History of the Jats/Chapter I
|Wikified by:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)|
Printed at the Jaitly Printing Press, 147, Lajpat Rai Market,Delhi-6
1967 (Eng Tr by Lieutenant Colonel Dal Singh)
- "The Jats are not only a Hindu Caste; of course they are a race" (John Saymore in Round About India 1953)
In the present era, people called Jats live in Northern India all around Delhi. The entire land in this area is owned by Jats. A minority of tradesmen and the so-called low or scheduled castes who live along with the Jats are landless. Brahmins possess has been obtained, at sortie time or the other, in charity and that owned by businessmen has been mortgaged by some Jats to clear their debts. It is difficult to find, anywhere in the world, a more homogeneous and closely-knit settlement than that of the Jats. Jat gotras are found mixed up amongst other communities in India like Rajput, Gujar and Ahirs but there is no adulteration amongst the Jats.
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These Jats, however, are only a small representative group, of a once great and vastly populated race, who have retained their original name. The only other members of this race who are partially retaining the title of Jat are Jat Sikhs or Jut Sikhs, as they are called in Punjab. Some of these have even put forward the views that they are called as such not because they are originally Jats but because Jut means an agriculturist. Unless Jats regain their past glory, so that it becomes a matter of pride to be called a Jat, these Jat Sikhs may also, with the passage of time, stop calling themselves Jats, as has already been done by other communities comprising a major part of this race.
Jat is in fact only another name of Chandravanshi branch of Aryans which, at one time, extended in the entire area from Northern India to Central Asia and Central Europe. At different times, and in the ancient histories of various countries they have been known by one of the derivatives of word Jat like Yayat, Yat, Yet, Yeti, Yates, Yuchi Jat, Jati, Jutes, Juton, Gat, Gatae, Gatak, Goth etc or by the name of their major sub castes like Shavi, Takshak, Madrak etc.
The word Jat may not be, but these names would be familiar to the student of modern history. In India most of the population of North Western part: of the country, including the area astride River Sindh in West, the Gangetic planes in the East and down to Prayag, Bundel Khand in the South is of Jat origin. This area contains Punjab, part of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Brij and Mewat. Jats have thus lived, from times immemorial, on the most fertile part of India. They did not find it necessary to spread in to the less fertile hilly tracts to the North, the waste lands of Central India or the deserts in Southern and
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Western parts of Rajasthan. The density of the population of Jats, therefore, becomes thinner as one goes further East or South from Delhi. The reason for this homogeneous settlement on the most productive part of India is that 95 percent Jats are of the Yayati Vansh, which inhabited North Western India from the earliest times and have never been dislodged from it inspite of loss of power.
In addition to the people who are known as Jats now, the Ahirs, who live in the area contiguous to the Jats, are purely of Yayati stock and thus a sister community of the Jats. A large number of Jat gotras are found amongst the Gujars.
The Rajput sub castes of Chandel, Dahiya, Mohai, Malhi, Jakhar, Bhatti, Karwasra, Chhonkar, Johiya, Dagur, Jhamat, Condal, Ranjha, Noon and Khokar are all Jats who, in not too distant past amalgamated themselves in to, and started calling themselves, Rajputs.
Gupta, Singhal, Dad, Deopura, Amrans, Oswal, Katariya and Chochani Baniyas are also of Jat origin. A majority of Muslims residing in Punjab and West Pakistan are converted Jats and still carry Jat gotras.
- "I studied the histories of various sects before I visited India in 1957. It was found that Jats live in an area extending from India to Central Asia and Central Europe. They are known by different names in different countries and they speak different languages but they are all one as regards their origin".
The Jats have pure Aryan physical features. Their wheatish complexion, oval face with a firm jaw,
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prominent nose, dark eyes, thin lips, well set teeth, long neck, broad shoulders, thin waist and tall stature are unmistakably Aryan. Hardly any Jat will be found with non-Aryan features. They have retained racial purity due to their homogeneity. It can be safely said that if any people have preserved pure Aryan characteristics it is the Jats, Ahirs and Gujars.
Their dress is simple. The men's dress consists of a turban, shirt, dhoti, jooties and cotton or woolen shawl.
Women wear orhna (veil) shirt or Angia (short blouse) ghagri (heavy skirt) jooties (country made shoes) and heavy ornaments around the neck, wrists and ankles.
Jats are mostly non-meat eaters as a result of Buddhist influence. Their staple food is wheat or bajra, vegetables and plenty of milk and ghee.
A Jat generally goes for only two professions, handed down by his ancestors, agriculture or soldiering, and excels in both. A Jat may starve but will seldom take up a profession involving menial labour for another person. As soldiers they are fearless and loyal but sensitive, and need careful handling and good leadership. As farmers they are very industrious and both men and women work hard on their land. They are very fond and proud of their cattle, which are amongst the finest breed in the world. Jats meet their simple needs from what they produce and are, therefore, self-reliant. This has had two effects. On one hand, they have managed to live in tact for centuries around Delhi, the capital of India, and could never be coerced in to changing their form or character inspite of numerous changes of governments with different ideologies and religions. On the other hand it has hampered their progress in modern times in educational and technical fields, because they stuck to their land.
