The Jat people (जाट Jāṭ, جاٹ, ਜੱਟ جٹ Jaṭṭ, ) are an ethnic group native mainly to the Punjab region of northern India and Pakistan. The Jat people have a cultural history that can be traced back to ancient times and have traditionally been an agricultural tribe. .
The Jat people of India and Pakistan are not related to the Jats of Afghanistan, who are a distinct ethnic group. Col. James Tod notes that The Jats hold place amongst the 36 royal races of ancient India.
The Jat people are an ethnic group spread over Northern India and Pakistan (mainly in the Punjab region), but also including large numbers living in the EU, US, Canada, Australia and UK. The Jat people have traditionally been mainly agriculturalists and members of the military. Historically, there have been many Jat kings and other leading figures, including several prominent political leaders in Pakistan and India, such as Choudhary Charan Singh, Chaudhary Bansi Lal, Chaudhari Devi Lal, Aitzaz Ahsan and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi.
A large number of Jat people have served in the Indian Army and Pakistan Army, including in the Jat Regiment, Sikh Regiment, Rajputana Rifles and the Grenadiers, where they have won many of the highest military awards for gallantry and bravery. The Jat Regiment is one of the longest serving and most decorated infantry regiments of the Indian Army having won 24 battle honours between 1839 and 1947, along with numerous decorations of individual members. Jat people in the Pakistan Army, especially in the Punjab Regiment.
The Jat people are one of the most prosperous groups in India on a per-capita basis (Punjab and Gujarat are the wealthiest of Indian states). Traditionally they have been a predominant political class in Punjab.
|Religion||Jat Population %|
The 1931 census in India (the most comprehensive source of information about Jat people demographics) recorded population on the basis of ethnicity. Based on this number and on figures for population growth rates, the Jat population for 1988 has been estimated at 30 million. According to earlier censuses, the Jati or Jat people accounted for approximately 25% of the entire Sindhi-Punjabi speaking area. A regional breakdown of the total Jat population is given in the following table.
|Name of region||Jat Population 1931||Jat Population 1988|| Approx |
|Punjab region||6,068,302||22,709,755||73 %|
|Uttar Pradesh||810,114||2,845,244||9.2 %|
|Jammu & Kashmir||148,993||581,477||2 %|
|North-West Frontier Province||76,327||302,700||1 %|
|Bombay Presidency||54,362||216,139||0.7 %|
|Central Provinces and Berar||28,135||98,473||0.3 %|
The etymology of the name Jat is unclear. Some 19th century writers have identified the Jats with the ancient Getae. Sir Alexander Cunningham, former Director-General of the Archeological Survey of India, connected the name of the Scythian Xanthii. He considered the Jats to be the Xanthi, who he also considered very likely to be called the Zaths (Jats) by early Arab writers.
There are two main hypotheses, but nothing certain is known about the origin of the Jats: The origin of the Jats is discussed in terms of native Indo-Aryan ancestry on one hand, and intrusive Indo-Scythian admixture on the other.
Authors postulating Indo-Scythian ancestry were Alexander Cunningham, B. S. Dhillon, Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff, Arthur Edward Barstow, James Tod and Bhim Singh Dahiya. Authors emphasizing "indigenous" Indo-Aryan lineage include E. B. Havell, KR Qanungo, Sir Herbert Risley, C.V.Vaidya, and Thakur Deshraj..
G. C. Dwivedi writes that the Persian Majmal-ut-Tawarikh mentions Jats and Meds as the descendants of Ham (son of Noah), living in Sind on the banks of the river Bahar. S.M. Yunus Jaffery believes that the Jat people have been mentioned in Shāhnāma, a well-known Persian epic.
Professor K.R. Kanungo writes that when Muhammad bin Qasim invaded Sind, the Kaikan region in Sind was in independent possession of Jats. The first Arab invasions in the region were repelled by the Jats.
Thakur Deshraj also mentions that the Susthan region in Sindh was ruled by Chandra Ram, a Jat of Hala clan. Chandra Ram lost his kingdom (known as Halakhandi) to the Muslim invaders sent by Muhammad bin Qasim.
There is no information of any important Jat state in a period of two centuries following Kushan rule. However, in the beginning of fifth century, there is evidence of the Jat ruler Maharaja Shalinder ruling from "Shalpur" (the present-day Sialkot); his territory extended from Punjab to Malwa and Rajasthan. This is indicated by the Pali inscription obtained by James Tod from village Kanswa in Kota state in year 1820 AD.
