History of the Jats:Dr Kanungo/Origin and Early History

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History of the Jats

Contribution to the History of Northern India (Upto the Death of Mirza Najaf Khan, 1782)

By Kalika Ranjan Qanungo. Edited and annotated by Vir Singh. Delhi, Originals, 2003, ISBN 81-7536-299-5. Origin and Early History


Distribution of Jat population

Country and the people

The Jats are a tribe so widespread and numerous as to be almost a nation by themselves, now numbering about nine million souls. The region mainly occupied by them may be roughly defined as bounded on the north by the lower ranges of the Himalayas, on the west by the Indus, on the south by a line drawn from Hyderabad (Sindh) to Ajmer and thence to Bhopal, and on the east by the Ganges: the Jat country spreads, so to say, in a fan-like form with Sindh as its base. Beyond the Indus there is also a sprinkling of the fat population in Peshawar, Balochistan and even to the west of the Sulaiman range.[1] This race forms the backbone of the agricultural community in the Punjab, Sindh, Rajasthan and the western portion of the Gangetic Doab. Up to the beginning of the thirteenth century - the Jats had been a compact people, having community' of blood, community of language, and a common religion. But at present about one third of them are Muslims, one-fifth Sikhs, and the rest are Hindus. The Jat is a Jat after all, whether he be a Hindu, Sikh or Muslim; he tenaciously clings to his tribal name as a proud heritage, and with it the tradition of kinship.

They are indeed a bold peasantry, their country's pride, accustomed to guide the ploughshare and wield the sword with equal readiness and success - second to no other Indian race in industry or courage. In physique, they belong to the same ethnic group as the Rajput and the Khatri and represent a type, which approaches most closely to that ascribed to


1. In Karman and Iraq there is a mixed Jat and Gipsy population of about 20,000 souls, and in Makran and Afghanistan about 50,000. See Asia by A.H. Keene, ed. Sir Richard Temple, pp. 210, 218.


[Page 2]: the traditional Aryan colonists of India. Their stature is mostly tall, complexion fair, eyes dark, hair on face plentiful, head long, nose narrow and prominent but not very long”.[2]

In character the Jat resembles the old Anglo Saxon and the ancient Roman, and has indeed more of the characteristics of the Teuton than of the Celt in him. He is tough, slow, unimaginative and unemotional, lacking brilliance, but possessed of great solidity, dogged perseverance and an eminently practical turn of mind. He is hardly ever convinced by words without concrete fasts. Sturdy independence and patient vigorous labour are among his good points, as Ibbetson has noted. Another trait of the Jat character which has been marked by good observers, is his strong individualism. "The Jat is of all the Punjab races the most impatient of the tribal or communal control and the-one which asserts the freedom of the individual most strongly. In tracts where, as in Rohtak, the Jat tribes have the field to themselves, and are compelled, in default of rival castes or enemies, to fall back upon each other for somebody to quarrel with, the tribal ties are strong. But as a rule a Jat is a man who does what seems right in his own eyes and sometimes what seems wrong also, and will not be said nay by any man .... He is independent and he is self-willed; but he is reasonable, and peaceably inclined if left alone."[3]

The Jat is still in the tribal stage of social evolution, knowing no caste distinction or kulinism (i.e. social precedence based on birth). All tribesmen are on a dead level of equality, modified only by habitual respect to elders. The Jat invariably marries the widow of his elder brother, and this alone stands in the way of his being recognized as a pure Kshatriya[I]. But it is a custom which obtained In the Vedic[4] age among the pure Aryans of the three higher castes.

"The distinction between the Jats and Rajputs both sprung from a common stock, is marked by the fact that the


2. Risley's People of India, p. 8.
3. Ibbetson, quoted in the Punjab Glossary, ii. 366.
I. It is a post-vedic brahminical rigid classification. - Ed.
4. A passage in the Rig Veda quoted by Zimmer shows that in some cases, at any rate, the widow married her husband's younger brother. Macdonell's History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 126.


[Page 3]: former practises and the latter abstains from a usage [karewa] which more than any other is regarded as a crucial test of relative social position."[5] In the government of their villages, they appear much more democratic than the Rajputs they have less reverence for hereditary right and a preference for elected headmen. The clanish feeling is very strong among them. Hereditary feud is carried on as a sacred duty. An old Jat would hardly die in peace until he has unloaded his breast by telling his heirs the good and the evil done unto him and his ancestors by his neighbours and enjoining upon them revenge for injury and return of good services. Family [kunbha] may fight against family; one sept (clan) against another, but when it is a question of tribal honour, or quarrel with a rival caste, every member of the clan, capable of wielding a lathi (quarter-staff), will loyally assemble to carry out implicitly the order of the tribal elders, laying aside for the moment their own differences.

