This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Meo" ethnic group – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (June 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Hindi: मेव; Urdu: میو
Total population
270,000 ~ 600,000 (1984)[1]

India India[1]

Pakistan Pakistan[2]

Punjab: Sindh:
Regions with significant populations
Haryana, Rajasthan
Mewati, Haryanvi, Khariboli, Rajasthani, Urdu
Related ethnic groups
RajputsJatsCheetahMeratQaimkhaniSindhi-SipahiDeshwaliBhatti KhanzadaKhanzadaRangharAhirMeena

The Meo (Hindi: मेव; Urdu: میو) (pronounced: mev or may-o) (also spelled Mayo or occasionally, Mewati) people are an ethnic group from the Mewat region of north-western India.[3][4]

Origins and history

Meos are native inhabitants of Mewat, a region that consists of the former Mewat district of Haryana and some parts of adjoining Alwar and Bharatpur districts of Rajasthan and Western Uttar Pradesh, where the Meos have lived for a millennium. The term Mewati, although not often is also used to refer to the ethnic group in modern discourse. The term by itself is not necessarily specific to the race and can refer to anyone from the Mewat region, whereas the term Meo is specific to the ethnic group. According to one theory, they were Hindu Rajputs and Kshatriya who converted to Islam between the 12th and 17th century,[5][6][4] until as late as Aurangzeb's rule. Over the centuries, they have maintained their age-old distinctive cultural identity. According to S. L. Sharma and R. N. Srivastava, Mughal persecution had little effect on the strengthening of their Islamic identity, but it reinforced their resistance to Mughal rule.[7]

A speculative[8] British Raj-era theory that was first briefly suggested by the colonial ethnographer and political agent for Alwar State, Major P. W. Powlett, has it that the Meo are related to the Meenas (Minas). In Powlett's 1878 Gazetteer of Ulwur (later spelt Alwar), he comments: "The similarity between the words Meo and Mina suggests that the former may be a contraction of the latter".[9]: 38  There is no linguistic evidence produced in support of this purported verbal relationship by Powlett and historians such as Shail Mayaram have noted that Mewatees was the usual term for Meos until the nineteenth century.[8] He continues by pointing out that several clans in both communities (Singal, Náí, Dúlot, Pimdalot, Dingal, Bálot) have identical names. These are some of the thirteen pals of Meo, each pal a group of (rather than single) gotras or "clans".[10] The pals traditionally encompass a geographical area and may include non-Muslim allies of any caste within that territory.[8]: 141  Powlett mentions the Meo's traditional narrative ballad— understood by Meos as a cultural story, rather than as oral history —of Dariyā Khān ("Daria Meo") and the story of his betrothal to Sisbadani, a Mina woman, their separation and reunion, as possibly suggestive of historical intermarriage between the groups.[9][8]

According to Shail Mayaram, author, and professor of Subaltern Studies at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, this view was likely constructed from political motives by those with colonial authority. In her view, following the 1857 insurrection in which the Meo joined action against the Company Raj, it was helpful to the British if they could conflate the still-resistant Meos with another nearby group whom they had already classified as "criminal", the Minas. While there had been some instances of Minas prosecuted for theft, dacoity, and similar, in the aftermath of the mutiny, there had been almost no Meo involvement in such cases.[8] Mayaram traces the theory of a Meo–Mina intermixing from its relatively tentative genesis with Powlett, through repetitions of varying strength in colonial reports, to its emergence as a fully-fledged "common origin" in Alexander Cunningham's Eastern Rajputana report.[11] Even the traditional epic of Dariyā Khān and Sisbadani was transmuted from the "story" in Powlett to an acknowledged "historical" event in the later text.[8]

Mewati make up majority of Muslims in Nawabo ka Nimbahera. Historically, the Gorwal Khanzadas of Mewat, Chauhan, Rathore, and Tomar clans of the Meo Rajputs ruled various states of India.[12][better source needed]

Cultural connections

Meos speak Mewati, a language of the Indo-Aryan language family,[1] although in some areas the language dominance of Urdu and Hindi has seen Meos adopt these languages instead.[13]

