Rajputs of Punjab

In this post, I will give a brief overview of the Rajput community in Punjab. The term Raja putra means the son of a Raja or king in Sanskrit. In Punjab, the Rajputs can be loosely divided into five territorial groupings.  According to the 1911 census in British India, the total Rajput population in the Punjab was 1,635,578, of which 1,222,024 (74.5%) were Muslim, 388,744 (24%) were Hindu and (24,810) (1.5%) were Sikh.  Each Rajput tribe claims to belong one of three lineages, and I shall start off by giving a brief description of each of these.

Lineages

The Suryavanshi lineage, claiming descent from Surya. The Sun Dynasty is oldest among Kshatriyas. The first person of this dynasty was “Vivaswan,” who by the meaning of his name is considered to be “Surya.” Ikshvaku was the first important king of this dynasty. Other important kings were Kakutsth Harishchandra, Sagar, Dileepa, Bhagiratha, Raghu Dashratha and Rama. The poet Kalidasa wrote the great epic Raghuvamsa about the dynasty of Raghu including the great king born in the Sun Dynasty.

The Chandravanshi lineage, claiming descent from Som which literally means “Moon.” This Lunar Dynasty is also old but younger than the Sun Dynasty. Som was the first king of this dynasty. Other important kings were Pururawa, Nahush, Yayati, Dushyant, Bharata, Kuru, Shantanu and Yudhishthir. Yadu was the eldest son of Yayati and Yadavs claim descent from Yadu. Krishna was also born in this dynasty of Yadu. Harivamsa gives details of this dynasty.

The Agnivanshi lineage claims descent from four persons who were born from fire or by the influence of Ved Mantras.” According to Puranic legend, as found in Bhavishya Purana, a yagna was held at Mount Abu, at the time of emperor Ashoka’s sons. From the influence of Mantras of the four Vedas, four Kshatriyas were born. They were: 1. Pramar (Paramara), 2.Chaphani (Chauhan); 3.Chu (Chalukya); 4.Pariharak (Pratihara). But since fire cannot produce warriors, it should be understood that these four persons were either reconverted into Hinduism or revitalized to fight against invaders. They could not be of foreign origin because India was fighting against Indo-Greek kings at that time. Pusyamitra Sunga and his son Agnimitra were Brahmins. They are known for reviving Hinduism. This theory of origin has produced much controversy; however, only four clans out of many Rajput clans are considered to be Agnivanshi. Some scholars also count Nagavanshi and Rishivanshi. The Yaduvanshi lineage, claiming descent from the Hindu god Krishna, are in fact a major sect of the Chandravanshi.

The aforementioned three patrilineages (vanshas) sub-divide into 36 main clans (kulas), which in turn divide into numerous branches (shakhas), to create the intricate clan system of the Rajputs. The principle of patrilineage is staunchly adhered to in determining one’s place in the system and a strong consciousness of clan and lineage is an essential part of the Rajput character. As the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica states, this tradition of common ancestry permits an indigent Rajput yeoman to consider himself as well-born as any powerful landholder of his clan, and superior to any high official of the professional classes. Authoritative listings of the 36 Rajput clans are to be found in the Kumārpāla Charita of Jayasimha and the Prithvirāj Rāso of Chandbardai.

 

Divisions Among the Rajputs of Punjab

The first grouping inhabited the territory that extended from the Yamuna valley to the Ghaghar, roughly what is the modern state of Haryana. Almost three quarters of them had converted to Islam, and these were referred to as Ranghar. They belonged mainly to the Chauhan and Tomar sub-divisions, which gave Delhi its most famous Rajput dynasties.

Next came the Rajputs of the south-west of Punjab, roughly the Seraiki speaking region comprising the modern Bahwalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan divisions. These tribes were hardly distinguished from the Jat clans in their neighbourhood, and for the most part belonged to the Bhatti of Jaisalmer and Bikaner, and their Panwar predecessors. The Rajput clans of the south-west had converted to Islam in their entirety. The third group comprised the Rajput clans of the Salt Range, and the Pothohar Plateau, who were split into numerous clans, either descended from the Yaduvanshi dynasty of Kashmir, the famous Raja Salvahan of Sialkot, or the numerous Panwar tribes occupying the hills along the Jhelum River. Like the Rajputs of the south-west, these tribes had almost entirely converted to Islam. The only exception were some members of the Chib and Bhao tribes, found in Kharian, many of whom had remained Hindu, and maintained close relations with the Dogras of Jammu.

 

The fourth group comprised the Rajputs of the the Punjab Hills, the modern territory of Himachal Pradesh, Gurdaspur District and Hoshiarpur District. These tribes are perhaps the most ancient of the Rajput tribes of Punjab, the Katoch being the most famous, and were almost entirely Hindu, with only some clans of the lower Shivalik hills, such as the Sulehria and Katil, converting to Islam. The principalities of the Punjab Himalayas, were some of the oldest states in India.

 

The final grouping were the Rajputs of central Punjab, roughly the area of the Sandal Bar, Manjha, Malwa and Doaba. The Bhattis, Kharals and Sials predominated in the Sandal Bar, the Bhatti predominated in the Bhattiana region, the modern districts of Firozpur and Sirsa, and the Ghorewaha, Manj and Naru were found in the Sikh tract, who had held their own against the dominant Jatt Sikh of the region.. In Amritsar and Lahore , the Rajputs were mainly Bhatti And Khokhar, with a sprinkling of Panwar and Chauhan. The Rajput clans were predominantly Muslim in this region, except along the borders with Rajasthan, where there were communities of Hindu Rajputs, such as the Shaikhawat and Rathore. I shall now look into detail at of the five groupings.

