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.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pastoral Gujjars not mentioned in ancient literature

While Gurjara as a territorial term finds ample mention in Indian literature, the numerous communities with the Gurjara cognomen naturally appear at a later date. But since foreign historians and some of their Indian followers persist in opposing the native historians views on Gurjara, and keep insisting that it was originally a tribal name, it would be useful to examine whether the pastoral Gujjars are mentioned in ancient literature? A mass movement of a nomadic tribe, whether it happened in the post-Maurya age, or in the post-Gupta age, surely could not have passed unnoticed?

The Natyashastra of Bharata, groups languages spoken in the post-Maurya age by country (Desi) and by profession (Vibhasha): of the former are listed Magadhi, Avanti, Prachya, Sauraseni, Ardhamagadhi, Balhika, and Dakshinatya. The Vibhasha, or corrupt forms of language are used by people like grass sellers, hunters, charcoal makers, goat traders, pastoral communities like Sabara and Abhira, hill tribes like Kiratas, forest dwelling Vanachara and Pulinda, and Chandalas. It even gives minute descriptions of the clothes worn by pastoral Abhira women: they have two Venis on their head covered with a deep blue cloth. Such a detailed text has no mention of the pastoral Gujjars.

Even the later texts continue to mention these tribes and professions but none of them mention the pastoral Gujjars. The Harshacharita composed by Banabhatta mentions Gurjara as a country but does not speak of any tribe, the Dasakumar Charita mentions several parts of India and their tribes, but not the pastoral Gujjars.

The 8th century Kuvalayamala Kaha, which gives the first detailed description of Gurjara Bhoomi, also has notes on other regions of India. It mentions 34 Janpads, 47 towns, 7 villages, 21 mountains, 8 rivers, and 2 seas of India. Naturally it mentions the numerous pastoral and forest-dwelling tribes like: the shabara, kirata, orda, gonda, pulinda, and bhilla (modern Bhils of Rajasthan). Therefore it is baffling that a pastoral tribe like the Gujjars, who in the concocted tale of the colonial historians, had "arrived" by this time and made settlements across vast parts of India.....are not even mentioned.

It would be stretching credulity to suppose that the author of Kuvalayamala Kaha, who lived in Gurjara bhoomi, would have knowledge of the Bhils but not of the pastoral Gujjars. The conclusion is inescapable that this pastoral tribe makes its appearance at a much later date. Other community traditions in Gurjara state that they migrated out from Bhinmal with the drying up of the Sukri River.

Therefore agrarian and pastoral people too would have left, first into the neighboring Mewar region, which was always greener and more fertile than both Gurjara and Maru. It is no coincidence that the earliest oral traditions of the Gujjars are traced to Mewar, and the Gujari language has more similarities to Mewari and Mewati, than it does to Gujarati or Marwari. It suggests a long period of Gujjar residence in northeastern Rajasthan, for their language to take its modern shape.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Mt Abu gives no clues for Gurjara

Mt Abu, the highest point in the Aravalli Range of Rajasthan is traditionally included in the territory of Gurjara, but is much older than that province. In the Vedic texts it is called Arbuda, described as the mountain close to the sea, and in Puranic texts as Arbudanchal, the son of the Himalayas and the abode of saints and Gods. The ancient caves, lofty heights, and thick forests of Mt. Abu attracted sadhus, pilgrims, tribes, and warriors alike.

With its strategic location, at the tripoint of three distinct regions: Mewar, Gujarat, and Marwar, have made Mt. Abu a desired possession of successive rulers. The oldest inscription nearby pertains to the Chavada Rajputs in the 7th century. The Pratihara Rajputs are more associated with Mandor in Maru Desh, while Bhinmal in Gurjara Bhoomi is only associated with the Imperial Pratiharas by reason of conquest. Mt Abu itself contains no ancient memory of the Pratihara Rajputs.

The oldest settlement in Mt. Abu is the 2000 year old city of Chandravati, which became a flourishing capital of the Paramara Rajputs in the 10th century. Located at the foot of this great hill, Chandravati reportedly contained 999 temples in white marble and was a flourishing centre of trade. The city was repeatedly attacked by the foreign invaders and finally even its marble was carried off by the Sultan of Gujarat. But still much remained till the 20th century when it was used by the British in laying down a railway track.


There are several temples of great antiquity in Mt. Abu but none provide any clues; having been destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries in warfare between the Rajputs and Muslims, and before them between the proto-Rajputs and Sakas. The Rishikesh temple is believed to be 8000 years old, while the Karnikeshwar Mahadev temple is of Puranic times, the cave temple of Vasthanji on the northern slopes of Abu is dedicated to Shiva. The 2,000-year-old city of Vardhmanpur, has the oldest sun temple in the world in white marble, while a kilometer away is the Krishna Vat Vriksh temple of similar antiquity.

The fort of Hamirpur, now called Mirpur, contained a Jain idol housed in a blue marble temple. While the citadel was destroyed and the idol broken by Sultan Allaudin Khilji, the temple was restored by the Rajput rulers of Mewar and the carved pillars are still from the ancient period. In fact the majority of undamaged constructions in Mt Abu belong to the late period of the powerful Maharanas of Mewar.

