In this post, I will look at the Rayeen, sometimes pronounced as Rai, another community that is found in the Doab and Rohilkhand regions of western Uttar Pradesh. Like other group such as the Bhatti and Kamboh, which I have looked in my other blogs, the Rayeen have roots in the Punjab. Early British ethnologists, such as William Crook took the position that the Rayeen were one and the same as the Arain community of Punjab. Briefly I will raise an issue of some sensitivity, the use of the term Rayeen by members of the Kunjra community. The Kunjra are a widespread group of Muslims, traditionally associated with vegetable growing and selling, who are found throughout North India. The Rayeen, who are found mainly in Bareilly, Pilibhit, Udhamsingh Nagar are much smaller group, and have rejected the claim of the Kunjra to be called Arain. According to the 1901 Census of Uttar Pradesh, there were 14,698, found in the regions I have just mentioned, and much larger group of Kunjra 85,738, with a much larger geographic distribution. It does seem from the records, that at least right up to the mid-20th Century, both groups maintained a distinct identity.
The Rayeen of Uttar Pradesh are clearly the same community as the Arain of Punjab. There circumstances of migration relate the Chalisa famine of the 1780s in Punjab. The effect of the Chalisa famines was to depopulate many regions of India, especially the semi-arid of the Ghaghar valley, the original homeland of the Rayeen community. The Ghaggar valley is now situated in what is Sirsa District of Haryana. One of among many of the tribal tradition of the Sirsa Rayeen was that they were originally Hindu Rajputs, expelled from Uchh, near Multan, by their enemies and escaped by abandoning their military rank and took to market gardening, the tribal occupation of their neighbours the true Arains. Therefore, the Sirsawal Arains are distinct from the Arains of the Sutlej, who were found largely in the central districts of Punjab, like Jallandhar, Amritsar and Lahore.
After leaving Ucch, they settled on the banks of the Ghaggar, where the tribe was remained for the next four hundred years. Then the famine of 1783 A.D occurred, at which according to early British sources they held the whole of the Ghaggar valley from Bhatner (present day Hanumangarh) up to Tohana in Fatehabad. The famine combined with the attacks of the marauding Bhatti Rajputs, weakened their hold on the land, and they finally broke before the Chalisa famine of 1783 A.D. and many of them emigrated to Bareilly, Pihbhit, and Rampur in what is now Uttar Pradesh.
William Crook, the colonial ethnographer claimed that they are by origin Kambohs:
Mr. Ibbetson says: The Satlaj Arains in Sirsa say that they are, like the Arains of Lahore and Montgomery, connected by origin with the Hindu Kambohs. Mr. Wilson thinks it probable that both classes are really Kambohs who have become Muslims, and that the Ghaggar Arains emigrated in a body from Multan, while the others moved gradually up the Sutlej into their present place.
Another British account, this time by Horace Arthur Rose also makes reference to the distinction between the Sultluj and Ghaghar Arains in Punjab.
In Sirsa the Sutlej Arains meet those of the Ghaggar. The two do not intermarry, but the Arains of the Ghaggar valley say they were Rajputs living on the Panjnad near Multan who were ejected some four centuries ago by Saiyad Jalal-ul-din of Uch. They claim some sort of connection with Jaisalmer. Till the great famines of 1759 and 1783 A. D. they are said to have held all the lower valleys of the Choya and Ghaggar, but after the latter date the Bhattis harassed the Sumnis, the country became disturbed, and many of the Arains emigrated across the Ganges and settled near Bareli and Rampur. They marry only with the Ghaggar and Bareli Arains.
It is interesting to note, that Rose mentions that Ghaghar Arain had still maintained intermarage with those of Pilibhit and Bareilly. While Crook’s point that Arain and Kamboh have a common origin is hard to prove, but it is worth mentioning that the settlement area of both the Rayeen and Kamboh overlaps to some degree, with a substantial presence in Rohilkhand and the Doab. But what mitigates against the theory of common origin is the fact the two communities, despite a close proximity, consider themselves as quite distinct.
Among the Pilibhit Rayeen, there is a traditions that they Arabs, and get their name from the Rayee mountains, located somewhere in Arabia. This probably picks of the tradition among the Punjab Arain, that there name is distortion of Araheeai, which means a resident of Ariha, better known as the city of Jericho in the West Bank. According to this tradition, a group of Arabs soldiers from Jericho accompanied Mohammad Bin Qassim in his conquest of Sindh. From here, they then spread to Ucch. Its interesting there are references to the city of Ucch in almost all the accounts of the Rayeen community. It is very likely, a group of cultivators left the Sutlej valley and settled in the Ghaggar. From the tribal myths, we have some fairly consistent information, the Chalisa famine and attacks by the Bhattis forcing them leave Haryana and move across to Uttar Pradesh. In the 19th Century, the Rayeen were the early colonist in the Nainital Terai region, where they cleared the jungles and built their villages. The majority of the community are still found in the Terai region.
Distribution of Rayeen in the United Provinces by District According to 1901 Census of India
Looking at the Census returns, it is clear that majority of the Rayeen population were found in the Rohilkhand region, with a second cluster found in Saharanpur and Muzzafarnagar in the Doab.
The Rayeen are still largely found in Bareilly, Pilibhit, Udham Singh Nagar (carved out of Nainital), Nainital, Rampur and Saharanpur districts of Uttar Pradesh.
Villages in Pilibhit District
Starting with Pilibhit District, they are found in the villages of Amariya, Barhepura, Bhainsaha, Dheram, Dang, Dhundhari, Gaibojh, Harraypur, Karghaina, Madhopur, Nurpur, Patti, Turkania, Sardarnagar, Sirsi, Sukatia, and Udaipur. There are also several villages located north of the town of Bisalpur including Khameria, and near Jahanabad.
Villages in Bareilly District
In Bareilly District,they occupied several villages near the town of Baheri like Arsiabojh, Dayyabojh, Dhakia, Ekgrah, Fardi Rayeen, Gunah Jawahar, Guleria, Mundia Nabibakhsh, Mundia Nasir, Mundia Jageer, Pipra, Paiga, and Suketia.
Villages in Udham Singh Nagar (formerly part of Nainital District)
In Udham Singh Nagar District they are settled in the towns of Kichha , Rudrapur and Sitarganj, and in the villages of Bandia, Baroda, Kachhi Khamaria, Lalpur, Malpura, Naugwan, Sisai, Pipelia and Sirauoli.
Villages in Bijnor District
In Bijnor District they are settled in the town of Najibabad (Mohalla Rampura), Kiratpur, Jalalabad, and Sahanpur Estate specially in the village of Alipura, Chukhapur, Chandanpur, Chilkiya, Ghawaryi(Khadar), Mojampur Tulsi, Puranpur, Rammanwala, Rasulpur and Taharpur.
In Rampur they are present in Mandanpur and Bhaisodi.