Of the early history of the district nothing can be stated with any certainty, beyond the fact that its inhabitants were Hindus, and that before the Christian era the country formed an integral portion of the Graeco-Bactrian Empire of Kabul and the Punjab.
The Thal, however, without wells would be a desert, and the probability is that in early historic times nearly the whole of it was a barren waste. There is no record of any plundering expedition on the Thal side by Alexander the Great‘s forces, when they passed down the Jhelum to its junction with the Indus, though they lightly undertook such an expedition across the waterless Bar to the Ravi. This affords a presumption that the Thal was then a poorer country than it is now.
Architectural Objects and Remains
In the southern part of the district the general absence of antiquarian remains also tends to prove that it can never have been the site of a rich and populous Government. In the Kachhi tract, of course, such remains could not survive the action of river floods, and this tract must, at one time, have been much wider than it is now. The Thal, however, is admirably suited for the preservation of antiquarian relics, had any such ever existed, but there are none that date from earlier than the fourteenth century.
Ruins of Kafirkot
Further north, the remains at Mari and, in the Dera Ismail Khan District, at Kafirkot, are indication of the existence of a Hindu civilization of considerable importance and antiquity.
The Kafirkot ruins consist of two forts, situated on the skirts of the district on small hills attached to the lower spurs of the Khasor Range, and overlooking the Indus. One lies a few miles south of Kundal and the other near Bilot. These forts are of great antiquity and interest. Their main features are an outer defensive wall, consisting of rough blocks of stone, some of great size, and various groups of buildings resembling small Hindu temples and more or less carved. These are built of a curiously honey-combed drab-coloured stone not to be found in the adjacent hills, which is said to have been brought by river all the way from Khushalgarh. The area of the forts is considerable and they could have held a fairly large garrison. The only legends attached to them relate that they were occupied by the last of the Hindu Rajas, Til and Bil ; but all traces of rulers and ruled are now lost.
Ruins at Mari
At Mari in the Mianwali Tahsil there is a picturesque Hindu ruin, crowning the gypsum hill, locally called Maniot (from Manikot, meaning ‘ fort of jewels’), on which ” the Kalabagh diamonds ” are found. The ruins themselves must once have been extensive. It appears that the very top of the hill was built over with a large palace or fort. The massive walls belonging to one of the rooms, which still stands out of the debris in an almost tottering condition, and the ornamental carving thereon, testify to the magnitude of the building and the skill employed in its construction. Lower down the eastern slope, there are two small temple shaped buildings of the same style and material, similar to those found at the two Kafir Kots .These buildings were either temples or out-offices serving as sentinel’s posts. The local account of these ruins is that the structures were erected by the Pandavas while they were in exile. If there is any truth in this, they should date from the Mahabharat time. There is no evidence, however, justifying the assignment of so old an origin to them. Some fakir is known to have taken up his abode on this hill at a more recent date. At his death, he was cremated there, and his remains deposited in one of the temple-shaped buildings, and probably the remains of one of his disciples were interred in the other.These temples are now revered by the Hindus as the samadh of that fakir, who is known as Naga Arjan or Naga Uddhar. There are no traces of massive fortifications here like those at Kafir Kot Til Raja, but some people still living haveseen remains of arrangements for lifting water out of the river. Old coins have been found among the ruins from time to time. The silver coins found are said to be about the size of a four-anna piece with the impression of a horse on one side and that of a bullock on the other.
Remains of Rokhri
Some time ago encroachments of the Indus on the Mianwali plain laid bare, and then engulfed, masses of stones at a depth of some 10 or 15 feet below the level surface of the high bank.In 1868 the river retired, before it had quite washed away the remains it had exposed, and there were found at Rokhri a number of heads apparently cast in some kind of plaster and one mutilated figure of the trunk of a human body made in similar material, also a quantity of copper coins, fragments of pottery, ivory, etc. The ruins discovered consisted of portions of two circular walls, composed of blocks of stone, and large well-shapen burnt bricks, over which was a layer of white plaster, many fragments of which were found profusely ornamented with thin gold scroll work. The statues which have clear-cut and well-shapen features, suggest Greek rather than Hindu art. Other finds of similar nature have also been made subsequently in this neighbourhood, especially in the course of excavation of small wells for the manufacture of saltpetre. These finds include old coins, bricks, remains of masonry, large earthen vessels, and clay pipes used as aqueducts.The indications point to the previous existence at this spot of a prosperous town.
