Wattu Rajputs

In this article I will look at a tribe of Punjabi Rajputs called the Wattoo, sometimes written as Wattu, are one of the main Rajput tribes of the Sutlej valley, who are closely connected to the Bhatti. Their historic homeland was the region of Bhattiana, the region that now forms parts of Hissar, Sirsa, Fazilka and Ferozpur districts of Punjab and Haryana, and Churu and Ganganagar districts of Rajasthan. They were semi-nomadic cattle raising pastoralist, largely independent until the arrival of the British. After the partition of Punjab in 1947, the Wattu of Hisar, Sirsa, Fazilka and Ferozepur immigrated to Pakistan.

Origin Myths

Like other Punjabi tribes, the Watto have several origin myths. However, all make reference to traditions of a Chandravanshi descent from a Raja Junher, who incidentally was also the ancestor of the Bhattis. Both tribes in Bhattiana were closely related, and Wattu can be seem simply as a branch of the Bhatti. They both claim a connection with the Bhati Rajputs of Jaisalmer.

Wattoo territory at the beginning of the 19th Century included lands on both banks of the Sutlej in the Sirsa district, and the adjoining parts of Montgomery and Bahawalpur state, from Baggehi 16 miles above Fazilka, to Phulahi 70 miles below it in the old Sirsa territory, then Sulaimke to Gugera. Above them was the territory of the Dogars, below them the Joiya. In the late 18th Century, after the Chalissa famine, the Wattoo left what is now Okara and settled in the lands of Sirsa and Rania, which was ruled by Bhatti Nawabs. This migration occurred under the leadership Fazil Dalel Rana. Another branch moved into what is Bahawalnagar District. In the Sutlej valley, the Wattoo were the most important group of Hitharis. Other groups also began to move into the Ravi river valley clashing with both the Kharals and Bhattis of the Bhatiore.

In Fazilka and Sirsa, Watto was the grandson of Rajah Junhar. However, in this region their conversion to Islam occurred in the reign of Firoz Shah Tughlak, when Khiwa, 16th in descent from Wattu converted to Islam. The Sirsa and Fazilka Wattus claimed the tribe had left Jaisalmer under Khiwa. After which they remained semi-independent in the what is now Sirsa and Fazilka districts, nominally subjects of the Delhi Sultanate, and its successor the Mughal Empire. When the Mughal Empire collapsed in the early part of the 18th Century, the Fazilka Wattus were lost their independence to the rising power of the Sidhu-Barar Sikhs, until the arrival of the British in the late 18th Century. They occupied a tract in the Sutlej valley from Baggeki, 16 miles north of Fazilka to Phulahi, 70 miles south of it.

 

While the eastern Wattus eventually came under British rule, after the collapse of the Mughal Empire, the western Wattu fell under the rule of the Dawoodputra state of Bahawalpur. In the old Bahawalpur State, the Wattoo traditions as to their origin differs slightly from those of Fazilka-Sirsa. The ancestor of the tribe remains Raja Junher, a descendant of the Bhatti Raja Salvahan of Sialkot. He was settled in Bhatner (modern Hanumangarh), and had two sons Achal and Batera, who were settled in Bhatner. The descendants of Batera include the Sidhu and Barar Jats. The former again had two sons Jaipal and Raipal, of whom Jaipal was the ancestor of the Bhatti proper, and Raipal of the Wattoo. The Wattoo are said to have been converted to Islam by Baba Farid, during the rule of their chief Khiwa, who ruled at Haveli in Okara, and was succeeded by the famous Wattu chief, Lakhe Khan. The western Wattu’s also came under the control of the  Sidhu-Barar Sikhs to whom they remained tributary until they petitioned Nawab Muhammad Bahawal Khan II. He is said to have expelled the Sidhu-Barars from the Wattu territory and annexed it to Bahawalpur. The territory extends from what is now Head Suleimanke to Lakhwera, which was the site of independent Wattu state

 

