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Jat people

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 people

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.

Demographics

In 1925, the population of Jats was around nine million in South Asia, made up of followers of three major religions as shown below:

Religion Jat Population %
Hinduism 47%
Sikhism 20%
Islam 33%

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
Percentage
Punjab region 6,068,302 22,709,755 73 %
Rajasthan 1,043,153 3,651,036 12 %
Uttar Pradesh 810,114 2,845,244 9.2 %
Jammu & Kashmir 148,993 581,477 2 %
Balochistan 93,726 369,365 1.2 %
North-West Frontier Province 76,327 302,700 1 %
Bombay Presidency 54,362 216,139 0.7 %
Delhi 53,271 187,072 0.6 %
Central Provinces and Berar 28,135 98,473 0.3 %
Ajmer-Marwar 29,992 104,972 0.3 %
Total 8,406,375 31,066,253 100 %

Punjab Region includes Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

Origin

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.

The Hindu mythological account in Deva Samhita traces the origin of Jats to Shiva's locks (see Origin of Jat people from Shiva's Locks).

The earliest attestation of the Jats is in a Pali inscription dated to AD 541 (as Jit).

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..

History

Mentions in ancient literature

Bhim Singh Dahiya states that the Jats find a mention in Mahabharata and other ancient Indian literature. Mahendra Singh Arya etal. believe that the shloka Jat Jhat Sanghate (Sanskrit: जट झट संघाते) in famous Sanskrit scholar Panini's Astadhyayi refers to the Jat people as a federation.

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.

Ancient Jat kingdoms

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.

According to Thakur Deshraj and Cunningham, the Jats of the Panwar clan ruled Umerkot in Sind prior to Mughal ruler Humayun.

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.

Medieval period

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.

The Jats also dominated the Malwa region, under rulers like Harshavardhana, Shiladitya, Singhavarma, Vishnuvardhan, and Yasodharman.

Rise of Jat power after 1699

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.

Patiala and Nabha were two important Jat states in Punjab, ruled by the Jats of Siddhu clan. The Jind state in present-day Haryana was founded by the descendants of Phul Jat of Siddhu ancestry.

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.

Genetics

A recent study of the people of Indian Punjab, where about 40% or more of the population are Jats, suggest that the Jat people are similar to other populations of the Indus Valley. The study involved a genealogical DNA test which examined single nucleotide polymorphisms (mutations in a single DNA "letter") on the Y chromosome (which occurs only in males). Jats share many common haplotypes with German, Slavic, Baltic, Iranian, and Central Asian groups. It found Jat people share only two haplotypes, one of which is also shared with the population of present-day Turkey, and have few matches with neighbouring Pakistani populations. This haplotype shared between the two Jat groups may be part of an Indo-Aryan (or Indo-European) genetic contribution to these populations, where as the haplotypes shared with other Eurasian populations may be due to the contribution of Indo-European Scythians (Saka, Massagetae) or White Huns.

The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Jat people contain haplogroups typical of North India, Pakistan, and West Asia.

Jat people today

Today, besides agriculture, Jat people are engaged in blue and white-collar jobs, trade and commerce. Though they continue to be a rural populace, their presence in towns and district headquarters can be noted due to migration, which undoubtedly explains their distance from agriculture and animal husbandry.

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.

Life and culture of Jat people

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.

Food habits

In Gujarat, Rajasthan and part of Haryana Jat people are mostly vegetarians. Some practise the Arya Samaj sect of Hinduism. Their staple food is wheat or bajra (pearl millet), vegetables and plenty of milk and ghee. In Punjab, the Jats usually eat meat, especially goat meat. Punjabi Jat people are also fond of saag (made from mustard leaves) with cornflour roti. However, food habits within individual families can be completely different, so no universal "Jat diet" can be identified. Mathura's Jat people are pure vegetarian. Their food includes dal, milk, ghee, matha, and bajri ki rootia. Some Jats consider non-vegetarian food undesirable, but many Jats, particularly the ones who belonged to the martial/warrior stock and defied Brahmin orthodoxy, customarily ate meat. For instance, meat is part of regular diet for Jat non-practicing Sikhs and segments of Warrior clan Hindu Jats (now scattered in parts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh) who formed part of the erstwhile Jat royalty/aristocracy/nobility. No doubt meat consumption was essential for sustained warfare and only the purely agrarian Jats of peaceful farming habits who did not have much to do by way of taking to martial ways and adversities of wars, could remain purely vegetarian.

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).

Jat people organizations

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.

The Association of Jats of America (AJATA) is the main Jat people organization of North America. It performs as the main body, forum and lobby for Jat people issues in North America.

The North American Jat Charities (NAJC) is one of the main Jat people Charities of North America. It performs as a charity for the welfare Jat people in North America.

Social customs of Jat people

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.

Religion

Jat people are followers of many faiths. Today they follow Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism. In the early 20th century (early 1900) the Jat people constituted about 20 percent of the population of Punjab, nearly 10 percent of the population of Balochistan, Rajasthan, and Delhi, and from 2 to 5 percent of the populations of Sindh, Northwest Frontier, and Uttar Pradesh. During the early 1900s four million Jats of Pakistan were mainly Muslim by faith and nearly six million Jats of India were mostly divided into two large groups of about equal strength: one Sikh, concentrated in Punjab, the other Hindu.

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.

