Social & Religious Life in Kohat :: Khyber.ORG

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Social & Religious Life in Kohat District

Excerpts from the Gazetteer of the Kohat District


  1. Physical Characteristics and Appearance
    1. Bangash
    2. Shia Bangash
    3. Bangash of Upper Miranzai
    4. Khattaks of Darra and Barak
    5. Sagri Khattaks
    6. Akora Khattaks
    7. Awan
    8. Niazai
    9. Trans-border Tribes
  2. Dress
    1. Cost of Dress
    2. Dress of Hindus
    3. Dress of Women
    4. Bedding
    5. Shoes & Sandals
  3. Houses
    1. Building Materials
    2. Interiors
    3. Furniture
  4. Meals
    1. Food Annually Eaten
    2. Meat Eating Customs
    3. Entertainment of Guests
    4. Cooking Utensils
    5. Use of Tobacco, Drugs, & Spirits
  5. Amusements
    1. Music
    2. Falconry & Hunting
    3. Fairs
    4. Religious Festivals
    5. Village Shrines
    6. Tazia's at Muharram
  6. Status of Women
    1. Marriages
  7. Death and Burial
  8. Shias and Sunnis
    1. Followers of Piri Tariki
  9. Language
  10. Notes

Physical Characteristic and Appearance

The people of the district are of light brown complexion with black hair and eyes. Some are nearly as fair as Europeans, and brown hair and blue or grey eyes are not uncommon. The upper classes, as usual, are a good deal fairer than the ordinary population. Both Bangashes and Khattaks, who form the main portion of the population, vary a good deal in dress and appearance in different parts of the district.


The Bangashes of Kohat are a tall, good-looking set of men. They shave their heads and clip short their beards like the people of Peshawar. This is especially the case with the young men who are smart and well set up. Among the older men handsome well-grown beards are common, especially among the Mian Khels. Like all the Sunnis of the district they clip short the middle of the moustache for the space of two or three fingers. They are neat in their dress, which is generally white. They have not much character for courage, and have more than once shown the white feather when brought in contact with the neighbouring Afridis.

Shia Bangash

The Shia Bangashes of Samilzai are a much braver race, especially those of Marai, who, though mean in appearance and few in number, defy their hill neighbours to touch them. The people of Kachai wnd Ushtarzai also hold their own. A good many of them are enlisted for the native army, and they also take service largely in Bhopal and the Deccan. The men of Muhammadzai, Alizai and Khadizai, like the men of Kohat, are wanting in courage. The Samilzai men dress in white with coloured lungis and turbans of a peculiar pattern, which are extensively woven in these parts. Many of the Ushtarzai men are very good looking, and some are remarkably fair. The Shia Bangashes do not clip the moustache.

Bangash of Upper Miranzai

The Bangashes of Upper Miranzai dress in dark blue turbans and shirts, with a grey sheet by way of lungi. [1] They are rather below the middle height with spare figures, and lean hungry faces like the neighbouring hill men. They are a cruel treacherous race, but are said to be hospitable, and at one time had a character for simplicity and veracity, which now they hardly deserve. They shave their heads and generally eradicate the hair of the greater part of the chin and cheeks with the aid of tweezers (ucha). The object is to leave nothing except the ends of the moustache and a Newgate fringe about an inch wide all round the face; but many of them stop short of this pitch of excellence.

Khattaks of Darra and Barak

The Khattaks of the Darra west of Teri in their dress and appearance approximate to their neighbours of Upper Miranzai. They are a fine manly race. The Barak Khattaks who occupy the south of the Teri country are very different. They are a tall, heavily built, stolid race, with shaggy hair cut level with the bottom of the ear, and thick beards kept down to a hand breadth in length. They have departed least in appearance of all the Khattaks from the old Pawandah type. They are slovenly in their dress, which is generally of white cotton and seldom washed. They work their turbans into a sort of rope, which is loosely twisted round the head, and they wear a white sheet as a lungi. Out in the fields their dress consists of a long kurta or shirt reaching to the ankles, cotton in summer and woollen in winter, with a bit of rope round the waist as a girdle. They are a simple honest race, sturdy and independent, very thick-headed and inclined to be obstinate. They have a strong clannish feeling and hold well together. They seldom take service in the army, though they would be excellent material. They do not come in contact with the hill tribes except towards Bahadar Khel, where they can more than hold their own against the neighbouring Waziris, with whom they are generally on good terms.