Thus Mt. Abu has several ancient sites but gives no clues to when or how Gurjara became the name of the neighboring region of Bhinmal and Jalor.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Other community traditions in Gurjara

Outside of Rajput traditions, which mark the history of Gurjara, Maru, Malava, Saurashtra, etc., we should note the traditions of other communities like the Oswals and Srimala Brahmins who trace their history from Bhinmal in Gurjara Bhoomi.

Under the Chavadas and Pratiharas, Bhinmal was the city of traders and skilled crafts men, each organized into guilds. The Oswala Jains take their name from Osian, but state that they originated from Bhinmal, and settled northwards in Osian on the prompting of the Pratihara Rajput rulers who wanted a forward base to advance into Sindh against the Arabs. With the Rajput arms and Oswal wealth, Osian became a flourishing city.

The Shrimali Brahmins also originated in Bhinmal and later spread out to Marwar and Gujarat. Several other communities of craftsmen originated from Bhinmal and migrated to Kutch, Saurashtra, Marwar. It is said that the main cause was the drying up of the river in Bhinmal, which acquired the name Sukri (dried up) for this reason. Consequently the city of Bhinmal also declined from its flourishing state into a mere village.

It can be assumed that pastoral and agrarian communities too migrated out of the region due to this cause, giving rise to the community of Gujjars.

Gurjara Bhoomi in Kuvalayamala Kaha

The first descriptive mention of Gurjara Bhoomi is found in the Kuvalayamala Kaha of Uddyotana Suri, which was written in Prakrit but also contains passages in Sanskrit and Apabhramsa. It was composed at Jabalipura (modern Jalore) in 778 CE during the reign of the Pratihara Rajput ruler Vatsaraja. It is an important source of the socio-political history of Rajasthan, and hence the manuscript has been preserved at the important centers of Rajput power: the Jain Sastrabhandaras of Jaisalmer, the Anup Sanskrit Library of the Maharajas of Bikaner, the Saraswati Bhandar Library of Udaipur (established in 1448 by Maharana Kumbha), and the Maharaja Man Singh Pustak Prakash Library of Jodhpur.

It states that Vaishnav, Shaiv and Shakti religions were prevailing in Rajasthan, but that the Rajput rulers also patronized Jains and Brahmin Acharyas. Of the Vaishyas, it says they had given up agricultural activities because they found trade and commerce much more lucrative and less laborious. The Sudras had become true Vaishyas with agriculture, pasturage, and handicrafts, but could also engage in trade to supplement their income. This preference for trade has been a distinctive feature of Rajasthani and Gujarati society.

The Kuvalayamala Kaha does not mention individual clans of Brahmins, Vaishyas, and Shudras, but it does for Kshatriyas. It mentions the prominent Rajput clans as the principal Kshatriyas: Pratiharas, Chauhans, Parmars, Solankis, Guhilas & Yadus. It also states that categories like Thakur and Ikshvaku were sub-castes of Kshatriyas. The Kuvalayamala Kaha notes that the inhabitants of Gurjara Bhoomi were devotees of dharma and clever in matters of peace and war, as contrasted with their neighbors: the Saindhvas, Latas, Malavas and Maravas (people of Maru). The Pratihara ruler Vatsaraja was called Ranhastin: the rampaging elephant in the battlefield.

There is no mention of a separate pastoral tribe of Gujjars, nor indeed of other communities with this name who appear later in history. Indeed the word Gurjara is used either for the country or its inhabitants, which was the usual practice in ancient Indian literature. At one place the Kuvalayamala Kaha refers to the distinctive languages spoken by merchants of Maru, Malava, Gurjara, Lata, Madhyadesha, Takka, and Sindhu. Hence it can be seen that while the Gurjara province finds ample mention in India literary texts, communities with the Gurjara cognomen are not mentioned in the ancient period.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Chavada Rajputs of Saurashtra and Gurjara

It is interesting to note that the oldest inscriptions found in the small Gurjara region (southwest Rajasthan) covering Jalor, Bhinmal, and Mt. Abu, do not belong to the Pratihara Rajputs. An inscription of 625 CE states that Rajilla and his father Vajrabhata Satyasraya were rulers of Vasantgarh, and they paid tribute to the monarch Varmlata who reigned over Bhinmal, Chandravati and Mount Abu. Varmlata belonged to the proto-Rajput Chapotkata clan, Chapa for short, whose descendants are the Chavada Rajputs found in Gujarat.

The Jain text Nisithachurni, dated to 676 CE, states that the ruler of Bhinmal at that time was well known by the epithet Vyaghmurkh, with a mouth like a roaring tiger (sanskrit vyaghra). The Brahma Sapta Siddhanta, written in 628 CE also mentions king Vyaghramukha as reigning over Bhinmal, and states that he belonged to the Chapavamsa. Whether the Chavada Rajputs originated in Gurjara or in neighboring Kutch and Saurashtra is not clear, but some of their clan branches were linked as feudatories of the Maitrakas of Vallabhi and the Guhilputras of Mewar.

An inscription describes Dharanivaraha, a Chapa ruler in eastern Saurashtra in 914 CE, as fourth in descent from Vikramarka suggesting that they had been ruling for more than a century in that region. The Chapa/Chavada probably lost Bhinmal to the Pratiharas but went on to establish Anahilpataka as a new capital. The Chavada Rajputs were convulsed by the Arab invasions, and consequently gave way to new clans like the Pratiharas, Paramaras, and Solankis.

