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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Wardak (Pashto/Persian: وردک, also spelt Vardak) is the name of one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan in Central Asia. It is in the centre of the country. Its capital is Meydan Shahr.

Wardak clan

In addition, Wardak or Warrak/Warrák is the name of a clan also found in Afghanistan.[1] The population, about 70,000, is a mixture of 70% Pashtuns, 20% Hazaras and 10% others. Most Wardak residents are Pashto speakers.

Wardak Vase Inscription 129 AD

Transliteration of the inscription on the Wardak Brass Vessel

Line 1. स.०३३ मन्द्रअफ़्थ1मिति2यस़स्तेहि*)।इमेनगत्रिगे3नषमगु

Possible variants 1.ठब 2.सि 3.ग्रे

4.व 5.ग्र 6. दमृ 7.द 8.ग्रव 9.ग्र
मृ10फ़ुस्तिमृभग11 अणयष्च12=शतित13पतिध14वेति
10. गठु 11.ग्र 12. दष्ट्रनं 13. रर 14. रज

Line 2. इमेनषुय=लेनमहरजरजतिरजहोवेष्षन्द्र15 अगभग16एभवतु

15.द्र 16.ग्र
17.द 18.णर 19.य 20.णर 21.ष्ठु 22.गध्र 23.श
24.कुश 25.ग्र 26.स्स 27.ग्र 28.क्कू
29गमतेगन्द्र30 अगभग31पत्रियय31
29.व 30.ग्रद्र 31.ग्र 31.श

Line 3. भवतुसथ32सरेनअतोगद33गोणएभवतुअवि34यनतगपय्थ35रशअभ36

32.ब ? 33.ण ? 34.ति 35.य्ब 36.यव
वग37शो़अच अतरअड38जस39=शु40गशश्रे41तिगअतुप्द्र42तसथि43
37.ग्र 38.ज 39.र 40.यु 41.शे 42.प्त्र 43. बि
44. यक्कूरो 45. द
46.ग्र 47.ति 48.ठ्द्र 49. द्रक्कू 50.ग्र

Line 4 (Seperate Line in large letters) इषवि51हरं52असंश्थ53नमहसंघिगनपतिग54

51.त 52.तं 53.ठंश्ब 54.रग्र
Transliteration of the inscription on the Wardak Brass Vessel[2]

Source - Epigraphia Indica, Vol. XI,p.211

In the year 51, on the day 15 [of the first half ?] of the month Artemisios. By means of this vase Vagra Marega's son Kamagulya, who has fixed his residence in this place Khavata, inters a relic of the Lord Sakya-muni inside a -vault within the Vagra Mariga monastery.

By means of this meritorious foundation may it (the relic) tend to the pre-eminent lot of the great king, the suzerain of kings, Hoveshka ! May it tend to the veneration of my parents ! May it tend to the veneration of my brother's son Hashṭana Marega ! May there be purity for me ! May it tend to the veneration of my grandsons, friends and associates ! And may there be a share of a pre-eminent lot for the territorial lord Vagra Marega ! May it tend to the bestowal of perfect health on all beings ! May it tend to the veneration of all these, namely, the saintly king,4 him who has obtained the condition of having mastered the doctrine, the creature which is born from, moisture, from a womb (?) or 'from an egg, the creature whose life is in water, the graminivorous animal and the incorporeal soul! And may there be a share of a pre-eminent lot for the territorial lord Rohaṇa, all his and his dependents together -with his retinue ! And may there be a supreme lot for Miṭyaga. This monastery is (or was) a gilt to the Mahasanghikas, who are teachers (or who had no habitation ?).

Bhim Singh Dahiya has mentioned about a inscription of Wardak near Kabul of the year 51 of Saka era, 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. [3] Wardak is associated with the history of Burdak Jat clan.

FE Pargiter[4] gives details of this vase which was found by Masson in the topes of Khawat, South west of Kabul, during the year 1834-7 and in now in the British Museum. It is described in Ariana Antiqua (page 147) and E Thomas’ edition of Prinsep’s Essays (p.161). Several scholars have endeavored to decipher the inscription on it.

