|Regions with significant populations|
|India • Pakistan • Afghanistan|
|Gujari • Punjabi • Urdu • Hindi • English|
Gurjar or Gujjar is a pastoral ethnic group with populations in India, Pakistan, and a small number in northeastern Afghanistan. Alternative spellings include Gurjara, Gojar, Gūjar, Gurjjara, and Gūrjara. Although they are able to speak the lingua franca of the country they inhabit, Gurjars have their own language known as Gujari. Religiously, they are Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs.
- 1 History
- 2 Demographics
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 Further reading
- 6 External links
The origin of the Gurjars is uncertain. Many Gurjars claim descent from Suryavanshi Kshatriyas (Sun Dynasty) and connect themselves with the Hindu deity Rama. Historically the Gurjars were Sun-worshipers and are described as devoted to the feet of the Sun-god (God Surya). Their copper-plate grants bear an emblem of the Sun and on their seals too, this symbol is depicted.
The Gurjar clan appeared in northern India about the time of the Huna invasions of northern India. Some scholars, such as V. A. Smith, believed that the Gurjars were foreign immigrants, possibly a branch of Hephthalites ("White Huns"). In the past, Gurjars have also been hypothesized to be descended from the nomadic Khazar tribes, although the history of Khazars shows an entirely different politico-cultural ethos. It has also been suggested that the Gurjars along with population from northwestern India, merged with the Hephthalites and formed Rajputs. Scott Cameron Levi, in his The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and its Trade, 1550–1900, mentions Kazar (Khazar, could also refer to Kassar) and Kujar (Gujar) as two different tribes with links to Central Asia.[full citation needed]
According to Scholars such as Baij Nath Puri, the Mount Abu (ancient Arbuda Mountain) region of present day Rajasthan had been abode of the Gurjars during medieval period. The association of the Gurjars with the mountain is noticed in many inscriptions and epigraphs including Tilakamanjari of Dhanpala. These Gurjars migrated from the Arbuda mountain region and as early as in the sixth century A.D., they set up one or more principalities in Rajasthan and Gujarat. 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.
The sociologist G. S. Ghurye believes that the name Gurjar is derived from the principal profession followed by the tribe: cattle-destroyer (the Sanskrit word for cow is gau and the old Hindi word for sheep is gadar). "Gojar" came from "Gurjar", a Sanskrit word, which can be interpreted as "destroyer of the enemy" (according to the Sanskrit Dictionary (Shakabada1181), "Gur" means "enemy" and "jar" means "destroyer").
The Gurjars/Gujjars were no doubt a remarkable people spread from Kashmir to Gujarat and Maharashtra, who gave an identity to Gujarat, established kingdoms, entered the Rajput groups as the dominant lineage of Badgujar, and survive today as a pastoral and a tribal group with both Hindu and Muslim segments.
Irawati Karve, the 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.[a]
A 2009 study conducted by Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation, under the supervision of Gurjar scholar Javaid Rahi, claimed that the word "Gojar" has a Central Asian Turkic origin, written in romanized Turkish as Göçer. Study claimed that according to the new research, the Gurjar race "remained one of the most vibrant identity of Central Asia in BC era and later ruled over many princely states in northern India for hundred of years".
According to some historical accounts, the kingdom with capital at Bhinmal (or Srimal) was established by the Gurjars. A minor kingdom of Bharuch was the offshoot of this Kingdom. In 640-41 CE, the Chinese traveller Xuanzang (Hieun Tsang) described the kingdoms of Su-la-cha (identified with Saurashtra) and Kiu-che-lo (identified with Gurjara) in his writings. He stated that the Gurjaras ruled a rich and populous kingdom with capital at Bhinmal (Pilo-mo-lo). According to his expositor, M. Vivien de St. Martin, Su-la-cha represents the modern Gujarat, and Kiu-che-lo (Gurjjara), "the country of the Gujars", represents the region between Anhilwara and the Indus River, i.e. Sindh region.
Some other historians believe that although some sections of the Pratiharas (i.e., the one to which Mathanadeva belonged) were Gurjars by caste, the Pratiharas of Kannauj were not Gurjars and there was no Gurjara empire in Northern India in 8th and 9th century, though from the work of other historians it has been known that Kannauj was capital of Gurjara-Pratihara.
In the eighteenth century, several Gurjar chieftains and small kings were in power. During the reign of Rohilla Nawab Najib-ul-Daula, Dargahi Singh, the Gurjar chieftain of Dadri possessed 133 villages at a fixed revenue of Rs.29,000. A fort at Parlchhatgarh in Meerut District, also known as Qila Parikishatgarh, is ascribed to a Gurjar Raja Nain Singh. According to a legend, the fort was built by Parikshit and restored by Nain Singh in the eighteenth century. The fort was dismantled in 1857, to be used as a police station.
