|Regions with significant populations|
|South Asia||~30–43 million (c. 2009/10)|
|Hindi • Haryanvi • Punjabi • Rajasthani • Braj • Sindhi • Urdu|
|Hinduism • Islam • Sikhism|
The Jat people ((Punjabi pronunciation: [d͡ʒəʈːᵊ]), (Hindi pronunciation: [d͡ʒaːʈ])) are a community of traditionally non-elite tillers and herders in Northern India and Pakistan.[a][b][c] Originally pastoralists in the lower Indus river-valley of Sindh, Jats migrated north into the Punjab region in late medieval times, and subsequently into the Delhi Territory, northeastern Rajputana, and the western Gangetic Plain in the 17th and 18th centuries. Of Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu faiths, they are now found mostly in the Pakistani provinces of Sindh and Punjab and the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The Jats took up arms against the Mughal Empire during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The community played an important role in the development of the martial Khalsa panth of Sikhism. The Hindu Jat kingdom reached its zenith under Maharaja Suraj Mal (1707–1763). By the 20th century, the landowning Jats became an influential group in several parts of North India, including Punjab, Western Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi. Over the years, several Jats abandoned agriculture in favour of urban jobs, and used their dominant economic and political status to claim higher social status.
The Jats are a paradigmatic example of community- and identity-formation in early modern Indian subcontinent. "Jat" is an elastic label applied to a wide-ranging community from simple landowning peasants[d] to wealthy and influential Zamindars. The Jats had their origins in pastoralism in the Indus valley, and gradually became agriculturalist farmers.
By the time of Muhammad bin Qasim's conquest of Sind in the 8th century, Arab writers described agglomerations of Jats in the arid, the wet, and the mountainous regions of the conquered land of Sindh. The Arab rulers, though professing a theologically egalitarian religion, maintained the position of Jats and the discriminatory practices against them that had been put in place in the long period of Hindu rule in Sind. Between the eleventh and the sixteenth centuries, Jat herders at the Sind migrated up along the river valleys, into the Punjab, which may have not been cultivated in the first millennium. Many took up tilling in regions such as Western Punjab, where the sakia (water wheel) had been recently introduced. By early Mughal times, in the Punjab, the term "Jat" had become loosely synonymous with "peasant", and some Jats had come to own land and exert local influence.
According to historians Catherine Asher and Cynthia Talbot,
The Jats also provide an important insight into how religious identities evolved during the precolonial era. Before they settled in the Punjab and other northern regions, the pastoralist Jats had little exposure to any of the mainstream religions. Only after they became more integrated into the agrarian world did the Jats adopt the dominant religion of the people in whose midst they dwelt.
Over time the Jats became primarily Muslim in the western Punjab, Sikh in the eastern Punjab, and Hindu in the areas between Delhi Territory and Agra, with the divisions by faith reflecting the geographical strengths of these religions. During the decline of Mughal rule in the early 18th century, the Indian subcontinent's hinterland dwellers, many of whom were armed and nomadic, increasingly interacted with settled townspeople and agriculturists. Many new rulers of the 18th century came from such martial and nomadic backgrounds. The effect of this interaction on India's social organization lasted well into the colonial period. During much of this time, non-elite tillers and pastoralists, such as the Jats or Ahirs, were part of a social spectrum that blended only indistinctly into the elite landowning classes at one end, and the menial or ritually polluting classes at the other. During the heyday of Mughal rule, Jats had recognized rights. According to Barbara D. Metcalf and Thomas R. Metcalf:
Upstart warriors, Marathas, Jats, and the like, as coherent social groups with military and governing ideals, were themselves a product of the Mughal context, which recognized them and provided them with military and governing experience. Their successes were a part of the Mughal success.
As the Mughal empire faltered, there were a series of rural rebellions in North India. Although these had sometimes been characterized as "peasant rebellions", others, such as Muzaffar Alam, have pointed out that small local landholders, or zemindars, often led these uprisings. The Sikh and Jat rebellions were led by such small local zemindars, who had close association and family connections with each other and with the peasants under them, and who were often armed.
These communities of rising peasant-warriors were not well-established Indian castes, but rather quite new, without fixed status categories, and with the ability to absorb older peasant castes, sundry warlords, and nomadic groups on the fringes of settled agriculture. The Mughal Empire, even at the zenith of its power, functioned by devolving authority and never had direct control over its rural grandees. It was these zemindars who gained most from these rebellions, increasing the land under their control. The triumphant even attained the ranks of minor princes, such as the Jat ruler Badan Singh of the princely state of Bharatpur.
