Jats the Ancient Rulers (A clan study)/Review of the book by Dr S S Rana
When B.S. Dahiya's book 'Jats: The Ancient Rulers' was first published in 1980 I was one of those privileged to speak at a book discussion organised at Kirori Mal College to felicitate Shri Dahiya and introduce the book to the audience, which largely (or I should say wholely) consisted of Jat acedemicians in Delhi University. I had hurriedly gone through the book before coming to the function. It 'romanticised' me and left me overawed by the range of coverage of the subjects. I can still recall the tributes I had paid to the devotion and single minded zeal of Shri Dahiya. After all his book, one of its own kind ( I had not had a chance to read Ram Sarup Joon's book by then), written with an injured with the perceived injustice meted out to the wonderful community of Jats, his own kinsmen (and women). As I could see Shri Dahiya had felt over whelmed.It was clear from his thanks giving speech. He was gracious to give me an autographed copy of his othe book 'Jat Tribes in the Rigveda'. I went back home and the first thing I did was to read through the pages. An ignited Jat mind had already ignited another Jat mind.
I went about telling all friends about the effort of Shri Dahiya and continued reading his books almost religiously.On a closer look made repeatedly at the many references to Sanskrit texts (with which I was well conversant) made me think afresh. In fact I tried, though very gently, to point out some of the spots to shri Dahiya when we happened to meet at socials. But no serious discussions could ensue. But my desire to folow up his books lingered on.
Later when I got closely associated with the Seminars on Jats organised by the Maharaja Surajmal Education Society, New Delhi, the issues of Jat history, especially of ancient period came to dominate in my academic concerns.The Seminars of all India character, held almost annually with a renewed zeal would esily be the envy of any first rate academic institution. The variety of topics and free discusions marked each of the Seminars. Three volumes have already been published by the Society incorporating papers presented there at Underthe able editorship of Dr. Vir Singh.
My wider readings during these years included a range of books on sociology, anthropology, linguistics and of course, most avaiable books on jat history, especially those dealing with their origins with the sole aim of knowing more about Jats and,particularly the history of the use of the term 'Jat'. My major discipline of reading and teaching Sanskrit inscriptions for long years helped me to make a more authentic evaluation of historical material claimed to be based on this genere. It is with this backgound that I have commited the audicity to point out certain contexts in B.S.Dahiya's book mentioned above.Even if I sound harsh sometimes in academic criticism my admiration for Shri Dayi's efforts remains high as ever.
At the very outset I would like to state that I take B.S.Dahiya as a widely read person,my differrence of opinion (at times irritating) with him notwithstanding.It is not in my competence to offer criticism on all parts of the book. I would as far as possible restrict my comments primarily to the issues discussed where Sanskrit literature or inscriptions are cited as evidence or made basis for arriving at conclusions.References to pages are to pages of Dahiya's book on Jatland Wiki.
P-5. Trying to prove that the Guptas (of the famous Gupta dynasty) were Jats Dahiya observes : " It was under under the German form of their name 'Got or 'Gut that they(the Guptas) established the so called Gupta Empire in India mistaken by historians as such because of name endings of many of their kigs were Gupta." Wring on the same page he confuses two separate terms 'gupta' and 'goptaa, to be identical having the meaning of a ruler or governor. His citing inscriptional text berays his utter lack of skills in decipherin the true import of Sanskrit texts. He appears to be ploughing a lonely furrow when on the same page he deconstructs the North-Himalayan place name 'Gilgit' into Gill+Git implying that the place was one of the Gill Gits i.e. a place of the Jats of the Gill clan.I think even the Gills would shiver at such an interpretation. Dahiya's assertion that Gupta was not the family name but was only a second part of personal names of several kings. But it appears that the frequent reference in their inscriptions to the family name as 'Guptaanvaya' or to their Era as 'Guptakaala' or 'Guptaprakaala' escapped his notice.
p-6-7. Derivation of the term 'Jat' from the Sanskrit term 'Yoddha' does not appear convincing in spite of the perumbulatory course Dahiya adopts to look impressive.First he clutches at the words 'joddha' and 'boddha' connecting them again with chinese 'yetha' or 'jeta'; then takes into account the 'aayudhajivi' sanghas mentioned by Panini as if this would do the job;but perhaps not satisfied himself, Dahiya then enters the relmn of Guptainscriptions where an obsolete reading appears to be helping.It is the reference to the defeat of the Pushyamitras at the hand of Skandagupta. He prefers the reading ‘yudhyamitranshcha’ against the generally agred reading ‘pushyamitranshcha’ in the Bhitari Pillar Inscription of Skandagupta. He is in good company as some other scholars also had earlier preferred this reading. But the further course of Dahiya’s enunciation is built on slippery ground. He makes the initial mistake of splitting the text as ‘yudhya+mitranshcha’ , which can happen when a person is not conversant with thebasic system of Sanskrit sandhis.The correct rendering should be ‘yudhi = amitranshcha’.The situation becomes quite queer when Dahiya imagines Skandagupta (who, Dahiya thinks was a Jat) having fought with the yudhyas (whom he identifies as Jats), the Hunas (who also were Jats according to him). Jats on all sides!
