Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The nature of the Pashtun monarchy in India

(Excerpts from "History of the Afghans in India, A.D. 1545-1631" by Muhammad Abdur Rahim)

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries , the Afghans of India remained essentially a tribal people in their nature , behavior, social institutions and political ideas. So the monarchy they established in this land represented their tribal characteristics. Their quarrelsome nature, their great attachment to their own tribes and tribal chiefs and their love of tribal Independence determined the character of the monarchy.

The Afghan chiefs, secure in the allegiance of their respective tribes, enjoyed great power and position either as jagirdars or as courtiers of the Afghan kings. They looked upon the king as a comrade and only as first among the equals. Some of the Afghan rulers , (Ibrahim Ludi, Islam Shah, Adil Shah), however tried to strengthen the position of the king for sake of establishing an efficient centralized administration in the sultanate. This resulted in severe conflicts between two opposing forces -- the idea of tribal independence held by the chiefs and the idea of strong monarchy and centralized government adopted by the kings.

According to their own historian, Naimatullah, the Afghans formed 345 tribes. A few of them , the Ludis, Luhanis, Surs, Farmulis, Sarwanis, Niyazis, Kakars, Karranis, and others rose to political importance in the subcontinent.  

The Afghan historian Abbas says that quarreling, disputing and fighting were the chief characteristics of the Afghans in the sixteenth century.  His evidence is corroborated by Sher Shah's remark that it was customary with one Afghan tribe to destroy the other if the former had four more men then the latter. Sher Shah often lamented over the factious nature of his people and repeatedly emphasized that they lost the sultanate to the Mughals only because of their internal discords. We accept the evidence of Sher Shah not because he was Afghan because an examination of the causes of the fall of the Afghan sultanate in 1526 shows that their mutual quarrels became the main cause of their great misfortune. Some of the Afghan chiefs were so quarrelsome and unruly that they even fought among themselves even in the court of Sultan Muhammad Adil. That they retained this feature even in the eighteenth century is seen from an answer to Elphinstone by an Afghan , "We are content with discord , we are contend with alarms, blood, we are content but we can never be content with a master."

To a large extent their quarrels originated in their anxiety to take revenge for wrongs done to them. The blood-feuds sometimes continued for generations. Even in the reign of Sher Shah, such a blood feud was on the point of breaking out between the Surs and Niyazis over the death of Mubarak Khan Sur. The prudence of Sher Shah and timely action of Azam Humayun Niyazi , however, saved the situation.

A tribal people in behavior and culture

The social institutions of the Afghans particularly marriage ceremonies reveal the tribal basis of their society in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. They usually married within the tribe and disfavored marriage outside the tribe. Numerous instances may be cited to show the prevalence of tribal marriage among the Afghans. We shall, however, illustrate the point by a few typical examples.

Bahlul's father Malik Kala and Bahlul himself married their cousins. As the marriage of Ludi Afghans took place within their tribe , so also other Afghans used to marry within their own tribes. Islam Shah Sur, Ibrahim Khan Sur, and Sikander Khan Sur married the daughters of Nizam Khan Sur , the younger brother of Sher Shah. Sulayman Karrani's daughter married her cousin Hansu Karrani. Uthman Luhani's daughter was married to his nephew Daud, a son of Sulayman Luhani. Wali Luhani married a daughter of Wali Mandukhail Luhani.

There are instances to show that the Afghan disliked marriage outside the tribe. Mubarak Khan Sur , a nephew of Sher Shah, being enamored of a beautiful daughter of Allahdad Khan Niyazi, proposed to marry her. The Niyazi chief , who considered his tribe to be more aristocratic in blood , refused the proposal of a member of the reigning Sur family. Disappointed Mubarak , however, tried to force him, but this resulted in a bloody dispute and the death of Mubarak.

The Afghans detested marriage with non-Afghans. In 1561 on his way to Makkah, Bairam Khan halted at Patan and arranged the betrothal of his son Abd al-Rahim with a daughter of Islam Shah. The news of this betrothal displeased the Afghans and they killed him. Other factors, such as hatred towards the Mughals and the desire of Mubarak Khan Luhani to avenge the death of his father in the battle of Machchiwara, also contributed to the assassination of Bairam Khan. But, considering that the Afghan chief Sher Khan Fuladi received the fallen Mughal wakil and a pilgrim as his guest and he afterwards connived at the murder , we are led to believe that the betrothal was the cause of his connivance.  

Intermarriage should in exceptional cases take place. The Afghans, however, denied the children of such marriages the status of a pure born Afghan. Islam Shah Ludi preferred his nephew Bahlul to his son Qutb Khan to be his successor as the latter was born of a non-Afghan mother, and would not have been acceptable to the Afghans.