In 1669, the Hindu Jats, under the leadership of Gokula, rebelled against the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in Mathura. The community came to predominate south and east of Delhi after 1710. According to historian Christopher Bayly
Men characterised by early eighteenth century Mughal records as plunderers and bandits preying on the imperial lines of communications had by the end of the century spawned a range of petty states linked by marriage alliance and religious practice.
The Jats had moved into the Gangetic Plain in two large migrations, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries respectively. They were not a caste in the usual Hindu sense, for example, in which Bhumihars of the eastern Gangetic plain were; rather they were an umbrella group of peasant-warriors. According to Christopher Bayly:
This was a society where Brahmins were few and male Jats married into the whole range of lower agricultural and entrepreneurial castes. A kind of tribal nationalism animated them rather than a nice calculation of caste differences expressed within the context of Brahminical Hindu state.
By the mid-eighteenth century, the ruler of the recently established Jat kingdom of Bharatpur, Raja Surajmal, felt sanguine enough about durability to build a garden palace at nearby Dig (Deeg). According to historian, Eric Stokes,
When the power of the Bharatpur raja was riding high, fighting clans of Jats encroached into the Karnal/Panipat, Mathura, Agra, and Aligarh districts, usually at the expense of Rajput groups. But such a political umbrella was too fragile and short-lived for substantial displacement to be effected.
When Arabs entered Sindh and other Southern regions of current Pakistan in the seventh century, the chief tribal groupings they found were the Jats and the Med people. These Jats are often referred as Zatts in early Arab writings. The Muslim conquest chronicles further point at the important concentrations of Jats in towns and fortresses of Lower and Central Sindh. Today, Muslim Jats are found in Pakistan and India.
While followers important to Sikh tradition like Baba Buddha were among the earliest significant historical Sikh figures, and significant numbers of conversions occurred as early as the time of Guru Angad (1504–1552), the first large-scale conversions of Jats is commonly held to have begun during the time of Guru Arjan (1563–1606).: 265 While touring the countryside of eastern Punjab, he founded several important towns like Tarn Taran Sahib, Kartarpur, and Hargobindpur which functioned as social and economic hubs, and together with the community-funded completion of the Darbar Sahib to house the Guru Granth Sahib and serve as a rallying point and center for Sikh activity, established the beginnings of a self-contained Sikh community, which was especially swelled with the region's Jat peasantry. They formed the vanguard of Sikh resistance against the Mughal Empire from the 18th century onwards.
It has been postulated, though inconclusively, that the increased militarization of the Sikh panth following the martyrdom of Guru Arjan (beginning during the era of Guru Hargobind and continuing after) and its large Jat presence may have reciprocally influenced each other.[full citation needed]
According to censuses in gazetteers published during the colonial period in the early 20th century, further waves of Jat conversions, from Hinduism to Sikhism, continued during the preceding decades. Writing about the Jats of Punjab, the Sikh author, Khushwant Singh opined that their attitude never allowed themselves to be absorbed in the Brahminic fold :
The Jat's spirit of freedom and equality refused to submit to Brahmanical Hinduism and in its turn drew the censure of the privileged Brahmins ... The upper caste Hindu's denigration of the Jat did not in the least lower the Jat in his own eyes nor elevate the Brahmin or the Kshatriya in the Jat's estimation. On the contrary, he assumed a somewhat condescending attitude towards the Brahmin, whom he considered little more than a soothsayer or a beggar, or the Kshatriya, who disdained earning an honest living and was proud of being a mercenary.
According to anthropologist Sunil K. Khanna, Jat population is estimated to be around 30 million (or 3 crore) in South Asia in 2010. This estimation is based on statistics of the last caste census and the population growth of the region. The last caste census was conducted in 1931, which estimated Jats to be 8 million, mostly concentrated in India and Pakistan. Deryck O. Lodrick estimates Jat population to be over 33 million (around 12 million and over 21 million in India and Pakistan, respectively) in South Asia in 2009 while noting the unavailability of precise statistics in this regard. His estimation is based on a late 1980s population projection of Jats and the population growth of India and Pakistan. He also notes that some estimates put their total population in South Asia at approximately 43 million in 2009. His religion-wise break-up of Jats is as follows: 47% Hindus, 33% Muslims, and 20% Sikhs.
Republic of India
In India, multiple 21st-century estimates put Jats' population share at 20–25% in Haryana state and at 20–35% in Punjab state. In Rajasthan, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh, they constitute around 9%, 5%, and 1.2% respectively of the total population.
In the 20th century and more recently, Jats have dominated as the political class in Haryana and Punjab. Some Jat people have become notable political leaders, including the sixth Prime Minister of India, Charan Singh and the sixth Deputy Prime Minister of India, Chaudhary Devi Lal.
