his death the estate was divided, and Mahona fell to the lot of the younger son of Nihal Khan, whose grandson, Ali Bakhsh Khan, received the sanad.

From Darya Khan, the second son of Parwez, descended Babu Dargahi Khan of Unchgaon, who was confirmed his estates by the British at the time of his conquests of Awadh in 1856.

Distribution of Bhale Sultans by District According to 1891 Census of India

District Hindu Muslim
 Saharanpur  17  27
 Meerut  20
 Bulandshahr  6,370  4,790
 Agra  59  3
 Farrukhabad  9  6
 Mainpuri  36
 Badaun  11
 Shahjahanpur  9
 Pilibhit  19  4
 Kanpur  11  75
 Fatehpur  3
 Banda  1
 Allahabad  824 18
 Lalitpur  2  2
 Benaras  15  86
 Jaunpur  25  3
 Ghazipur  7
 Gorakhpur  35  64
Basti  155  53
Azamgarh  122  29
Lucknow  17  283
Unnao  5  38
Rae Bareli  377  372
Sitapur 20 23
Lakhimpur Kheri  3  108
Faizabad  757  687
Gonda  406  352
Bahraich  108  271
 Sultanpur  8,016  4,607
 Partapgarh  49  17
 Barabanki  329  735
Total Population in UP  17,320  12,670

 

Distribution of Muslim Bhale Sultan According to the 1901 Census

District Population
Sultanpur 4,674 
Mathura 1,925
Bulandshahr 1,475 
Gonda
1,054
Faizabad 625
Barabanki 395
Rae Bareli 354
Meerut 333
Bahraich
214
Pratapgarh 158
Lucknow 94
Basti 72
Other Districts
Total Population 11,608
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Description of Major Muslim Communities in India – Ahbans and Bisen

This is my second post looking at some important Muslim communities in India. All the communities looked are members of the Khanzada community. The Khanzada or Khan Zadeh are a community of Muslim Rajputs found in the Awadh region of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India.

The Khanzada comprise a large numbered of dispersed intermarrying clans. These exogamous groups are made up of myriad landholding patrilineages of varying genealogical depth, ritual, and social status called biradaries or brotherhoods scattered in the various districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh. The biradari, or lineage is one of the principal point of reference for the Khanzadas, and all biradaris claim descent from a common ancestor. Often biradaris inhabit a cluster of villages called chaurasis (84 villages), chatisis (36 villages) and chabisis (26 villages). Important biradaris include the Bachgoti, Bais, Bhale Sultan, Bisen, Bhatti, Chauhan, Chandel, Gautam, Sombansi and Panwar.

The sense of belonging to the Rajput community remains strong, with the Khanzada still strongly identifying themselves with the wider Rajput community of Awadh, and often refer to themselves as simply Rajput. This is shown by the persistence in their marriages of Rajput customs, like bursting of fire crackers and sending specially made laddoos to biradati members. Many members of the community continue to serve in the armed forces of India, an activity traditionally associated with the Rajputs. However, like other Indian Muslims, there is growing movement towards orthodoxy, with many of their villages containing madrasas.

I also wish to add a quick word about the term Taluqdar, which appears quite a bit in this post. Taluqdar in Persian literally means a holder of a Taluq, and were often appointed during the period of Mughal rule in India. A Taluq was district usually comprising over 84 villages and a central town. The Talukdar was required to collect taxes, maintain law and order, and provide military supplies/manpower to the provincial government (similar to the role of feudal lords in Europe). In most cases the Talukdars were entitled to keep one tenth of the collected revenue. However, some privileged Talukdars were entitled to one quarter and hence were called Chaudhry, which literally means owner of the fourth part. As Mughal authority weakened, the taluqdar became independent rulers, only paying lip service to the Nawabs or rulers of Awadh. The khanzada families made a large part of the taluqdari class in Awadh. This semi-independent status ended when Awadh was annexed by the British in 1856.

