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Lesser Known Tribes of Indus Kohistan

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Shin Tribe Yashkun Tribe Kamin Tribe Chilis Tribe Gabara Tribe Marooch Tribe Other Cast

Shin Tribes

In Kohistan and Northern Areas, Moorcroft, Wine, Arther, Leitner, Drew, Biddulph and the later scholars merely emphasized on which local community could or could not marry among the people of another local community, instead of understanding the social stratification in the perspective of the local traditional system. Instead of relating it with the kinship system, they concluded on the same basis that there was the concept of 'who is higher and who is lower' among the people pertaining to Shin, YashkuN and Kamin castes. Hence many other local castes and racial species were ignored who are living here for centuries. The result was that the new researchers, both internal and external, have been keeping this hypothesis in their mind during their work. Karl Jettmar also relied on the Punjabi word "kami" on the same basis to define the local Kamin community as socially low while the word "kami", "kamin" and "kamiN" are three different words denoting different meanings. He says in another place that the caste system in Kohistan and Northern Areas is founded on the basis of four castes i.e. Shin, YashkuN, KamiN and Doom and that this system was adopted from Hindus.

"The population was organized into four castes, Shins, YashkuNs, Kamins, and Doms since a very early time, maybe, according to a model token from a neighboring arc were Hinduism which was still prevalent."


But, perhaps this hypothesis would not work in Kohistan and Northern Areas because the classification of the old and new Jirga and caste system has refuted this view. In Shina language and culture, traditionally two terms, "Ulsia" and "Faqir" are found to distinguish within the castes.


This clear and undisputed approach for distinguishing among the casts, is prevailing among the local population for centuries. Shin, YashkuN, KamiN and Doom indicate their racial affiliations. These terms have never been in use to differentiate between the castes, nor can it be interpreted so from the terms used on the basis of four castes among Hindus. There is no restriction on the above mentioned three castes to doing any social or economical duties that are reflected in Hindu social system. Perhaps, marrying or not marrying in each other's communities can also is not used as logic to prove an existence of social superiority or inferiority because there are the Shins who only prefer to marry within the sub-circles of the circles of their kinship. There are plenty of such examples among the Shins in just one valley where the Shins do not preferably marry among the Shins pertaining to another circle of Kinship.

The Lineage Background

It is very difficult to tell who were the first settlers in Northern Pakistan, i.e. before the Arians groups. Most probably people did live in this region before history and the lower area of current Pakistan was merged in water. In the later periods, the people pertaining to Drawar civilization lived here who had a war in Dardistan before 1500 B.C to 500 B.C. Moreover, since the boundaries or the tracks of this region joined Central Asia, the current Chinese province and Tibet, their influence is also found on the north (We mean the influence on the kinship background of Shin, YashkuN and Kamin and Baltis and Broshaskies are excluded from it.)

There is unanimity among most of the people about Shin and YashkuN being Aryans and they migrated from Central Asia. In the course of long history other people were also mixed with him.


Sir William Jones used the term of Shin and YashkuN in 1786 in Calcutta as a linguistic distinction. After this these terms became common to indicate kinship terms. Annul Haq Farid Koti writes in this connection,

Max Muller merely meant one linguistic group by using the term of Arya who had no relationship with skin color or race; he himself says,

"I have stated for many times that when I use the term Arya, I do not mean either blood, or bones, or the color of hair and the structure of head. But I only mean merely one linguistic group holding Aryan languages."

Mohammad Shuja Namoos and Usman Ali have elaborated in their books that Shins are Aryans. Similarly Kaneez Fatima writes in her book "Dardistan Ka Nasbi Mutalia" in the light of historical evidence and Jettmar's findings that Shin and YashkuN are Aryans.

Karl Jettmar says on the basis of the evidences derived from old remnants that Shin and YashkuN migrated from Central Asia. He has tried to prove his view by referring to old remnants, religions and folk practices. It is told that they migrated to Indian sub-continent 1500 B.C to 1000 B.C. Yahya Amjad writes in his book "Tareekh-Pakistan (Qadeem Daur), First Edition, that

"It is unanimously acknowledged that the native land of Indo Aryan tribes were Khwarzam. These people had entered Pakistan via Iran. Khwarzam is that region of Central Asia that is called Uzbekistan."