The Afghans attached themselves to their respective tribal chiefs and settled on tribal lines so as to form different tribal zones in India.  Islam Khan Ludi , the governor of Sarhind under the Sayyid Sultan of Delhi, had in his service 12,000 Afghans of his own tribe. Sher Shah's grandfather Ibrahim Khan Sur joined the service of Mahabat Khan Sur and settled in Bajwara in the Punjab with his family and followers. Most of the Sarwanis attached themselves to their chief Azam Humayun Sarwani , the jagidar of Kanpur, and they settled in that area. We also learn that Hasan Khan Sur , the father of Sher Shah, attached to himself his relations and kindred as his followers. The Niyazi Afghans are also found attached to their chiefs. In a similar way, the Farmuli, Luhani, Karrani, Kakar and other Afghans lived under their respective chiefs in the areas, which they held in jagir

A picture of Afghan settlement on tribal lines and of their zones in India in the Ludi period (1451-1526) may be obtained from the accounts of Rizqullah, whose father Sa'dullah served Miyan Zayn-al-Din and his sons at Agra for fifty-five years. His accounts are corroborated by Babur, Abbas, and other historians. In this period , the Shahu Khel Ludis of the family of Bahlul were generally settled in Delhi, Agra, Kalpi, Chandwar and Lucknow. Other branches of the Ludis , such as the Yusuf Khels and the Sarang Khanis settled in Lahur and Jaunpur respectively. Saran, Champaran, Awadh, Shahabad, Thaneswar and Qanauj formed the zones of Farmuli Afghans,  the Luhanis colonized Ghazipur and Bihar. Kanpur, Kara and Etawah were the areas of the Sarwani Afghans. The Surs were settled in the parganas of Chand, Sahsaram, and Khawaspur Tanda in South Bihar. 

The battle of Panipat in 1526 caused some Afghans to settle outside Mughal territories. Babur, however, did not disturb the zones of those Afghans, who submitted to his rule. He left Awadh, Saran and other places in the possession of Farmulis. The Sarwanis retained Kara. Babur also allowed the Luhanis and the Surs to hold their respective areas as they promised to be loyal to the Mughal throne.

In the Sur-Afghan period (1540-1556) also we see that the Afghans settled on tribal lines. The Surs lived in Delhi, Chunar and Gwalior. The Sarwanis settled in Lucknow, Kant, Gola and Tilhar. Awadh and Qanauj continued to be the zones of the Farmulis. The Niyazis settled in Punjab under their chief Azam Humayun Haibat Khan. The Karranis got their home in Khawaspur Tanda and other Gangetic parganas in south Bihar. The Kakars colonized Milwat, Nagarkot and Dihdawal near the Jammu hills. As the Ludis had sunk  in political importance , we do not get any reference to their settlement in the contemporary records. 

Even in the eighteenth century, the Afghans settled in Rohilkhand on tribal lines. The Afghan historian Mahabat Khan writes that they belonged to 52 different tribes and each tribe had a separate mahallah (quarter) in the city of Shahjahanpur , the early seat of their power in Rohilkhand.

The settlement of the Afghans on tribal lines and their attachment to their respective tribal chiefs suggest that the latter, secure in the support of their own people, could exercise great authority over the areas , which they received as jagirs from the king.

Position of the chiefs as jagirdars 

Bahlul Ludi , the founder of Afghan sultanate parcelled out the kingdom among the Afghan chiefs , who had joined him in the conquest of the country and helped him against his enemies. When Delhi was attacked by the Sharqi Sultan Mahmud of Jawnpur, he invited the Afghans of Ruh saying "God has given the kingdom of Delhi to the Afghans , but the other kings wish to expel them. Come to this country. The name of the sovereignty will remain with me , but the territories we have acquired and may conquer will be shared among us as brothers". True to this word, Bahlul gave a jagir to every Afghan chief , who helped him. As the powerful Farmuli and Luhani chiefs came in large numbers and joined him in the conquest , he gave them one half of the kingdom in jagirs and assigned the other half to other Afghan tribes. 

Having acquired jagirs, the Afghan chiefs settled there on tribal lines. They considered the jagirs as theirs by right and not a favour from the king and they held possession of them in hereditary succession. We are informed that Awadh , which was the jagir of Miyan Kala Pahar Farmuli in the reign of Bahlul Lodi , passed in hereditary right to his daughter Fath Malika and her husband Mustafa Farmuli at the time of Ibrahim Ludi.

The Luhanis held their jagir in Bihar for three generations and in the chieftainship Dariya Khan was succeeded by his son Bihar Khan and then his grandson Jalal Khan. Farid enjoyed his father's jagir in Sahsaram in hereditary succession. The family of Dawlat Khan Ludi Yusuf Khel held their jagir in the Punjab for thirty years. The other Afghans also maintained the same hereditary rights in their jagirs. 

The jagirdars held great authority over the area of their jagirs. Within them, they were practically supreme. As the deputy of his father, Farid made new arrangements with the soldiers , the zamindars and the subjects. The jagirdars could also divide his jagir among his sons. We see that Hasan Khan Sur , in his life time, assigned separate jagirs to his sons. Shujaat Khan also divided his jagir in Malwa among his sons.  

The jagirdars kept troops of their own to maintain local peace and to help the king in need of time. During the period of Ludi sultanate , Jamal Khan Ludi Sarangkhani and his son Ahmad , the jagirdars of Jawnpur, maintained 20,000 horse. Tatar Khan Yusuf khail , who had a jagir in the Punjab, commanded 15,000 cavalry. Muhammad Khan Sur , the jagirdar of Chawnd, and Hasan Khan Sur, the jagirdars of Sahsaram , kept 1,500 and 500 horses respectively. The powerful Sarwani chief Azam Humayun maintained 45,000 cavalry and 700 elephant in Kara.