Sunday, May 17, 2015

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.