Another Wattoo traditions makes them descendants of Rajah Salvahan son Pital, who quarrelled with hie brothers and went th Bhatner (now known as Hanumangarh) in Rajasthan. Twelve generations later Adham, owing to a feud with tho Panwar Rajputs, immigrated into the Punjab and earned his title of Wattoo by subduing the pride of that race. The word watt or vat has various meanings, and Wattoo very likely means a borderer.While according to the author of the Montgommery Gazetteer, they acquired the name Wattu as follows:

The Wattus, who occupy both banks of the Sutlej for about Wattus. 60 miles, and the tract about Gugera, claim descent from Eaja Salvahan of Sialkot. They have probably a close racial connection with Hindu Bhattis, Mussalman Bhattis, Joiyas, and with Sidhu and Barar Sikh Jats (vide pages 76 and 91 of the Hissar Gazetteer). One of Salvahan’s sons settled in Bhatner. Adham, the 12th in descent, came to the Sutlej near Ferozepore. There he found the Rajada Kharrals, the Dogars, and the Joiyas. They picked a quarrel with him, but he beat them. On account of venting his displeasure on them he was called wattu, to at meaning displeasure.

 

All these traditions have a few common threads, an accepted connection with the Bhatti and Sidhu Barar Jats, and an ancestry from the Bhati Rajputs of Jaisalmer.

The Wattu State on the Sutlej

By the early 18th Century, theNeeli Bar,  the area between the rivers Ravi and Satluj was in a state of chaos, as the authority of the Mughal Empire had collapsed. Taking advantage of the situation, a famous Wattu chaudhri called Lakha, who used to pay in the revenue of a considerable part of the Wattu country on both sides of the river, renounced the Mughals. He became independent, holding territory based in the villages of Atari and Haveli,  with forty villages on the other side of the Sutlej acknolwledging him as ruler. He built an enclosure or haveli near the latter village, hence the name Haveli Lakha, although the present village does not stand on the same site as Haveli Lakha Wattu. The Wattu chieftain was involved in a conflict with the Bhangi and Nakkaimisals of the Sikhs, the Daudputras of Bahawalpur and the Kharals at Kamalia. He was succeeded by his grandson, Ahmad Yar Khan, who defeated the Sikh leader Hira Singh Nakkai. His triumph was shortlived, for very soon Fateh Singh Bhangi attacked him, over-ran the country, and, defeating Ahmad Yar at Khadwali, driving him across the Sutlej. The Wattu chiefs then came under the control of the Bhangis, and their leader Sardar Budh Singh.  Jahan Khan, successor of Ahmad Yar,continued as ruler. When the Bhangi misal was incorporated into Ranjit Singh’s state, the Wattu were reduced to zamindars.

 

Wattu Subdivisions

The Wattoos have a number of clans (muhins), e.g. Ladhoka, Bazidke,
Salim-Shahi, etc, all named after a particular ancestor.The principal clans of the Wattoos in Bahawalpur are:

i) Salim-ke (I) Qaim-ke, (2) Amruke, (3) Bare-ke.
ii. Sahru, with a sub-sept Darweshke.
iii. Gaddhoke, (1) Ratte-ke, (2) Bithe-ke, (3) Dhaddi-ke, (4) Daddd-ke.
iv. Rahmanke
v. Malike
vi. Miana
viii Jasoke
ix. Ahloke

The Wattoo were pastoralist par excellence, and this shown by a quote by the colonial ethnographer W.E. Purser:

priding themselves upon their politeness and hospitality. They are of only moderate industry, profuse in expenditure on special occasions, indifferent to education and exceedingly fond of cattle

 

Prior to the partition of India, there were sizeable colonies in Fazilka in what is now Punjab, India and Sirsa in what is now Haryana. All of these communities migrated to Pakistan in 1947.

The Wattoo tribe is now found in the following districts; Okara District, Pakpattan District, Bahawalnagar District, Shekhupura District, Multan District, and Nankana Sahib Districts.

Distribution of Wattu Rajputs According to the 1901 Census of India

District / State

 

Population
Montgomery

 

14,347
Firuzpur 6,951

 

Chenab Colony

 

2,059
Hisar

 

1,852
Bahawalpur State 481

 

Other Districts

 

806
Total

 

26,496

.