The Jats - Their Role in the Mughal Empire/Introduction

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The Jats - Their Role in the Mughal Empire
The book by Dr Girish Chandra Dwivedi, Edited by Dr Vir Singh 2003.


Jat history ignored by the historians

[Page 1]: " ... the Jats have ... hurt so many people so that no one can be persuaded that they are capable of doing good or so much of it as to be praised" said F.X. Wendel, a French Jesuit some two hundred years ago.1 Having stayed in India for about fifty years as a contemporary eye-witness to and a keen observer of the Indian political scene, he made the above remark while surveying the history of the Jats. But the general impression about the Jats has not been much different; a Jat is inadvertently taken to be incapable of being great. The popular conception has since persisted and unfortunately the Jat history could not draw to it the adequate attention of earlier historians.

Sir William Irvine's Later Mughals makes relevant references to the Jats, but the scope of his subject did not permit him to investigate the Jat history thoroughly. Professor K.R. Qanungo's History of the Jats is a pioneer work on the subject. By his erudite scholarship, he imparted respectability to and focused our attention on the Jat history.

Pioneer works generally suffer from certain unavoidable handicaps. In case of Professor Qanungo, he was denied use of quite a lot of material available to us now. With the result, his narrative is patchy and conclusions are often one-sided and incomplete. Recently, two more scholars, U. N. Sharma and Ram Pande, have brought out two works on the history of the Jats. Both have followed the pattern of Qanungo.

However, the basic issues still remain more or less unresolved.

In his great and exhaustive works Sir Jadu Nath Sarkar does refer to the events of Jat history, but only to the extent they have any bearing on his central theme. The confusing panorama of the political history of the later Mughal period has received the discerning attention of two more senior historians, Professor A.L. Srivastava and Professor Satish Chandra. But, sterling though their contributions have been, their own treatment of the Jats is brief and casual. Their subjects being different, it could not be otherwise also.2

1. Memoires des Jats (Fr. Ms.), 38.

II. Translation of the author has been corrected and done according to English edition 1991 of the Memoires. It is Wendel's lefthanded compliment to the Jats, when Suraj Mal helped and saved Wazir Safdarjang from almost inevitable ruin in the Delhi Civil War in 1753. -Editor.

2. After the first draft of the thesis was ready we received in print, Dr. Ram Pande's Ph D. thesis, Bharatpur Upto 1826. This work does not concentrate on the rule of the Jats in the history of the Mughal Empire and therefore differs from the

Choice of the topic by the author

[Page 2]: Thus when the Jats engrossed my attention I felt the necessity, even after the learned works of these scholars, to take up the study of the role of the Jats in the history of the Mughal Empire.

I would like to add a few words about the choice of the topic. It would be pretentious on my part to justify the desirability of local or regional history. It is obvious that for a proper understanding of the history of a big area like the Mughal Empire we require an intensive study of different local powers. In later Mughal history when the imperial authority was effective only over a restricted area, the cobwebs of history become very much entangled. The fierce factionalism at the Court, the foreign invasions, the self-aggrandisement of the officials and the rise of the indigenous powers, often at variance with each other, further complicate the situation. Of the last, the role of some powers has received careful study from the scholars. But not so in the case of the Jats. We now require a study of the role of the Jats in the Mughal history, and not merely a history of the Jats alone. Such a study is expected to facilitate a better understanding of not only the Mughal but also of the Jat history in its true perspective.

The earlier writings create an impression that the advent of the Jats affected only the fringes of the history of the Mughal Empire. We thought - and our study shows it - that they had an important role to play in the political arena of the day which increased in scope in course of time. Earlier the Jats were "not remarkable in Hindustan"3 and yet by seventeen sixties they earned for themselves "a reputation never seen outside"4. This constitutes a fascinating phase in the annals of medieval India.

