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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Afghanistan in Middle East Countries
Map of area around the Aral Sea. Aral Sea boundaries are circa 1960. Countries at least partially in the Aral Sea watershed are in yellow.
Map showing the 34 provinces of Afghanistan

Afghanistan (officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; Pashto: د افغانستان اسلامي جمهوریت, Dari: جمهوری اسلامی افغانستان), is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Asia. Generally considered a part of Central Asia, it is sometimes ascribed to a regional bloc in either South Asia or the Middle East, as it has cultural, ethno-linguistic, and geographic links with most of its neighbors.

Visit by Xuanzang in 644 AD

Alexander Cunningham[1] writes about 10. Opokien, or Afghanistan: O-po-kien is mentioned only once by Hwen Thsang in a brief paragraph, which places it between Falana and Ghazni, to the north-west of the former, and to the south-east of the latter. From this description it would appear to be the same as the Lo-i of Fa-Hian, and the Roh of the Indian historians. Perhaps the name of Opokien may have some connection with Vorgun or Verghin, which Wilford's surveyor, Mogal Beg, places near the source of the Tunchi, or Tochi branch of the Kuram river. In the map attached to Burnes's Travels by Arrowsmith the name is written Borghoon. I am, however, inclined to identify Opokien, or Avakan, as it is rendered by M. Julien, with the name of Afghan, as I find that the Chinese syllable kien represents ghan in the word Ghanta. From the cursory notice of the district by Hwen Thsang, I infer that it must have formed part of the province of Falana. It was certainly a part of the mountainous district called Roh by Abul Fazl and Ferishta,[2] or south-eastern Afghanistan, which would appear to have been one of the original seats of the Afghan people. Major

[p.88]: Raverty[3] describes Roh as " the mountainous district of Afghanistan and part of Biluchistan," or "the country between Ghazni and Kandahar and the Indus." The people of this province are called Rohilas, or Rohila Afghans, to distinguish them from other Afghans, such as the Ghori Afghans of Ghor between Balkh and Merv. There is, however, a slight chronological difficulty about this identification, as the Afghans of Khilij, Ghor, and Kabul are stated by Ferishta to have subdued the province of Roh so late as A.H. 63, or A.D. 682, that is about thirty years later than the period of Hwen Thsang's visit. But I think that there are good grounds for doubting the accuracy of this statement, as Hwen Thsang describes the language of Falana as having but little resemblance to that of Central India. The inhabitants of Roh could not, therefore, have been Indians; and if not Indians, they must almost certainly have been Afghans. Ferishta[4] begins his account by saying that the Muhammadan Afghans of the mountains "invaded and laid waste the inhabited countries, such as Kirman, Shivaran, and Peshawar;" and that several battles took place between the Indians and Afghans " on a plain between Kirman and Peshawar." The Kirman here mentioned is not the great province of Kirman, or Karmania, on the shore of the Indian Ocean, but the Kirman, or Kirmash, of Timur's historians, which is the valley of the Kuram river. The difficulty may be explained if we limit the part of Kirman that was invaded to the lower valley, or plains of the Kuram river, and extend the limits of the Afghan country beyond Ghazni and Kabul, so as to

[p.89]: embrace the upper valley, or mountain region of the Kuram river. Politically the ruler of Peshawar has always been the ruler of Kohat and Banu, and the ruler of Kabul has been the lord of the upper Kuram valley. This latter district is now called Khost ; but it is the Iryab of Timur's historians, and of Wilford's surveyor, Mogul Beg, and the Haryub of Elphinstone. Now the Suliman-Khel of the Buran division of the Ghiljis number about three-fourths of the whole horde. I infer, therefore, that the original seat of the Ghiljis must have included the upper valleys of the Kuram and Gomal rivers on the east, with Ghazni and Kelat-i-Ghilji on the west. Haryub would thus have formed part of the Afghan district of Khilij, or Ghilji, from which the southern territories of Peshawar were easily accessible.

But whether this explanation of Ferishta's statement be correct or not, I feel almost certain that Hwen Thsang's O-po-kien must be intended for Afghan. Its exact equivalent would be Avaghan, which is the nearest transcript of Afghan that the Chinese syllables are capable of making. If this rendering is correct, it is the earliest mention of the Afghans that I am aware of under that name.