Although scholars do not approve of any Aryan race now, but Kosambi describes that among the Aryans coming to the sub-continent, there was at least one group who liked to be called Aryans by race. (pp 410-411).

Some people believe that Shins are Quresh and weave the narrations of connecting their genealogy with Arabs. These stories are commonly heard. It is mainly a result of the religious sentiments and affiliations and history has no evidence for it. Dr. Habib Gul says,  “a claim to Arab decent is however, very common among many section of the inhabitants of Kohistan, but seems to rest on no real foundation”.

Many races and linguistic affiliates have been migrating to the Northern Pakistan in different times. The Tibetans, Parthians, Chinese, Tooranis Sethian, Salka and the Huns are included among them. Their influences and traces are coming to knowledge through discoveries. But it is hard to trace their genealogical heirs among the current people, tribes or groups and also that the Shins or the YushkuNs possibly have any affiliations with them. From among the sub-branches of some tribes living in this area, those names are found that coincide in history books and discoveries, such as Gorei, Khoje, Mugla, Khuka, shatie and Gorie, etc. But no material is available to make fasten these connections. One riddle is also that what is the reason that ShiN, YashkuN and KamiN end at the same sound (retroflex R). Is it not a reason if they had some sort of uniform kinship relations. Are the three of them three green branches of the same race. Certainly there is a need to think and search for an answer to this question.


The Shin

     The Shins of the eastern part of Kohistan are geographically, by kinship, by tradition, language and culture are related to the Shins of Chhilas, Gilgit, Astor, Darel, Tagir, Haramosh, Gultari, Gurez, Dras, Soro and Baltistan. It is unanimously believed that these people came from Central Asia via Khyber to Pakhli above Darband and to Siran and then to Kohistan. Their initial inhabitation was the area between Kohistan and Chhilas upward beyond Darband and Siran valley. Their migration to Kashmir and Ladakh continued from two directions. One from Pakhli and Siran valley via Muzaffarabad and, two further north from current Kohistan and towards Jammu and Ladakh from there. Mohammad Hasan Hasrat has written:


     These people are Shin of Indo Aryan race. These groups are settled from Baltistan's area Khurman to the highlands of Himalayas in the south of River Indus at the last edge of Rondoo i.e. they all are settled at one and the same direction.


     Hasrat says that these people came in this region from the side of Broshal during the 10th century, for the second time during the 11th century and for the third time during the last three decades.


     The Shin tribes and groups who reached at the edges of Ladakh and River Kishan Ganga, had migrated earlier than the others. In Jammu and Ladakh, the term "Dard" has been used for them for some time. But as Dr. Leitner himself says, "The name 'Dard' was not claimed by any of the race that I met. (G.W. Leitner 1889,

Schomberg has written  rejecting the notion of Dard genealogy that:


"The initial difficulties have been increased by the use of the word Dard and Dardistan for the people and country, applied not merely to Gilgit but to the Indus Valley, generally between Ladakh and the Punjab. Suffice it to say that term Dard is  unknown to the people in this district and Dardistan is equally incomprehensible." (Schomberg 1933)


     Mohammad Shuja Namoos has written on the basis of the data collected by Drew, Moor Craft, Leitner and Biddulph that half of the population around Dras is of Shins'. In Poreg and Ladakh all three groups of Shin, YashkuN and Doms are found. Severak groups came to Soro valley from Bunji (Gilgit). Drew wrote that in a few villages in Central Ladakh Bud Dards were settled who said that their ancestors had migrated from Gilgit. Those Shin Dards who are settled in Hano village, have forgotten their mother tongue and speak Tibbati language now. Larsen has mentioned some people in his book "Valley" who told him that their forefather had come there from Chhilas. But Stine has refuted his hypothesis. In my opinion, it is not a matter of wonder to reject it because in the past, the series of migrations have been going on. The author of this book has collected authentic data about such families that support the author of "Valley". It should be kept in mind here that the sub-groups and the tribes of Shin have been occasionally migrating to the north from the current Siran valley and Kohistan and to the valley of Kishan Ganga, Astor, Rondoo and Central Ladakh. The migration to Gurez valley via Muzaffarabad from Kohistan is proven from the Faqra (Shins) community of Palas who have been traveling back and forth until partition of the sub-continent.