Rajputs of South Western Punjab
The term Rajput is very rarely used on its own by the tribes that are indigenous to south west Punjab. In the Bahawalpur Division, the distinction between tribes of Jat status and Rajput status is blurred. Tribes such as the Soomra, Samma, Daher, Kharal, Marral and Ghallu are sometimes refereed to as Jat, and sometimes as Rajput. The exceptions being the Johiya and Wattu, who in popular estimation are always considered Rajput. Along the left bank of the Indus, from Rahim Yar Khan District to Mianwali District, the term is rarely used by the tribes, with the notable exception of the Tiwana and Noon of the Thal Desert, and the Bhachar of Wan Bachran, in Mianwali. It is only when one reaches the Salt Range, that term Rajput comes into common usage. In the lands across the Indus, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Rajput disappears completely, and their place is taken by the Baluch and Pashtun. In the Dera Ghazi Khan District, the only indigenous tribe that calls itself Rajput, are the Jamra, who use the title Jam, indicating Sindhi ancestry. Across the Indus, in Muzafargarh, the Khera Sial, Dhanotar and Panwar are the only tribes that claim Rajput tribes. In Bahawalpur District, the Samma and Soomra are the principal Rajput tribes.

 

The Rajput make a reappearance in the valleys of the Jhelum and Chenab, where the Chadhar and Sial are both tribes of impeccable Agnivanshi pedigree. In the Sandal Bar, the Waseer, Kharal, Wahiniwal and Wattu are all major Rajput tribes, the first two claiming to be Agnivanshi, while the latter two claim to be Chandravanshi, claiming a common origin with the Bhatti. The upper part of the Sandal Bar, and the Bhattiore area of Chiniot District was a stronghold of the Bhatti tribe. Further along the Jhelum River valley, the Khokhar and Bhatti founds in great numbers.

Along the valley of the Sutlej River, the Wattu, Johiya, Baghela, Lodhra and Kathia are the predominant tribes. In and around the city of Multan, the Khokhar and Bhatti clans such as the Mitru, Kanju, Bosan and Noon predominate.

 

Rajputs of the Pothohar Plateau

The Pothohar Plateau and Salt Range is home to a large number of Rajput clans. The Rajputs are the largest ethnic group in the region, and are often referred to as the Rajah. The principal tribes are the Bhatti, Panwar, Minhas and Janjua. Many of these larger clans have splintered into numerous septs.

In terms of distribution, the Bhatti, and their sub-divisions are the most widespread. Important clans of the Bhatti descent, include Jodhras of Attock District, the Hattar of Chakwal and Jhelum districts, the Gungal of Rawalpindi and Jhelum districts, the Nagrial and Nagrwal of Rawalpindi District and the Mamyal of Rawalpindi District. In terms of historical prominence, the Janjua were the historical overlords of the region, until overwhelmed by the Ghakkars. Important Janjua subdivisions include the Dulal, Gaharwal, Jatal, Dhamial and Ranial. The Minhas are an important clan in the eastern half of the Pothohar Plateau, with their sub-divisions, the Mair of Chakwal, the Kanyal and Nagyal of the Rawalpindi and Jhelum districts.
The Panwar are after Bhatti, are the most numerous clan in this region. The Panwar themselves are found in the Pabbi Hills. Important Panwar clans include the Bangial, Dhudhi, Narma, Sohlan, Hon, Baghial and Bhakral. The Bhakral are, after the Janjua are perhaps the most important Rajput clan in Rawalpindi District. The Katoch, a clan found generally in Jammu and Himachal Pradesh, has two sub-divisions, the Chib of the Jhelum Pabbi and the Ratial of Rawalpindi District.
In additions to these clans, there are also a number of other clans, such as the Alpial, a clan of Manj Rajputs, found in Rawalpindi and Attock districts, the Jalap and Khokhar of Pind Dadan Khan, and Chauhan found through out the Pothohar Plateau.
Other Rajput clans in the region include the Mathyal,Sulehria, Langrial, Khingar, Sehngral, Ghik, Malal, Bhutial, Jamsral, Sainswal, Bijnial, Ramial, Hayal, Janjil, Tharjial, Khumbal, Bharial, Hafyal, Salhal,Mangeal, Johad, Adhial, Kurar, Jhottial, Mair-Minhas, Tuh, Chanial, Bhatti-Mehra, Bhatti-Kanjial, Bhatti-Jangal, Bhatti-Badhuer, and Bhatti-Shaikh.

Rajput of Central Punjab
The Rajput of central Punjab historically occupied a region extending from Faisalabad in the west to Patiala in the east. According to the traditions of the various tribes, they are connected with the Rajputs of Rajasthan. Their no historical records giving the account of the migration of the various Rajput tribes into the region. But tradition points the Ghorewaha to be the earliest inhabitants of the region. The Ghorewaha are said to be Kachwaha Rajputs, who emigrated from Rajasthan, during the period of Mohammed Ghori. Their original territory was the Beas Sutlej Doab. Other important tribes of this region are the Manj, Naru, Taoni, and Varya. In the districts of Amritsar and Lahore, the predominant tribes were the Bhatti and Khokhar, while in Sialkot District, the Rajputs of central Punjab met those of the hills. The Bhattis and Khokhars predominated in the plains, while the Sulehria, Minhas and Bhao were found in the hilly part of the district. In the south, the Bhattiana region, covering the modern Firuzpur and Sirsa districts, was home to the Bhatti, and related tribes such as the Dogar, Johiya, Mahaar, Naipal, and Wattu.

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