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Gurjar / Gujjar
Regions with significant populations
Hinduism • Islam • Sikhism

Gurjar or Gujjar is a pastoral agricultural ethnic group with populations in India and Pakistan and a small number in northeastern Afghanistan.[1] Alternative spellings include Gurjara, Gojar, Gūjar, Gurjjara, and Gūrjara.[2][3] Although they are able to speak the language of the country where they live, Gurjars have their own language, known as Gujari. They variously follow Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism.[1][4] The Gurjars are classified as Other Backward Class (OBC) in some states in India; however, Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Himachal Pradesh are categorised as a Scheduled Tribe.[5][6][7] Hindu Gurjars today are assimilated into several varnas.



Historians and Anthropologists differ on issue of Gurjar origin.[8]General Cunningham identifies the Gujjars with Kushanas (Indo-Scythian people) of eastern tartars. He explains that 'Korso' and 'Kushan' written on the coins of Kushana King Kanishka is same as Gorsi and Kusane clans of Gurjars respectively.[9][10] He further adds that Gujars came to India in the 3rd wave of migration around the mid third century CE. Ibbeston also supports Indo-Scythians descend of Gurjars. K.S.Singh also support the theory on the basis that beside Jats, Gurjars are the only race of foreign origin in north west part of Indian subcontinent who are known to have been powerful during early centuries of Christian era.[11]

James Compbell, too, agrees on the central Asian origin of Gurjars but link them with the Khazar people (Huna people) of Armenia and north Medra, who occupied prominent position in 6th century CE in Europe and Asia border Area.Bhandarkar also traces Gujars from Khazar people of white Huna stock. He explains that Khazar people left imprints of their name en-route their migration in form of Gurjistans. He locates three such Gurjistans, one in central Asia, the other two in Hazara region of undivided Punjab and near Ghazini. He further mentions two Gurjar kingdoms, one in western Rajasthan (9th century CE) and one in Jaipur territory (Al-beruni's Gujarat province) and believes that when Xuan Xang visited India, Gujars got Hinduised and assimilated into ranks of warriors.[12]

V.A.Smith believes Gujars to be a branch of the white Hunas or allied groups. Grierson, too, points out that Gurjars migrated along with Hunas and other allied Groups in about 6th century CE.Dr.BhagwanLal is of of the opinion that Gurjars and Hunas came to India in two different waves at different times, Huna between 200BCE and 500CE, while Gujjars established themselves in Indian subcontinent between 400 CE and 600 CE.[13]

Thus, historians who supports foreign origin of Gujars believe that they entered Indian subcontinent from North-west Indian Frontier and established themselves in the Indus region, Hazara, undivided Punjab, Kashmir and Rajasthan.[14]

Some scholars contradict the foreign origin of Gurjars.[15] Vaidya points out that that Gurjars are purely Aryan, their nasal index being 66.9, based on the anthropological reports of Sir H. Risely. G.H.Ojha, K.M.Munshi and A.N. Bhardwaj also support Indo-Aryan origin of Gurjars. Baij Nath Puri, too, points out that Gurjars were the original Indo-Aryan people of Rajasthan, partly from the Mount Abu region.[16]

It has been suggested that the Gurjars, along with people from northwestern India, merged with the Hephthalites and formed the Rajput clan.[17]

Linguistic theories

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.[18] The association of the Gurjars with the mountain is noticed in many inscriptions and epigraphs including Tilakamanjari of Dhanpala.[19] 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. 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.[20]

In Sanskrit texts, the ethnonym has sometimes been interpreted as "destroyer of the enemy": gur meaning "enemy" and ujjar meaning "destroyer").[21][22]

In its survey of The People of India, the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) – a government-sponsored organisation – noted that

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.[23]

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.[23][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."[24]

Gurjar rulers

The Gurjara-Pratihara kingdom and other contemporary kingdoms.

