Gurjar
Regions with significant populations
South Asia
Languages
GojriGujaratiHindiKashmiriPunjabiUrduPashtoHaryanviSindhiBalochiPahariBhojpuriMarathi
Religion
Hinduism Islam Sikhism
Related ethnic groups
JatsRajputsAhirs and other Indo-Aryan People

Gurjar (or Gujjar, Gujar, Gujjer) is an Indo-Aryan[1][2] agricultural[3] ethnic community, residing mainly in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan,[4] divided internally into various clan groups.[4] They were traditionally involved in agriculture, pastoral and nomadic[5][6][7] activities and formed a large heterogeneous group.[8][9] The historical role of Gurjars has been quite diverse in society: at one end they have been founders of several kingdoms and dynasties and, at the other end, some are still nomads with no land of their own.[8]

The pivotal point in the history of Gurjar identity is often traced back to the emergence of a Gurjara kingdom in present-day Rajasthan during the Middle Ages (around 570 CE).[10] It is believed that the Gurjars migrated to different parts of the Indian Subcontinent from the Gurjaratra.[11]

The Gurjaras started fading from the forefront of history after the 10th century CE. Thereafter, history records several Gurjar chieftains and upstart warriors, who were rather petty rulers in contrast to their predecessors. "Gujar" and "Gujjar" were quite common during the Mughal era, and documents dating from the period mention Gujars as a "turbulent" people.

The Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan were known as Gurjaradesa and Gurjaratra for centuries prior to the arrival of the British. The Gujrat and Gujranwala districts of Pakistani Punjab have also been associated with Gurjars from as early as the 8th century CE, when there existed a Gurjara kingdom in the same area.[12][13] The Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh was also known as Gurjargadh previously, due to the presence of many Gurjar zamindars in the area.[14]

Gurjars are linguistically and religiously diverse. Although they are able to speak the language of the region and country where they live, Gurjars have their own language, known as Gujari. They variously follow Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism.[15][16]

The Hindu Gurjars are mostly found in Indian states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab Plains and Maharashtra. Muslim Gurjars are mostly found in Punjab, Pakistan, mainly concentrated in Northern Punjabi cities of Gujranwala, Gujrat, Gujar Khan, Jehlum and Lahore, Afghanistan and Indian Himalayan regions such as Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Garhwal and Kumaon divisions of Uttarakhand.

Etymology

The word Gujjar represents a caste, a tribe and a group in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, locally referred to as jati, zaat, qaum or biradari[17][18]

It has been suggested by several historians that Gurjara was initially the name of a tribe or clan which later evolved into a geographical and ethnic identity following the establishment of a janapada (tribal kingdom) called 'Gurjara'.[19] This understanding has introduced an element of ambiguity regarding ancient royal designations containing the word 'gurjara' such as gurjaraeshvara or gurjararaja, as now it is debatable whether the kings bearing these epithets were tribal or ethnic Gurjaras.[20][21]

History

Origin

Historians and anthropologists differ on the issue of Gurjar origin. According to one view, circa 1 CE, the ancient ancestors of the Gurjars came in multiple waves of migration and were initially accorded status as high-caste warriors in the Hindu fold in the North-Western regions (modern Rajasthan and Gujarat).[22] Aydogdy Kurbanov states that some Gurjars, along with people from northwestern India, merged with the Hephthalites to become the Rajput clan.[23]

Previously, it was believed that the Gurjars had migrated earlier on from Central Asia as well, however, this view is generally considered to be speculative.[24]

According to B. D. Chattopadhyaya, historical references speak of Gurjara warriors and commoners in North India in the 7th century CE, and mention several Gurjara kingdoms and dynasties.[25] However, according to Tanuja Kothiyal, the historical image of Gurjars is that of "ignorant" herders, though historical claims of Gurjar past also associate them with Gurjara-Pratiharas. She cites a myth that any Rajput claim Gurjars may have comes through a Rajput marrying a Brahmin woman, and not through an older Kshatriya clan.[26] She says that the historical process suggests the opposite: that Rajputs emerged from other communities, such as Gurjars, Jats, Raikas etc.[27]

The oldest known reference to the word Gurjara is found in the book called Harshacharita (Harsha's Deeds), a biography of king Harshavardhana written around 630 CE.[28] Banabhatta, the author of Harshacharita, mentions that Harsha's father Prabhakravardhana (560-580 CE) was "a constant threat to the sleep of Gurjara"apparently a reference to the Gurjara king or kingdom. Inscriptions from a collateral branch of Gurjaras, known as Gurjaras of Lata, claim that their family was ruling Bharakucha (Bharuch) as early as 450 CE from their capital at Nandipuri. Based on these early dates, it has been proposed by some authors that the Gurjara identity might have been present in India as early as the 3rd century CE, but it became prominent only after the fall of the Guptas.[citation needed]