Hindu inhabitants of Mewat, although belonging to the same Kshatriya castes to which the Meos belonged before conversion to Islam, are not called Meo. Thus the word Meo is both region-specific and religion-specific. According to many, Meos come from many Hindu clans who converted to Islam and amalgamated as the Meo community, however there is no solid basis for this claim.[14]

Meos profess Islam but the roots of their ethnic structure are in Hindu caste society. Meos share most of their culture with their Hindu counterparts from neighboring areas in Haryana and Rajasthan. The neighbouring Hindu Jats,[14] Minas, Ahirs and Rajputs share the same mores.[citation needed] According to some sources, the Meo community may have a common origin with the Meena community. Such views were especially prominent in colonial-era ethnographies.[15][16]

Like Hindus of the north, the Meo do not marry within their own gotras although Islam permits marriage with cousins. Solemnization of marriage among Meos was not complete without both nikah and saptapadi.[17] Meos believe that they are direct descendants of Krishna and Rama even as they claim to be among the unnamed prophets of God referred to in the Quran.[4][18]


Meos claim high-caste Hindu Rajput descent. This may be true for some of them. However, some of them may be descendants of other castes who might have laid claim to Rajput ancestry after converting to Islam to enhance their social standing (Harris 1901:23; Channing 1882:28). The names of many gots (gotra) or exogamous lineages of Meos are common with other Hindu castes as Meena, Ahir and Gujjar who live in their vicinity. It thus seems possible that the Meos belonged to many different castes and not just to the Rajputs;[19][14][20] this phenomenon is also seen in other Rajput communities and is not limited to the Meos.[21][22]

Meos were divided into three vansh, thirteen pals and fifty-two gotras by Rana Kaku Balot Meo in the 13th century.[12][10] Meos have twelve pals including a thirteenth inferior pal.[23]

A map in Hindi denoting the 12 Pals and 52 Gotras of Meos.

Pals and Gotras

List of Pals

Table of Gotras
Agnivanshi Chandravanshi Surajvanshi

(5 total)

Pawar (3 total) Chauhan (10 total) Tomar (18 total) Jado (16 total)
Khokkar Chaurasia Kangar (Kanga) Nai (Bhamdawat) Dehangal
Malik Jamaliya Tanwar (Mangaria-Surohiya) Chhokar Sengal (Badgujar)
Pawar (Mewal) Jonwal Bilyana Bhati Kalisa (Pahat)
Chauhan Ratawat Veer Godh
Kalsia Sukeda Bhabla Gomal
Kanwaliya (Kamaaliya) Gehlot Jhangala
Mark (Mandar) Karkatiya Silania
Pahat Lamkhara Kholdar (Untwaal)
Sapolia Nanglot Sodola
Saugun Matyavat Dulot
Sagadawat Chhirkalot
Jatlawat Bhegot
Balot (Bugla) Naharwad
Kataria Demrot (Boridha)
Bodhiyan Poonglot (Sekhawat)
Ludawat or Baghodia Gorwal (Khanzada)
Majilawat-Jhelawat-Kadawat, Dhatawat-Lalawat

Marriage and kinship customs

Meos generally do not follow the Muslim law of inheritance and so among them, like various other communities in the region, custom makes a younger brother or a cousin marry the widow of the deceased by a simple Nikah ceremony.[24]

Geography and demography

Post-independence change

Despite pressure to do so from the regional princely states of Alwar and Bharatpur, ruled by Gorwal Khanzadas, the Meo Rajput community decided not to migrate to Pakistan during the Partition of India.[12] During 1947, Meo were displaced from Alwar and Bharatpur districts and there was significant loss of life in intercommunal violence.[18]: 191  Earlier, Kathumar, Nadbai, Kumher, Kherli, Bhusawar, Weir and Mahwa was heavily populated with the Meo population.[citation needed] The population of Meos drastically decreased in Alwarand and Bharatpur.[18]: 191  However, many old mosques from pre-independence era are still present there.

