The Kaghan Valley area and the Karakoram Highway pass through the district.
Origin of name
Mansehra district and town are named after Man Singh, a leading general of Mughal Emperor Akbar.
In the 2nd century CE, a mythical Hindu king Raja Risalu, son of Raja Salbahan of Sialkot, brought the area under his control. The local people consider him as their hero and, even today, parents tell their children the stories of Raja Risalu and his wife Rani Konklan on winter nights. When a Chinese pilgrim, Hiun-Tsang, visited this area, it was under the control of Durlabhavardhana, the ruler of Kashmir.
The Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire ruled the region. The Punjab region became predominantly Muslim due to missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs dot the landscape of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The Turkish Shahi and Hindu Shahi Dynasties ruled Mansehra consecutively. Among the Hindu Shahi dynasty rulers, Raja Jayapala is the best known. Mahmud of Ghazni defeated Raja Jayapala during his first Indian campaign. There is no historical evidence that Mehmood of Ghazni ever visited or passed through Mansehra.
From 1112 to 1120, King Susala ruled this area.
In the 12th century, Asalat Khan captured this area but soon after Mohammad of Ghor's death the Kashmiris once again regained control of Mansehra.
Turkish rule: In 1399, the great Muslim warrior Timur, on his return to Kabul, stationed his Turk soldiers, a sub tribe of Karlugh Turks, in Mansehra to protect the important route between Kabul and Kashmir.
By 1472, Prince Shahab-ud-Din came from Kabul and established his rule over the region. Prince Shahab-ud-Din, a Karlugh Turks of Central Asian origin, founded the state and named it Pakhli Sarkar and chose Gulibagh Village (near Baffa) as his capital.
During the Mughal rule, these local Turkish chiefs acknowledged Mughal authority. In fact, Mansehra (Pakhli) provided the main route to Kashmir and was the most commonly used route for Emperor Akbar to travel to Kashmir. During the last days of Emperor Akbar's rule, the Turkish Chief Sultan Hussain Khan revolted against the Mughals. He claimed that the Mughals were interfering with his internal affairs. After this complaint, he was exiled by the Mughals, but later was pardoned and given back his land.
Sikh rule: The fall of the Durranis led the way for the Sikhs to rise to power under Ranjit Singh. The Sikhs gained invaded of Mansehra in 1818, after heroic resistance from its inhabitants. When Mansehra fell under Sikh control, it was annexed to Punjab. The Muslims faced severe restrictions during the Sikh rule. The brutality of Sikh rule roused Syed Ahmad Shaheed, who with the help of the Mujahideen, led many revolts and attacks against the Sikhs.
At last, in 1831, during a fierce battle at Balakot, Syed Ahmad Shaheed was killed. This allowed the Sikhs to consolidate their control of Mansehra. After Ranjit Singh's death, the Sikh empire began to disintegrate.
Painda Khan Tanoli was the tribal chief of the Tanolis at the time of the invasion of Hazara by the Sikhs. Painda Khan is famed for his staunch rebellion against Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Governors of Hazara. From about 1813, he was involved in a lifelong rebellion against the Sikhs. When Sikh power was on the fall in 1845 his son, Jehandad Khan, blockaded the garrisons of no less than 22 Sikh posts in Upper Tanawal; and when they surrendered at discretion, he spared their lives, as the servants of a fallen Empire.
In the meantime other Chiefs of Hazara rushed to arms to defeat the Sikhs who were in their country. They invited Syed Akbar, of Sitana, to be King of Hazara, and make a holy war with the Sikh invaders. Nuvab Khan of Shingri, and Sardar Ghulam Ahmad Khan Tarin (or Tareen) became Syad Akbur's "Wazirs", whilst Pir Khan came down to join with the Jaduns, Khan i Zeman brought the Tarkheylies; the Swatis of Publi, and the Mushwanis, contributed to the battle. For two months they besieged Diwan Mulraj, the Kardar, in the fort of Harkishengarh (at Haripur Pakistan); and at last, after several gallant repulses, forced the garrison to evacuate by cutting off water.
