George Scott Robertson.

The Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; online

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no more interfered with than if they were true Kafirs.
Utah, the high priest, confirmed this. He declaimed
against his fellow-clansmen of Agaru, but explained that
if any one killed one of them, it would be just the same
as if he killed an ordinary Kafir. In case of war with
a Musalmiin power, I was informed that, even in the
event of an actual invasion of the country, the Shaikhs
would not co-operate with the Kafirs, nor fight on their
side, but would stand aloof, unless the invaders, if
victorious, unduly oppressed the conquered Kdm, when
the Shaikhs would probably do all in their power to
protect and avenge their relations. The two small Shaikh
communities, Agaru and Agatsi, are really of no import-
ance in connection with the power for oflfence or for
defence of the Kam tribe, but the tolerant way in which
the Kafirs look on them, and others of their race who
have changed their religion for that of Isltlm, is not only
interesting in itself, but has to be borne in mind in all
speculations concerning the future of Kafiristan. What
is true of the Kam people applies with equal force to
the rest of the Bashgul Kafirs, although there are no
other Musalman communities in the valley. in the
Wai country the religion of Muhammad is making way
strongly. Soon after my arrival in Kiimdesh, news was
brought me that another ^^*ai village had destroyed the
shrines of its heathen deities, and to all intents and pur-
poses had become Musalmiln. The change was efiected
without bloodshed. As soon as the followers of the
Prophet of Arabia formed a sufficiently large majority
of the inhabitants, they threw down the shrines of Jnini.



Dizane, and other deities, and cast away the idols. The
minority made no great movement in defence of their
faith. It is quite possible that before many years have
passed, it will no longer be correct to say that the
different tribes inhabiting the so-called Kdfiristan re-
semble one another in the one respect, that all are

The old division of Kdfiristan into the countries held
by the Siah-Posh and those inhabited by the Safed-Posh
was more convenient than scientifically correct. The
Siah-Posh, the black-robed Kd-firs, are made up of several
different tribes, some of which have been at war with
one another from time immemorial ; but in spite of
that, they have a good deal more in common than
merely a resemblance in dress. They do not all speak
the same language, but the difference in speech appears
to be more a difference of dialect than a radical dis-
tinction of language. Although it is true that one tribe
of the Siah-Posh uses different words from those em-
ployed by another tribe for identical objects, and although
even the names of villages are altered by one people, so
as to be partly or entirely different from the names used
by another Siah-Posh community, yet all the tribes who
wear the dark-coloured raiment seem at once to under-
stand one another, and to be able to converse together
fluently and without hesitation. But if this is true of
the Sic4h-Posh, it is far different when we come to con-
sider the so-called Safed-Posh or white-robed Kafirs.
Among these tribes, of which two stand out as of chief
importance, the Wai and the Presun, there is no simi-
larity in dress, appearance, or language ; they cannot
converse without the aid of interpreters. The Wai and


the Presuns are not more dissimilar from one another
than they both are from the Siah-Posh.

A convenient classification is to divide all Kiifirs into
(1) Siah-Posh, (2) Waigulis, (3) Presungulis, or Viron
people. There is another important tribe called the
Ashknn, of whom, however, it was most difficult to get
any information. They are probably allied to the Wai-
gulis. Although the classification given above is con-
venient, it is necessary to aim at more exactitude by
enumerating the tribes in a tabular form by their local
names. Every village in Kafiristan has more than
one designation, while some have three or four, as, for
instance, the village on the road leading from Utziin
into the Bashgul Valley, which is called (rourdesh by
Pathans, Istorgats by Chitralis, and Istrat by the K.'im
Kafirs ; every tribe, doubtless, is spoken of in a parti-
cular way by different people. The names given here
are those I heard in the Bashgul Valley and in Chitnil.
Subsequent travellers entering K.ifiristan from a ditierent
direction, will almost certainly learn various new names
for the people I am attempting to describe under the
following designations, namely : —

1. Katirs

2. M;idugal

3. Kashtan or Kashtoz }^Si;ih-rosh.

4. Kain

5. Istrat or Gourdesh

6. I'resun or Viron

7. Wai J^Safed-l'osh.

8. Ashkuii I

It is probable that, numerically, the Katirs arc more
important than all the remaining tribes of Kafirist;in
put together.



