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Field Marshal Sir Claude John Eyre Auchinleck, Commmander in Chief of India, reviewing Amb State Guard, escorted by Ali Asghar Khan and Subedar Major Shah Zaman of Amb State Guard, Darband, 1941.

The Tanoli are a tribe of the Tanawal valley region in the Hazara region of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province and Afghanistan. Although not usually acknowledged as Pashtuns, the Tanoli have assimilated many Pastun cultural features.[1][2] Tribally allied with the Pathans,[3][4][5] The Tanoli participated in the frontier wars with the British and in Charles Allen's analysis of those wars were described as "extremely hostile" and "brave and hardy and accounted for the best swordsmen in Hazara."[6]

Most members of the Tanoli tribe reside in the former princely state of Amb in the Hazara Division of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, in the cities of Abbottabad, Haripur and its district, Mansehra, Battagram and Kohistan districts. A branch of the Tanoli tribe also resides in Kashmir, mainly in Muzaffarabad and Srinagar. Tanolis also inhabit the cities of Quetta and Karachi. They dominate the Tanawal-Sherwan belt.[2]

In Afghanistan, the Tanoli primarily live in the eastern provinces of Paktia, Gardez, and Ghazni.



In the Hazara Division of Pakistan, the principal language of the Tanoli is adopted Hindko. Tanolis living in Pashtun dominated areas speak Pashto, whereas many living in Pakistan have adopted Urdu.

The Tanoli are also known as Tanawal, for the name of the river. The British Census included several variant forms of the name: Taniwal Tanole Tanaoli, Tanol, Tol, Tholi, Tahoa, Tarnoli,Tanis,Tanai, Turnouli, Tanawali.[7]


The Tanoli were first encountered by Westerners around 1700 AD "in the trans Indus basin of the Mahaban from which they were driven across the Indus by the Yusufzai" tribe.[1] By the late 19th century the Tanaoli had settled the Tanawal tract in the west center of the district between Abbottabad and the Indus,[1] and in the extensive hill country between the river and the Urash plains.[1]

According to the Settlement Report of Hazara, compiled by Major Wace (1872), the Tanolis, who founded a state named Amb, had already established their authority over Tanawal. The voluminous Urdu copy of the settlement report of Hazara contains many passages in its historical resume of the area. In a number of maps drawn at the time and enclosed in the report, showing Hazara under the Mughals and under the Durranis, the Amb state has been shown as Mulk-i-Tanawal. The original existence of that Mulk is as old as the middle period of the great Afghan invasions of India.

The Tanoli are divided into two major sub-tribes: the Hindwal and the Pallal. The latter occupies the northern portion of the Tanawal tract, and, until the dissolution of the princely states in 1968, constituted the semi-independent principality of Amb.[1]

According to Tanoli tradition (preserved in a commentary based on an 1881/1891 census report[8]) they are named after a place in "Afghanistan" (not to be confused with the present-day state of Afghanistan[n 1])

Apical ancestor

As is also the case for all other ethnic groups of the region, tracing their lineage to an apical ancestor is crucial to the Tanoli's sense of identity.

The Tanoli consider themselves to descend from one Amir Khan, a Barlas Mughal who (so says their tradition) arrived in the Tanawal valley with his sons around 1500, having crossed the Indus river to get there.[1]

The details of this tradition—as preserved in the Tarikh-i-Tanaolian ("History of Tanolies")—runs as follows: Upon defeating a Hindu king Jaipala, one Sultan Sabuktagin conquered the region up to Attock on the Indus. The victor then resettled[n 1] five thousand Mughals, Syeds and Afghans in Swat where Din Khan Mughal, an Anawar, was appointed the ruler. The ancestors of the Tanoli eventually settled in Mahaban. Some time later, in search of land, they crossed the Indus river under the command of Maulvi Mohammad Ibrahim, and captured territory from the Turkic peoples settled there. Among the new settlers was Amir Khan Beerdewa and his six sons (Pall Khan, Hind Khan, Thakar Khan, Arjin Khan and Kul Khan) who settled the Tanawal region; the six clans or sub-tribes are allegedly named after the six sons of Beerdewa.

This claim of descent of Tanolis is also mentioned in The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China, and Australia (1841), in the following words; "There is one chief who, though not a Eusofzye, yet from his position in the midst of, and intimate connection with, the Eusofzyes, and his singular history and character, must not be omitted in a description of the Eusofzye country. Paieendah Khan, of Tanawul, is a Mogul of the Birlas tribe, the same from which the Ameer Timoor was descended. All record of the first settlement in Tanawul of his family is lost, and it has long ago broken off all connection with the other branches of the Birlas, which are still to be found in Turkestan."[9]

The Imperial Gazetteer of India also confirms this line of descent; it states, "Its (Tanawul's) real rulers, however, were the Tanawalis, a tribe of Mughal descent divided into two septs, the Pul-al and Hando-al or Hind-wal."[10]

The Sikh records[11] of the region also confirm this line of descent of the Tanolis. They state, "The family of Paeendah Khan is a branch of the Birlas, a Mogul House, well known in history. All record of its first settlement in Tanawul is lost. It may perhaps have been left there by the Emperor Baber. Among the list of whose nobles, the name Birlas is found."

