The Races of Afghanistan/Chapter VI

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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 VI: The Pathan


This term has a very wide application as used by the people of India, and a very restricted one as used by the Pathans themselves. In the former case it is applied indiscriminately to all the peoples inhabiting the country now known as Afghanistan, including even the Tajik and Hazarah, who are both Persian-speaking people. In the latter case it is applied to Pukhto-speaking people only, and even then with a distinction, as the proper patronymic of certain tribes who are neither Afghan nor Ghilzai, but simply Pathan or Pukhtun. In this latter case it is the name applied to, and accepted by, the different peoples or races who speak the Pukhto language and inhabit the Pathan or Pukhtun country much in the same way as a native of England, taken in the comprehensive sense of the word, is called Englishman, and accepts the name, whether he be in reality Irish, or Scotch, or Welsh ; that is to say, the Afghan and the Ghilzai are both Pathans, but the true Pathan is neither one nor the other, just as the Irish, Scotch, and Welsh are Englishmen, whilst the true Englishman is neither one nor the other of the three.

The origin of the term Pathan, and of the nationalities originally represented by it, carry us back to very early times. The term Pathan is not a native word at all. It is the Hindustani form of the native word Pukhtana, which is the plural of Pukhtun, or Pakhttin (the a as in our paclc) as it is pronounced by the Afridi. And Pukhtun is the proper patronymic of the people inhabiting the country called Pukhtun-


khwa,, and speaking the language called Pukhtu or Pukhto. What the meaning of the word Pukhta, from which Pukhtun and its above derivatives are held to come, may be is a matter of speculation. By some it is supposed to be the same word as the native Pukhta a "ridge" or "hill" in distinction to Ghaa "mountain chain" or "peak," the two words corresponding respectively to the Persian pushta and koh. Be this as it may, and there is no denying the fact that the name Pukhtun-khwa. the "Pukhtun coast or quarter" is very well in accordance with the character of the country in its physical aspect ; there is also the fact that, in the time of Herodotus, four centuries before our era, this very country was called Pactiya or Pactiyica, and its natives Pactiyans. In Western Afghanistan, the haish kk is changed into the soft sh, and Pukhtun becomes Pushtun, Pukhtu becomes Pushtu, and so on. By some Pukhtun tribes the Afridi notably Pukhtun, Pukhtu, etc., are pronounced Pakhtun, Pakhtu, etc, and this brings the words nearer to the Pakhtues of Herodotus. In short, the Pakhtun or Pukhtun of to-day, we may take it, is identical in race and position with the Pactiyan of the Greek historian.

There is a very remarkable coincidence in terms, if nothing more, derivable from this word Pactiya, Herodotus mentions another and entirely distinct country of this name in the province of Armenia. And it is not difficult to trace the same name through the countries of Southern Europe to the ancient Pictavium or modern Poictiers in France, and thence on to the Picts of our own Islands. In fact, to the curious speculator in archeology, there is a wide field for inquiry and research in this Pakhtun-khwa country, where the Pacts and Scyths who inhabit it may be held to correspond with the Picts and Scots of our own country, whilst the Kambari of the Khan of Kelat's family, and large sections of the Afridi people, called Kambar-khel and Kamari, together with the Logari of Logar or Lohgar, may be com-


pared with the Cambrians and Logrians, of ancient Britain. Whether there be any connection or not between these names, their similarity and juxtaposition in such widely separated regions is at least noteworthy, if not deserving of more serious attention and investigation.

This Pactiya of Herodotus was a country bordering on the Indus, and the most eastern province of those into which the Empire of Darius Hystaspes was divided. It contained four contiguous nations, who were placed under the command of a single Satrap or Governor, and it corresponded in extent very nearly exactly with the modern Pukhtun-khwa, or "Pukhtun quarter" The term Pukhtdn-khwa is a purely home word, and seldom heard from the mouth of a stranger. By outsiders and foreigners on the side of India almost exclusively the country is known by the name of Roh, which has the same signification as Koh "mountain" and its natives are called Rohilla 'mountaineer ," or Highlands, and High-landers.

The four nations who dwelt in this country in the time of Herodotus were the Gandaru, the Aparytae, the Sattagyddae, and the Dadicae.

