History and study of the Jats/Chapter 8

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History and study of the Jats

Prof. B.S. Dhillon

ISBN-10: 1895603021 or ISBN-13: 978-1895603026

Chapter 8: Jat Culture and other associated Factors

Jat Culture and other associated Factors

Historical sources show that the Jats or Scythians dominated north-west India for thousands of years. The result of this domination could be traced within the local culture and customs. In general, the Punjab culture, especially in rural areas, may simply be called the Jat culture. This may have led Professor Pettigrew [1] of Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland to write, "The social organization and value system, especially of the rural Punjab, differ from that of Hindu India. There is high status attached to army and administrative service throughout the region. The clothes worn by the people are designed for an active life. The dress of a female in rural area of Punjab is not a sari (a dress generally worn by Hindu women and in the most of India) but a "Salwar-Kameez": a knee-long dress worn over the top of loose-fitting trouser".

These observations of Professor Pettigrew [1] are quite close to the practices of the Scythians [2] and an example of the Jat influence on Punjab culture is Punjabi folk songs. Even today most of these songs contain the word "Jat" (male Jat) and/or "Jati" (female Jat), even if the singer is not a Jat. If we examine this issue from a statistical perspective, the Jats constituted less than fifty per cent of the population but owned most of the rural land in Punjab. This chapter discusses various aspects of the Jat culture and its influence.

8.1 Jat Music and Dances

The Jat influence on music, especially in Punjab has been so great that, nowadays, it is difficult to distinguish Jat folk music from Punjabi. For example, many of the Punjabi folk songs are stories of the Punjabi version of Romeo and Juliet: Mirza-Saiba, Hir- Ranjha and so on. Mirza and Saiba [3] both were Jats belonging to the Muslim faith (in fact, Mirza was a Kharral Jat [3a]). That is why in Punjabi songs Mirza is always referred to as "Mirza Jat". Similarly, Hir and Ranjha both were Muslim Jats. In Punjabi songs Hir is always referred to as "Jati (female Jat) Hir". In fact, the story of the Hir- Ranja, today is not only confined to Punjab, but is also in contemporary Hindi (national language of India) Films. Another point to note is that there are almost 2 million Punjabis and their descendants, living in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. Out of this total population, a large majority are second, third, or fourth generations. Many of these young western Punjabis have formed groups, singing Punjabi folk songs with mixed Discotheque and Bhangra (folk dance of Punjab) tunes. In Punjabi, this music is simply referred to as Bhangra music. An interesting point to note is from the various songs of these groups, is that they often use the words "Jat" and "Jati", even though some of these youngsters may have never visited Punjab. Today, the Bhangra group dance is known as the national dance of the Punjab in various parts of the world. It is a dance performed by male adults wearing the national costume of the


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Punjab. One part of this costume is the colourful sleeveless jackets, almost identical to the ones worn by the Central Asians and east European folk dancers, like the Ukrainians. These jackets alone indicate the Scythian origin of the Bhangra Dance. In Punjab, the Bhangra dance is generally associated with the Jats. They perform this dance after or just before harvesting their summer crops, especially at festivals such as "Vasakhi". Some liquor is usually consumed prior to performing the Bhangra dance.


As per Professor Rolle [2], a sixth century poem concerning Scythian saying, "with our shouts and noisy uproar, get ourselves as drunk as Scythians, Let's get moderately tipsy, and our best songs sing with fervour" is still applicable to the modern Jats thousands of years later.


Another author, Talbot-Rice [4], quoting Hippocrates (an ancient Greek Doctor): "they (Scythians) would make the most of the passing hour, drinking wine, pledging brotherhood from a single vessel or loving cup, and indulging in singing and dancing to the accompaniment of drums and stringed instruments resembling lutes" also says, more or less the same thing. Bhangra dance is always performed with the beating rhythms of huge drums called "Dhols", which are sometimes accompanied with stringed instruments. It is unthinkable to hear Bhangra dance short songs not containing the word "Jat" during each Bhangra dance performance.


The sister dance of the Bhangra performed by a group of Punjabi adult females, is called "Gidha". Generally, these female dancers, also wear sleeveless colourful jackets on top of their dress. Sometimes, these dancers wear long skirts (lehnga) instead of baggy trousers.


