Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Tanoli tribe

The elders of Tanolis (or Tanaolis) insist on being of Pashtun origin but their rulers have accounted themselves to be of Barlas Mughal origin. They are divided into two divisions, Pul-Al and Hando-Al, the former occupy Lower Tunawal, and the latter occupy Upper Tunawal . In 1907 they numbered 58,700 [1]. Although not usually acknowledged as Pashtuns, the Tanolis have by long association become assimilated with the Pashtuns in manners, customs and character. The tribal and cultural practices of the Tanolis closely resemble those of Pashtuns. Tribally allied with the Pashtuns they partcipated in the wars against  the Sikhs and the British, and in the Charles Allen's analysis of those wars the Tanolis are described as being "extremely hostile, brave and hardy and accounted for the best swordsmen in Hazarah" [2].

An Indian surveyor Syed Ghulam Muhammad visited Tunawal in 1780 and gives the following description of the country and its people :-
"Tunawal is the name of a small territory lying on the east bank of the Aba-Sin, about twenty kuroh in length, and about the same in breadth, through which the Siran river flows from north to south, but inclining a little to the south-west. It is a very mountainous tract of country, and its inhabitants belong to different tribes, a number of whom are Afghans; and the Pushto language is spoken among them all. The chieftainship lies with the Tunawalis, who account themselves to be of Mughal descent; but, at present, they are scarcely distinguishable in their appearance from the Afghans and various other peoples of this part. Latterly, according to some accounts, they have laid claim to be descended from the tribe of Birlas –Amir Timur's own tribe. “The Tunawal's number about 20,000 families, and consist of two septs or divisions, named respectively Pul Al, and Hando or Ando Al, the words being written both ways. The former hold the parts east of the Siran, or south-east portion of Tunawal, and the latter those on the west or north-west part. The latter tracts belong to Pa'indah Khan, and were held by his ancestors before him. Their chief places and seat of authority are Bir, Puhar, and Dera'h." [3]

H.G.Raverty, on the authority of Akhund Darweza, says that Tanawal or Tunawal was overrun by Khashi tribes of Pashtuns under the leadership of Ali Asghar in the latter part of Akbar's reign, and  its former inhabitants were expelled from some parts of Tunawal. [4]

In 1752 AD, Zabardast Khan Tanoli joined Ahmad Shah Durrani in his conquest of India. In 1761 AD he was granted the title of Suba Khan by Ahmad Shah Durrani for his bravery in the historic battle at Panipat. [5]

Nawab of Amb and followers, Kaim Gulli, 1888 (c). Photo by 'Bourne & Shepherd

Nawab of Amb and followers, Kaim Gulli, 1888 (c). Photo by 'Bourne & Shepherd

A Tanaolee, Hazara, 1868. From Kaye and Watson collection.

A certificate from Ahmad Shah Abdali to Zabardast Khan Tanoli, conferring on him the title of Subah Khan for his support in the Indian campaigns, particularly in the fighting around Mathura. Source

View of Mahaban range from Hazara (Tanawal region), 1858. A village in the distance and what appears to be ruins of a fort along the right bank of river Indus. Watercolour by Sir James Abbott.


1- Hazara Gazetteer 1907, p-29
2- "History of the Pathans", By Haroon Rashid, Vol-6, p-34
3- "Notes on Afghanistan and Part of Baluchistan", Henry George Raverty, p-275
4-  Ibid, pp-275-276
5-  "History of the Pathans", By Haroon Rashid, Vol-6, p-36


  1. as much i know, the indigenous inhabitants of hazara division which start from haripur to the north of balakot are speaking hindko language. some pashtuns are living in the mountains but they are mashwani of kandahar as they say. tanolis are living in the north of haripur towards abbotabad high way. they called themselves afghans but can't speak pashto.

    1. Yes.of course tanolis aren't spoke pushto language but they are pashtun and handko language is due to regional domaincy and culture alteration in this tribe.