There were several small Jat states in what is now Rajasthan. The Bikaner region (then known as Jangladesh) in the desert region of Western India was dominated by the Jats. At what period the Jat people established themselves in the Indian desert is not known. By the 4th century they had spread up to Punjab in India. The small Jat population in the region were Jat clans ruled by their own chiefs and largely governed by their own customary law.
There were several Jat rulers of small areas in North India. These included the Garhwals of Garhmukteshwar, Kaliramnas (who ruled near Mathura), Khirwars of Brij and Narsinghpur, Nauhwars (who ruled the area surrounding the Noh lake area near Mathura), Koīls of Kampilgarh (the area that is now Aligarh), Halas, Kuntals, Pachars, Thenuas, Toouts, and Thakureles.
In 1699, the Jats of the Gokula region around Mathura rebelled against the powerful Mughal rulers (see 1669 Jat uprising). The rebellion resulted from political provocation aggravated by the economic discontent, and further aggravated by the religious persecution and discrimination.
In the disorder following Aurangzeb's death in 1707, the Jat resistance resumed, organized under the leadership of Churaman (1695–1721). Churaman's nephew, Badan Singh (1722–1756), established a kingdom centered at Deeg, from which he extended his rule over Agra and Mathura. Badan Singh's eldest son and successor, Maharaja Suraj Mal (1707–1763), extended his kingdom to include Agra, Mathura, Dholpur, Mainpuri, Hathras, Aligarh, Etawah, Meerut, Rohtak (including Bhiwani), Farrukhnagar, Mewat, Rewari and Gurgaon. He has been described as one of the greatest Jat rulers. Suraj Mal moved the capital from Deeg to Bharatpur in 1733. Rustam, a Jat king of the Sogariya clan, had previously laid the foundation of the modern city of Bharatpur. During the British Raj, the princely state of Bharatpur covered an area of 5,123 sq.km, and its rulers enjoyed a salute of 17 guns. The state acceded to the dominion of India in 1947.
According to Cunningham and William Cook, the city of Gohad was founded in 1505 by the Jats of Bamraulia village, who had been forced to leave Bamraulia by a satrap of Firuz Shah Tughluq. Gohad developed into an important Jat state, and was later captured by the Marathas. The Jats of Gohad signed a treaty with the British and helped them capture Gwalior and Gohad from the Marathas. The British kept Gwalior and handed control of Gohad to Jats in 1804. Gohad was handed over to the Marathas under a revised treaty dated 22 November 1805 between the Marathas and the British. As a compensation for Gohad, the Jat ruler Rana Kirat Singh was given Dhaulpur, Badi and Rajakheda; Kirat Singh moved to Dhaulpur in December 1805.
In the 10th century, the Jat people took control of Dholpur, which had earlier been ruled by the Rajputs and the Yadavs. Dholpur was taken by Sikandar Lodhi in 1501, who transferred it to a Muslim governor in 1504. In 1527, the Dholpur fort fell to Babur and continued to be ruled by the Mughals until 1707. After the death of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Raja Kalyan Singh Bhadauria obtained possession of Dholpur, and his family retained it until 1761. After that, Dholpur was taken successively by the Jat ruler Maharaja Suraj Mal of Bharatpur; by Mirza Najaf Khan in 1775; by the Scindia ruler of Gwalior in 1782; and finally, by the British East India Company in 1803. It was restored by the British to the Scindias under the Treaty of Sarji Anjangaon, but in consequence of new arrangements, was again occupied by the British. In 1806, Dholpur again came under the Jat rulers, when it was handed over to Kirat Singh of Gohad. Dholpur thus became a princely state, a vassal of the British during the Raj.
Ballabhgarh was another important princely state established by the Jats of the Tewatia clan, who had come from Janauli village. Balram Singh, the brother-in-law of Maharaja Suraj Mal was the first powerful ruler of Ballabhgarh. Raja Nahar Singh (1823–1858) was another notable king of this princely state.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780–1839) of the Sandhawalia Jat clan of Punjab became the Sikh emperor of the sovereign country of Punjab and the Sikh Empire. He united the Sikh factions into one state, and conquered vast tracts of territory on all sides of his kingdom. From the capture of Lahore in 1799, he rapidly annexed the rest of the Punjab. To secure his empire, he invaded Afghanistan, and defeated the Pathan militias and tribes. Ranjit Singh took the title of "Maharaja" on April 12 1801 (to coincide with Baisakhi day). Lahore served as his capital from 1799. In 1802 he took the city of Amritsar. In the year 1802, Ranjit Singh successfully invaded Kashmir.
