Awan, a South Asian Zamindar tribe, putatively of Arab origin, living predominantly in western and central parts of Punjab, Pakistan. The Awans subscribe to the belief that they are the descendants of the fourth Caliph, Ali (though the bulk of those belonging to the tribe are not Shias), and as such, a number adopt the title, Alvi – particularly those who migrated from East Punjab to Pakistan - although not all of those who refer to themselves as Alvi are Awans.
Alexander Cunningham, Harikishan Kaul and Arthur Brandreth ispute that the Awans are of Arab origin. Cunningham looked upon the Awans as a Rajput clan, whereas Kaul was of the opinion that the tribe was of either Jat or Rajput origin, pointing to the fact that in Sanskrit, the term Awan means "defender" or "protector" and asserting that this title was awarded by surrounding tribes due to the Awans successfully defending their strongholds against aggression. Brandreth believed the Awans to be remnants of Bactrian Greeks.
H.A. Rose on Awan
H.A. Rose writes that The Awans (अवान) are an important tribe, exclusively Muhammadan, chiefly found in the Salt Range, where they possess an Awankari,1 but also widely spread to the east, south and west of that tract. Extend-
- 1. There is also an Awankari in Jullundur : Purser's S. R , § 42. And in Hoshiarpur the Awans hold a bara in the Dasuya pargana on the high level plain near Mukerian P. N. Q. I., § 465.
ing along the whole length of the Range from Jhelum to the Indus, they are found in great numbers throughout the whole country beyond it up to tho foot, of the Sulemans and the Safed Koh1 ; though in trans-Indus Bannu they partly, and in Dera Ismail Khan wholly, merge in the Jats, a term which in those parts means little more than a nondescript peasant. In Peshawar the Awans are included in the hamsaya or faqir class. In Kohat towards Khushalgarh they resemble the Awans of the Salt Range, but elsewhere in that District are hardly distinguishable from the Bangash and Niazais among whom they live.
The independent possessions of the Awans in the Salt Range were once very considerable, and in its western and central portion they are still the dominant race. As a dominant tribe the eastern limits of their position coincide approximately with the western border of the Chakwal and Pind Dadan Khan tahsils, but they have also spread eastwards along the foot of the hills as far as the Sutlej, and southwards down that river valley into Multan and Jhang. They formerly held all the plain country at the foot of the western Salt Range, but have been gradually driven up into the hills by Pathans advancing from the Indus, and Tiwanas from the Jhelum.
The word Awan is not unplausibly derived from Ahwan, 'helper,'2 but various explanations of its origin are given. According to one tradition the Awans, who claim Arab origin, are descendants of Qutb Shah, himself descended from Ali, and were attached to the Muhammadan armies which invaded India as 'auxiliaries,'3 whence their name. In Kapurthala a more precise version of their legend makes them Alwi Sayyids, who oppressed by the Abba sides, sought refuge in Sindh ; and eventually allied themselves with Sabuktagin, who bestowed on them the title of Awan. But in the best available account of the tribe4 the Awans are indeed said to be of Arabian origin and descendants of Qutb Shah, but he is said to have ruled Herat and to have joined Mahmud of Ghazni when he invaded India. With him came six of his many sons : Gauhar Shah or Gorrara, who settled near Sakesar; Kalan Shah or Kalgan who settled at Dhankot (Kalabagh) : Chauhan who colonised the hills near the Indus5 : Khokhar or Muhammad Shah who settled on the Chenab: Tori6 and Jhajh whose descendants are said to be still found in Tirah and elsewhere.
- 1. Raverty says 'Awan-kars' held the Karwan darra in Kurram, but none appear to be found now in the Kurram Valley : Notes, p. 82.
- 2. Another tradition is that when Zuhair went forth to fight with Hasan, he left his wife, then pregnant, with Zain-ul-abidaia in aman or 'trust,' whence her son's descendants are called Awan. A curious variant of this appears in Talagang where it is said that Qutb Shah's descendant having lost all his sons was bidden by a saint to place his next born son in a potter's kiln 'on trust'. He did so, and after the kiln had been burnt the child was taken out alive.