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. Economic differentiation, migration and mobility could be clearly noticed amongst the Jat people.
Jats are classified as Other Backward Class (OBC) in seven of India's thirty-six States and UTs, namely Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. However, only the Jats of Rajasthan – excluding those of Bharatpur district and Dholpur district – are entitled to reservation of central government jobs under the OBC reservation. In 2016, the Jats of Haryana organized massive protests demanding to be classified as OBC in order to obtain such affirmative action benefits.
Many Jat Muslim people live in Pakistan and have dominant roles in public life in the Pakistani Punjab and Pakistan in general. Jat communities also exist in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, in Sindh, particularly the Indus delta and among Seraiki-speaking communities in southern Pakistani Punjab, the Kachhi region of Balochistan and the Dera Ismail Khan District of the North West Frontier Province.
Culture and society
Many Jat people serve in the Indian Army, including the Jat Regiment, Sikh Regiment, Rajputana Rifles and the Grenadiers, where they have won many of the highest military awards for gallantry and bravery. Jat people also serve in the Pakistan Army especially in the Punjab Regiment.
The Jat people were designated by officials of the British Raj as a "martial race", which meant that they were one of the groups whom the British favoured for recruitment to the British Indian Army. This was a designation created by administrators that classified each ethnic group as either "martial" or "non-martial": a "martial race" was typically considered brave and well built for fighting, whilst the remainder were those whom the British believed to be unfit for battle because of their sedentary lifestyles. However, the martial races were also considered politically subservient, intellectually inferior, lacking the initiative or leadership qualities to command large military formations. The British had a policy of recruiting the martial Indians from those who has less access to education as they were easier to control. According to modern historian Jeffrey Greenhunt on military history, "The Martial Race theory had an elegant symmetry. Indians who were intelligent and educated were defined as cowards, while those defined as brave were uneducated and backward". According to Amiya Samanta, the marital race was chosen from people of mercenary spirit (a soldier who fights for any group or country that will pay him/her), as these groups lacked nationalism as a trait. The Jats participated in both World War I and World War II, as a part of the British Indian Army. In the period subsequent to 1881, when the British reversed their prior anti-Sikh policies, it was necessary to profess Sikhism in order to be recruited to the army because the administration believed Hindus to be inferior for military purposes.
The Indian Army admitted in 2013 that the 150-strong Presidential Bodyguard comprises only people who are Hindu Jats, Jat Sikhs and Hindu Rajputs. Refuting claims of discrimination, it said that this was for "functional" reasons rather than selection based on caste or religion.
Deryck O. Lodrick estimates religion-wise break-up of Jats as follows: 47% Hindus, 33% Muslims, and 20% Sikhs.
There are conflicting scholarly views regarding the varna status of Jats in Hinduism. Some sources state that Jats are regarded as Kshatriyas, while others assign Vaishya or Shudra varna to them. According to Santokh S. Anant, Jats, Rajputs, and Thakurs are at the top of the caste hierarchy in most of the north Indian villages, surpassing Brahmins. Assigning Vaishya varna to Jats, he notes that they perform the dual duties of Kshatriyas and Vaishyas in the Punjab region. According to Indera P. Singh, Brahmins demoted the varna status of Jats from Kshatriya to Sat Shudra (clean Shudra) in the Vedic period for challenging the authority of Brahmins. According to Irfan Habib, Jats were a "pastoral Chandala-like tribe" in Sindh during the 8th century. Their 11th-century status of Shudra varna changed to Vaishya varna by the 17th century, with some of them aspiring to improve it further after their 17th-century rebellion against the Mughals.
The Rajputs refused to accept Jat claims to Kshatriya status during the later years of the British Raj and this disagreement frequently resulted in violent incidents between the two communities. The claim at that time of Kshatriya status was being made by the Arya Samaj, which was popular in the Jat community. The Arya Samaj saw it as a means to counter the colonial belief that the Jats were not of Aryan descent but of Indo-Scythian origin.
List of clans
- Anjana Chaudhari
- Bargoti (Uttar Pradesh)
- Bhalothia (Rajasthan, Haryana)
- Chhina (Punjab)
- Chilka (Rajasthan)
- Dara (Rajasthan)
- Dhaulya (Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu)
- Goriya (Haryana, Uttar Pradesh)
- Jats of Azad Kashmir
- Jats of Kutch
- Jewlia (Rajasthan)
- Jhajharia (Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan)
- Jhanjhar (Rajasthan)
- Kalwania (Rajasthan, Haryana)
- Kasaniya (Rajasthan)
- Katewa
- Khatkar (Punjab, Haryana)
- Pediwal (Rajasthan)
- Rawn (Punjab)
- Sandhila (Sindh, Punjab)
- Sarai (Punjab)
- Sunda (Rajasthan)
In popular culture
- Maula Jatt
- The Legend of Maula Jatt
- A Flying Jatt
- Jatt & Juliet
- Jatt & Juliet 2
- Jatt James Bond
- Badla Jatti Da
- Jatts In Golmaal
- Jaattan ka Chhora
- Jat Regiment
- Jat reservation agitation
- World Jat Aryan Foundation
- List of Jat dynasties and states
- List of Jat people
- Jat Sikh
- "Glossary: Jat: title of north India's major non-elite 'peasant' caste."