Architectural Objects and Remain-Ruins of Sirkapp Fort
Overlooking the village site of Nammal in the Khudri is a ridge of great natural strength, cut off on three sides by hill torrents. On the top of this ridge there are extensive ruins of what is said to have been the stronghold of Sirkapp, Raja of the country , who was a contemporary of Raja Risalu of Sialkot, by whom he was vanquished. The outer wall of the fort still exists in part in a dilapidated condition, but the enclosure, which must once have contained accommodation for a fairly large garrison , is now one mass of fallen houses and piles of hewn or chiselled stones . The series of lifts, made for carrying water from the bed of the stream to the top of the hill, have left their marks.
The above, together with two sentry-box like buildings, supposed to be dolmens, midway between, Nammal and Sakesar , and several massive looking tombs, constructed of large blocks of dressed stones in the Salt Range, comprise all the antiquities above ground in the district. No doubt many remain concealed beneath the surface. The encroachments of the Indus and even of the Kurram near Isakhel often expose portions of ancient masonry arches and wells.
The only other antiquity worth mentioning is a monster baoli at Wanbhachran , said to have been built by order of Sher Shah. It is in good preservation and similar to those in the Shahpur district.
The district has been settled by a triple immigration from opposite directions, of Awans from the north-east, of Jats and Biluches up the valley of the Indus from the south, and of Pathans from the north-west.
The Awans now occupy that part of the district which lies east of the Dhak spur of the Salt Range and is known as Khudri, Pakhar, or Awankari. They have been almost the sole occupants of that extensive tract for atleast six hundred years and may perhaps have resided there since the Arab invasions of the seventh century; but as to whether they originally came from Arabia, as they claim to have done, is more than doubtful. Indeed the probabilities are that they migrated from the east and were descended originally from Rajputs, who did not maintain their caste owing to intermarriage with lower clans. That Pakhar was once a stronghold of Rajputs is obvious from the ruins of Raja Sirkapp’s fort on the hillock overlooking Nammal and the legends connecting him with Raja Risalu of Sialkot, which are sung to this day. The names of the ancestors of different warhis or sub-clans, which have been handed down to tradition, such as Sig Singh, Nar Singh, Bhag Singh, also strengthen the theory of a Rajput origin.
Previous to the decilne and extinction of Ghakkar authorities in Mianwali, the Awan possessions extended westward of the Salt Range. But the advancing Niazai tide compelled them to retire before it, and for upwards of one hundred years past the mountain barrier, which runs from Sakesar to Kalabagh, has here abruptly marked the limits of Pathan expansion to the east and Awan contraction to the west.
Immigrations – The Aawans.The Jat and Biluch Immigration
Before the fifteenth century the lower portion of the district was probably occupied by a few scattered tribes of Jats, depending on their cattle for subsistence .The valley of the Indus was a .dense jungle, swarming with pig and hog-deer, and frequented by numerous tigers; while the Thal must have been almost unoccupied.
All the traditions of the people go to show that an immigration of mixed tribes of Jats (Siyars, Chhinas, Khokars, &.c.,) set in about the beginning of the 15th century from the Multan and Bahawalpur direction.They gradually passed up the valley of the Indus to the Mianwali Tahsil, occupying the intervening country. Most of their villages would have been located on the edge of the Thal and a portion of the immigrants probably crossed the river and settled along its right bank. After these came the Biluches. They also came from the south, but in large bands under recognized leaders, and they appear to have taken military rather than proprietary possession of the country. They were the ruling caste, and served under their chiefs in the; perpetual little wars that were then going on in every direction. It is probable that the Jat immigration continued for sometime after the Biluches first came into the country. However it may have been, all the Kachhi, immediately adjoining the Thal bank, seems to have been parcelled off to Jat families. Each block was accompanied with a long strip of Thal to the back. These estates are the origin of the present mauzas as far north as Kundian in the Mianwali Tahsil.
They are almost all held by Jats. Here and there, shares are held by Biluches, but these have mostly been acquired in later times by purchase. In the same way the unoccupied lands towards the river were divided off into blocks, and formed into separate estates ; and sometimes; where the hads first, formed had too much waste land, new hads were formed in later times by separating off outlying portions of the old estates. This division into hads extended right up to Kundian. In course of time, as the Biluches settled down in the country, individuals acquired plots of land for wells, but generally in subordination to the had proprietors or lords of manors. Here and there a small clan settled down together, but this was the exception. Biluches are still tolerably numerous all through the southern part of the
Kachhi, up to Darya Khan; but though they were originally the ruling race, still, as regards proprietary rights in the land they hold a position inferior to that of the Jats and Sayyads, by whom the superior proprietorship of hads is generally held. North of Darya Khan there are very few Biluches. In the Thal the population is nearly entirely Jat. The Mamdanis of Khansar, the Magassis, a tribe which came in very early, and settled in the eastern Thal about Dhingana and Haidarabad, and the Zurranis of Dab in the Mianwali Tahsil, are almost the only considerable bodies of Biluches to be found in the Thal.
