Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When Gurjara became Godwad....

The Godwad region was the historic border between the two powerful Rajput kingdoms of Mewar and Marwar, in the medieval era. Godwad (गोडवाड़) covers the districts of Jalore, Sirohi and Pali, and also includes the mountain of Abu and adjoining hills. The now seasonal Sukri River flows through the region. Both the territory and the river flowing through it correspond exactly with Gurjara Bhoomi, with the difference that the river was full flowing and the territory more fertile, as described in the Kuvalayamala Kaha, than it is today.

With the drying up of the Sukri River, the capital Bhinmal was abandoned, and there was an outward migration of many communities from Gurjara. But when did the name change to Godwad? A local organisation, Godwad Virasat, explores the history of the region and suggests that the founding of Chandravati at the base of Mt Abu by the Paramara Rajputs in the 10th century, is the starting point of the identity of Godwad.

The Raikas, a pastoral community which developed the local Nari breed of cattle, are divided into two groups. The Maru Raika in their original home of Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, and the Godwad Raika in Jalore, Sirohi, and Pali. So when the Raikas migrated to the region, the name Gurjara had fallen into disuse and Godwad had taken its place. While Gurjara was in use only for a couple of centuries, Godwad has persisted far longer, more than a millennium! But just as the origins of the name Gurjara are unknown, so too the origins of Godwad are not certain.

...and Anarta and Lata became Gujarat

In this same 10th century period, the historic region of Anarta took the name Gujarat. The change is noticed in the inscriptions of the Solanki Rajputs who ruled from the capital Anahilvada Patan, and of their neighbors and rivals like the Chahaman Rajputs. Patan itself had been founded earlier by the Chavada Rajputs, who originally ruled near Mt Abu. Did they give the name Gurjartra to their new home?

Gurjartra is mentioned in the later inscriptions of the Imperial Pratiharas as one of the territories ruled by them. But what is certain is that though the Pratihara Rajputs originated in Maru and Gurjara Bhoomi, they did not take these geographic names to their new homes of Ujjain, Gwalior, and Kannauj. Gujarat was the name given only to the area around Anahilvada Patan, ruled in succession by Chavadas, Solankis, and Vaghelas. When the Solanki Rajputs conquered Lata, the name Gujarat expanded to cover this region, and the usage of Lata vanished from history.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pastoral communities and livestock breeds

This paper on pastoral communities in India, gives a table of different states they live in the breeds of livestock associated with them.

Another official government link is on the origins of Indian cattle breeds. What is interesting is that though several cattle breeds originate in and around Gurjara Bhoomi (southwest Rajasthan), the pastoral Gujjars are not associated with any of them. The Gujjars are more connected with tending buffaloes in most places, and less frequently with cattle or sheep.

It is in the oral traditions of the Raika, the largest pastoral community in western India, that the Gujjars are associated with a cattle breed. The Raika/Rebari say they were created by Bhagwan Shiva, to tame the camel, which had been created by his consort Parvati. In the old days they tended the war camel herds of the Rajput rulers. The Raika also breed cattle, sheep, goats, and today live mostly in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The Raika say that the Nari cattle breed was originally wild, then domesticated partly by the Bhils, and from them it passed to the pastoral Gujjars. When the Raikas came from Jaisalmer, they took over the breeding of the Nari cattle. The story implies the outward migration of the pastoral Gujjars from Gurjara and their replacement by the Raika. Just as the pastoral Gujjars are not mentioned in ancient literature, and most importantly were not known to the author of the Kuvalayamala Kaha, who lived in Gurjara Bhoomi, the Raika origins too are from a similar late period.

This story also shows that originally the Gujjars were a small community that took its name from the territory it inhabited. If it had been otherwise, they would have been associated with the development of several livestock breeds in Gujarat and Rajasthan. It is post their migration to eastern Rajasthan, and beyond, that the Gujjar numbers multiplied and they took up the rearing of buffalo and cattle. The Gujjars in Alwar are associated with Murrah breed of buffalo, while the Van Gujjars in Uttarakhand rear the Tarai buffalo.

The spread of buffalo breeds is westward from their points of origin in the humid and marshy eastern parts of India. DNA research though suggests a Gujarati origin for the domesticated buffalo, from bone remains found at ancient sites. Bone remains at other Bronze Age sites are said to be of wild buffaloes. At any rate the more modern buffalo breeds are traced to a time after the drying up of the Saraswati River and the northwestern regions of India.

The Nili Ravi breed of buffaloes in western Punjab shares many similarities with the Murrah breed. This movement and spread of the buffalo breeds mirrors the movement of the tribe rearing it ... the Gujjars. Proves once again that they are not a foreign tribe. A tribe coming from the dry mountains and plateaus to India's northwest would have brought sheep and goat breeds, or camels and horses, but the Gujjars in the greater part of India are not associated with such livestock. Only in the Western Himalayas, where the Gujjars migrated, have they taken up rearing sheep and goats.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Badgujar Rajputs

Badgujar (बड़गूजर) are an interesting clan of Rajputs. Their historic kingdoms and settlements were concentrated in northeast Rajasthan, western UP, and MP. As per their traditions, the Badgujar Rajputs are descended from Lava, the elder son of Bhagwan Rama who ruled over Ayodhya in the epic era. In later times they migrated eastward, settling in UP and Rajasthan, overcoming the previous rulers. They have five great branches: Sikarwar, Khadad, Lawtamia, Taparia, and Madadh.

Badgujars gave way to Chahamans and Kachhwahas in Jaipur and Alwar (north-east Rajasthan), and were crushed by the Islamic invaders in UP. At Machari in Alwar is an inscription dated Vikram Samvat 1439 (1382 CE), which names the Badgujara vansha, and mentions its rulers. As per their oral traditions, nearby Rajor was founded by their remote ancestor Raja Bagh Singh Bargujar in 145 CE. Anupshahar in UP was founded by Raja Anup Singh Bargujar, while Samthar and Kamalpur in MP became Badgujar princely states in more modern times.

In Jaipur and Alwar, many ancient Badgujar Rajputs became Thakurs under the Kachwahas, like Tahsin in Alwar and Deoti in Jaipur. The Badgujars have no presence in, or historic memory of, either Gurjara or Maru Bhoomi to the south and west. Both their oral traditions and recorded history place the Badgujar Rajputs in the lap of northern India.

Badgujar Rajputs and pastoral Gujjars

The colonial historians were delighted to find a Rajput clan with a name that sounded similar to the Gujjars. Adding to their theory of the mythical Gurjara invasion, they declared Badgujars as an "aristocratic branch" of this so called tribe. The clinching evidence was the presence of the Badgujar surname among the Gujjars.

This evidence has no meaning since the Badgujar surname is also found among other lower castes like Jats, Meenas, etc. and even among Muslims. The reason is that the Badgujar story is the same as that of other Rajput clans who fought the Islamic invaders to the death.

After losing their main leaders and a central rallying point, those living in villages had two choices: continue fighting in isolated pockets and risk certain death/captivity/conversion to Islam, or save themselves by giving up their Rajput status and taking up other professions. Hence the proliferation of Rajput surnames among lower castes. Some saved themselves by migrating elsewhere. So we find the Badgujar surname in faraway Maharashtra.

Like any other Rajput clan, the Badgujars have no special links to the pastoral Gujjars, no common customs or traditions. And lastly the Badgujars are absent in the main Gujjar population center of western Punjab.