An Unknown Royal Family of Afghanistan

and Pashto During their Period


Abdul Hai Habibi


            The Royal Ludhi family has been mentioned in The Hidden Treasure and in the second volume of History of Pashto Literature. They ruled in Multan before the Ghaznavid period and have left behind some very important pieces of Pashto literature. It looks Pashto was spoken during the time in the court of local Pashtun rulers. During this period which spans from the first to the third century Highera (7th to 9th century A.D.) we see an example of Pashto literature in the court of Amir Krorr Suri, who ruled over Ghor and Badghis. In central Pashtunkhwa we notice the presence of Pashto in Ghazni and Gardez through the royal Loykan family. In Multan the royal Loykan family leaves behind traces of ancient works of Pashto too.

During the first three centuries of Islam we encounter the effects of Pashto from Badghis to Multan everywhere in the land of Pashtunkhwa. I have written about the Pashto of the Multan and Suri kings of Ghor that has been published in books and journals and hope that readers will read in detail about these events in The Hidden Treasure and the second volume of the History of Pashto Literature.

It is possible that some readers are coming across the name of Loykan of Ghazni for the first time. This is because no detailed information regarding this family exists in history nor has anyone recognized them. They ruled over Ghazni during the early Islamic centuries.


The Loykan Family

When the conquests of the Islamic armies reached Afghanistan remnants of the Kushanid and Kabul Shah dynasties were scattered all over the land. The Sharan of Gharjistan, the Sheran of Bamian, the Ratbails of Zabulistan, the Kabul Shahs of Kabul and other rulers were to be found in different parts of the country. Arab historians mention these families too. But we see very little about one family in the annals of history which lived in Ghazni and Gardez. Historians do not recognize this family in the past or at present.

In some historical books such as the Zain-al-Akhbar of Gardezi, the Seystat Nama of Nezam al-Mulk, and Tabakat-e Nasiri of Menhaj Seraj Jouzjani we sometimes come across the names of certain rulers as Lawek, Anok or Loyel. These people were the contemporaries of the Kabul Shahs or the Ratbels. Their progeny were present during the Ghaznavid and Saffarid periods. In the beginning they were kings but later they lived as local rulers in Gardez and they conducted the important role of ambassadors in the Ghaznavid court.

According to the historical research I have conducted on this  family it seems their original and correct name was Loykan, i.e. their family was named Loykan and each individual had the title of Loyak. In written documents this name was converted to different spellings and lost its historical purity. This Loykan family had blood relations with the Ratbels of Zabulistran. Just as the name Ratbel is Pashto their name is also derived from a Pashto root.


The First Loyak

In the past they were followers of their own local religion and kept the statue of the first Loyak in a temple to which they prayed. An idol temple existed near the Bamian gate of Ghazni before the arrival of Islam where the idol of the first Loyak, Wajware, was kept and worshipped. With the advent of Islam the kings of this family adopted Islam and the temple was turned into a mosque. This Wajware Loyak is the person after whom the Hajware or Wajare of Ghazni has been named which until this day is called Wajristan. The famous mystic of Lahore, Ata Ganj Baksh Ali Hajwarei Ghaznavi, author of Kashf al-Mahjoob, was from this region.


Analysis of the Name

The name Loyak of these kings is derived from loy of Pashto which is used in the language to mean esteemed and grand such as the esteemed leaders and elders of the village held a council meeting. In historical Pashto names there is a general rule to add the letter (k) at the end of the word to elucidate magnificence. Zmarak, Babrak, Barak, Hotak, Shitak, Atsak, Khatak, Torak, Khairak are examples of Pashto names. We also see this phenomenon in the historical titles of the kings of India such as Fowrak, Khudayak, Ghozak and Nezak. These names have been mentioned in History of Baihaqi, History of al-Yaqubi, Ibn Khardazba and other books. Based on the same principle at the end of loy a (k) has been added and the word has become Loyak. In Pashto dialects loy is pronounced differently such as lowhy or lawey and the spelling of loyak has also been written as laweek.


