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Jathera (जठेरा) is the place of grave mound of the common ancestor and still worshipped even today by Jats.[1]

H.A. Rose writes that among the Hindu and Sikh Jats, especially in the north- central and central Districts, a form of ancestor-worship, called jathera, is common. It is the custom of many clans, or of a group of villages of one clan, for the bridegroom at his wedding (biāh or shādi) to proceed to a spot set aside to commemorate some ancestor who was either a shahid (martyr) or a man of some note. This spot is marked by a mound of earth, or it may be a pakka shrine. The bridegroom bows his head to the spot and walks round it, after which offerings are made both to the Brahman and the Lāgi.† If the mound is of earth, he throws a handful of earth upon it. The name given to the jathera may be, and generally is, that of an ancestor who was influential, the founder of the tribe, or who was a shahid. [2]

The Jathera tradition

Professor B.S Dhillon[3] explains about Jathera. He writes that the 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.

According to Herodotus, when a Scythian king died, his wives (after their death) were buried along with him. The mounds were erected at the gravesite.[4]

In today's Panjab, a small memorial is raised at the gravesite of an important elder, and it is called Jathera which is venerated by the descendants of the deceased.[4]

Jathera and Bhaumia

H.A. Rose[5] writes that Jatheras are also commonly worshipped in the central Districts, but the rites vary. Thus in Ludhiana nearly every Jat tribe has a jathera though his name is rarely preserved, and a very common fond of worship to him is to dig earth from a tank at weddings in his honour. Thus Tulla, the Basis' jathera, who has a niat or shrine, is commemorated in this way and earth is also dug on the Diwali night. The Sarapiya and Sodi Jats also dig earth to their unnamed jatheras— and the Daula, Dhad, Sangra and many others do the same. The Dhanesar have a special custom, for after the jandi has been cut, water is poured over a goat's head, and if he shivers the ancestors are believed to have blessed the pair. The goat is then set free. The Ghanghas in this District appear to have no jathera but make offerings, which are taken by Sikhs, to the samadh of Akal Das, their ancestor, at Jandiala in Amritsar, where an annual fair is held.

Thus the jathera rite is essentially a tribal, not a village, institution and this is strikingly brought out by the fact that in villages composed of several tribes each tribe will have its own jathera. Thus in Kang, in Jullundhar, the Kang Jats have no jathera, but they have one at Dhauli Mambli in Garhshankar tahsil, and say he was a refugee from Muhammadan oppression. The Mors of Kang have their jathera at Khankhana, the Birks theirs at Birk, the Rakkars theirs at Rakkar, the Jhalli theirs at Dhamot in Ludhiana. But the jathera is often a sati, and the Her in Jullundhar have a sati's shrine at Kala Majra in Rupar tahsil. And it is not necessarily the progenitor of the clan, or even the founder of a village who is worshipped, but any prominent member of it who may be chosen as its jathera. Thus among the Dhillon of Mahrampur it is not Gola, its founder, who is worshipped, but Phalla, his descendant and a man of some note. And at Garcha the Garcha Jats worship Adhiana, a spot in the village named after Adi, one of their ancestors who was an ascetic. The place now forms a grove from which fuel may be gathered by Brahmans, but no wood may be cut by Jats under penalty of sickness or disaster. When the jathera is at any distance it is sufficient to turn towards it at a wedding and it is only visited at long intervals.

In marked contrast to the tribal jathera is the village bhumia of the south-eastern Punjab. There, when a new colony or village is founded in the south-east Punjab the first thing to be done before houses are actually built is to raise a mound of earth on a spot near the proposed village and plant a jand tree on it. Houses are then built. The first man who dies in the village, whether he be a Brahman, a Jat or a Chamar, is burnt or buried on this mound, and on it is built a masonry shrine which is named after him. The fortunate man is deified as the Bhumia or earth-god, and worshipped by Hindus of all classes in the village, being looked upon as its sole guardian deity. At weddings the bride-groom before starting to the bride's village resorts to this shrine and makes offerings to him. If an ox is stolen, a house is broken into, or pestilence breaks out, if crops fail or the rainfall is scanty, if locusts

[Page-375]: visit the village or any other calamity befall, Bhumia's shrine is the first place to which the Jats resort for divine help.

Such faith is placed in this deity that in the event of plague the villagers will not vacate their houses without consulting the Bhumia.