The script is Khrohthi, and letters are all well made and made clearly distinguished, except y and s, which are much like. The characters for ḍ and ph are of modified form, and a new character for final anusvara appear in pandiyamasam (l l.3,4). An important feature is the rightward stroke added to the foot of consonant. It is of two forms when added to g in the first part of the inscription (down to bhavagra in l.3), straight and curved up; the letters denotes a real r as in agra (l.2) ; the former does not signify r but probably gave g the sound of घं and is transcribed as an italic r , thus gra=ordinary ga. It is also added to mi and transcribed as r , but mri probably = mhi The language is prakrit close to sanscrit.

Note - In this Wardak Inscription of year 51 of Havishka, the Kushana ruler, we find links to four Jat clans namely, Gulya, Burdak, Rahan and Mitya.

Period of Waradak Inscription

Archaeological Researches in Sinkiang : vol.1 [5] estimates that Wardak inscription is dated on April, 25, AD 179.

Some Topes of Kohwat in the district of Wardak, where the inscription was found, are situated on the course of the river, which, having its source in the Hazara Jat, flows through Loghar into the plain Kabul where it unites with the stream passing through city. They are distant about 30 miles west of Kabul. There are 5 or 6 Topes. The coins found in these monuments were of Indo-Scythic class. The image of the the inscription is given by James Prinsep after page 162.[6]

James Prinsep has proposed to render as ‘san 390, Sravana masa sudi prathame Mahodayasa (maharayasa) Gushanagasa raja’.[7]

Wardak people in Afghanistan

The Wardaks are Karlani Pashtoons by origin. This tribe came into being in the region of Barmal Ghar of the Sulaiman range of mountains and from there the whole group of the Karlanis spread into the regions they inhabit today. To their west lie the mountains of Hazarajat and to the other direction the Ghilzai tribes. Their area from north to south is like an oasis, surrounded by mountains to east and west. Their dwelling places lies in the Parapamisos mountains that divide Logar from Kharwara and the western range of mountains belong to Hazarajat. The river that flows to the south of their region is wrongly called the Ghazni river and waters a lot of their fields. Their northern territory is watered by the Logar river. The famous villages of this region are: Tangey, Sheikhabad, Saidabad, Shniz, Khwat, Jaghtu, Dai Mirdad and Chak.

Some Wardaks also live in the provinces of Kunar, Herat, Hilmand, Zabul, Ghazni and Baghlan. Those Wardaks that live in Kunar dwell in Loy Goriga, Ganshal and Jandul. The elders of Ganshal say that their original region is that of the Wardaks and they belong to the clan of Mayar. About 170 years earlier a few Wardak came to the region of Dir and some stayed there, while others went to Jandul and Ganshal. From Ganshal some families of the Wardaks went to Dangam 140 years ago. They became the farmers of the Salarzais and after some time they cultivated fallow land, which they later bought. Some Wardaks think that their ancestors fled and came here in the first governmental year of Amir Abdul Rahman Khan. Later they were given land by the Khan of Asmar and they stayed here. They cultivated their own land then. There is less trading by them and they are intermingled with the Salarzais and the Mamonds. All aspects of life, including their accent of language is influenced by those two tribes. Also, this part of Wardaks that live in Herat, have their own region, which is called Wardak area, and belongs to the administrative unit of Angil. Some Wardak live in Helmand province in the districts of Nadali and Nawe Barakzai. Other Wardaks live in the periphery of Rawalpindi in Chach and Natu.

