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Field Marshal Sir Claude John Eyre Auchinleck, Commander in Chief of India, reviewing Amb State Guard, escorted by Ali Asghar Khan and Subedar Major Shah Zaman of Amb State Guard, Darband, 1941.

The Tanoli (Hindko/Urdu: تنولی‎; Pashto: تنولي‎) is a Pashtun tribe[1][2][3][4] of Batani confideration mostly inhabiting the Tanawal valley, in the Hazara region of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Across the Durand line, there are also Tanolis living in Ghazni and Paktia provinces of Afghanistan. The Tanoli, allied with other Pashtuns of the region, participated in the frontier wars c. 1840s against the British. In Charles Allen's analysis of these wars, the Tanolis were described as "extremely hostile,brave and hardy, and accounted for the best swordsmen in Hazara".[5]

In Pakistan Tanoli tribe mostly inhabit the districts of Haripur, Abbottabad,Mansehra, Tor Ghar, Swabi and Bunir(Tanolo Dheray) of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. A branch of the Tanoli tribe also resides in Kashmir, mainly in Muzaffarabad and Srinagar. Some Tanolis are working and settled as far away as Karachi, Lahore and other parts of Pakistan. In Afghanistan, the Tanoli primarily live in the provinces of Ghazni and Paktia, in particular in Gardez.[6] Though today the Tanawal area is part of the Hazara division, 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, c 1840s to 1972. Prior to that, the area or 'Ilaqa' of Tanawal had remained an independent territory for long, from c the 14th century to the 19th.[7]


The Tanolis originally lived in Dara Tanal, in the Ghazni region of present day Afghanistan.[8][9] In the year 971 A.D, the Tanolis joined the army of the Ghaznavid Emperor Sabuktigin and traveled with them to Hindustan. After the conquests, the Tanolis settled in Swat and Buner previously known as Mahaban Area, formed their own state with principal seat at chamla and appointed Anwar Khan Tanoli son of Behram Khan as their first head. Tanolis ruled Swat and Buner till 1232 A.D.[9] But, later they came into conflict with the other fellow Pashtun tribes who had newly migrated eastward into the region, most notably the Yusufzai. The Tanolis fought three battles, defeated Utmanzai and Ummarzai tribes in first two battles, but in the third battle the Tanolis were defeated under their leader Ameer Khan Tanoli at Topi. When the Tanolis were defeated, they migrated further eastwards and crossed the Indus River, and succeeded to defeat the Turks settled on the eastern bank of the Indus River, capturing the territory and naming it after their tribe. In 1752, the Tanolis allied with the Afghan Emperor Ahmad Shah Abdali and took part in military conquests, including the Battle of Panipat in 1761, under their chief Zabardast Khan Tanoli who was given the title of "Suba Khan" by Ahmad Shah Baba for his bravery.

In the 18th and early 19th century, two of the main Tanoli clans, the Hindwal and the Pallal, fell into a feud and had a bitter struggle between them. The Hindwal clan gradually began to gain ascendancy, and Amir Painda Khan of the Hindwal clan successfully united all Tanolis into one entity, which eventually became the princely states of Amb and Phulera. The Amb State lasted until 1969, with its primary capital at Darband, and summer capital at Shergarh.</ref>[8][10]

The construction of the Tarbela Dam reservoir in the early 1970s submerged Darband, a capital of the former state of Amb, underwater.

Descent legend

There is almost a consensus among the Tanolis that they are Bani-Israil.[9] Bernhard Dorn in his translation of "Maghzan-e-Afgani" of Niamat Ullah mentions at page 49 about Tano as descendant of Mati(daughter of Batani).[11] Ghilzai, son of Mati, was blessed with three sons: Ibrahim, Toor and Poor. Ibrahim had two sons; Haijub and Sahbak. Tano was one of the Thirteen sons of Haijub. As such,The Tanoli(Tanokhel) belongs to Batani tribal confederation of Pakhtuns. Some genealogical trees however place them under Karlanri confederation. Despite acknowledging Bani-Israil decent of Tanolis, some non-tanoli writers associate Tanolis with various legends portraying the Tanolis as Mughal Barlas , which is not supported by the genealogical trees possessed by The Tanolis . The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China, and Australia (1841) claim Tanoli decent as Mughal Barlas 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. Paieendah Khan, of Tanawul, is a Mogul of the Birlas tribe, the same from which the Ameer Timoor 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."[12]

