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The Tanoli (Hindko/Urdu: تنولی‎; Pashto: تنولي‎) might be a Pashtun[1][2] tribe, possibly connected to the Ghilzai Confederation of Pashtuns. Their descent is subject to much debate.[3]Bernard Dorn in Part II of his translation, 'The History of Afghans' which is mainly based on the Makhzan-i-Afghani of Neamat Ullah (Ni'mat Allah al-Harawi) mentions 'Tanokhel' as descendant of Ghilzai.[4]

The Tanolis mostly inhabit the Tanawal valley, located in the North-West Frontier region of Pakistan; which they took over in about the 14th century and named it after their tribe.[5]Though today Tanawal is part of the Hazara division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, in the past the larger portion of it comprised the two semi-independent native states or principalities of Amb and Phulra, ruled over by Tanoli chiefs of the same family, from about the 1840s to 1969. Prior to that, the area or 'Ilaqa' of Tanawal had remained an independent territory for a long time, from c the 14th to the 19th century.[6] The English writer. Charles Allen, citing from a draft MS of Major James Abbott at the British Library, London, writes that the Tanolis were described as "extremely hostile, brave and hardy, and accounted the best swordsmen in Hazara".[7]

The Tanolis reside in the districts of Haripur, Abbottabad, Mansehra, Tor Ghar, Swabi and Buner (Tanolo Dheray) of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan[citation needed]. A branch of the Tanoli tribe also resides in Kashmir, mainly in Muzaffarabad and Srinagar[citation needed]. Some Tanolis are working and settled in Karachi, Lahore and other parts of Pakistan[citation needed]. In Afghanistan, the Tanoli primarily live in the provinces of Ghazni and Paktia[citation needed]. Sometimes, the Tanoli tribe is mixed up with the Tanai tribe of Afghanistan[citation needed], who are supposedly descendants of a slave of Kajin, the youngest son of Batani[citation needed].


Tanolis claim they originally lived in Dara Tanal,in the Ghazni region of present day Afghanistan.[8] In the year 971 AD the Tanolis supposedly joined the army of the Ghaznavid Emperor Sabuktigin[citation needed] and traveled with it to Hindustan. After that, the Tanolis settled in Swat and Buner, previously known as Mahaban Area,[9] formed their own state with its principal seat at Chamla[citation needed] and appointed Anwar Khan Tanoli, son of Behram Khan, as their first ruler or chief[citation needed]. The Tanolis ruled Swat and Buner until 1232 AD.[citation needed] Later, however, they came into conflict with the Pashtun tribes who had newly migrated eastward into the region, most notably the Yusufzai.[10] The Tanolis fought three battles, defeating the Utmanzai and Ummarzai tribes in the first two battles[citation needed], but in the third battle the Tanolis were defeated under their leader Ameer Khan Tanoli[citation needed] at Topi[citation needed]; he was the apical ancestor of all Tanolis living in the Tanawal region.[9] When the Tanolis were defeated, they migrated further eastwards and crossed the Indus River and settled on the eastern bank of the Indus River.[8]

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, two of the main Tanoli clans, the Hindwal and the Pallal, fell into a feud and had a bitter struggle[citation needed]. The Hindwal clan gradually began to gain ascendancy under the command of their chief, Mir Gul Muhammad Khan[citation needed]. Gul Muhammad Khan was blessed with three sons: Haibat Khan, Mast Khan and Behram Khan[citation needed]. After the death of Gul Muhammad Khan in 1772, the eldest son Haibat Khan (grandfather of Mir Painda Khan; well known in the history of the Tanolis) was declared to be the chief of the Tanoli Hindwal Tribe in Upper Tanawal[citation needed]. Whereas, Mast khan established his Khanate at Pakhli with headquarter at Ghandhian[citation needed]. Later on, Mir Painda Khan of the Hindwal clan successfully united all Tanolis into one entity[citation needed], which eventually became the princely state of Amb.[9] Mir Painda Khan also took the valley of Agror in 1833[11] The Swatis appealed to Sardar Hari Singh, who was unable to help them, but in 1841[12] Hari Singh's successor restored Agror to Atta Muhammad, a descendant of the Mullah Akhund Saad-ud-din.[13] In the 1830s, Painda Khan gave the territory of Phulra as an independent Khanate to his younger brother Maddad Khan[citation needed]. This was later recognised by the British as a self-governing princely state[citation needed]. The Amb State lasted until 1969, with its primary capital at Darband, and summer capital at Shergarh.[8][14]

Amb and the adjacent areas have a significant history supposedly reaching back to the invasion of the region by Alexander the Great. The following excerpts taken from 'Memoranda on the India Estates'[15] suggest that:

“Amb and surrounding areas have a long history which can be traced to the time of the invasion of the region by Alexander the Great. Arrian, Alexander’s historian, did not indicate the exact location of Embolina, but since it is known that Aoronos was on the right bank of the River Indus, the town chosen to serve as Alexander’s base of supplies may with good reason be also looked for there. The mention in Ptolemy’s Geography of Embolina as a town of Indo-Scythia situated on the Indus supports this theory"

. The Memoranda continues:

“In 1854 General James Abbott, the British frontier officer from whom Abbottabad, administrative centre of Hazara, takes its name, discussed the location of Aornos on the Mahaban range south of Buner. He proposed, as M. Court, one of Ranjit Singh’s French generals, had done before him in 1839, to recognize Embolina in the village of Amb situated on the right bank of the Indus. This is the place from which the Nawabs of Amb took their title"


The construction of the Tarbela Dam reservoir in the early 1970s submerged Darband[citation needed], capital of the former state of Amb, under water.

Descent theories

There are two prominent theories about the descent of Tanolis; one relate them to Pashtun origin[16][2][4] and the other to Turco-Mongol.[17][18][19][20] The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China and Australasia (1841) discussed Turco-Mongol descent of the Tanolis in the following words:

"There is one chief who, though not a Eusofzye, yet from his position in the midst of, and intimate connection with, the Eusofzyes, and his singular history and character, must not be omitted in a description of the Eusofzye country. Painda Khan, of Tanawul, is a Mogul of the Birlas tribe, the same from which the Ameer Timoor (Timurid dynasty) was descended. All record of the first settlement in Tanawul of his family is lost, and it has long ago broken off all connections with other branches of the Birlas, which are still to be found in Turkestan."[21]

Whereas, Sir Roper Lethbridge, K.C.I.E., in his book "The Golden Book of India" mentions Pashtun descent of The Tanolis in the following words:

The Nawab Bahadur, Sir, K.C.S.I., Muhammad Akram Khan, is Chief of Amb, on the right bank of the Indus, Where he and his ancestors have long been independent. He also holds Weatern Tanawal in the Hazara District, from the British Government. Belongs to a Pathan family...


British assessments

The Tanoli were counted among the martial races[citation needed], an ideology based on the assumption that certain ethnic groups are inherently more militarily inclined than others[citation needed]. It was a term originally used by the British, who observed that the Scottish Highlanders were more fierce in battle than others[citation needed] in Britain, and extended this concept to India[citation needed]. The Tanolis have by close proximity adopted many Pashtun customs and take much pride in their dress, their language and appearance[citation needed].

The Tanolis support themselves almost exclusively by agriculture[citation needed], and their principal food is unleavened bread with buttermilk and butter[citation needed]; but fowls, eggs, fish, and game are also articles of diet[citation needed].

Of those who live in the hills, many are as fair as Dutch[citation needed], with eyes of light hazel or greyish blue, and frequently brown hair and reddish beards. Those who live on the low-lying lands near the Indus are darker[citation needed]. All are stout and active men, and have the reputation of being good soldiers[citation needed].

They are hardy and simple in their habits, generally free from the vices of thieving and debauchery; but credulous, obstinate, and unforgiving[citation needed].

Religiously, they are overwhelmingly Muslims of the Sunni sect.[23]

Tanoli resistance against the Sikhs

Mir Painda Khan, a renowned Tanoli Chief, who is famed for his rebellion against Maharaja Ranjit Singh's governors of Hazara, united the Tanolis under his authority. Painda Khan "played a considerable part in the history of his time and vigorously opposed the Sikhs".[24] From about 1813, Painda Khan conducted a lifelong rebellion against the Sikhs. Hari Singh Nalwa, the Sikh Governor of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Hazara, took the initiative during his governorship of setting up forts at strategic locations to keep Painda Khan in check. George Scott in his book "Afghan and Pathan: A Sketch" mentions Painda Khan's struggle against the Sikhs in the following words:

"Painda Khan, the 'Silent Chief' held sway and spent most of his days making unexpected attacks on Sikh's outposts and detachments. When intending to start on a raid he gave one order: 'Saddle my charger'. It was a signal for his horsemen to don their armour and mount, and to follow their leader as he drove his horse into the river and swam him across, the rest following".[2]