 

Ahbans

The Ahbans Khanzada are Muslim converts from the Ahbans clan of Rajputs, who are found mainly in the Awadh region. According to William Crooke, the word Ahbans probably comes the Sanskrit ahi, meaning dragon,” which may have been the tribal totem, and bans meaning clan. The Khanzada or Muslim branch of the tribe are found mainly in Lakhimpur Kheri and Hardoi districts of Uttar Pradesh. The Ahbans provided the taluqdar families of Kotwara, Jalalpur and Raipur, and the zamindars of Bhurwara, Ghursi, and Amethi.

Origin

According to their tribal traditions, they are descended from two brothers, Gopi and Sopi, who are said to have been members of Chavda Rajput community of Gujarat. The Chávaḍás are connected with the Chápas of Bhinmal and Chápa of Wadhwan, medieval dynasties that ruled in western India, and maybe of Gurjara origin. Some scholar believe they originated from Indo-Scythian community, who were also based in western India. Their origin is also placed in Saurashtra where their capital was at Deobandar near Somnath. Dharanivaraha of Vardhamana’s grant mentions the etymology origin the word Chapa or bow of Shiva. The Chavda dynasty ruled region of modern-day northern Gujarat, from c. 690 to 942. Variants of the name for the dynasty include Chapa, Chahuda, Chávoṭakas and Chāpoṭkata.

 

The two brothers, Gopi and Sopi, are said to have come into Awadh shortly after the overthrow of Chavda rule in Gujarat. They were said to have been living in Anhalwarra Patan, the capital of the Chavda Dynasty. The brothers then went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Gaya around, around the tenth century AD. On their return, the brothers settled in Gopamau and Bhurwara in Lakhimpur Kheri District. Gopi established his control over Pargana Gopamau, in Hardoi, and a descendant of the latter took possession of Pataunja, near Misrikh, in that Pargana. They became effective rulers of Kheri during the period of the Mughal Emperor Humayun, a position maintained until the arrival of the British in the 19th Century.

 

Groups of Ahbans started to convert to Islam during the rule of Bahlol Lodhi, the Sultan of Delhi, who appointed his nephew Mohammed Farman Ali, also known as Kalapahar, as governor of Bahraich. This Kalapahar is said to have induced the conversion of the Ahbans ranas of Lakhimpur Kheri to Islam. The Ahbans Khanzada provided the taluqdar families of Kotwara, Agar Buzurg, Chauratia, Kukra, Jalalpur, Raipur and Gola. The author of the colonial Gazetteer of Lakhimpur Kheri writes as follows about them:

 

The Ahbans number over 3,000 souls, of whom the majority are Muslims; their dominions were once very extensive, covering about 4,000 square miles in Kheri, Hardoi and Sitapur and including in thie district the belt of land between the Jamwari and the Kathna and stretching northwards to the Chauka; at present, owing to the force of circumstance~, their property is greatly reduced, but this tract is still full of members of this famous clan.

Of the Muslims, the converted Ahbans hold 82 villages.

The Ahbans of Lakhimpur Kheri, were the effective rulers of the region, till the arrival of the British in 1856. Many of their vast estates once owned by members of this clan, both Hindu and Muslim, were lost, although several families remained as taluqdars..

The first Ahbans to have converted to Islam was said to be a Rajah Mal Sah, who is said to have gone to Delhi, the capital of the Mughal Empire, during the reign of Shah Jahan. Included in his descendants were two brothers, Baz Khan and Fateh Khan, and during their time all Bhurwara was seized by the Saiyids of Barwar. Both brothers left numerous descendants, and after the overthrow of the Sayyids in the early 18th Century, the Ahbans recovered most of their lost possessions. Baz Khan had twelve sons, of whom eight left no issue, while from the two elder sons, Sangi Khan and Tarbiat Khan, descend the taluqdars of Kotwara, Jalalpur and Raipur, and the zamindars of Bhurwara, Ghursi, Amethi and elsewhere. Fateh Khan’s descendants moved north and settled around Kukra and Gola, acquiring between 1821 and 1832 a large tract of country. During the last ten years of Awadh rule, the .Ahbans suffered very heavily at the hands of their Hindu kinsmen of Mitauli and the taluqdars of Oel and Mahewa. Lone Singh seized Kukra and Mailani; the Raja of Oel swallowed up Bhurwara, Chaurathia, and Siathu; and the Thakur of Mahewa took Bansi and Saunkhia Sunsarpnr. They thus were deprived of 72 villages, all mortgaged or sold for very inadequate sums and under great pressure; the owner of Siathu being subjected to torture and threatened with death. The Khanzadas only recovered half of these by redemption of the mortgage, and in 1860 there were several large estates owned by the Ahbans. In addition to the three large taluqas there were the Muslim properties of Chaurathia, Gola and Kukra and the Hindu estates of Bansi and Saunkhia Sansarpur, as well as many smaller properties in Aliganj, Haidarabad and Paila, although located in Lakhimpur Kheri district.