  • The first have long since been identified with the ancient inhabitants of that part of the Peshawar valley now known as the Yusufzai and Mahmand country.
  • The second and third (see Rawlinson's Herodotus) have hitherto been entirely unknown, and are now for the first time identified with the Afridi, and the Khattak of the present day.
  • The last, or Dadicae, are still the subject of speculation, but are, I think, most probably represented by the nearly extinct tube of the Dadi, who dwell amongst the Kakar, on the southern border of the ancient Sattagyddae country.

It is curious to find these very nations now, after a lapse of more than two thousand years, retaining the identical names and the same positions as those assigned to them by the ancient Greek author, who is justly styled the "Father of History." To understand the relative positions of these four Pactiyan


nations, it will be as well first to take a glance at the ancient geography of the country, which in early times was known as Ariya Vartha to the Persians, and Ariana to the Greeks, afterwards as Khurasan, and in recent times only as Afghanistan. Its principal divisions, as brought to our knowledge by the Greeks, were, in ancient times, Bactria and Margiana on the north, Ariya and Zarangia or Drangia on the west, Paropamisus and Arachosia in the middle tract, and Pactiya and part of Bactria on the east with Gedrosia to the south. The limits of none of these are now accurately definable, though for practical purposes, their general position and extent are sufficiently well known.

Bactria - the Bakhtar of the Persians, the Bahlika of the Hindus, and Bactria of the Greeks may be considered to compose all the country between the Upper Oxus or Wakhsh, as far west as the Balkh frontier, and the Upper Indus to the point where it is struck by the Dumah range running due east and west from the head waters of the Swat and Panjkora rivers the Suastus and Guraeas respectively of the Greeks. In a south-westerly direction, its bolder probably ran along the Bamian hills to Gardan Diwar, and thence along the Pughman range to that of Altamur bounding the Logar and Wardak country to the southward which connects the Sherdahan, or " Lion's Mouth " pass of Ghazni with the Pan-daria, or " Fairy Glen" of Jagdalak (not an inappropriate name with its ruby mines and gold diggings, though a spot of mournful memory as the scene of the greatest slaughter and climax of disasters that befel our retreating army in January, 1842) ; whilst onwards from this point the Kabul river, down to the junction with it of the Kunar or Chitral stream, formed the boundary. In the north-east, the country which appears on our maps as Bolor, but in native books is written Balur, was probably included in Bactria, and comprised the districts of Chitral or Kashkar, Yasin, Gilgit, and Skardo. In fact, it appears that the word


Balur itself is merely a natural variant form of Bakhtar, as in the corresponding changes from the Persian dukhtar to the Pukhtu lur, "daughter;" from sokhtan to swal "to burn;" from padandar to plandar, "stepfather", from madar to mor, "mother," from padar to plar, "father", and so on.

PACTIYA the Pukhtun-khwa of the natives, and Roh of Muhammadan writers apparently comprised all the country of the modern Suleman range and the Sufed Koh, extending northward in one direction to the head waters of the Swat and Panjkora streams and the Dumah range, and in the other to the south "banks of the Logar and Kabul rivers down to Jalalabad. The southern limit was, probably, the same as that of the present Kakar country, where it marches with the Peshin and Shal districts, and the Bori valley to the Indus. The eastern limit was the Indus itself. And the western, the Helmand, including thus the country of Arachosia of the Greeks the Ar-Krikhaj of Arabian geographers, and the Zabul of the Muhammadan historians to the south of Ghazni. And these, roughly stated, are the limits of the present Pukhtun-khwa. This territory was originally the seat of the true Pukhtun people, who were, as they still are, Indians the Afghan, Ghikai, Wazfri, Kakar, &c, c , being later and comparatively modern immigrants and conquerors. Within these Limits of the ancient Pactiya were located the four contiguous nations above-mentioned, who were, in the time of Darius, combined in a single satrapy, under a single satrap, but under military commanders of their own. Let us now proceed to consider each of these nations separately.

