Roh (a medieval name of Pakhtunkhwa)

‘Roh’ is recorded as ‘Rohi’ by Fa-hian , the Chinese traveler:

“Half a yajana to the south of the city of Nangarhara (Nangarhar), there is a cavern (stone dwelling) ….”

 …After remaining here during two months of winter, Fa-ihan and his two companions went south across the little snowy mountains. The snowy mountains, both in summer and winter, are covered (heaped) with snow …. pressing forward, they…crossed the range; on the south side they reached the Rohi country (i.e., Afghanistan). In this vicinity there are 3,000 priests, belonging both, to the great and little vehicle. Here they kept the rainy reason. The season past, descending south and journeying for ten days, they reached Bannu, where there are also 3,000 priests or more all belonging to the little vehicle.” (Chinese accounts of India, English translation, by Samuel Beal, Volume-1, pp-19-20) 

From Fa-hain description, it transpires that the Rohi country covered that part of modern Afghanistan which lies south of Nangarhar, and that it did not stretch as far as Bannu.

The earliest medieval chronicle which delineates properly the boundaries of Roh, is the Tabqat-i-Akbari written in 1593 A.D by Khwaja Nizam-uddin Ahmad.  It records;


 “Roh is the description of the mountain which in length stretches from the neighborhood of Bajaur to Siwi , a townlet of Bhakkar and its width is from Hasan Abdal to Kabul. Qandahar is situated within the area of this range.” 

Madan-i-Akhbari-Ahmadi, written in 1611 A.D by Ahmad bin Bahbal bin Jamal Kamgar, records the boundaries of Roh as;


“People in Pashto call mountain Roh. In length (it stretches) from the neighborhood of Bajaur and Sawat to the town of Siwi, an appurtenance of the fort of Bhakkar, and in width (it runs) from Hasan Abdal to Kabul. Qandahar is situated within these boundaries of the Afghan habitat, and the people call it Roh”

Naimatullah of Makhzan-i-Afghani, written in 1612 A.D, makes the addition of Ashnagar range in his following description of the boundaries of Roh

Nawab Allah Yar Khan, son of Hafiz Rahmat Khan Barech (died 1774 A.D) , in the preface of his lexicographical work writes;

“Roh is bounded is bounded in the east by Swat and Kashmir, west by the Helmand river, north by Kashkar (Chitral) and Kafiristan, and south by the river of Bukkar , called in Persian Nilab, and Nilaow or Abasin by the Afghans” (A Grammar of the Pukhto, Pushto, Or Language of the Afghans, H.G.Raverty, p-27)

Early 17th century source, Afsana-i-Shahan of Kabir Bhittani recounts the political life of Afghans in Roh;

“Their (Afghan’s country was Roh…..Nobody used to maltreat (lit. to commit excess over) anybody. They were not subjects of any body, and they were not the part of any kingdom of a king ……they used to follow one of the elders of their own tribe. Nobody ruled over them nor were they under the rule of a king (Hikayat one)

Pashto poet Hamid Mohmand call himself an Afghan of Roh in the following couplet;

په هندي ادا یې وکړې په ما چارې
زه حمید په زړه ساده د روه افغان یم

Khushal Khan Khattak call himself “Rohi” in his farsi couplet:

چه شرابيست اين که روهی را
به يکی جرعه بی خبر کردی

Kazim Khan Sheeda says;

په زړه می ګرځی د غرونو څوکې
حملې د بازو د زرکو کوکې
ووايه څه کا د روه نسيمه
ګيرا منګولی زيبا مښوکې

Ashraf khan Hijri , who was in prison of India during Aurangzeb’s reign, says ;

قاصدان له روهه نه راځي مدت شو – سلام باد رارسوي منت یې تم دی

At another place he says;

یا د زړه باز يی تل د روه پر ځمکه ګرځی
که هجری په دکن ناست خالی بدن دی

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