Absence of Chavada surname among pastoral Gujjars


As is commonly known, when a Rajput kingdom was seized by the Islamic invaders, the ruling clan was hunted to extinction. But those who could not fight, particularly in distant villages, would take up other professions to save themselves. This is how Rajput surnames came to be found among numerous agrarian and pastoral communities in northern India.

In the case of the Chavada Rajputs, their surname is found only among the agrarian Koli community of Gujarat, and the Mistri craftsmen of Kutch.

Even though the Chavada Rajputs originated and ruled over Gurjara, the absence of the Chavada surname among the pastoral Gujjars, suggests that this latter-day community did not exist in that region at that time. It also confirms that Gurjara was originally the name of a region, and only much later became a cognomen for numerous communities.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Pratihara Rajputs of Maru and Gurjara Bhoomi

Both the Imperial Pratiharas and the Mandor Pratiharas claimed the status of Suryavanshi Kshatriyas of the Ikshvaku clan of Sri Rama through his brother Lakshmana. The two differ marginally on how the term Pratihara originates with Lakshmana: inscriptions of the Imperial line claims that Lakshmana repelled the enemies under Meghanada, during the battle with Ravana, hence performing the duties of a pratihara (protector) while the Jodhpur inscription says that he performed this duty while guarding Sita.

The term pratihar/pratihari originally was used for a palace guard or common soldier (its modern form in Hindi is prahri), but in the early medieval times the Mahapratihara had become the title of an important general. It is entirely conceivable that the Pratihara Rajputs had an ancestor who was such a general in some kingdom who later established his own rule, and his descendants carried on the clan name as Pratihara. Later they associated this title with the epic hero Lakshmana. In late medieval times the agnikula legend (warriors being created from a fire-pit by Brahmins at Mt Abu) was associated with four Rajput clans, including the Pratiharas, more as glorification than actual historicity. There are some other intriguing references in the old inscriptions:

Brahmin ancestry - The inscription of the Mandor Pratiharas states that their ancestor Harichandra was a Brahman who took up arms in the place of studying scriptures. Harichandra had two wives, a Brahmin woman (who is not given any title) from whom the Pratihara Bramins emerged, and a Kshatriya woman (who is given the title of queen) whose sons became Pratihara Rajputs. The inscription says, "those who were born of Queen Bhadra became drinkers of wine", which is a trait identified with the Rajputs. Each of her four sons are named individually, but the sons of the Brahmin wife are not even mentioned.

And further no clan of Parihar Brahmins is mentioned in later history while Parihar Rajputs are still to be found. From the inscriptions of other Rajput clans it becomes clear that Brahmin status is additionally accorded to some of their rulers either because they gained proficiency in studying scriptures, or because as rulers they performed some religious functions. The Jodhpur inscription also says that the four sons of Harichandra built a large rampart round the fort of Mandavyapura (Mandor) which was gained by their own prowess. Forts cannot be built, or towns captured, without an existing army.

Gurjara province - The Rajasthani hill-station of Mt Abu was the geographical and spiritual center of a territory known in ancient times as Gurjara. This territory covered northern Gujarat and southwest Rajasthan, and it shared a cultural affinity with the neighboring region of Maru, covering western Rajasthan. In more modern times, Gurjara evolved into Gujarat, while Maru became Marwar. The domain of the Mandor Pratiharas covered both these regions and the temples built at Osian are categorized under the Maru-Gurjara style of architecture. The agnikula legend of later times also points to Mt Abu as the original home of the Pratiharas. This is why the Pratihara rulers are sometimes described as Gurjara, Gurjararaja, Gurjaranatha, in the records of their contemporaries.

Another related principality of this era was Nandipuri in southern Gujarat, which was founded by Dadda, who is identified with the youngest son of Harichandra Pratihara. This family claims to have been born in the lineage of the kings of Gurjara (Gurjara nripa vamsa) but the clan name of Pratihara is missing from all their records. It is plausible that Gurjara was the original name of a clan based in Mt Abu, after whom the territory got its name, and which sent different branches south into Gujarat and north into Mandor. However no record of such a clan has been unearthed. And if the Pratiharas of Mandor were descended from such a clan, it is inexplicable that the name Gurjara as used in the sense of a clan, is completely missing from their records or those of the Imperial Pratiharas. In any case, there are many more references to Gurjara as a province, than as a clan.


Parihar Rajput settlements around the old bases of the Pratiharas


The line of Imperial Pratiharas at Kannauj, which rose to power in the wake of the Arab invasion, was finally extinguished 300 years later during the Turk invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni. But the wider clan of Pratihara Rajputs, and their other bases like Mandor and Gwalior, continued to survive till a much later period. Over the centuries the clan name Pratihara evolved into Parihar and variants like Purihar and Padhiar. In Rajasthan the Parihar Rajputs have numerous sub-clans like Indha, Ramawat, Juda, Lulapota, Nadhat, and Sindhal, which is not surprising considering their long rule in Mandor. The above map shows how the population of Parihar Rajputs is located close to the major Pratihara strongholds.

Parihar Rajputs of Mandor - Pratihara rulers of Mandor had restored Pushkar Tirtha in the 7th century, repairing the ghats and restoring the sarovar by making an embankment on the side by which water flowed. They built twelve Dharamashalas and Ghats on the three sides of the Pushkar lake. To this day they are known as Pariharam Ki Sala.