This claim of descent has also been mentioned by Wikeley, J. M, who writes "The Tanaolis claim de- scent from Amir Khan, a Barlas Moghal, whose two sons Hind Khan and Pal Khan crossed the Indus about the end of the 17th century, from the country round Mahaban, and settled in the Mountainous area now held by them and named after the tribe — Tanawal.[12]

Some historians have mentioned the Pashtun origin of the tanoli family of the Nawab of Amb. In 'The Golden Book of India', Sir Roper Lethbridge on page 328 states about Nawab Muhammad Akram Khan, Sir, K.C.S.I The Nawab Bahadur is Chief of Amb, on the right bank of the Indus, where he and his ancestors have long been independent. Belongs to a Pathan (Muhammadan) family....[13]

Another authoritative source, namely 'Selections from the Records of the Government of India, Foreign Department'(1856)[14], states about the Tanolis; "It (Tannawal) is inhabited chiefly by the Turnoulees, a Tribe of martial Puthans."[15]

The commentary to the 1881/1891 census narrates this tradition but it observes that "[however,] there can be little doubt that they are of [Indo-Iranian or Indo-European origin][n 2] and probably of Indian stock."[1]

Some sources relate the Tanoli tribe to the Janjua Rajputs. They believe the Tanolis are offspring of one Raja Tanoli, son of Raja Mal. Raja Mal had five sons: Wir (Bhir), Jodh, Kahla, Tanoli, and Khaka.[16]. The Tanolis do not support this theory and it is an exceptional case where a tribe recorded of Rajput descent by the Rajputs denies such a connection.

The Tanoli are said to be of Afghan race by many historians, including Edward Balfour in his best known work, Cyclopaedia of India.[17]

Hereditary Tanoli rulers of Amb

Tenure Rulers of Amb (Tanawal)[18]
unknown date - 1803 (Mir) Haibat Khan
1803 - unknown date (Mir) Hashim Ali Khan
unknown date - 1818 (Mir) Nawab Khan
1818 - 1840 (Mir) Painda Khan
1840 - 1868 (Nawab) Jahandad Khan
1868 - 1907 (Nawab) Mohammad Akram Khan
1907 - 26 February 1936 (Nawab) Khanizaman Khan
26 February 1936 - 1971 (Nawab) Mohammad Farid Khan
1971 - 1973 (Nawab) Saeed Khan
1973 (Nawab) Salahuddin Khan

British assessments[19]

The Tanoli were counted amongst the martial races, an ideology based on the assumption that certain ethnic groups are inherently more militarily inclined than others. It was a term originally used by the British, who observed that the Scottish Highlanders were more fierce in battle than others in Britain, and extended this concept to India. They have many Pashtun customs and take much pride in their dress and appearance.

The Tanolis support themselves almost exclusively by agriculture, and their principal food is unleavened bread with buttermilk and butter; but fowls, eggs, fish, and game are also articles of diet.

Of those who live in the hills, many are as fair as Italians, with eyes of light hazel or greyish blue, and frequently brown hair and reddish beards. Those who live on the low-lying lands near the Indus are darker. All are stout and active men, and have the reputation of being good soldiers and staunch partisans.

They are hardy and simple in their habits, generally free from the vices of thieving and debauchery; but credulous, obstinate, and unforgiving.

Religiously; they are Mohammedans of the Sunni sect.


The Hindwal and Pallal are the major divisions of the tribe. The further sub–divisions of the tribe are :[20]

  • Hindwal
    • Jamal; Charyal, Ledhyal, Abdwal, Khankhail
    • Saryal; Lalal, Hedral, Baizal
    • Jalwal
    • Bohal
    • Baigal
    • Tekral
    • An sal
    • Masand
    • Rains
  • Pallal
    • Labhya (Suba Khani)
    • Matyal
    • Bainkaryal
    • Dairal
    • Sadhal
    • Judhal
    • Baigal
    • Tekral
    • Asnal
    • Masand
    • Rains
  • Bhujal
  • Khan Khel
  • Painda Khel
  • Tani Khel