Usually, during each performance of the "Gidha" dance, the short songs called "Bolian", contain the word "Jati" (female Jat). This, obviously, indicates that this dance must have Jat roots.


The two most common traditional Punjabi folk singing groups are "Toombi (Lute)- Laggoje (two pieces of flute resembling instrument) and Dhad (hand held small drum)- Sarangi (Punjabi Violin). In most cases, the members of these groups are the Jats and they sing upbeat (martial) based songs. Many of their songs usually relate to "Hir- Ranjha", "Mirza-Saiba", and the Jat heroes such as Jagga Jat and Jat Jeona Maur.


Two examples of the "Dhad-Sarangi" super star singers (roughly around 1945-1965) who sang songs relating to Hir-Ranjha, and Mirza-Saiba were Amar Singh "Shonki" of village Bhajalan, District Hoshiarpur, Punjab and Didar Singh of the District Jullundhur, Punjab. It appears from the circumstantial evidence that both "Toombi-Laggoje" and "Dhad-Sarangi" are of Jat origin.


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8.2 Jat Marriages

On Jat marriages, Major Barstow [5] wrote," Every Jat clan is exogamous, i.e., while every person "must" marry a Jat of opposite sex, no person "can" marry into his/her own clan (or his/her) mother's clan (about fifty years ago this was also applicable to the grandmother's clan as well), as such a union would be regarded as incest. Besides the above restrictions, it is unusual for a person to marry into a family of whatever clan it may be that settled in his/her own village. Unions between persons of different religion are forbidden, but for this purpose no difference is made between Punjabi Jats who are Hindus and Jats who are Sikhs".

Almost identical opinions on this issue are expressed by Captain Falcon [6] on page 48 of his book. Even today at least among Punjabi Jats and their descendants living in the west, this practice is still maintained. A quick study of ethnic newspapers with matrimonial sections in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom can easily verify this practice.

Herodotus [7] tells us that the, "Scythians are dead-set against foreign ways" and cites the story of Scylas, a Scythian chief, marrying a Greek woman and its aftermath result. Jats, irrespective of whether Hindu or Sikh, allow widows to remarry. However, as per Major Barstow [5], "The marriage of widows is not allowed by the ancient books of the majority community of the South Asia". Ublicanism of the Jat, Morality and Crime, Ancestor Worship Jats strongly believe in democratic institutions. In fact as per Captain Bingley [8] and Major Barstow [5], "From the earliest times Jats have been remarkable for their rejection of the monarchical principle, and their strong partiality for self- governing commonwealths, a typical example of the primitive agricultural commonwealth, has always been most flourishing in districts inhabited by Jats".

According to historical records [9], Porus, after he was defeated by Alexander, warned him that the next people Alexander will encounter in Punjab would be fierce warriors who do not believe in monarchical principles. Alexander, however, pressed on and encountered Malli (Jats), it was during the battle with them he was injured and in comma for over a week.

An eminent Sikh scholar, Khushwant Singh [10], said it was the Jats who introduced the panchayat system (a body of five elected people that is widely practiced in modern India). In fact, he wrote, "They (Jats) brought with them certain institutions, the most important being the pancayat (panchayat), an elected body of five elders, to which they pledged their allegiance. Every Jat village was a small republic".

More information on Panchayats see Ref. [5] page 163. Interestingly, this highlights the fact that the modern Jats have kept this tradition alive for hundreds of years. For example, Ammianus Marcellinus [11], a fourth century Roman, wrote,


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"all are born of noble blood, and moreover they (Alani a branch of the Massagetae or "great" Jats) choose chiefs those men who are conspicuous for long experience as warriors".

In regard to modern Jats, Professor Pettigrew [1] said in her book, "There are more leaders than followers, and, bow the knee only to themselves and God. The Jats showed a marked lack of respect for those in positions of power, an irreverence aptly illustrated by the classic reply of the rebelling army to the wife of Ranjit Singh (famous Jat Sikh ruler and a Jat), Jind Kaur acting as regent after Ranjit Singh's death, when she (a Jat Aulakh) asked for their support: “give us gifts, your rule depends on us”.