Driven to arms in deep discontent, the Jat insurrection in the beginning symptomized the general disaffection in the Empire, even though it had then a local application only. Attempts at their ruthless repression, without redressal of their genuine grievances, kindled the native fury of the Jats. Inwardly exasperated, the ferocious Jats and the kindred people rose again ultimately setting at naught the imperial authority in the province of Agra. An obscure people rising to great heights and swaying the destiny of a big region is not an ordinary phenomenon; when we know that it was achieved in a short period the significance of the story increases.

scope of our thesis. It is extremely painful for us to point out that most of the sources listed in the Bibliography do not appear to have been very judiciously and thoroughly tapped by him. In the case of both internal and external history of Bharatpur there is little appreciable improvement over the information in the earlier works. It would be distasteful for us to list various types of lapses in the use and interpretation of the different sources. Some instances may, however, be seen on pp. 55,73,75,79,85,86,96, 138, 155, 180, 191,211,255, 261, 285, 307, 308, 310, 322, 332, 382, 407 "and 415 (f. n.)."

3. Memoires des Jats (Fr. Ms.), 64.

4. Ibid., 29.

[Page 3]: Breakdown of imperial authority afforded a golden opportunity for predatory warfare. Uncontrolled by any higher authority and uninspired by any higher motive than opposing the Mughals, the individual headmen succumbed to "seduction of rich spirits". And yet they are not to blame. Disgruntled as they were, it was not possible to face the situation in any other way. Aurangzeb's mistaken policy was bearing fruits. In the post-Aurangzeb period, the powerful elements at the Court found it expedient to conciliate the Jats in order to retain power and to rejuvenate the declining Empire. The latter readily accepted their new role. Whatever be the juristic standpoint, they no longer remained plebeian rebels perpetually fighting against the imperialists, but became allies of one or the other Court faction. Side by side the Jats, conscious of their strength, availed themselves of the opportunities for expansion. With the stabilization of their power and position increased the dependence of the important Mughal grandees upon them. So much so that the imperial Wazir, Safdar Jung went more than half way to seek their ready cooperation in the imperial affairs. This further improved their status, fortunes and strength.

Getting virtual sanction from the Mughal Emperor, the Jat State became a reality. In view of the manifest imbecility and impotence of the Mughal Emperors in containing the expansionist powers elsewhere, there was little possibility of their retaining their grip over the region concerned. Hence, irrespective of the advent of the Jats, the supercession of the Mughal power in the area looked a foregone conclusion, especially when the ever encroaching formidable Marathas and ambitious Jai Singh were casting covetous glances over the area. The Jats forestalled the rest in the fray. Even though detrimental to the interests of the empire, their emergence guaranteed to the ruled peace, happiness and security and also prevented the Maratha peril from coming dangerously close to the Mughal capital. In the imperial wars outside their own region, they played the role of faithful feudatories. There is little to suggest that the ambitious Jats were interested in wiping out the Mughal Empire, although it would be equally wrong to say that they wanted its restoration to its former virility and strength.

The increasing involvement of the Jats in the Imperial affairs, if it contributed to their steady growth, also entangled them with the hostile powers, Marathas, Imad, Abdali and his Indian confederates. All this while, the Jats also wished to have a decisive say in the contemporary affairs, and to ensure their influence over Delhi's government. They enjoyed such a conspicuous position that in the struggle for supremacy over the Mughal Empire, their alliance and failing that their neutrality was coveted by both the Marathas and the Afghans. As the most powerful Indian potentate, the Jat King, Suraj Mal, occupied a key position in the settlement of the contemporary affairs in the post-Panipat period. The imperial Wazir-designate being his dependent, the Jat Raja

[Page 4]: desired to control through his installation the imperial government; although as a prudent man he would not risk a war on that score. Suraj Mal's death in 1763 marks the close of the brightest chapter of the Jat history; after him there was a gradual decline in their fortunes and glory.

The treatment of the subject under study has to face problems peculiar to itself arising out of the nature of the subject. It needs no stress that the mind of the people is better and more correctly revealed by their own writings. In case of the Jat people who generally do not have a respectable tradition of literary activity, the paucity of any systematic and complete history from their side causes difficulties to a student of their history. The non-Jat sources5 do provide facts about the Jat activities. But an exclusive dependence on them is likely to result in an unbalance View. From wherever culled, facts are sacred but inferences drawn on their basis are apt to be influenced by the human element. In interpretation of a given situation personal likes and dislikes and preferences and prejudices are bound to creep in. We have thus to be wary, critical and analytical, when handling such material on a people who were opposed to the Mughals.