In 1947, Mahatma Gandhi visited Ghasera, a village in present-day Nuh district to urge the Muslims living there not to leave, calling the Meos "Iss desh ki reed ki haddi" or 'the backbone of the country', India. Due to this, the people of Ghasera still celebrate Mewat Day.[25][26] Because of Gandhi some Meos were resettled in Laxmangarh, Nagar, Kaman and Deeg. Chaudhary Rahim Khan from the village of Sultanpur-Punahana is said to be the individual who united the Meo Samaj (Meo people) after they were scattered across India.[citation needed]

Although on the whole the community did not migrate, there were a number of gotras of the Rajput Meos who, on an individual basis, did decide to relocate to Pakistan during partition. They were mostly settled in Pakistani districts of Sialkot, Lahore, Karachi, Narowal, Dera Ghazi Khan, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala, Multan, Haiderabad and Kasur, among others.[12]


Resisting Regimes is the first political anthropological and social-historical study detailing the Meos.[27]


  1. ^ a b c Kukreja, Reena (2020), "Meo Muslim, Mev, Mewati Muslim", Database of Religious History, University of British Columbia, doi:10.14288/1.0394975, S2CID 238914736
  2. ^ Meo, Shahabuddin Khan (2011). History of Mewat–An Outline. Khan Foundation for Education and Research. Journal of the Research Society of Pakistan. Vol. 48, no. 1. Department of History, Quaik-e Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. ISSN 0034-5431. PDF file
  3. ^ Naqvi, Saba (30 March 2016). "Meet the Muslims who consider themselves descendants of Arjuna". Archived from the original on 10 April 2023.
  4. ^ a b c Ghosh, Paramita (16 September 2016). "What you should know about the Meo Muslims of Mewat". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 7 April 2023.
  5. ^ Mathur, Malati (2006). "The Mewati Mahabharata: Pandun Ka Kaba". In Trikha, Pradeep (ed.). Textuality and inter-textuality in the Mahabharata: Myth, meaning and metamorphosis. Sarup & Sons. p. 84. ISBN 9788176256919.
  6. ^ Chauhan, Abha (2004). "Custom, Religion and Social Change Among the Meos of Mewat". In Gupta, Surendra K. (ed.). Emerging Social Science Concerns: Festschrift in Honour of Professor Yogesh Atal. Concept Publishing. p. 365. ISBN 9788180690983.
  7. ^ Eaton, Richard M. (1993). The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760. Berkeley, California, USA: University of California Press. p. 55. ISBN 9780520205079. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Mayaram, Shail (2003). "The Construction of Meo Criminality: Toward a Critique of Colonial Ethnography". Against History, Against State: Counterperspectives from the Margins. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 126–151. ISBN 978-0-231-12730-1. p. 131: The essentialist view of human nature can be seen from his attempt to establish the identity of both tribe and clan names. 'Meo' is even seen as a contraction of Mina. The evidence, however, indicates that up to the nineteenth century the Meos were referred to as 'Mewatees'. In Powlett's work we see a deliberate attempt to establish a Meo-Mina relationship. He describes the Minas as a former ruling group who are the 'famous marauders ...'
  9. ^ a b Powlett, P. W. (Percy William) (1878). Gazetteer of Ulwur. London: Trübner & Co. pp. 37–44. p. 38: Though Meos claim to be of Rájpút origin, there are grounds for believing that many spring from the same stock as the Mínás. The similarity between the words Meo and Míná suggests that the former may be a contraction of the latter. Several of the respective clans are identical (Singal, Náí, Dúlot, Pimdalot, Dingal, Bálot), and a story of one Daria Meo and his lady love, Sísbadaní Míná, seems to show that they formerly intermarried. In Bolandshahr a caste called Meo Mínás is spoken of in the Settlement Report, which would seem further to connect the two. However, it is probable enough that apostate Rájpúts and bastard sons of Rájpúts founded many of the clans, as the legends tell.