THE GANDABIANS the Gandhari of the natives, the Gandarii, or, including kindred tribes, the Gandaridae of the Greeks formerly occupied the tract of country enclosed between the Kabul and Indus rivers from the point of junction of the Kunar stream with the former, up to Chaghau Sarae and the Dumah range. In this extensive area are comprised the districts of Goshta, Bajawar, Swat, Buner, Chamla, Maha-


ban, Yusufzai or Mandar, Hastnaghar, Daudzai, and Gandhar. In other words, the Gandaria of the Greeks and the Sindhu Gandhara of the Indians, in the widest sense of the terms, comprised the Peshawar valley north of the Kabul river and the hills circling it in that direction up to the limits defined. In a more restricted sense, it was, it would appear limited to the tract between the junction angle of the Kabul and Swat rivers, bounded north ward by the Kohi Mor mountain, and westward by the Kunar river. This tract includes the modern districts of Goshta, Gandhar, and Daudzai, and may be taken to represent the Gandaritis of the Greeks

It has been stated in a previous passage that, in the fifth or sixth century of our era, consequent to a very powerful irruption of various Scythic hordes from the northward, there took place an emigration enmasse of the natives of Gandaria or Gandhara, and that, on quitting their homes on the Indus, they journeyed westward and joined a kindred people amongst whom they established themselves as a powerful colony on the banks of the Helmand, and there, it would seem, founded a city, which they named Gandhar after their native capital a name whch survives in the name of the modern city and province of Kandahar.

At that time these people were known as Gandarians, or Gandhari. They were Buddhists by religion, and carried with them in their long and arduous journey the most sacred relic of their religion left them the water-pot of Buddha as has before been mentioned. What was their subsequent history in their new Gandhar, and whom they warred with and conquered, remains very much of a mystery, beyond the fact that they were Indians of a kindred race. It would seem clear, however, that for nigh two centuries they maintained their independence and their religion in all the country from the head waters of the Arghasan and Tarnak livers in the east to the lower course of the Helmand through Garmsel to the borders of the Sistan lake and Farrah in the west;


from the valleys of Shal and Peshin or Foshang on the south, to those of the Arghandab and Helmand on the north.

That they were not the only people inhabiting the country we learn from the accounts of the early Arab historians, who tell of a complex mixture of laces, languages, customs, and religions so late "as the first century of the Muhammadan era the seventh-eighth of our own. It would seem, how- ever, that they were decidedly the most powerful, and the dominant, of the several races who occupied the country with them. Among these latter we can certainly count the original Persian possessor, at that time of the Zoroastrian religion a fire-worshipper. The Saka, too, who gave their name to the country of Sistan, were also long prior arrivals, as well as were the Tymanm and, perhaps, some Baloch tribes.

But whatever the composition of the population of the Kandahar country at that period, and it certainly contained no small element of Indian tribes colonists during the Pandu rule at Ghazni and Kabul, long anterior to the Gandarian emigration we are mainly interested here in tracing the fortunes and fare of the latter people. As before stated, their early history in the new settlements about the Helmand is involved in mystery. It seems probable, however, that they early succumbed to the force of Islam, and that the bond of religious brotherhood, characteristic of that creed, though slow in being put on, when once securely fastened, soon destroyed their national identity, except in the remains of patronymics and local names which serve to guide the enquirer more correctly than half-forgotten or falsified traditions.

It is probable that the Afghan people (who were neighbours of these Gandarians and had very early accepted Islam) took a very leading part, with the Arab conquerors, in the subjugation of the infidel inhabitants of Southern Afghanistan, and in their conversion to the Muhammadan creed And, further, it is probable that, being the dominant race, they


not only gave their own national name to their subjects, but, to a considerable extent, blended with them by intermarriage and the adoption of their language and many of their customs And this, much in the same way as is in our day occurring under the dominance of the Durrani as an independent goveinment; for, in a loose way, all the different peoples inhabiting Afghanistan call themselves Afghans by nationality, and are generally so considered by foreigners, much in the same way as the originally different peoples of England Proper now call themselves Englishmen.

How long it took for these western Gandarians to lose their own national name and identity, and to become incorporated in the Afghan people, is quite uncertain, but it would appear that about three or four hundred years ago, when the Afghan genealogies of the present day began to be concocted, they were already thoroughly mixed up with their conquerors, counted as of kindred race, and reckoned very good Musalmans ; which is more than can be said of the Pathan Proper, or of the Ghilzai.

It was in the first half of the fifteenth century, during the reign at Kabul of Mirza Ulugh Beg the grandson of Tymur, or Tamerlane that the retrograde emigration, previously mentioned, took place, when a large body of the Budhist Indians, converted to Islam, and the Gandarians, transformed into Afghans, retained to their native seat upon the Indus. The tribal traditions are to the effect that, about three or four hundred years ago, the Yusufzai, or Mandar, and Mahmand tribes of Afghans were settled on the Ghwara Margha and the head waters of the Tarnak and Arghasan rivers as neighbours and allies. Beyond them, lower down the course of these rivers, were the Tarin, another tribe of Afghans, who still occupy the same positions, and the valley of Peshin. Their lands were in the summer subject to droughts, and were besides in great part waste, owing to the exhaustion at that season of the tributary


streams and the diminished volume of the rivers. The consequence was a contest for the better lands, and the Tarin tribes, being the stronger of the two parties, gradually encroached upon the "Fat Pastures" (Ghwara Margha) of the Mandar and Mahmand tribes, and finally dispossessed them of their lands.

