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.