Out information about the Jats

Out information about the Jats and their activities comes mostly from the varied Persian sources - the Mughal Official documents, the Court histories, the general or provincial histories, biographical sketches written by the Mughal public servants or by the Muslim historians of stray places, etc.

Among these there are some (e.g. Roznamcha, Iqbal, Tal., and Siyar) which generally take a judicious view of the Jats. But side by side there are some (e.g. J. Records, Ahkam, K.K. Shah, M U, Ahwal and Shah Alam Nama), which, though valuable, are not always impartial in their assessment of the Jats.

Of necessity, much of the information had to be taken from the sides of those opposed to the Jats. Putting absolute reliance on the sources (falling in this category) and paraphrasing them, would not help us form the balanced view for our present subject. Due allowance has to be made for their place of origin and the bias and prejudices of the authors concerned. It is not that they are not important-in fact quite a number of these are our most vocal sources and but for them our picture would have remained grossly incomplete-yet they need to be critically assessed, separating chaff from the grain.

It may not be out of place to say a word about Fransoo's Tawarikh-i-Hunud, one of the mss. being used here, which, though written in Persian

5. The sources we are consulting here for the first time include Tarikh-i-Bharatpur, Tawarikh-i-Hinud, Waqa-i-Bharatpur. Waqa-i-Jang-i-Bharatpur. Safinat-ul-Aish, Letter of Safdar Jang to Suraj Mal. various works of Somnath and Devdutta's account. These and rest of the sources screened thoroughly by me in the context of the Jat history, have been listed in the Bibliography with brief comments about their merits and demerits wherever necessary.

[Page 5]: stands out from other Persian sources. It does not suffer from complexes and prejudices found in a number of other Persian sources. Though a later work, its author, a foreigner, based it on the information derived from the indigenous sources and meant it to present to Captain Abraham Lockett.

The Marathi documents (amply used by us in the context of the Jat history) also are our extremely valuable source, being exactly contemporary despatches. But they cover only a period Of roughly three decades. The begin referring to the Jats from seventeen thirties when the Marathas came into contact with the nascent at power. Conceding that the references to the Jats in them are incidental and brief and not always fair, made as they were by an expansionist people about a rising and ambitious people, a careful handling of these letters serves as a corroborative evidence besides supplying altogether new information on several points.

Wendel's French account of the Jats is a very valuable source for Jat history, especially because its author was a contemporary observer of things relating to the reigns of Suraj Mal and Jawahar Singh. After its minute perusal we found that it contains some useful details which somehow escaped the attention of the other historians. In assessing this narrative we have to keep in mind that it was meant for European readers and perhaps to help the English (E.I.Co.) in framing their policy. The proverbial apathy of the Occident for the Orient is easily discernible in it6. Wendel is also inclined to taking undue interest in recording scandals about the Jat chiefs7. This taints the details of his important work.

Among the meager sources emanating strictly from the Jat side, the compilations of Devdutta and Kahna Ram, though otherwise useful, contain only a few references to the political history of the period within our purview. The works of Somnath, written under the Jat patronage give us an idea of the literary and cultural activities at the Jat Court and the patronage given there to men of letters. Yet Somnath has only a few casual references to the political activities of the Jats. His works were written in the tradition of the Charan poets of the era of the "Ritikal poetry". They therefore, suffer from the literary conventions attaching importance to exaggerated glory of one's patron. Sudan, the author of Sujan Charitra, was the contemporary of Somnath. Sujan Charitra was known to earlier scholars also but was uncharitably dismissed as not useful8. Being mostly an eye-witness account, this work has its own importance. At places Sudan corroborates other sources. However, Wherever he gives information, not available in other sources, we have to assess it as coming from a man having access to, and well acquaintance

6. But Fransoo the author of Tawarikh-I-Hinud is free from this defect.

7. Infra, Appendix B foot note 8-10.

8. Prof. A.L. Srivastava, (Oudh, p. 294) who upholds its general historical veracity, is the solitary exception

[Page 6]:

with it. Yet Sujan Charitra gives the detailed account of the exploits of Suraj Mal between 1745 and 1753 only. Besides, it has to be borne in mind that, Sudan being a poet, his details have been at places overwhelmed by poetic flourishes.

