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|Regions with significant populations|
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|Hinduism • Islam • Sikhism|
Gurjar or Gujjar are a pastoral agricultural ethnic group with populations in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and a small number in northeastern Afghanistan. Alternative spellings include Gurjara, Gurjjar, Gojar and Gūjar.
Gurjars are linguistically and religiously diverse. Although they are able to speak the language of the region and country where they live, Gurjars have their own language, known as Gujari. They variously follow Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism.The Hindu Gurjars are mostly found in Indian states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab Plains and Maharashtra , while the Muslim Gujjars are mostly found in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indian Himalayan regions such as Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Garhwal and Kumaon divisons of Uttarakhand.
The Gurjars are classified as Other Backward Class (OBC) in twelve of India's thirty-six States and UTs; however, only Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir and some parts of Himachal Pradesh are categorised as a Scheduled Tribe. Hindu Gurjars were assimilated into various varnas in the medieval period.
- 1 History
- 2 Culture
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 Further reading
- 6 External links
Historians and anthropologists differ on issue of Gurjar origin. According to one view, the ancient ancestors of Gurjars came from central Asia via Georgia from near the Caspian Sea; that Sea's alternate name of the Bahr-e-Khizar caused the tribe to be known as Khizar, Guzar, Gujur, Gurjara, or Gujjar. According to this view, between 1 BCE and 1 CE, the ancient ancestors of Gurjars came in multiple waves of migration and they were initially accorded status as high-caste warriors in the Hindu fold in the North-Western regions (modern Rajasthan and Gujarat). Aydogdy Kurbanov states that some Gurjars, along with people from northwestern India, merged with the Hephthalites to become the Rajput clan.
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 6th century A.D., they set up one or more principalities in Rajasthan and Gujarat. The 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 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. The 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."
After the collapse of the ancient Gupta empire in 6 CE, greater parts of northern India were eventually reunited under an empire known as the Gurjara Pratihara or Pratihara Gurjara (730 - 1027 CE) This period is roughly associated with the Late Classical period of the Indian subcontinent.
The question of identity and origin of this empire remains largely unanswered. According to one school of thought, Gurjara was the name of the territory (see Gurjara-desha) originally ruled by the Pratiharas; gradually, the term came to denote the people of this territory. An opposing theory is that Gurjara was the name of the tribe to which the dynasty belonged, and Pratihara was a clan of this tribe.
According to Pemble, these were Gurjaras originally a migrant community associated with or originating from the Huns who arrived in 5 CE. Some suggest that the Gurjars were descendents of the Scythians (Sakas) or the Yue Chi (Kushans) who arrived between 1 BCE and 1 CE. D. B. Bhandarkar believed that Gurjara-Pratiharas were a clan of Gurjars. Dasrath Sharma believed 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.
The Gurjara Pratihara empire existed in Northern India from the mid-7th to the 11th century. This empire reached its peak of prosperity and power under Mihira Bhoja and his successor Mahendrapala I. By the time of Mahendrapala, the extent of its territory rivalled that of the Gupta Empire stretching from the border of Sindh in the west to Bengal in the east and from the Himalayas in the north to areas past the Narmada in the south. The expansion triggered a tripartite power struggle with the Rashtrakuta and Pala empires for control of the Indian Subcontinent. During this period, Imperial Pratihara took the title of Maharajadhiraja of Āryāvarta (Great King of Kings of India). The power of the Pratiharas was gradually weakened by dynastic strife, raids led by parallel empires within the Indian subcontinent, increasing powers of their feudatories, and eventually by the end of the 10th century, they controlled little more than the Gangetic Doab. The last king, Rajyapala, was driven from Kannauj by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1018.
Gurjara-Pratihara are known for their sculptures, carved panels and open pavilion style temples. The greatest development of their style of temple building was at Khajuraho, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the 18th century, several Gurjar chieftains and small kings were in power. During the reign of Rohilla Nawab Najib-ul-Daula, Rao Dargahi Singh Bhati, 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.
During the colonial period, upward mobility characterised a small section of the north Indian peasantry including Jats who benefited from the East Yamuna canal but most peasant castes and western Jat factions faced an increasingly desperate situation under pressure of high revenue assessment, famines, and growing indebtedness. Gangs of Gurjar, Meena, Mewati raiders had come into being in the late 18th century and become active in the early 19th century feeding into a colonial discourse of para-criminality that led to the making of the infamous Criminal Tribes Act of 1870-71. The unrest among peasant-pastoral groups such as the Gurjars and Mewatis fed into the making of the Revolt of 1857.
Gurjar turbulence owed a lot to their nomadic status and the British attempt to settle them as peaceful land revenue paying peasantry. During the Mughal era, Gurjars were known for their entrepreneurial role — they not only exchanged milk and other commodities but also guarded the trade routes of North India. The colonial-British State, keen to turn every rural element into a peasant, did not understand the community’s entrepreneurial role. So after the revolt of 1857, the British classified the Gurjars (and around 150 other Indian communities) as ‘criminal tribes’ through the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871. In this move, communities that had fought for Bahadur Shah Zafar in 1857 were openly targeted.
During the revolt of 1857, the Gurjars of Chundrowli rose against the British, under the leadership of Damar Ram. The Gurjars 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 Gurjar villagers from whom the land was taken to erect the building. The British records claim that the Gurjars carried out several robberies. Twenty Gurjars 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 Gurjars 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. A British administrator, 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 Gujjars, estimated to number 1.6 crore nationwide, are internally differentiated in terms of religion, occupation, and socio-economic status. Historically, they have comprised a hugely heterogeneous group ranging from the Gurjar-Pratihara rulers of north India to the Gujjar and Bakarwal nomads of Jammu and the Kashmir valley who are today mostly Sunni Muslim. There is said to have been a migration from Gujarat, Kathiawad, and Rajasthan to Kashmir in the 6th-7th century and an earlier one from Georgia via Central Asia, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. In Uttarakhand, they comprise forest communities called Van Gujjars and in Rajasthan Gujjar villages are in the Aravalli forests and they have been sought to be "rehabilitated" (read displaced) from the National Parks of Sariska and Ranthambhor.
Today, the Gurjars are classified under the Other Backward Class 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 were 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.
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. 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.
On 5 June 2007, Gurjars 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 (decade), the Gurjar community in Dang region of Rajasthan was also in news for the falling sex ratio, unavailability of brides, and the resulting polyandry.
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); Gurjars are included in the OBC list in Gujarat but Patidars are not.
Jammu and Kashmir
In the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, 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 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
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.
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.
Uttarakhand - Van Gurjars
The Van Gurjars ("forest Gurjars") are found in the Shivalik hills area of Uttarakhand. The Van Gurjars 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 Gurjars migrate with their herds to the Shivalik foothills, and in summer, they migrate to pastures high up in the mountains. The Van Gurjars have had conflicts with the forest authorities, who prohibited human and livestock populations inside a reserved park, and blamed the Van Gurjar community for poaching and timber smuggling. After the creation of the Rajaji National Park (RNP), the Van Gurjars in Deharadun were asked to shift to a resettlement colony at Pathri near Haridwar. In 1992, when they 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.
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Sanskrit Dictionary Compiled by Pandit Radha Kant (Shakabada 1181) explains: Gurjar=Gur (enemy)+Ujar(destroyer)
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But whatever our theories regarding the infusion of Gujar blood among the Rajputs, there was certainly no Gurjara (Gujar) empire in Northern India
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