. The Imperial Gazetteer of India also endorse this line of descent:

"Tanawul's real rulers...were the Tanawalis, a tribe of Mughal descent divided into two septs, the Pul-al and Hando-al or Hind-wal".[13]

. The Sikh records of the region also confirm this line of descent of the Tanolis:

"The family of Paeendah Khan is a branch of the Birlas, a Mogul House, well known in history. All record of its first settlement in Tanawul is lost. It may perhaps have been left there by the Emperor Baber. Among the list of whose nobles, the name Birlas is found".[14]

The Barlas Mughal descent has also been mentioned by J. M. Wikeley, who writes,

"The Tanaolis claim descent from Amir Khan, a Barlas Moghal (in fact not a Mughal/Mongol but a Turk), whose two sons Hind Khan and Pal Khan crossed the Indus about the end of the 17th century, from the country round Mahaban, and settled in the Mountainous area now held by them and named after the tribe — Tanawal."[15]

British assessments[16]

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

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

Of those who live in the hills, many are as fair as Italians, 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. All are stout and active men, and have the reputation of being good soldiers.

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

Religiously; they are overwhelmingly Muslims of the Sunni sect.

Tanoli resistance against the Sikhs

Amir 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.".[17] From about 1813, Amir Painda Khan spent a lifelong rebellion against the Sikhs. Hari Singh Nalwa, the Sikh Governor of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to 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 about Painda Khan's struggle against 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 accross, the rest following".[4]

Painda Khan's rebellion against the Sikh empire cost him a major portion of his fiefdom, leaving only the tract around Amb,.[18] 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. Painda Khan is still revered in Hazara today for his role as a freedom fighter. Major J. Abbott[19] 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.'[20]

Amir Jehandad Khan son of Amir 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."[5]

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."[21]

Tanoli relations with 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 a murder enquiry 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 since then considered Upper Tanawal as a chiefship held under the British Government, but in which, as a rule, they did not possess internal jurisdiction. The Chief managed his own people in his own way without regard to British laws, rules or system. This tenure resembled that on which the Chiefs of Patiala, Jhind, Nabha, Kapurthala and others held their lands.[22]

Tanolis at the Third Battle of Panipat

The Tanolis also allied with Ahmad Shah Abdali in The Third Battle of Panipat which took place on January 14, 1761, at Panipat (Haryana State, India), where they defeated the 250,000-strong army of Marathas with an army of only 60,000 soldiers, from allied tribes. The Tanoli Chief Sardar Zabardast Khan was given the title of Suba Khan by Abdali for his bravery in the historical battle.

Role in the Kashmir Conflict of 1947-48

Nawab Muhammad Farid Khan sent an army of 1500 Amb State soldiers under the leadership of Subedar Major Shah Zaman Khan to take part in the Kashmir Liberation Movement from 1947 to 1948 (Kashmir Conflict). 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 principal language adopted by the Tanolis is Hindko although a significant number retained Pashto as their mother tongue especially in Pashto speaking regions. Those living in Afghanistan, of course, speak Pashto just as other Pashtuns do. 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) mentions at page-231 about 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."

Hereditary Tanoli rulers of Amb

Tenure Rulers of Amb (Tanawal)[23]
unknown date - 1772 (Amir) Gul Muhammad Khan(Father of Haibat Khan,Mast Khan and Behram Khan)
1772 - 1803 (Amir) Haibat Khan
1803 - 1805 (Amir) Hashim Ali Khan (son of the above and brother of the following)
1805 - 1809 (Amir) Nawab Khan
1809–1844 (Amir) 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 (Nawab) Salahuddin Saeed Khan[24]


The Hindwal and Pallal are the major divisions of the tribe. The further sub–divisions of the tribe are :[25]