The ousted tribes then moved away bodily together with their cattle and flocks and tents, for at that time they were almost entirely nomadic in their mode of life. What induced them to make direct for the Peshawar valley the ancient Gandhar is a subject for inquiry. Whether they were guided by mere chance, or whether some tradition still lingered in the memory of their "Grey beards" that the country towards which they had set their faces with kith and kin, bag and baggage, was their true fatherland, is uncertain, though the latter would seem highly probable. It may be stated in this connection, that in native books on this subject the Yusufzai, or Mandar, and Mahmand are merely mentioned by their tribal names, whilst the Tarin are specified as Afghans, indicating, as it were, some original distinction of race. Be this as it may, it is certain that, after quitting their lands in the west, the ousted tribes marched by Ghazni and Kabul to Nangrahar, and thence into the Peshawar valley.

In Nangrahar the old name of the present Jalalabad valley (a name still commonly in use and supposed to signify "the nine rivers," though there is not that number in it, and explained to be a combination of the Persian nuh="nine" and the Arabic nahar = "river," but which is in reality a word of much more ancient date and purely of Sanscrit derivation, Nau Vihara, "the nine monasteries," the valley having been a very flourishing seat of Budhism even so late as the time of Fa Hian's visit in the fifth century of our own era, and still Abounding in topes and the ruins of other Budhist buildings), the two tribes appear to have rested a while, and then to


have advanced by separate routes. The Yusufzai, or Handar, and Mali, as the two great divisions of the tribe are named, proceeded by the Khybar route to Peshawar, which at that time was called Purshor (after Porus, the Indian king, who opposed Alexander the Great), and encamped about the site of Bagram (the name of an ancient city the ruins of which extend over a large area to the west of the present city of Peshawar, and contain several topes and other Budhist relics, some of which are covered by the British cantonment at this place), between the present city of Peshawar and the Khybar pass.

Then approach and arrival do not appear to have been opposed by the people of the country, and for a while they pastured their flocks on the wide waste at the mouth of the Khybar. Soon, however, disputes arose as to the use of the watercourses drawn from the Bara river for irrigation purposes, and fierce conflicts ensued between the Afghans and the possessors of the land, whom the Yusufzai accounts describe as "infidels" of the Dalazak and other tribes, though the former had been nominally Musalmans since their forcible conversion in the eleventh century by Mahmud of Ghazni , whilst the latter certainly included they: own kindred of the parent stock, now known by the name of Hindki, a people who prior to the Muhammadan conquest extended as ,far west as Kabul, near which city a village of that name is a relic of their former presence.

Very little is known regarding the origin of the Dalazak people. There are grounds, however, for believing that they were originally of Scythic origin, and came into their position here with the great irruption of the Jat and Katti, which in the fifth or sixth century drove the native Gandarians to emigrate westward to the Helmand valley. This view is supported by the fact of their holding, at the time we are now speaking of, the Peshawar valley in conjunction with the kindred Jat people, whose representatives are still found there in considerable communities, scattered about in different


villages under the name of Gujar, whose characteristic occupations are the rearing of cattle and the cultivation of the soil ; and also by the fact that, on their expulsion across the Indus they, in considerable bodies, found shelter with the Jat peasantry of the Panjab, amongst whom the Gujar element is indicated by their settlements at Gujranwala, Gujrat, Gujarkhan, &c.

The Dalazak themselves were professedly Musalmans, and had been so since the time of Mahmud of Ghazni, who took a strong contingent of their troops with him to Somnath. They invaded Peshawar, it seems, in great force through the Khybar, and very rapidly possessed themselves of the whole valley to the Indus and the foot of the northern hills, reducing the natives to subjection, or driving them into the mountain retreats of Buner, Swat, and Bajawar. They were an important and powerful people here, till defeated and driven across the Indus by the Yusufzai and Mahmand in the time of Mirza Ulugh Beg.

End of Chapter VI
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