Ram Sarup Joon writes

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

History of the Jats, End of Page-7

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.[6]

हरयाणा में धोक या भईयाँ

पंजाब में आज भी यह प्रथा कायम हैं और जाट अपने अपने गोत्र के जठेरों पर माथा टेकने जाते हैं, जठेरों के नाम से मेले लगते हैं । जून साहब ने भी अपनी किताब में लिखा हैं कि जाट अपने पुरखों की पूजा में विश्वास रखते हैं और इस प्रथा को भैयाँ बोलते हैं । पहले जाटों के गाँव में मंदिर के नाम पर भैयाँ के एलवा शिवालय होते थे क्योंकि शिव भी जाटों के पूर्वज हैं ।

हरयाणा में भी ये परम्परा है । यहाँ इसे धोक या भईयाँ कहते हैं । यहाँ पर जब दूल्हा घुड-चढ़ी पर जाता है या बरात चढ़ने से पहले दिया (धोक = दाहक = अग्नि ) जलाता है और अन्न का चढ़ावा चढ़ाता है और विवाह के अगले दिन कूँआ, जोहड़ और भईयाँ पर पति पत्नी को गाँव की औरतें गीत गाते हुए साथ ले जा कर धोक मरवाती हैं । ये असल में हमारी जल को और हमारे पूरवजों को पूजने की परम्परा का ही एक अंग है । ज्यादातर जब पहली बार कोई पूर्वज, जिसने ये गाँव बसाया हो और उन्होंने जहां पर आग जलाई हो उसी स्थान को भईयाँ बना दिया जाता था । इस भईयाँ पर धोक जाट ही लगाते हैं शेष जातियों को हमने ये परम्परा निभाते नहीं देखा है । अभी तक गाँव में ये परम्परा रही है कि घर में आग को बुझने नहीं दिया जाता था । आग को चूल्हे या हारे में राख के नीचे दबा कर रखा जाता था और जिस के घर में आग बुझी रहती थी या प्राय: बुझ जाती थी ऐसी घर वाली औरत को फूहड़ या गैर जिम्मेदार माना जाता था । हमारी ये आग, पाणी और चीत्ण (चित्र ) बनाने पूजने की परम्परा भारत में इरान से आकर बसे पारसियों से बहुत मिलती-जुलती है । जठेरे का शाब्दिक मतलब जेष्ठ या बड़ा होता हे । हरयाणा में बड़ेरे भी बोल देते हैं, सिंध में वडेरे शबद का इस्तेमाल धनी या जमींदार के लिए प्रयोग किया जाता है । शिवलिंग वास्तव में जट्टों द्वरा आग को दबाये रखने का स्थान होता था और उस के चारों और एक नाली खोद दी जाती थी और एक ओर पाणी निकासी का प्रबंध कर दिया जाता था ताकि अगर आगे-पीछे कहीं से पाणी आ जाए तो वो उस आग को ना बुझा पाए । क्योंकि जाट अग्नि को पवित्र मानते थे और इस रूप मे उस को जलाए रखते थे । कालान्तर में उसी स्थान को भईयाँ, धोक या जठेरे बोला जाने लगा । बाद में उस को शिवलिंग का रूप दे दिया और मंदिर बना कर पूजने लग गए ।

राजस्थान में कुल-देवता प्रथा

राजस्थान में भी अपने पूर्वजों के स्थान को पूजने की प्रथा है परन्तु यहाँ जठेरा नाम से नहीं जाना जाता है । यहाँ माता, कुल देवी और कुल देवता के नाम से स्थान जाने जाते है । इन स्थानों में बच्चे के जन्म पर जड़ूला उतारा जाता है अर्थात पहली बार बच्चे के काटे गए बाल यहाँ चढ़ाये जाते हैं । शादी के तुरंत बाद आशीर्वाद लेने के लिए जोड़ा यहाँ आता है । विभिन्न अवसरों पर यहाँ सवामनी और भंडारे भी किये जाते हैं ।