Aryan Origin of Jats

Map of Ancient Jat habitations, The Aryavarta

The origin of these interesting people is enveloped in the mist of obscurity, which the light of scientific research has yet to dispel. In physical features, language, character, sentiments, ideas of government, an Social institutions, the present-day Jat is undeniably a better representative of the ancient Vedic Aryan than any member of the three higher castes of the Hindus, who have certainly lost much of their original character in the course of evolution through many centuries. But the Jat's tribal designation, is supposed to point to a foreign and less exalted origin, viz. Indo-Scythian. The European pioneers of Indian antiquities and ethnology apparently started with the presumption that fine and energetic martial peoples like the Rajput and the Jat must have been comparatively newcomers from the north-west into India who overcame the effete descendants of the Vedic Aryans and pushed them eastward and southward; because within the known historic period from Alexander to Ahmad Shah Durrani the foreign immigrants have invariably imposed their rule upon the children of the soil. Besides this it is a known fact that several foreign herders such as the Sakas, Yuehchis, Kushans and Hunas from Central Asia, the reputed


5. Ibbetson, Census Report, 1881, para 446.


[Page 4]: home of the Parthian races, entered India successively during the period 100 B.C.- 600 A.D. and were absorbed by Hindu society. If so, where are their modern representatives? The Rajput and the Jat with their war like habits, unorthodox customs and confused traditions about their origin, tempted the ingenuity of the scholars, who at once identified them with the Sakas and Hunas. The fanciful theory of Col. Tod, who suggested kinship among the Indian Jats, the Goths of the Roman Empire, and the Juts of Jutland, caste a mighty spell upon several generations of scholars. The Jat tribes name sounded in the scholarly ear like that of the Gaete, Yuti and Yetha of the Oxus region. The philologist for the first time raised his note of protest against this. Dr. Trumpp and Beames[6] very strongly claimed a pure Indo-Aryan descent for them both in consideration of their physical type and language, which has been authoritatively pronounced as a pure dialect of Hindi, without the slightest trace of Scythian. But they were silenced by the progressive Science, which established the unassailable dictum "Language is not a proof of race."

Next, the anthropologists appeared in the field armed with his scientific apparatus to measure the skulls and noses of the various peoples of India for the purpose of restoring their lost pedigree. This investigation resulted the sevenfold classification of the races of India by Sir Herbert Risley, who declared the Rajput and the Jat to be the true representatives of the Vedic Aryans. This was the first scientific assault upon the Indo-Scythian theory.[7] But science does not stand still. Since then Risley's theory and


6. He remarks:- 'The theory of the Aryan origin of the Jats, if it is to be overthrown at all, must have stronger arguments directed against it than any that have yet been adduced. Physical type and language are considerations which are not to be set aside by mere verbal resemblance, especially when the words come to us mingled beyond recognition by Greek and Chinese" (Elliot's Memoirs of the Races of North-Western Provinces of India, i. 135-137].
7. Risley says:- “Of the people themselves (Scythians) all traces seem to have vanished and the student who enquires what has become of them finds nothing more tangible than the modern conjecture that they are represented by the Jats and Rajputs. But the grounds


[Page 5]: classification have been attacked by many scholars[8] on different grounds.

Whatever may be the difference of opinion as regards the validity of the test of anthropometry, or language, each considered by itself, none can at the present state of our knowledge, disagree with Sir Herbert Risley in his remarks:

"In India where historical evidence can hardly be said to exist, the data ordinarily available are of three kinds- physical characteristics, linguistic characteristics and religious and social usages. Of these the first two are by far the most trustworthy. Most anthropologists indeed, are inclined to adopt without much question, the opinion of late Sir William Fowler who wrote to me some years ago, that physical characters are the best, in fact the only true test of race; language, customs etc. may help, or give indications but they are often misleading."[9]

The Jat has been declared by all eminent authorities, to pass successfully the combined test of the physical type and language [10] of a true Aryan.

Religious and social usages

As regards religious and social usages, all observers generally agree that in these points the Jats do not differ much from other Hindu communities of admittedly Aryan origin. Science may be said to have succeeded fairly well in establishing, the Indo-Aryan origin of the Jats, but this cannot meet with much acceptance till they are definitely identified


for this opinion is of the flimsiest description and consists mainly of the questionable assumption that the people who are called Jats at the present day must have something to do with the people who were known to Herodotus as the Gatae.” [People of India, 60-61].
8. Anthropometry is about to share the fate of Philology as a test of race. Prof. Ridgeway says:-" As the physical anthropologists cannot agree upon principles of skull measurement, the historical enquirer must not at present base any argument on this class of evidence." (Quoted in Mr. Chanda's Indo-Aryan Races, p.62).
9. Risley's People of India, p.6.
10. Grierson notices some Pisaca peculiarities in the Sindhi and Punjabi, spoken by a considerable section of the Jat community. But “these peculiarities are probably not derived from invaders of Pisaca speech, but from the stock language spoken by the invaders akin to the Homo-Alipnus of Eastern Turkestan.” [R.P. Chanda's Indo-Aryan Races, p. 78].


