Akera, Gilotar, Lali and Mahni 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 a different fpost, 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 Mahni, a branch of the Sials, who at one time were rulers of an important principality, as well as more localized tribes like the Akera, Gilotar and Lali. All four were pastoralists, raising cattle on the banks of the Jhelum or Chenab rivers.

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.

 

 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.

Mahni

The last tribe I will look at this in this post are the Mahni, who at one time were rulers of an independent principality based around the town of Kheiwa. According to tribal traditions, their ancestor Mahni was the son of Sial. The Sial’s themselves claim descent from the ancient Parmar dynasty of Central India. The Mahnis generally claim a Rajput status, which distinguishes them from the other tribes in this post.

 

The town of Kheiwa was founded by an ancestor called Kheiwa, who gave it his name to the town, a descendant from Sial in the12th generation. Local tradition states the Chenab was then flowing east of the town, therefore the foundation must have occurred some five centuries ago. The Chenab once flowed under the high bank of the Bar, about 16 miles south-east of Kheiwa, and the change of flow is one of the reasons for the decline of the Mahni. At the time of the foundation of the town, the country to the north was held by Marals and Chadhars. As Mahnis increased  in strength ,they began to drive them back further north. Khanuwana was founded in their lands to the north of Kheiwa. The first ruler of the principality really deserving the name was Sahib Khan. Under his rule, the Mahni state extended from Bhowana to Chautala. The independence of the Mahnis was extinguished by famous Sial chief Walidad.From that time the clan appears to have rapidly declined n influence and numbers. There are now no Mahnis in Khiewa. The lands of the village were granted by Dewan Sawan Mal, Ranjit Singh’s viceroy of South Punjab to Bakar ,a chieftain of the Bharwana Sials, whose family now holds it. Popular tradition attributes the decay of the Mahni clan to the curse of a fakir who lived at Chautala. The Mahni are now found entirely in Jhang, and speak the Jhagochi dialect.