If it was an an all Jat affair, what were the issues at stake? Has not Dahiya (and rightly) said that the Jats ha d republican propensities? Dahiya’s is not only unconvincing here but also looks awkward. Claiming the non-existence of Pushyamitras as a force to reckon with in the times of the Guptas is to close one’s eyes to the evidence of the Puranas. Further, the explanation offered for the term ‘cha’ is unconvincing in light of the fact that the splitting of the relevant expression as ‘yudhya+mitan is faulty. It is not understood what purpose does the reference to the Punjabi saying ‘pagdi sambhal jatta’ serve here.
p-14.The date 4 th century B.C asigned to Yaska is against the generally accepted date 8 th century B.C.
The text of Nirukta (I.14) 'jaatya aatnaaro' is erroneouly changed into 'jaatya jaatnaro'. With this further exposition is not relevant.
p-22.ing Citing Durgavritti on Unadisutra (V.52) viz. जर्तः = दीर्घरोमः Dahiya sets out to equate the term जाट with जटा, reminding us of the funny theory of the origin of ajats from Shankara's जटाs.It is surprising that our author still clings to it indirectly. Does he mean to say that the Jats alone wear long hair-now or in the past? He takes the liberty of first taking it for granted that Chandragomin in his famous example of lang lakara ' अअजयज्जर्तो हूणान्' was referring to Yashodharman, the sixh century ruler of Mandasor,since he had defeated the Hunas. Where would he place the efforts of the Gupta rulers Skandagupta and Narasinghgupta Baladitya against the Hunas?Either way Dahiya's view gets a set back. According to him the Guptas were Jats, the Hunas were also Jats, he thinks as he does about Yashodharman. How do we expect a eminent grammarian of Chandragomin's calibre to frame an example m eanig' the Jat (note the singular!) conquered the Jats (substituted for Huunaan)? The Risthal inscription gives the credit of vanquishing the Huuna ruler Toramana in a frontal battle to Aulikara ruler Prakashadharman, the father of Yashodharman.To be fair to Dahiya it is important to mention that the above said inscription came to light only in 1983, much after Dahiya's book under review was published(1980).
p-23 The conclusion that ‘jarta’ is sanskritised version of the original term ‘Jat’ is unwarranted and unacceptable to serious students of history. Again deriving Gurjar from Gujar is putting the cart before the horse. However Dahiya inadvertently gives away the the non sanskritic origin of the term ‘Jat’ (which appears to be the case to the chagrin of many Jat sanskritics).
p-24. Dahiya's inference from Patanjali's text ' मौर्यैः ःहिरण्यार्थिभिर् अर्चाः प्रकल्पिताः' ratherexaggerated. Patanjali only reports a simple fiscal method practised by the M auryas for raising resources for the state exchequer by getting images of gods like Shiva, Skanda etc. manufactured at state level and to be sold to the public both for purposes of worship and decorative otifs by those who liked to do so. There was no personal greed involved in this measure. It should be seen as a pragmatic policy respondig to the religious popensities of the public in those days.
p-24. Dahiya rightly disagrees with G.C. Dwivedi on the latter's observation that "there is lack of historical tradition among the Jats preserving the memory of their great exploits".But his plank of defending the text of Devasamhita concerning the Jats and their origin, to say the least, is quite sticky. Again reverting to his favourite theme of arbitrarily derived clan names does not carry his argument any further. His assertion that the term Jat and almost all clan names of the Jats have the meaning of a king. In that case we would wonder as to who remained to be ruled by the kings and also who were left to cultivate the fields- a vocation associated with the people known as Jats till today. Perhaps an appropriate reply to Dwivedid's observation would be that he should not concentrate on the term Jat but rther search for the community's traditions or expoits through the root of their ancient clan names which by and large are traceable in the Sanskritic tradition of ancient India. Dahiya appears to be presumtuous about the authenticity and accepability of his methodology and interpretations of clan names in inviting Dwivedi to the reading his own book. Many scholars would not agree with him. p-25 Dahiya traces the term ‘Jat’ almost all over the wold in its various phonetic forms (or one may say disforms),but he finds no trace of it in ancient Sanskrit literature (though many taking cudgels for him stretch things to demonstrate that). A the same time Dahiya contradicts himself in taking a position on sanskritic clan names being a latter version of the original non-sanskritic ones without spelling out the reasons and circumstances of such a change.By this stands demolished his pet theme of a Brahmanic conspiracy in blacking out the ‘Jats ‘ from the Sanskrit writings in ancient India. The fact is that the label ‘Jat’ was not known to the Indians of ancient times. However they were conversant with the clan names of people who later came to be labeled as ‘Jats’ by the Arabs and the Persians. p-25 to 27-30. The line of argumentation of Dahiya on the identity of Jats is amusing. First he identifies them with the central Asian Hunas, the kushanas, the chinese and then he separates the Turks from the Kushanas only to revert to their identity.