 

Jalalpur Estate

Tarbiat Khan had three sons, the eldest being Muhammad Hasan Khan, who held Jalalpur in the early 18th Century, when he owned twelve nankar villages in addition to his share in the family estate. He was succeed by lbadullah Khan, with whom the British authority’s, after their takeover of Awadh, granted 13 villages in Aliganj under the name of Agar Buzurg. During his lifetime he made over the property to his son, Niamatullah Khan, who died in 1868 and was succeeded by his widow. At her death in 1884 a relative, named Muhammad Lutfullah Khan, obtained the estate by purchase. The Kotwara estate consisted of the Mirzapur taluqa of eleven villages and one mahal in pargana Bhur, and two villages, known as the Jalalpur estate, in Paila.

 

Kotwara Estate

From the second son of Tarbiat Khan come the zamindars of Bhurwara and Cbaurathia, and from a third came Qadar Bakhsh, who in 1801 eastablished control over a large area, with the aid of Awadh revenue officials. He held it till the British annexation, with whom he sought confirmation of his estate. He died in 1859 and the property, then comprising 24 villages in Karanpur and Haidarabad, assessed, passed to his widow, Chand Bibi, who held it for her infant son, Azmatullah Khan. The latter died, and the widow continued in possession till her death in1886. She was succeeded by-her daughter’s son, Saiyid Raza Husain, whom she had adopted. The estate eventually consisted of 14 whole villages and two mahals in pargana Haidarabad, and the Rampur Gokul estate of eleven villages and two mahals in Paila. The Kotwara taluqdars also owned a small estate of Pachhim Bilaon in Bara Banki. The present Raja is Syed Muzaffar Ali, who is a Sayyid, and not a Khanzada.

Raipur Estate

The taluqdar of the Raipur Estate were descended from Bahadur Khan, the younger son of Baz Khan. His descendants settled in the Sikandarabad pargana, and by degrees amassed a considerable estate. Over the 19th Century, taking advantage of week control by the Awadh authorities, acquired an estate at comprising 14 villages and one mahal in Haidarbadand the village of Pipra and one mahal of Kondri in Puila. The current Raja is Muhammad Sher Khan.

Sectarian Affiliation

While the taluqdar families are Ithna Ashri Shia, most farming families belong to the Sunni sect.

Distribution

Found mainly in Kheri, but a second cluster of settlements found in Bangarmau in Unnao.

In Kheri many are found in and around the town Bhira, Aliganj and Bijua.

 

Bisen

 

Moving on to the Bisen, who are largest in terms of numbers among the Khanzada community. There are in fact several distinct communities of Bisen Khanzada scattered throughout eastern Uttar Pradesh. Each has a different traditions as to its conversion to Islam. Perhaps the most famous Bisen Khanzada family is said of the taluqdars of Usmanpur in Barabanki District. This estate was founded by one Kaunsal Singh (also known as Raja Khushhal Singh), who obtained an estate as a reward for military service under the Mughal Emperor Humayun. One of his sons Lakhan Singh converted to Islam, and took the name Lakhu Khan. The estate of Usmanpur was founded by Ghanzafar Khan, who was confirmed ownership of Usmanpur and neighbouring villages by the Nawabs of Awadh.

In addition to the Rajah of Usmanpur, prominent Bisen families are also found in Balrampur District, where the zamindars of Mahua and Burhapara were substantial landowners.

The Bisen are found in the districts of Basti, Azamgarh, Sitapur, Faizabad, Barabanki, Sultanpur and Balrampur. They are generally Sunni, and speak Awadhi and Urdu.