     It won't be out of place to say here that from the very beginning these people were divided into two big groups. One of these two groups is the one that is settled in Kunar valley of Afghanistan, Dir Kohistan, Kalam Kohistan and in the area between Bankhar and Khandia in Indus Kohistan on one side. The other group is called Shin. They all are related genealogically. But they had either split from each other long ago or their migration may have taken place in different times.


     The Shins invaded YashkuNs in the north and expanded their settlements. They have been pushing out the YashkuNs further to the north. Dr. Jettmar has doubted about it that the Shins were already spread in Kohistan and in the lower areas and further down up to Pakhli and that since it all was under Bilor Kingdowm, the Shins used this situation to advance and stretch their land.


     Major settlements of the Shin are not found in Nagir, Yasin, Ishkoman and Chitral. It indicates that these people migrated to this area via Khyber, stopped in the area upward from Pakhli and then moved further to the north.        There are a large number of Shin groups, tribes and branches. Following is a description about some of these important groups and tribes.


The (Shin) Darma/Darmae/Daram Khel

     It is the largest tribe of the Shin group. It is interchangeably called daRma, Daroma, Darom or daRmai. It has seven sub-tribes. Of these, the people pertaining to Poensa and CeraT, are settled in Palas, Jalkot and Kolai. These Poensa and CeraT have at least fifty sub branches. Many people of these tribes live in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Hazro, Hazara, Chhilas, Juglot, Kargah Nala, Muzaffarabad and several other places. The people pertaining to two sub-tribes of the CeraT and Poensa are found in Astore, Gilgit, Thako, Buji and Gor. The people of another "Rom" or "Roma" (Rom means a group alliance of the population in a particular area sharing an exclusive control over internal matters and values without an external intervention) are settled in Baltistan. John Biddulph says that these people in Baltistan consider themselves belonging to the Shin of Gilgit and Astor and they are further distributed into four further sub-tribes namely sharshang, Gabor, doro and Yodyo. The people pertaining to the remaining sub branches of daRma are found in Muzaffarabad's valley namely Kel, Phulwai, Gurez valley and Talil. Gurez is known as GureN in Kohistan. Their elders say that they had migrated there from GureN.


     The daRma people of Astor also say so about themselves. The author of this book has himself met with the daRma people of Kel and Phulwai who have certified the settlement and existence of daRma in the valley of Gurez. The existence of Faqira branch pertaining to daRma of Palas in Gurez has already been confirmed. These people would visit Palas to meet their relatives till the partition of Indian sub-continent. The Sorma people of daRma from Palas are found in Kargah Nala in Gilgit and Chhilas also who migrated there from Jalkot and Palas. The two sub-tribes of daRma in Kohistan namely CeraT and Poensa are further distributed into four sub-groups called Sorma, PhiRie or Phiria, Bhoe Mugla and derkhana. The daRma in Astor and Gilgit use the word "Wazir" also preceding to their names. These people were reputed in the local history for their wisdom. In the history they were known for being expert of Wesh system (land distribution). So the Swati people of Allai and Kata and Pukhtoons would take the well known Wesh expert in Palas, Khawas Khan, for carrying out their land distributions. They have been entangled in internal and external group feuds with each other.


The Shin Darma Tribe, Sub-tribes and Khels (brinches) in Indus Kohistan


Main tribes



SHIN (Darma)



Didra, Azta, Shamka, Muhle, Hakima, Shwanta, Phopora, Karima, Jamroza


Iska, Kumla, Chethye, Faqira, Akundae



NarangsheDalila,?, Suta,  Tola, Jumalkhana, Jalkhana, Bada, Aodala, Mulkhana, Khumra


Sherkhana, Mugla, Razkhana



     This tribe is known as BoTa in Chhilas and Bota in Jalkot and Palas. The Bota in Palas and Jalkot are a part of Khuka tribe of Shin. Description of this tribe is found in various books. It is the oldest tribe having settled in Chhilas.


     Khuka and Manka: These both are the old residents of Kohistan. They are in majority in Jalkot and Kolai while their population in Palas is one fourth. Until 1500 A.D the Khuka and Manka of all three valleys were united.


     Among them and the daRma, there is an equality. There are sheer majority in Kolai. Numerous of them are provisionally or firmly settled in Chhilas, Gilgit, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Haripur, Muzaffarabad, Hazro and Rawalpindi. In Palas and Jalkot their four "tabin" are known as charkha:Re, laghRa, KorTa and KhoTa.