According to scholars such as Baij Nath Puri, the Mount Abu (ancient Arbuda Mountain) region of present-day Rajasthan had been an abode of the Gurjars during the medieval period.[29] These Gurjars migrated from the Abu mountain region and as early as in the 6th century CE, they set up one or more principalities in Rajasthan and Gujarat. The whole or a larger part of Rajasthan and Gujarat had been long known as Gurjaratra (country ruled or protected by the Gurjars) or Gurjarabhumi (land of the Gurjars) for centuries prior to the Mughal period.[30]

In Sanskrit texts, the ethnonym has sometimes been interpreted as "destroyer of the enemy": gur meaning "enemy" and ujjar meaning "destroyer").[31][32]

Irawati Karve, an indologist and historian, believed that the Gurjars' position in society and the caste system generally varied from one linguistic area of India to another. In Maharashtra, Karve thought that they were probably absorbed by the Rajputs and Marathas but retained some of their distinct identity. She based her theories on analysis of clan names and tradition, noting that while most Rajputs claim their origins to lie in the mythological Chandravansh or Suryavansh dynasties, at least two of the communities in the region claimed instead to be descended from the Agnivansh.[citation needed]

Medieval period

Babur, in the context of revolt, wrote that Jats and Gujjars poured down from hills in vast numbers in order to carry off oxen and buffaloes and that they were guilty of the severest oppression in the country.[33] Many Gurjars were converted to Islam at various times, dating back to Mahmud of Ghazni's raid in Gujarat in 1026. Gurjars of Awadh and Meerut date their conversion to Tamerlane, when he sacked Delhi and forcibly converted them. By 1525, when Babur invaded India, he saw that the Gurjars of northern Punjab were already Muslims. Until the 1700s, conversions continued under Aurangzeb, who converted the Gurjars of Himachal Pradesh by force. Pathans and Balochis drove Gurjar converts out of their land, forcing them into vagrancy.[34]

British rule

Gurjar sardars of Rajasthan during British era
Two Gurjar men on a pavement and a woman in a doorway in Delhi, Shepherd & Robertson (possibly), ca.1859–69

In the 18th century, several Gurjar chieftains and small kings were in power. A fort in Parikshitgarh in Meerut district, also known as Qila Parikishatgarh, is ascribed to a Gurjar king Nain Singh Nagar.[35][better source needed] Morena, Samthar, Dholpur, Saharanpur and Roorkee were also some of the places ruled by Gurjar kings.[36][37]

In Delhi, the Metcalfe House was sacked by Gurjar villagers from whom the land had been taken to erect the building.[38] In September 1857, the British were able to enlist the support of many Gurjars at Meerut.[39]

Culture

Afghanistan

Gurjar children in Afghanistan, 1984

The Gurjar people are a tribal group who have lived in Afghanistan for centuries. According to the Afghanistan news agency Pajwok Afghan News, there are currently an estimated 1.5 million Gurjar people residing in the country. The Gurjar people are predominantly found in the northeastern regions of Afghanistan, including Kapisa, Baghlan, Balkh, Kunduz, Takhar, Badakhshan, Nuristan, Laghman, Nangarhar, and Khost. They have a distinct culture and way of life.[40]

The old Afghanistan constitution recognised 14 ethnic groups officially with the Gurjar ethnic group being one of them.[40]

Many Gurjar tribal people in Afghanistan are deprived of their rights and their living conditions are poor. They have sometimes been internally displaced in the past by illegal militias; for example, during 2018 around 200 Gurjar families were displaced from their homes in Farkhar district in Takhar province.[41]

During the corona virus pandemic, the Gurjar people in the northeastern province of Badakhshan used Andak meat to treat the corona virus, due to lack of clinics and other health facilities in their areas. The Gurjar Tribe Council deemed the meat of the Andak animal as haram (forbidden) but many Gurjar people in the area said they had no choice.[40]

Gurjar tribal leaders met with Hamid Karzai when he was President of Afghanistan. They demanded schools and hospitals be built in their areas and the Afghan government give scholarships to Gurjar students to study abroad.[42]

India

Today, the Gurjars are classified under the Other Backward Class category in some states in India.[43] However, in Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Himachal Pradesh, they are designated as a Scheduled Tribe under the Indian government's reservation program of positive discrimination. Hindu Gurjars were assimilated into several varnas.[44]

Delhi

Gurjars form an important component of Delhi. They have combined their traditional occupation of pastoralism and marginal cultivation over a large area in and around Delhi.[45]

Haryana

The Gurjar community in Haryana has set elaborate guidelines for solemnizing marriages and holding other functions.[46] In a mahapanchayat ("the great panchayat"), the Gujjar community decided that those who sought dowry would be excommunicated from the society.[47]

Rajasthan

Fairs of Shri Devnarayan Bhagwan are organized two times in a year at Demali, Maalasheri, Asind and Jodhpuriya
Statue of Sri Sawai Bhoj Bagaravat, one of the 24 Gujar brothers collectively known as Bagaravats, at Dev Dham Jodhpuriya temple.