After a revival in the 10th century, the old line of Mandor Pratiharas saw a decline in their power, and became feudatory to the newer powers like the Paramars from Malwa, and later to the Chauhans of Nadol and Ajmer. The Mandor Pratihars were part of the Rajput confederacy under the Chauhans of Ajmer which was ended by the death of Prithviraja on the fatal field of Tarain in 1192. But it took another 100 years of constant warfare before the Delhi sultanate could project its power on Rajputana; in 1292 Mandor was conquered by Jalaluddin Khalji. The Parihar ruler and his family eluded captivity and found refuge in the neighboring Bhati Rajput kingdom of Jaisalmer. As per the 1879 Rajputana gazetteer, Purihar Rajputs were still to be found in that desert region.

Mandor itself was under Muslim rule for the next 100 years; but it seems that only the city was occupied by the Turk governors and their soldiers while the remaining land was held by the Parihar Rajputs. The full story of this period is not before us; but we can assume that time and again the Parihars tried to overthrow the interlopers and were unsuccessful. At other times they paid land revenue and provided military service to the Turks.

What saved the Parihars from annihilation was the underlying strength of the Rajput clan system, described earlier, in that newer clans were always emerging to take on the mantle of resistance against the invaders. Guerrilla warfare by these Rajput clans led to the liberation of Rajputana in the late 14th century, while some nearby parts of India remained under the Turks. In the case of Mandor, the Rathor Rajputs had emerged from the district of Kher to become the dominant power in the Marwar region, and in 1382 they conquered Mandor from the Muslims. Mandor became the capital of the Rathor rulers until Jodhpur was established in the 15th century; the cenotaphs of their rulers are still to be found here. The Parihars were assimilated under the Rathors as feudatories and numbers of them are to be found in Jodhpur. Some of them joined in the Rathor expansion further north; Rao Bika the founder of Bikaner had a prominent general named Bela Parihar and not surprisingly Parihar Rajputs are to be found in that part of Rajasthan as well. Poorer members of this clan seemed to have joined the ranks of the other communities, such are the Parihar Meenas and Parihar Kolis.

The Parihar Rajputs in Marwar still had the numbers and resources to impact the polity centuries later. In the 17th century Mughal emperor Aurangzeb invaded the Rathor kingdom of Marwar and Jadunath Sarkar writes: "A strong force was sent into Marwar under Sarbuland Khan, and a fortnight later the emperor himself started for Ajmer to direct the conquest of the state. Anarchy and slaughter were let loose on the doomed province. The nationalist party was threatened by a host of enemies. The Parihars — the dispossessed ancient lords of the land and the hereditary enemies of the Rathor interlopers — tried to revive their historic kingdom of Gurjara-Pratihara by seizing Mandor, the ancient capital, 5 miles north of Jodhpur."

Umeta - Pockets of Parihar settlements still abound in the region spanning MP, Gujarat, and southeast Rajasthan, descended no doubt from the Imperial Pratiharas of Ujjain. The 12th century Prithviraja Vijaya names Jaggadeva Pratihara as a general in the Solanki Rajput kingdom of Gujarat. In this region the clan name Pratihar evolved into Padhiyar. In the 15th century the state of Umeta, situated due west of the city of Baroda on the banks of the Mahi River, was established by a Padhiar Rajput named Jhanjarji. His descendants ruled with the title Thakor till their state was merged into modern Gujarat in the 20th century. The kuldevi of Padhiyar Rajputs is Chamunda.

Gwalior - the strategic fort of Gwalior contains some of the oldest records the Parihar Rajputs. But like Ujjain, it too fell to newer powers like the Chandellas and the Kacchapaghatas. In 1196 CE the latter clan were uprooted by the Turks of the Delhi sultanate. But once again the staying power of the Rajput clan confederacy was displayed when fifteen years later the Parihar Rajput chief Vigraha defeated the Muslims. His descendants held Gwalior for half a century and were only expelled by Sultan Balban in 1258.

The Parihar Rajputs from Gwalior established important states in the adjoining regions that lasted till the modern era. One was Alipura in Bundelkhand and the other was Nagod, in Baghelkhand. Since Nagod has been a Parihar Rajput stronghold concurrently with Gwalior, it is depicted on the map along with the other Pratihara strongholds.

Nagod state is described in some detail by the Archaeological Survey of India (1874) covering Alexander Cunningham's tour of Central India: "Uchahara is a small town and railway station on the high road between Allahabad and Jabalpur, and six miles to the south-west of Bharhut. The town gives its name to the chiefship of a Parihar Raja, who is, however, better known now as the Raja of Nagod......From the late Minister of the Uchahara State, I learned that the Parihar chiefship was older than that of the Chandels of Mahoba, as well as that of the Baghels of Rewa......The great lake at Bilhari, called Lakshman Sagar, is said to have been made by Lakshman Sen Parihar; and the great fort of Singorgarh, still farther to the south, contains a pillar bearing the name of a Parihar Raja. The family has no ancient records, and vaguely claims to have come from Abu-Sikhar in the west (Mount Abu), more than thirty generations ago....

