Early History of Chakwal
The area of Dhanni (Chakwal Tehsil) for a long time in history was an uninhabited part of the Jammu state of the Dogra, Rajputs. Although the powerful tribes like Ghakkars and Janjuas ruled the adjoining territories in Potohar, Kahoon valley and the ancient Thirchak Mahal, Dhanni remained a hunting ground for the Rajas of Jammu.
As the tradition goes, in the year 1190 C.E, Raja Bhagir Dev, a Jamwal prince, while on a hunting expedition fell in love with a Muslim woman belonging to a tribe of wandering Gujjar grazers. In order to marry her, he converted to Islam and consequently was asked by his father to stay away from Jammu and settle in this tract along with his men. Raja Bhagir Dev was named Muhammed Mair after conversion to Islam and his descendants as Mair-Minhas Rajputs. The Mairs preferred pastoral rather than agricultural pursuits for the next few centuries; but remained confined to this area.
Mughal era of Chakwal
When around 1525 C.E, the
Mughal King Babur stopped by in this area on his way to Kashmir, his army was ambushed by the hostile tribes from the adjoining areas. However, the herds owned by the Mairs came in their way and Babur’s Army was awaken, hence the hostile Rajputs had to flee. The next morning, the Mughal King summoned the chief of the tribe, Raja Sidhar and offered him two thirds of the land of Dhanni, if he provided labour to help the Kassar tribesmen to drain the water from the great lake which then covered all the eastern part of the tehsil, up to the ridge followed by the Bhon-Dhudial road.
Raja Sidhar, chief of the Mair-Minhas Rajputs and Gharka Kassar, chief of the Kassars, a Mughal sub-tribe took up the job along with their respective tribesmen. They drained the lake water by cutting through Ghori- Gala, by which the Bunha torrent now flows. Subsequently, they proceeded to take up the country. The Emperor also awarded them the title of Chaudhry, and administration of the newly formed Taluka, which ever since has been called ‘Dhan Chaurasi’ or ‘Maluki Dhan’.
Chaudhry Sidhar, settled villages named after his sons Chaku, Murid and Karhan and as Chaku Khan became the chief, he decided to settle in Chakwal, the village named after him and make it the center of administration of the Taluka. Whereas, Kassar chiefs founded the villages of Bal-Kassar and Dhudial.
The following few lines about the origins of Chakwal are noted in the District Gazetter Jhelum 1904, “Chakwal has from time immemorial been the seat of administration in the Dhanni Country. It is said to have been founded by a Mair-Minhas Rajput from Jammu, whose descendants are at the present day proprietors of the land in the neighbourhood. It is still the Headquarters of tribe”
This story is also confirmed by the Hindu family of Gadihok, who happened to be “Qanoongoes” of the area throughout the Mughal era and carry many pertinent certificates by the Mughal Emperors. The Gadihoks claim that Dhanni was named “Malooki Dhan” after their forefather, Malook Chand who happened to be with Babur during settlement of the area and prepared all the paper work; but they agree that the area was given to Mairs, Kassars and Kahuts; while the Gadihoks received only a certain portion of the revenue as an ‘inam’.
However, the Janjua’s calim that the area was called “Malooki Dhan” after their ancestor, Raja Mal Khan. The Kassars have a similar claim and they say that the area was actually “Baluki Dhan” named after their ancestor Bal Kassar and it was only due to a lithographic error that was noted as Maluki instead of Baluki in Ain-e-Akbari. In contrast to all the afore mentioned claims, “Ain-e-Akbari” indicates Gakkhars as the rulers of the land.
The following account about the ownership of Dhanni seems most plausible.
It is generally accepted by all that Mair Minhas Rajput, Mughal Kassar and Kahut Quriesh were the three landowning tribes that were originally settled in this tehsil by the Mughal Emperor Zaheerudin Babur and were the only three land owning tribes in Dhanni till the time of its annexation by the British. The main concentration of the Mair-Minhas Rajputs being in the center (Haveli-Chakwal), North-East (Badshahan), West (Rupwal) and South West (Thirchak-Mahal). The Kassars in the northern part of the tehsil, the area called ‘Babial’ and ‘Chaupeda’ and the Kahouts in ‘Kahutani’ in the South East.
These tribes and especially the Mair-Minhas Chaudhrials of Chakwal rose to further prominence during the short rule of Sher Shah Suri who handed them the control over the adjoining territories, as far as Swan River in Potohar and Pind Dadan Khan plains in the South.
However, after the Mughal King Humayun returned to India with the help of the Persians, he handed over the entire Potohar including Dhanni to the Gakhars, who had helped him escape from India during Sher Shah’s revolt and reign. The Gakhars moved the Capital of the Taluka from Chakwal to a neighbouring town called ‘Bhon’ and stationed their ‘Kardars’ there. Consequently, the village of Bhon grew bigger than Chakwal in the Mughal era.
The Mair-Minhas and Mughal Kassar tribes again rose to power after King Aurangzeb’s death. They had supported his son Moazzam Shah in his quest for power and in return he re-appointed the Mair-Minhas chief Gadabeg Khan as the Taluqdar and Chaudhry of the entire ‘Dhan Chaurasi’, whereas rule of the Kassar Chaudhrys was confirmed in Babial and Chaupeda ‘illaqa’.
Sikh era of Chakwal
Their rule over Dhanni continued during the Sikh era as one of Mair chiefs, Chaudhry Ghulam Mehdi had invited Sardar Mahan Singh to this side of river Jhellum. Also, their Dogra cousins Raja Gulab Singh and Dhian Singh were very powerful in the Lahore Durbar, so the influence of Chakwal Chaudhrials during the [Sikh era] was considerable and hence Chakwal once again became the centre of activity in the area. It was during that era that Dhanni breed of horses became very popular and even Maharaja Ranjeet Singh’s personal horses were kept in the stables of the ‘Chakwal Chaudhials’.
British era of Chakwal
In the Second Anglo-Sikh War at Chaillianwala in 1849, they supported the Sikhs and hence their Jagirs were confiscated by the British and even the lands in their headquarters, Chakwal were distributed among their tenants. Consequently, Chakwal started growing as a city and was declared a tehsil Headquarters in 1881.