Sagri Khattaks

The Sagris of Shakardarra, who adjoin the Baraks, resemble them somewhat in their style of dress, but they are a livelier and smarter race, tall and spare in figure and accustomed to lead a hard active life among their rugged hills. Large numbers of them take service in our native infantry regiments and their country is a favourite recruiting ground.

The Akora Khattaks

The Akora Khattaks away in the north-east of the district are a great contrast to the great shaggy Baraks. They are of medium height. They shave their heads, but do not clip their beards. They dress neatly in white with well arranged turbans. Those of them who live near the Hasan Khel border, especially the men of Kamar Mela, are a brave race and well able to hold their own against their Afridi neighbours. These are the most marked types among the population of the district, which fade away one into the other by imperceptible gradations.


The Awans towards Khushalgarh resemble the neighbouring Awans of Rawalpindi. Elsewhere they are often hardly distinguishable from the Bangash and Niazi population among which they live.


The Niazis rather resemble the Bangashes than the Khattaks. In the matter of shaving the head those about Kamal Khel take a medium course. They shave the front and leave the back hair. Among the Bangashes, it is a common thing for a young fellow to wear lovelocks on either side of his trace and to stick a rose in his turban. He then feels himself irresistible. As he gets older he feels ashamed of these lovelocks and shaves them off. The Mullahs of late years have tried to put a stop on religious grounds to the Bangash custom of clipping the beard, but not hitherto with much success.

Trans-border Tribes

With regard to the trans-border tribes the Afridis are as a rule smart-looking and well set up, especially the pass-men. Their favourite dress is a grey (khaki) kurta and turban. The Orakzais are inferior to the Afridis in physique, and slovenly in their dress. The Zaimushts resemble the Upper Miranzai men. The Waziris are always to be recognised by their long tangled locks. A well dressed Waziri is a wonderful sight with his scarves and belts and daggers and pistols. Their neighbourhood has affected the dress of the men of Thal and Darsamand, many of whom to some extent go in for the same complicated arrangements.


The characteristic dress of the various tribes has been described in the preceding paragraphs. All through the district the people dress indifferently in home-made or imported cotton cloth. The usual articles of dress are everywhere much the same. They consist of a tunic (kurta), loose trousers (suthan), a sheet, used as a lungi, and sometimes another as a kamarband, with sandals. In winter the same clothes are worn, with the addition of a choga or postin. This is the dress of the respectable agriculturist when be comes into the station or is arrayed for some ceremony. When working in she fields he often wears nothing except a ragged kurta. The Upper Miranzai people dress in dark blue with trousers made of susi, (a coarse cloth with a dark blue ground and white stripes.) The Miranzai tunic is very peculiar, about 13 inches below the collar; the shirt of the tunic, which is not very long, is gathered into numerous pleats. A first class coat of this sort will take 14 or 15 yards of cloth. A Miranzai man would on no account wear an ordinary kurta. He is afraid of being mistaken for a paracha or Muhammadan shop-keeper.

Cost of Dress

The cost of the dress of an agriculturist may be put as follows:

Note: Above table figures and numbers are exclusive of the postin or chogha

A suit generally lasts for two years. The bulk of the people possess only a single suit.

The people of the town of Kohat and its neighbourhood dress better than elsewhere. The amount of cloth manufactured in the district is insufficient for the local consumption, and cloth to the value of Rs. 1,30,000 is annually imported from across the Indus.

Dress of the Hindus

The dress of Hindus is distinguished from that of Muhammadans by a mixture of red in it. A red stripe ran through the turban and formed an edging to the kurta. The pyjamas too were striped red. This custom is now disappearing, except in Hangu and Miranzai, where the Hindu banniyas frequently trade beyond the border and keep up the old custom which is still in force in Tirah. Elsewhere the usual dress is now white.

Dress of the Women

The dress of the women generally consists of a blue shift or kurta, loose trousers of dark susi, with a sheet. In Miranzai the shift is often studded round the neck with silver coins and ugly silk work, and the women there wear but little else in the way of ornaments. The Khattak women generally possess few or no ornaments, which are principally worn round Kohat. Hindu women all over the district keep the usual supply of nose-rings and bangles.


The bedding of the people consists of a bolster, a piece of matting and a quilt.

Shoes & Sandals

Shoes are worn by the better class of people about Kohat and to a less extent elsewhere.