The abode of the Wardaks is very green, cultivated and fertile, but the autumn (fall) period is very short. Rice, wheat and barley are the products of it. Wardaks are all busy in agriculture and they are very hard working. Some of them are also cattle breeders. Their villages are very small. The names of their famous clans are the following:

Mamak, Mayar, Mirkhel, Noori, Larrem, Gadai, Malekyarkhel, Khwaremkhel, Adinkhel and Massrikhel. The clan of Mirkhel is the biggest by number and then come the Mayar.[8]

The Wardak Pashtun are a Pashtun tribe mainly found in Wardak Province, Afghanistan. The various Wardak sub-tribes live in each of the province’s districts except for Hesa Awal Behsood and Markazi Behsood. Currently several Wardak Pashtuns hold important posts in the central government, including the Ministry of Defense (General Abdur Rahim Wardak), the Ministry of Information, Culture and Youth (Abdul Karim Khoram), and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.[9]


H. W. Bellew[10] writes that The eastern half of Baktria proper, comprising the mountainous districts of Badakhshan, Wakhan, and Shignan, has from a remote antiquity been inhabited by a population of Persian descent and language. This population is now designated by the general term Tajik, indicative of Persian nationality, amongst the Turk nations of Central Asia ; but amongst themselves the people are distinguished as Badakhsi, Wakhi, Shughni, or after their native districts. In appearance and character they differ little from their neighbours on the south side of Hindu Kush, except in the more open districts where they have mixed with the Uzbak invaders. Some of the people on the northern slopes of Hindu Kush are said to be of the same race as the inhabitants of Kafiristan, with whom also they are generally on friendly terms and intimate trade relations. The Vardoji, or people of the Vardoj district, seem to have planted a colony, at some former period, in the vicinity of Ghazni, where their posterity are now represented by the Wardak tribe, not only from the similarity of names, but also from other corroborative circumstances, such as similarity of appearance, character, and habits. The Wardak are not Afghan nor Pathan by descent, nor Ghilzi, nor Hazara, nor Turk, nor Mughal ; by some they are reckoned Tajik, by others they are called Shekh, whilst themselves pretend descent from the Arab Curesh. They speak the Pukhto, but in a corrupt dialect mixed with many foreign words, which may perhaps come from the Vardoj language. Though, as above stated, there are now no clans found in the Balkh country bearing the name of Baktri, that ancient people may have their modern representatives in the Bakhtyari, who are now largely distributed in Persia, and are found scattered about the Suleman range in small clusters here and there. In Persia, the Bakhtyari were formerly a very numerous tribe and celebrated for their superior soldierly qualities ; they distinguished themselves in Afghanistan by the capture of the hill fortress of Kandahar under Nadir Shah in the middle of last century ; but the tribe had settlements in the Kandahar country long prior to that event.

H. W. Bellew [11] writes that THE TAJIK, or, as he is frequently called, the Parsiwan, constitute a numerous and widely spread portion of the inhabitants of Afghanistan, from whom they differ in language, internal government, and manners and customs. They are the representatives of the ancient Persian inhabitants of the country, as the Afghans are of its ancient Indian inhabitants. It would appear that as the Afghans (whose true home and seat are in the Kandahar and Arghandab valleys) mixed and intermarried with the Indian people whom they conquered, and gave their name to the mixed race, so the Arabs, who did the same with the Persian people whom they conquered, left their name as the national designation of their mixed posterity, that is, the name by which they were called by the Persians, Where the Arab progenitors were Sayyids, that is descendants of the Khalif Ali, son-in-law of Muhammad, they gave their own designation to the tribes sprang from them. There are several Sayyid tribes in Afghanistan, the principal being the Wardak and Ushturani.

H. W. Bellew writes that In the Afghan genealogies the Afridi are classed in the Kaki division of the Karai, Kararai, Kararani, or Karalanri branch of the Ghurghushti Afghan, along with the Khattak, Jadran, Utman, Khugiani, Shitak, Suleman, etc. The Karalanri is the same as the Turklanri, and comprises the two divisions of Kodi and Kaki ; of which the Kaki (perhaps the same as Kuki, a Naga tribe to be presently noticed), comprises the tribes above named ; and Kodi comprises the Dalahzak, Orakzi, Musa, Mangal, Tori, Hanni, Wardak, etc. [12]

Visit by Xuanzang 630 AD & 644 AD

Alexander Cunningham[13] writes about Kophene, or Kabul: The district of Kabul is first mentioned by Ptolemy, who calls the people Kubolitaea, and their capital Kabura,