A Jat is fearless and frank in expression. He
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neither likes to receive or extend flattery. Jats maintain both friendship and enmity for generations. An old Jat will not die in peace unless he has explained to his descendants the good or evil deeds done unto him by others and taken promise for a return favour or revenge. They are a very hardy lot. There is a popular saying that considers a Jat dead only after thirteen days have passed after his death.
The ancestor worship: Jats are very religious minded people. From the earliest times, they have believed in One God and have worshipped Him. Their mode of worship is to remember God and express their gratitude to Him at any and all times. They do not, and have never believed in rituals and worship of idols or evil spirits. That is why no religious shrine of any importance exists in the Jat area. They do, however, believe in a form of ancestor worship. Certain days and customs are observed to propitiate the dead. Every village has a little shrine called Bhaiyan. It is a modest samadhi of the first man who died after that village came into being.
On certain days women visit this shrine, light a Ghee lamp, fold their hands and say, "0 grand father look after our menfolk and cattle". Men seek his blessings before proceeding to perform on important task like house building, marriage or battle. Married couples pay their homage to him the very next day after the bride comes to her husband's home. This Bhaiyan worship is, however, carried out by individuals when and in whatever manner they choose. There is no fixed prayer, no rituals, no offering of money or foodstuff and no middlemanship of a priest.
Any religion, which preached oneness of God and condemned superstitions and idol worship easily
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appealed to and was adopted by Jats in large numbers at different times. When Vedic Hinduism gave place to Pauranic idol worship religion began to be used by priests as a means of livelihood; superstitious and awe inspiring beliefs tales and rituals, were introduced in religion to frighten people into giving offerings to idols and priests who became self appointed agents of God; non Brahmins were debarred from studying Sanskrit and religious books to make them, easily exploitable and ignorant.
Jats became Buddhists: Jats became Buddhists and remained so long after other people in India went back to Brahmanism consequent to the decline of Buddhism. Buddhist influence is still prevalent amongst the Jats. They don't eat meat, do not wear the sacred thread, and do not stick much for untouchability as other Indians do and respect saints.
When Buddhism almost disappeared from India, Jats became devotees of saints. Dhanna Bhagat, Haridas, Garib Das and Nishchal Das, who were Jats, became prominent saints at this stage. The saints not being versed in Sanskrit could not however contend effectively with the Brahmins.
Saint Nishchal Das was born in village Kirohli District Rohtak in a prominent family of Dahiya Gotra. He was a promising boy and as he grew up his interest in learning Sanskrit, developed and he proceeded to Kashi for Sanskrit learning. But according to the rules of Dharam Shashtra in those days, non-Brahmins were not allowed admission in the Sanskrit Vidayala. The young boy disguised himself as a Brahmin's son and got admission for learning Sanskrit there. He declared his name as Nishchal Das.
The Guru was kind enough to this boy due to his brilliancy, as he was the best student in his class. When Nishchal Das completed his studies, he went to his 'Guru' to say 'Good Bye' and for his blessings. At the time of his farewell the Guru asked him to marry his daughter. Nishchal Das showed his reluctance on the plea that he considered the
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Guru's daughter equivalent to his sister. The 'Guru' was not convinced. At last Nishchal Das had to reveal that he was a Jat by caste and not the son of Brahmin. The Guru remarked in anger, "The sin of educating a Jat lies on my head". He further cursed Nishchal Das; "May thou suffer incurable fever for ever".
Nishchal Das became a remarkable Saint and exposed the wrong dogmas of Puranic Mat. He wrote a new philosophy book Bichar Sagar which is considered as a comprehensive book on Vedic literature. On this account Sant Nishchal Das is counted amongst fore-ranking philosophers.
A large number of Jats became Sadhus. According 1911 census, the number of Jat Sadhus in Punjab was 37000. Jats however, could never be coerced into accepting the superstitious teachings of the Brahmins, who being the only chroniclers, slanderously labeled the Jats in historical records as atheists, 'rakshash' and low born. These ill feelings between Brahmins and Jats have continued unabated ever since.
When Sikhism came into being, almost all the Jats of Punjab became Sikhs. Some Jats had already adopted Islam and those in European countries had became Christians; thus reducing the population of Hindu Jats, the only people to continue calling themselves Jats, to its present small total.
When the Saintly cult declined, Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded Arya Samaj on Vedic lines. All the Jats of Haryana, Rajasthan, Brij and Uttar Pradesh readily adopted Arya Samaj as their religion. The reader will notice that Jats have from time to time adopted only those religions, which preached only one God and condemned idol worship and superstitious beliefs. A Jat however remains a Jat
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irrespective of his religion- In India, non Hindu Jats, although not calling themselves Jats any longer, have retained their Jat gotras. Most of the Christian Jats, except a few, have however, given up using their ancient gotra titles. This retention of the gotras has been the greatest single factor in retracing the lost history of the Jats.
