Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Ghurids : Pashtuns or Tajiks?

Various extracts from Raverty's research paper "Who were Pathan or Patan Kings of Dihli?" published in Journal Asiatic Society of Bengal Volume 44, 1875 and his extensive footnotes on the subject in his translation of Tabqat-i-Nasiri by Minhaj-i-Siraj. Major H.G.Ravery (1825-1906) is noted for his book on the Pashto grammar and writing a dictionary of Pashto.

Raverty, in foot notes of his translation of Tabqat i-Nasiri (page.320) writes ;

“Sultan Mahmud made raids upon the Afghans in 411 Hijri, and, again in 416 Hijri , but they are never mentioned in connection with the Ghurids by Baihaki and such like trustworthy authors ,a pretty good proof , were any wanting that , although Afghans are Pathans, the Ghurids are not , and never were so accounted by any historian , nor by the Afghans nor Ghuris themselves. It doesn’t follow that, because a Tajik It doesn’t follow that , because a Tajik is called Suri , he should be of the Afghan clan of Sur , of the tribe of Ludi, so styled from their progenitor, named Sur, but not Suri.

In notes on page 321, Raverty gives an extract of Kitab-i-Yamini of Utba, who was contemporary of Mahmud Ghaznavi,

“Mahmud became greatly incensed against the tribes of Ghur, who were unbelievers, on account of their waylaying caravans and levying blackmail , thinking their hills and defiles impregnable. An army , consisting of horse and foot, was assembled to punish them , and Altun-Tash , the Hajib, and Arslan-i-Jazib were appointed to the command . They set out , but had such hard fighting with the Ghuris that Mahmud, finding they made little progress , resolved to proceed in person , attended by a body of his ghulams. He succeeded in defeating them, and , after penetrating narrow passes and defiles , made a road which enabled him to reach Ahangarin , the stronghold of their Malik who was called Ibn-i-Suri (i.e “Suri’s son” and thus he agrees with Juzjani and others that the correct name of this chief is Muhammad, son of Suri, son of Muhammad). Suri’s son , with a force of 10,000 men , came out of their strongholds , and, being entrenched behind walls , and availing himself of the ravines , hills , and broken grounds , succeeded for half a day in resisting all efforts to dislodge him. Mahmud has recourse to a stratagem. He directed his troops to face about , as though about to give up the contest and retire. This had the desired effect , and Suri’s son, the Hindu (as Utbi calls him) , came forth from his string position to follow in pursuit. The Sultan faced about , and defeated him. Suri’s son was taken , together with great booty , consisting of arms and other war material. Suri’s son subsequently poisoned himself by means of his ring , which contained poison.”

Utbi also makes a difference , as do all writers of any knowledge of their subject , between Ghuris and Afghans , and never confounds them.

Now i am posting the relevant portion and excerpts on Ghurids from his paper ""Who were Pathan or Patan Kings of Dihli?. (omitted the tedious and irrelevant details)

Raverty criticizes the incorrect translations of Tarikh-i-ferishta by Dowson and Briggs.

At page 50 of his translation of translation, Dow has the following with reference to Mahmud:-

“In the following year , Mahmud led his army towards Ghor. The native prince of that country , Mohammad of the Soor tribe of Afgans, a principality in the mountains famous for giving birth to the Ghorian dynasty.”

Briggs in his version of Ferishtah, follows Dow closely and in this place he perpetrates the same blunder , and these two translators are, no doubt , wholly responsible for thus leading their readers astray and causing them to blunder likewise , and to disseminate the incorrect statement that the Ghuris are Afghans, who are Taziks are Tajiks , and claimed Arab origin. The Brigg ‘s version of the passage given above is thus [Vol.I, p.49) –

“In the Following year Mahumd led an army into Ghoor. The native prince of that country , Mahomed of the Afghan tribe of Soor (the same race which gave birth to dynasty that eventually succeeded in subverting the family of Subooktugeen), “ etc.

This statement on the part of Dow and Briggs is evidently the origin of the incorrect assertions of those who have had , and still have , recourse to their versions for materials for Indian history. Elphinstone’s history, for instance , is entirely based on that authority. Elphinstone certainly quotes Dows and Briggs constantly .What says Ferishta though? He says [p.44] –

“In the year 401 H, the Sultan [Mahmud] , having led an army into Ghur , the ruler of that country , Muhammad, son of Suri , with 10,000 men in array , confronted the Sultan’s ranks.”. There is not one word about the “Afghan tribe of Soor” nor the “Soor tribe of Afghans”

A few lines under the above quotation , Ferishta refers to Tarikh-i-Yamini and quotes the author of Tabqat-i-Nasiri with reference to the conversion of Ghuris to Islam, and says, “but the author of Tabqat-i-Nasiri and Fakkhr-ud-din Mubarak Shah the Marwa-ar-Rudi, who composed a history, “ etc. but Dow leaves out this entirely ,and Briggs , such seems the infatuation for viewing all things in a “Pathan” light , translates the last part of Sentence [p.50] “Fakhr-ood-Deen Mubarak Lody who wrote a history” , etc. Instead of Marwa-ar-Rudi , he read Ludi , the name of Sultan Bahlul’s tribe, which, no doubt , he thought must be correct . People referring to these translations ,and finding this statement reiterated , time after time, that the Ghaznavids and Ghurids were “Afghans or Pathans” , concluded that Ferishta must have so stated , and that he must be right ,and so they wrote their accounts of “Pathan Sultans” , “Pathan buildings” and “Pathan coins”, but they do not seem to have considered that, even if Ghuris were Pathans, it didn’t follow that their Turkish slaves , and other Turks , and Tatars, should also be Pathans. I do not doubt that many Persian scholars will be surprised to hear that there is nothing of the kind whatever in Ferishta , any more than there is in any other Asiatic writer , but such is the fact , and ferishtah’s text on examination will prove it.

