In this post, I intend to look at three tribes, namely the Basra, Goraya and Nagra, who are found mainly in the northern half of the Ravi Chenab (Rechna Doab) Doab, mainly now the districts of Hafizabad, Sialkot, Gujranwala and Narowal. Historically, these tribes also had a presence in Gurdaspur, but like other Punjabi Muslims they had to migrate to Pakistan at the time of partition. All these tribes are Jat clans, and this region of Pakistan perhaps has the clearest boundary between Rajput and Jat. Jats are found all over this region and form the backbone of the agricultural community. They are divided into numerous clans and historically belonged to different religions. It was not uncommon to find in a village a few Jat families practicing Sikhism while others Islam. Along the border with the Jammu and Kashmir state, many Jats had remained Hindu, and many Hindu Nagra Jats are still found in the Jammu Jammu Region. Therefore, we find among the Basra, Goraya and Nagra groups following Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism. The Gazetteer of the Sialkot District (1920, Part A) gave the following description:
profess different religions, but a strong family likeness pervades the whole tribe. The Muhammadan is sometimes said to be less energetic than his Hindu or Sikh brother, but it is very doubtful whether any such distinction exists. The Sikh sometimes indulges a taste for liquor and a certain amount of illicit distilling occurs in the district. All are patient, hardworking cultivators without much enterprise but tenacious of their rights and proud of their position as zamindars or landowners, even if their holding be but an acre or two.
Another interesting factor is that both the Basra and Goraya claim descent from the Saroha Rajputs, a tribe of which little is known. The quote makes reference to the word zamindar, literally landowner, and almost Jats in this region interchangeably describe themselves as zamindar and Jat.
I start of by looking at the Basra, a clan found mainly in the northern part of the Rechna Doab. Like many of other Jat tribes in the Sialkot region, they claim descent from the mysterious Saroha tribe. There are currently very Saroha Rajputs, but most claim to be Chandravanshi Rajputs. Many Basra also connect themselves with the mythical Rajah Salvahan, who is said to founded the city of Sialkot. According to this tradition, Raja Salvahan has two sons named as Basra and Sarra. From Basra descend the Basra tribe of Jats and from Sarra the Sarai, another well known Jat tribe. Basra is said to have migrated to Phagwara, now located in the Kapurthala district of Indian Punjab. There original settlement was the village of Mehli, located near the town of Phagawara. Incidentally, almost all Basra of the Sialkot / Narowal region claim Mehli to be their village of origin. Melhi is also still home to Basra Jat families who follow the Sikh faith. Some five centuries ago, a famine drove the Basra from Phagwara, and they established their first settlement at the village of Gharial Kalan, south of the town of Pasrur. They then founded the village of Gharial Khurd , due to the unavailability of land in Gharial Kalan. It is unclear when the Basra began converting to Islam, but the majority were Muslim at the time of the arrival of the British in the Punjab 1849. Most Basra are now found mainly near the city of Daska.
In terms of distribution, most Basra are still found in Raya Tehsil of Narowal District, and Daska Tehsil of Sialkot District. There are a second cluster of Basra villages in the Kali Subha region of north eastern Gujranwala. In the district Sheikhupura, they are found in the villagers of Bule Chak, Akbarian-Bhagian, Hamidpur and Gundowal. Outside their historic area, the Basra Jats have settled in the Canal Colony districts of Faisalabad and Toba Tek Singh, where there are now several Basra villages.
The next tribe I will look at are the Goraya. There are several origins myths for the Goraya, which is not uncommon among Punjabi tribes. But most agree that sometime in the past they were once pastoral. Like the Basra, the Goraya are said to be descended from the Saroha Rajputs, and to have come to Gujranwala as a nomadic and pastoral. tribe from Sirsa, in what is now Haryana. According to another tradition,t he tribe is descended from a Sombansi Rajput called Goraya whose grandson Mai came from the Lakki Thal, in what is now Bhakkar District. A third tradition is that Rana their founder, came from the Jammu hills during the period of Mughal rule over Punjab (circa 15 -17 AD). Interestingly, the word goraya is also used for the nilgai, a type of a large antelope. Therefore, it is possible that Goraya could have been a nickname for their ancestor. Finally, it is sometimes said that they are a clan of the Dhillon tribe, descended from Budh who had
twenty sons, one of whom was Goraya.
They are now found in Gujranwala, Sialkot, Narowal and Gurdraspur. They own 31 villages in Gujranwala. In Sialkot, there villages are located ibn the north-east of the Pasrur Tehsil.
The last tribe I will look at are the Nagra. According to tribal traditions, the clan claim descent from Nagra, who is said to be a Chauhan Rajput, and the tribe also claim a common origin with the Cheema. They are said to have left Delhi during the rule of Alauddin Khilji (rule 1296 to 1316), and settled initially in Jalandhar, and them moved to Pasrur, near Sialkot. The Sikh Nagra consider the Sikh Cheema to be their collaterals, and as such these two clans do not intermarry. After the partition of India in 1947, the Sikh Nagra of Sialkot District moved to India, while the Muslim Nagra undertook a similar migration from Gurdaspur District
Nagra tribal territory stretched from Pasrur in the west to Gurdaspur in the east. Like many Jat clans in this region, they are partly Muslim and partly Sikh. Many Nagras, like other Jat clans were settled in the Canal Colonies of Lyalpur and Montgomery in the 19th and early 20th Century. One such Nagra village in the canal colonies is Chak 351 GB Nagra in Toba Tek Singh District.