Notable Tanolis


  1. ^ a b In a historical and ethnic context, "Afghanistan" has a different meaning and geography than the present-day borders indicate. Tanal Pass—which in the Tarikh-i-Tanaolian is mentioned as the place they migrated from—is only a short journey from the area that the same source says they migrated to. Today, they are even in the same administrative district (Swat).
  2. ^ Rose uses the term "Aryan", which in the 1880s context refers to either "Indo-Iranian" or "Indo-European", and speakers of those language groups.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Rose 1911, p. 256.
  2. ^ a b Society and Culture Abbottatabad District website, Government of Pakistan.
  3. ^ Oliver 1890, p. 313.
  4. ^ Scott 1928, p. 71.
  5. ^ Bonarjee 1899, p. 37.
  6. ^ Allen 2001, p. 139.
  7. ^ Rose 1911, p. 455
  8. ^ Rose 1911, pp. 1ff.
  9. ^ The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China, and Australia Published by Parbury, Allen, and Co., 1841, Item notes: v. 39, Original from the New York Public Library, Digitized 1 Apr 2008, pg 220-224
  10. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 23, Singhbhum to Trashi-Chod-Zong, p. 219. 1908, by India Office of Great Britain, Sir William Wilson Hunter, edited by Henry Frowde, publisher to the University of Oxford
  11. ^ Maharaja Kharak Singh, June 27, 1839-November 5, 1840: select records preserved in the National Archives of India, New Delhi By Fauja Singh, National Archives of India Published by Dept. of Punjab Historical Studies, Punjabi University, 1977 Original from the University of California Digitized 12 Feb 2009 458 pages
  12. ^ Punjabi Musalmans ([19--]) Author: Wikeley, J. M Subject: Muslims -- India; Punjab -- History Publisher: Lahore Book House Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT Language: English Call number: ABU-5769 Digitizing sponsor: MSN Book contributor: Robarts - University of Toronto Collection: toronto (page 159)
  13. ^ The golden book of India By Roper Lethbridge, Sir Roper Lethbridge K.C.I.E., pg 328
  14. ^ Selections from the Records of the Government of India, Foreign Department By India Foreign and Political Dept, India Published by "Calcutta Gazette" Office, 1856, Item notes: no. 12, Original from Harvard University, Digitized 10 Jun 2008
  15. ^ pg 84
  16. ^ Punjab Chiefs by Lepel H. Griffin, Lahore Press, 1909, p214
  17. ^ Cyclopædia India eastern southern Asia commercial industrial scientific, Edition: 3 - Item notes: v. 5, page 232 - 1873
  18. ^ Ben Cahoon, "Pakistan Princely States". Retrieved 2007-10-03. 
  19. ^ The People of India: A Series of Photographic Illustrations, with Descriptive Letterpress, of the Races and Tribes of Hindustan, Originally Prepared Under the Authority of the Government of India, and Reproduced by Order of the Secretary of State for India in Council By John Forbes Watson, John William Kaye, Meadows Taylor, Great Britain. India Office Published by India museum, 1872 Item notes: v. 5 online
  20. ^ Punjabi Musalmans ([19--]) Author: Wikeley, J. M Subject: Muslims -- India; Punjab -- History Publisher: Lahore Book House Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT Language: English Call number: ABU-5769 Digitizing sponsor: MSN Book contributor: Robarts - University of Toronto Collection: toronto pages: 159-161 online: [1]


  • Also referred here Pashtun tribe mentioned are Pashtun [2]
  • Allen, Charles (2001), Soldier Sahibs: The Men Who Made the North-west Frontier, New York: Abacus, ISBN 0-349-11456-0 .
  • Bonarjee, P. D. (1899), A Handbook of Fighting Races of India, Calcutta: Thacker Spink  (fasc. 1975, New Delhi: Asian Publication Services).
  • Burns, Richard, ed. (1908), Imperial Gazetteer of India, 23 (new ed.), Oxford: Clarendon , p. 219.
  • Lethbridge, Roper (1893), The Golden Book of India: A Genealogical and Biographical Dictionary of the Ruling Princes, Chiefs, Nobles, and Other Personages, Titled or Decorated, of the Indian Empire, London: Macmillan  (fasc. 2001 New York: Elibron/Adamant).
  • Oliver, Edward Emerson (1890), Across the Border: Pathan and Bilochi, ???????: ???????? .
  • Scott, George Batley (1928), Afghan and Pathan: A Sketch, ???????: ??????? .
  • Rose, Horace Arthur (1911), A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province: Based on the Census Report for the Punjab, 1883, by the late Sir Denzil Ibbetson, K.C.S.I., and the Census Report for the Punjab, 1892, by Sir Edward Maclagan, K.C.I.F, C.S.I., 3 (L-Z), Lahore: Government Printing House  (fasc. 1990 New Delhi: Asian Educational Services) (online version of facsimil, pages 216 256, 454)
  • Watson, H. D., ed. (1883/4), Gazeteer of Hazara District, London: Chatto & Windus .

Simple English

The Tanolis (Urdu: تنولی ) also called Tanaoli, Tanol, Tol, Tholi, Tahola, Tarnoli, Tanwali are a tribe of Hazara[1]. They are a tribe residing mainly in the Amb, Hazara Division of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan. They are Indo-Iranian or Indo-European.[2]


  1. H.A. Rose, IBBETSON, Maclagan (1990). A glossary of the tribes and castes of the punjab and north west frontier. Asian Educational Services. pp. 455. ISBN 8120605055. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  2. Rose, Horace Arthur (1911), [Expression error: Unexpected < operator A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province: Based on the Census Report for the Punjab, 1883, by the late Sir Denzil Ibbetson, K.C.S.I., and the Census Report for the Punjab, 1892, by Sir Edward Maclagan, K.C.I.F, C.S.I.], 3 (L-Z), Lahore: Government Printing House (fasc. 1990 New Delhi: Asian Educational Services) (versión online del facsimil, páginas 216 256)

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