[Page 6]: with some Aryan tribe of old mentioned in Sanskrit literature. [II] Accurate scientific data for such investigation having almost disappeared, scholars have been compelled to proceed in this direction rather in an unscientific way, viz., relying mainly upon the similarity of sounds. The Mahabharat contains several chapters, devoted to the description of the different tribes of the Punjab and Sindh -the home of the Jat people within historic times. A people known as the Jartrikas is mentioned there in along with Madrakas- both called Bahikas or outlanders. Sir James Campbell and Grierson consider this to be the earliest notice of the Jats in Sanskrit literature.[11] The acrimonious reply of Karna to Shalya, King of Madrakas contains a graphic though distorted picture of the habits and character of these people.

"The Madras are always false to their friends ... without affection, always wicked, untruthful, and cruel. That wicked people eat fried barley and fish and in their house father,- son, mother, mother-in-law, father-in-law, uncle, daughter, son-in-law, brother, grand-sons, with friends and guests, menial and maidservant, male and female together, drink wine with cow's flesh, and sometimes cry, sometimes laugh and delight in indecent talk and songs ... Their women, overcome with wine, dance naked ... They are of fair complexion and tall stature, wearing blankets, eating large quantities of food, shameless and lax in the observance of the laws of purity.

II. Prof. R.K. Dwivedi (Allahabad University) and Prof. Maheshwari Prasad (BHU) have traced some Jat clans in Sanskrit literature in their articles presented in the Seminars held in 1995 and 2001 respectively in New Delhi. Mr. B.S. Dahiya has also given the list of ancient Jat clans in his book, 'Jats-The Ancient Rulers: A Clan Study-Pre-muslim period', - Ed.
11. Sir James Campbell holds them to be foreigners who entered India along with the Kush horde (about B.C. 150-100) whose greatest representative was Kanishka [Born. Gaz. Vol. IX, part I, p. 459]. Grierson considers them as degraded Aryans and not infidels ab initio. Baraha Mihir mentions two people, viz. Jatasuras in the north-east, and Jatadharas in the south near the Kaveri, whose names may sound like that of the Jats in the scholarly ear of Grierson.
See Brihat Samhita, Sans. text ed. by Sudhakar Dwivedi, Vol. X. part I, pp. 293, 289.


[Page 7]: The Bahikas, who have been expelled from the region of the Himalayas, the Ganges, the Jamuna, the Saraswati and Kurukshetra should be avoided. The Bahikas are not created by Prajapati, the creator of the orthodox Aryans, they are the offspring of a Pishach couple, named Bahi and Heek who dwelt on the bank of the Bipasa (the Beas). There is a town named Sakala and a river named Apaga where a section of the Bahikas, known as the Jartrikas, dwell. Their character is very reprehensible. These people, eat contentedly a large quantity of meat and boiled barley, or barley-bread, cow's flesh with garlic and fried barley. Their women drink wine, laugh and dance in public, sing indecent songs in a loud shrill voice like that of a camel or an ass; they become very unrestrained and boisterous specially on festive occasions when they dance and shout, calling one another, "Thou illfated one; husband-slayer etc." A Bahika who had to sojourn for a time in the Kuru-Jangal country sang the following song about the women of his country:

"Though a Bahik. I am at present an exile in the Kuru-Jangla country; that tall and fair complexened wife of mine, dressed in her fine blanket certainly remembers me when she retires to rest. Oh! when shall I go back to my country crossing again the Satadru (the sutlej) and the Iravati and see the beautiful females of fair complexion, wearing stout bangles, dressed in blanket and skins, eye-sides coloured with the dye of Manshila, forehead, cheek and chin painted with collyrium [tatooing]? When shall we eat under the pleasant shade of the Shami, Peelu and Karir, loaves and balls of fried barley powder with waterless churned curd [kunjik], and gathering strength,take away the clothes of the wayfarers and beat them?" Among the Madrakas and Shakalas, young and old both drink heavily and sing aloud, "Vainly are they born who do not eat the flesh of boars, cocks, kine, asses, camels and sheep."

The above sketch brings vividly before us a picture of the Land of the Five Rivers and its people in the classic age. Its first impression almost leads one to suppose that these Jartrikas were the ancestors of the modern Jats. But on closer examination this identification of the two peoples proves most illusory. The above extract that the-Banikas were not created by Prajapati, clearly indicates the belief of


[Page 8]: the dwellers of the Vedic Aryandom that the outer nationalities originated from an ethnic stock or stocks that were quite different from the stock or stocks which they themselves originated.12 These people were apparently the ancestors of the speakers of what Grierson calls the modem Pishacha languages-the Kashmiris, the Dards, and the kafirs of the Hindukush. The later or outlandish Aryans were broad or medium headed and therefore were least likely to be the ancestors of the long headed Jat people. The fact that the Bahika women wore fine blankets and skins, perhaps shows that they were immigrants from colder countries. The tall, fair, debauched and filthy Women of kashmir are perhaps the truer representatives of the ancient Bahika females.