The works of Somnath and Sudan suggest that the Jat Kings may have got their regular and complete history written at court. Further, It need not be emphasized that they had Persian Munshis in their employment. That some members of the Jat royal family themselves had a good knowledge of Persian is also known to us. In addition, we learn from a Marathi despatch that Jawahar Singh maintained a personal diary in which he made daily entries9. But unfortunately such valuable documents have not come down to us.10

In the case of the martial people like the Jats, who attach much value to deeds of valour, there is a great likelihood of oral traditions originating and spreading. The Sakhas which are in the form of 'floating literature', owe their origin to a period contemporary to the events and personalities concerned. They have a respectability of their own, in as much as they depict the seamy side of history treasured through generations of professional singers. For a people like the Jat at least, whose own written records about themselves are meager, their tradition deserves our attention when we reconstruct their past history. Yet tradition, howsoever rich, has its own limitations; it has to be accepted only after putting it to the test of historical scrutiny.

We take this opportunity to clarify a few points about our study. First, it is mainly the activities of the Jats of Bharatpur between 1658 and 1763 A.D. that have been discussed. Memoires des Jats refers to two more centres of the Jat power - Patiala (under Ala Singh) and Gohad (under the Ranas)11. The sources of the period accessible to us do not throw much light on the activities of the Jats of Patiala and Gohad. They do not seem to have taken any significant part in the contemporary politics. In moments of crisis the Gohad Jats sought help from the powerful Jats of Bharatpur and at times took pride in accompanying their senior brethren in their march. Second, herein our primary aim has been to emphasize the external policy of the Jats of Bharatpur. We have alluded to the incidents of their internal history only to the extent of their relevance to our theme, in as much as they help in understanding particular events of the external history, or clarify the factors operating in their origin.

In converting the Hijari dates we have used Taqwim-i-Hijjari-o-Isawi by A. Mahamud Khalidi (Karachi: 1952), which is based on Wustenfeld-

9. SPD., XXIX, 119.

10. In response to my query the ex-Maharaja of Bharatpur informed me (25th September, 1963), "Unfortunately we have very little material of the type that you require .. "

11. Memoires des Jats (Fr. Ms.), 4 footnote.

[Page 7]: Mahlersche Vergleichungs-Tabellen der Mohammedanischen and Christlichen Zeitrechnung by Edward Mehler (Leipzig: 1926).

Jat in the Pre-Aurangzeb Period

The evidence of anthropometry, linguistics, customs and institutions put together lead us to surmise that in all likelihood the Jats are the progeny of the famous republican people mainly of the Vedic stock - of the ancient Sind and Punjab12.

We do not have the means to form an accurate and comprehensive view of their past, from the early medieval times to the commencement of the reign of Aurangzeb when their brethren of Mathura and Bharatpur step by step rose to political prominence. Our sources contain only incidental and meagre information about the Jats.

Majmal-ut- Tawarikh refers to an interesting legend about the Jats and the Meds. It says that both these people, the descendants of Ham, lived in Sind on the banks of the river Bahar. They indulged in mutual warfare. It so happened that the Jats overpowered the distressing Meds. But realizing the futility of a continuous struggle both the Jats and the Meds begged King Dajushan (Duryodhan) to appoint a King to rule over them and thereby ensure perpetual peace. The King nominated his sister Dassal (Duhsala), who governed them with wisdom. But despite its riches, dignity and greatness, there was no Brahman or wise man in the country. Hence from all over Hindustan thirty thousand Brahmans along with their families were sent there by her brother. They settled there and in time Sind became flourishing. The Queen later on made over a small portion of her realm to the Jats and appointed one of them, Judrat, as their chief. She made a similar provision for the Meds also13. This narrative would imply that the people designated as the Jats were present at the time of the war of Mahabharata. We, however, do not find the name Jat mentioned in the Mahabharata. As such, this account involving the mythological figures cannot be regarded to be historically accurate. 14

