Is Hazara An Ancient Word?


Abdul Hai Habibi


Regarding the word Hazara or the land of Hazarajat, which is a later undertaking, writers and researchers have, from time to time, written about this subject. Such material is dated to recent times and relates to the period after the conquests of Ghenghiz Khan and it does not have sufficient historical validity.

Raverty, a Pashto scholar and historian (born 1825 A.D.) is the first person who has written about the origin and ethnic background of the Hazara tribes providing historical documentation. After him travelers and writers have written on this subject. Alexander Burns, in his book about his stay in Kabul during 1836-1838 A.D. (London, 1842, p. 230), mentions the names of Hazara tribes in detail. At that time he records 66,900 Hazara families.

In these writings of Europeans there is no reference to the origins of the word Hazara or its historical background. In Ghenghiz Khan’s armies the numbers thousand (hazara) and hundred were used (refer to Jama’ al-Tawarekh of Rashiduddin, vol. 1, p. 399). Based on this, historians and geographers after the Mongol period, believed that these Hazaras are the remnants of the hazara of Gehnghiz armies who were settled in certain locations for strategic purposes. The first author who has expressed this view is Abu al-Fazl, historian and author of Akbari, who alludes that these people did not live in this land before the coming of Ghenghiz to the area (Ayeen-e Akbari, vol. 2, p. 163). General Cunningham, in his book Geographical History of India (p. 40 and thereafter), corroborates this view and rejects the belief of Saint Martin regarding the ancientness of this word but Monsieur Fushe, in his book Iranian Civilization (p. 42), discusses the issue of Hazarajat and states:

“Hazara in the Persian language means a thousand and since Ghenghiz divided his troops in companies of 1000 men therefore Abu al-Fazl, the writer of the History of Akbari, states that these mountain dwelling people are a part of the Ghengiz armies who stayed in the area. Other writers after him have repeated the same statement without asking how can an army of 1000 people stay in such a harsh land and how did they form such a large group of people. The doubt raised by Monsieur Fushe rings true and we cannot doubt substantial historical reasoning as a result of a weak and unsubstantiated statement made by Abu al-Fazl and his followers.”

Therefore we need to look back into the annals of history and analyze this word on the basis of linguistics too. In the history of words and linguistics we come across words and names which have an older and more substantiated root. By mixing the word with some other novelty word its root and its pureness has been obliterated. For example, among Afghans, the name Turbaz, means a swordsman. This name has a strong foundation in ancient Aryan languages and Sanskrit according to Kalhana’s History of Kashmir and the Waihind tablet (situated on the bank of the Indus river), and has been written as Turkash in Khair al-Bayan of Pir-e Roshan around 1543 A.D. It is also used in present day Pashto. Office clerks, however, have converted this pure Pashto word to Tura Bazoo and Tur Abas. The word has been convoluted to the extent that Tura Baz is considered to be the correct spelling of the word. This form of the word does not have any meaning and what philological root does it have?

 In similar fashion the word Hazara has also been distorted and alluded to the thousand (hazara) of Ghenghiz by short-sighted historians. The fact is this name has a long history well before the conquests of Ghenghiz and there are reasons which indicate these people (the Hazara) lived in this land centuries before the Mongol conquests.

The first reason is that the name Hazara has not just been used for the land in Central Afghanistan. It is present in the names of lands beyond the Indus, the foothills of mountains as far as Hari Pur and Abbotabad, Pakli and Kaghan. In the mountains of Kashmir there is a famous valley called Hazara. The people there are not from Tartar and Mongoloid race but are leftovers of the Indian Aryans. Their language is from an Indian dialect.

If we consider the Hazara of Afghanistan to be the progeny of the Ghenghiz armies what can be said about the ancestry of the Hazara who live along the banks of the Indus river and who are spread all the way to the Kashmir mountains. Ghenghiz Khan did not cross the Indus river. After Jalaluddin Khwarazam Shah crossed the Indus south of Attock due to the deterioration of weather Ghenghiz turned back to Peshawar (Jama’ vol. 1, p. 378). In this way the Ghenghiz hazara did not reside in the Hazara valley beyond the Indus and the place name did not gain fame as a result of the conquests of the army of Ghenghiz.