The great ruined fortress of Singorgarh commands the Jabera pass leading through the hills between Jabalpur and Damoh and Saugor. It is true that the old fort is not of great size; but its name would appear to have been derived from a certain Gaj Singh Pratihar, according to an inscription of 8 lines which is recorded on a square stone pillar....in which the hill is called Gaja-Singhadurggye. The monolith is called kirtti-stambha, or the 'pillar of fame.' It was set up in the Samvat year 1364, or AD 1307. The whole of this part of the country would appear to have belonged to the Parihars or Pratihars as we find was actually the case in A. D. 1307, when these monoliths were erected."

Kannauj - A large colony of Parihar Rajputs is to be found in the Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh, with the Raja of Malhajini at their head. The Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh similarly has Parihar settlers, no doubt originating from their ancestral base of Kannauj. Another colony of Parihar Rajputs is in the Hamirpur district; they call themselves descendants of the celebrated Parihar Raja, Jajhar Singh of Hamirpur, who settled there from Marwar.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Historians views on Gurjara

The approach of the British civil servants, amateur historians at best, who concocted the Gurjara invasion theory are well known. The views of Indian historians and other qualified historians are less well known.

Indian Historians on the term Gurjara


The early Indian Historians could not escape the established belief of the British rulers that the inhabitants of Western India were "more warlike and less Brahmanical" than the people of the interiors. DR Bhandarkar transcribed the inscriptions in the Gurjara territory along with AMT Jackson, and naturally followed the prevailing viewpoint. He went a step further and opined that apart from the Pratiharas, other Rajput clans like the Chauhans and Solankis were also of foreign origin but cited no evidence for this speculation. The nationalist historian RC Majumdar accepted the hypothesis of Gurjara being the name of an invading tribe, and of the Pratihara Rajputs emerging from it, but asserted that the other Rajput clans had an indigenous origin.

But in the defence of these Indian historians it must be said that the linguistic data on the pastoral Gujjars was then only being compiled, and the study on language development from Sanskrit to Prakrit to Apabharamsa was still in its infancy. The evidence of language contradicts the foreign tribal origin of the term Gurjara, but there were Indian historians even in that period who opposed this hypothesis on other rational grounds.

As far back as 1925, the historian CV Vaidya lashed out at the: "unaccountable tendency in antiquarians of India to assign foreign and Scythic origin to each and every forward people found in Indian history. Thus the Jats and even the Rajputs are assigned a foreign and a Scythic origin. If the Jats, the Gujars, and the Rajputs with their clearly Aryan features are foreigners and Scythians where are the Indo-Aryans, those people who spoke the Aryan Sanskrit or Vedic language....have they disappeared?"

Similarly Dashratha Sharma the Rajasthan historian asserted that Gurjara was the name of a province. In his well-researched book, Rajasthan through the Ages, Dasharatha Sharma said: "Gurjara was for centuries the name of the territory which included Bhinamala and Jalor; and as this was the original home of the Pratiharas, they continued, like the Karnatas of Mithila, to be known by the name of their home-land." Dashratha Sharma coined the term Proto-Rajput for the period starting from 400 CE in the Gujarat-Rajasthan region.

Another stalwart historian from Gujarat, KM Munshi, emphatically rejected the colonial myths on the term Gurjara: "there is no evidence to prove that the Gurjara Gaur Brahmanas, the Srimala Brahmanas, the Poravada and Osavala Kshatriyas, and the corresponding Vaisyas were of foreign extraction." Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi, 1887-1971, was a statesman, freedom fighter, and Gujarati author. A Gujarati Bhargava Brahmin, KM Munshi became secretary of Gurjar Sabha (Gujarati Literary Society), using the old name of Gujarat. Dr KM Munshi discovered linguistic affinities between the folksongs of Gujar milkmen found by him at Baisuran in Kashmir in 1945, and old Gujarati songs.

Another stand of Indian Historians is that the pastoral Gujjars are not mentioned in ancient literature, and only make their appearance during the Islamic invasions.

The theory of Gurjara being the name of a foreign tribe was contradicted on the lack of references in the historical texts, the many references to Gurjara being a province, the linguistic affinity of Gujari to Rajasthani, and the existence of various communities taking their cognomen Gurjara from the province.


From The Sculpture of Early Medieval Rajasthan by Cynthia Packert Atherton. The two branches of the Pratihara Rajput clan are designated from their place of origin, Mandor in Maru Bhoomi and Jalor in Gurjara Bhoomi.

Dichotomies in linking Gurjara Bhoomi with latter-day Gujjars

In the era of colonial British rule over India, a direct link was sought to be created between the province of "Gurjara", references to which are found in ancient inscriptions and texts, and the latter-day pastoral tribe of Gujjars. The colonial historians were not interested in the subject from the point of view of the Gujjars themselves, but from the entire populace of western and northwestern India, which to them appeared to be radically different from the Indians living in the east and south. The Encyclopedia of Indo-Aryan Research gravely observed in 1912: "There are, moreover, special features of the structure and customs of Rajput and Jat and other northern communities in India which distinguish them from the Brahmanic masses of the interior, and may be attributed to difference of race, perpetuated by many generations of resistance to attacks from the outside."