Painda Khan's rebellion against the Sikh empire cost him a major portion of his fiefdom, leaving only the tract around Amb. This increased his resistance against the Sikh government. Eventually, General Dhaurikal Singh, commanding officer of the Sikh troops in Hazara, unable to subdue Painda Khan, hatched a conspiracy and had Painda Khan poisoned to death in September 1844[citation needed]. Painda Khan is still revered by many people in Hazara today for his role as a freedom fighter[citation needed]. Major James Abbott[25] commented that 'During the first period of Painda Khan's career, he was far too vigorous and powerful to be molested by any neighbouring tribe, and when he began to fail before the armies and purse of the Sikh Government, he was interested in keeping upon the best terms with his northern neighbours of the Black Mountains and to whom he allowed the privilege of pasture in the small Tupa of Turrowra.' He is further described by him as, 'a Chief renowned on the Border, a wild and energetic man who was never subjugated by the Sikhs.'.[26]

Mir Jehandad Khan, son of Mir Painda Khan, also fought hard against the Sikhs. It was said, "Of all the tribal chiefs of Hazara, the most powerful [was] said to be Jehandad Khan of the Tanoli Tribe."[7]

When Sikh power was on the decline in 1845 Jehandad Khan blockaded the garrisons of no less than 22 Sikh posts in Upper Tanawal, and when they surrendered at discretion, he spared their lives, as the servants of a fallen Empire. "The act, however, stood him afterwards in good stead; for, when Hazara was assigned to Maharaja Golab Singh, that politic ruler rewarded Jehandad Khan's humanity with the jagir of Koolge and Badnuck in Lower Tannowul."[27] Hari Singh, a Sikh ruler of Hazara from 1822 to 1837, inflicted severe chastisement on the Tanolis. Shingri, the headquarters of Sarbuland Khan, the Pallal Tanoli chief, was burnt, and the chief himself defeated near Banda Loharan, his son Sher Khan being slain by Hari Singh with his own hand.[28]

Tanoli relations with the British Empire

The British Empire's first contact with the Tanolis was an unpleasant one, as in 1852, Jehandad Khan was summoned by the President of the Board of Administration in relation to an enquiry into the murder of two British officers supposedly in his lands,[citation needed] but he managed to show his innocence and consolidate his position with the British administration.

The British Government thereafter considered Upper Tanawal a chiefship held under the British Government, but in which, as a rule, they only possessed limited internal jurisdiction. The Chief managed his own people in his own way without direct regard to British laws, rules or system, unless these were in major conflict[citation needed]. Thus, this tenure resembled that on which the Chiefs of Patiala, Jhind, Nabha, Kapurthala and others held their lands.[29]

After the death of Mir Jehandad Khan, who had been given the temporary and personal title of 'Nawab' by the British government, the title was given formally and in perpetuity to his descendants of Amb state until 1972. The head of the smaller state of Phulra was designated as 'Khan'[citation needed]. Thereafter the Amb and Phulra Tanoli families continued to rule their respective areas under overall British suzerainty until 1947, when an independent Pakistan emerged on the map of Asia[citation needed].

Role in the Kashmir Conflict of 1947-48

Nawab Muhammad Farid Khan sent an army of 1500 Amb State soldiers[citation needed] to take part in the Kashmir Liberation Movement from 1947 to 1948 (Kashmir Conflict)[citation needed]. The Amb State force carried its own artillery to the battle. They fought bravely alongside other frontier tribesmen and came under fire by the Indian air force just three kilometers from Baramulla sector. Around 200 Amb State soldiers lost their lives in the battle.


In most of the Hazara region, the language of the Tanolis is Hindko. Those living in Afghanistan, of course, speak Pashto just as the local Pushtuns do[citation needed]. Tanolis living in other parts of Pakistan have adopted Urdu as an additional language due to its status as the national language, as is the case with all other native ethnicities of Pakistan.

Tanoli Marriage Customs

H.A Rose in his book 'Glossary of The Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province' (1919) at page 231 describes the Tanolis' Marriage Customs as Pathan observances in the following words:

" Among the Tanaulis a near relation of the boy, such as his father, uncle, brother or maternal uncle, with some other persons, goes to the girl's house to arrange the betrothal. If her parents agree to it, the head of the jirga is given sharbat first and his companions after him. The nikah ceremony called Ijab-kabul is also performed. The nai and dam are each paid one rupee. Sometimes the jirga takes one or two suits of clothes for the girl with them, but sometimes the clothes are sent after the betrothal. For fixing the day of the marriage, the boy's father, uncle or other relation goes to the house of the girl's parents. If they demand anything for the wedding expenses such as rice, wheat, ghi, gur, mehndi, etc., these are paid before the day for it is fixed. The day for the wedding is usually Thursday or Friday. The marriage party is fed by the girl's parents, but often at the expense of the bridegroom's parents, but sometimes the former feed them at their own expense. Neondra is also levied by the girl's parents from those invited by them to the wedding; similarly when the boy's parents feed the men invited by them, they also levy neundra. The amount however is not fixed. The nikkah is performed in the girl's house. At the time of the nikkah the money demanded by the girl's father is put into a 'Thal' but the jirga usually reduces its amount. Resistance is very rarely offered to the marriage party. The girl's parents give clothes to the bridegroom's relations. The dower given to the bride by her parents is shown to the people. Part of it is sent with her when she is taken away and part is given her when she returns to her parent's house. The mullah who performs the nikah is given one rupee."[30]