p-71 Few would disagree with Dahiya holding that the people known (today) as Jats are ancient people and known by their ancient clan names (almost all sanskritic in origin-editor). But it is difficult to agree with him on his clubing the various nationalities like the Hunas, the Shakas, the Kushanas together and identify the Jats with them separately by bringing in self created evidence- the favourite being his penchant of arbitrary etymologies lioke a magic wand. Special mention may be made of the deivation of the term Jat from the Sankrit term Yodha. It is also contradictory to describe the jat clan names first as non Indian in origin and then going to trace them in sanskritic sources (of which we have no dearth).
p-177. See my note on page 177 of the digital copy of the book. It elates to the explanation of the word 'Gupta'. p-185. Dahiya has made too much of the use of the term' Deva' in one or two Gupta names. Also he has not been able to appreciate the true import of the figurative phrase 'lokadhamnah devasya'. In fact the use of the expression 'deva' is a unoiversal phemona in indian names through the centuries (till today). it is not known that skandagupta took the title 'Deva'.
Notes by Dr S S Rana: p.177
1.Agreed that Gupta is normally found used as a second part of names in ancient India without reference to a varna/caste. But Dahiya is wrong when he takes Gupta (with short 'a') and Gopta(with long 'a' ) as one and the same thing. No doubt, the two terms have a common verbal stem (dhaatu) gup (to hide or to protect). The commonality ends here. If we add the suffix tri (trich to be exact) we obtain the nominal stem Goptri which will be formed as Goptaa in nominative singular.Gupta on the other hand is obtained by adding the suffix 'kta' ( in effect 'ta').
2.Dahiya is again wrong that Gupta (with short 'a') was never used as a family name. The liking shown by the Gupta rulers, in invariably using the term gupta as a second part of te names of their sons(even daughters like Prabhavatiguptaa) for several generations did give this generl term a special identity of a family name. Samudragupta's son Devaraja was given a second name Chandragupta, most probably, because the first name did not carry Gupta as second member in the name. A close study of the Gupta inscriptions would show that there are many references describing this family as Guptaanvaya (Gupta+anvaya)i.e. the Gupta family or dynasty.
Further the era given in many of their inscriptions is called Gupta kaala / prakala.Ocourse those historians who take the term Gupta in the modern sense of the members of the Vaishya caste/vna? should think more.
Notes by Dr S S Rana:Drssrana2003
1.Dahiya has relied on the text as read by Fleet. Subsequent researchs have mised his notice.BCh. Chhabra has improved the reading 'Aryyo hityupguha' with 'ehyehityupaguhya' which raises the poetical level of the composition, of which Harishena was capable.
2.Jagannath, a celebrated scholar of epigraphy has improved the old reading 'vandakajano yam prapayati aryatam' into ' vandakajanair yam hrepayati aryata' for better poetical effect and steering clear of the uncalled far dilation on 'Aryata'.
p-203-204 With the discovery of the Risthal Inscription of Prakashdharman (father of yashodharman) the edifice of dahiya's identifying vishnuvardhana of the Bijaygarh Stone pillar inscription with Vishnuvardhana (an alias of yashodharmanfiguring in the Mandsaur Stone Slab Inscription of Yashodharman falls flat. The date 428 given in the inscrioption can not be suitably accomodated in accordance with the Shaka Era as suggested by dahiya. Here the name of thje era suggested by Fleet Viz. the Malaw/Vikrama Era appears to be more plausible. Further, Varika in the Inscription may only stand for a designation of the high post held by Vishnuvardhana. He perhaps got the Pillar raised to commemorate the performance of a vedic sacrifice.Dahiya's observation that theterm ending raat is foreign can not be justified. We have several sanskrit words ending in raat. Dahiya has failed to make distinction between two different names viz. Yashovardhana of the Bijaygarh Pillar Inscription and Yashodharman (whom he mis-spells as Yashodharmana) of the mandsaur Stone inscription. This basic flaw has continiued to guide him in drawing misplaced inferences.
p-205 Dahiya has made too much of similarity in anmes or name parts to establish identities.Indian history is replete with examples of unrelated persons (contemporary or otherwise) bearing common names or name parts like Vardhana, Dharman, Varman etc as we have these days.Therefor tracing Naravardhana of the Pushpabhuti dynasty .from the kings of the Bijaygarh Pillar inscription and in support citing the contrived identity of Vyaghrarat of the last mentioned inscription and the Vyaghraraja mentioned in the Allahabad Pillar Inscription of Samudragupta is uncalled for and stretched one. p-206 The Vardhanas of Thanesar could not be Virks, Aulikaras, and Bains at the same time as Dahiya’s.arguments lead us to. p-210 The faulty reading ‘viryaavaskanna raajnah’ in place of the correct reading ‘viryavaskanna-raajnah’ adopted in his zeal to prove his preconce4iv4ed ideas has only confounded matters.he is first reading the text wrong and then imposes forein. elements in Sanskrit language where non exists here.The simple meaning of the phrase here is ‘who has shattered the enemies by his prowess’Sadly Dahiya being ill equipped to understand the true import of Sanskrit texts has drawn wild conclusions.