As a rule every one wears sandals. These are of two sorts: the kheri made of leather, and the chapli made of the dwarf palm. The latter is used wherever dwarf palm or mazri is procurable, and is universal above Kohat and all through Miranzai. It wears out very soon, but as the people make them themselves, it costs nothing. Below Kohat and in Khattak country the kheri is more commonly used.


Building Materials

In a stony district like Kohat the chief material for building purposes consists of the loose stones and boulders which are everywhere lying about. These are roughly cemented together with mud. In Kohat itself kacha brick is the usual building material. In the villages the people are more careless; and when stone is not procurable they use pokhsa, or clay sods dried in the sun. The houses are always flat-roofed. The wild olive (kau) which grows abundantly through the north-western part of the district is generally used for posts and rafters. An inferior sort of pine wood is also brought down from Kuram and from the Orakzai hills to Miranzai.

Interior of Houses

The house of an ordinary zamindar generally consists of a single room about 25 feet by 12. The cattle are stabled at one end. The grain safes are in another corner. The family occupy the rest of the place. Sometimes, however, there is an outside shed for the cattle. There are no windows and only a single doorway. Usually there is a hole in the roof to let out the smoke. In Upper Miranzai the people generally dispense with this, as they are afraid of an enemy on a winter's night dropping a bag of powder through it into the fire. When they do have a smoke hole they put it in the corner furthest from the fire, and where it is of the least use.


The interior, as might be expected, is generally very untidy, the furniture being restricted to two or three charpoys and the usual cooking utensils, with a churn and spinning wheel. In the Khattak country there is generally a hand-mill for grinding corn. In Kohat and Hangu water-mills are numerous and hand-mills are not used. The grain is stored in roughly-made receptacles of mazrai matting. In the more advanced parts of the district, where mazrai is scarce, these are now giving place to the Punjabi kalota; a great earthen safe shaped like a barrel and locally termed kandurai. The holiday clothes of the family and other valuables are huddled away in a loose bag, also of mazrai matting. This latter among more civilised people is shaped into a jar, and the most advanced have even got as far as a box, in which they arrange their belongings with some neatness and care.


Agriculturists have two principal meals in the day. The morning meal is eaten at sunrise in the winter and from 10 AM till noon during the rest of the year. This is known as gharmai marai, subhai tikala, and by other names. The evening meal (makham dodai) is eaten at about 8 PM. When working hard in the fields they often eat a small additional meal in the afternoon. In the Indian corn season they often roast a few ears at odd hours. Some people eat an early meal (nashta), but this is not common among agriculturists, except so far that they eat up in the morning anything that may have been left over from the evening meal of the night before.

Food Annually Eaten

In the irrigated tracts (Kohat and Miranzai) the people eat khichari, consisting of rice and dal mixed with wild vegetables, such as bushka and kundi, wheaten cakes (ndghan) or Indian corn cakes (piasa), turnips, carrots, onions and radishes, a little ghi and a good deal of butter-milk. In the un-irrigated tracts bajra and barley bread are also extensively eaten, while rice is unknown. It is a common practice for zemindars to sell their rice and wheat which fetch a good price, and to buy Indian corn for their own eating. The Chauntra people in especial, who grow a great deal of capital wheat, but no Indian corn, export most of the former to Kohat, and with the money thus obtained they buy Indian corn in the Bannu market, where it sells very cheap.

Meat Eating Customs

Meat is but little eaten by the agricultural population, except at the Bakra Eid, when every family that can afford it sacrifices a goat or a fat-tailed sheep. At other times plough oxen or camels that have met with a fatal accident, or are dangerously ill, have their throats cut, in anticipation of death, and the flesh is then distributed among the neighbours either gratis or at a very low price.

Entertainment of Guests

To take the case of a well-to-do lambardar. If an ordinary guest comes he gives him chapati with a little ghi. If an honoured guest arrives a fowl is killed for the occasion. It is only on very peat occasions, such as a marriage, or for the entertainment of some powerful Khan or Nawab, that a goat or dumba (fat-tailed sheep) is sacrificed, when of course the host partakes of the flesh with his guests. Such an occasion occurs perhaps once in the year. It is difficult to estimate the average amount of food consumed per head of the population. It varies so much with the plenty or scarcity of the season. The food eaten ordinarily by a grown man may be put at 3/4 seer of flour, 2 chittaks of dal, 1/2 to 1 seer butter milk, 1/10th chittak ghi, and 2 tolas of salt.