The other reason for the oldness of the Hazara name, from the perspective of history, is that Hsuen Tsang, the Chinese traveler, on his return from India on 25 June 644 A.D. came to Tsu-ku-cha (Aracozia). He considers its primary capital Ho-si-na (Ghazni) and its secondary captial Ho-sa-la (see Hsuen Tsang’s travels, book 12). Saint Martin is the first person who said that the first name is Ghazni while the second is Hazara. General Cunningham, citing Abu al-Fazl,  does not consider the second name to be correct and states it is a stop along the banks of the Helmand river. Ptolmey, the famous geographer, mentions Ozala to be located in the same spot and says it lies southeast of Aracozia. In the presence of the writings of Hsuen Tsang and Ptolmey we cannot rely on the statement of Abu al-Fazl.

Hsuen Tsang writes that a swift spring gushes from Ho-sa-la and its water divides into several branches. The weather of this place is cold and it snows and hails there. Its people are happy and free, they are skilled in magic craft and their language is different from the other lands.

Monsieur Fushe also accepts Martin’s supposition and says Hsuen Tsang accompanied a local king who was traveling to collect taxes and to show his strength to rural tribes, crossed through Hazarajat. He talks about the weather, character and language of these people and is perplexed by their Mongoloid features. Monsieur Fushe further adds: One thousand years before Hsuen Tsang, while Alexander was headed north from the south, his historians write that Alexander came across a strange people in the region who were more belligerent than the others. The description provided by Kent Corse about the mud houses of the people can be observed by any traveler today (Iranian Civilization, p. 422).

 Comparison of the name Hazara: We shall now compare the Ho-sa-la of Hsuen Tsang and Ozala of Ptolmey with the present name of Hazara and will elucidate this issue by means of linguistics also. Both the Chinese and Greek names have three syllables, Ho-sa-la and O-za-la. The transformation of S to Z and H to O is not uncommon in philology. L also changes to R such as dewar=dewal (wall). Hundreds of other Arian words have seen the transformation of L to R. From the perspective of philology we do not see any problem that the Ho-sa-la of Chinese and Ozala of Greek may be the present day Hazara. Hsuen Tsang, who traveled in the 7th century A.D., mentions a number of tribes and places in Afghanistan with their present names. He also describes Apu-kin (Afghan) adjacent to Ghazni and Hazara. Based on this it is clear that these Hazara people have lived in Afghanistan from the time of Alexander until now and the two ethnic groups have resided side by side. If we conduct a philological examination of the word we see it has ancient roots with Pashto. I present this view in a preliminary fashion and not as an absolute statement. Before that I would like to bring your attention to certain historical books which were written after the Mongol invasions and close to the time of the Ghenghiz conquests. Most historians of this period have noted the Hazara of Afghanistan as Awghani and even written this word in the present day spelling of Afghani.

1. There is a book by the title of Jama’ al Tawarekh (not the Jama’ of Rashiduddin), written in 1305 A.D. which has been dedicated to Sultan Ghazi. The current copy was scribed in 1563 A.D. In this book the Hazara and Awghani, Hazara and Afghan, Amir Mubarizuddin and Awghanan and the status of Awghaniyan has been mentioned repeatedly.

2. In the beginning of the poem of Saad bin Abdul Razaq Samarkandi the events of  1346 A.D. of Awghan and Jermayee and Hazara have been mentioned and in the events of a year earlier he has recorded Hazara Awgani and Hazara Afghani.

3. In the history of Hamdullah Mustufi, Hazara Awghan, Awghanian, Hazara attendants, and different Awghani and Jermayee rulers have been mentioned. Their conquests stretched in southern Persia reaching as far as Shiraz and the Samanids,  the rulers of this region, were in constant battle with these people. To research who these Awghanian, Jarma and Hazara were is the work of another paper but the relationship of these names with each other suggests that these people lived in the same region.

