In this post, I will look at a Muslim community called the Pachhada historically found in what is now the state of Haryana in India. Their ancestral homeland was the Ghagar River Valley and the semi-desert territory that now forms part of the Sirsa, Fatehabad, Hissar and Mahendragarh districts of Haryana, and the Ganganagar district of Rajasthan. They were a nomadic and pastoral community and are closely related to the Rath community of Rajasthan. Most reared the local Rathi cattle breed and would migrate with flocks to the rivers Sutlej and Ravi, and as such were also known as Rathi. In neighbouring Rajasthan, Muslim pastoral nomads of Bikaner and Ganganagar are still known as Rath, which literally means a charioteer.
The term Pachhada was historically applied collectively to miscellaneous Muslim tribes that inhabited the Ghaggar valley and villages adjacent thereto in what were the Sirsa and Fatehabad Tehsils of the erstwhile Hissar District. The word is derived from the Punjabi “pachham,” meaning west, and da meaning from, so literally westerners, and was used by the Jats and Ranghars to describe tribes which had settled in the region after the famous chalisa famine. The Chalisa famine of 1783–84 in the Indian subcontinent followed unusual El Niño events that began in 1780 and caused droughts throughout the region. Chalisa (literally, “of the fortieth” in Hindustani) refers to the Vikram Samvat calendar year 1840 (1783). This led to the depopulation of the Ghaghar valleys as pastoralists such as the Bhatti moved further west. As things settled, a number of clans moved from Sutlej valley, in what is modern day Pakistani Punjab and settled in the region. In terms of their dialect of Punjabi, it was very close to that to that spoken in the Neeli Bar region. The tribes never used the term Pachhada to describe themselves as the author of the Hissar District gazetteer notes:
Neither the name Pachhada, nor the name Rath is used by these people when speaking of themselves, unless, indeed, the person who calls himself a Pachhada is a man of low caste such as a Mochi or a Lohar, in which case the name Pachhada is used to conceal the real caste. The majority of the persons called Pachhadas claim to be Rajputs, and when asked their caste usually answer “Pachhada sadaunde,” they call us Pachhadas.
The tribes themselves have called themselves Rajputs, and had intermarried with long settled Rajputs of the Ghaghar such as the Bhatti and Chauhan. Groups that were sometimes included within the Pacchada category included the Wattu , Joiya and Kharal, however the term was strictly used to refer to four tribes, namely:
|Sohu||Traditionally, the Sohu claim to be Chauhan Rajputs, but the they have a number of traditions as to their origin. The Sohus of the village of Bhirrana, the head-quarters of the clan, stated that at the turn of the 20th Century that their ancestor came some eight generations ago from Rawalpindi, under a leader named Jatu, via Bhatner and Rania, to Bhirrana: Jatu returned to Rawalpindi, while Lal, his son, remained as leader, and he is regarded as the founder of the present Sohu clan.
Another version is that the Sohus are Chauhans who came via Delhi from Jilopattan near Jaipur, and settled on the Ravi, whence they again migrated to Sirsa.
|Sukheras||They claim descent from the Tunwar Rajputs of Bahuna. Thirpal, a Tomar of that place, married a Jatni, and was in consequencv outcasted. Thirpal is said to have settled in Basti Bhiman near Fatehabad, and his descendants subsequently spread into Sirsa and as far as Abohar. They were, however, driven backagain and settled in Begar; it and Basi Bhiman was their chief villages. They take their name from Sukha, the son of Thirpal.|
|Hinjraon||This clan claimed descent from the Siroha Rajputs, and was said to have migrated from the banks of the Ravi into this district. Their principal ·village was Hinjraon in the Fatehabad Tehsil of the then Hissar District. However, according to other traditions, they are infact Hanjra Jatts who arrived from the banks of the Ravi, in present day Okara.|
|Chotias or Bhanekas||According to their tribal traditions, they were originally Chauhan Rajputs, but they appear in reality to be Dandiwal Jats, who were converted to Islam a few generations ago. The Dandiwals themselves claim to have been originally Chauhans, and state that they emigrated from Delhi via Jaisalmer to Sirsa|
From the origin myths of these tribes, it is clear the Pachhada sat on the boundary between Jat and Rajputs, and at time intermarried with both groups.
The Pachhada were of among a number of Rajput pastoralist groups found the Ghaghar valley and north Rajasthan, and were often closely identified with the Ranghar and Bhatti communities, who have similar customs and traditions. With the establishment of British rule in the early 19th Century, the new authorities took the view that all pastoral nomads in the Ghaghar valley were a threat to their newly established control, and took stringent measures against all the nomad groups of the region such as the Ranghar, Johiya and Bhatti. Land was allocated to peasant settlers, and an attempt was made to forcibly settle the Pachhada. As a result of these policies, the Pacchada played an important role in the attack on Sirsa in the 1857 Indian War of Independence.
After the reestablishment of British colonial authority, the Pacchada were severely punished by British. There were considerable confiscations of land, and the Pachhada were forcibly settled. By the early 20thcCentury, the Pachhada were settled agriculturists, although animal husbandry remained an important subsidiary occupation. At the time of the partition of India in 1947, the Hissar District fell within the territory of India, and all the Pachhada immigrated to Pakistan.In their new homeland in Pakistani Punjab, mainly in Okara, Sahiwal, Muzaffargarh and Layyah districts, the Pacchada maintain their distinct identity. Many still speak the Haryanvi language. The Pacchada are entirely Sunni, and their customs are similar to other Haryana Muslims settled in Pakistan such as the Ranghar and Meo.
Pacchada Population According to the 1901 Census of India
The Pachhada were essentially a tribe of the Hissar region, the Pachhadas in other districts were either soldiers serving in the army or migrant labourers.