अफ़गानिस्तान - यह अपभ्रंश है अपगानस्थान का। अप = बुरा, गान = गाना, स्थान = देश। अर्थात् बुरे गायकों का देश। इसीलिए इस देश को फ़ारसी लुग़ात में गिरिया व जारी करने वालों का देश कहा है। वास्तव में यह देश गान्धर्व देश था, जिसका अर्थ है गानविद्या को धारण करने वालों का देश। यह सर्वगत ब्रह्म के जानने वाले, सामवेद के गाने वालों का देश था जिसको अब ‘कन्धार’ कहते हैं जो कि अपभ्रंश है ‘गान्धार’ का। यह वही देश है जिसके राजा की राजकन्या श्रीमती महाराणी गान्धारी महाराज धृतराष्ट्र से ब्याही थी। (वाल्मीकि रामायण, उत्तरकाण्ड सर्ग 100 में भी गन्धर्व देश का नाम है)।[5]

अफगानिस्तान - यह गन्धर्व देश कहलाता था जिसका अर्थ है गानविद्या को धारण करने वालों का देश। अब कन्धार कहे जानेवाला अपभ्रंश है ‘गान्धार’ का। यह वही देश है जिसके राजा की राजकन्या श्रीमती महाराणी गान्धारी महाराज धृतराष्ट्र से ब्याही थी।[6]

Legend about how Afghan word came into existence

According to Niamtulla's Makhzan-i-Afghani and Hamdulla Mustaufi's Tarikh-i-Guzida, in the eighteenth generation from Adam was born Ibrahim one of whose decendants was Talut or Saul. Talut had two sons, one of whom was named Irmia or Jermia. Irmia had a son named Afghan, who is supposed to have given his name to the Afghan people. Qais, a descendant of Afghan, with many of his kins men or Bani Israel settled down in Ghor, joined the Prophert's standard, and was converted to Islam.The Prophet was so pleased with Qais that he gave him the name of Abdur Rashid, called him Malik [king] and Pethan [keel or rudder of a ship] for showing his people the path of Islam. This explains how the Afghan and Pathan came into being and how they all love the title of Malik. [7]

Provinces of Afghanistan

Afghanistan is administratively divided into thirty-four (34) provinces (welayats), and for each province there is a capital. Each province is then divided into many provincial districts, and each district normally covers a city or several townships.

Province wise list of Districts

North Eastern Afghanistan

Badakhshan Province

Baghlan Province

Kunduz Province

Takhar Province

North Western Afghanistan

Balkh Province

Faryab Province

Jowzjan Province

Samangan Province

Sare Pol Province

Central Mainland Afghanistan

Central Afghanistan

Kapisa Province

Logar Province

Panjshir Province

  • Anaba - created within the former Panjsher District
  • Bazarak - created within the former Panjsher District
  • Darah - created within the former Hisa Duwum Panjsher District
  • Khenj - created within the former Hisa Awal Panjsher District
  • Paryan - created within the former Hisa Awal Panjsher District
  • Rokha - created within parts of the former Hisa Duwum Panjsher and Panjsher Districts
  • Shotul - created within the former Panjsher District

Parwan Province

Wardak Province

Eastern Afghanistan

Kunar Province

Laghman Province

Nangarhar Province

Nuristan Province

Western Afghanistan

Badghis Province

Bamyan Province

Farah Province

Ghor Province

Herat Province

South Eastern Afghanistan

Ghazni Province

Khost Province

Paktia Province

Paktika Province

South Western Afghanistan

Daykundi Province

  • Gizab - shifted from Oruzgan Province
  • Ishtarlay - created within the former Daykundi District; shifted from Oruzgan Province
  • Kajran - shifted from Oruzgan Province
  • Khadir - created within the former Daykundi District; shifted from Oruzgan Province
  • Kiti - formerly part of Kajran District; shifted from Oruzgan Province
  • Miramor - formerly part of Sharistan District; shifted from Oruzgan Province
  • Nili - created within the former Daykundi District; shifted from Oruzgan Province
  • Sangtakht - created within the former Daykundi District; shifted from Oruzgan Province
  • Shahristan - shifted from Oruzgan Province