Eight Loyakan

As I stated before this was an important family in our history but it has seldom been mentioned in historical texts. From historical documents I recognize eight monarchs from this familly:

1. Loyak Wajware. He was a contemporary of the Kabul Shahs and a relative of the Ratbels and lived around 741 A.D. One of his statue was kept in the temple of Bamian Gate in Ghazni. When the Moslems came to Afghanistan his son suddenly converted to Islam but later became an apostate. Around 784 A.D. the son turned the idol temple to a mosque and  buried his father’s idol there.

2. Wajware’s son was Khanan and in the hand-written manuscript, Gardezi, the author of Zein-al-Akhbar, has written his name as Khaqan. He converted to Islam for the first time in 782 A.D.

3. Mohammad, son of Khaqan who lived around 831 A.D.

4. Mohammad’s son, Abu Mansur Aflah. According to the narrative of Zein-al-Akhbar he was defeatd in Gardez by Yaqub Lyce Safari in 877 A.D.

5. According to Gardezi, Aflah’s son, Mansur lived around 921 A.D.

6. Abu Sahal Marsal, son of Mansur. This person was the contemporary of Sultan Mahmud and Sultan Masud. According to Gardezi when Sultan Masud died in 1040 A.D. this Marsal, son of Mansur bin Aflah Gardezi, brought letters and robes of honor from the Caliphate of Baghdad to Sultan Masud. Marsal who was from Gardez served as the ambassador of the court of Ghazni in Baghdad.

7. Sahal son of Marsal whose lineage is linked to Abu Sahal but I have not come across his name in historical documents.

8. Another person from this family is Abu Ali or Abu Bakr Lawek. His name has been briefly mentioned in the Seysatnama section of Tabakat-e Nasiri. He was the father-in-law of Kabul Shah. In 986 A.D. he was defeated in Charkh of Logar by Subuktageen and it seems he was a Moslem. The name of his father is not known but he was a member of the Loykan family.


A Pashto Distich of the Loykan Period

In 1958 I received a Persian book from a Baluch in Dera Ismail Khan. The front and back pages of the book were missing and there were only 33 pages left in the book. Like a memoir of saints this book dealt with the munificence of Shaikh Sakhi Sarwar. From its writing style I estimated the book was written around 1221 A.D. Even though the narrations in the book did not have any particular historical importance but one narration turned out to be significant. It said that Khenjil, the Kabul Shah, sent a verse in Khalji language to Loyak Khanan. According to Tarekh Al-Yaqubi (Vol. III, p. 131) we know that Kabul Shah Khenjil was a contemporary of caliph Al-Mehdi Abasi. In 784 A.D. the caliph had sent him Islamic emissaries inviting him to convert to Islam.

From the Khalji language it is evident that these Loykan were Khalji and their language was Pashto. I present the Persian version of the narration which took me almost a year to correct and understand. Understanding the Pashto words of the verse was extremely difficult. One word of this verse remains unresolved up to this time.

“Abu Hamed Al-Zawali quoting Hasan Saghani in Tarekh-e Ghazna, states there is a mosque at the Bamian Gate in Ghazni. It is named the mosque of Aflaj Loyak. This was a large house of idol worshipping which was built by Wajware Loyak in honor of the Ratbels and Kabul Shahs. Since his son converted to Islam the Loyak idol was smashed and buried in the mosque and the other idols were destroyed.

The Kabul Shah sent this verse in Khalji language in which the Loyak states:

pa zemi gazna sekhedal[i] loyak loyano boyala loya

ksa tur ba baraglum balum (?) mahala tezyo ya mala

The narration mentions the names of Hasan Saghani and Sheikh Sakhi Sarwar, both of whom are famous people and are known in history. According to Lahori Mufti, the author of Khezenat al-Safya, this Sakhi Sarwar was killed in Shah Kot in 1198 A.D. Emperor Babur talks about his grave in Babur Nama. He was famous as the spreader of Islam in India after Ali Hajwarei Ghaznavi. He was known as Sultan and among the Jalandar Hindus one special branch calls themselves Sultani up to this day.[ii]

Hasan Saghani was also a famous scholar of Ghazni and India. He was born in 1198 A.D. in Lahore and died in Baghdad in 1271 A.D. He was a famous scholar of Arabic literature and etymology and his works were famous in Iraq, Egypt and Hejaz.[iii]

From these narrations it looks as though Abu Hamed Zawali wrote Tarekh-e Ghazni after 1221 A.D. in India but this book is not available now.