The Katirs inhabit various valleys, as Siah-Posh
communities entirely independent of one another ; yet
they still acknowledge a common origin and a general
relationship each to the others.

The Katirs are divided into the following groups : —
(a.) The Katirs of the Bashgul Valley, also called
Kamoz and Lutdehchis. This tribe inhabits the Bashgul
Valley from Ahmad Diwana (Badawan) to the hamlet of
Sunra on the border of the Madugal country. It occupies
twelve villages, besides several small hamlets like Sunra
and Laluk, and others in the Skorigul. The names of
the villages are as follows : —



Pshui or Pshowar.






Bragamatal (Lutdeh).



(?>.) The Kti or Katwar Kafirs, a small independent
sub-division of the Katirs who live in the Kti Valley.
Thev have but two villages ; or, rather, one large village,
and a second, Ashpit, hardly larger than a hamlet.

(c.) The Kulam Kafirs, living in the Kulam country,
have four villages.

(cZ.) The Kamgulis or Gabariks. These are the most
numerous division among the Katirs. They live in the
most western part of Kafiristan, on the Afghan frontier.
They probably inhabit several side tracts beside the main
valley from which they take the name of Eamgul Kafirs.
They are said to have twenty-four villages.

Of the other tribes included under the designation
Sic4h-Posh, the chief is the Kdm or Kamtoz. This

SIAH-POSH tribes 77

people inhabits the 15ashgul and its lateral valleys from
the confines of the Madngj'il country to the Kunar Valley.
It has seven villages, and various small settlements or
hamlets. The villages are :^



Kambrom or Kdmdesh.





The next Siah-Posh tribe in general and numerical
importance, is the Muman or Madugal Kafirs, who
occupy that short tract of country between the Kam
and the Katirs of the Bashgul Valley. They are col-
lected into three villages, and possess also a few hamlets.
The names of the villages are : —

Bagalgrom, or Muniiiu.

Su ku.


The last Siah-Posh tribe is the Kashtan or Kashtoz,
who, with the exception of one or two little settlements,
are all located in one village, Kashtan, where they are
greatly overcrowded. They formerly had a village in
the Dungul Valley, which was taken and burnt by the
Asmar people, since which event the whole of the tribe
have had to crowd into the village of Kashtan, which
is close to, and on the west of Kamdesh.

There is a little colony of Siah-Posh Kafirs at Gourdesh
or Istrat, an extremely overcrowded little village. The
Gourdesh folk are said to be very difi'erent from all the
other Siah-Posh Kafirs, and to be, in great part, a rem-
nant of an ancient people called the Aroms.^

I believe the above list includes all the Siah-Posh Kafirs.

1 There is a hamlet called Aroiuhroiu, up the Aruiidu or Armij^nil, which
it is said was formerly a great villa','e, and the headi|uaiters of the Aroius.



We now come to the so-called Safed-Posli. Of these
the Presun tribe, also called Viron by their Musalmdn
neighbours, are probably a very ancient people. They
inhabit the Presungul, and are entirely different from the


Siah-Posh tribes on the one hand, and from the
AVai and the Ashknn people on the other. They
are remarkable for their more peaceful disposition, and
their inefficiency as fighting men. They have patient,


stolid faces for the most part, and, compared with the
Kafirs, are heavy in their movements. The thick clothes
they wear add to their clumsy appearance. They are a
simple people, very industrious, capable of wonderful feats
of endurance, and, with the exception of the inhabitants
of one of the villages, Pushkigrom, they are meek and
poor-spirited. Why the Pushkigrom villagers should be
so different from the rest of the tribe, is a problem that
has puzzled me very much. While I was in Kafiristdn,
the other five Presun villages were at war with their near
neighbours the Wai ; but Pushkigrom stood aside alto-
gether, and maintained friendly relations with that tribe.
In such circumstances it is no wonder that the Presun
people were defeated by their enemies ; but Kdfirs con-
tinually behave in this suicidal manner. Sad stories were
told me of the straits the people were in. Many had
been slain, many carried away captive to be ransomed, or
killed in default. Indeed, it seemed probable that the
Wai, provided that the Pushkigrom men continued
neutral, and the Sidh-Posh tribes did not interfere, could
do much as they liked in Presungul ; for the only act in
the way of reprisal during the three years the war had
lasted, of which the Presuns could boast, was the murder
of one W^ai girl. But just before I left the country, news
was brought to Kamdesh that the Pushkigrom men had
declared war with the Wai, for some reason or other,
and had signified the same in a not unusual Kiifir way,
by slaying a Wai man captured on the road. Besides
this, the Bashgul and the other Kdfirs were interested in
not permitting the W^ai to go too far in their conquest,
for fear that there might remain no room for tlioir own
exactions. The Kam, for instance, make periodic visits