[p.33]: which was also named Ortospana. The latter name alone is found in Strabo and Pliny, with a record of its distance from the capital of Arachosia, as measured by Alexander's surveyors, Diognetes and Baiton. In some copies of Pliny the name is written Orthospanum, which, with a slight alteration to Orthostana, as suggested by H. H. Wilson,[14] is most probably the Sanskrit Urddhasthana, that is, the " high place," or lofty city. The same name is also given to the Kabul district by the Chinese pilgrim Hwen Thsang. But I strongly suspect that there has been some accidental interchange of names between the province and its capital.

On leaving Ghazni, the pilgrim travelled to the north for 600 li, or 83 miles, to Fo-li-shi-sa-tang-na, of which the capital was Hu-phi-na. Now by two different measured routes the distance between Ghazni and Kabul was found to be 81 and 88½ miles.[15] There can be no doubt, therefore, that Kabul must be the place that was visited by the pilgrim. In another place the capital is said to be 700 li, or 116 miles, from Bamian, which agrees very well with the measured distance of 104 miles[16] between Bamian and Kabul, along the shortest route.

The name of the capital, as given by the Chinese pilgrim, has been rendered by M. Vivien de St. Martin as Vardasthana, and identified with the district of the Wardak tribe, while the name of the province has been identified with Hupian or Opian. But the Wardak valley, which receives its name from the "Wardak tribe, lies on the upper course of the

[p.34]: Logarh river, at some distance to the south, of Kabul, and only 40 miles to the north of Ghazni, while Hupian or Opian lies 27 miles to the north of Kabul, or more than 70 miles distant from Wardak. My own researches lead me to conclude that both names refer to the immediate neighbourhood of Kabul itself.

Professor Lassen has already remarked that the name of Kipin, which is so frequently mentioned by other Chinese authors, is not once noticed by Hwen Thsang. Remusat first suggested that Kipin was the country on the Kophes or Kabul river ; and this suggestion has ever since been accepted by the unanimous consent of all writers on ancient India, by whom the district is now generally called Kophene. It is this form of the name of Kipin that I propose to identify with the Hu-phi-na of Hwen Thsang, as it seems to me scarcely possible that this once famous province can have remained altogether unnoticed by him, when we know that he must have passed through it, and that the name was still in use for more than a century after his time.[17] I have already stated my suspicion that there has been some interchange of names between the province and its capital. This suspicion is strengthened when it is found that all difficulties are removed, and the most complete identification obtained, by the simple interchange of the two names. Thus Hu-phi-na will represent Kophene, or Kipin, the country on the Kabul river, and Fo-li-shi-sa-tang-na, or Urddhasthana, will represent Ortostana, which, as we know from several classical authorities, was the actual capital of this province.

[p.35]: I may remark that Huphina is a very exact Chinese transcript of Kophen, whereas it would be a very imperfect transcript of Hupian, as one syllable would be altogether unrepresented, and the simple p would be replaced by an aspirate. The correct transcript of Hupian would be Hu-pi-yan-na.

M. Vivien de St. Martin has objected[18] to the name of Urddhasthana that it is a " conjectural etymology without object." I am, however, quite satisfied that this reading is the correct one, for the following reasons : — 1st. The name of Ortospana is not confined to the Paropamisadae ; but is found also in Karmania and in Persis. It could not, therefore, have had any reference to the Wardak tribe, but must be a generic name descriptive of its situation, a requirement that is most satisfactorily fulfilled by Urddhasthana, which means literally the "high place," and was most probably employed to designate any hill fortress. 2nd. The variation in the reading of the name to Portospana confirms the descriptive meaning which I have given to it, as porta signifies "high " in Pushtu, and was, no doubt, generally adopted by the common people instead of the Sanskrit urddha.