12. For origin of the Jats their customs, usages, institutions habits etc. See my article. 'The Origin of the Jats'. Also see Kashi Prasad Jaiswal, Andhkar Yugin Bharat (अंधकार युगीन भारत) (trans. Ram Chandra Varma), Kashi:Samvat 2014, p:392;A.H. Bingley, Sikhs (Simla: 1899), p.12.

13. Majmal-ut-Tawarikh in Elliot, I, 104-105.

14. The above narrative including the despatch of the Brahmans to Sind seems to reflect the orthodox views of the time. The Jats displayed little enthusiasm in upholding the canons of orthodox religion and rigid caste system. Chachnama (Elliot, I, 187) observes, "There is no distinction among them (the Jats) of great and small"; Zafarnama (Elliot, III, 491) states, "they (the Jats) had cast aside all the restraints of religion", Qanungo, Jats, 24; Hulton. Caste in India, 33 with which Hinduism had come to be identified. It is likely that finding it difficult to endorse the socio-religious laxity of the Jats the orthodox elements invented this fanciful story, which is devoid of historical significance and validity, vide Qanungo, Jats 27

[Page 8]: Chachnama gives us a comparatively detailed information about the Jats of the lower Sind (especially of Brahmanabad) in relation to Rai Chach and Muhamad Bin Qasim. It says that after the subjugation of the fort of Brahmanabad Rai Chach "humiliated the Jats and the Lohanas and punished their chiefs". He imposed stern and disgraceful regulations on them. He ordered:

That they should never wear under-garments of shawl, velvet, or silk, but they might wear their outer-garments of silk, provided they were of a red of black colour: 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 fuelwood 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. They were to live in amity with Sarband, Son of Ahkam, and if any enemy came to invade the territory, or fight with Sarband, they were to consider it incumbent on them to assist him and steadily adhere to his cause. He thus finished his labours and established his rule. If any person showed rebellion or hostility, he took a hostage and exacted penalties until he should amend his conduct.15

Chachnama does not specify the causes of this unusual treatment but it is not difficult to surmise them. Resentful of external interference, and sensitive to autocracy the self-governing Jats have, from earliest times, mostly showed an instinctive attachment to democratic ways.16 They were indifferent to the rigidity and exc1usiveness in the socio-religious structure and generally had a natur apathy to the monarchical form of government, facts which gradually came to forefront in the Hindu society under the hegemony of the Gupta kings and thereafterl7. In such a state of affair, Chach, a high caste Brahman might have harboured a feeling of abhorrence for the defiant and unorthodox Jats.18

15. Chachnama in Elliot. I. ISO-IS!.

16. Bingley's (Sikhs, 11-12); U.N Sharma. Jaton Ka Navin Itihas (Jaipur: 1977),38.

17. K.P. Jaiswal. (Trans. Ram Chandra Varma), Andhkar Yugin Bharat, 391: R.C. Majumdar, Corporate life in Ancient India. 165-167.

18. It is interesting to observe certain basic similarities between the way of life which Manu ordained for low people and the treatment which Chach meted out to the Jats of Brahmnabad. Moreover, although there is no specific information in the Arabic and Persian sources about the Jats accepting Buddhism at that period, we have positive knowledge about the prevalence of Buddhism at the period in the Indus Valley (vide M. Habib, "The Arab Conquest of Sind", Islamic Culture Jan. 1929), in which the Jats formed the bulk of the population. Hence, it is not unlikely, that the Jats had definite leanings towards Buddhism, which was more agreeable to their ways and practices.III

III. Taking note of these similar ways and practices, Dr Dharma Kirti, a modern Buddhist has written a book जाट जाति प्रछन्न बौद्ध है. (1999 Ed. New Delhi)

Basically peasant communities do not fit in Varna System. Their hardwork or labour in the fields puts them in the Sudra category, while their agriculture

[Page 9]:It is also likely that the years long19 stubborn resistance by the Jats and others to Chach during the latter's siege of Brahmanabad provided him the immediate provocation for adopting the repressive measures.