Hereditary Tanoli rulers of Amb Princely State

Tenure Rulers of Amb (Tanawal)[31]
unknown date - 1772 (Mir) Gul Muhammad Khan (Father of Haibat Khan, Mast Khan and Behram Khan)
1772 - 1803 (Mir) Haibat Khan
1803 - 1805 (Mir) Hashim Ali Khan (son of the above and brother of the following)
1805 - 1809 (Mir) Nawab Khan
1809–1844 (Mir) Painda Khan
1844–1868 (Nawab) Jahandad Khan
1868–1907 (Nawab) Muhammad Akram Khan
1907 - 26 February 1936 (Nawab) Khanizaman Khan
26 February 1936 - 1971 (Nawab) Muhammad Farid Khan
1971–1972 (Nawab) Muhammad Saeed Khan
1972/73 (Nawabzada) Salahuddin Saeed Khan[32]


The Hindwal and Pallal are the major divisions of the tribe. The further sub–divisions of the tribe are:[33]

  • Hindwal[33]
    • Romal
      • Haibat Khel
      • Mastkhel
    • Jamal
      • Charyal Khel, Ledhyal Khel, Abdwal Khel, Saryal Khel,
    • Lalal Khel, Hedral Khel, Baizal Khel, Jalwal Khel, Bohal Khel
    • Tekral Khel, Ansal Khel, Masand Khel, Rains Khel
  • Pallal[33]
    • Labhya Khel (Suba Khani), Matyal Khel, Bainkaryal Khel, Dairal Khel
    • Sadhal Khel, Judhal Khel, Baigal Khel, Tekral Khel
    • Asnal Khel, Masand Khel, Rains Khel
  • Bhujal[33]