Helmand Province

Kandahar Province

Nimruz Province

Orūzgān Province

Zabul Province

The Kingdom of Zabul in 700 AD

Jats in Afghanistan

Afghanistan was part of Bharat Varsh during Mahabharata period. The wife of Dhritrashtra, Gandhari, was from this area. Sometimes there were Indian rulers and sometimes there were Iranian rulers in Afghanistan. During Chandra Gupta’s period Saubhagsen was king in Afghanistan. Jat rulers till the invasion by Mughals ruled Kandahar. After the Mughal invasion some Jats moved to India and others were converted to Muslims. Jats from Afghanistan moved to India during the rule of Shalivahan. According to Henry Eliot, author of the book “Distribution of the races of north western provinces of India”, The Jats settled on the banks of Chenab River in Punjab, call there area as Herat because they believe that they had come from Herat of Iran. According to Thakur Deshraj the present Sistan was ruled by Jats and that area was known as Shivistan (place of Shivi gotra Jats). Cunningham states that Jats mixed with Rajputs and Afghans. Later these people were called Bloch.

Ram Sarup Joon[8] writes that .... Afghanistan was called Upguanstan, Baluchijostan both of that are Sanskrit words. Both these countries were part of India till, as late as the Mogul period. King Seth of the Ardas branch of Yayati dynasty had a son called Arh, whose son Gandhara founded the town of Gandhar, now known as Kandhar. Gandhari, mother

History of the Jats, End of Page-38

of Duryodhana was from this town. Jats have gotras of this dynasty named Gaindhar, Gaindhala and Gaindhu. King Gaj founded Ghazni.

Todd, quoting Strabo writes that a large number of people East of Caspian Sea are called Scythians and further East live the Dahiyas the Maha Jati, who used to provide three hundred horsemen and seven hundred foot soldiers in times of need.

Gedown and Niel write that the forefathers, of Laumiri Baluchis were Jats.

According to Todd, in ancient times the boundaries of Jat kingdom of Sindhu, included parts of Baluchistan, Makran, Balorari and the Salt Ranges.[9]

People of Gill gotra came to known as Gilzai Pathans; Gill Jats at one time ruled the area of Hindukush Mountains. The last ruler of Ghazni was Subhag Sen. At the time of Alexander's invasion king Chitra Verma ruled Baluchistan.

According to Todd, in 1023, Umer Bin Moosaiw wrested Hirat and Kaikan from the Jats and made 3000 Jat soldiers prisoners. The Tawarikh Tibri by Sulaiman Nadvi also mentions this event. It states that a Jat Commander of Umer Bin Moosa refused to join the attack. But in spite of this, Umer was victorious despite heavy losses.[10]

Sialkot and Quetta of Baluchistan were capitals of Madrak Kings.

Makran province of Baluchistan belonged to the Jats. When King Sapur the second of Sasanian dynasty

History of the Jats, End of Page-39

became friendly with Samudra Gupta, Sindhu and Makran provinces were given to the Jats.

In the history of the ruling dynasty of Jaisalmer there is reference to an event in Yudhisthra Samvat 3008, that when their ancestors were driven out of Gazni and were advancing towards India, they had to battle with Tak-is (Takshaks) on the banks of River Indus.

Migration of Jats

H. W. Bellew in book The Races of Afghanistan writes about the ancient history of Afghans and Jats as under:

And we know from the records of history that, apart from the transfer or displacement of populations consequent upon prior irruptions of Scythic hordes from the north-east, there took place about two centuries earlier, or during the fifth and beginning of the sixth of our era, a very powerful emigration of an Indian people from the western bank of the Indus to the valley of the Helmand and its tributary streams, towards a kindred people already settled there. (p.21)

This emigration en masse was owing, it would appear, to the irruption into the Indus valley of the Jats, and Katti, and other Scythic tribes, who about that period poured over the Hindu Kush. The Jats and Katti the Getes and Catti of European authors are now largely represented in this seat of their early conquest in the Jat (or Gujar as he is commonly styled) agricultural population of the Panjab, and in the Katti of Kattiwar or Kattiyawar. (p.21)