Further on [p.132] , Dow states : “The genealogy of the Kings of Ghur , according to the most authentic historians , could be traced up , by the names , for three and twenty , and downwards nine generations , from Ali to Mahmud , the son of Subuktagin. “. There is nothing of the kind in Ferishtah. He renders the names of their ancestors as Minhaj-i-Siraj , and some others give them, name by name, down to Zuhak the Tazi , but Dow not understanding what followed , concealed the “nine generations” down to Mahumd of Ghazni to whom Ghuris were no more related than they were to Dow himself. It was from this passage , I have no doubt , the author of “a student manual of Indian history” was led into error of calling Mahmud of Ghaznin “the great ancestor of Sultan Mauiz-udi-din”

Ferishta’s account of Sher Shah Suri in correct translation of Tarikh-i-ferishta is – “ The name of Sher Shah was Farid, and his father’s name Hasan , who is of the people of Roh. When Sultan Bahlul Ludi attained dominion, the father of Hasan, the Sur, who was named Ibrahim, having evinced a desire of obtaining a service, came to Dihli”. He then describes Roh , and adds, “ The Afghans there are of several tribes , among which is the clan of Sur. They account themselves of the posterity of the Sultans of Ghur , and say that one of their sons who was called Muhammad Suri – came among the Afghans of Roh [if the Afghans were Ghuris or the Ghuris Afghans , as it is pretended, and dwelt in Ghur , how could this person be an exile from his country among his won people , I his own country?] and as the correctness of his descent was verified [to the satisfaction of] one of the Afghan chiefs , notwithstanding it is not the customs of Afghans to give their daughters to strangers, that person [chief] gave his daughter to Muhammad-i-Suri , and made him his son-in-law ; and , from him offspring having offspring , they became known as the Sur Afghans , and may be the greater of the tribes of Afghans”.

Raverty says that ferishtah himself blundered greatly when he said that the son of Ghuri chief who took up his abode among the Afghans was called Muhammad-i-Suri, and that his posterity are known as Sur Afghans. The Afghan tradition is very different. According to it , the chief’s son was named Shah Hussain , he was said to have been descended from the younger branch of the Ghorian race. While Muhammad-i-Suri , said to be great-great grandfather of the two sultans Ghiyas-ud-din and Muiz-ud-din , was descended from the elder branch with whom the sovereignty lay. This Shah Hussain , by one of his Afghan wives , had three sons, Ghalzi, Ibrahim (surnamed Ludi) and Sarwani. Ludi had two sons, one of whom was named Siani, who had two sons, Pranki and Ismael. The latter had two sons , one of whom was named Sur , who is the founder – not Muhammd ibn-i-Suri the Ghorian – of the Afghan tribe of Sur The name of Suri occurring among the Ghuri Tajiks and Sur among the Afghans , immediately struck Ferishta probably , and , he at once , jumped at the conclusion that they were one and the same , and that the Ghurids were Afghans and Afghans Ghuris.


Minhaj-i-Siraj, the author of Tabqat-i-Nasiri, was born in Ghurid capital of Firuzkoh. He mentions Afghans only at one place in Tabqat-i-Nasiri on page 853, not as his countrymen from Ghor but as mercenary soldiers in the service of Balban, the Turk Sultan of Delhi (of Slave dynasty). H.G.Raverty in the foot notes remind us that it is the only place where Minhaj mentions Afghans. Following is the extract from Tabqat,

"The defenders of truth , in conformity with Ulugh Khan-i-azam (Balban)’s commands, penetrated into all the loftiest places , into the defiles , and deep ravines , and acquired heads and captives , and became filled with property and money , especially the sept of Afghans, every one of whom you might say was some huge elephant with two Khita-i bulls, over his shoulders, or some tall tower of a fortress , placed on its summit , for the purpose of over-awing , with banner displayed. The number of them , employed in the service of , and attending the stirrup of Ulugh Khan-i-azam , was about 3000 horse and foot , daring , intrepid, and valiant soldiers , each of whom . either on mountain or in forest, would take a hundred Hindus in his grip , and , in a dark night, would reduce a demon to utter helplessness ."


The proper name of Sher Shah's tribe is "Sur" not "Suri", as evident from all the contemporary Persian texts, inscriptions and coins, and from Pashtun genealogical accounts. British erroneously wrote it down as "Suri" and it has now become a norm to write it as such. I think this apparently slight difference between 'Sur' and 'Suri' is actually a big deal. In our traditional accounts we believe that Sur tribe of Pashtuns itself is not the Royal house which ruled over Ghor before Mongol invasion and produced figures like Shahabuddin Ghauri but the founder of the tribe is person by name of Sur, grandson of Lodi and great grandson of Shah Hussain Ghori (prince from minor house of Ghor) who married an Afghan woman Bibi Mato. Thus in Pashtun legendary genealogy , Sur is one of the branch of Lodi tribe who along with the Ghilzais are termed as "Mati" tribes. There also exists a Hindu caste by name of Suri in India. .......Moreover many Pashtuns mistake Ghurids to be Pashtuns due to the discovery of Pata Khazana which has been convincingly proved to be a modern forgery by Qalander Momand........ The details about exact identity of Ghurids are not clear.....In their own genealogy, they were claiming descent from Zuhak bin Tazi , the legendary Arab king of Iran and in early period the descendants of Arab settlers in Persia were called Taziks or Tajiks.......the Tajik term of nowadays is very broad term, its applied to every non-Turk Farsiwan in Afghanistan and Turkestan . A very untapped source Tarikh-i-nama Herat (written in 1318 AD) clears one thing, Ghurids were not Afghans/Pashtuns ....following the snippet from persian text of Tarikh-nama

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