- 3. For Awan as equivalent to Auxiliary we may compare euergetai : McCrindle's Ancient India, p. 38
- 4. By Mr. W. S. Talbot in the Jhelum Gazetteer, 1905, pp. 102— 104. He disposes of Cunningham's theory that Janjuas and Awans were within historical times one race : (Arch. Survey Reports. II 17 ff) : and of Brandreth's theory that the Awans, though recent immigrants into the Punjab, are descended from Bactrian Greeks. Mr. Talbot also mentions the Gangs and Munds who are generally reckoned as Awans, but who are probably only affiliated indigenous clans.
- 6. Possibly Turi is meant, and the Kurram Valley is referred to as their locality.
In Gujrat tradition gives Qutb Shah three wives, from whom sprang the Khokhars and the four muhins or clans of the Awans. By Barth, his first wife, he had a son named Khokhar : by Sahd, he had Khurara (खुराड़ा) or Gurara (गुराड़ा): and by Fateh Khatun, three sous — Kalgan, Chauhan and Kundan.
These four clans are again divided into numerous septs, often bearing eponymous names, hut sometimes the names of Gujar, Jat and other tribal septs appear. Thus in Sialkot1, the Awans are said to be divided into 24 muhins. But in Gujrat the Khurara clan comprises 21 sub-divisions, including such names as Jalap and Bhakri : the Kalgan comprise 43 sub-divisions, including Dudial, Andar, Papin and others : the Chauhans have three septs, Ludain, Bhusin and Ghuttar : and the Kundan Chechi, Mahr, Malka, Mayan, Puchal and Saroia. Few of these look like Muhammadan patronymics.
As claiming descent from Qutb Shah the Awans are often called Qutb-shahi, and sometimes style themselves Ulami. In Gujrat they only marry inter se, refusing to give daughters even to the Chibbs, and not inter- marrying with the Khokhars. In Jhelum too Awans give their daughters in marriage to Awans only as a rule, though there seems to be some instances of marriages with leading men of the Chakwal tribes : it is said, however, that the Kalabagh Mallik refused to betroth his daughter to Sardar Muhammd Ali, chief of the Rawalpindi Ghebas. In some families at least, prominent Awans not infrequently take to wife women of low tribes (usually having an Awan wife also), and this practice does not seem to meet with as much disapproval as in most other tribes of equal social standing : but ordinarily Awan wives alone are taken.2 Certain families marry with certain other families only : and in all cases marriage is generally but not necessarily within the muhi."
- 1. The Customary Law of this District (Voliune XIV) p, 3, gives the following list of Awan sub-clans :— 1 Bagwal, 2 Bajra,3 Biddar, 4 Chandhar, 5 Chhaila, 6 Dhinqle, 7 Ghulle, 8 Gorare, 9 Harpal, 10 Jalkhuh, 11 Jand, 12 Jhan, 13 Khambre, 14 Kharana,15 Malka, 16 Mandu, 17 Mangar, 18 Mirza, 19 Pappan, 20 Ropar, 21 Salhi,22 Sangwal, 23 Saroya,24 Wadhal,
- Those in italics are returned as Khurara in Gujrat. Nos. 1, 2, 3, 9, 11, 14, 22 and 24 are classed as Kalgan.
- 2. In Rawalpindi the children of a low-caste woman by an Awan are not considered true Awans
This passage is entirely consistent with the popular classification of the Awans as zamindar or yeomen, in contradistinction to the Sahu or gentry (Janjuas and Ghakkars), but on a level with the Mairs and other leading tribes of Chakwal.
The loading family among the Awans is that of the Malik of Kalabagh, and throughout the Jhelum Salt Range they have numerous maliks1 notably Lal Khan of Nurpur in Pind Dadan Khan, head of the Shial (descendants of Shihan, a great malik in the latter part of the eighteenth century).