With respect to morality and crime in, Major Barstow's [5] words, "The mass of Jat Sikh population may fairly be said to be contented and law-abiding". According to my information this is also applicable to the other Jats as well. Generally, Hindu and Sikh Jats tend to continue to follow their ancient custom of worshipping their common ancestors. In the Punjabi language, it is called the "Jathera" worship. Usually, it is mandatory in rural areas for newly wed Jats to visit and worship the village "Jathera" shrine, erected in the fields, usually a day after their wedding day, with fanfare. Some of the remarks of Western writers regarding "Jathera" worship are as follows:

"Among Gujars (a people also related to the Jats) especially, tiny shrines to ancestors are common all over the fields, and among the Jats they are to be found in every village" (Captain A.H. Bingley [12], pp. 65).

"Once a year the Zamindar (it means landlord or Jat, for more information on this issue see Captain Falcon [6], page 27) will worship the "Jathera", or common ancestor of the clan, to whom a large shrine is erected in the neighbourhood of the village" (Major Barstow [5], page 89).

"The worship of the "Jathera" is universal among Jats. Small shrines to common clan ancestors "Jathera" will be found all over the fields" (Captain A.H. Bingley [8], page 60).

"In the Punjab these larger shrines are called "Jathera", or ancestor. The 15th of the month (in some areas of the rural Punjab it is called "Karsi") is sacred to the ancestors, cattle doing no work on that day" (Captain Falcon [6], pp. 55).

The Jats' forefathers, or their cousins in the ancient times in Central Asia and in the surrounding areas, also worshipped their ancestors.

Professor Bachrach [13] wrote, "they (Alani) worshipped or perhaps more exactly, venerated their ancestors". Furthermore, Talbot-Rice [4] on page 181 of his book said, "Among the various practices which the Slavs inherited from the Scythians, the most important consisted in the worship of their ancestors".


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8.3 Jat Ornaments and Warrior Qualities

Jats wear or used to wear various types of gold jewellery. "Kaintha" (necklace for males), "Murki" (earrings for, usually, married women), "Mundri" (earrings for the males), and "Mundi" (ring) are some common ones. In Captain Falcon's [6] words, "Jewellery of the Jat is roughly of three kinds, necklaces of gold and coral beads strung together called "mahla"; bracelets of gold or of silver called "Kangan", and rings of silver or gold and roughly set stones called "Mundi". The infamous "Oxus Treasure" discovered by archeologists in date in Central Asian Scythian graves had many of the aforementioned articles. For example, Talbot-Rice [4] wrote,

"Earrings are found on most of the bodies; the men wore only one whilst women had two. Finger rings were universal, and several are often discovered on each finger of both hands".

The following remarks are made by some Western military officers and others regarding the warrior qualities of the Jats:

"Jat Sikhs are manly without false pride hundreds of young Jats became Sikhs, and those who but a few years before had proved our stoutest opponents, now joined our (British) ranks and fought for us (British) with a valour and loyalty that is beyond all praise" (Major Barstow [5] pages 152 and 155).

"His (Jat) manners indeed do not bear that impress of generations of wild freedom which marks the races of, but he is more honest, more industrious, and at least their equal in courage and manliness" (Captain Bingley [8], page 90).

"The back-bone of the Sikh people is the great Jat caste (people), divided and subdivided into numerous clans. The Jats are thoroughly independent in character, and assert personal and individual freedom, as against communal or tribal control, more strongly than any other people" (Captain Falcon [6] page 65).

"The Jats considered themselves to be born Sikhs and Sardars (roughly means lords or leaders). When the sixth Guru (of the Sikhs), Guru Har Gobind, had succeeded in building up an army the recruits had been drawn from the Jats. Similarly, Guru Gobind Singh, (tenth and last guru of the Sikhs) coincided with a large influx of the Jats of Manjha (mostly the area of the District Amritsar, Punjab) into the Khalsa (baptised Sikh army). Thirty percent of male Jat Sikhs of Ludhiana district had enlisted in the World War I" (Professor Pettigrew [1], pages 41, 26, 16).