     The Khuka and Manka in Gilgit had migrated there many centuries ago. They have been the helpers of Dogras and the English in Gilgit. They had played important role in establishing Dogra rule there. The British Political Agent in Gilgit, John Biddulph has stated in his book "Tribes of Hindu Kush" that the Government would give these people grants in return to their cooperation.


The Shin Kukamanka tribe and Branches in Kolai Valley of Indus Kohistan


Main tribes


Branches (Khels)


Khuka Manka


Multana, Buyee, Akhundae,


Badarshey, Chethey, Anabgshe, Rangshe


Namdara, Alma, Rajma, Khentha, Arma, Begma


Shedae, Korta, Azta


Zankhana, Nabi Khana


Khoja, Shokra, Baekhana, Shama, Shre




     It might not be inappropriate to describe here that about the two big groups on the western bank, Mani and Manzari extended from Bankhar to Khandia, it is commonly believed that they belong to Khuka and Manka and they had separated long ago. But there is no proof of it. However, Leitner and Biddulph have termed them Shin while they do not think of themselves Shin. An historical linkage may be searched for here in the words "Khuk" and "Khu". The Khuk are in Kohistan and the Khu in Chitral.


The Shin Kuka and Manka Branches in Palas and Jalkot Valleys of Kohistan


Main tribes




·                  Khuka

·                  Cherkhari

Zaga, Shamshera, Iskandra, Sadna, Shamshidna, Damna (Yudna), Buyee, Jaldata

·                  Korta

Shamta (Suban Shae, Tumar Shae, Sar Shae, Akhundae), Sale, Bota (Pirdata, Kentha, Shastala, Phaqira), Shalkhana, Badarshe

·                  Manka

·                  Khota

. Kherza, Ashe, Khota, Haripa

·                  Laghra

Khotra (Khotra, Parka), Ushra (Khana, Muhlnye, Amira, Borkhana, Gatkhana, Panikhana), Walye.



     Wazir Mohammad Ashraf has described in the 13th Edition of his thesis on "Shina Language and Literature" referring to Mohammad Hassan Hasrat about a Shin tribe by the name of Maloe.  These people are found in Bonji, Astor and Gilgit areas.


The Shins of Thako

     People of this tribelive in Tha:ko District Diamer. They are organized in the local economic ranges under "haiTi" system and are known as CeraT (in Kohistan also a sub-tribe is known as CeraT.). They are organized in "main haiTi", "kharini HaiTi" (sub-HaiTi) and "CokuTi haiTi" (three dimensional Haiti). There are around 11 sub branches of theirs at that place among whom one branch named "tarkhanie" is mentioned to be related with daRma. The names of some their sub branches have been mentioned belove



Name of Khels


Anjanae, Tarkhane, Anorae, Shamsharlae, Nosedae, Losne, Dudle, Gorwey, Bakdurshe, Shadule, Muhle.


The Shins of Darel

     Not much information is available about the relationships of the main branch of the Shin tribe in Darel with the Shins. However, they are found in Gial, BhaguC, Samigal, lower Mankial and upper Mankial. Previously these places had a different name which shows that those names were given by their ancestors. The following names were told to me at the place of Gumari. These names show that these are the names of the old tribes. These people are associated with the community of YashkuN, KamiN and Dom and economically benefit with all four castes in these ranges under "haiTi" system. All these four castes have the right to possession of the land, forests and other natural resources. Several sub branches of the Shins of Darel are found at various places. These branches are called "Tabar" by them which is equivalent to the "khels" among Pakhtoons. Their branches found in upper and lower Samigal are as follows:


     Their one branch is known as "kache" as given in the list. It is said that ""atle", "mane" and "kalamdarae" are its such branches. They are decendents of a Shin person, Kawati's sons named Atli, Man and Kalamdar.



Branches (Khels)


Gantoe, Dosey, Biroe, Dodoe, Lasnoe, Rey, Shachle, Farmane, Bujae, Muhle, Kamodae, Utle, Kalamdarae, Jarbite, Lile, Barkhanae, Mane, Kache.


