The Khokhar Rajputs are a people of Punjab region of Pakistan and north-western India.
(According to H. A. Rose, they are the clan of the Arain, Chura, Jat, Nai, and Rajput communities. According to Denzil Ibbetson, they are also a clan of the Khatri and Tarkhan tribes. H. A. Rose finds early references to the Khokhars in the Taj-ul-Ma’asir, the Tabaqat-i-Nasir and the Ain-i-Akbari, with the earliest certain record being in the first of these, written in 1205 AD)
They originated from Persia and are descendants of the Persian Emperor Jamshed, the man the Parsi community venerates. Clans of Rajputs exist from Iran to the Punjab, including the tribes of Jadeja, Khokhars, Pahalvi, Kamboja, Rathore, Chibh, Bhats or Bhatti, Samma, Virks, and other such clans.It were the Khokhar Rajputs, known as Datts in the Jhelum area, that accompanied Alexander as trusted guards back to Greece. It goes without saying that he did not trust his own Greek guards given the politics of that age. After he died in Alexandria in Egypt, they settled along the Arabian coast, and traded.
In the Battle of Karbala, 7 Punjabi Dutts/Khokhars (Hussaini Brahmins) were slain in the fight. They were seven Datts. Their generation is known as Hussain Brahmins and in a curious miracle of sorts they are born, even today, with a slit across their throats. (The Indian actors Sunil Dutt and Sanjay Dutt are from that tradition)
As we pass through history, we see the Khokhar Rajputs emerge in the shape of the Raja, or Puru, from where the Latinised version Porus comes, of Lahore by the name of Jaipal. His clash with the Afghan invading force of Subuktagen in 988 AD led to a series of battles. After a number of defeats against the forces of Mahmud, his last being in November 1001, and the Great Puru, the Khokhar Rajput ruler, Raja Jaipal, committed ‘johar’ outside Mori Gate along the banks of the River Ravi where today stands a huge banyan tree just behind the fish market. No monument marks that place of the great man of Lahore. This act of ‘johar’ spurred the Rajputs to collect a force of 30,000 Khokhars in 1009 AD under Raja Anandpal to face the invading Afghans. The brave Rajputs went into battle bare-headed as a mark of respect for honour lost and smashed the Ghazni forces. Their bravery and valour became part of Punjabi folklore, and a huge portion of eastern Rajputana was renamed Khokhara. Bhera for a long time remained their capital. It was then a 21-gate city.
Images of Bhera
Over the centuries the Khokhars won and lost Lahore a number of times. In 1395 the famous Sheikha Khokhar of village Thakkar, 13 miles from the banks of the River Chenab, raised the banner of revolt and captured almost the entire of the Punjab. He captured the Lahore Fort. He ruled Lahore wisely and his son Raja Sheikha Khokhar ascended the Lahore throne in 1427 AD. After that they captured and lost Lahore almost 15 times, each time rising to power when least expected.
The Punjab and it’s surrounding areas in 1903. The historical home of the Khokhar clan.
Similarly, many campaigns were undertaken against the Khokhars by Sultan Shahabuddin Ghori in the Punjab and ultimately he was killed by the Khokhars of the Salt Range in March 1206.
In 1240 AD, Razia, the daughter of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish marched with her husband Altunia to recapture the throne from her brother Muizuddin Bahram Shah, she is reported to have headed an army composed mostly of mercenaries from the Khokhar tribe of the Punjab.
In 1246-7 Ghayasuddin Balban mounted an expedition as far as the Salt Range to chastise the Khokhars. His last campaign was undertaken with the object of subjugating the turbulent Khokhars of the Salt Range.
Although Lahore was reoccupied by Dehli, for the next twenty years Lahore remained in ruined condition, being sacked on several occasion by the Mongols or by their Khokhar allies. Around the same time a Mongol commander named Hulechu occupied Lahore in alliance with Khokhar chief Gulchand, the one time ally of Muhammad’s father.
Shaikha Khokhar (sometimes Sheikha or Shuja) was a chief of the Khokhars in the 14th and early 15th centuries and a contemporary of Tamerlane’s invasions into Punjab. Shaikha occupied Lahore in 1393, and five years later Nusrat Khokhar was defeated by Tamerlane. Jasrath Khokhar was the son of Shaikha Khokhar. He became leader of the Khokhars upon the death of Tamerlane, escaping prison in order to do so. He supported Shahi Khan in the war for control of Kashmir against Ali Shah, and was rewarded when victory was achieved. Later, he attempted to conquer Delhi, taking advantage of the death of Khizr Khan. The scheme met with partial success, as he won campaigns at Talwandi and Jullundur but was hampered by the seasonal rains in his attempt to take over Sirhind. Jasrath was captured and brought to Samarkand after Shaikha Khokhar’s defeat in 1398 AD.
In 1428 AD, The Mughal armies, under Shaikh Ali of Kabul, invaded and a contingent of Khokhars headed by ‘Ain-ud-din and Malik abu-l-khair joined them at Talwara to guide them onwards.
An 1876 engraving of Khokar Rajputs
In reference to the British Raj’s recruitment policies in the Punjab, vis-à-vis the British Indian Army, Tan Tai Yong 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 favor 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. Consequently, socially dominant Muslim tribes such as the Gakkhars, Janjuas and Awans, and a few Rajput tribes, concentrated in the Rawalpindi and Jhelum districts, … accounted for more than ninety percent of Punjabi Muslim recruits.”
Pharwala Fort, traditional seat of the Gakhar Clan in Kahuta
Throughout the Moghal period and the later Afghan and Sikh periods, the Khokhar Rajputs of the Doab between Lahore and Gujrat kept the fight on to keep their lands free from foreigners. They even battled the British when it came to the end of the Sikh period. From the ‘johar’ in Athens to the ‘johar’ of Jaipal, to the battles of 1857, these sons of the soil have never relented. No wonder Maharajah Ranjit Singh once said: “Raab tay Khokharan toon darr lagda aye” – I fear the Almighty and the Khokhars.