The Jats observe some, though not all the ten customary ceremonials of the Hindus. The Upanayana ceremony does not indeed take place at the usual time, but at the time of marriage. It is the custom for purohits to place on them at their marriages the janeo or sacred thread, removing it a few days after marriage.[13] The Bahikas married within the same got [Vamsa], which the Jat does not. The Jats observe the same law of succession as that of the other Hindus, and in no case is the sister's son regarded as the lawful heir in preference to their own sons - a custom attributed to the Bahikas. No doubt the orthodox Hindus of Sindh stil1 contemptuously can the Jats of that province Baheka[14] or aliens; but it is least likely that the name of one insignificant tribe Jartrika, not known for morality, character, power or purity of conduct , should be adopted by many millions of people, inhabiting the large stretch of country from Afghanistan to Malwa. besides no Jat tribe remembers any connection with Sakala; almost all of them believe their ancestors have been immigrants from the interior of India. This suggested identification based on similarly sounding tribal names alone cannot therefore be accepted as valid.


12. RP. Chanda's Indo-Aryan Races, i. 42.
13. Hoshiarpur Dist. Gaz. 1883, p. 56. The Brahmans who have taken to agriculture rarely perform the investiture ceremony separately at the prescribed time. Boys are given janeo at the time of marriage, in cases of early marriage.
14. Asia by A.H. Keene, p. 296.

Jatharas and the Jats

[Page 9]: As the European scholars have ransacked Greek and Latin literature to establish the Indo-Scythian origin of the Jat, so some educated leaders of Jat society were also engaged in proving their undoubted Kshatriya origin by identifying the Jats with some one of the numerous warrior clans of our classic age. Pandit Giribar Prasad, a Jat Sanskrit scholar of Aligarh, employed a Shastri named Angad Sharma to investigate the origin of the Jats in the light of the orthodox literature. The Shastri, also mainly depending on the similarity of sound, lighted upon the Jathras, as the hypothetical ancestors of the Jats. He propounded a learned theory in a little Sanskrit pamphlet, Jatharotpatti. It is a catena of all the ancient texts mentioning the tribe of Jatharas, whose origin is related as follows in the Padma Purana -

"When the son of Bhrigu [i.e., Parashuram] exterminated the warrior class, their daughters, seeing the world empty of the Kshatriya and being desirous of getting sons, laid hold of the Brahmans and carefully cherishing the seed sown in their womb [Jathara] brought forth Kshatriya sons called Jatharas."[15]

Growse remarks that "There is no great intrinsic improbability in the hypothesis that the word Jatharas has been shortened into Jat[l3], but if one race is really descended from the other, it is exceedingly strange that the fact should never have been so stated before. This difficulty might be met by replying that the Jats have always been, with very few exceptions, an illiterate class, who were not likely to trouble themselves about recording their mythological pedigrees; while the story of their parentage would not be of sufficient interest to induce outsiders to investigate it. But a more unanswerable objection is found in a passage, which the Shastri himself quotes from the Brihat Samhita (xiv. 8).This places the home of the Jatharas in the south-


15. क्षत्राशून्ये पुरालोके भार्गवेन यदाऔते।
विलोक्याक्षत्रियां धात्रीं कन्यास्तेषां सहस्त्रश: आं
ब्राह्मणान् जगृहुस्तस्मिन् पुत्रोत्पादन लिप्सया ।
जठरे धारितं गर्भं संरक्ष्य विधिवत् पुरा।
पुत्रान् सुषुविरे कन्या जाठरान क्षत्रावंशआन् आं


[Page 10]: eastern quarter, whereas it is certain that the Jats have come from the west. Probably the leaders of Jat society would refuse to accept as their progenitors both the Jatharas of the Beswa pandit and Sindhian Zeths of Genl. Cunningham; for the Bharatpur princes affect to consider themselves as of the same race as the Yadavas."[16]

The second Jat attempt at solving the mystery of his origin is found in a small booklet entitled - The ethnology of the Jats, written by Chaudhari Lahiri Singh, a Jat pleader of Meerut, at the request of the Census officials of 1883. This author also derives the word Jat from Jathara; but he differs from the author of the Jatharotpatti by making the Jatharas a foreign people deriving their name from the mountain Jathara, mentioned in the Mahabharat,Vishnu Purana and Bhagawata Purana. The first two mention the country of Jatharas along with Kalinga, Kashi, and Aparkashi.

