Monday, January 11, 2016

History of Kafiristan [Nuristan]





Babur tells us that the north-eastern mountain of Kabul suba was inhabited by the Kafirs. According to him to the fastness-mountains to the north of Ali Sang tuman of Lamghan were inhabited by the Kafirs . He further says that part of Kafiristan nearest to Alangar tuman of Lamghan is Kawar (Baburnama, p-210). Babur gives an account of his several forays into Kafiristan ; but he doesn’t appear to have entertained the idea of permanently occupying any part of the country , and probably saw the difficulty of such an undertaking from the determined position he met with from these hardy mountaineers.    




Several authors claim for the Siah-posh tribes Hellenic ancestry, but on what grounds doesn’t appear. They themselves do not put forth a claim to such illustrious descent , but they pride themselves on being brothers of the Farangi, and according to the traditions preserved among them , they affirm, that coeval with the spread of Islam, they occupied the countries to the south of their present location , and have been subsequently compelled to seek liberty and for safety, among the mountains and valleys of the Hindu Kush, from the insupportable tyranny of their Mohammedan neighbors whom they designate “Awdal”. They appear, therefore, unquestionably to be the remnants of the aboriginal inhabitants of the country to the south of river Kabul and central Afghanistan as at present constituted. This is confirmed by the traditions of the Afghans also ; from the existing histories in the Pashto or Afghan language ; and from the writings of the other Mohammedan historians. From these we find , that in the time of Ghaznavid Sultans, the Afghan tribes finding Kaseghar district – situated immediately west of , and including within its slopes of the Suleiman mountains – much too contracted to yield a subsistence to such a numerous people as they had now become , were compelled to encroach upon the territory to the west and north-east, towards the Kabul river ; and were in constant habit of plundering the infidels , or Kafirs, as they called the original inhabitants of the country, making slaves of them and of their wives and children ; and compelling all those who didn’t seek safety in flight , to become converts to Islam. These events took place during the chieftainship of Malik Abdal, from whom the whole of the Afghan tribes are often called Abdalis , or, by substituting the letter w for b -  a change common in the Pashto and Iranian languages – Awdalis , hence the name given them by the Siah-Posh as already related.

Timur made an unsuccessful attempt to reduce them when on his way to invade Hindustan, at which time, he detached ten thousands men against them. This force advanced to Inderab, a town of Badakhshan, and thence proceeded by Ferijan, on the southern-slope of Hindu Kush, into the Kafir country ; and in the valley of Phun – the former residence of Pandu tribe – on the summit of a lofty mountain , known as mount Kahun, the invaders found the remains of a vast fortress. This they repaired ; and it is called ‘Timur-Hissar’, or ‘Timur’s castle’, to this day. The Mughal troops, however, seems to have met with but little success, and being unable to bring the Kafirs under subjection to their yoke , soon abandoned the attempt , and retired , somewhat precipitately, through the Kawak pass.

The Emperor Babur , in his memoirs, gives an account of his several forays into Kafiristan ; but he doesn’t appear to have entertained the idea of permanently occupying any part of the country , and probably saw the difficulty of such an undertaking from the determined position he met with from these hardy mountaineers.     

As recently as the reign of Mughal Emperor Jehangir, several families of the tribes inhabiting the valleys to the west of Lamghan, consisting of the darah of Shamatak, and fourteen smaller ones contiguous, embraced the Mohammedan faith. These places are now occupied by the small Afghan tribe of Safi.

In the reign of sovereign just alluded to, we find from the Persian work entitled Khulassat-ul-Ansab of Hafiz Rehmat Khan, an Afghan of the Kotah-Khel, that in his days, even the Afghans undertook expeditions against the Kafirs or infidels of several parts of Afghanistan, taking their wives and children prisoners ; and at the same time remarks , that the infidels of Darah Lamghan , Darah-i-Pich, Darah Kunar, belonging to Kabul and Jalalabad, together with Talaah, Panjkorah, Chumlah, Buner, Dramtawer, Pakli and other places, dependencies of Peshawar and Langarkot, were in this manner, made converts to Islam.

About the end of 18th century, the Afghan chiefs of Bajaur, Panjkorah, Kunar and others , confederated together and entered the Kafir country, where they burnt some hamlets and forced several persons to embrace Islam ; but the invaders were soon compelled to retreat , after sustaining severe loss. Five or six years since, the Bajaur chief made an inroad into that part of Kafiristan adjoining his own district ; burned and sacked some villages , whom he subsequently sold into slavery.

(Excerpts from "Notes on Kafiristan", 1859, by H.G.Raverty)



"Kaffir slave, Kabul". 1836's watercolour painting by Godfrey Thomas Vigne


`Chandur Seorposh Kaffir Boy', 1836, by Godfrey Thomas Vigne.