Cooking Utensils

The cooking vessels are generally of earthenware. Copper vessels are only used by the wealthy. The usual utensils are the following:

Use of Tobacco, Drugs and Spirits

The custom of smoking tobacco used to be almost universal in the district. Of late years the Mullahs have made frantic efforts to suppress it, and with very great success. The families of the Teri Nawab and of the Khan of Hangu refuse to give up the habit, denying that it is contrary to the Muhammadan religion, but the people, especially near Kohat and in Upper Miranzai, have to a great extent abandoned the practice. Many of the more bigoted Mullahs, if they see a chilam (hookah), smash it at once. A trans-border man near Thal on an occasion of this sort cut off the Mullah's ear. Cases of active resistance, however, are rare, and the most that a man usually does after his chilam has been smashed is to provide himself with another.

Spirits, opium, drugs and charas are consumed in considerable quantities at Kohat by the troops and camp followers, and to a less extent by the townsfolk. There is a small consumption of liquor among the Hindus of Hangu, and a few faqirs indulge in the use of drugs. The rural population never take spirits and very rarely any drug, except charas. A few zemindars here and there, more especially in Miranzai, are in the habit of drinking charas, but even these form a very small percentage of the whole population.


The amusements of the people are few and unexciting. Kabaddi and Tatti are games resembling prisoner's base, which are a good deal played by boys and lads. In Miranzai there is a similar game known as Akhsai or the Calf.

The Punjabi game of Doda is not known here, and Chappli or tent-pegging, though sometimes played, is not a common pastime, by a very few of the lambardars owning horses.


The people were fond of music, the rabab or guitar, the sarangi (fiddle), the surnai (pipe) and the dhol or drum being their favourite instruments. These have now been prohibited by the Mullahs who have put a stop to notches of all sorts. Even the famous Khattak sword dance (bangra) has come to an end with the prohibition of the pipe and drum. In this the performers used to arrange themselves in circles round a blazing fire, flashing their swords and dancing in time to the music, which they accompanied with a sort of chant. The prohibition of music, strange as it may seem, has really been enforced during the last few years owing to the moral pressure put on the people. A few of the dissolute and ungodly may here and there defy public opinion. But as a rule the Sunni Muhammadans have altogether renounced both song and dance, while the business of the professional musicians (dum), has ceased. These are all by origin of the Nai or barber caste, and have been recommend to return to their original trade. Hindus in the towns have still their notches, and the Shia villages round Ushtarzai, not being under the influence of the Mullahs, have not been affected. In these the drum may still be heard summoning the people to weddings and merry-makings. Elsewhere it is silent. The women only are allowed to use cymbals (tambol) and a small drum (dholki) on special occasions, the practice in their case being sanctioned by the example of certain holy women of old. Women also indulge in an amusement called bulbula or atan, in which they move in a circle, clapping their hands and singing in concert, and with which the Mullahs have not as yet interfered. This dance corresponds to the sword dance of the men.

Falconry and Hunting

As regards sport, many of the young Khans keep hawks. The favourite is the Jura, a bird who gives no run but follows the game about from bush to bush, allowing it no chance of escape, and who is in consequence a very successful pot-hunter. Sporting individuals of the lower classes use nets and bird lime. In Miranzai the young men go out in parties by night, hunting the game with blazing branches of dwarf palm. Any hares and partridges that they may disturb are dazzled and secured.


No fairs are held in the district for trading purposes, and there are no religious gatherings of more than local interest.

Religious Festivals near Kohat

The Muhammadans of Kohat picnic out under the Regi groves west of the town on the occasion of both the Eids. The Hindus similarly have festivals near the Bhawanna for the celebration of the Baisakhi in April, and also in honour of a Jogi named Pir Bar Nath, who is said to have created the Bhawanna springs. Gatherings in honour of another Jogi, Bhai Lachi Ram, take place several times during the year in a ravine near the cavalry lines, where the Hindus are accustomed to burn their dead. The Dasehra and Diwali are celebrated as usual, but in a poor sort of way.

Village Shrines

A few of the small Muhammadan shrines in the district have their appointed days on which people of the neighbouring villages assemble. The Shias on these occasions indulge in drum-beating and merry-making. As a rule there is no special day for such gatherings. Thursday is the favourite day for visiting shrines.