- "... in the middle decades of the (nineteenth) century, there were two contrasting trends in India's agrarian regions. Previously marginal areas took off as zones of newly profitable 'peasant' agriculture, disadvantaging non-elite tilling groups, who were known by such titles as Jat in western NWP and Gounder in Coimatore."
- "In the later nineteenth century, this thinking led colonial officials to try to protect Sikh Jats and other non-elite 'peasants' whom they now favoured as military recruits by advocating legislation under the so-called land alienation."
- According to Susan Bayly, "... (North India) contained large numbers of non-elite tillers. In the Punjab and the western Gangetic Plains, convention defined the Rajput's non-elite counterpart as a Jat. Like many similar titles used elsewhere, this was not so much a caste name as a broad designation for the man of substance in rural terrain. … To be called Jat has in some regions implied a background of pastoralism, though it has more commonly been a designation of non-servile cultivating people."
- Bayly, Susan (2001). Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age. Cambridge University Press. p. 385. ISBN 978-0-521-79842-6. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
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- Wink, André (2004), Indo-Islamic society: 14th – 15th centuries, BRILL, pp. 92–93, ISBN 978-90-04-13561-1, retrieved 15 August 2013 Quote: "In Sind, the breeding and grazing of sheep and buffaloes was the regular occupations of pastoral nomads in the lower country of the south, while the breeding of goats and camels was the dominant activity in the regions immediately to the east of the Kirthar range and between Multan and Mansura. The jats were one of the chief pastoral-nomadic divisions here in early-medieval times, and although some of these migrated as far as Iraq, they generally did not move over very long distances on a regular basis. Many jats migrated to the north, into the Panjab, and here, between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries, the once largely pastoral-nomadic Jat population was transformed into sedentary peasants. Some Jats continued to live in the thinly populated barr country between the five rivers of the Panjab, adopting a kind of transhumance, based on the herding of goats and camels. It seems that what happened to the jats is paradigmatic of most other pastoral and pastoral-nomadic populations in India in the sense that they became ever more closed in by an expanding sedentary-agricultural realm."
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n the Ganges Canal Tract of the Muzaffarnagar district where the landowning castes – Tagas , Jats , Rajputs , Sayyids , Sheikhs , Gujars , Borahs
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Out of the 45 parganas of the sarkars of Delhi, 17 are reported to have Jat Zamindars. Out of these 17 parganas, the Jats are exclusively found in 11, whereas in other 6 they shared Zamindari rights with other communities.
- Dhavan, Purnima (2011). When sparrows became hawks : the making of the Sikh warrior tradition, 1699-1799. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-19-975655-1. OCLC 695560144.
Muzaffar Alam's study of the akhbarat (news reports) and chronicles of the period demonstrates that Banda and his followers had wide support amongst the Jat zamindars of the Majha, Jalandhar Doab, and the Malwa area. Jat zamindars actively colluded with the rebels, and frustrated the Mughal faujdars or commanders of the area by supplying Banda and his men with grain, horses, arms, and provisions. This evidence suggests that understanding the rebellion as a competition between peasants and feudal lords is an oversimplification, since the groups affiliated with Banda as well as those affiliated with the state included both Zamindars and peasants.
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The Jats have long been distinguished by their martial traditions and by the custom of retaining their hair uncut. The influence of these traditions evidently operated prior to the formal inauguration of the Khalsa.
- Singh 1981, pp. 190, 265.
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- The transformation of Sikh society — Page 92 by Ethne K. Marenco - The gazetteer also describes the relation of the Jat Sikhs to the Jat Hindus ... to 2019 in 1911 is attributed to the conversion of Jat Hindus to Sikhism. ...
- Social philosophy and social transformation of Sikhs by R. N. Singh (Ph. D.) Page 130 - The decrease of Jat Hindus from 16843 in 1881 to 2019 in 1911 is attributed to the conversion of Jat Hindus to Sikhism. ...
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While the rulers of Patiala were Jat Sikhs and not Rajputs, the state was the closest princely territory to Bikaner's northwest.
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