Other Jat states of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries included Kuchesar (ruled by the Dalal Jat clan of Mandoti, Haryana), and the Mursan state (the present-day Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh) ruled by the Thenua Jats.
The Jats also briefly ruled at Gwalior and Agra. The Jat rulers Maharaja Bhim Singh Rana (1707-1756) and Maharaja Chhatar Singh Rana (1757-1782) occupied the Gwalior fort twice, Maharaja Bhim Singh Rana from 1740 to 1756, and Maharaja Chhatra Singh Rana from 1780 to 1783. Maharaja Suraj Mal captured Agra Fort on 12 June 1761 and it remained in the possession of Bharatpur rulers till 1774. After Maharaja Suraj Mal, Maharaja Jawahar Singh, Maharaja Ratan Singh and Maharaja Kehri Singh (minor) under resident ship of Maharaja Nawal Singh ruled over Agra Fort.
Jat people are considered a Forward class in the vast majority of states in India, with a few exceptions in a small number of areas were they are Other Backward Class (OBC). In Rajasthan, the Jat people are classified as OBC, except in Bharatpur and Dhaulpur districts. In Rajasthan the Jat people are a wealthy and rich section of society but the BJP in 1999 in order to win their votes gave them OBC for political reasons. Some specific clans of Jats are classified as OBC in some states. Eg. Muslim Jats in Gujarat and Mirdha Jat people (except Muslim Jats) in Madhya Pradesh. Land reforms, particularly the abolition of Jagirdari and Zamindari systems, Panchayati Raj and Green revolution, to which Jat people have been major contributors, have immensely contributed to the economic betterment of the Jat people.
Adult franchise has created enormous social and political awakening among Jat people. Consolidation of economic gains and participation in the electoral process are two visible outcomes of the post-independence situation. Through this participation they have been able to significantly influence the politics of north India. However since demise of Charan Singh and Devi Lal and rise of OBC and BSP their influence is on decline. Economic differentiation, migration and mobility could be clearly noticed amongst Jats.
The Life and culture of Jats is full of diversity and approaches most closely to that ascribed to the traditional Aryan colonists of India. The Jat lifestyle was designed to foster a martial spirit. Whenever they lost their kingdoms, Jat people retired to the country-side and became landed barons and the landlords with their swords girded round their waists. They would draw the sword out of the scabbard at the command of their panchayat to fight with the invaders. Jat people have a history of being brave and ready fighters. They are fiercely independent in character and value their self respect more than anything, which is why they offered heavy resistance against any foreign force that treated them unjustly. They are known for their pride, bravery and readyness to sacrifice their lives in battle for their people and kinsmen. In the government of their villages, they appear much more democratic. they have less reverence for hereditary right and a preference for elected headmen.
To an extent, the incidence of Jat meat consumption is higher in areas where Jats have historically had higher social status, particularly during the medieval/aristocratic periods. For instance, meat consumption is particularly high in the Punjab region (including modern day Haryana), where the king was a Jat, and is almost non-existent in Rajasthan (except in Bharatpur and Dholpur, where there was likewise a Jat king).
The Jats have always organized themselves into hundreds of patrilineage clans, Panchayat system or Khap. A clan was based on one small gotra or a number of related gotras under one elected leader whose word was law. The big Jat clans now are so big that individual in them are only related to each other by individual that lived typically hundreds years ago. Mutual quarrels of any intensity could be settled by orders of Jat elders. In times of danger, the whole clan rallied under the banner of the leader. The Jat Khap or Panchayat "system is territorial and highly democratic. District and a number of Khaps form a 'Sarva Khap' embracing a full province or state. Negotiations with anyone were done - at 'Sarva Khap' level.
In addition to the conventional Sarva Khap Panchayat, there are regional Jat Mahasabhas affiliated to the All India Jat Mahasabha to organize and safeguard the interests of the community, which held its meeting at regional and national levels to take stock of their activities and devise practical ways and means for the amelioration of the community.
All Jats, irrespective of their official or financial positions in life, have equal social status .
The only criterion of superiority is age. The Jat people are ethnically and culturally required to marry within their community. With the advancement of modern civilization, as people are becoming less dependent upon and more tolerant towards each other, the joint family system is going out of vogue. It is still prevalent in the less advanced areas.
The Jat Muslims in the western regions are organized in hundreds of groups tracing their descent through paternal lines; they were mostly labourers. Those of India and of the Punjabi areas of Pakistan are more often landlord farmers. Numerically, Jats form the largest percentage of the Sikh community. Some scholars attribute Sikh military tradition largely to its Jat heritage.