The position of Ortospana I would identify with Kabul itself, with its Bala Hisar, or "high fort," which I take to be only a Persian translation of Ortospana, or Urddhasthana. It was the old capital of the country before the Macedonian conquest, and so late as the tenth century it was still believed " that a king was not properly qualified to govern until he had been inaugurated at Kabul."[19] Hekataeus also describes

[p.36]: a " royal town " amongst the Opiai,[20] but we have no data for determining either its name or its position. It seems most probable, however, that Kabul must he intended, as we know of no other place that could have held this position after the destruction of Kapisa by Cyrus ; but in this case Kabul must have been included within the territories of the Opiai.

It is strange that there is no mention of Kabul in the histories of Alexander, as he must certainly have passed through the town on his way from Arachosia to the site of Alexandria. I think, however, that it is most probably the town of Nikaia, which was Alexander's first march from his new city on his return from Bactria. Nikaia is described by Nonnus as a stone city, situated near a lake. It was also called Astakia, after a nymph whom Bacchus had abused.[21] The lake is a remarkable feature, which is peculiar in Northern India to Kabul and Kashmir. The city is also said to have been called Indophon, or "Indian-killer," on account of the victory which Bacchus had gained over the Indians on this spot. From this name I infer, that Nonnus had most probably heard of the popular meaning which is attributed to the name of Hindu-kush, or "Hindu-killer," and that he adopted it at once as corroborative of the Indian conquests of Dionysius.

[p.37]: The province is described as being 2000 li, or 333 miles, in length, from east to west, and 1000 li, or 166 miles, in breadth from north to south. It is probable that this statement may refer to the former extent of the province, when its king was the paramount ruler of Western Afghanistan, including Ghazni and Kandahar, as the actual dimensions of the Kabul district are not more than one-half of the numbers here stated. Its extreme length, from the sources of the Helmand river to the Jagdalak Pass, is about 150 miles, and its extreme breadth, from Istalif to the sources of the Logarh river, is not more than 70 miles.

The name of Kophes is as old as the time of the Vedas, in which the Kubha river is mentioned as an affluent of the Indus ; and as it is not an Arian word, I infer that the name must have been applied to the Kabul river before the Arian occupation, or, at least, as early as B.C. 2500. In the classical writers we find the Khoes, Kophes, and Khoaspes Rivers, to the west of the Indus, and at the present day we have the Kunar, the Kuram, and the Gomal rivers to the west, and the Kunihar river to the east of the Indus, all of which are derived from the Scythian ku, " water." It is the guttural form of the Assyrian hu in Euphrates and Eulaeus, and of the Turki su and the Tibetan chu, all of which mean water or river. The district of Kophene must, therefore, have received its name from the river which flowed through it, like as Sindh from the Sindhu or Indus, Margiana from the Margus, Aria from the Arius, Arachosia from the Arachotus, and others. It is not mentioned by Alexander's historians, although the river Kophes is noticed by all of them.

[p.38]:In Ptolemy's ' Geography ' the city of Kabura and the Kabolitae, with the towns of Arguda, or Argandi, and Locharna, or Logarh, are all located in the territories of the Paropamisadae along the Kabul river. Higher up the stream he places the town of Bagarda, which corresponds exactly in position, and very closely in name with the valley of Wardak. All the letters of the two names are the same; and as the mere transposition of the guttural to the end of the Greek name will make it absolutely identical with the modern name, there is strong evidence in favour of the reading of Bardaga instead of Bagarda. According to Elphinstone,[22] the Wardak tribe of Afghans occupy the greater part of the Logarh valley. This is confirmed by Masson,[23] who twice visited the district of "Wardak ; and by Vigne,[24] who crossed it on his way from Ghazni to Kabul. The only objection to this identification that occurs to me is, the possibility that Bagarda may be the Greek form of Vackereta, which is the name given in the ' Zend Avesta ' to the seventh country that was successively occupied by the Arian race. From its position between Bactria, Aria, and Arachosia, on one side, and India on the other, Vackereta has usually been identified with the province of Kabul. This, also, is the opinion of the Parsis themselves. Vackereta is further said to be the seat or home of Duzhak, which further tends to confirm its identification with Kabul, as the acknowledged country of Zohak. If the Wardaks had ever been a ruling tribe, I should be disposed to infer that the name of Vackereta might, probably, have been derived from them. But in our present total ignorance

[p.39]: of their history, I think that it is sufficient to note the very great similarity of the two names.