All through the Kachhi the mass of the villages are named after Jat families, who form the bulk of the proprietors. These are generally the descendants of the original founders, and have stuck together. In the Thal there are a large number of villages held in the same way by men of particular families ; but in most the population is very mixed, nearly every well being held by a man of a different caste. The only Jat tribes in the Thal deserving of special mention are the Chhinas and Bhidwals. The Chhina country extends across from Chhina, Behal and Notak, on the edge of the Kachhi , to Mankera and Haidarabad on the further side of the Thal. The Bhidwals possess a somewhat smaller tract round Karluwala and Mahni in the neighbourhood of the Jhang border. They have always been a good fighting tribe.
The Pathan Immigrations
Mahmud of Ghazni is said to have ravaged the upper half of the district together with Bannu, expelling its Hindu inhabitants and reducing the country to a desert. Hence there was no one left, capable of opposing the settlement of immigrant tribes from across the, border. The series of Afghan immigrations into Bannu took place in the following order :-
(1) The Bannuchis, who about five hundred years ago displaced two small tribes of Mangals and Hannis, of whom little is known as well as a settlement of Khataks, from the then marshy but fertile country on either bank of the Kurram.
(2)The Niazais, who some hundred and fifty years later spread from Tank over the plain now called Marwat, then sparsely inhabited by pastoral Jats.
(3)The Marwats, a younger branch of the same tribe, who within one hundred years of the Niazai colonization of Marwat, followed in their wake, and drove them farther eastward into the countries now known as Isa Khel and Mianwali, the former of which the Niazais occupied after expelling the Awans they found there, and reducing the miscellaneous Jat inhabitants to quasi serfdom.
The Bannuchis must have settled down for nearly two centuries, before the Niazai irruption into Marwat took place. The Niazais are Lodis and occupied the hills about Salghar, which
are now held by the Suleman Khels, until a feud with the Ghilzais compelled them to migrate elsewhere. Marching south by east, the expelled tribe found a temporary resting place in Tank. There the Niazais lived for several generations, occupying themselves as traders and carriers, as do their kinsmen the Lohani Pawindahs in the present day. At length towards the close of the fifteenth century, numbers spread north into the plain now known as Marwat, and squatted there as graziers, and perhaps too as cultivators, on the banks of the Kurram and Gambila, some fifteen miles below the Bannuchi Settlements. There they lived in peace for about fifty years, when the Marwat Lohanis, a younger branch of the Lodi group, swarmed into the country after them, defeated them in battle, and drove them across the Kurram at Tang Darra, in the valley beyond which they found a final home. At the time of the Niazai irruption, Marwat seems to have been almost uninhabited, except by a sprinkling of pastoral Jats; but the bank of the Indus apparently supported a considerable Jat and Awan population. The most important sections of the expelled Niazais were the Isakhel, Mushanis and a portion of the Sarhangs. The first named took root in the south of their new country and shortly developed into agriculturists ; the second settled farther to the north roundabout Kamar Mushani, and seem for a time to have led a pastoral life ; of the Sarhangs, some took up their abode at Sultan Khel, while others, after drifting about for several generations, permanently established themselves cis-Indus on the destruction of the Ghakkar stronghold of Muazzam Nagar by one of Ahmad Shah’s lieutenants. That event occurred about 1748, and with it terminated the long connection of the Ghakkars with Mianwali. They seem to have been dominant in the northern parts of the country even before the emperor Akbar presented it in jagir to two of, their chiefs. During the civil commotions of Jehangir’s reign the Niazais are said to have driven the Ghakkars across the Salt Range, and though, in the following reign, the latter recovered their position, still their hold on the country was precarious, and came to an end about the middle of the 18th century as stated above. The remains of Muazzam Nagar, their local capital, were visible on the left high bank of the Indus about six miles south of Mianwali, until the site was eroded by the river about the year 1870. The Niazais thus established themselves in Isa Khel over three hundred years ago, but their Sarhang branch did not finally obtain its present possessions in Mianwali, until nearly 150 years later. The acquisition of their cis-Indus possessions was necessarily gradual, the country having a settled, though weak Government, and being inhabited by Awans and Jats.
