Afghans: Early History

From Indpaedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Hindi English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

This article is an extract from



Being a reprint of the chapter on
The Races, Castes and Tribes of
the People in the Report on the
Census of the Panjab published
in 1883 by the late Sir Denzil
Ibbetson, KCSI

Lahore :

Printed by the Superintendent, Government Printing, Punjab,

Indpaedia is an archive. It neither agrees nor disagrees
with the contents of this article.

Afghans: Early history

The origin and early history of the various tribes which compose the Afghan nation are much disputed by authorities of weight who hold very different views. I have in the following sketch followed the account given by Dr. Bellew, as it affords a convenient framework on which to base a description of those tribes. But it is said to be doubtful whether the distinction which he so strongly insists upon between Pathan proper and Afghan proper really exists or is recognised by the people ; while the Jewish origin of any portion of the nation is most uncertain. But the division of the nation into tribes, the internal affinities of those tribes, and the general account of their wanderings are all beyond question ; and the theories which account for them are only accepted by me to serve as connecting links which shall bind them into a consecutive story. The tradi tions of the true Afghans who trace their name and descent from Afghana, the son of Jeremiah, the son of Saul, and Solomons commander-in-chief and the builder of his temple, say that they were carried away from Syria by Nebuchadnezzar and planted as colonists in Media and Persia.

Thence they emigrated eastwards into the mountains of Ghor and the modern Hazdra country. The Afghans early embraced the creed of Islam, to which they were converted by a small body of their tribe on their return from Aralua, where they had fought for Mahomet under their leader Kais. It is from this Kais or Kish, namesake of Sanies father, who married a daughter of Khalid ibn-Walid a Qureshi Arab and Mahomets first apostle to the Afghans, that the modern genealogists trace the descent alike of Pathans, Afghans, and Gilzai, or at any rate of such tribes of these races as we have here to deal with ; and to him they say that the Prophet, pleased with his eminent services, gave the title of Pathan, the Syrian word for rudder, and bade him direct his people in the true path. Meanwhile, about the 5th and 6th century of our ara, an irruption of Seythic tribes from beyond the Hindu Kush into the Indus Valley drove a colony of the Buddhist Gandhari, the Gandarii of Herodotus and one of the four great divisions of that Pactyan nation which is now represented by the Pathans proper, from their homes in the Peshawar valley north of the Kabul river and in the hills circling it to the north ; and

  • Dr. Bellew and Major James identify them with the Pacfciyans of Herodotus, and seem half

inclined to connect them with the Picts of Britain, as also the Scyths with the Scots, and certain Pathin and Brahoi tribes with Cambrians and Ligurians ! they emigrated en masse to a kindred people on the banks of the Helmand, where they established themselves and founded the city which they named Gandbar after their native capital, and which is now called Kandahar.

It is not certain when the Afghans of Ghor moved down into the Kandahar country where the Gandhari colony was settled ; but they probably came as conquerors with the Arab invaders of the 1st century of the Mahome dan area. They soon settled as the dominant race in their new homes, intermanied with and converted the Gandhari, and adopted their language ; and in course of time the two races became fused together into one nation under the name of Afghans, as distinguished from the neighbouring Pathans of whom I shall presently speak though the original stock of Ghor still called themselves Ban-i-Israil to mark the fact that their origin was distinct from that of their Gandhari kinsmen. It is probable that this tradition of Jewish origin was little more distinct than is the similar tradition of Norman descent which some of our English famihes still preserve.

Thus the Afghan proper includes, firstly the original Afghans of Jewish race whose principal tribes are the Tarin, Abdali or Durrani and Shirani, and secondly the descendants of the fugitive Gandhari, who include the Yusufzai, Mohmand, and other tribes of Peshawar. These latter returned about the first half of the Both century of our area to their original seat in the Peshawar valley which they had left nearly ten centuries before ; while the original Afghans remained in Kandahar where in the middle of the 18th century they made themselves rulers of the country since known as Afghanistan, and shortly afterwards moved their capital to Kabul. The tribes that returned to the Peshawar country were given by Ahmad Shah the title of Bar or upper Durrani, to distinguish them from the Abdali Durrani who remained at Kandahar.

I have said that the Gandhari were one of the four great divisions of the Pactiyae of Herodotus. The other three nations included under that name were the AparytcB or Afridr, the Satragyddse or Khatak, and the Dadicse or Dadi, all alike of Indian origin. At the beginning of the Mahome clan sera the Afridi held all the country of the Safed Koh, the Satragyddae held the Suleman range and the northern part of the plains between it and the Indus, while the Dadi held modern Sewestan and the country between the Kandahar Province and the Sulemans.