The more enduring resistance of the Rajput clans in Rajasthan to the Islamic invaders was also attributed to their mythical Scythian ancestry, and as a convenient reason to explain why Rajputs were more "Brahmanical" than the other foreign descent communities. The Encyclopedia of Indo-Aryan Research states: "The contests with the Muslim invader of a few centuries later had the effect of consolidating the Rajput devotion to the scrupulous observance of Brahmanic injunctions as to marriage and intercourse with other castes which specially distinguished them from their foreign oppressors; and to the present day, they stand out from the rest of the community in the high value they attach to these matters."

Dichotomies in linking Gurjara with Gujjar


  • The ancient inscriptions and texts for Gurjara all refer to a territory covering southwest Rajasthan and northern Gujarat. But the pastoral Gujjars live outside this territory: the main population in Punjab and the adjoining sub-Himalayan belt, followed by western Uttar Pradesh, and then the eastern districts of Rajasthan taking the third spot in total numbers.
  • The second dichotomy is that while these inscriptions refer to an orthodox Hindu kingdom, the main population of the Gujjars are either pastoral or agricultural.
  • The third dichotomy: even though the Gujjars reside primarily outside Gujarat and southwestern Rajasthan, they speak a language which is a cognate of Rajasthani and Gujarati.

The other dichotomies concern the Gurjara Brahmins and Gurjara communities who have no link with the latter-day Gujjars, and prove beyond a doubt that Gurjara was the name of a province, form which several communities emerged.

Oral traditions of the pastoral Gujjars point to their origin from Gurjara Bhoomi


In most places the oral traditions of the Gujjar populace point to a pastoral origin from Rajasthan/Gujarat. A minuscule population of Gujjars settled in Jhalwan, Balochistan, trace their ancestry to Delhi and speak the Sindhi language. In the same province, the Gujjars of the Makran region point to Mewar in Rajasthan as their original home. In NWFP the Gujjars speak Hindko and claim to be descendants of Hindu Rajputs. In the Punjab the Gujjars speak a mixture of Gojari and Punjabi and claim a Rajput ancestry....usually by the marriage of a Rajput chief of a particular clan with a Gujjar lady. They too trace their migration into Punjab from the south: Rajasthan or Gujarat. In the Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri the 16th century Mughal ruler Jehangir describes how the district of Gujrat got its name: "I crossed the river by a bridge which had been built there, and my camp was pitched in the neighbourhood of the pargana of Gujrat. At the time when His Majesty Akbar went to Kashmir, a fort had been built on that bank of the river. Having brought to this fort a body of Gujars who had passed their time in the neighbourhood in thieving and highway robbery, he established them here. As it had become the abode of Gujars, he made it a separate pargana, and gave it the name of Gujrat. They call Gujars a caste which does little manual work and subsists on milk and curds."

There is a substantial Gujjar population in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The 12th century Rajatarangini which deals with the history of Kashmir and the neighborhood mentions a number of tribes, like Dards, Khasas, Bhuttas, etc who are still found there, but no mention is made of a Gujjar tribe. This can only mean that they migrated to the western Himalayas in a very late period. The Gujjars in J&K speak the Gojari language and state that their ancestors came from Gujarat...not surprisingly they are mostly vegetarians. From J&K the Gujjars have spread into Himachal Pradesh; first into Chamba and later into Sirmaur, where they are still called Jammuwala Gujjars. In all the places discussed above the Gujjars are Muslims and trace their conversion either to the invasion of Timur in the 14th century or to the reign of Aurangzeb in the 17th century. There is one intriguing point with regard to the Gujjar population in Punjab and the western Himalayas which cements the linguistic evidence of their Rajasthani rather than foreign origins:
  • It is significant that the Gujjars living in Punjab trace their connection more with the Rajputs of Rajasthan and not with the local Punjabi tribes. There are for instance no Janjua Gujjars, or Khokkar Gujjars, or Awan Gujjars.
  • Similarly Gujjars living in the western Himalayas do not share any connection with the locally prominent Rajput clans. There are no Jamwal Gujjars or Katoch Gujjars.
In western Uttar Pradesh the majority of Gujjars are Hindus. In this region too they trace a pastoral descent and a connection to Rajputs. They had a more warlike reputation than their brethren in the northwest; Gujjar strongholds were noted in the 18th century and Gujjars took part in the region's uprising against the British in the 19th century. Further south in Central India the minuscule population of Gujjars are primarily pastoral and unwarlike. Here some of the Gujjars claim to have migrated from Gujarat, others claim to have been created by Sri Krishna, and some others by Bhagwan Brahma. They share some clan names with Rajputs while others are called after villages, titles or natural objects.

It is in Rajasthan that the oral traditions of the Gujjars approach anything close to recorded history, even though their population here is less in numbers and restricted to the eastern districts. Here the Gujjars are closely associated with Rajputs and provide nurses for their families. Even in the case of the Jat rulers of Bharatpur the 1908 Imperial Gazetteer reports: "There are two main endogamous divisions of Gujars, namely Laur and Khari; and in Bharatpur the former has the privilege of furnishing nurses for the ruling family."

The Charbhujaji Temple in Chittorgarh was constructed in the 15th century by Maharana Mokal, the Sisodia Rajput ruler of Mewar, and it has been managed by the Gujjars living in the neighborhood. Gujjars are further associated with Mewar through the folk deity Devnarayan also known as Deoji.