Chachnama refers to the Jats again at the time of Muhammad Bin Qasim's invasion of Sind. Following a query from the conqueror about the position of the Jats under Chach and Dahir, Sisakar, the minister of the fallen King, apprised him of the restrictions imposed upon them. The minister added that it, was incumbent upon them to supply escorts and conduct parties and serve as guides. If any injury befell a person on the road they had to answer for it. The minister went on that these people 'have the disposition of savages and always rebelled against their sovereigns. They plunder on the roads and within territory of Debal all join with them in their highway robberies'.

Having heard this, Qasim retained the same regulations against the Jats20 of the eastern areas but not against those of the western, who, probably as mercenaries, had joined the invader against the oppressive Dahir.21

Other casual references to the Jats appertain to their obstructing the path of foreigners, a fact in some cases confirmed by the traditional

profession categorises them the Vaishya and when they fight in the battlefield definitely they are warrior class. If we peep through the thin curtain of exaggerated and biased portion of Chachnama, it also indicates that the Jats were cultivators, labourers (Supplying wood to royal kitchen) and these famous swordsmen were protecting Prince Sarband against invaders and guarding highways. Chachnama (Islamabad, 1982) p. 100. 166-167.

It is to be noted that restrictions were imposed on the defiant Jats including Summeras and Sammas tribes by the Brahman rulers- Chach and Dahir in Lohana territory in lower Sind only, whereas in northern territories held by the Vassal Buddhist Chiefs, the Jats were free from all restrictions. The overthrow of Brahman rule by the Arabs changed the socio-political atmosphere in lower Sind also and the Jats became political assertive as is evident from the Jat revolt against Sultan Mahmood in 1025 A.D.-Editor.

19. Chachnama in Elliot, I, 147.

20. Ibid., 187.

21. Mirza Kalich Beg's translation of Chachnama quoted by Qanungo, Jats, 28. Despite the treatment accorded to the Jats by Chach and the Arab conqueror being similar, their approach and the underlying circumstances were basically different. The policy of Chach, "an implacable foe of the Jats" (Qanungo, Jats,. 28). was characterized by feelings of hostility and vengeance. Muhammad Bin Qasim, on the contrary, was mainly governed by the dictates of expediency. The Arab generally retained the Hindu officials and duly respected their counsels on various matters. In keeping with it the Arab general continued the harsh measures against the Jats of Lahana" (according to Prof. Habib "most backward and savage section of the race") but spared the rest inhabiting other regions (Vide - M. Habib, 'The Arab Conquest of Sind', Islamic Culture October, 1929, 600. 601, footnote) such as Sawandi. (See Chachnama in Elliot, I. 190). As the Arabs generally maintained status-quo, it can safely be presumed that Chach's stern regulations also applied only to a section of that people.

[Page 10]: accounts and persisting tradition of the Jats. Kamil-ut- Tawarikh notices the Jats seizing upon the roads of Hajar and plundering the corn of Kaskar. They had "planted posts in all directions towards the desert". At the orders of the reigning khalifa, Ajif bin Isa marched against them (219 A.H. - 834 AD.). He was busy suppressing their chief Muhammad bin Usman for seven months. After killing many of the Jats, Ajifis said to have carried twenty seven thousand of them (including women and children to Baghdad.22

Futuh-ul-Buldan alludes to the Jats having sway over the territory of Kikan. Amran, the governor or Sind, (sometime after 221 AH. - 836 AD) attacked and subjugated them23. According to Tabqat-i-Akbari; Mahmud of Ghazni undertook his seventeenth expedition in 417 AH. against the Jats (of the region of the Jud hills) who had molested his army on its return from Somnath. Mahmud is said to have organized a fleet of 1400 boats, while the Jats could gather 4,000 boats (or 8,000 according to some). A naval fight ensued between the two at Multan, in which most of the Jats were drowned. The rest were slain.24