We will now analyze the name Hazara:

Like other historical names this name has two particles: hu and zara. In that the spelling of the first part where the vowel (wow) has been added to the letter (hay) is clear from its Chinese and Greek pronunciation.

Hue or hu in Avesta, su in Sanskrit are the old forms of ho=kho=kha=sha, the Pashto kha and the Persian khoob. A large number of names are attributed to this hu such as Hubakht and Hunami meaning lucky and celebrated, and these names have been inscribed on the tomb of Khwaja Abdullah Ansari (around 1087 A.D.) in the Herawi dialect. (Tabaqat al-Sufia, handwritten version). In Avesta the pillar of the Mazdesta religion is Humata, Hukhta and Hurashta (Gatha, p. 75. Mazdesta and its effects on Persian Literature, p. 700). In Pahlavi it was Humanish, Hugabshan, and Hukanish which in Persian are pious outlook, pious words and pious deeds. In Pashto these words are close to Avesta and are humanna, hukhatna and hur. In Avesta the adjective jamshed was hurmak=good flock (Vendidad, p. 210).

Hushang was an Avestan monarch who lived before Zoroaster whose Avestan name was Haoc-Shyugha (Yasht 5,9,15,17,19). The first part of the word is hu. According to this tradition the first part of the word hazara is the hu=sa=kha=khob, as discussed above. The second part of the word (rsala=zaala) is the Chinese and Greek form of the present day zara, which in Pashto is present as zrra, meaning heart. Thus husala=hazara is huzara means cheerful. This is the same adjective which Hsuen Tsang called the people of Hu-sa-la.

The word zrra has its root in ancient languages and is a historical word whose meaning has remained in Pashto literature. We can find its examples in ancient names. The original word in Avesta was zaretha meaning heart (Farhang-e Nezam, vol. 2, p. 72). In most Aryan languages this root can be traced to the word, such as sitr in Armenian, zar in Kurdish, zirde in Baluchi, zard in Siraiki, zrad in Sheghnani, uzay in Sanglechi, and zil in Manji (references of Burhan-e Qata’, vol 2, p. 873). According to Professor Haag, the first part of Zoroaster is also derived from this word. The name of a Balkh hero, Zarer, has been written as Zari and Ari in Aban Yasht (parts 112, 113). Today it has transformed to zrrawar which means bold.

Similarly the name, Kharwa, according to Christensen (Kiyaniyan, p. 2) was the Avestan Hue Sravah, whose initial part hue became kho in Persian and its terminal part, sravah may be related to zrra. Which when put together means cheerful.

The Chinese Hu-sa-la and O-za-la of Ptolmey are references to the land of present day Hazara people as indicated by historical facts. This linguistic analysis is close to fact and hazara probably means cheerful.[i]



[i] In Dictionary of National Biographies (Oxford University Press) Vol. 3, p. 194, in the section regarding the life history of Henry George Raverty (1825-1906 A.D.) it is mentioned he wrote a book on the history of Ming and the Hazara of Afghansitan. According to Mohammad Kashghari, in Diwan al-Lughat al-Turk, written in 1073 A.D. and published in Istanbul in 1914 A.D., the word ming means a thousand (Vol. 3, p. 266). In his Geographical History Barthold considers the name Hazara to be derived from hazar (thousand) of Persian and he writes its plural as hazarajat (?). In Persian books lords of the Ming has been translated as the greater hazara. In Tarekh-e Herat Saifi has been noted to be the ruler of Hazara and Sadah (p. 163) and Daud considers Khwaja to be the ruler of these people. According to Saifi he was an infidel and says his tribe, hazara and bazaar were plundered (p. 597). From this it is clear, after the departure of the Mongols, the word Ming-Hazara-Mughli took hold in Persian. This new word has been mistaken with the ancient hazara, which according to the Chinese and Greek documents, cannot be considered a new word attributed to the period of Mongol departure.