  10. ^ a b Ahmad, Aijaz (April 2001). "Origin of the Meos: An assessment". The Punjab Past and Present. 32 (1): 39–44. ISBN 81-7380-878-3. Serial No. 63.
  11. ^ Cunningham, Alexander (1885) [Reprinted 2000]. Report of a tour in Eastern Rajputana in 1882-83. Vol. XX. Anthropological Survey of India. pp. 23, 27.
  12. ^ a b c d Sardar Azeemullah Khan Meo. Meo Rajput. Retrieved 23 February 2023.
  13. ^ Ahmad, Aijaz (July 2021). History of Mewat. p. 23. ISBN 978-81-933914-2-6.
  14. ^ a b c Prasad, Jitendra (2003). "Plural ethnic group characteristics: The nature of identity formation in Haryana". Guru Nanak Journal of Sociology. 24 (2): 1–21. ISSN 0970-0242. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  15. ^ Mayaram, Shail (2003). "The Construction of Meo Criminality: Toward a Critique of Colonial Ethnography — The Ethnographic Construction of Meo Criminality". Against History, Against State: Counterperspectives from the Margins. Columbia University Press. pp. 130–138. ISBN 978-0-231-12730-1. p. 131: A definite commentary may be discerned underlying this apparently descriptive statement. First, Powlett rejects the Meo's own claims to Ksatriya descent. This is difficult to reconcile with Powlett's later statement that 'apostate Rajputs founded many of the clans as the legends tell'. Second, his concern is obviously with a common racial stock. Powlett reflects a major problematic of nineteenth-century European anthropology and ethnology that centered on questions of race and racial classification in accordance with physical appearance.
  16. ^ Bhardwaj (2016), Ch. 3.
  17. ^ Chauhan, Abha (2003). "Kinship Principles and the Pattern of Marriage Alliance: The Meos of Mewat". Sociological Bulletin. 52 (1): 71–90. ISSN 0038-0229. JSTOR 23620302.
  18. ^ a b c Mayaram, Shail (1997). Resisting regimes: Myth, memory, and the shaping of a Muslim identity. Delhi Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195639551.
  19. ^ Aggarwal, Partap C. (1978). "Caste hierarchy in a Meo village of Rajasthan". In Imtiaz Ahmad (ed.). Caste and social stratification among Muslims in India (2nd revised and enlarged ed.). New Delhi: South Asia Books. pp. 141–158. ISBN 9780836400502.
  20. ^ Mayaram, Shail (2003). "Antistate: The Pāl Polity". Against History, Against State: Counterperspectives from the Margins. Columbia University Press. pp. 49–73. ISBN 978-0-231-12730-1. p. 57: The Meo kinship structure is closer to the Jat system prevalent in Punjab and Rajasthan where the subcaste comprises segmented exogamous intermarrying gots rather than to the Muslim system in which women are retained within the descent group.
  21. ^ Parry, Jonathan P. (1978). Caste and Kinship in Kangra (First ed.). Routledge. p. 133. ISBN 978-1138862036.
  22. ^ Mayer, Adrian C. (1998). Caste and Kinship in Central India. Psychology Press. pp. 161–163. ISBN 978-0-415-17567-8.
  23. ^ "How Meos Shape Their Identity". 4 March 2016. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  24. ^ Hashim Amir Ali; Mohammad Rafiq Khan; Om Prakash Kumar (1970). The Meos of Mewat: Old neighbours of New Delhi. Oxford & IBH Pub. Co. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  25. ^ "Photos: 71 years after independence, Gandhi Gram Ghasera battles neglect". Hindustan Times. 1 October 2018. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  26. ^ Bordia, Radhika (30 January 2019). "Why the Meo Muslims in Mewat remember Mahatma Gandhi in December every year". Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  27. ^ Robinson, Rowena (1999). "Book reviews and notices : SHAIL MAYARAM, Resisting regimes: Myth, memory and the shaping of a Muslim identity". Contributions to Indian Sociology. 33 (1–2): 463. doi:10.1177/006996679903300141. ISSN 0069-9667.


Further reading