The Rajasthani Gurjars worship Surya, Devnarayan (an avatar of Vishnu), Shiva and Bhavani.[48][49]

In Rajasthan, some members of the Gurjar community resorted to violent protests over the issue of reservation in 2006 and 2007. They demanded a change in their status from Other Backward Class (OBC) to Scheduled Tribe (ST). They felt marginalized and faced livelihood crises. During the 2003 election to the Rajasthan assembly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised them Scheduled Tribe status.[50][51] However, the party failed to keep its promise after coming to the power, resulting in protests by the Gurjars in September 2006.[52]

In May 2007, during violent protests over the reservation issue, members of the Gurjar community clashed with the police.[53] Subsequently, the Gurjar protested violently, under various groups including the Gurjar Sangarsh Samiti,[54] Gurjar Mahasabha[55] and the Gurjar Action Committee.[56] Presently, the Gurjars in Rajasthan are classified as Other Backward Classes.[57]

On 5 June 2007, Gurjars rioted over their desire to be added to the central list of tribes who are given favoured treatment under the reservation system However, other tribes on the list oppose this request, as it would make it harder to obtain the few positions already set aside.[58]

In December 2007, the Akhil Bhartiya Gurjar Mahasabha ("All-India Gurjar Council") stated that the community would boycott the BJP, which was in power in Rajasthan.[59] But in 2009 the Gurjar community was supporting BJP so that they could be politically benefitted. Kirori Singh Bainsla fought and lost on the BJP ticket. In the early 2000s, the Gurjar community in Dang region of Rajasthan was also in news its falling sex ratio, unavailability of brides, and the resultant polyandry.[60][61]

See also: 2008 caste violence in Rajasthan

Madhya Pradesh

As of 2022, the Gurjars in Madhya Pradesh are classified as Other Backward Classes.[62]

Maharashtra

In Maharashtra, Gurjars are in very good numbers in Jalgaon District. Dode Gurjars and Dore Gurjars are listed as Other Backward Classes in Maharashtra.[63]

Gujarat

The State took its name from the Gurjara, the land of the Gurjars, who ruled the area during the 700s and 800s.[64]

They are listed among the Other Backward Classes of Gujarat.[65]

A few scholars believe that the Leva Kunbis (or Kambis) of Gujarat, a section of the Patidars, are possibly of Gurjar origin.[66][67] However, several others state that the Patidars are Kurmis or Kunbis (Kanbis);[68] Gurjars are included in the OBC list in Gujarat but Patidars are not.[65]

Gurjars of North Gujarat, along with those of Western Rajasthan and Punjab, worship Sitala and Bhavani.[49]

Himachal Pradesh

As of 2001, the Gurjars in parts of Himachal Pradesh were classified as a Scheduled Tribe.[69] They are mostly found in the Chamba district of the state and are predominantly Muslim. They are closely related to the Gurjars and Bakarwals of neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir.[citation needed]

Jammu and Kashmir

Bakarwals from Jammu and Kashmir

The Gurjars and Bakerwals tribes of Jammu and Kashmir were declared a Scheduled Tribe (ST) in 1991.[70] At the 2001 census, they were found principally in Rajouri, Poonch, Reasi, Kishtwar district, with presences elsewhere.[71] It is believed that Gurjars migrated to Jammu and Kashmir from Gujarat (via Rajasthan) and Hazara district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.[72]

As of 2011, the Gurjars and the Bakarwals in Jammu and Kashmir were classified as Scheduled Tribes constitute 12% of the total population of Jammu and Kashmir. However, they claim that they constitute more than 20% of the population, and allege undercounting because of their nomadic lifestyle, saying that when the censuses were held in 2001 and 2011, half of their population had been in the upper reaches of the Himalaya.[69][73] According to the 2011 Census of India, Gurjars are the most populous scheduled tribe in Jammu and Kashmir, having a population of nearly 1.5 million. Nearly all of them follow Islam.[74]

The Gurjars of Jammu and Kashmir in 2007 demanded that this tribal community be treated as a linguistic minority in the erstwhile state and provided with constitutional safeguards for their language Gojri. They also pressured the state government to urge the central government to include Gojri in the list of official languages of India.[75]

In 2002, some Gurjars and Bakarwals in Jammu and Kashmir demanded a separate state called Gujaristan for Gujjar and Bakarwal communities, under the banner of All India Gurjar Parishad.[76] Gurjars and Bakarwals have at times been targeted by militants of the insurgency in the territory, such as during the Kot Charwal and Teli Katha massacres.