Language

Jat people usually speak Hindi and its dialects (Rajasthani, Haryanvi, Malvi), Punjabi and its dialects, Urdu, Dogri, Sindhi or Gujarati. Sikh and Muslim Jats from the Punjab mostly speak Punjabi and its various dialects (such as Maajhi, Malwi, Doabi,Saraiki, Pothohari, and Jhangochi). (See - Haryanavi Language & Rajasthani_Language)

List of Jat people clans

The Jat people clan names are unique in South Asia. However, some of their clan names do overlap with the Rajputs and Gujjars. List of Jat Clans have been compiled by many Jat historians like Ompal Singh Tugania, Bhaleram Beniwal Dr Mahendra Singh Arya and others, Thakur Deshraj, Dilip Singh Ahlawat, Ram Swarup Joon etc. The above lists have more than 2700 Jat gotras. Thakur Deshraj, Ram Swarup Joon and Dilip Singh Ahlawat have mentioned history of some of Jat gotras. Some websites of Jats have also prepared list of Jat Gotras with details of history and distriburion.

Jats in popular culture

  • The "Jat Lancer" is a mercenary Indian cavalry unit in the Age of Empires.
  • Maula Jat is one of the most popular films in the history of Pakistani cinema. It has been described as a kind of Pakistani/Western style movie, the story mostly revolves around the clashes between Maula Jat.
  • Many Punjabi songs are written around evey day life of Jat people.
  • The 1975 Hindi film Pratigya had a popular song Main Jat Yamla Pagla shot on Dharmendra a Jat himself and acted as a Jat person role in the film.
  • Ghulami (1985), Indian Hindi movie by Dharmendra, focuses on the caste and feudal system in Rajasthan and a rebellion started by Dharmendra, as a Jat youth, against the Jagirdars.
  • Veer Tejaji is a Rajasthani language movie, based on the life of Tejaji, made in the 1980’s. It shows the life of Jat people and their position in the society in eleventh century.
  • Heer Ranjha is one of the four popular tragic romances of the Punjab. It tells the story of the love of Heer and her lover Ranjha. Heer Saleti is an extremely beautiful woman, born into a wealthy Jat family of the Sials clan. Ranjha (whose first name is Dheedo; Ranjha is the surname), also a Jat, is the youngest of four brothers and lives in the village 'Takht Hazara' by the river Chenab.

Photo gallery

References

Futher reading

  • Historical Evidence Chapter 1:Scythic Origin of the Rajput Race by Mulchand Chauhan
  • Rattan Singh Bhangoo. Prachin Panth Parkash, Punjabi, Published in 1841.
  • Bal Kishan Dabas. ''Political and Social History of the Jats". Sanjay Prakashan, 2001. ISBN 81-7453-045-2
  • Dharampal Singh Dudee. Indian Army History: France to Kargil. 2001.
  • Dharampal Singh Dudee. Navin Jat History. Shaheed Dham Trust, Bhiwani, Haryana, India.
  • Dr Kanungo. History of the Jats.
  • Dr Natthan Singh. Jat-Itihas. Jat Samaj Kalyan Parishad, Gwalior, 2004.
  • Hukum Singh Panwar (Pauria). The Jats: Their Origin, Antiquity & Migrations. Manthan Publications, Rohtak, Haryana. ISBN 81-85235-22-8
  • K. Natwar Singh. Maharaja Suraj Mal.
  • Dr. Prakash Chandra Chandawat. Maharaja Suraj Mal Aur Unka Yug (1745-1763). Jaypal Agencies, Agra. 1982. (in Hindi)
  • Raj Pal Singh. Rise of the Jat Power. Harman Pub. House. ISBN 81-85151-05-9
  • Aadhunik Jat Itihas. Dharmpal Singh Dudee & Dr Mahinder Singh Arya. Jaypal Agency, Agra. 1998.
  • Ram Swaroop Joon. History of the Jats.
  • Shashi Prabha Gupta. Demographic Differentials Among the Rajputs and the Jats: A Socio-Biological Study of Rural Haryana. Classical Pub. House. ISBN 81-7054-180-8
  • Thakur Deshraj Jat Itihasa Maharaja Suraj Mal. Smarak Shiksha Sansthan, Delhi. 1936. (in Hindi)
  • Girish Chandra Dwivedi The Jats - Their Role in the Mughal Empire. Surajmal Educational Society, New Delhi, India. ISBN- 81-7031-150-0.
  • Dr. Atal Singh Khokkar. Jaton ki Utpati evam Vistar. Jaipal Agencies, 31-1 Subashpuram, Agra, UP, India 282007. 2002.
  • Chaudhary Kabul Singh. Sarv Khap Itihasa (History of the Jat Republic). Shoram, Muzzafarnagar, U.P. India. 1976.
  • Nihal Singh Arya. Sarv Khap Panchayat ka Rastriya Parakram (The National Role of the Jat Republic of Haryana). Arya mandal, B 11 Om Mandal, Nangloi, New Delhi, India. 1991
  • Mangal sen Jindal. History of Origin of Some Clans in India (with special Reference to Jats). Sarup & Sons, 4378/4B, Ansari Road, Darya Ganj, New Delhi-110002. ISBN 81-85431-08-6
  • Dr Vir Singh. The Jats - Their Role and Contribution to the Socio Economic Life and Polity of North and North West India. Surajmal Educational Society, D K Publishers, New Delhi, India. 2004. ISBN 81-88629-16-2
  • Professor B. S. Dhillon History and study of the Jats, Beta Publishers. 1994. ISBN 1895603021

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