The Imperial Gazetteer of India states that throughout the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Gujars and Musalman (Muslim) Rajputs proved the "most irreconcilable enemies" of the British in the Bulandshahr area.
During the revolt of 1857, the Muslim Gujars in the villages of the Ludhiana District showed dissent to the British authorities. The British interests in Gangoh city of Saharanpur District were threatened by the rebel Gujars under the self-styled Raja Fathua. These Gujars rebels were defeated by the British forces under H. D. Robertson and Lieutenant Boisragon, in June 1857. The Gujars of Chundrowli rose against the British, under the leadership of Damar Ram. The Gujars of Shunkuri village, numbering around three thousand, joined the rebel sepoys. According to British records, the Gurjars plundered gunpowder and ammunition from the British and their allies. In Delhi, the Metcalfe House was sacked by the Gurjar villagers from whom the land was taken to erect the building. The British records claim that the Gujars carried out several robberies. Twenty Gujars were reported to have been beheaded by Rao Tula Ram for committing dacoities in July 1857. In September 1857, the British were able to enlist the support of many Gujars at Meerut. The colonial authors always used the code word "turbulent" for the castes who were generally hostile to British rule. They cited proverbs that appear to evaluate the caste in an unfavorable light. The British ethnographer, William Crooke, described that Gurjars seriously impeded the operations of the British Army before Delhi. Reporter Meena Radhakrishna believe that the British classified the Gurjars along with others as "criminal tribes" because of their active participation in the revolt of 1857, and also because, they considered these tribes to be prone to criminality in the absence of legitimate means of livelihood. The Imperial Gazetteer of India stated that the Gujars were impoverished due to their "lawlessness in the Mutiny".
Gurjars are mainly concentrated in the Indo-Gangetic plains, the Himalayan region, and eastern parts of Afghanistan, although the Gurjar diaspora is found in other places as well. A majority of Gurjars follow Hinduism and Islam, though small Gurjar communities following other religions exist.
In India, Gurjar populations are found mainly in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, western Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, northern Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra. The semi-nomadic Muslim Gujjar groups are found in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and northwestern Uttar Pradesh. The name for the state of Gujarat has derived from "Gurjar".
Today, the Gurjars are classified under the Other Backward Class (OBC) category in some states in India. 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 today are assimilated into several varnas.
The Gurjar community in Haryana has set elaborate guidelines for solemnizing marriages and holding other functions. In a mahapanchayat ("the great panchayat"), the Gurjar community decided that those who sought dowry would be excommunicated from the society.
There is close connection between Pushkar and Gurjar community.Pushkar is considered one of the holiest place to visit.According to Rajputana Gazetteer Pushkar was held by Chechi Gurjars till about 700 years ago. There are still priests from Gurjar community in Pushkar temple known as Bhopas.
Songs pertaining to Krishna and Gurjars were documented in Gurjar-inhabited areas during the British Raj, the connection being that Nand Mihir, the foster-father of Krishna, is claimed to be a Gurjar. Radha, the consort of Krishna, was also a Gurjar.
In Rajasthan, some members of the Gurjar community resorted to violent protests over the issue of reservation in 2006 and 2007. The more powerful and more influential Jat community had been included under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category, which prompted the Gurjars to demand Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. During the 2003 election to the Rajasthan assembly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised them ST status. However, the party failed to keep its promise after coming to the power, resulting in protests by the Gurjars in September 2006.
In May 2007, during violent protests over the reservation issue, the members of the Gurjar community clashed with the police twenty six people (including two policemen). Subsequently, the Gurjars protested violently, under various groups including the Gurjar Sangarsh Samiti, Gurjar Mahasabha and the Gurjar Action Committee. The protestors blocked roads and set fire to two police stations and some vehicles. Presently, the Gurjars in Rajasthan are classified as Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
On 5 June 2007 the Gurjar rioted over their desire to be added to the central list of tribes who are given preference in India government job selection as well as placement in the schools sponsored by the states of India. This preference is given under a system designed to help India's poor and disadvantaged citizens. However, other tribes on the list oppose this request as it would make it harder to obtain the few positions already set aside.
In December 2007, the Akhil Bhartiya Gurjar Mahasabha ("All-India Gurjar Council") stated that the community would boycott BJP, which is in power in Rajasthan. But now in 2009 all Gurjars were supporting BJP so that they can be politically benefitted.Kirori Singh Bainsla fought and lost at BJP ticket. In early 2000s, the Gurjar community in Rajasthan was also in news for the falling sex ratio, unavailability of brides, and the resulting polyandry.