to Presimgul diiriiii;' the time the passes arc open, and
return with the presents the Presuns think it expedient
to give them. The Kam, indeed, behave a good deal
like owners of the country. The Presun villagers cany
loads for them, and have to produce food and necessaries ;
but all alike have to be circumspect by day, and safely
housed, if possible, by night — the Presuns for fear of the
Wai ; the Kd,m for fear of their inveterate enemies the
Pamgul Kafirs, and the Tsarogul Shaikhs ; and the last
two for fear of one another and of the Kam. The high
valley of the Presuns is easy, the grazing excellent, the
flocks and herds good, and the people can be plundered
without much difficulty ; but it is a sort of cockpit
for Kafiristan, and no man can wander there in safety,
except when the passes are closed by snow. The
Wai have more than once brought Afghans into the
country to plunder and harry, and have in this way
added to the general state of insecurity which prevails.
At one particular place my escort of Kdm Kdfirs went
along at a trot, garments girded up, bows strung, match-
locks lighted, and anxious wary looks on every face.
The distance was only a few hundred yards, but all were
greatly relieved when we got past the dangerous spot.
The Presuns have six villages : —

Shtevgrom. Kstigigrom.

Pontzgrom. Satsumgrom.

Diogrom. Puskigrom.

The last tribes on the list on page 75 are the Wai
and the Ashkun. Of the Ashkun my ignorance is
almost complete, for no Kafir was able to give me much
information about them. The small total of my know-
ledge amounts to this : that the Ashkun people speak


a language somewhat similar to that of the Wai, aud
are friendly disposed towards them ; that their country
is separated from the Kulam valley by a range of
mountains ; that they possess two large villages, one
(K4fir) on a river which flows into the Kti before its
junction with the Pech or Kamah, the other (Musalman)
on the banks of a torrent which falls directly into the
Pech or Kamah on its right bank. It is also said that
the Ashkun country is surrounded by thick forest, is
practically impenetrable, and is defended by a brave
people particularly well armed wdth matchlocks, who
are at war wdth all the other Kafir tribes, with the ex-
ception of the Wai.

The Wai people speak a language quite different from
that spoken in Presungul or by the Siah-Posh, and are
a brave, high-spirited race, remarkable for their hospi-
tality, and for their proneness to quarrel. They are
said to be as generous in entertaining guests as the poor
Presungulis are declared to be niggardly and contemp-
tible. The Bashgul Kafir speaks with admiration of the
two good meals a day which the Wai men offer a visitor,
while he laughs disparagingly at the way in which a
Presun runs into his house and shuts the door when
he perceives a stranger approaching. However, the one
is not so well formed by nature to speak with a possible
enemy within the gate as the other.

The Wai people have ten villages, of which the names
were given as follows : —

Runchi. Kegili.

Nishi. Akun or Akum.

Jamma. Mildesh.

Amzhi. Bargul.

Chimion. Prainta.


Of certain of these villages I had frequently heard,
particularly of Nishi, near the P^ch river, I believe, which
is the residence of an energetic Mullah, who possibly
himself converted the people to Isldm, and now keeps
them steadfast in their new faith. The information was
volunteered that, in the event of the Mehtar of Chitnil
attacking Tsarogul in conjunction with the Kam, who
are deadly enemies of that country, the Nishi men and
the Musalman Ashkuns would certainly hasten to the
assistance of their Shaikh brethren. The Amzhi Valley
drains into the Pech or Kamah just opposite the village
of Tsarii. While I was in Kafiristdn it was raided by
the Bashgul Katirs, who brought away great spoil, but
not without severe loss. The Amzhi shortly afterwards
retaliated, by surprising and killing every living thing
in the little hamlet of Sunra, in the Bashgul Valley.
At present it seems that there is no very strong tribal
feeling amongst the Wai. They are perpetually fighting
amongst themselves. One or two of the lower villages
have turned Musalman, while the Katir raid on the Amzhi
was held, by the remainder of the tribe, to call for ven-
geance from the Amzhi only, the actual sufferers.