Tarikh-us-Subuktigin describes that two or three thousand mounted Jats attacked the Ghazanvide commander Tilak (425 AH. - 1034 AD.) "chiefly for the purpose of seizing his property and money", when he was persuing the rebel, Ahmad Nialtigin in the lower Panjab. They carried away his son and subsequently killed Ahmad also. The Jats returned his son and the head of the deceased only after getting a portion of promised "reward".25

Taj-ul-Maasir refers to the rising of the Jats of Haryana (588 AH. 1192 AD.) under Jatwan, following the defeat of Prithwi Raj Chauhan. Jatwan besieged the Muslim garrison at Hansi. Hearing about it, Qutb-ud-Din hurriedly moved against the Jats. Jatwan raised the siege to confront Qutb-ud-Din, but was beaten after a sanguinary fight26. We are told that in Samvat 1252 (1195 AD.) a meeting of the Sarva Khap Panchayat (Federal clan council of the Jats and other kindred people of Upper Doab, Haryana and the neighbouring areas) was held in a forest between the villages of Bhoju and Banera under the chairmanship of Rao Vijay Rao of the village, Sisauli. This meeting decided among others to raise a big militia "to defend the Sarva Khap area against a

22. Kamil-ut-Tawarikh in Elliot, II, 247-248.

23. Futuh-ul-Buldan in Elliot, I, 128.

24. Tabqat-i-Akbari quoted in Elliot, II, Note D 477-478.

25. Tarikh-us-Subuktgin in Elliot, II, 132-133.

26. Taj-ul-Maasir in Elliot, II, 217. The Allahabad edition of Elliot's volume does not contain the following page (i.e. 218). As such, we have supplemented the above incident from Prof. Qanungo's History of the Jats. 33, which contains extracts from Taj-ul-Maasir, taken from the former edition of Elliot's history.

[Page 11]: suspected attack by Muhammad Ghori and to protect the area from loot and plunder".27

The Jat rose again when Timur invaded India. Malmuzat-i-Timuri testifies to his satisfaction over killing 2,000 Jats of a village Tohna near Sarsuti. He found them "demon like", "robust", "marauding" and "as numorous as ants, and locusts".28 We learnt that in order to hold deliberations over the problem of his invasion, a Sarva Khap Panchayat meeting was held in Samvat 1455 (1398 AD.) in the forest of Chaugama under the presidentship of Deo Pal Rana. It passed the resolutions that they should "vacate the villagers, sending the children and women to the forests and that the able-bodied persons should take up arms and destroy the arm'y of Timur".29 The Panchayat militia harassed the forces of Timur, while they were advancing from Meerut towards Hardwar. In the process the former lost 6,000 men.30

Another invader Babar found the Jats inhabiting a tract between Mil-ab and Bhera mountains. He remarks: If one go (sic. goes) into Hindustan the Jats and Gujars always pour down in countless hordes from hill and plain for loot in bullock and buffalo ... 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.31

It is said that in response to Rana Sanga's call a Jat militia of 5,000 from the Upper Doab and another from the Brij participated in the battle of Sikari against Babar.32

Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi speaks of one redoubted Jat chief named Fateh Khan who ravaged the country of Lakhi Jungle and the road from Lahore to Panipat. Haibat Khan, the governor of the Panjab, crushed Fateh Khan and his associates.33

As is to be seen the Jats later opposed, to their worth, Nadir Shah (at Karnal) and Ahmad Shah Abdali (at Manupur). These examples suffice to show their tendency of opposing the foreign invaders. K.R. Qanungo rightly remarks:

They(the Jats) have shown in all periods - whether against Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, or against Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali-

27. Kanha Ram (Hindi Ms.) in possession of Chowdhary Qabul Singh of Shoram Muzaffarnagar 4-5. An entry of Bhadon, Samvat 1254 (August-September, 1197) in this Ms. (6) claims that a big Jat militia fought (near Meerut) and repulsed the Turkish forces. But the date and the result of the conflict are doubtful. Habibullah, Foundation of Muslim Rule in India. 62, 81 (footnote 38).