These show that the warrior spirit of Jat ancestors is still preserved by modern day Jats. Ammianus Marcellinus [11] wrote, "Alani delight in danger and warfare. There the man is judged happy who has sacrificed his life in battle".


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8.4 Jatt Dress, Sports and Proverbs

Major Barstow [5] described, the typical Jat dress: "The well to do Jat has his clothes made of better materials, and will generally indulge in a well-fitting waist coat and a black or coloured coat made of broad cloth or alpaca according to the season. The dress of the women is brighter always some colour in it. A wrap is always worn over the head. With this are worn a loose jacket and either an ample pair of pyjamas tight at the feet, or apetticoat". In modern days, South Asian leaders and other well to do males generally wear a long coat called "Achkin" along with a tight fitting trouser called "Churidar Pyjama".

According to an inscribed picture of an ancient Indian Scythian or a Jat soldier, the modern dress of South Asian well to do people, is almost identical to the Scythian soldier's dress (for the examination of this see picture plate LXXVIII in Ref. [14]).

Inscriptions and pictures found in the graves of ancient Scythian men from Central Asia indicate that the Scythians were probably the first people to wear modern coats and trousers.(For more information see photographs given in Refs.[2,4,15,16]).

On this issue Talbot-Rice [4] said, "It is very probable that the Scythians evolved the style of their upper garment from the Assyrian (the ancient land of the Assyrians is nowadays mostly part of the modern Iran) tunic, but they soon turned it into a garb admirably suited to their equestrian form of life. It was the very antithesis of the swirling draperies of Greece or Rome, but the benefits which it conferred on mounted warriors (probably he means Scythians and their cousins) were constantly being proved in battle. Yet the costume was never adopted by the Greeks and it was not until about 300 B.C. when the Chinese started to adopt it. The Chinese Emperor introduced a costume modelled on that his nomad enemies (it is to be noted that the Chinese built 1500 miles long and upto 35 feet high the Great Wall of China to basically keep Massagetae or "great" Jats out of their territory. And according to a conservative estimate [17] it costs the Chinese, the lives of over 400,000 workers and thus it may be called "the longest cemetery", and the only man made structure visible from the Outer Space. All of these workers were buried inside the wall), and the baggy trousers and close fitting tunics which survived as China's national dress until recently clearly identifiable variant of Scythian Dress".

Jat Sikhs are fond of running, jumping, weight lifting, wrestling, and quoit throwing[5]. Normally, Jat boys in villages usually play "Saunchi" and "Kabbadi", in particular, Barstow wrote [5], "In "Saunchi" the spectators form a large ring, inside which are two smaller ones. A man from one of these inner rings advances and is chased by two or three men from the other, to elude whom he may trip up or strike in the chest with the open hand, "Kabbadi" is very much the same as "Prisoner's Base"".


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Some of the proverbs concerning the Jats are as follows:

• "Jat mara tab janiye jab tera din ho jaye" (It means as per Crooke [18] or Ref. [12] "Never be sure a Jat is dead till the thirteen days of mourning for him are over") • "Jangal ma Jat na Chheriye, hattii bich Kirar, Bhukha Turk na Chheriye, ho jaye ji ka jhar" (It means as per Crooke [18] or Ref.[12] • "Meddle not with the Jat in the wilds, or the Kirar (shopkeeper) at his mart, nor a hungry Turk; if you do so you will risk your life") The Jat stood on his own corn heap and called out to the King's elephant-drivers "Hi there, what will you take for those little donkeys?" (Sir Risley [19] page 132) • "If he (Jat) runs amuck it takes God to hold him" (Sir Risley [19] page 132) • "Kabit sohe Bhat ko, kheti sohe Jat Ko" (It means as per Crooke [18] or Ref. [12] "Songs, suit a Bhat (traditional Poet), and husbandry a Jat") • "Sat jindki bahin, Dhillon Kadh Kosatti whin" (It means as per Rose [20] a Dhillon (Jat) will always perform what he has promised) 8.5 References: Jat or Scythian Culture and related Areas For additional information on Jat or Scythian culture and related areas, some of the useful documents are as follows beside the ones cited at the end of the chapter:

• Sara, I., The Scythian Origin of the Sikh-Jat (Part I), The Sikh Review, March 1978, pp. 26-35. • Sara, I., The Scythian Origin of the Sikh-Jat (Part II), The Sikh Review, April 1978, pp. 15-27. • Pradhan, M.C., The Political System of the Jats of Northern India, Oxford University Press, London, 1966. • Dahiya, B.S., Jats: The Ancient Rulers, Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, India, 1980. • Elliot, H.M., Encyclopaedia of Caste, Customs, Rites and Superstitions of the Races of Northern India, Vol. 1, reprinted by Sumit Publications, Delhi, India, 1985, pp. 131-137, first published in 1870. • Minns, E.H., Scythians and Greeks, 2 Vols., Biblo and Tannen, New York, 1965.


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• Rostovtzeff, M., Iranians (Scythians) and Greeks in South Russia, Russell and Russell, A Division of Atheneum Publishers, Inc., New York, 1922, reprinted in 1969. • Williams, H.S., The Historians' History of the World, 25 Vols., Scythians and Cimmerians (vol. 2), the Outlook Company, New York, 1905, pp. 400-410. 8.6 References: Chapter 8 -Jat Culture and other associated Factors [1]. Pettigrew, J., Robber Noblemen: A Study of the Political System of the Sikh Jats, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., London, 1975, pp. 4-5, 57.

[2]. Rolle, R., The World of the Scythians, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1989, pp. 93.

[3]. Temple, R.C., Legends of the Punjab, London, 1893-1901. [3a]. Rose, H.A., A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, Vol. III, reprinted by the Languages Department, Patiala, Punjab, 1970, pp. 343, first published in 1883.


[4]. Talbot-Rice, T., The Scythians, Frederick A. Praeger, New York, 1961, pp. 63, 145,

69. [5]. Barstow, A.E. (Major), The Sikhs: An Ethnology, reprinted by B.R. Publishing Corporation, Delhi, India, 1985, pp. 144-145, 66, 157, 155-156, first published in 1928.

[6]. Falcon, R.W. (Captain), Handbook on Sikhs for the use of Regimental Officers, Printed at the Pioneer Press, Allahabad, India, 1896, pp. 48-49, 47.

[7]. Herodotus (fifth century B.C.), The Histories, translated by A. de Selincourt, Penguin Books, London, 1988, pp. 295-298.

[8]. Bingley, A.H. (Captain), Handbook for the Indian Army: Sikhs (Compiled under the orders of the Government of India), Printed at the Government Central Printing Office, Simla, India, 1899, pp. 11-12.

[9]. Savill, A., Alexander the Great and His Time, Dorset Press, New York, 1990, pp. 110-119.

[10]. Singh, Khushwant, A History of the Sikhs, Vol. 1, Oxford University Press, Delhi, India, 1977, pp. 14-15.

[11]. Ammianus Marcellinus (born around A.D. 330), translated by J.C. Rolfe, Vol. 3, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1956, pp. 387-395.


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[12]. Bingley, A.H., History, Caste & Culture of Jats and Gujars, reprinted by Ess Ess Publications, New Delhi, India, 1978, pp. 65, first published in 1899.

[13]. Bachrach, B.S., A History of the Alans in the West, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1973, pp. 90, 1-25, 59, 52.

[14]. Banerjea, J.N., The Scythians and Parthians in India, in a Comprehensive History of India, edited by K.A.N. Sastri, People's Publishing House, New Delhi, India, 1957, pp. 872-874 (Vol. 2). For the picture of a Scythian soldier see appendix (plate LXXVIII) of this volume.

[15]. Sulimirski, T., The Sarmatians, Praeger Publishers, New York, 1970.

[16]. Trippett, F., The First Horsemen, Time Life Books, New York, 1974.

[17]. Prochnow, H.V., Speaker's and Toastmaster's Handbook, Prima Publishing, Rocklin, California, 1993, pp. 232.

[18]. Crooke, W., The Tribes & Castes of the North-West Provinces and Oudh, 1896, Vol. 3.

[19]. Risley, H., The People of India, reprinted by the Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, Delhi, India, 1969, first published in 1915.

[20]. Rose, H.A., A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, reprinted by the Languages Department, Patiala, Punjab, 1970, pp. 373, first published in 1883.


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