Of the slave population of Kafiristan, mention will
be made hereafter. A portion of them, at any rate, are
probably the remnant of an ancient people subjugated
and enslaved by the present dominant tribes. Possibly
the Presuns also come under the category of a very
ancient people, although they are not only free them-
selves, but actually possess Siah-Posh slaves, and none
of any other kind. The remains of another ancient
race, the Jazhis, are said to exist at Pittigul, in the
valley of the same name, and at Gourdesh or Istrat.


From intermarriages with the Kam and others, they
cannot now be distinguished from other Bashgul Kafirs ;
but a tradition remains that they once held possession
of all the lower Bashgul Valley, until the Kam invaded
it from the west, and drove out or slew nearly the whole
of the people they found there. Possibly, Pittigul
and Gourdesh, being somewhat out of the direct road
for an invader, were not called upon to resist the Kdm
for some time, or they made a better resistance than
the rest of the inhabitants, and finally amalgamated with
the conquerors on more or less equal terms. Pittigul
is peculiar in certain respects. It is remarkable in
having a priest of its own, which no other Kam village
has. The Kdmdesh Utah, or priest, is not only a village,
but a tribal functionary.

I have not been able to get much real insight into the
political organisation of any of the tribes, except those
in the Bashgul Valley, the Katirs in the north, and the
Kd,m and the Mtidugdl and others lower down. It is
consequently with reference to the Bashgul tribes, and
especially to the Kdm, that the following description
chiefly applies. It is probable, however, that the internal
management of the other tribes is formed more or less on
the same model.

Although the Rdmgul, the Kulam, the Ktis, and the
Katirs of the Bashgul Valley have all been considered
as belonging to one great tribe — the Katir — yet each of
the divisions enumerated is to all intents and purposes
a separate tribe. Each is entirely independent of the
other, and makes war or peace without in the slightest
degree considering its neighbours. For instance, tlie
Western Kdfirs have been at war with the Kdm for


generations, Avhile the Katirs of the Bashgul Valley are
at the present moment the friends and allies of that
tribe, although Katir and K^m in the Bashgul Valley
still look upon one another with some amount of jealousy
and distrust, and only a short time ago were fighting
furiously. A great source of Kdfir weakness is the
readiness with which the different tribes fight with one
another, and the alacrity with which the different clans
of the same tribe, or the different families of the same
clan, engage in sanguinary internecine strife. Among
such people as the Wai and the Presun, it is not uncom-
mon for a single village to stand aloof from the rest of
the tribe, and take no part in a foreign war. The Katirs
of the Bashgul Valley also appear ever ready to start
inter-\dllage quarrels. Indeed, sometimes, if what one
hears is true, portions of Kafiristdn must be simply
chaos. The Kdm, on the other hand, hold much better
together, and it is probable that it is for this very reason
that, although not a numerous people, they are greatly
respected by the neighbouring tribes, as well as by
Chitrdlis and Pathans.

A tribe consists of a number of clans, each powerful
according to the number of fighting men it can bring
into the field, and according to its aggregate wealth.
Besides the regular clans, there are a number of men
who belong to groups of families which can hardly be
called clans. Such men are less important than members
of the great clans, because the fighting strength with
which they can support an opinion is inconsiderable ;
but such individuals as have amassed wealth are readily
accorded a good deal of respect. Lower still in the scale
is a class of men, the members possibly of once important


groups of families, or small clans, which have died away,
or become impoverished from causes difficult to deter-
mine at the present day. These men are poor, and
without tribal authority of any kind. It is from this
class that the patsas, or shepherds, are obtained. The
patsas are hired to tend the flocks and herds of wealthy
Kdfirs during the winter months, on a regular scale of
payment in kind.

The lowest class are of course the slaves. The several
portions of the Kdm people may be shown as under : —

(i) The clansmen belonging to important clans.

(2) Men belonging to very small clans or groups of

(3) Men of distinctly inferior family, but free men.

(4) Slaves.

