|Languages||Hindi, Mewari, Marwari, Dhundari, Harauti, Wagdi, Malvi, Garhwali, Bhili etc.|
The Meena caste—whose name is also transliterated as Meenanda or Mina—is found mainly in the Rajasthan region of India. Their name is derived from Meen, the Sanskrit word for fish, and they claim descent from the Matsya avatar, or fish incarnation, of Vishnu.
Scholars have disagreed as to whether the Meenas are an indigenous tribe, or whether they migrated to the region from Central Asia. According to Britannica, "the Minas are possibly of inner Asiatic origin, and tradition suggests that they migrated to India in the 7th century ". They once ruled the Matsya Kingdom but their social significance diminished thereafter. This change began with their assimilation with Scythian people and reached a low point when the British government declared them to be a criminal tribe. This action was taken to support their alliance with Rajput kingdom then in Rajasthan, and Meenas were still in war with Rajputs, carrying out guerrilla attacks to retain their lost kingdoms.
Meenas celebrate Meenesh Jayanti in the name of Vishnu on 3 Tithi of Chaitra Shukal paksha according to the Hindu calendar. The main reference of this belief is based on the scripture of the Matsya Purana.
Nandini Sinha Kapur, a historian who has studied early India, notes that the oral traditions of the Meenas were developed from the early 19th century AD in an attempt to reconstruct their identity. She says of this process, which continued throughout the 20th century, that "The Minas try to furnish themselves a respectable present by giving themselves a glorious past". In common with the people of countries such as Finland and Scotland, the Meenas found it necessary to invent tradition through oral accounts, one of the primary uses of which is recognised by both historians and sociologists as being "social protest against injustices, exploitation and oppression, a raison d'être that helps to retrieve the image of a community." Kapur notes that the Meenas not merely lack a recorded history of their own but also have been depicted in a negative manner both by medieval Persian accounts and records of the colonial period. From medieval times through to the British Raj, references to the Meenas describe them as violent, plundering criminals and an anti-social ethnic tribal group.
A Meena dynasty ruled Rajasthan in ancient times and their emblem was a fish, similar to that used by the Pandyan kingdom of the south.[page needed] It lay to south of the kingdom of Kurus and west of the Yamuna which separated it from the kingdom of Panchalas. It roughly corresponded to former state of Jaipur in Rajasthan, and included the whole of Alwar with portions of Bharatpur.
The Meena Kingdom was known as “Matsya” as each of these Janapadas was named after the Kshatriya tribe (or the Kshatriya Jana) who had settled therein. Around 300 BC, the Meena kingdom succumbed to the rising Mauryan empire. The present day Meenas of Rajasthan still follow Vedic culture: they mainly worship Shiva, Hanuman and Krishna as well as the Devas.
Kyaranagar in Thanaghazi was an important city of Meenas, whose ruler was Rao Mokalsingh Meena at the time of Akbar’s reign. The armies of Mughals and Kachwaha Rajputs plundered Kyaranagar and in its place founded Mohamadabad.
British colonial period
The system of colonial administration known as the British Raj came into existence in 1858, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857 which caused the government of Britain to decide that leaving colonial administration in the hands of the East India Company was a recipe for further discontent. In an attempt to create an orderly administration through a better understanding of the populace, the Raj authorities instituted various measures of classifying the people of India. One such measure was the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, under the provisions of which the Meenas were placed. The community remained stigmatised for many years, notably by influential officials of the Raj such as Herbert Hope Risley and Denzil Ibbetson, and were sometimes categorised as animists and as a hill tribe similar to the Bhils. The Meenas remained an officially-designated criminal tribe until 1952, three years after the Act had been repealed. Mark Brown has examined the impact and issues of the Meena community during British rule, and the change in their status from being a higher social group to a criminal tribe. He also mentioned the division in the Meenas as zamindar group and chowkidar Meenas.
Meenas have better rights for women in many respects compared to many other Hindu castes. Hindu law as codified through acts passed between 1955 and 1956 were based on inegalitarian Victorian English patters of marriage and inheritance and on the customary practices of some the dominant communities in North-West India, among whom women's right have been seriously coded. The practices of the Nairs in Kerala, Meitei in Mainipur, Meenas in Rajasthan and Jains, which provide better rights to women in many respects, were presumed to be non-existent or non-Indian. Thus the Hindu codified law is in many ways a step backward for some communities.[full citation needed]
The Meenas of the Karauli, Sawai Madhopur, Jaipur, Gangapur area are the most important cultivators for the last four hundred years. They expelled the Dhangars and Lodhis from a number of villages they occupied 500 years ago, and have retained their possession until now. In Karauli(Rajasthan), the Meenas, Gurjars and Jats smoke together. They live in complete harmony.[page needed]
The community was once sub-divided into:
- See also Mina (India) at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
- "Mina". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
- Kapur, Nandini Sinha (May 2008). Reconstructing Identities and Situating Themselves in History : A Note on the Meenas of Jaipur Region. d'échange bilatéral franco-indien durant le mois de mai 2008.
- Kapur, Nandini Sinha (2007). "The Minas: Seeking a Place in History". In Bel, Bernard. The Social and the Symbolic. Sage. pp. 129–131. ISBN 9780761934462.
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- Kapur, Nandini Sinha (2007). "The Minas: Seeking a Place in History". In Bel, Bernard. The Social and the Symbolic. Sage. p. 131. ISBN 9780761934462.
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