The Shins of Tagir or Tangir

     There are three tribes of the Shins of Tagir. In the way of the Shins in Darel, they are also organized in "Tabar" by race and in economic ranges under "hai/ti" system. The Shins of Darel and Tagir belong to the same branch. Like the Shins of Kolai, Palas and Jalkot, the Shins of Darel, Tagir, Harban and Sazin are internally the same and these people also believe it. But it is very hard to trace their exact genealogy. Their names are as below:


















The Shins of Sazin

In Sazin also, Shins are in majority while YashkuNs and KamiNs are merged into their organizational ranges. These people have four large organizational ranges or clans.







     By race, they are close to the Shins of Darel, Tagir and Harban. The names of their branches are "mirae", "sirge", noorne", "ziminae", "ushRe,  "ajRi" and "akhundae".


The Shins of Harban

Shins are in majority in Harban also. But the branches of YashkuNs and KamiNs are also found here. They are organized in four cirlces or "haiTies". A few "maru:ts" and "Doms" also live in this area and they are not merged in their organizational units. Their organizational structure is like that of the tribes of Jalkot and Palas. These people are divided into four "hors" or ranges. They give the name of "Tabar" to their sub-branches.





Hamdule, Asperae, Misharkhana, Qalmae, Nabse, Mane, Ghrne, Bakdure, Khanbike, Yarkhana, Zale, Bibshure, Baedole.


The Shins of Basha

There are five branches of the Shins in Basha whose names are "qalmoe","baidile", "masharkhane", "yarkhane, and "shiriae". Of these "qalmie", "baidalie" and "yarkhane" are found in Harban also.


The Shins of Thor

Shins are in majority in Thor. They belong to three large branches. They believe in being the decendents of three men named Jodro, Dodoko and Shal. These names of the "haiTis" of these people are Jalvi, Dodoki and Sarie after the names of their ancestors. A few branches of YashkuN and KamiN are also merged in their "haiTis". Following are the names of the Shin branches available to me in Thor:





Samdare, Kishkare, Maske, Subke, Matme, Wazre, Sange, Bike, Lamdara, Hazmaka, Qutbe, Phaqirshae, Balmarae, Yarkhanae, Mhabke, Birkhanae


Machaaq or chaq machaaq

     It is an important Shin tribe and they are settled in the valley of Kunar in Chitral and Afghanistan. They believe that they migrated to those areas from Chhilas. Mr. Anayatulla Faizi has writtten that:


"A Buddhist ruled Chhilas and the surrounding areas. He died without bearing a son and his rule shifted to the family of "boti. "boti" is a word equivalent to the local words of Amir, Wali or Mehtar in meaning. Their elder brother became a ruler "boTi" after the death of Chaq and Machaq died. His younger brothers did not acknowledge his rule and had a war with him. But Bote won the war. Chaq and Machaq escaped from Chhilas along with their army and families and decided to give up Chhilas for ever." (pp 258-259)


Faizi says that Chaq's people settled at a place called Ishrit to the south east of Chitral and Machaq group settled at a place named Nargah in the gorges of Kachi Khani in the bottoms of Bishqar Gol valley to the east of Chitral."

     He further says that:


"One branch of its tribe has migrated from here and settled at Sao in the Province of Kunar in Afghanistan. The Shins of Ishrit and Afghanistan have preserved their dialect by internal marriages and interactions. So in those area, Chhilasi Shina is spoken."


     In my opinion the quotiation of their war for the sake of becoming the "sardar" is not likely to be true because upto 1920 A.D no one  in Chhilas came up to become a ruler, nor is their any such mention of any one from Darel, Tagir and from Kolai to Basha either. There was no concept with the Shins of having a "sardar" in those days. But they followed a multi-centre (kasir-ul-marakzi) system which is opposit to "sardari" system (I could not get much information about them. I have relied on only Mr. Faizi's information.).



     The people of this branch belong to the daRma tribe of Shins and are settled on the southern banks of River Shevak in Baltistan. The names of their sub tribes and sub-castes were not available.



     This regional tribe of Shins is found in Talil valley. According to Dr. Schmidt, all the population is Shin here. The information about its sub-tribes was not available.


     There are many more other tribes of Shins besides these ones. For instance, in Ladakh the tribes found in Gurugurdu, Sanacha, Ardo, Darchak, Raha, Pandoor, Pander, upper Baldis and lower Baldis and so on. But the complete data about them could not be acquired. Drew believes that their ancestors had migrated to there from the areas of Gilgit. Information could not be acquired of amy Shin tribes and branches of Gilgit, Astor, Bunji, Broshal and Chaprot.