The Jats have always organized themselves into clans or under Panchayat system; both 'typically Aryan'. The Clan Organization of the Jats finds a parallel amongst the Pathans of Northwest Frontier. A clan was based on one large gotra or a number of closely related gotras under one elected leader whose word was law. Mutual quarrels of any intensity could be settled under his orders. In time of danger, the whole clan rallied under the banner of the leader.
The Jat Panchayat "system is territorial and highly democratic. Every village has its own Panchayat.' Whenever there is a problem or dispute in the village, a gathering of the Panchayat is called for every member of the village has a right to attend, ' express his views and vote for or against a proposal. The maximum available people normally attend. There are no elected or nominated Panchayat officials. Nevertheless, some persons, by virtue of their wisdom and eloquence, are automatically accepted as Panches, (one of the five) and their views are heard and respected. While elders discuss a problem it is customary' for younger people not to speak but sit and listen. All decisions are taken after open-hearing, full and voluntary expression of views and consensus vote. Even if one of the contending parties considers the Panchayat decision unfair it is accepted and complied with without question.
A number of villages grouped themselves into a Gohand (corresponding to the present Thana area);
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a number of Gohands formed a Khap (covering an area equal to from a Tehsil to a District and a number of Khaaps formed a 'Sarva Khap' embracing a full province or state. For example, there was a "Sarva Khaap' each for Haryana and Malwa. At what level a Panchayat should gather depended upon the magnitude of the problem and the territory it involved.
The right of attendance and expression was open to every one, whatever the level of the Panchayat. Generally, however, selected - representatives of the villages attended Panchayats of the 'Gohand' and higher level. Leaders were elected and appointed at 'Khaap' and 'Sarva Khaap' level' who maintained records of decisions and had the authority to call an assembly.
Negotiations with kings were done - at 'Sarva Khaap' level. Some copper plates and papers bearing records of important negotiations are held by Chaudhary Kabul Singh of Village Shoram, District Muzaffarnagar, whose ancestors were leaders of the Sarva Khaap Panchayat.
Some well known occasions, when armies and funds were marshaled under the aegis of Sarva Khaaps are:
- the Battle of Multan against Huns in Vikram Samvat 564,
- Battle of Taraori against Mohammad Ghori in 12th Century AD and
- the battle at the confluence of Hindan and Kali river against Allaudin Khilji in the 13th Century AD in protest against imposition of heavy taxes and interference in private affairs.
Important Social Customs
All Jats, irrespective of their official or financial positions in life, have equal social status. The only criterion of superiority is age. If two Jats sit on a bed the elder, even if he is a poor farmer will sit towards the head of the bed, and the younger, even if he is a very well to do, or is a senior civil or military officer, will sit towards the foot of the bed. If a number of Jats are sharing the same 'hooka' it is the duty of the youngest to hold the 'hooka' and pass it around
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in turn to the others. The system is thus of a very socialistic nature.
The Jats are required to marry within their community. A Jat boy marrying a non-Jat girl though not encouraged or approved, is nevertheless acceptable- A Jat girl marrying a non Jat boy is, however, taboo, and, should it happen it is considered a permanent blot of disgrace on the girl's family. Boys and girls of the same gotra are considered brothers and sisters to each other. It is therefore, prohibited to marry a girl of ones own gotra, of the gotra of ones another, as that would amount to incest. Marriage within the same village is not permitted even if the boy and girl qualify for marriage according to gotra restriction. Marriages within the same Gohand are discouraged.
These systems have a number of advantages. Racial purity is maintained. Within the bounds of the community, maximum cross breeding takes place which promotes good health and prevents physical degeneration) as it occurs in certain communities who marry first cousins. Boys have a sanctimonious regard for the girls of the same village or Gohand as they consider them as future wives. This also cuts down mutual squabbles of sexual origin.
Widow marriage is not only permitted and practiced but is also a social obligation. One year after the death of her husband the widow is asked in the presence other and her late husband's near relatives, whether she would like to remarry and so, with whom. Her choice is expected to be limited to the brothers or first cousins of her late husband. The boy, thus chosen, is obliged, by custom a tradition to accept. Widows with children and those past their youth do not normally remarry. The burden of their support is however automatically taken on by the nearest relatives of the
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deceased. The young and childless widows invariably remarry and are encouraged and even persuaded to remarry even when they don't feel inclined to do so in their state of emotional disturbance.
Widows are looked upon with sympathy and not despised as evil beings as is done amongst Rajputs, Brahmins and Baniyas. That is the main reason why a Jatni is never heard of as a prostitute. It is incomprehensible how such a humane custom was ever selected by the Brahmins as the main reason for branding the Jats as irreligious and low. It is not only a very civilized custom but is also fully in keeping with the dictates of the Shastras.
Joint family system was popular amongst the Jats and large families use to share the same house and hearth. With the advancement of modern civilization, as people are becoming less dependant upon and less tolerant towards each other, the joint family system is going out of vogue. It is still prevalent in the less advanced areas.