28. Malfuzat-i-Timuri and following it Zafarnama in Elliot, III, 2<48-249 and 491.

29. Kanha Ram (Hindi Ms.), 13.

30. Ibid.

3 I. Memoires of Babur, quoted by Qanungo, Jats, 33.

32. Kanha Ram (Hindi Ms.), 15.

33. Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi in Elliot, IV, 398-399.

[Page 12]: 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.34

Side by side they also resorted to pillage and plunder. Yet it would be too much to conclude that the whole Jat people were professional robbers or "a race of thieves "35 or that they took to robbery as a permanent mode of living. The cradle land of the Jats - Sind and the Panjab witnessed great political disorders and chaos during the period. The dynastic changes, the self-aggrandihsement of high officials, and the intermittent foreign invasions put premium upon an efficient government. Administrative instability followed and this offered opportunistic to the centrifugal forces to raise their heads. Essentially warlike, the Jats like many others did not lag behind. The unsettled conditions the time held out to them irresistible temptations for satisfying their greed and asserting their tribal independence. Their tendency of resisting the Invaders was pronounced but they were not well organised. Thus their military activities were, of necessity, confined to surprise raids, which seem to have been largely confused with plunder and robbery. On the one hand, the Jats laid their hands upon merchandise and on the other defied the authority and in course of time attempted to carve out their self-governing tribal spheres of influence. The reference in Tarikh-i-Firuuz-Shahi36 that they along with other tribes established mandals "union of several villagers or tribes for a common object and mutual assistance"37 - is significant in this context.

Another aspect of the activities of the Jats was their availability as mercenaries. This may have been partly responsible for the general Impression of their being always lawless. We have already noticed that a section of the Jats was employed as mercenaries by Muhammad bin Qasim. Another instance of their being so employed relates to the times of Razia. The Jats of the Panjab were among the mercenaries recruited by her to reoccupy the throne.38

The Khurdadba tells us that the Jat inhabitants skirting the route from Kirman to Mansura were entrusted with keeping watch over the route.39 On the authority of Chachnama we have seen that in the times of Dahir the Jats served as escorts and were responsible for the safety of travellers.

34. Qanungo, Jats, 30.

35. Memories des Jats (Fr. Ms.), 45 footnote.

36. Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi in Elliot, III, 245.

37. Qanungo, Jats. 32 footnote

38. Habibullah, The Foundation of Muslim Rule in India, p. 265.

39. Ibn Khurdadba in Elliot, I, 14.

Role of Sarva Khap Panchayats

[Page 13]: The traditional accounts of the Jats record that on many occasions the Sarva Khap Panchayat of the Jats and others met to express its deep resentment a aginst the administrative oppression unjust restrictions an humiliating exactions on ground of religious discrimination. In some cases they reportedly resolved to oppose the Muslim administration in case the oppressive measures were not withdrawn.40 We do not have means to ascertain the dates and details of the resolutions of the Sarva Khap Panchayat. They may yet reflect the general attitude of the Jats towards the contemporary affairs.

Yet another significant aspect of their activities, which has often been ignored, is their proverbial association with agriculture. It is true that almost all the authorities barring Chachnama do not mention their agricultural pursuits. But there is a great agricultural tradition among them. Chachnama preserves a significant reference in this regard. It explicitly mentions that "the agriculturists in this part of the country (Sawandi region) were Jats". 41 This may be taken to suggest their association with the soil, thouh they might not have been exclusive tillers in other areas. It is not without significance to note that they presently inhabit some of the most fertile areas. This may suggest that the agriculturist Jats preferred to migrate to the areas where they could continue their traditional mode of life. About the Jats of the Upper Doab and the neighbouring places we have their own traditional accounts to indicate their continued deep attachment to their time-honoured profession.42

40. For details see Kanha Ram (Hindi Ms.), 6, 8-9, 12, 14.

41. Chachnama in Elliot, I, 190.

42. For details see Kanha Ram (Hindi Ms.), 7, 10, l2-t-t.

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