However, the Jats can not be held to be the same people as the ancient Jatharas, because the doubtful testimony of the similarity of sounds breaks down in the face of the significant absence of any tradition whatsoever, connecting the two peoples. This claim is strange enough even to startle the majority of the Jats. One might close his eyes against the absurdity of the case, if the Jatharas had been altogether an extinct people. But they still survive in southern India, without claiming any connection with Jats. These Jatharas belong to a subsection Of the Deccani Maratha Branmans called Karhadas.[17]

The alleged Yadava origin of the Jats

The foregoing dissertation has left the Jat, so to say, hanging in the mid-air. We know this much that there is no scientific ground, philological, or ethnological, for rejecting his claim to the Indo-Aryan blood, and that he is neither a Scythian, nor a cross between a Brahman and a Kshatriya widow Jathar. He is not a foreign invader either from the plains of Central Asia or the 'fictitious Jathar mountain, but


16. Growse's Mathura (1874), pp. 21-22.
17. Mr. G. B. Jathar has kindly supplied me with this valuable piece of information in a letter, dated 8th August 1924, Deccan College, Poona.


[Page 11]: a true son of India, who points to Malwa and Rajputana as the home of his ancestors before they migrated to the Punjab and the trans-Indus region. The Jats are difficult to persuade that they are not descended from the ancient Yadavas, though they cannot produce any evidence in support of this claim. Now that all fantastic theories as to their origin have exploded at the touch of science, we cannot with justice refuse to accept the alleged Yadava origin of the Jats, at least tentatively, so long as it is not positively disproved. It is only fair to put this tradition to the test of historical investigation, and see whether there is any rational ground for believing in it.

Al-Beruni, who wrote at the beginning of the eleventh century, thus relates the story of Sri Krishna's birth: "Then there was born a child in the city of Mathura to Vasudeva by the sister of Kansa, at that time ruler of the town. They were a Jatt family, cattle-owners, low Shudra people." The Yadus, as we learn from the Vishnu Purana, though somewhat above the Jat status of "low Shudra" of the eleventh century, were well-nigh approaching it, being little esteemed by the more orthodox Aryan tribes with monarchical constitution. (Wilson's Vishnu Puran, pp.602-603.) There is no greater improbability in deriving Jat, Jat or Jut, - as the tribal name is pronounced in various forms in the different provinces from the Indian Yadu or Yadava than from the Chinese Yuti or Ye-ta-li-to. If the phonetic difficulty alone stands in the way of recognising the Yadava origin of the Jats, there cannot be any objection in identifying the Jats with the Jatas or Sujatas, a branch of the great Haihaya Yadavas.[18] "The


18. Of the hundred sons of Kartavirya, the five principal were Sura, Surasena, Vrishana, Madhu and Jayadhwaja. From the last sprang up the five great divisions of the Haihaya tribe, the Talajanghas, Vitihotras, Avantyas, Tundikeras, and Jatas also called Sujatas from the prolific number (Wilson's Vishnu Puran pp. 417-418). Wilson seems to entertain a doubt whether the Haihayas are not the Huna and Saka tribes engrafted upon the great genealogical tree of the Aryans by the clever Puranic ethnologists. The Jats were known by the name of Sus, Abars, and many other names, as Beames says. We shall meet these contentions in the appendix "The Yadus."

[Page 12]: Sujatas" says the Vishnu Purana, "are not commonly specified for their great number." (Wilson, p.418, foot-note 20). So, we need not wonder if the Brihat Samhita or any other later Sanskrit work does not mention the Jatas by their particular tribal designation. It may be argued that the Haihayas were a southern people inhabiting the region of the Narmada, and were therefore little likely to be the ancestors of the modem Jats, who are mainly found in Sindh and the Punjab. We may point out that the Jats are not, even to this day, rare in the Narmada Valley, in Bhopal and other places, and that the Haihayas are also mentioned among the Western Peoples in the Brihat Samhita (Sans. text, chap. 14, p.291). The tribe of Yadu gradually shifted towards the north-west. The Jat clans of Bal, Bhular, Chahal, and Kahlon point out to Malwa, Dharnagar (Dhar), and the Deccan as their original home (Rose’s Punjab Glossar, ii)

The ancient Yadavas, like the modern Jats, were not a homogeneous tribe but a composite race, rather a confederacy of consisting of Andhakas, Bhojas, Kukkuras, Dasharnas etc. Prolific were the progeny of Yadu; so are the Jats to-day. But it will be too far from the truth to maintain that this multiplication is due to birth alone. The affiliation of one tribe into another was a common phenomenon in the tribal stage of society. The facts that there are conflicting traditions about the origin of the different Jat gots and that even the Babbars of Dera Ghazi Khan claim to be Jats, clearly illustrate this. These were apparently an out-landish people affiliated to the Yadu clan. This is supported by a passage in the Bhagavat Purana which says that King Sagara, after exterminating the Haihayas turned his arms against the Saka, Yavana, and Barbaras who had fought as the allies of the Haihayas, against his ancestors (Sans. text, Sakanda ix, chap. 8). The Harivamsa describes a long standing hereditary fued between the descendants of Puru and Yadu -which was also a struggle between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, a Struggle between the pure Indo-Aryans and the out-landish peoples headed by the Yadavas. A similar phenomenon of a tribal feud in which even aliens range themselves under one faction or another has not altogether disappeared in the Rohtak and Delhi


