A Pashtun heroine of the First Anglo-Afghan War

During the first Anglo-Afghan war, a Pashtun woman of Zamindawar (a widow of a chieftain)) assembled and led a lashkar to combat the British invaders. Mullahs, Ghazis and others followed her. She went to battle on horseback with standard of her husband in her hand. After a fierce battle, her lashkar was repulsed by the British.

This was witnessed by James Rattery who was part of the Candahar force of British-Indian army. He writes:-

“From this date, September 1841, till the beginning of 1842, the Douraunees, beyond night-attacks on our lines and occasional murders of our people, rested on their oars, without coming to a regular stand-up fight. But then Aukhtar Khaun again appeared, joined by all the influential chiefs around, with an army of fifteen to twenty thousand men, whom we routed at Killa e Shuk. Again, in May 1842, with ten thousand men at his back, taking possession of the low rocky range of hills near cantonments, he came down upon Candahar. As the enemy drew near, a white object was observed in the centre of their front ranks, which seemed the rallying point for the “Ghazees” (champion martyrs of the faith) chieftains, Moollahs, kettledrum, and standard-bearers. This proved to be no less a personage than the heroic widow of the slaughtered Ukraum Khaun. Throwing aside her timid nature with her “Boorkha,” she had left the sacred privacy of the Zunauna for the foremost rank in the battlefield, had bestrode her husband’s charger, and, with his standard in her hand, had assembled his tribe. Calling also on the neighbouring clans, she united them all on the grounds of one common faith and universal hatred of the Feringhees, to avenge Ukraum’s brutal death, and drive those who had slain him from the country. A desperate struggle took place. The Ladye and her allies were driven back, with a loss of four hundred men, to their encampment beyond the Urghandaub, a rapid river north-east of Candahar. Thus, ended as remarkable a contest as any in the annals of Afghaun history. A cause so just, and a self-devotion so noble, merited a more successful termination.”

Note: The British claims that Akhtar Khan faced them with army of ten to fifteen thousands men, should be taken with grain of salt. They used to exaggerate the number of their enemies.


1- Splendours of Afghaunistaun 1848 (tufs.ac.jp)

2-“Afghanistan in the Age of Empires” by Farrukh Husain, p-212


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