Tazia's at Muharram

The custom of constructing taziahs at the Muharram has only recently been introduced from the Punjab. Formerly the Shias of the district confined themselves to weeping and beating their breasts. A taziah prepared at Kohat is now sent to the Samilzai villages, but the custom is not yet regularly established.

Status of Women

The customs of the Pathan population of this district as regards women are barbarous in the extreme. Women are looked upon as cattle, to be bought and sold. At the same time the Pathans are very touchy about their women, and any one hearing them talk would imagine that they had the keenest sense of honour. Their customs on the subject form a curious mixture. Theoretically the dishonour of a female relative is only to be washed out with the blood of the offender, and in cases of adultery, of the woman as well. But self-interest steps in. The woman is valuable property, and is worth, perhaps, Rs. 300 or Rs. 400, and hardly ever less than Rs. 100. The husband may not care to keep her, but why not divorce her and sell her in marriage to some one else? The lover in such cases is the person most likely to make a liberal bid, so instead of killing him the injured husband generally takes a fine from him, the usual amount being Rs. 300, and surrenders the woman. There is a regular scale laid down for settling all cases of this sort. The amount of fine is not supposed to vary with the position of the parties or the desirability of the woman. Among Pathans all men are theoretically equal and apparently women also. The regular Rs. 300 is paid for the wife of the lambardar or for the wife of the farm-labourer. Sometimes, however, the village council, which settles such cases, makes a reduction where a woman is old and has been repeatedly divorced before.

It is a common custom in this district to purchase wives from the adjoining hill tribes. A man wanting a hard-working useful wife can easily procure an Afridi or Orakzai woman for a sum varying from Rs. 150 to Rs. 200. Where a woman is remarkable for her beauty a fancy price of Rs. 1000, or even more, may be paid, but the ordinary hill woman has little in the way of good looks to recommend her. On the other hand she works like a donkey. She cuts grass and wood, carries water, is accustomed to poor living, and does twice as much work as the more delicately nurtured woman of the valleys. Not only do these trans-border tribes sell their own relations, but many of them trade in women brought from Swat and Bajaur, and to a less extent from the Peshawar district. Many of these are stolen, but a larger number are purchased from their relatives. When a man dies his wife becomes the property of her husband's heirs. A sister-in-law or step-mother being often a useless encumbrance is sold to any one who will take her. The purchaser either marries her himself, or sells her to some one else. The woman takes this treatment as a matter of course. If the children by her previous marriage are young they go with her. No account is made of boys. Little girls will in time become valuable property; when sold with the mother something is added on their account. Sometimes it is arranged that the late husband's family will have a right to claim them, when of age to marry, on payment of all expenses meanwhile incurred for their maintenance. A few years ago the subject of the trade in women from beyond the border was brought prominently forward. A large number of women, who had been stolen from the north and sold in the district as wives, were taken from their purchasers and sent back to their homes. These latter lost their money and had no redress. This has done much to check the trade in stolen women, though women who have been sold by their relations are still brought largely into the market.

No woman, whether spinster or widow, whatever her age, is able to marry without the consent, in the first case, of her own male relations, in the second case of her deceased husband's heirs. Any one marrying her without the consent of her guardians is made to pay a heavy fine as damages to the latter. This fine is as heavy as in a case of adultery, being about Rs. 300. It is known as sharmana or rasm mulk. A son gets sharmana on his mother's remarriage; a nephew for his aunt; a husband for his wife. It is surprising what large sums are paid in this way. A man seducing a spinster or widow is treated just as if he had debauched a married woman. He may get her in marriage, but he must pay up first. All cases of this sort are by local custom considered as affording fair grounds for a blood feud. Beyond the border cases of all these classes frequently result in the death of the seducer. The Pathan loves money, but frequently, especially if young and ardent, he prefers vengeance. In our own territory the bulk of the numerous murders that occur are on account of women. In adultery cases the injured husband can of course prosecute criminally and get the offender imprisoned; but many of the offences against local custom do not come under the criminal law. In these the relatives have no option, but to take the customary sharmana, or to take private vengeance in violation of the law.

A man eloping with a woman, whether married or single, generally takes refuge with the nearest trans-border tribe. He lives there till he can come to terms with the husband or other relatives. Generally this is easily arranged; occasionally the refugee becomes an outlaw for life. The bulk of our outlaws are men, who have fled across the border with some woman, and have afterwards been guilty of some criminal offence which prevents their return to British territory. As a return for the hospitality they receive they often assist their trans-border friends in committing robberies and burglaries within our border. It is in fact very difficult for an outlaw to avoid compromising himself in this way.