[Page 13]: districts, where the country-side is divided into two factions - Dahiya and Ahulanas: "the Gujars and Tagas of the tract, the Jaglan Jats of thapa Naultha, and the Latmar Jats of Rohtak joining the Dahiyas, and the Huda Jats of Rohtak . . . joining the Ahulanas. This division runs right through Sonepat and more faintly through Delhi tahsil, and is so firmly rooted in the popular mind that Muhammadans even class themselves with one or the other party. Thus the Muhammadan Gujars of Panch-i-Gujran call themselves Dahiyas, and so do all the neighbouring villages" (Rose’s Punjab Glossary, ii. 220). Modern history does not contain a more faithful picture of the tribal feuds of the bygone ages.

The race of Yadu suffered a fearful retribution at the hands of Parashuram who had all but exterminated the ungodly and tyrannical warrior-caste. The few fugitives from his terrible battle-axe took shelter in mountains or concealed themselves among the lower classes. Without instruction and without ceremonials they grew up like Shudras. The liberal-minded Rishi Kashyapa reclaimed them and restored them to the rank of Kshatriyas. This was perhaps the first creation of a class of Neo-Kshatriyas, like that of the Agnikulas in the subsequent ages. The Kassab [Kashyap] Gotri Jats with pretensions to Rajput blood may thus owe their kinship with the ancient Yadavas, to the good services of their patron saint.

The Jat community has been, within historic times, the great refuge of the high caste victims of Hindu social tyranny, and the uplifter of the depressed and untouchables to a more respectable status, transforming all recruits to a homogenous Aryan mould both in physique end sentiment. If the origin of the Jat is to be correctly traced we must ascend the main stream and not the tributaries. To say that the Jat is of foreign origin, because some outlandish tribes were admitted into this community is as absurd to say that the Ganges descends not from the Himalayas but from, the Vindhya because the Son brings some waters of the later mountain to swell her stream.

Migration of the Jat People

Main article: Migration of Jats

[Page 14] There is no authentic history of how the Jats migrated to the north-west, beyond the boundary of India; because even at the dawn of Indian history they were found in occupation of the country between Kirman and Mansura, and other tracts, bordering on Persia by the early Arab geographers and historians.[19] They were the first Hindu people with whom the Arabs came into contact, and all the Hindus were known by the name Jat only. They formed the rear of the far-flung Hindu dominion then beginning to retire to the east of the Indus before the impetus onset of Islam. This eastward retreat of a section of the Jats has to a great extent lent colour to the theory that they were barbarian invaders of India. It is likely that the Jats, always enterprising and eager for military service, migrated beyond the Indus as mercenaries of the Persian and Maurya Emperors. They suffered a good dear in the subsequent ages for their heresy against orthodox Brahmanism. In Sindh they were reduced from the status of rulers to that of helots by the Brahman usurper-Chach. And this defiance of orthodoxy was greatly responsible for the Social degradation of the Jats during the Middle Ages:

The Jats and their early history

The various waves of migration from Central Asia in the early centuries of the Christian era partly submerged, and partly swept the Jats and other Indian races back upon the shores of the Indus. The inaccessible desert of Sindh became the new home of the Jats. They had lost their caste, owing to their intercourse with impure races, their unreformed ways of life, and indifference to the rules of caste and Brahmanical teaching. They had become half Mlechchas [20] just like the poorer section of the Hindus of Kabul, who are but half Mohammadans in the eyes of the orthodox. It was perhaps for this reason that Yuan Chwang


19. Elliot's History of India i, 14, 449, ii. 247.
20. One modern writer remarks:-"These Jats of the Indus Valley have never adopted the institution of caste in its integrity, and are regarded by the rest of Hindus with a feeling which is embodied in the expression Baheka or aliens (Asia, by A.H.Keene, p. 296). This is undoubtedly the same terms as Baheka of the Mahabharat applied to Jartrikas, Madras, and peoples of Sindhu-Sauvira.

[Page 15]: calls the king of Sindh in the seventh century A.D. a Shudra (Beal, Buddhist Records of the Western World, ii. 272) and Al-Beruni found the Jats in no higher social grade in the eleventh century. There they settled as agriculturists and lived under their old tribal organization, which, however, was replaced later on by a monarchy.