Like the Kassars, Janjuas and Khokhars, but unlike the Ghakkars, the Awans have the institution of sirdari, whereby the eldest son of a chief gets an extra share. In other respects their customs of inheritance are closely alike those of the other Muhammadan tribes among whom they live. In Shahpur and Jhelum, however, the Awans recognize a daughter's right to succeed.
In the Awan villages of Talagang tahsil all the graves have a vertical slab at either end, while a woman's grave can be at once distinguished by a smaller slab in the centre.2
An Awan girl plaits her hair on the forehead and wears only ear-drops, this style being given up after marriage.3 Betrothal is effected by the girl's father sending a bard or barber to the boy's home with a few rupees and some sweets : or no ceremony at all is observed.
- 1. But Brandreth says the chief is called ' Rai,' and his younger brothers and sons ' Malik.' Settlement Report, § 49, p. 23.
- 2 P. N. Q. I., § 594.
- 3 Ibid, n, § 352. There is a history of the Awans in Urdu, published by Dr. Ghulam Nabi of Lahore.
M. Amin Chand's History of Sialkot gives a curious pedigree of the Awans which is pictured here : —
- * Another account makes Ausl Shah descended from Muhammad Khaifa, the Prophet's son, by a woman of Janir.
- † See article Jun.
- In Sialkot the Awans are known under these 4 branches :— Gohera [there is a tract in the Rawalpindi District still called Guhera, (or Gohera) after this tribe], Kahambara, Dengla and Mandu.
Distribution in Pakistan
The bulk of the Awan tribe is to be found in the Punjab (Pakistan). Its population is concentrated in the districts of Rawalpindi, Attock, Chakwal, Jhelum, Sargodha, Khushab (particularly the Soon Valley), Mianwali] (Awan tribes residing here are believed to have been the sole occupants of the Mianwali Salt Range for nearly six hundred years), Gujranwala, Hafizabad, Gujrat, Sialkot, Narowal, and Layyah and is also scattered throughout the rest of Punjab.
Tracts in regions such as Jhelum and Mianwali are so heavily populated by Awans that they have long been referred to as "Awankari". Pre-Partition, an Awankari existed in Jalandhar and an Awan bara in Hoshiarpur. Awankari is also a dialect of Punjabi. Though these areas are their ancestral homelands and many own farms and other property there, numerous Awans live in the major cities of Pakistan such as Lahore (where a section of the Awan tribe has established a settlement, aptly named Awan Town), Islamabad, and Karachi.
The Awan tribe is also to be found in great numbers in the North West Frontier Province, particularly in the Hazara Division, Peshawar valley and the districts of Nowshera, Kohat, Abbottabad, Haripur, Mansehra, Bannu and Swat. A smaller portion of the tribe resides in Azad Kashmir,and to a lesser extent is also present in the Pakistani provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. In addition, Awans can also be found in Afghanistan and some parts of India.
According to 1911 census, the following districts inhabit population of Awan Muslim Jat clan: 
- Sialkot District - Awan (714)
- Lahore District - Awan (3,433)
- Gujrat District - Awan (1,780)
- Shahpur ([[Sargodha District) District - Awan (1,219)
- Lyalpur District (Faisalabad District) -Awan (2,085)
- Mianwali District - Awan (3,614)
- Jhang District - Awan (2,392)
- Dera Ghazi Khan District - Awan (1,238)
Distribution in Punjab, India
Awan village in Firozpur district
Villages in Gurdaspur district
Villages in Jalandhar district
Villages in Kapurthala district
- Malik Muhammad Amin Awan of Shamsabad - From Rawalpindi district was in the List of Punjab Chiefs of Pakistan.
- An Inquiry Into the Ethnography of Afghanistan By H. W. Bellew, The Oriental University Institute, Woking, 1891, p.108, 113,128,155
- A glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province By H.A. Rose Vol II/A,pp.25-29
- Census Of India 1911 Volume xiv Punjab Part 2 by Pandit Narikishan Kaul
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