Between classes i and 2, there is a point where i.t is
difficult to decide to which category certain individuals
belong, nor is there any peculiarity in the appearance
of the one class to distinguish it from the other. But
with the men of class 3 it is, as a rule, quite otherwise.
They appear to approach more closely the slaves than
the members of the important clans, and often differ
considerably from the latter in features and in general

The chief clans of the Kiim people are as follows : —





















The first six arc really important clans. Of these, the
Garakdari and the Bilezhedilri are probably the largest,


the Demiddri the wealthiest, while the Utahdari, the clan
which produces the tribal priests, though not so numerous
as some of the others, and perhaps less rich than the
Demidcari, is yet as important as any. Of the remainder,
the Lananddri is probably the smallest of all. It is diffi-
cult to determine how many fighting men any of the
above clans can muster. It is also hard to decide which
is actually the biggest, for a Kdm man belonging to
any one of the first six would most certainly declare that
his own clan was the most numerous ; though probably,
whichever clan the man belonged to, he would admit that
the Demidd,ri were the wealthiest.

Probably the Garakdari and the Bilezhedari number
about 300 fighting men each ; while the Utahddri, the
Demidari, the Sukdari, and the Waidd,ri have only about
120 men. The Lanandd/ri contains probably no more
than a dozen or fifteen warriors altogether.

Each of these clans has one chief man, or more, to
represent it. These representatives are generally, and in
the more important clans almost invariably, tribal head-
men or "Jast." But it must not be supposed that they
all have equal authority ; some of them are absolutely
without weight of any kind in the tribal councils.
All the clans are closely connected by marriage ties.
Indeed, as all Kafirs are polygamous to a certain extent,
and as no man may take a wife from his own clan, or
from his mother's, or from his father's mother's clan,
it can easily be imagined how closely the people are
connected with one another.^ Nevertheless, a clan is

' Tlie word :.hame (brother-in-law) is so constantly heard in Kamdesh,
that one of my Baltis fell into the error of supposing it was an ordinary word
of greeting, and on one occasion, wlien helping to raise a house beam, shouted


alvtays ready to act together as a clan, without reference
to coiisinship or marriage ties.

An individual's importance in a clan is principally
gauged by the wealth he possesses ; and his influence
or popularity depends in no small degree on the way
in which he feasts his fellow-tribesmen, and on his
willingness to provide sacrifices. If to these important
qualifications he adds a reputation for bravery, has
a fair record of slain, and is moderately clear-headed,
he may reasonably expect to become one of the chief
men of the tribe as he gets on in years, liut to be of
the very first consideration he should belong to one of
the biggest of the clans, and also have several grown
sons and grandsons.

If he goes several times through the ceremonies con-
nected with the free banquets to the whole tribe, which
will be subsequently described, or if he makes his sons
go through these ceremonies, and he himself goes into
a still higher grade by means of further banquets, then
he becomes one of the inner circle of the Jast, of which
there are never more than four or five in the whole tribe,
and he will be treated with the utmost respect by every-
body. The importance of grown-up sons and grandsons
lies in their numerical strength in family, clan, and tribal
quarrels. It is a most important thing to belong to a
big clan for the same reason — where there is strong
feeling on any particular subject, abstract justice is apt
to be overridden by brute force ; by majorities always
ready to back up their argument by blows if necessary.

Dut to tlie Kiitirs, " Now, Zliame, lift I " The priei^t cheerily exclaimed with a
f^iin, "All you who are Talib's bi-others-in-law — lift," and the Kafir:s amused
themselves greatly with the joke instead of getting angry, as would have been

the case with niudustauis or Pathaus.


The chief clans of the Basligul Katirs are : —

1. .laniialulilri. 5. Charedari.

2. J>arinod;iri. 6. Shtukdari.

3. Shakldari. 7. Sowadari.

4. Mutadawadari,

The divisions of this tribe are, however, of compara-
tively small interest, as the Jannahdari are so wealthy
and powerful that they completely overshadow all the
other clans. The chief and high priest of the tribe,
Kdn Mara, belongs to the Jannahdari, as do also all
the other prominent men in the country.


The narrative resumed — Karadesh — The villagers — Interest in photo-

Online LibraryGeorge Scott RobertsonThe Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; → online text (page 6 of 38)