Immigrations-The Niazais, Khattaks and Bhangi Khels
.A few of the Khattaks, who had preceded the Niazais into the Isa Khel Tahsil, clung to the foot of the Maidani Range, and could not be driven out by the Niazais. The Bhangi Khels, a strong little section of Khattaks, spread up into the Bhangi Khel tract some 400 years ago, and remain there to this day.
A few families of Biluchch Pathans came across the Indus . from the Paniala Hills .Of these, one became dominant at Piplan, while the others moved on into the Thal and took up their abode eventually in and about Jandanwala.
The Rule of the Ghakkars in the Nort-Invasion of Nadir Shah 1738
Prior to the invasion of Nadir Shah in 1738, there is little to relate concerning .the history of the northern portion of the district. The upper half of the district was ruled by the Ghakkars, who became feudatories of the Mughal Empire, of which the district continued to form a part until the invasion of Nadir Shah. In 1738 a portion of his army entered Bannu, and by its atrocities so cowed the Bannuchis and Marwats that a heavy tribute was raised from them. Another portion of the army crossed the Pezu pass and worked its way .down to Dera Ismail Khan. The country was generally plundered and contingents raised from the neighbourhoods of Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan marched under Nadir Shah’s banner to the sack of Delhi. In 1739 the country west of the Indus was surrendered by the Emperor of Delhi to Nadir Shah, and passed after his death to Ahmad Shah Abdali.
Expulsion of the Ghakkars in 1748
In 1748 a Durrani army under one of Ahmad Shah’s generals crossedthe Indus at Kalabagh, and drove out the Ghakkars, who still ruled in the cis-Indus tracts of the district, owing nominal allegiance to the Emperor at Delhi. Their stronghold, Muazzam Nagar, was razed to the ground, and with their expulsion was swept away the last vestige of authority of the Mughal Emperor, in these parts.
The armies of Ahmad Shah marched repeatedly through the district, the cis-Indus portion of which was, with the rest of the Punjab, incorporated in the Durrani Kingdom in 1756, and for the next sixty years a precarious hold was maintained on their eastern provinces, including this district, by Ahmad Shah and his successors to the throne of the newly created Kingdom of Kabul.
The history of the Bhakkar Tahsil comprising the southern portion of the district both in the period which preceded and that which followed the incorporation of the district in the
Durrani Kingdom, requires separate recording. Its history is bound up with that of Dera Ismail Khan and of Leiah, and to some extent with that of Dera Ghazi Khan.
During the greater portion of the reign of Ahmad Shah, no regular Governors were appointed by the Kabul Government. The country was divided between the Hot and Jaskani chiefs, whose predecessors had been the first Biluch chiefs to form settlements along the Indus.
References to the original settlements of the first Biluch chiefs are found in Ferishta and in a Persian manuscript, quoted in Mr. Tucker’s settlement report of the Dera Ismail Khan District. The account given by the latter is, that in 874 Hijri (A. D.1469) Sultan Husain, son of Kutubudin, obtained the Government of Multan. He held the forts of Shor and Chiniot in Lyallpur District and of Kot Karor (Karor Lal Isan) and Din Kot (near Kalabagh). Soon after Malik Suhrab, a Dodai Biluch, along with his son, Ismail Khan, and Fatih Khan and others of his tribe arrived from Kech Mekran, and entered the service of Sultan Husain. As the hill robbers were then becoming very troublesome in the province of Multan, Sultan Husain rejoiced in the opportune arrival of Malik Suhrab, and assigned to him the country from the fort of Karor to Dinkot.” On this becoming known, many Biluches came from Kech Mekran to the service of the Sultan. The lands, cultivated and waste, along the banks of the Indus were assigned to the Biluches, and the royal revenue began to increase, The old inhabitants of Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan relate that after Suhrab’s arrival, Haji Khan, with his son Ghazi Khan and many of their kindred and tribe, came from Kech Mekran to enter the service of the Sultan. When the tracts along the Indus were in the hands of Malik Suhrab and Haji Khan, Malik Suhrab founded a Dera named after Ismail Khan, and Haji Khan another, with the name of Ghazi Khan “. This account is confirmed, though in less detail, by the historian Ferishta.