In Afghanistan the Jat is known by the name of Gujar, which is a Hindi term expressive of his calling as a rearer of cattle and a husbandman, and he is found in the greatest numbers in the Yusufzai country, especially in the hill districts of Swat, Buner, and Bajawar. (p.21-22)

This body of Indian emigrants, who migrated from the Indus to the Helmand, was composed of a people professing the Budhist religion, and who, fleeing away from the irresistible wave of Scythic invasion, abandoned their native country, and took along with them the most sacred and cherished relic of their spiritual lawgiver the water-pot of Budha. (p.22)

The Indian people who emigrated from the Indus and established themselves as a powerful colony on the Helmand were the Gandarii, and their country was the Gandaria of the Greek authors. They were the Gandhari, and their country the Sindhu Gandhara of the Hindu writers. (p.22-23)

Jat Places in Afghanistan

Main article: Jat Places in Afghanistan

Here are mentioned some of Jat places having connection with Jat History and Jat Clans.

Wardak وردګ (Pashtoپښتو‎/ wardak vardag vardak, Hindi:वरडक)) is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the centre of the country. Its capital is Meydan Shahr. It is associated with the history of Burdak Jat clan.

The records of Kushan ruler Havishka have been unearthed at Wardak, to the west of Kabul.[11] Bhim Singh Dahiya has mentioned about an inscription of Wardak near Kabul of the year 51 of Saka era (129 AD), which relates the establishment of the relic of Lord Buddha in a stupa by Vagramarega who is shown as a scion of Kama Gulya. Here it is related with clan name Gulya of the Jats. [12] Wardak is associated with the history of Burdak Jat clan. Jats in Afghanistan were of followers of Buddhism. About two thousand years back Kushan gotra Jat king Kanishka was ruler of Afghanistan also and his capital was Peshawar or Purushpur. His descendants ruled in Afghanistan till nineth vikram century.

Maharaja Gaj founded the Ghazni city of Afghanistan. Maharaja Gaj was killed in war with Mughals. Maharaja Gaj had sent his son Shalivahan to India before war with Mughals. The present Maharawal of Jaisalmer is descecdant of Maharaja Gaj. Mahraja Jaisalmer later on got converted to Rajput. The Gajrania gotra in jats is after Maharaja Gaj.

According to official gazette of Afghanistan there was Jat population of about 60000 in the year 1857 in Afghanistan. These used to be called Jats of Hind.

Some study about Afghanistan reveals that there are four provinces in Afghanistan in which I found similarity with Jat Gotras. These are: -

Places in Afghanistan - Study of places in Afghanistan shows that there are many places in Afghanistan, which are after Jat gotra or names of Jat people. These names have no equivalent Sanskrit or Hindi names. This explains the movement of Jat people from Afghanistan to India. Almas, Bagram, Barazi, Baraz loghan, Barla, Bazar, Chahar, Chahar-borjak, Chahar-burjak, Kasawa, Ladu, Mahalla Sakhii, Mahalla Sakhri, Malla, Mano, Matu, Ma’dudi, Naik, Rohi, Rud, Saran, Sibji, Soran, Tabar, Takhra, Umara, Walian


  1. The Ancient Geography of India/Udyana, pp. 87-89
  2. Briggs's ' Ferishta,' i, p. 8.
  3. Pushtu Dictionary, in voce.
  4. Briggs's Translation, i. 7.
  5. Jat History Dalip Singh Ahlawat/Chapter IV (Page 337)
  6. Jat History Dalip Singh Ahlawat/Chapter IV (Page 411)
  7. Studies in Asian History, 1969 pp.17-18
  8. Ram Sarup Joon: History of the Jats/Chapter III, pp.37-39
  9. Todds Rajasthan, Urdu Edition, p.198
  10. Todds Rajasthan, Urdu Edition, p.181
  11. RC Majumdar: An Advanced History of India, Page 116, ISBN 0333 90298 X
  12. Bhim Singh Dahiya :Jats: The Ancient Rulers, p.41

Further reading

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