The number of cases of adultery that occur in the district must be enormous. The number that come before the district officers in the shape of miscellaneous petitions is large, but these form only a small fraction of the total. In the southern Khattak country in particular it is quite the custom for a woman to elope once in her life. She is married in the first instance to a husband, selected by her relatives, and lives with him till she meets the man she fancies, with whom she runs off, and the couple remain away for a year or two till the matter has been arranged by their friends. This, as a rule, is easily done, and they then return and settle down. Very often the custom of the country in particular cases lays down that in addition to a money fine the defendant is to give one or two virgins from his own family in marriage to the complainant or his relatives. This is a most objectionable practice, and is a constant source of fresh adulteries. Wherever the original case has led to bitterness of feeling, a girl so made over seldom lives happily in her new home, and generally, sooner or later, she runs off with some one else. The Balochis of Dera Ghazi Khan settle women cases by giving either a girl or a bit of land (wanni or banni). In this district land is never given.

A woman who has been purchased from across the border is treated in a very casual way. If the husband likes her he keeps her, otherwise he hands her on to some one else on payment. A large number of wives are transferred owing to quarrels with their new female relatives. A termagant mother-in-law is the cause of many divorces. The tribes within and without our border are similar in their customs and character. The latter, however, are less fettered, and have not the same object in concealing what they do. Some of the cases that come before a district officer are perfectly frightful.

The position of women among these tribes, including our own Bangashes and Khattaks, is very low, and wife-selling is a recognised practice. It is the worst cases, however, that come most prominently to the notice of the English officer. The bulk of the people marry in their own villages among their own connections, and the women are as happy and well treated as elsewhere.

In the towns women are employed in spinning and making clothes. The poorer classes go out to pick cotton or to husk Indian corn. In the villages women assist their husbands in most agricultural operations, except ploughing, but their special duties are cutting grass and wood and fetching water.


Marriages are usually a family matter. For instance, a man wanting to marry his son arranges to get the daughter of a cousin, agreeing to give his own daughter in a year or two to that cousin's brother. Marriages between first cousins are very common. A man not already provided with a family frequently marries his brother's widow.

In the case of unmarried girls the marriage is always preceded by a betrothal. Child marriages are comparatively rare. Girls are generally married between fifteen and twenty; men marry somewhat later. In well-to-do families the lads generally marry before twenty, poor men who are unable to pay for wives often remain unmarried till late in life. Very few women remain unmarried, except such as are deformed or physically unfit. A Mullah or some common friend is used as a go-between to arrange the preliminaries. The overtures are made by the bridegroom's family. If they meet with a favourable reception, the amount to be paid for the bride and other pecuniary matters have then to be settled. This is not done without much haggling. When the parties have come to an agreement, a jirga from the bridegroom's village goes to the house of the bride on an appointed night, when the terms on which the marriage is to be concluded are announced. Gur supplied by the bridegroom's father is then distributed, and in the case of well-to-do people a goat is killed and the jirga are given a good feed.

In Miranzai the amount paid for a bride varies from Rs. 200 to Rs. 500, in addition to the kharch khorak, which is furnished by the bridegroom. This consists of rice, ghi and gur to be eaten at the wedding feast. The amount of these varies with the position and means of the parties. The bridegroom has also to supply silver ornaments for the bride. About Kohat the price paid for a bride varies from Rs. 100 to Rs. 200. The kharch khorak probably amounts to Rs. 50 or Rs. 100 in addition. In the Khattak country the amount is less, being generally from Rs. 60 to Rs. 150, besides the kharch khorak.