The author of Mujmal-ut-Twarikh records an interesting legend - that a joint embassy was sent by the Jats and Meds of Sindh to the Court of King Duryodhana, asking for a ruler to govern them. "The Jats and Meds . . . dwelt in Sindh and on the banks of the river which is Bahar (mouth of the Indus?) .... The Meds held the ascendancy over the Jats, and put them to great distress, which compelled them to take refuge on the other side of the river Pahan (Panjnad river?), but being accustomed to the use of boats, they used to cross the river and make attacks on the Meds, who were owners of sheep. It so came to pass that the Jats enfeebled the Meds, killed many of them and plundered their country. The Meds then became subject to the Jats.

"One of the Jat chiefs (seeing the state to which the Meds were reduced) made the people of his tribe understand that there was a time when the Meds attacked the Jats and harassed them, and that the Jats in their turn had done the same with the Meds. He impressed upon their minds the utility of both tribes living in peace, and then advised the Jats and Meds to send a few chiefs to wait on king Dajushan (Duryodhana), son of Dahrat (Dhritarashtra), and beg of him to appoint a in to whose authority both tribes might submit ... After some discussions they agreed to act upon it, and the Emperor Dajushan nominated his sister Dassal [Dushala], wife of King Jandrat (Jayadratha) a powerful prince to rule over the Jats and Meds. Dassal went and took care of the countries and cities . . . There was no Brahman or wise man in the country. She therefore wrote a long letter to her brother for assistance, who collected 30,000 Brahmans from an Hindustan, and sent them with their goods and dependents to his sister" (Elliot, i, 104).[21]


21. This is no doubt a legend which is not even countenanced by the Mahabharat. However, we have a striking twelfth century parallel to it in the history of Bengal. Adisur, the reputed founder of the


[Page 16]: Though the story cannot be literally true, it seems to be a vague reminiscence of an immigration into Sindh of a colony of pure Aryans, mostly Brahmans, from the middle country. These were perhaps invited by some enlightened prince who thought of reclaiming his subjects and clansmen from ignorance and heresy. Perhaps the name of the famous city of Brahmanabad points to the place where the Brahman immigrants first settled.

Jat Rulers in Sindh

They prospered under the patronage of the native princes till they became so powerful that about 10 A.H. Chach, the Brahman father of Dahir, - usurped the throne of his master, King Sahasi Ray II through the influence of the fair but faithless queen Suhandi, who had fallen in love with him. He married the widowed queen formally and reigned vigorously for 40 years, leaving behind him the reputation of a wise and enlightened prince. But he was an implacable foe of the Jats, the bulk of whom were reduced to serfdom He degraded the Jats and Luhanas and bound over their chiefs. He took hostages from them and confined them in the fort of Brahmanabad.

He obliged them to agree to the following terms:

"That they should never wear any swords but sham ones; that they should never wear undergarments of shawl, velvet,. or silk; that they should put no saddles on their horses, and should keep their heads and feet uncovered; that when they went out they should take their dogs with them; that they should carry firewood for the kitchen of the chief of Brahmanabad; they were to furnish guides and spies, and were to be faithful when employed in such offices." (Chach Nama, Elliot, i. 151).

When Muhammad Bin Qasim invaded the territory of Dahir the Jats of the western border joined the invader, while those of the eastern countries fought for Dahir (See Chach Nama, Mirza Katich Beg's translation, pp. 124,137).

After the completion of the conquest, Muhammad Bin Qasim asked the ex-minister of Dahir who was made wazil by the conqueror, what was the position of the Jats in the


Sur dynasty invited five Brahmans from Kanauj to officiate as his priests, who afterwards revived Brahmanism in Bengal and became founders of orthodox Brahman families there.


[Page 17]: time of his late master. He replied that "they were not allowed to wear soft clothes, used to wear a black blanket beneath (lungi?), and throw a sheet of coarse cloth over their shoulders. . . . They used to take their dogs with them when they went out of doors, so that they might by these means be recognised. . . . It was their business to conduct parties from one tribe to another ... the caravans used to travel day and night under their guidance. There is no distinction among them of great and small. They have the disposition of savages, and always rebelled against their sovereign. They plunder on the roads, and within the territory of Debal all join with them in their highway robberies (Elliot, i. 187). The change of rulers brought no improvement of their lot; Muhmadd Bin Qasim maintained the former rules regarding them.


The Jats were in independent possession of country of Kaikan (supposed to be in south-eastern Afghanistan – Elliot,i. 383), which was conquered from them by the Arab general Amran Bin Musa in the reign of the Khalif Al-Mutasim-bi-llah, -A.D. 833-81, (Elliot, i. 448) During the same reign another expedition was sent against the Jats who had seized upon the roads of Hajar (?) ... and spread terror over the roads and planted posts in all directions towards the desert. They were overcome after a bloody conflict of twenty-five days. Twenty-seven thousand of them were led in captivity to grace e triumph of the victor. It was a custom among these people to blow their horns When marshalled for battle (Elliot, ll. 247).

