ČARḴ, a common toponym all over the Iranian world. The following forms are attested in Iran and Afghanistan: Čarḵ-e Bīnal (also known as Čarḵāb), a village about 26 km north of Bālā Morḡāb; Čarḵ-e Falak, a small village in Tabādkān district northeast of Mašhad, a site 5 km east of Balḵ (with remains of a stupa), and a tributary valley branching off from the Ḵōst valley on the northern slopes of the central Hindu Kush; Čarḵ Gawak, a village 7 km north of Lāš Jōwayn; Čarḵ-e Lōgar, a large settlement 100 km south of Kabul (see below). Several compounds of different types occur, the most frequent being Čarḵāb ( = Čarḵaw), which appears as the name of villages in Qaṭaḡan, Barāʾān district east of Isfahan, and Čamčāl district east of Kermānšāh, as well as of a peak and pass upstream from the Sanglēč valley in central Hindu Kush. Other types include Čarḵbād, a village in southern Hazārajāt, and Čarḵestān, a village in Borūjerd šahrestān. An older form Čaxra is attested in Avestan (Vd. 1.16), identifications of which have been proposed both with Sārī (q.v.), a city of Māzandarān (Christensen, p. 48), and, more convincingly, with Čarḵ-e Lōgar (Gnoli, 1967, p. 74; 1985, p. 28). Various etymologies, all derived from Persian čarḵ “wheel,” have been proposed by Nyberg (p. 321), Christensen (op. cit., p. 47), and Melikian-Chirvani (n. 1). None is really convincing.

Čarḵ-e Lōgar. Of all the known Čarḵs Čarḵ-e Lōgar stands out because of its historical and geographical importance. It is located at an altitude of 2,000 m in an interior basin of the Altamūr chain that opens out in the northeast onto the Lōgar valley (q.v.). To the south the Ḵarpēčak pass (2,600 m) gives access to the higher Ḵarwār basin (q.v.). The old route between Kabul and Ḡaznī ran through it, and Čarḵ-e Lōgar, located at the very foot of the pass, has served through the centuries as a major halting place on this route. The victory there of the Turk army of Sebüktegin (Saboktegīn) over the Hendūšāhīs of Kabul and their ally Abū ʿAlī Lawīk of Ḡaznī in 366/977 opened the door of eastern Afghanistan to the Ghaznavids (Jūzjānī, Ṭabaqāt, tr. Raverty, p. 73; Bosworth, pp. 12-24; Rahman, pp. 133f.). Later, in Timurid times, Čarḵ-e Lōgar was the main center of the entire Lōgar region, with contacts extending as far as India (Bābor-nāma, tr. Beveridge, p. 217).

In this context there developed an intellectual life that is poorly known but seems to have been active and strongly marked by Sufism, as evidenced by the eight zīāras (shrines) scattered throughout the Čarḵ basin, an exceptional concentration. The most venerated is that of Mawlānā Yaʿqūb-e Čarḵī (Yaʿqūb b. Oṯmān b. Maḥmūd b. Moḥammad Ḡaznavī Čarḵī), who died in 851/1447; he was the author of a renowned tafsīr (Koran commentary) and an outstanding personality in the Naqšbandī selsela, having been a disciple of Bahāʾ-al-Dīn Naqšband Samarqandī (q.v.) himself and a teacher of the great Timurid shaikh Ḵᵛājā ʿObayd-Allāh Aḥrār (Storey, I/1, p. 9). Another famous Sufi from Čarḵ-e Lōgar in the Timurid period was Mollāzāda Mollā ʿOṯmān (Bābor-nāma, tr. Beveridge, p. 284). A still more astonishing remnant of the brilliant past of this locality is a meḥrāb of carved wood from the Ghaznavid period, ornamented with Kufic inscriptions, which adorns the mosque of Moḥyi’l-Dīn in Čarḵ. Although it has been reused, the local origin of this remarkable work has been accepted by specialists (Melikian-Chirvani; Fischer, p. 315).

