The Races of Afghanistan/Chapter IX

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The Races of Afghanistan

Being a brief account of the principal nations inhabiting that country.

By H. W. Bellew, C.S.I.

Publisher: Thacker Spink And Co. Calcutta.1880.
Chapter IX: The Khattak


THE Sattagydse of Herodotus are identified in the Saitak, Sattak, Shattak, and Khattak of modern native writers.

The two last forms are merely the western and eastern modes, respectively, of Pushtu. pronunciation. Their original seat was on the Sulem'm range and its great western off shoot, called Koh Sanwal, and the plain country down to the Indus as far south as the present Dehra Ismail Khan. On the Suleman range their limit to the south ended at Barmal, and marched with the Kakar frontier. At a very early period the Khattaks were, it appeals, driven out of the plain country on the Indus by the Waziri tribe, who, after a long lapse of time, being themselves pressed in rear by other tribes from Sind, were forced forward, and pushing themselves into the hill country of the Khattaks, dispossessed that ancient people of their original home. This is said to have occurred about six hundred years ago. At some considerable period prior to this, however, it appeals that the Khattaks were invaded from the west by a Persian people now commonly known by the name of Chakmani or Ghamkani. This people did not conquer or dispossess the Khattaks, but settled in the country amongst them, mostly in and about their principal towns of Mukim and Kanigoram. Though all this country is now in the hands of the Waziris, there are still three or four hundred houses of the Chamkani dwelling in these two towns as subjects of the Waziri.

The Chamkani, it appears, were a heretical sect of Persian Islamites, and fled their own country on account of the perse-


cations of the Government. They are said to have belonged (for they are now orthodox Musalmans) to the sect of Shia Muhammadans called Ali Ilahi on account of their belief in the divinity of Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad. Curious stories are told of their peculiar religious ceremonies and immoral proceedings connected with them. A burning light, it appears, was an essential element in their religious performances, in which both sexes joined indiscriminately, and at a particular stage of the ceremonies and recitations it was extinguished by the officiating priest. On this signal the congregation fell to the orgies and immoralities of which they are accused. On account of this strange custom they were called by the Persians chiragh-kush and by the Pathans or-mur, which mean respectively "lamp-extinguisher" and " fire-extinguisher" Their great ancestor or leader in these parts was one Amr Loban, but nothing more is recorded of him than his name. According to Afghan accounts this people were dispersed about five hundred years ago in consequence of a famine which raged in their country for three or four years. Some of them moved into the Logar valley, south of Kabul, where they settled at Barkibarak , others emigrated to the Peshawar valley, where the village of Chamkani marks their settlement; others again went on into Hindustan, and there became lost in the general population of the country. A considerable number, however, held to their homes in Kanigoram and Mukim, and others to their settlements on the north border of the country, where they had as neighbours the petty tribes of Mangal and Khitai and Zazai evidently immigrant tribes from Mangalai and Khitai (our Cathay) in North-Western China. The total number of the Chamkani is reckoned at about five thousand families. They are considered a quiet, inoffensive, and industrious people, and distinguished as the only tribe in these parts given to feudal fights and highway robbery. On being turned out of their own country by the Waziri,


the Khattaks, together with some of their neighbours of the Hani and Mangal tribes, are said to have retreated to the Banu territory, and settled at Doyal, which was called also Sadrawan. Here they quarreled with their stranger comrades and expelled them from their midst. After this the Khattaks were attacked by the Baloch, and forced to go north-east to the Koh Khungan. From this they gradually spread by Karbogha, Teri, Chautra, Lacha, &c, to the Indus, Whilst the Khattaks were thus working their way eastward, the Bangash were being driven out of Kurram by the Tori, who, it seems, were advancing from the south-east diagonally across tho route by which the Khattaks had come. The Bangash, on their part, being ousted from their possessions in Kurram, fell back upon their allied tribe, the Orakzai, and contested the land with them Whilst they were thus engaged in hostilities, the Khattak took tho opportunity to extend their lands to Tora Chapra and Patiala at the expense of the Orakzai, and thus became neighbours of the Bangash, a hill ridge between Lacha and Gadakhel being the separating boundary, which it is to this day. Gradually as the Khattaks increased in strength, they extended northward, and pressing aside the Orakzai and Afridi to the higher hills, took possession of all the Indus riverine up to the Kabul river, and even advanced across it, as before mentioned, into the Yusufzai country. In their advance they absorbed several small communities of foreign settlers, such as the Mughalki and Sini (Mughal or Mongol, and Chinese), whom they include in their Bulac division, and the Jalozai, Dangarzai, and Oriyakhel, whom they include in their Teri division.