Analysis of the Verse

In its original copy the verse was written in a style that took me one year before I realized the words are in Pashto. In its original form the verse is written as:

bazm kazn sahed loyak loi ano boyala loya

kasa ter bah baraghlum balum mahla teryo bamla

A large number of the words of this verse resemble Pahlavi, Sughdi and Dari (Persian) words. For example zemi was used in Dari literature whose Pahlavi form is zamek. In Pashto we have zemi and zmaka (earth). The other word is gazan which is Gazna and is the old name of Ghazni which means a treasure. The gazang of Pahlavi and Sughdi is also from the same root. According to Jo al-Yaqi the kanz of Arabic is the Arabic form of the word from the same root. It was used in former Pashto also and in Sanskrit it is Jagan or Kajan. The Chinese Hsuan Tsang has written this Gazna as Ho-se-na.

Sahed is in reality sekhed which is derived from the verb sekedal (to bury) is an old third person derivative which has gone out of use and today we say sakh soo (was buried). In the Herawi dialect eid was used for the third person. Such derivation shows that Pashto grammar in the past did not have such compound verbs but was based on its constancy.

The spelling of the word loyano is actually loi ano but we can read it as loyano and the name of the Loyak family is derived from this same word. Boyala is the old form of bayala and loya is an old form of loi (magnificent) such as skala, zargha, dzghala, zharra, khanda and zalma. Kasa is the ksa of Pashto which is related to the kashtarya of Sanskrit and Old Persian and in Khair-al-Bayan it has been written in the converted form as tur kas meaning a swordsman, brave and soldier.

Baraghlum  is from the verb raghlum and is related to the bar aghaledan of Dari meaning to wake up. Similarly mla means friendship and tezyo is tazi which means Arabic and is an alternation of Pashto dialect. The word balum in this verse remains unsolved and doubtful.

From this narrative and verse we come to the conclusion that the Loykan were a royal family of Gahzni or the ancient Gazna whose family name is derived from the loy of Pashto and in accordance to the rules of Pashto nouns it became Loyak. The first Loyak who lived around 741 A.D. was named Wajware or Hajware and the present day Wajiristan is named after him.

The language of these Loykan has been called the Khalji language and it is possible they were also from the Khalji tribe. They worshipped the idols of their ancestors and for many years fought against the Islamic conquerors, the Safarids and the Ghaznavids until finally they were subdued by Subuktageen in 986 A.D. In dialectical form their language resembled the Wardak, Wazir and Musaid dialects and it contained Pahlavi, Sughdi and Dari words.

In Pashto literature this verse is contemporary to the poem of Amir Krorr and the influence of Pahlavi and Dari is evident in the verse, much more so than the poem of Amir Krorr. This shows that the Pashto spoken in the mountains of Ghor had not come under the influence of other languages while the Pashto spoken in the cities had mixed with other sister languages spoken in the area examples of which we see in the tablets found in Uruzgan and Baghlan.

Ghazni and Zabulistan served as the crossroad for the people of Persia and Trans-Oxiana on their way to India. Large merchant and cultural caravans passed through Zabulistan from India to Seistan, Persia and northward toward Trans-Oxiana. An amalgamation of cultures took place here and it is natural that this had influence on the language of the people.

Sughdi, Pahlavi and Dari words have a great deal of association with the Pashto of the time spoken in Zabulistan an example of which is this verse. The presence of Pashto words in the Baghlan and Uruzgan tablets proves that Pashto was spoken during the first century A.D. but it is possible that its form differed from present day Pashto.

The samples of 6th and 7th century A.D. of Pashto which we know of shows that the language of the cities had changed considerably and had become soft and refined. The dialects spoken in the Wazir, Musaid and Wardak mountains are probably close to the original Pashto.[iv]







[i] s represents the (ښ) of Pashto.

[ii] See Jalandar’s Zula’ Gazeteer, printed in India.

[iii] See Saja al-Marjan and Tazkerat al-Ulema, India.

[iv] Wazhma Magazine 1962. Issue 3, p. 1-12.