History of Tirahis (Dardic people)

The Tirahis are Dardic people who once populated the whole Tirah valley. They were driven out of Tirah by Bayazid Ansari, the Pir-i-Roshan, in 16th century and their lands were given to Afridis and Orakzais. At the present day the chief seat of the Tirahi is in the Kotrud valley of the Shinwari country in Nangrahar. In 1891, the Tirahis in the Nazyan valley (Kotrud) were reckoned at two thousand families in 1891. [1]

Major H.G.Raverty incorrectly referred to them as Tajiks (note that he also refers to Pashais and Chitralis as Tajiks in his work). The Tirahi language was studied by the linguists and it is was found to be a Dardic language [2]. The Tirahi language is on the verge of extinction (or has been recently extinct according to some reports). Like the Dardic people of Swat and Bajaur, the Tirahis also used the appellation of ‘sultan’ for their chieftains. 

The author of ‘Hayat-i-Afghani’ describe them as follow in 1865:

 “Tirahis were notable people in 12th century A.D and completely dominated the country of Tirah. They were idol-worshipers and were fierce enemies of Muslims. In 1204 A.D, Shahabuddin of Ghor, invaded their country and killed large numbers of them. The remnants were forcibly converted to Islam. Nowadays small numbers of them, Muslims, live in the country of Shinwaris. They speak a distinct language, probably derived from Sanskrit, but has many Pashto words in it”. [3]

Orakzais narrate a legend that their progenitor Sikander Shah, a Persian prince, married a Tirahi woman and permanently settled in Tirah about 1000 years ago [4]. Tirahis to this day are found in some villages as ‘hamsayas’ of the conquering Orakzais.

In 1519 Sultan Bayazid of Tirah attempted to convince Babur Badshah to attack the Afridi Pashtuns, who were camped at Bara with their flocks. Babur in his diary says ;

“Today arrived Sultan Bayazid, who came up by the Bara-road after hearing of us ; he set forth that the Afridi Afghans were seated in Bara with their goods and families and that they had grown a mass of corn which was still standing. Our plan being for the Yousafzai Afghans of Hash-naghar, we paid him no attention. At the mid-day prayer there was a wine party in Khwaja Muhammad Ali’s tent . During the party details about our coming in this direction were written and sent off by the hands of a sultan of Tirah to Khwaja Kalan in Bajaur “. [5]

Munim Beg (Mughal general) plundered Tirah shortly before Humayun Badshah’s invasion of India in 1555. According to “Tazkira-Humayun o Akbar” of Bayzid Bayat (the author was in Humayun’s service), Munim Beg attacked Tirah on the pretext that its chieftain Fateh Shah was a “Chiragh-Kush” heretic. [6]

The Tirahis were attracted to the teachings of Bayazid Ansari, as were the Afridis and Orakzis. The Tirahis had been seeking the aid of Mughals in order to keep the Afghans from snatching the land of Tirah from them which angered Bayazid Ansari. The latter conspired with the Afridis and Orakzis to dispossess the Tirahis of their own country. The Tirahis got wind of an Afghan plot and armed themselves. Bayazid upbraided them for arming themselves and taking shelter in their fortresses. He commanded them to repent and come before him with their hands bound behind their backs. Three hundred twenty of them did so and were immediately put to death. The Afghans then plundered Tirah, and those Tirahis who remained alive fled to Nangarhar. The Afridis and Orakzis then settled Tirah. [7]

Khushal Khan Khattak refers to Tirahis in his poetry as follow;

“The Laghmanis, Bangashes, Swatis, Tirahis
All of them are dancers and fiddlers
And who will befriend such?”


1-“An Inquiry Into the Ethnography of Afghanistan by H.W.Bellew, p-95
2- “Notes on Tirahi” by Georg Morgenstierne
3- Hayat-i-Afghani, page-470
4- A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West …, Volume 3, page-176
5- “Baburnama”, Eng.trans by A.S.Beveridge, p-411
6- Tazkira-Humayun o Akbar” of Bayzid Bayat, p-152 
7- ” The transformation of Afghan tribal society”, Joseph Theodore Arlinghaus, pp.302-303

A fortified house in Tirah, 1897. Source
Dwatoi, Tirah, 1897-1898. Source
British troops in Tirah, 1897. Source

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