ČEGEL (Jekel), name of a Turkish people in Central Asia known in Persian poetry for the extraordinary beauty of their youths. The earliest reference to them in Islamic sources is found in Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, which gives a somewhat confused definition of their territory (cf. their location vis-à-vis the Toḵs, ed. Sotūda, pp. 81, 83, tr. Minorsky, pp. 98, 99) but describes the people as good-natured (nīk-ṭabʿ), sociable (āmīzanda), and friendly (mehrbān). They were mostly nomadic, living in tents and felt hunts (ḵargāh), and breeding cattle, sheep, and horses. They were wealthy and populous and some of them worshipped the sun and stars (ed. Sotūda, pp. 83-84, tr. pp. 98-99). The next reference to them is by Moqaddasī (pp. 48, 263, 274-75), who mentions the fortress town of Jekel near Ṭarāz (Talas, near the present day Awlīā Ata) in the region of Asfījāb. The town had a citadel, and the Friday mosque was located in the marketplace. It was repeatedly attacked by the neighboring Ḡozz, who came to apply the term Čegel to any Turkish tribe to the east of Amu Darya (Barthold, in EI1 IV, p. 904). According to Maḥmūd Kāšḡarī (apud Barthold, loc. cit.) the Čegel lived in three areas: the nomad Čegel, who lived on the river Ili; the Čegel of the villages near Kāšḡar; and the people of the town Jekel near Asbījāb. Minorsky (Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, comm. pp. 297-99), utilizing Gardīzī’s description of two routes crossing the Čegel country towards Barsḵān (ed. Ḥabībī, pp. 265-66, 279), concluded that the tribe’s territory lay to the east of the Ili-Chu watershed in the north and southwest of the lake Issyk Kul (Īseḡ-kūl) and was bounded on the west by the Ḵalloḵ (Qarloq) and Toḵsī Turks. The Čegel to the southwest of the lake were subject to a ruler of their own called taksīn (Gardīzī, p. 266; Mojmal, ed. Bahār, p. 421; Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, comm., p. 297 and n. 4). According to a report by Abū Dolaf preserved by Yāqūt (Boldān III, pp. 446-47), the Čegel married their sisters and daughters, a small number of them practiced Christianity, but none of them was Zoroastrian (the authenticity of Abū Dolaf’s report has been questioned by Minorsky; see Abū Dolaf, Pers. tr., pp. 14-26, 31-33). A passage by Neẓām-al-Molk indicates that a good number of them had embraced Islam by the mid-5th/11th century
The Čegel arrived in Transoxiana with the Qarakhanids and formed the core of their army in the 5th/11th century. Detachments of them were stationed in Samarqand and elsewhere in Transoxiana during Malekšāh’s campaign in Central Asia in 482/1089. Malekšāh’s neglect to give for the Čegel the customary banquet that the Saljuqs gave for tribal chiefs caused the revolt of the Čegel in Samarqand once Malekšāh had returned to Khorasan. Saljuq’s authority was soon restored in Samarqand, and the leader of the Čegel, referred to as ʿAyn-al-Dawla, was executed (Ebn-al-Aṯīr, X, pp. 170-73; Neẓām-al-Molk, p. 170; Barthold, Turkestan3, p. 317 and n. 2).
The Čegel are also mentioned as excellent archers (e.g., Enjū Šīrāzī II, pp. 1564-65). Their reputation for good looks made their name a recurrent term in Persian poetry (e.g., Dehḵodā, s.v.). Ḥāfeẓ sometimes refers to the beloved as šamʿ-e Čegel (“the Čegel’s candle”; Dīvān, pp. 323, 331, 344). Their youths were also captured and sold as slaves in Persia and elsewhere. Kaykāvūs b. Eskandar (p. 115), however, described Čegel slaves (ḡolām) as the laziest of all Turkish slaves.
Abu’l-Fedā, Taqwīm, p. 497; Pers. tr. ʿA. Āyatī, Tehran, 1349 Š./1970, p. 575.
Abū Dolaf Mesʿar b. Mohalhel Ḵazrajī, Safar-nāma-ye Abū Dolaf dar Īrān, with comments and corrections by V. Minorsky, Pers. tr. S. A. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Tehran, 1342 Š./1963.
Haft eqlīm III, p. 494. Barthold, “Issik-kul,” in EI1 IIa, pp. 555-56.
Idem, “Turks,” ibid., IV, pp. 900-08. Idem, Turkestan3, pp. 254 n., 317.
Ḥāfeẓ, Dīvān, ed. M. Qazvīnī and Q. Ḡanī, Tehran, 1320 Š./1941.
Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, pp. 28, 35, 54, 83, 97, 98-99, 184, 291, 297-300, 319, 482.
Mīr Jamāl-al-Dīn Ḥosayn Enjū Šīrāzī, Farhang-e jahāngīrī, ed. R. ʿAfīfī, 3 vols., Mašhad, 1351-54 Š./1972-75.
Ḵᵛāja Neẓām-al-Molk Ṭūsī, Sīar al-molūk (Sīāsat-nāma), ed. H. Darke, 3rd ed., Tehran, 2535 = 1355 Š./1976.
ʿOnṣor-al-Maʿālī Kaykāvūs b. Eskandar, Qābūs-nāma, ed. Ḡ.-Ḥ. Yūsofī, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1352 Š./1973.
Saʿdī, Būstān, ed. with notes by Ḡ-Ḥ. Yūsofī, 3rd ed., Tehran, 1368 Š./1989.
Originally Published: December 15, 1990
Last Updated: December 15, 1990
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