  • Hindwal[25]
    • Romal Khel; Haibat Khel, Mast Khel(Mast Khani), Painda Khel, Maddad Khel
    • Jamal Khel; Charyal Khel, Ledhyal Khel, Abdwal Khel,
    • Saryal Khel; Lalal Khel, Hedral Khel, Baizal Khel
    • Jalwal Khel
    • Bohal Khel
    • Baigal Khel
    • Tekral Khel
    • An sal Khel
    • Masand Khel
    • Rains Khel
  • Pallal[25]
    • Labhya Khel (Suba Khani)
    • Matyal Khel
    • Bainkaryal Khel
    • Dairal Khel
    • Sadhal Khel
    • Judhal Khel
    • Baigal Khel
    • Tekral Khel
    • Asnal Khel
    • Masand Khel
    • Rains Khel

Some other notable Tanolis

See also



  1. ^ a b http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hn_GHx-fsQc
  2. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwjBYdhN6t0&feature=plcp
  3. ^ citation|last=Lethbridge|first=Roper|title=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|year=1893|location=London|publisher=Macmillan, page-328
  4. ^ a b citation|last=Scot|first=George|title=Afghan and Pathan|year=1929|location=London|publisher=Mitre Press, pages 71-72
  5. ^ a b Allen 2001, p. 139
  6. ^ Society and Culture Abbottatabad District website, Government of Pakistan.
  7. ^ Dr Sher Bahadur Panni, "Tarikh i Hazara" (Urdu)2nd edition pub Peshawar, 1969, pp. 103-122
  8. ^ a b citation|last=Rose|first=HA|title=Glossary of The Tribes and Castes of The Punjab and The North-West Frontier Province|year=1919 (reproduced by Surjeet Anand= 1980|location=Delhi|publisher=Amar Prakashan, page-256)
  9. ^ a b c citation|last=Khan|first=Ghulam Nabi|title=Al-Afghan Tanoli|year=2001|location=Mansehra|publisher=Gul Printing Press, page-74
  10. ^ Major Wace. Settlement Report of Hazara. 1872.
  11. ^ citation|last=Dorn|first=Bernhard|title=History of the Afghans: translated from the persian of Niamat Ullah|year=1836|location=London|publisher=Oriental Translation Fund for Great-Britain and Ireland, page-49
  12. ^ The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China, and Australia 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
  13. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 23, Singhbhum to Trashi-Chod-Zong, p. 219. 1908, by India Office of Great Britain, Sir William Wilson Hunter, edited by Henry Frowde, publisher to the University of Oxford
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ Wikeley, J. M. Punjabi Musalmans. Lahore Book House. ISBN 978-8185425351. 
  16. ^ 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 By John Forbes Watson, John William Kaye, Meadows Taylor, Great Britain. India Office Published by India museum, 1872 Item notes: v. 5 online
  17. ^ Burns 1908, p. 219
  18. ^ Hussain Khan (2003). iUniverse. ed. Chronicles of Early Janjuas. p. 27. ISBN 0-595-28096-X. (it cites "The Gazetteer of North-West Frontier Province, 138" as its source)
  19. ^ Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of the British Government, Hazara, (1851), from whom the administrative capital of Hazara, Abbottabad, takes its name
  20. ^ A Collection of Papers relating to the History, Status and Powers of The Nawab of Amb, pg 58, Published 1874, Punjab Secretariat
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ 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
  23. ^ Ben Cahoon, WorldStatesmen.org. "Pakistan Princely States". Retrieved 2007-10-03. 
  24. ^ Pakistan Election Commission - Unique Stats: http://www.ecp.gov.pk/content/uniquestats.html[dead link]
  25. ^ a b c d Punjabi Musalmans ([19--]) Author: Wikeley, J. M Subject: Muslims -- India; Punjab -- History Publisher: Lahore Book House Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT Language: English Call number: ABU-5769 Digitizing sponsor: MSN Book contributor: Robarts - University of Toronto Collection: toronto pages: 159-161 online: [1]


  • Also referred here Pashtun tribe mentioned are Pashtun [3]
  • 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).
  • Burns, Richard, ed. (1908), Imperial Gazetteer of India 23 (new ed.), Oxford: Clarendon , p. 219.
  • 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).
  • Oliver, Edward Emerson (1890), Across the Border: Pathan and Bilochi, ???????: ???????? .
  • Scott, George Batley (1928), Afghan and Pathan: A Sketch, ???????: ??????? .
  • 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)
  • Watson, H. D., ed. (1883/4), Gazeteer of Hazara District, London: Chatto & Windus  .