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.