The amount agreed on is either paid at once or some future date is fixed for payment The betrothal or kojdan is then considered to be completed. The marriage, which may or may not immediately follow the betrothal, is seldom celebrated till the full demand has been actually paid. Marriage ceremonies do not take place during the Muharram. This is the rule for Sunnis as well as Shias. On the day before that fixed for the marriage the families, both of the bride and bridegroom, feast the residents of the village or quarter in which they reside. This is especially obligatory on the bride's family. The bridegroom can escape on the plea of poverty. On the appointed day the bridegroom mounted on a pony and surrounded by his friends is conducted to the bride's house. Except in the Khattak and Miranzai tracts the bridegroom wears a garland of flowers (serai). The procession (janj) moves along to the music of pipes and drums and the dancing of boys (gadidum), varied by the discharge of guns. The musical and dancing portion of the entertainment, however, has now been put a stop to in the parts of the district occupied by orthodox Sunnis. When the bride's house is reached, the party is feasted on the provisions (kharch khorak) previously supplied by the bridegroom. Among poor people the bride is generally taken home the same day. Among the well-to-do the feasting at the bride's house (khwarra) goes on for two or three days. Shortly before the bride leaves her home the religious service (nikah) is performed by the Imam or Mullah. The consent of the bride is witnessed to by her trails, and the amount of dower is at the same time fixed.

The usual dower in Miranzai is from Rs. 50 to Rs. 70, in other parts 99 or 100, while among people of position it is generally fixed at Rs. 1,000 and a gold mohur. Theoretically the rules for the payment of dower are in accordance with the Shariat or Muhammadan law. Practically, the arrangements for dower are in most cases merely nominal. A claim for dower is seldom brought, except where a woman is backed up by her male relations. In dividing their father's inheritance sons sometimes claim dower on behalf of their mothers, and written deeds for dower are given to the wives of chiefs and men of rank. Ordinarily the right of a woman to dower is disregarded as might be expected in a country, where she is looked upon as a chattel to be bought and sold. When the nikah has been completed the bridegroom (changhol) takes home the bride (changhola). He has, however, first to pay from Rs. 1 to Rs. 5 to the Mullah and something to the village servants. In the case of hamsayas the malik's pagri has also to be provided. No feast is given on the return of the wedding party to the bridegroom's house. There are no tribal restrictions on marriages among Muhammadans. A man is altogether unfettered. A chief may marry the daughter of a shoemaker and the offspring will be legitimate. They are more particular as regards their own female relations. A Sayad of Mian Khel objects to give his daughter to a common zamindar. A Hindki artisan can seldom get a Pathan wife, except from among the poorest classes, or from beyond the border. There is not, however, such a strong feeling against such marriages as exists among the Baloch and Pathan tribes of the Lower Derajat. Shias and Sunnis on account of religious animosity seldom intermarry, though they do occasionally. As a general rule a man likes to marry his daughter into a family of equal or higher position and belonging more or less to his own sect. The great bulk of men belonging to the agricultural classes have only a single wife. The better off among them have two or three. A Khan or Nawab sometimes has as many as four for five, but seldom more. A poor man sometimes marries the widow of a brother or deceased relative in addition to his own wife, till he can arrange for disposing of her elsewhere.

There is no system of marriage registration of any sort. Cases of disputed marriage are not as common as might he expected. Disputed divorces are much more frequent. Women are often half divorced, the husband refusing to complete the ceremony till he has received his money. They re-marry; the ex-husband at once puts in his claim, and there is much wrangling as to whether or not the divorce has been actually completed. These eases are generally referred to jirgas to be settled in accordance with local custom.

The ceremonies at Hindu marriages are much the same as in the Punjab generally, except that the betrothal is arranged by a Brahmin or some person sent by the bridegroom's family instead of by the bride's. As regards intermarriage Hindus are guided by the same rules as elsewhere.

Children are named by their parents two or three days after birth without any formal ceremonies. Boys are circumcised when from four to eight years old. There is no gathering of friends or neighbours for the occasion, except sometimes in the case of people of rank.

Death and Burial

When a man dies, a Mullah is sent for, who repeats the Surah Yasin. The body is then washed, generally by a Mullah. It is sewn up in a shroud (kafn) and placed on a charpoy that serves as a bier. The female neighbours assemble at the house, wailing and beating their breasts. Meanwhile the friends and relatives of the deceased assemble to form the funeral procession (janaza) which is preceded by Mullahs with from three to twenty-one Korans in accordance with the rank of the deceased. The corpse is put down at a short distance from the grace, when the prayers for the dead are recited, the mourners ranging themselves behind the leading Mullah in lines of odd numbers varying from three to seven. On the conclusion of the prayers money is distributed to the Mullahs present with grain and salt. At the funerals of children the latter are replaced by sweetmeats. The body is then taken to the grave and after it has been let down stones are placed over it and the earth then filled in. In the case of a man, tombstones are erected at the head and feet. For a woman a third stone is put up in the centre. The mourners then accompany home the heirs of the deceased, who give them a good meal, and dismiss them. For forty days after alms and food are distributed to Mullahs and to the poor,  particularly on Thursdays. In the case of an agriculturist of fair means Rs. 10 or Rs. 15 will be given to the Mullahs at the funeral, and the food and alms subsequently will amount to Rs. 40 or Rs. 50.