The Khattak, with whom are included the Banuchi, are physically a fine race, and differ from all other Pathans in features, general appearance, and many of their customs. They are also distinguished from the other eastern Pathans, as being the only tribe amongst them who speak the soft or western dialect of Pushtu. The Afghan account of the


origin of their name, whilst illustrative of the manners of the people in the olden times, shows the simplicity of mind of their descendants, and their entire reliance for information upon their priests; for having themselves lost all trace of their ancestry they are fain to believe whatever their spiritual masters choose to tell them.

The story goes that one day four brothers (it does not say of what tribe) went out for a stroll or to hunt on the plain (locality not specified), and as they went on they saw, as they knew by their dress, four young damsels coming their way. As they approached, the eldest brother said "What better sport than this, let each of us take one of these damsels to wife!" His proposal was applauded, and they agreed to cast lots for them. The eldest brother, however, claimed his right of seniority to take his choice without casting lots, and this was conceded to him. By this time the approaching parties met, and the eldest brother stopping the damsels, selected the most gaily dressed as his choice. The others were apportioned by lot. When all were distributed, each brother unveiled his damsel, and it was discovered that the one in the finest and gaudiest clothes was a shrivelled-up ugly old maid, whilst the others in more simple and sober attire were comely young virgins. The more fortunate younger brothers laughing twitted the other on his bad taste in selecting such a bride, and repeating a phrase commonly used on occasions of like misadventure, said Pa khatta larye, "that is, " You've gone into the mud," or, as we should say, " You've put your foot in it." From this incident, says the Afghan genealogist, is derived the name of Khattak, and then he goes on to add, that from each of the four damsels sprung a numerous progeny, who increased and multiplied and gave their names to all the sections and sub-divisions of the tribe. Under British rule the Khattak has proved a generally well-con- ducted and loyal subject. The salt mines of Kalabagh are in their hands, and many of them are employed as traveling


merchants and salt carriers to the mountainous region between the Peshawar valley and Badakhshan. The chief of the Khattaks, Khwaja Muhammad Khan, was made a Knight of the Older of the Star of India a few years ago in recognition of his loyalty and services to Government.

The Waziri who displaced the Khattak, or Shattak, as it is pronounced in the western dialect of Pushtu, from his ancient seat on the Suleman range, from the Sattagydia of Herodotus, for he is the only one of the ancient authors who has mentioned this people, appear to be identical with the Wairsi or Vairsi of the early Muhammadan historians. The Wairsi were a division of the Sodha tribe, which itself was a branch of the Pramara Rajput. The Waziri appear to have made their first assaults against the Khattak about five or six hundred years ago at a time when the country was sorely afflicted with famine; and the route they took was across the Sham plain into the adjoining valley and district of Barmal. Here they settled and remained for some time before making a further forward move. In Barmal is the favourite shrine of an ancestral and saintly chief of the tribe, and here also are the lands of one of the tribal sub-divisions named Sodhaki. From their settlement in Barmal, the Waziri advanced by degrees, and in a long course of years, driving the Khattak before them, and subjugating the Chamkani, took the whole of the ancient Khattak country from the Sham plain on the south, to the Kohat valley in the north.

They are a powerful and entirely independent tribe, and mostly pastoral and nomade in their habits of life. In personal appearance they are very different from other Pathan tribes, and retain many customs peculiar to themselves. On the western borders of then territory they share the pasture lands with the Suleman-Khel, Khaioti, and other sections of the great Ghilzai tribe.

End of Chapter IX

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