Dasht-e Yahudi

Dasht-e Yahudi (Persian: دشتِ یهودی, Urdu: دشتِ یہودی; transl. 'Jewish Desert') is a historic region referred to by Persian and early Mughal historians that comprises the most western parts of modern-day Peshawar, Charsadda, Malakand and Mardan districts, particularly around their border areas with the Khyber and Mohmand districts.[1] While the region is not a desert, it does have a semi-arid climate.

The term was often employed by the Mughals in a derogatory sense with reference to the Pashtun tribes that inhabited the region (namely the Afridi, the Khattak, and the Yusufzai) and often waylaid Mughal caravans and contested trade routes.[citation needed] The term "Yahudi" was a reference to the alleged Jewish origin of the Pashtun people.

Despite successfully subjecting the majority of the Indian subcontinent to their rule, Mughal emperors were throughout their long dynasty unable to control the Pashtuns or strip them of their tribal autonomy.[2]

In the present-day countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the term is obsolete.


Territory of the historic area represented by the archaic term Dasht-e Yahudi

The term Dasht-e Yahudi literally translates to "Jewish Desert" in Urdu and "Jewish Wasteland" in Pashto.[3] It is an archaic term that first appears in Persian and Mughal texts.[4]

Dasht means 'desert' or 'field' in the Persian language. The same word is also used in Pashto and sometimes Urdu or Hindi, where it means both an arid area (waste) or a desert. However, the area recognized as Dasht-e Yahudi is not a desert, but used to be a semi-arid uncultivated area.

The so-called desert used to be barren and mountainous with sporadic dwellings and rare village settlements. In modern times, it has been extensively cultivated and for the most part is lush and green through canal systems and rivers.


In Persian and Mughal historical texts and rarely in Afghan texts, it is always found with another closely related term: Qilʽ Yahudiya or Qila Yahudi. The word "Qilʽ Yahudiya" literally translates to the "Jewish citadel/fort".

People and tribesEdit

Three major Pashtun tribes were settled in the area: the Afridi, the Yusufzai, and the Khattak.

The Afridi are settled in the western parts of the traditional region; the Yusufzai are settled on the eastern parts; and the Khattak in the central and northern parts. Additionally, the Mohmand tribe is also present in the northwest of the area. Both the Khattak and the Yusufzai were notorious for ransacking Mughal supply lines and trade routes, so much so that the Mughals had to build the Attock Fort to defend against it.

Ashoka's Aramaic stone edictsEdit

Ashoka was an Indian emperor of the Maurya dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from c. 269–232 BCE.

Ashoka's famous stone tablets and ancient edicts, some of which are found within the Dasht-e Yahudi regions of Shahbaz Garhi, Mardan, and Swabi, have inscriptions in the Greek and Aramaic languages.

The Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription of the 3rd century BCE, compiled in both Greek and Aramaic by the Mauryan king Ashoka in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Qilʽ YahudiyaEdit

Qilʽ Yahudiya, was an archaic term used by early Arab, Persian, and Mughal historians for the area that in modern-day Pakistan is located in the Khyber District and is simply known as Khyber. The word Khyber is now part of the name for the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Bab-e Khyber, the pass through which countless armies attacked India.

In its usage, the term thus stands for the Afridi tribesmen that held the Khyber Pass and the mountainous ranges known as the Sulaiman Mountains as well as the Hindu Kush.

See alsoEdit

  • Pashtunistan, a geographic region primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan that is considered to be the traditional Pashtun homeland
  • Pashtuns, an Iranian ethnic group native to Central and South Asia
  • Theories of Pashtun origin, various legends and theories that aim to explain the origin of the Pashtun people
  • Nimat Allah al-Harawi, a Mughal-era chronicler who compiled a Persian-language history of the Pashtuns


  • Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society, Volumes 18–19, Pakistan Historical Society, 1970]. Pakistan Historical Society. 1970. p. 32 pages.
  • Muḥammad Shafīʻ, Ṣābir (1966). Story of Khyber]. University Book Agency- Peshawar (Pakistan). p. 2.
  • Maulana Abdul Haq. Muhammad in World Scriptures (Vol. 2); Advent of Holy Prophet Muhammad Foretold in the Books of the Old Testament of Jews and the New Testament of Christians.
  • Rauf Khan Khattak (17 February 2008). "Recurring patterns in tribal uprising". The News on Sunday. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.


  1. ^ Usage of the term, Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society, Volumes 18–19, Pakistan Historical Society, 1970
  2. ^ Recurring patterns in tribal uprising. The News. 17 Feb 2008. Retrieved 20 Feb 2008.
  3. ^ Introduction to the article, Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society, Volumes 18–19, Pakistan Historical Society, 1970
  4. ^ Introduction to the article, Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society, Volumes 18–19, Pakistan Historical Society, 1970