On 19 March 1846, a peace treaty was signed between the Sikhs and the British according to which Raja Gulab Singh took Kashmir and Hazara from the British for 7,500,000 rupees. But due to widespread civil disorder the Raja asked the British government to take over Hazara in exchange of the Jammu-Jhelum belt. The British accepted this offer and took over Hazara from him. They deputed James Abbot to Hazara to restore peace. He defeated Chuttar Singh, a Sikh general, after coming to Hazara and thus completely ousted the Sikhs from power. In 1849, it was, as part of the ex Sikh Lahore/Punjab kingdom, formally annexed to British India.
British rule: By 1849, the British had gained control of all of Mansehra. However, the western Pashtun tribes accepted their Government while Gujjars fight against the British Raj. They lost more than 50,000 soldiers. The Gujjars had lost their major fighters and the Pashtuns had lost their significance. After eighteen months the Gujjars and the Pashtun created a brotherhood relationship and fought against the British Raj. Anyhow, they lost their 70,000 soldiers but they were still ready to fight. James Abbot was the commissioner of Mansehra and Abbotabad at that time. They left Mansehra and had total control of Abbotabad. The brotherhood relationship of Pashtun and Gujjars still remains today.
After the major loss of British Army, British divided Hazara District into three Tehsils (administrative subdivisions): Mansehra, which governed by the Gujjars, Abbottabad which governed by the British Raj, and Haripur Which governed by the Pashtun, and decided to lived their with peace and justice.
In 1901, when the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) (now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) was created, Hazara was separated from Punjab and made a part of it. The British accepted the independence of the Nawab of Amb; within his own territory and thus no formal writ of the British Government was enacted therein. The smaller Tanoli State of Phulra, which was granted by Painda Khan to his brother Madad Khan, was also acknowledged by the Britishers as a semi-independent state.
When the Muslim League in Pakistan started its movement for a separate land, the local people joined and struggled for liberation under the leadership of Quaid-i-Azam. Their eventual victory culminated in the creation of Pakistan, an independent state for the Muslims of the South Asia in August 1947.
Rathi: According to Bhim Singh Dahiya, Rathi/Rashtri have been mentioned in the Indian literature as Rastrikas / Rathikas. By ignoring the suffix ‘Ka’ we get the modern name Rathi. Their identification with Rastrikas is justified for we find that the corresponding German name for the clan is still “Raster" Peter Raster, a German was teaching in the languages department of Delhi University. They are mentioned along with the Bhojas, and both have elected an executive governing body. The name Saurastra is known after them, as per K P Jayaswal. Arthashastra mentions Surastra as well as their Rastrika government. In Asoka’s inscriptions they are mentioned as Rastikas, in the Girnar, Rathikas in the Shah Bazgarhi, and Rathakas in the Mansehra inscription (For the use of the word Rathika, see Barua’s Old Brahmi Inscription). 
Kala Dhaka - Kala Dhaka is a mountain range and tribal area of the Mansehra District. They are also resident in the Agror Valley in the basin of Tur Ghar (Kala Dhaka) or the black mountain, the Pakhli Plain and parts of Upper Tanawallace. Gadoon Amazai, Abbottabad (Sheikh-ul-Bandi, NawanShehr, Dhamtor and Mir Pur, Havalian), Haripur(Bagra, Karakki, Gandian, Langrial) these are in Kala Dhaka area.
Hukum Singh Panwar (Pauria) writes that A 2000 yrs. old 14 Kg. gold bracelet, believed to be Scythian, was found in Mansehra district of N.W.F.P. in Pakistan (Tribune, Chandigarh, dt. 2.9.1987). Just imagine the size and bulk of its wearer.
- In a Peshawar letter dated 10 December 1858, from Lt. Col. H. B. Edwards, Commissioner and Supdt, Peshawar Division, to the Financial Commissioner of the Punjab. extracted from "A Collection of Papers relating to the History, Status and Powers of The Nawab of Amb", pg 83, Published 1874, Punjab Secretariat
- Letter dated 21 March 1863. From Thomas Douglas Forsyth, Officiating Secretary to the Government Punjab to Secretary to the Government of India, Foreign Department, Collection of Papers Relating to the History, Status and Powers of the Chief of Amb, 97 Pages, Published 1874, Punjab Secretariat, pg 58
- Gazetteer 1883–84
- Jats the Ancient Rulers (A clan study)/Jat Clan in India,p. 268
- Bhim Singh Dahiya, Jats the Ancient Rulers ( A clan study), p. 268
- The Jats:Their Origin, Antiquity and Migrations/The identification of the Jats,p.329, fn.32a.
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