The legend of Devnarayan: This Deoji was born in the now unknown Bagrawat clan, as an incarnation of Bhagwan Vishnu, and is worshiped by Gujjars, by Kumhars (potters) and Balais (weavers). In Rajasthan his shrines are at Puvali and Bunjari while in neighboring MP there is a Dev-Narayana temple (built in the 17th century) at Dev-Pipaliya. There is also a temple of his father Sawai Bhoj at Asind in the Bhilwara district.

There are different stories about this Bagrawat clan; while all of them agree on the Bagrawats having a Rajput origin on the father's side, the mother's community is reported variously. According to a 20th century translation of the Dev Narayan phad rendered by Gujjar Bhopas, the clan originates from a Rajput warrior who slew a tiger (bagh) and married a Brahman woman. The Gujjars are depicted as following the pastoral profession and having been born from a holy cow; in this version they become associated with the Bagrawats through the marriage of Gujjar women with Bagrawat men.

An older version of this legend is given in the 1913 MSS of bardic chronicles: "The word Bagravat means bigra hua, that is, those who have become perverse. They are said to have been descended from the Chauhan Rajputs of Ajmer by their connection with Bania women. The Bagravats were 24 brothers and a sister.....They suddenly became very wealthy and spent all their money in wine, women and sensual enjoyments. Bhoj was the most celebrated of the 24 brothers. When a man lavishly spends his money in enjoyments he is compared to Bhoj Bagravat. Bhoj had a son named Deo, commonly called Deoji, who started a new sect called the Bhopas. The Bagravats had a settlement at the village of Harsa near Bilada where their temple and their embankments are still in existence. There is an inscription in the temple dated about 1230 VS."

 The version told to Colonel Tod in the 19th century puts the origin of the clan to a Chauhan Rajput father and Gujar mother. The subsequent tale of the Bagrawats also has different renderings, but to summarize: they are allied with the Chauhan Rajputs of Ajmer, and in conflict with the Parihar Rajputs of Ratankot (or Ran or Ran-Binai in other versions). This would date the legend to the 12th century; but Dev Narayan is also associated with the Sesodia Rajputs of Mewar and the founding of Udaipur, which took place more than 400 years later, and is evidently a later addition. The tale of Deoji has similarities to the tales of other folk deities of Rajasthan like Pabuji Rathod, who is worshiped by Rabaris or camel herders, and Ramdevji who is worshiped by the leather-working Meghwals. All these tales depict how Rajputs of poor means or mixed origins become associated with the lower castes.

Last rites of the colonial myths

As seen above, the highly speculative colonial hypotheses on the Gurjara province, the Gurjara Brahmins, and the pastoral Gujjars, are a mass of contradictions and are countered by textual references and linguistic evidence. The last remaining piece of the puzzle is the population distribution of the pastoral Gujjar tribe: what alternative hypothesis can explain why they are primarily found outside the ancient territory of Gurjara?

The oral traditions of the Gujjars leave no doubt as to their pastoral origins from Rajasthan. It can be speculated that a severe drought drove them to seek shelter in the relatively fertile eastern Aravalli Hills of Mewar. Here they were called Gujjars because they had migrated from that province, and it is here that their earliest historical memories are found. A pastoral people would primarily be in search of fresh grazing ground for their flocks; the densely forested and riverine tracts of the Gangetic plains do not afford such grazing. But the drier plains of Punjab do and it is here that the Gujjars have migrated in greatest number, absorbing along the way several other communities in their midst, but still preserving at the core a cognate of the Rajasthani language. The turmoil of the medieval Turk invasions would have compelled many to seek shelter in the western Himalayas where they still speak the purest form of this language.

Gurjara Brahmins

Gurjara Brahmin is a geographical grouping of Brahmin communities found in Gujarat and Rajasthan. As a word of explanation, Brahmin communities in India are grouped geographically, into five North Indian provinces (hence called the Pancha Goud) and into five South Indian provinces (the Pancha Dravida). Intriguingly, while the Gurjara province was located in Western India, it is included in the Pancha Dravida primarily because the Brahmin communities in this grouping are strict about not eating meat, just like the Brahmins of Rajasthan and Gujarat today.



The Gurjara Brahmin grouping also has Brahmin clans from the North Indian group. A case in point being the Goud Gurjara, who are Goud Brahmins that settled down in Gurjara. The example of the Gurjara Brahmins again proves that Gurjara was the name of a province in ancient times, and certainly not the name of an "invading horde" of multiple communities! The map above shows the location of the twin provinces of Maru (Marwar) and Gurjar (Gujarat) as well as the main population centers of the pastoral Gujjars (in green) and those of the Gurjara Brahmins (in pink). Compare these to the map showing the Parihar Rajput settlements around the old bases of the Pratiharas.

The colonial historians tied themselves up in knots in these frantic efforts to connect the Gurjara province with a foreign pastoral tribe, then the latter with the warlike Rajputs, and linked further to minute communities of traders and craftsmen. The crowning foolishness on top of these colonial myths was the unexplained geographical separation of this hodge-podge of communities. They claimed that just as a warlike segment of the invading horde became Pratihara Rajputs, that horde also had a priestly class, which became known as Gurjara Brahmans who are today found in Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra.

The obvious riposte to this assumption is the same as for the other Gujarat-based communities: If the Gurjara Brahmins are indeed "high priests" of the mythical gurjar race, why aren't they found co-inhabiting the main settlements of that tribe in Punjab??