Shias and Sunnis

The bulk of Muhammadans of the district and of the neighbouring trans-border tribes are Sunnis. Out of a total of 169,219 Muhammadans in the district, 158,628 are Sunnis and 10,591 Shias. The latter are distributed as follows: 6,829 in tahsil Kohat, 3,749 in Hangu, and 13 in Teri. The Shias are confined to a portion of Samilzai and Hangu and to the adjoining portion of Tirah. The Khattaks, Niazis, Awans, and most of Bangashes within our border, and the Afridis, Waziris, Zaimushts, and most of the Orakzais beyond are Sunnis. There are no Shias in Miranzai above the town of Hangu. In the Kuram valley, the strong tribe of the Turis is Shia. The following statement shows the religion of the different villages in the Shia part of the country:

The Orakzai tribes of the Shia faith are the Sipaiahs, Mani Khels, Bar Muhammad Khels and Abdul Aziz Khel. All these tribes border on the Shia portion of Samilzai, and are under the religious influence of a Syed family residing at Kalae, and generally known as the Tirah Syeds. These Orakzai tribes are said to have been converted by the Tirah Syeds about the beginning of the present century. The Bangashes of Samilzai were probably converted a little earlier, but could not freely admit to being Shia during Kabul rule. A portion of the Ali Khel Orakzais are also Shias, but these lie away from the Shia country of which I have been speaking. The Syeds of Hangu, Ushtarzai, Shahu Khel, and Sherkot are all Shias and allied by descent to the Tirah family. The latter have a strong connection in Kuram, where some of their leading members habitually reside. The Syeds of Marai (Gul Badshah, etc.) are Shias, but belong to a different family. the family of Phul Badshah of Jangal who are Jalani Syeds are Sunnis, as are nearly all Syeds resident in the Sunni portion of the country.

Followers of Pir Tarikhi

The Syeds of Pir Khel and Mansur Khel are said to be descended from the Pir Tarikhi, mentioned in Major James' Settlement Report of the Peshawar district. Pir Tarikhi at one time a great following, especially among the Khattaks. There are now no acknowledged members of the sect remaining.

The following is a list of shrines and places of religious gathering in the Kohat district:

Click on Table to Expand

There are no Hindu shrines or places of pilgrimage in this district. The Swanai Sar (4,785 ft.) overlooking the upper valley of the Teri toi is much frequented by Hindus, more especially in the spring. The Boyna springs near Kohat are the scene of the Hindu spring festival of Baisaki. There are also large gatherings of Musalmans at various places on the two Eids.

A Tomb near Shahpur


The following table shows the numbers who speak each of the principal languages current in the district separately for each tahsil and for the whole district:

Language Proportion per 10,000 of population
Hindustani 122
Dogri 16
Kashmiri 2
Punjabi 1969
Pashto 7845
All Indian Languages 9981
Non-Indian Languages 39

Pashto is the language of the district, except in Shakardarra and the tracts along the Indus. The Pathan villagers who form the great bulk of the population understand no other language. The Awans and Hindki talk a very corrupt Punjabi in their homes, but know Pashto as well. A few lambardars here and there know a little Hindustani or Punjabi, otherwise the Pathans seldom know any but their own language. The Khattaks and Niazis, as might be expected from their origin, talk a rough dialect of the Kandahari Pashto. The Bangashes speak the hard Kabuli Pashto, as do the Afridis and Orakzais. A Bangash says Pekhaur; a Khattak pronounces it Peshawar. The Barak Khattaks have a very broad pronunciation, changing the a's into o'e and au's. The word razi;mould in their dialect be pronounced rozi or rauzi. The languages of the Bangashes is not as clear as the Yusafzai Pashto, and that of the hill tribes is much worse. At the late Census 136,334 of the population were recorded as talking Pashto and 25,020 as talking Punjabi.


  1. This dark blue dress was till fifty or sixty years ago common to all the Bangashes, but except towards Upper Miranzai has now been driven out by white. Elphinstone in writing of his journey to Kabul mentions that the retainers of the Kohat Chief who net him on the road were all dressed in blue.