Jatheras of various clans

  • Ark (अर्क) - It is a tribe of Muhammadan Jats, found in Jind, whose members are said to still revere their jathera Sain Das' shrine, and to give the dhianis Re. 1 at weddings in his name.
  • Bajwa - The jathera of the Bajwa is Baba Manga, and he is revered at weddings.They take their newly wed brides to the Samadhi of their ancestor, Baba Manga to pay obeisance.
  • Basi - Tulla, the Basis' jathera, who has a niat or shrine, is commemorated, dig earth from a tank at weddings in his honour, and earth is also dug on the Diwali night.
  • Bhular - Bhulars' cult of Kalanjar has already been described at p. 108 supra, but they are also said to have a jathera called Pir Yar Bhurawla a revered ancestor who performed a miracle by turning a blanket into a sheep, and to this day the Bhular will not wear, sit or sleep on a striped blanket. Their Sidh Kalenjar or Kalangar is also called Kalandra, and he has a tomb at Mari in Patiala where the first milk of a cow is offered to him on the 8th badi of the month. A Bhular too can only build a house after offering him two bricks. The Bhular also avoid the use of ak fuel. Apparently the Bhura sidh of the Sialkot Bhulars. Bhura means a striped blanket of light brown with black stripes, or black with white stripes, and the Bhura are also said to be a division of the Jats. Bhura also means brown, Panjabi; Dicty., p. 146. Clearly there is either a pun in the name or Bhura was the original name of the tribe.
  • Birk - Birks have their Jathera at Birk
  • Bura - The samādh of its jathera is at Kallu Kotli in Patiala, and it is worshipped at weddings.
  • Hari - They have a jathera at Shadi Hari and out of a pond there cast seven handfuls of earth at the Dewali in his name.
  • Chahil - The Chahil affect Jogi Pir, originally Joga, son of Rajpal, who is said to have been killed, after fighting with the Mughals even when he had been decapitated. Jogi Pir is their chhara {?jathera), and a fair is held in his honour on the 4th nauratra in Asauj. In Jind the Chahil claim descent from Bala, a Chauhan. He acquired influence by accepting offerings made to Guga, and Chahils, whatsoever their caste, still take these offerings.! In Jind the Chahil worship Khera Bhumia.
  • Chima- H.A. Rose[7] writes that The Chima again are said to be served by Jogis, and not by Brahmans. They perform Jathera and chhatra as follows : — Eight or ten days before a marriage rice is cooked and taken to the spot dedicated to their ancestor ; from one to five goats are also taken thither and washed and a lamp is lighted. One of the goats' ears is then cut, and the brotherhood mark their foreheads with blood (chhatra). The goat is killed for food, but the immediate relatives of the bride do not eat of its flesh, which is divided among the others ; the rice, however, is distributed to all.
  • Dandiwal (दंदिवाल) - It is Jat clan, claiming Chauhan descent, which emigrated from Delhi via Jaisalmer to Sirsa, found in Hissar, and also in Jind State. In the latter it affects the jathera and jandiān worship, and has as its sidh a Pir whose shrine is at Beluwala, in British territory. At the birth of a son, they offer to his samadh a piece of gur, a rupee and some cloth which are taken by a Brahman.
  • Deo - The Deo have their jathera at a place close to some pool or tank where on certain occasions, such as a wedding, they congregate. The Brahman marks each man's forehead as he comes out of the pool with blood from the goat's ear : this is done to the bridegroom also. The bread at the feast is divided, 9 loaves to every bachelor and 18 to every married man. [8]
  • Dhanda (धान्दा) - Their Jathera is Swami Sundar Das, at whose samadh milk is offered on the 12th sudi every month: beestings also are offered, and, at weddings, a lamp is lighted there.
  • Dhillon - The Dhillon appear to have several jatheras, Gaggowahna being mentioned in addition to those described on p. 238 supra. No particulars of these are forthcoming. But the fact that Dhillon was Raja Karn's grandson is commemorated in the following tale : — Karn used to give away 30 sers of gold every day after his bath but before his food. After his death the deity rewarded him with gold, but allowed him no food, so he begged to be allowed to return to the world where he set aside 15 days in each year for the feeding of Brahmans. He was then allowed to return to the celestial regions and given food.[9]
  • Gandu - It has bakhuās at Mādpur, and at these it worships its jatheras at weddings and on the Diwali
  • Garcha - Their Jathera is in village Koharha in Ludhiana distt. At Garcha the Garcha Jats worship Adhiana, a spot in the village named after Adi, one of their ancestors who was an ascetic. The place now forms a grove from which fuel may be gathered by Brahmans, but no wood may be cut by Jats under penalty of sickness or disaster.
  • Garewal - Baba Alho is jathera of the Garewals.
  • Ghatwal (घटवाल) - In Jind the Ghatwal reverence Bairagis as their jatheras. In Hissar the Brahmans of Depāl are their parohits to this day, because their ancestor rescued the only surviving woman of the tribe, after the Rajputs of Kalanaur had blown up all the rest of the Ghatwals, who had defeated them.
  • Gill - Raja Ram is Jathera of the Gils. The Gils worship their eponym on the Chet Chaudas at Rajiana, in Moga tahsil, where he has a temple. He also appears to be called Raja Pir and to be specially affected by the Wairsi Gils. In Jind their Jathera is Surat Ram, whose shrine is at Bajewala in Patiala and offerings to which are taken by Mirasis. In Ferozepur the tribe is said to affect Sakhi Sarwar and its men prefer to be called Dipa, Sarupa, etc., instead of Dip Singh, Sarup Singh, and so on, with the title of ‘Mian’ prefixed. At weddings they dig earth from the pond of Sakhi Sarwar near their home. Gil sidh is named Surat Ram and only gets a goat and a handful of gur at weddings, an offering which is taken by Mirasis.
  • Kang - Kang, in Jullundhar, the Kang Jats have no jathera, but they have one at Dhauli Mambli in Garhshankar tahsil, and say he was a refugee from Muhammadan oppression.
  • Rakkar - Rakkars have theirs at Rakkar
  • Randhawa - Sidhsan is Jathera of the Randhawas.
  • Sidhu - Tilkara is Jathera of the Sidhus. Kala Mihr of the Sidhus.

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