Gujarat and Maharashtra
A few scholars believe that the Leva Kunbis (or Kambis) of Gujarat, a section of the Patidars, are possibly of Gurjar origin. However, several others state that the Patidars are Kurmis or Kunbis (Kanbis); the National Commission for Backward Classes of India lists Leva Patidars (or Lewa Petidars) as a sub-caste of Kunbis/Kurmis. Dode Gujars and Dore Gujars are listed as separate caste in Maharastra and Gurjars are included in OBC list in Gujarat but Patidars are not.
A community using Gurjar and Gurjarpadhye as their surnames resides in the coastal Konkan region of Maharashtra, inhabiting Pangre, Hasol, and other villages in Ratnagiri District. Originally bearing the name "Gurjarpadhye", many now prefer to call themselves Gurjar. The community may have been living in the Konkan region for at least three centuries, although this estimate may be inaccurate. The community is a sub-caste of the larger Karhade Brahmin group and speaks the Marathi language.
Jammu and Kashmir
In the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the concentration of Muslim Gurjars is observed in the districts of Rajouri and Poonch, followed by, Ananatnag, Udhampur and Doda districts. It is believed that Gurjars migrated to Jammu and Kashmir from Gujarat (via Rajasthan) and Hazara district of NWFP. Another group called Bakarwal (or Bakerwal) belongs to the same ethnic stock as the Gurjars, and inter-marriages freely take place among them.
As of 2001[update], the Gurjars and the Bakarwals in Jammu and Kashmir were classified as Scheduled Tribes. According to the 2001 Census of India, Gurjar is the most populous scheduled tribe in J&K, having a population of 763,806. Around 99.3 per cent population of Gurjar and Bakarwal in J&K follow Islam. But according to the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation, Gurjars constitute more than 20% of total population of the state.
The Gurjars of Jammu and Kashmir in 2007 demanded to treat this tribal community as a linguistic minority in the State and provide constitutional safeguards to their language Gojri. They also impressed upon the state government to take up the matter with Delhi for inclusion of Gojri in the list of official languages of India.
In 2002, some Gurjars and Bakarwals in J&K demanded a separate state (Gujaristan) for Gurjar and Bakarwal communities, under the banner of All India Gurjar Parishad.
The Van Gujjars ("forest Gujjars") are found in the Shivalik hills area of North India. The Van Gujjars follow Islam, and they have their own clans, similar to the Hindu gotras. They are a pastoral semi-nomadic community, practising transhumance. In the winter season, the Van Gujjars migrate with their herds to the Shiwalik foothills, and in summer, they migrate to pastures high up in the mountains. The Van Gujjars have had conflicts with the forest authorities, who prohibited human and livestock populations inside a reserved park, and blamed the Van Gujjar community for poaching and timber smuggling. After the creation of the Rajaji National Park (RNP), the Van Gujjars in Deharadun were asked to shift to a resettlement colony at Pathari near Hardwar. In 1992, when the Van Gujjars returned to the foothills, the RNP authorities tried to block them from the park area. The community fought back and finally the forest authorities had to relent. Later, a community forest management (CFM) programme aiming to involve the Van Gujjars in forest management was launched.
The Muslim Gurjars are considered to be a major tribe in Pakistan; in fact, they compromise as much as twenty percent of the country's entire population.
Small pockets of Gujjars are found in Afghanistan's northeastern region, particularly in and around the Nuristan province. According to Naval Postgraduate School, "They roam with their herds, usually of cows, from the high Himalayas in India to the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, although rarely are they seen in Afghanistan anymore, as Pakistan has hindered their passage through its territory and most preferred to stay within India. Some in India remain Hindu, although further west many are Muslim. Often they can be recognized by their avoidance of others, and their brightly hennaed beards. They are proud, fierce, and loyal. Their traditions are millennia old, and they have preserved them well in the face of great adversity. They are somewhat related to Nuristanis, although exactly how is a subject of conjecture. Similar to Nuristanis, some genetic root gives many Gujjars a distinctly European appearance, up to and including blond hair and blue eyes".
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- Mulatānasiṃha Varmā, Deśa, videśa meṃ Gurjara kyā haiṃ tathā kyā the?: Gurjara itihāsa, Akhila Bhāratīya Gurjara Samāja Sudhāra Sabhā, 1984
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- Report of NDTV on Baisoya Gurjars of Kalka Garhi (a village in central Delhi) and their traditions including their ruling monarchs