Uttarakhand

The Van Gujjars ("forest Gurjars") are found in the Shivalik Hills area of Uttarakhand. The Van Gujjars follow Islam, and they have their own clans, similar to the Hindu gotras.[77] They are a pastoral semi-nomadic community, practising transhumance. In the winter season, the Van Gujjars migrate with herds of semi-wild water buffalo to the Shivalik Hills at the foot of the Himalayas, and in summer, they migrate to alpine pastures higher up the Himalayas. The Gurjars sell milk to local peoples as their primary source of income. They treat their animals with great care and do not eat them nor sell them for meat.[78][page needed]

The Van Gujjars have had conflicts with forest authorities, who prohibited human and livestock populations inside reserved parks.[77] However, India's Forest Rights Act of 2006 granted rights to "traditional forest dwellers" to the lands they have relied on for generations. The conflict between local forest officials, who claim rights over the newly created parks, and the thousand year nomadic traditions of the Van Gujjars has been ongoing.[78][79]

Pakistan

Due to migrations, large Grjjar populations can also be found in Islamabad, Sialkot, Lahore and Faisalabad.[citation needed]The majority of Gurjars in Pakistan speak Punjabi. Punjabi, Kashmiri and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.[citation needed] Gurjars typically use the prefixes Chaudhry, Malik, Rana, Khan, Nawab, Mehar, Rajput, Sardar and Nawabzada, as courtesy titles.[citation needed]

See also

References

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  2. ^ Thakur, Upendra (1974). Some Aspects of Ancient Indian History and Culture. Abhinav Publications. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-88386-289-6. The Gujars of the Punjab are unquestionably Aryan by race.
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  9. ^ Rahi, Javaid, ed. (2016). "The GUJJARS - A Book Series on History and Culture of Gujjar Tribe". The Gujjars -Vol: 06- ed Javaid Rahi. 6.
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  11. ^ Chattopadhyaya 1994, p. 6 "we have noted that Gurjaratra or Gurjarabhumi was the base from which several lineages tracing descent from the Gurjaras emerged"
  12. ^ Baij Nath Puri 1957, p. 12.
  13. ^ Buddha Prakash (1965). Aspects of Indian History and Civilization. Shiva Lal Agarwala. p. 157. ISBN 9780842616812.
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  15. ^ "Nuristan". Program for Culture & Conflict Studies. Naval Postgraduate School. October 2009. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
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  17. ^ Gloria Goodwin Raheja (15 September 1988). The Poison in the Gift: Ritual, Prestation, and the Dominant Caste in a North Indian Village. University of Chicago Press. pp. 01–03. ISBN 978-0-226-70729-7. This regional dominance and the kingship (rajya) exercised by Gurjar chiefs still figure prominently in oral traditions current among Saharanpur Gurjars and in the depiction of their identity as Ksatriya "kings" in printed histories of the Gujar Jati.
  18. ^ Muhammad Asghar (2016). The Sacred and the Secular: Aesthetics in Domestic Spaces of Pakistan/Punjab. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 10. ISBN 978-3-643-90836-0. The main grouping is the biradari, which is a very old established norm of people identifying themselves ... A larger and also ancient form of grouping is the caste (qaum). The three main ones are Jaats (farmers), Arains (who traditionally were gardeners) and Gujjars (people who tend livestock and sell milk).
  19. ^ Chattopadhyaya 1994, p. 6.
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  27. ^ Kothiyal, Tanuja (14 March 2016). Nomadic Narratives: A History of Mobility and Identity in the Great Indian Desert. Cambridge University Press. p. 265. ISBN 978-1-107-08031-7. from gradual transformation of mobile pastoral and tribal groups into landed sedentary ones. The process of settlement involved both control over mobile resources through raids, battles and trade as well as channelizing of these resources into agrarian expansion. Kinship structures as well as marital and martial alliances were instrumental in this transformation. ... In the colonial ethnographic accounts rather than referring to Rajputs as having emerged from other communities, Bhils, Mers, Minas, Gujars, Jats, Raikas, all lay a claim to a Rajput past from where they claim to have 'fallen'. Historical processes, however, suggest just the opposite.
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Bibliography

Further reading