In the seventh century the king of Kophene was a Turk, and the language of the country was different from that of the people of Ghazni. Hwen Thsang mentions that the alphabet of Kapisene was that of the Turks, hut that the language was not Turki. As the king, however, was an Indian, it may reasonably be inferred that the language was Indian. For a similar reason it may be conjectured that the language of Kophene was some dialect of Turki, because the king of the district was a Turk.

Districts in Wardak province

  • Maydan Shahr
  • Jalrez
  • Hisa-I- Awali Bihsud
  • Da Bihsud Markaz
  • Day Mirdad
  • Chaki Wardak
  • Saydabad
  • Nirkh
  • Jaghatu

Notable persons

  • Mahmud Warrak - Sir H. M. Elliot Edited by John Dowson[25] has given an 'Account of an Inundation at Ghazni — Mahmud Warrák and his Sons'.... All these matters the learned Mahmud Warrak has described most excellently in the history which he wrote in the year 450 H. He composed a history of several thousand years ending with 409 H. As he ended there, I determined to continue his history from that period. This Mahmud Warrak is a true and faithful historian.
  • Abdul Rahim Wardak - General Abdul Rahim Wardak (عبدالرحیم وردگ) (born: in 1940, Wardak, Afghanistan) is the Defense Minister of Afghanistan. He is an ethnic Pashtun from the Wardak province. See at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdul_Rahim_Wardak
  • Abdullah Wardak, Afghan politician
  • Amin Wardak, Afghan mujahideen leader
  • Ghulam Farooq Wardak, Afghan politician
  • Ghulam Sediq Wardak, Afghan inventor
  • Kazimierz Wardak, Polish runner

External links


  1. An Inquiry Into the Ethnography of Afghanistan By H. W. Bellew, The Oriental University Institute, Woking, 1891, p.154,155
  2. Essays on Indian Antiquities: Historic, Numismatic and Palaeographic By James Prinsep, pp.163-164
  3. Bhim Singh Dahiya:Jats the Ancient Rulers (A clan study)/The Jats, p.41
  4. FE Pargiter - 1912, p. 1060
  5. Archaeological Researches in Sinkiang : vol.1
  6. Essays on Indian Antiquities: Historic, Numismatic and Palaeographic By James Prinsep, p.162
  7. Essays on Indian Antiquities: Historic, Numismatic and Palaeographic By James Prinsep, p.165
  8. http://wardak.org/ Information about Wardak people
  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wardak_tribe
  10. An Inquiry Into the Ethnography of Afghanistan By H. W. Bellew, The Oriental University Institute, Woking, 1891, p.154-155
  11. The Races of Afghanistan/Chapter XII,p.109
  12. An Inquiry Into the Ethnography of Afghanistan By H. W. Bellew, The Oriental University Institute, Woking, 1891, p.90
  13. The Ancient Geography of India/Kabul,pp. 32-39
  14. 'Ariana Antiqua,' p. 176.
  15. Thornton's ' Gazetteer,' Appendix.
  16. Lieutenant Sturt, Engineers, by perambulator.
  17. Lassen, ' Points in the History of the Greek Eings of Kabul,' p. 102.
  18. 'Hiouen Thsang,' iii. 416.
  19. Ouseley, ' Oriental Geography,' p. 226.
  20. Steph. Byz. in v. 'Ωπiai.'<greek>
  21. 'Dionysiaca,' xvi. <greek> The meaning of which appears to be, that " Bacchus built a stone city, named Nikaia, near a lake, which he also called Astakia, after the nymph, and Indophon, in remembrance of his victory."
  22. Kabul; i. 160.
  23. ' Travels,' ii. 223.
  24. ' Ghazni,' p. 140.
  25. The history of India : as told by its own historians. Volume II/III. Tarkhhu-s Subuktigin of Baihaki,pp 114-115

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