Other scanty notices of the Jats in Persian histories prior to the reign of Aurangzeb are not of any political importance, but they are eminently illustrative of their national characteristics. They have shown in all periods whether against Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, or against Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali - the same propensity to fall upon the rear of a retreating army undeterred by the heaviest odds, or the terror-inspiring fame of great conquerors. When encountered they showed the same obstinate and steady courage, unmindful of the carnage on the field or of the miseries that were in store for them after defeat. They seem to have a wonderfully short memory as regards the terrible lessons taught by the merciless sword of their enemies.

Attack on invader armies

[Page 18]: The Jats had the audacity to attack the army of Mahmud of Ghazni on his return from Somnath. His seventeenth expedition was undertaken for chastising them. He had to fight a great naval battle in which his genius shone no less splendidly than on land. "He led a large force towards Multan, and when he arrived there he ordered fourteen hundred boats to be built each of which was armed with three firm iron spikes, projecting one from the prow and two from the sides, so that anything which came in contact with them would infallibly be destroyed. In each boat were twenty archers, with bows and arrows, grenades, and naphtha; and in this way he proceeded to attack the Jats, who having intelligence of the armament, sent their families into the islands and prepared themselves for the conflict. They launched, according to some four, and according to others eight thousand boats, manned and armed, ready to engage the Muhammadans. Both fleets met, and a desperate conflict ensued. Every boat of the Jats that approached the Muslim fleet, when it received the shock of the projecting pikes was broken and overturned. Thus most of the Jats were drowned and those who were not so destroyed were put to the sword. The Sultan's army proceeded to the places where their families were concealed and took them all prisoners" (Tabakat-i-Akbari, quoted in Elliot, ii. 478).

Revolt by Jatwan - After the defeat of Prithviraj in 1192 A.D., the Jats of Haryana raised the standard of tribal revolt, and under a capable chief, named Jatwan, besieged the Muslim commander at Hansi. On receiving this news Qutb-ud-din marched twelve farsakhs, i.e., about 40 miles during one night. Jatwan raised the siege of Hansi and prepared for an obstinate conflict. "The armies attacked each other" says the author of Taj-ul-Maasir "like two hills of steel, and the field of battle [on the borders of the Bager country] became tulip-dyed with the blood of warriors ... Jatwan had his standards of God-plurality and ensigns of perdition lowered by the hand of power" (Elliot, ii. 218).

About 1530, the Jats formed mandals[22] round Sunam and Samana with the Bhattis, Minas,


22. Mandal, is not a stronghold, as Elliot supposes. It means a confederacy, union of several villages or tribes for a common object and mutual assistance. Such organisation, though rare, is not unknown even now in that part of the country, formed either for communal interests or for resisting unjust demands and making their grievances felt.


[Page 19] and kindred tribes, withheld tribute and plundered the roads. Sultan Muhammad Bin Tughlaq marched against them, destroyed their mandals, and they were torn from their old lands, and scattered (Tarikh-i-Ftroz shahi, Elliot, iii 245).

Timur dwells With considerable satisfaction on his suppression of the Jats, whom he describes as a robust race, demon-like in appearance and as numerous as ants and locusts, a veritable plague to the merchants and wayfarers (Malfuzat-i-Timuri, Elliot, iii. 429).

Babar found the Jats living amongst the mountains of Nil-ab and Bhera, where they acknowledged the ascendancy of the Gakkar chiefs (Memoirs of Babur, A. S. Beveridge, p. 387). They still retained their old turbulent and predatory habits. He says: "If one go into Hindustan the Jats and Gujars always pour down in countless or hordes from hill and plain for loot in bullock and buffalo. These ill-omened people are just senseless oppressors! . . . When we reached Sialkot, they fell in tumult on poor and needy folks who were coming out of the town to our camp, and stripped them bare. I had the silly thieves sought for, and ordered two or three of them cut to pieces." (Ibid, p.454).

During the period of confusion intervening between the death of Babur and the accession of Sher Shah to the throne of Delhi, one bold robber Chief Fath Khan Jat of Kot Kobula devastated the whole tract of Lakhi Jungle, and kept in ferment the high roads from Lahor to Panipat. Haibat Khan Nlazi; governor of the Punjab on behalf of Sher Shah, crushed him after a severe campaign.[23]

The Jats had little scope for their lawless activity under the strong government of the Surs and the Mughals down to the accession of Aurangzeb. They remained quiet till the religious persecution of that Emperor and the misrule of the provincial viceroys goaded them into rebellion.


23. Haibat Khan's operations against Fath Khan Jat. [Author's Sher Shah, pp. 308-311.]
End of Chapter 1 : Origin and Early History

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