Awan is the name of a fiercely independent and warlike tribe, settled in the mountainous region of the Salt Range, Punjab, Pakistan, for atleast one thousand year. The Awans subscribe to the belief that they are the descendants of the fourth Caliph, Ali, and as such, a number adopt the title, Alvi. Their warlike nature and dominant position earned them a powerful reputation in Punjab. Under the British Raj of India, they were designated as a "Martial Race".


At some time between the era of Mahmud of Ghazni and Sultan Shahab ud din Ghori Arabs marauders captured the mountainous region of Salt range and settled in the mountains after they defeated the Janjuas, Gakhars, and other Rajput tribes until they permanently settled for at least six hundred years[1]

It is stated in the Imperial Gazetteer of India that “They are essentially a tribe of the Salt Range, where they once held independent possessions of very considerable extent, and in the western and central portions of which they are still the dominant race.”[2] While writing about the Chiefs of Punjab, Sir Lepel Henry Griffin states in his book entitled, “The Panjab Chiefs:[3] the most authentic book on the subject that;

“All branches of the tribe (Awans) are unanimous in stating that they originally came from neighourhood of Ghazni to India, and all trace their genealogy to Hasrat Ali the son-in-law of the Prophet. Kutab Shah, who came from Ghazni with Sultan Mahmud, was the common ancestor of the Awans…….It was only in the Rawalpindi, Jhelam and Shahpur districts that they became of any political importance……. In Shahpur District the Awans held the hilly country to the north west, Jalar, Naoshera (Naushera) and Sukesar, where the head of the tribe still resides.”

Salt RangeEdit

Qutb Shah’s sons are said to have settled in the mountains in the centre of what is now Soon Valley and Sakesar. Later on some of them withdrew to neighbourhood of Salt Range. They occupied more prosperous plains and open plateaux. Some of them withdrew to west of Salt Range and setteled at Kalabh.[4] Some of them withdrew to North and settled and founded a town Talagang. According to the Imperial Gazetteer of India,[5] it was founded by an Awan chieftain, about the year 1625. It has ever since remained the seat of local administration under the Awans, the Sikh, and the British. One branch of the tribe withdrew to the east of Salt Range near Jehlum.[6] Other branch withdrew to the south of the range and settled at the north of Shahpur. With the passage of time and the force of economic pressure, they then spread from that region into Mianwali, Chakwal, Camelpur now Attock, Mianwali, Jehlum, Sargodha, Rawalpindi, lahore Gujrat and all parts of Punjab.

Ibbetson, D states in his book Punjab Castes, that the Awans of Jalandhar claimed that their ancestors served in the armies of the Slave Dynasty and the Khilji dynasty during the Delhi Sultanate period, who brought them from the Salt-range.[7]

But the main branch of the tribe always settled as Sir Lepel Henry Griffin states that “the Awans held the hilly country to the north west, Jalar, Naoshera (Naushera) and Sukesar, where the head of the tribe still resides.”[8]

Awan in LiteratureEdit

According to Rose:

But in the best available account of the tribe, the Awans are indeed said to be of Arabian origin and descendants of Qutb Shah

—From ‘A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province

Tai Yong Tan remarks:

The choice of Muslims was not merely one of physical suitability. As in the case of the Sikhs, recruiting authorities showed a clear bias in favour of the dominant landowning tribes of the region, and recruitment of Punjabi Muslims was limited to those who belonged to tribes of high social standing or reputation – the ‘blood proud’ and once politically dominant aristocracy of the tract. Consequentially, socially dominant Muslim tribes such as the Gakkhars, Janjuas and Awans, and a few Rajput tribes, concentrated in the Rawalpindi and Jhelum districts in the northern Salt Range tract in the Punjab, accounted for more than ninety per cent of Punjabi Muslim recruits

—From ‘The Garrison State: The Military, Government and Society in Colonial Punjab, 1849-1947

According to Philip Edward Jones:

The Awan Tribe is perhaps the most heavily recruited tribe for the Pakistan Army

—From ‘The Pakistan People’s Party: Rise To Power

According to Sir Malcolm Darling, the Awans are the:

Bravest of soldiers, toughest of cultivators and matchless as tent peggers

—From ‘Wisdom and Waste in the Punjab Village

Christophe Jaffrelot states:

The Awan deserve close attention, because of their historical importance and, above all, because they settled in the west, right up to the edge of Baluchi and Pashtun territory. Legend has it that their origins go back to Imam Ali and his second wife, Hanafiya. Historians describe them as valiant warriors and farmers who imposed their supremacy on the Janjua in part of the Salt Range, and established large colonies all along the Indus to Sind, and a densely populated centre not far from Lahore

—From ‘ A History of Pakistan and Its Origins

John Henry Hutton has said of the Awans:

They are exclusively Muslim and probably the descendants of some of the earlier Muslim invaders of the tenth century or earlier

—From ‘Caste in India: Its Nature, Function and Origins


  1. District Gazetteer of Mianwali 1915,
  2. The Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol. 7, p. 170
  3. “The Panjab Chiefs: Historical and Biographical Notices of the Principal Families in the Territories Under the Panjab Government”
  4. The Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol. 14, P290
  5. The Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol. 08, P162
  6. The Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol. 07, P170
  7. “The Jalandhar Awans state that they came into that district as followers of one of the early Emperors of Delhi who brought them with him from the Salt-range; and it is not impossible that they may have accompanied the forces of Babur. Many of them were in former times in the imperial service at Delhi, keeping up at the same time their connection with their Jalandhar homes.” Ibbetson, D., 2001, Punjab Castes, Sang-e-Meel Publications p.170.
  8. “The Panjab Chiefs: Historical and Biographical Notices of the Principal Families in the Territories Under the Panjab Government”

External Link Edit