Gurjara communities

Many communities have emerged from Gurjara Bhoomi and have taken the cognomen Gurjara. Communities like the Gurjar Kshatriyas, Gurjar Vanias, Gurjar Jains, and Gurjar Oswals, all live in the state of Gujarat and speak the Gujarati language. The other distinctive feature for these communities is the smallness of their numbers in the population of Gujarat. The Gurjar Oswals trace their origin to the Rajasthani town of Osian, which we know was an important religious center under the Imperial Pratiharas as well as the Mandor Pratiharas, and which contains the earliest specimens of the Maru-Gurjara style of architecture.

The Gurjar Jains and Gurjar Vanias are largely found in Kutch and claim a Rajasthani Rajput ancestry. The Gurjar Kshatriyas are mostly craftsmen and artisans who again trace their ancestry to Rajasthan, and claim to have originally been Rajputs. They too are located primarily in Kutch and Saurashtra. The ancient province of Gurjara was confined to southwest Rajasthan; it did not include the virtual island of Kutch or the peninsula of Saurashtra. That is why communities migrating from southwest Rajasthan into these latter regions would keep the cognomen of "gurjara".

Even more interesting, these communities have nothing else in common among them, neither customs nor social mores which again proves that they did not have a common tribal origin but came from the same land called Gurjara.

As opposed to these minuscule communities, we have the large population of pastoral Gujjars, mostly found outside of the old Gurjara province. During British rule, the colonial historians manufactured a hypothesis to explain this dichotomy among the communities bearing the cognomen Gurjara. Namely that all these were probably part of an invading "horde" following different professions like trade, craftsmanship, finance, etc!

They couldn't be bothered about providing any explanation to the obvious follow up to this fantastic new assumption: if these different communities were all part of the invading horde, why don't we find them anywhere in places where the alleged horde allegedly settled in greatest numbers: namely Punjab and the northwest, J&K, western Uttar Pradesh, and east Rajasthan? Why are they all found only in Gujarat? The location and numbers of these communities all prove beyond any doubt that they take their name from Gurjara, which was the name of a province in ancient times.

Gurjara province

The Rajasthani hill-station of Mt Abu was the geographical and spiritual center of a territory known in ancient times as Gurjara. This territory covered northern Gujarat and southwest Rajasthan, and it shared a cultural affinity with the neighboring region of Maru, covering western Rajasthan. In more modern times, Gurjara evolved into Gujarat, while Maru became Marwar. The domain of the Pratihara Rajput rulers of Mandor covered both these regions and the temples built at Osian are categorized under the Maru-Gurjara style of architecture. The agnikula legend of later times also points to Mt Abu as the original home of the Pratiharas. This is why the Pratihara rulers are sometimes described as Gurjara, Gurjararaja, Gurjaranatha, in the records of their contemporaries.

Another related principality of this era was Nandipuri in southern Gujarat, which was founded by Dadda, who is identified with the youngest son of Harichandra Pratihara. This family claims to have been born in the lineage of the kings of Gurjara (Gurjara nripa vamsa) but the clan name of Pratihara is missing from all their records. It is plausible that Gurjara was the original name of a clan based in Mt Abu, after whom the territory got its name, and which sent different branches south into Gujarat and north into Mandor. However no record of such a clan has been unearthed. And if the Pratiharas of Mandor were descended from such a clan, it is inexplicable that the name Gurjara as used in the sense of a clan, is completely missing from their records or those of the Imperial Pratiharas who rose up from Ujjain.

There are many more references to Gurjara as a province, than as a clan. The Kuvalayamala Kaha, was composed in Prakrit by Uddotana in 779 CE, at Jalor in Rajasthan at the same time as the Pratihara empire was being formed. It makes reference to the adjoining territories of Maru, Malava, Gurjar, Lata, Madhyadesa, Takka, and Sindhu. The 7th century Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang has spoken of a kingdom in Rajasthan as follows: "The king is of the Kshatriya caste. He is just twenty years old, He is distinguished for wisdom and he is courageous. He is a deep believer in the law of Buddha and highly honours men of distinguished ability." Hiuen Tsang named this kingdom ku-che-lo, which can be identified as Gurjara, with its capital at pi-lo-mo, usually identified with Bhinamalla near Mt Abu. In Bana's Harsha Charita it is said that in the 6th century Prabhakarvardhana of Thaneswar (in modern Haryana) fought the Hunas (lingering on in the Punjab and Kashmir), the king of Sindhu (modern Sindh), the king of Gurjara (Gujarat+SW Rajasthan), the lord of Gandhara (northwest), the ruler of Lata (southern Gujarat), and that of Malava (western Madhya Pradesh).

Even in more modern times the word Gujar was being used in territorial sense, rather than tribal, in certain parts of India. For instance the 1879 Rajputana gazetteer reports that in Marwar the word Gujar is used to designate Gujarat. Meanwhile the 1883 Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency reports that in Maharashtra vani (traders) were named after the provinces of their origin; hence the word Gujar meant a Gujarat Vani while Marwari was used for a Marwar Vani. Apart from these references there are numerous communities still bearing the cognomen of Gurjar, pointing to its geographical origin, the most prominent of whom are the Gurjara Brahmins.

The core of the territory known as Gurjara became Godwad from the 10th century onwards.