Today Čarḵ-e Lōgar, bypassed by all major regional roads, is no more than a dead end. It has, however, preserved its agricultural prosperity, based on irrigation from the abundant waters of the Pengrām, a tributary of the Lōgar, and from several springs. As early as the 8th/14th century its orchards were well known (Ebn Baṭṭūṭa, III, p. 88). Today, in the entire central part of the Čarḵ valley, vines, apricot trees, and almond trees grow side by side with annual crops in a rural landscape of great abundance, attesting to the deep roots of the peasantry.

The basic population is composed of long-sedentary Persian-speaking Tajiks. As is frequent in rural areas south of the Hindu Kush, they are organized in tribes. The author has collected among them the following tribal names: Baḵtak, Ayūmbēg, Mūhrōmbēg, Zay Ḥaydar. In the 13th/19th century they belonged to two rival political factions (Evan Smith, 1881, p. 6, abridged in Gazetteer of Afghanistan VI, pp. 133 and 519). Among them there is a small nucleus of Sādāt notables claiming to have originated from the Paḡmān area west of Kabul twenty-eight generations ago, that is, in about the 6th-7th/12th-13th century.

The remainder of the present population includes an important Pashtun minority, settled at a fairly recent date along the edges of the valley. Its tribal affiliations are quite varied: Andaṛ from neighboring Ḵarwār; Masūd (Masʿūd) who arrived from Waziristan at the beginning of the 1930s; Ḵarōṭī; and Yūsofzī. One of the local Yūsofzay lineages, that of the sepa(h)sālār Ḡolām Ḥaydar Khan Čarḵī, belonging to the Čamārḵēl clan, has played a leading role in the contemporary history of Afghanistan (see the genealogy and biography of its principal members in Adamec, 1975, pp. 94, 145, 147, 149f., 151f., and tables 82-83).

Čarḵ functions as the commercial and administrative center of a district (ʿalāqadārī) extending over its own valley, as well as that of Ḵarwār (758 km2). The population of the district was 34,600 in the census of 1358 Š./1979, with an average density of 46 inhabitants per km2. In 1880 it was estimated at 2,180 families, of whom a thousand lived in the Čarḵ valley proper (Gazetteer of Afghanistan 6, pp. 133, 419). It can thus be concluded that the population has tripled in a century, partly owing to the immigration of the Pashtun.

The Persian dialect spoken at Čarḵ presents several phonological, morphological, syntactical, and lexical peculiarities that distinguish it clearly from the Persian of Kabul. It is known thanks to the still unpublished studies of C. M. Kieffer (for some specimens see Kieffer).



L. W. Adamec, ed., Historical and Political Who’s Who of Afghanistan, Graz, 1975.

Ẓahīr-al-Dīn Bābōr, Bābor-nāma, tr. A. S. Beveridge, London, 1922; repr. 1970.

C. E. Bosworth, “Notes on the Pre-Ghaznavid History of Eastern Afghanistan,” The Islamic Quarterly 9, 1965, pp. 12-24.

A. Christensen, Le premier chapître du Vendidad et l’histoire primitive des tribus iraniennes, Copenhagen, 1943.

C. B. Euan Smith, Report on the Occupation of the Logar valley from April to August 1880, Calcutta, 1881.

K. Fischer, “From the Rise of Islam to the Mongol Invasion,” in The Archaeology of Afghanistan From Earliest Times to the Timurid Period, ed. F. R. Allchin and N. Hammond, London, 1978, pp. 301-55.

G. Gnoli, Ricerche storiche sul Sīstān antico, Rome, 1967.

Idem, De Zoroastre à Mani, Paris, 1985.

C. M. Kieffer, “Rythmique de la poésie populaire de langue persane: Le cas des vers burlesques de Čarx-e Lōgar,” Cahiers Ferdinand de Saussure 41, 1987, pp. 87-107.

A. S. Melikian-Chirvani, “Un chef d’œuvre inconnu dans une vallée afghane,” Connaissance des arts 308, 1977, pp. 76-79.

H. S. Nyberg, Die Religionen des alten Iran, Leipzig, 1938.

A. Rahman, The last Two Dynasties of the Śāhīs, Islamabad, 1979.

(Daniel Balland)

Originally Published: December 15, 1990

Last Updated: December 15, 1990

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 7, pp. 814-816