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.[25] 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).[26] 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.[27]

D. B. Bhandarkar also believed that Gurjara-Pratiharas were a clan of Gurjars.[28]

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,[29][30] though from the work of other historians it has been known that Kannauj was capital of Gurjara-Pratihara.[31][32][33]

Chavdas, also known as Gurjar Chapas, was also one of the ruling clans of Gurjars.[34]

British rule

In the 18th 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.[35] A fort at Parlchhatgarh in Meerut District, also known as Qila Parikishatgarh, is ascribed to a Gurjar Raja Nain Singh.[36]

During the revolt of 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.[37] In Delhi, the Metcalfe House was sacked by the Gurjar villagers from whom the land was taken to erect the building.[38] 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.[39] In September 1857, the British were able to enlist the support of many Gujars at Meerut.[40] 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.[41] 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.[42]


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, the Gurjars are found mainly in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, western Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, northern Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and the Maharashtra. The semi-nomadic Muslim Gujjar groups are found in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and northwestern Uttar Pradesh.[43] The name for the state of Gujarat has derived from "Gurjar".[44]


Gujar children in Afghanistan, 1984

Small pockets of Gurjars are found in Afghanistan's northeastern region, particularly in and around the Nuristan province. According to the 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.[1]


Today, the Gurjars are classified under the Other Backward Class (OBC) category in some states in India.[45] 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.[46]

Gujari (or Gojri), classified under Rajasthani,[47] has traditionally been the primary language of the Gurjars.


The Gurjar community in Haryana has set elaborate guidelines for solemnizing marriages and holding other functions.[48] In a mahapanchayat ("the great panchayat"), the Gurjar community decided that those who sought dowry would be excommunicated from the society.[49]


Fairs of Shri Devnarayan Bhagwan are organized two times in a year at Demali, Maalasheri, Asind and Jodhpuriya
Statue of Sri Sawai Bhoj Bagaravat, one of the 24 Gurjar brothers collectively known as Bagaravats, at Dev Dham Jodhpuriya temple.

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.[50] Radha, the consort of Krishna, was also a Gurjar.[51]

The Rajasthani Gurjars worship the Sun God, Devnarayan (an avatar of Vishnu), Shiva and Bhavani.[52][53]

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.[54] However, the party failed to keep its promise after coming to the power, resulting in protests by the Gurjars in September 2006.[55]

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).[56] Subsequently, the Gurjars protested violently, under various groups including the Gurjar Sangarsh Samiti,[57] Gurjar Mahasabha[58] and the Gurjar Action Committee.[59] The protestors blocked roads and set fire to two police stations and some vehicles.[60] Presently, the Gurjars in Rajasthan are classified as Other Backward Classes (OBCs).[61]

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.[62]

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.[63] 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.[64][65]

Madhya Pradesh

Presently, the Gurjars in Madhya Pradesh are classified as Other Backward Classes (OBCs).[66]

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.[67][68][69] However, several others state that the Patidars are Kurmis or Kunbis (Kanbis);[70][71] 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 Maharashtra and Gurjars are included in OBC list in Gujarat but Patidars are not.[72]

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[73] and speaks the Marathi language.

Himachal Pradesh

As of 2001, the Gurjars in parts of Himachal Pradesh were classified as a Scheduled Tribe.[74] [75]

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.[76] It is believed that Gurjars migrated to Jammu and Kashmir from Gujarat (via Rajasthan) and Hazara district of NWFP.[77] Another group called Bakarwal (or Bakerwal) belongs to the same ethnic stock as the Gurjars, and inter-marriages freely take place among them.[citation needed]

As of 2001, the Gurjars and the Bakarwals in Jammu and Kashmir were classified as Scheduled Tribes.[74] 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.[76]

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.[78][79]

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.[80]

Van Gujjars

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.[81] 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.[81] 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.[82] Later, a community forest management (CFM) programme aiming to involve the Van Gujjars in forest management was launched.[citation needed]

See also



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Further reading

External links