These three nations constitute the nucleus of the Pathans proper. But around this nucleus have collected many tribes of foreign origin, such as the Scythic Kakar, the Rajput Waziri, and the many tribes of Turk extraction included in the Karlanri section who came in with Sabuktagin and Taimur ;- and these foreigners have so encroached upon the original territories of the Paotyan nation that the Khatak and Afridi now hold but a small portion of the countries which they once occupied, while the Dadi have been practically absorbed by their Kakar invaders. The whole have now become blended into one nation by long association and inter marriage, the invaders have adopted the Pakhto language, and all alike have accepted Islam and have invented traditions of common descent which express their present state of association. The Afridi were nominally converted to Islam by Mahmud of Ghazni ; but the real conversion of the Pathan tribes dates from the time of Shahab-ul-din Ghori, when Arab apostles with the title

The Afridi still call themselves Aparide. There is no f in Pashto proper.

2 The various accounts given of Karlan's origin all recognise the fact that he was not a Pathan by birth ; and even the affiliation of the Karlanri is doubtful, some classing them as Sarbani and not Ghurghushti. of Saijad and Indian converts who were called Shekh spread through the country, and settled among, married with and converted the Pathans. The descendants of these holy men still preserve distinct tribal identity, and as a rule claim Saivad origin.

The Gilzai are a race probably of Turkish origin, their name being another form of Khilchi, the Turkish word for '^ swordsman,'^ who early settled, perhaps as mercenaries rather than as a corporate tribe, in the Siah-band range of the Ghor mountains where they received a large admixture of Persian blood. The official spelling of the name is still Ghaleji at Kabul and Kandahar. They first rose into notice in the time of Mahmud Ghaznavi, whom they accompanied in his invasions of India. Not long afterwards they conquered the tract between Jalalabad and Kelat-i-Ghilzai, and spread east and west over the country they now hold. In the beginning of the 18th century they revolted against their Persian rulers, established themselves under Mir Wais as independent rulers ;it Kandahar, and overran Persia. But a quarter of a century later they were reduced by Nadir Shah, and their rule disappeared, to be succeeded not long after by that of the Durrani.

With the remaining races of the Tajik and Hazara which form part of the Pathan nation in its widest sense, we have little concern in the Panjab. The former are the remnants of the old Persian inhabitants of Afghanistan, and the word is now loosely used to express all Pathans who speak Persian and are neither true Afghans, Saiyads, nor Hazaras. They are scattered through Afghanistan, Persia, and Turkistan, in which last they hold some hill fastnesses in inde pendent sovereignty. The Hazaras are Tartar by origin, and are supposed to have accompanied Chengiz Khan in his invasion. They occupy all the moun tain countrv formed by the western extensions of the Hindu Kush between Ghazni, Balkh, Hirat, and Kandahar. I have included in my account of the Pathans a few alhed races, who though not usually acknowledged as Pathans, have by long association become closely assimilated with them in manners, customs, and character. They chiefly occupy Hazarn, and are called Dilazak, Swati, Jodun, Tanaoli, and Shilmani.

Tribal affinities and statistics

The Pathan genealogies, which were probably concocted not more than 400 years ago, teem with obvious absurdities. But they are based upon the existing affinities of the people whom they trace back to Kais ; and they will therefore afford a useful basis for a discussion of the tribes with which we in the Panjab are concerned. I give in Abstract No. 69 on pages SOi and 205* a table showing the traditional grouping of the divisions of the Pathan nation. This grouping corresponds fairly well with 66-71.

Their present distribution by locality, and I shall therefore take the tribes in order as they he along our Border, beginning from the south where they mareh with the Biloches. Unfortunately the figured details for the various tribes which I give In Abstract No. 70, on page 206t are in many ways unsatisfactory. I have already explained that the Deputy Commissioners of the frontier districts were asked to prepare lists of the tribes for which figures should be separately tabulated for each district, and it is new apparent that these lists were drawn up far more with regard to the political needs of each district than with reference to any ethnic or tribal system of classification.

The figures given, however, will probably satisfy all administrative require ments : though they are so full of double or incomplete classification that they are of little use to me in the description of the tribes, and I have hardly alluded to them in the following pages. I have, however, grouped the figures on the basis of the tribal classi fication adopted in Abstract No. 60, and have added below eaih headuig; in Abstract No. 711 the serial numbers of the tribes shown in Abstract No. 69 which it may be considered to include, so that the information contained in the figures is connected as closely as possible with the grouping of the tribes which I have followed. The figures being tabulated on tbe spot by a local staff are probably as accurate as the material will permit of. Rut errors must have o.'Curred, both from the constant recurrence of the same clan name in different tribes, and from the difhoulty pointed out in the following quotation from 'Mr. Beckett's Peshawar Census

Report : — Among Muhammadans;epecially among Afghans, tribes or section-multiply with genera tions ; for instance as the descendants increase their branches or sections increasc with them, so the mistake which has occurred is that, of a few men whose origin was the same, some were placed under the name of the old ancestor of the family, some under the name of an intermediate ancestor, and others under the namof a more modern or lower generation. Similarly those who should have bceucatered under the original branch were shown under numerous branches.

Personal tools