Some other notable Tanolis


  1. ^ ,Lethbridge, Roper (1893), The Golden Book of India: A Genealogical and Biographical Dictionary of the Ruling Princes, Chiefs, Nobles, and Other Personages, Titled or Decorated, of the Indian Empire, London: Macmillan, p. 328 
  2. ^ a b c Scott (1929), pp. 71-72.
  3. ^ JW Spain 'The Pathan Borderland' 1969 ed
  4. ^ a b Bernhard Dorn,"History of The Afghans"part-II, The Oriental Translation Committee, London, 1836, pp.49
  5. ^ Hazara Distict Gazetteer 1883, Chapter V, page.123
  6. ^ Dr Sher Bahadur Panni, "Tarikh i Hazara" (Urdu) 2nd ed. pub. Peshawar, 1969, pp. 103-122
  7. ^ a b Allen (2001), p. 139.
  8. ^ a b c Rose (1919), p. 256.
  9. ^ a b c Ibbetson, D 1916, Punjab castes: races, castes and tribes of the people of punjab, reprint 1981, Cosmo Publications, New Delhi, pp.92-93
  10. ^ Hazara District Gazetteer 1883, Chapter V, page. 123
  11. ^ Hazara Gazetteer 1883, p.28
  12. ^ Charles Francis Massy, Chiefs and families of note in the Delhi, Jalandhar, Peshawar and Derajat, p. 435
  13. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India, vol. 5, p. 92.
  14. ^ Major Wace. Settlement Report of Hazara. 1872
  15. ^ Memoranda on the India Estates, Delhi: Manager of Publications, 1934, pp. 150–153 
  16. ^ ,Lethbridge, Roper (1893), The Golden Book of India: A Genealogical and Biographical Dictionary of the Ruling Princes, Chiefs, Nobles, and the other Personages, Titled or Decorated, of the Indian Empire, London: Macmillan, p. 328 
  17. ^ The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China, and Australasia. Published by Parbury, Allen, and Co., 1841, Item notes: v. 39, Original from the New York Public Library, Digitized 1 Apr 2008, pg 220-224
  18. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 23, Singhbhum to Trashi-Chod-Zong, p. 219. 1908, by Sir William Wilson Hunter of the India Office of Great Britain, edited by Henry Frowde, publisher to the University of Oxford,
  19. ^ Wikeley (19--).
  20. ^ Maharaja Kharak Singh, June 27, 1839-November 5, 1840: select records preserved in the National Archives of India, New Delhi By Fauja Singh, National Archives of India Published by Dept. of Punjab Historical Studies, Punjabi University, 1977 Original from the University of California Digitized 12 Feb 2009 458 pages
  21. ^ name="books.google.co.uk"
  22. ^ Lethbridge, Roper (1893), The Golden Book of India: A Genealogical and Biographical Dictionary of the Ruling Princes, Chiefs, Nobles, and the other Personages, Titled or Decorated, of the Indian Empire, London: Macmillan, p. 328 "
  23. ^ The People of India: A Series of Photographic Illustrations, with Descriptive Letterpress, of the Races and Tribes of Hindustan, Originally Prepared Under the Authority of the Government of India, and Reproduced by Order of the Secretary of State for India in Council. John Forbes Watson, John William Kaye, Meadows Taylor, Great Britain. India Office Published by India museum, 1872 Item notes: v. 5
  24. ^ Burns (1908), p. 219.
  25. ^ Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of the British Government, Hazara from 1849 to 1853, from whom the administrative capital of Hazara, Abbottabad, takes its name
  26. ^ A Collection of Papers relating to the History, Status and Powers of The Nawab of Amb, pg 58, Published 1874, Punjab Secretariat, Lahore
  27. ^ In a letter dated; Peshawar, 10 December 1858, from Lt. Col. H. B. Edwards, Commissioner and Supdt, Peshawar Division, to the Financial Commissioner of the Punjab. extracted from 'A Collection of Papers relating to the History, Status and Powers of The Nawab of Amb, pg. 83, Published 1874, Punjab Secretariat
  28. ^ Hazara District Gazetteer 1883, pp.27-28
  29. ^ letter dated 21 March 1863. From T. D. Forsyth, Officiating Secretary to the Government Punjab to Secretary to the Government of India, Foreign Department, Collection of Papers Relating To The HISTORY, STATUS AND POWERS Of THE CHIEF OF AMB, 97 Pages, Published 1874, Punjab Secretariat, pg. 58
  30. ^ Rose (1919), p. 231.
  31. ^ Ben Cahoon, WorldStatesmen.org. "Pakistan Princely States". Retrieved 2007-10-03. 
  32. ^ Pakistan Election Commission - Unique Stats: http://www.ecp.gov.pk/content/uniquestats.html[dead link]
  33. ^ a b c d Wikeley (19--), pp. 159-161.


  • Allen, Charles (2001), Soldier Sahibs: The Men Who Made the North-west Frontier, New York: Abacus, ISBN 0-349-11456-0 .
  • Bonarjee, P. D. (1899), A Handbook of Fighting Races of India, Calcutta: Thacker Spink  (fasc. 1975, New Delhi: Asian Publication Services).
  • Dorn, Bernhard (1836), History of the Afghans: translated from the Persian of Niamat Ullah, London: Oriental Translation Fund for Great-Britain and Ireland 
  • Lethbridge, Roper (1893), The Golden Book of India: A Genealogical and Biographical Dictionary of the Ruling Princes, Chiefs, Nobles, and Other Personages, Titled or Decorated, of the Indian Empire, London: Macmillan  (fasc. 2001 New York: Elibron/Adamant).
  • Rose, H. A. (1919 (reproduced by Surjeet Anand, 1980)), Glossary of The Tribes and Castes of The Punjab and The North-West Frontier Province, Delhi: Amar Prakashan  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • Scott, George Batley (1929), Afghan and Pathan: A Sketch, London: Mitre Press .
  • Watson, H. D., ed. (1883/4), Gazeteer of Hazara District, London: Chatto & Windus  Check date values in: |date= (help).
  • Wikeley, J. M. (19--) Punjabi Musalmans. Lahore, The Book House (19--), ibsn: 978-8185475351 Subject: Muslims—India; Punjab—History, Possible copyright status: Not in copyright, Language: English, Call number: ABU-5769, Digitizing sponsor: MSN, Book contributor: Robarts - University of Toronto, Collection: Toronto.

Further information

  • Rose, Horace Arthur (1911), A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province: Based on the Census Report for the Punjab, 1883, by the late Sir Denzil Ibbetson, K.C.S.I., and the Census Report for the Punjab, 1892, by Sir Edward Maclagan, K.C.I.F, C.S.I., 3 (L-Z), Lahore: Government Printing House  (fasc. 1990 New Delhi: Asian Educational Services) (online version of facsimil, pages 216 256, 454)
  • Districts of Afghanistan#Faryab Province Andkoi, the real place of Migration from Afghanistan.
  • [1], Travel & tour information of Afghanistan .