Khoja Shaikhs of Punjab

In this post, I will at interesting community of Punjabi Muslims called the Khoja Shaikh, or Khawaja Shaikh. They are a mercantile community, that has provided many of the larger business houses of Pakistan. The rise of the Khoja, from a community of petty merchants at the beginning of the 20th Century to the founders of some of the largest businesses in Pakistan is truly extraordinary.

 

The common self-designation of this community is either Sheikh, Shaikh or Khwaja Shaikh. Sheikh (Arabic and Punjabi: شيخ ), is an Arabic word meaning elder of a tribe, lord, honourable revered old man, or Islamic scholar. The title shaikh in South Asia is given to a convert to Islam who convert individually, and not where individuals collectively convert as whole castes, in which case the caste name is maintained, such as the Jats. The title is then carried on by the decendent of the convert. Khawaja is also an honorific title used across the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Central Asia, particularly as a title held by Sufi teachers. The word comes from the Iranian word khwāja (Classical Persian: خواجه khwāja; Dari khājah; Tajik khoja) and translates as “master”, “lord”. According to the traditions of the Khoja of Bhera, the title was given to their ancestors, who were Khatri traders who accepted Islam at the hands of Moinudin Chishti.

 

So who are the Khoja Shaikhs. Almost every tradition points to either a Khatri or Arora ancestry, although in Lahore, the Khoja insist their ancestors were Bhatia. There is some argument as to when and how the ancestors of these communities converted to Islam, it certainly existed for at least over four centuries ago. Although conversions to Islam in the Punjab started in the 11th century, it is uncertain when the Khatri and Arora traders embraced Islam. The earliest reference to Khojas in the Punjabi literature is in the Heer Ranjha of Waris Shah (1735–1790):

 The beauty of her Heer’s red lips slays rich Khojas and Khatris in bazaar, like Qizilbash [Afghan soldiers] troopers riding out of the royal camp into bazaar with a sword

 

These verses of Heer- Ranjha, written by Waris Shah in 1766, describe the conditions of the post-Mughal Punjab. Khatris and Khojas occupied an important place in the economy of the Punjabi towns. This was probably the earliest reference to the emerging role of Hindu and Muslim Khatris as rich traders, instead of performing their Vedic functions as fighters and governors. Up to around the middle of the 20th Century, this community of traders self-designated themselves as Khojas. But as that name has been associated by another community found in Sindh and Gujarat, who are Ismaili Muslims therefore the entirely Sunni Khojas of Punjab adopted the name Khawaja Shaikh, or increasingly just Shaikh, to distinguish themselves from the other Khojas. There are several groups of Khoja in Punjab, but after an overview, I will focus on three such groups, the Shaikhs of Bhera and Jalandhar, and the Chiniotis. I hope to write a separate post on the Gadhioks of Chakwal, which has produced the famous Saigol business house.

Origin.

Traditionally, any Hindu trader converted to Islam was given the name of Khoja. Thus the Khojas of Bhera were almost entirely Khatris, while those of Jhang, on the other hand, were said to be converted Aroras; while some at least of the Lahore Khojas claim Bhatia origin, and one section of the Ambala Khojas were Kayastha. The Khojas of Layyah also have the Khatri section-names of Kapoor, Puri, Tandon and Gambhir, but as these are no longer exogamous and as wives may be taken from other castes, the old rules of hypergamy and endogamy are no longer in force. While the Khojas of Jhang have at least four clans, the Magoon, Vohra, Wadawana and Passija, the first two being Khatri and the last two Arora. By the beginning of the 20th Century, it does seem, that any distinction between Khatri and Arora among Khoja had disappeared. The 19th Century British ethnologist Rose wrote the following about them:

These Musalman traders, whether called Khoja or Paracha, are found all along the northern portion of the two Provinces under the hills from Amritsar to Peshawar, and have spread southwards into the central and eastern districts of the Western Plains, but have not entered the Derajat or Muzaffargarh in any numbers. Their eastern boundary is the Sutlej valley, their western the Jhelum-Chenab, and they are found throughout the whole of the Salt Range. Probably it is hardly correct to say of them that they have spread or entered for they apparently include many distinct classes who will have sprung from different centres of conversion. They appear to be most numerous in Lahore

 

Khoja Population According to the 1921 Census of India

 

District / State

 

Population
Lahore

 

13,831
Firozpur

 

10,079
Amritsar

 

8,296
Multan

 

7,484
Jhang

 

6,820
Bahawalpur State

 

5,239
Sheikhupura

 

5,045
Sialkot

 

4,025
Shahpur

 

3,890
Muzaffargarh

 

2,997
Jhelum

 

2,670
Dera Ghazi Khan

 

2,168
Gujrat

 

1,943
Attock

 

1,892
Gujranwala

 

1,688
Lyallpur

 

1,501
Kapurthala State 1,452

 

Montgomery

 

1,274
Gurdaspur

 

1,221
Jalandhar

 

1,119
Rawalpindi

 

683
Mianwali 626

 

Ambala 440

 

Patiala State

 

393
Hoshiarpur 182

 

Ludhiana 134

 

Other Districts

 

369
Total

 

87,461

The 1921 Census was the last that counted the Khoja seperately, in 1931, the last census that counted caste, the Khoja were included within the Shaikh category.

Like other Punjabi Muslims, the Khojas often associate there conversion to Islam at the hands of a Sufi saint. The Khwaja Shaikhs of Bhera have a tradition that they converted to Islam at the hands of Khwaja Moinudin Ajmeri, while those of Chiniot claim to have accepted Islam at the hands of Makhdum Jahanian Jahangasht.

 

Shaikhs of Bhera

 

Bhera is a city located in Sargodha District, located east of the river Jhelum. It is divided into an old walled city and a sprawl beyond the walls. The former is further split into neighbourhoods called mohallas. Each mohalla has distinct traits and is inhabited by different castes — Mohalla Piracha, Mohalla Sheikhanwala and Mohalla Sethian —were home to the Khojas of the city. The Imperial Gazetteer of India records the following about the history of Bhera:

In the seventh and eighth centuries, the Salt Range chieftain was a tributary of Kashmīr. Bhera was sacked by Mahmūd of Ghazni, and again two centuries later by the generals of Chingiz Khān. In 1519 Bābar held it to ransom; and in 1540 Sher Shāh founded a new town, which under Akbar became the headquarters of one of the subdivisions of the Sūbah of Lahore. In the reign of Muhammad Shāh, Rājā Salāmat Rai, a Rājput of the Anand tribe, administered Bhera and the surrounding country; while Khushāb was managed by Nawāb Ahmadyār Khān, and the south-eastern tract along the Chenāb formed part of the territories under the charge of Mahārājā Kaura Mal, governor of Multān.

 

As a centre of trade, the city of Bhera attracted merchants from all over western Punjab, with the Khojas trading as far north as Central Asia. At the beginning of the 20th Century, the Khojas had retained many traces of the Khatri caste organization. Thus at Bhera they had the following sub-divisions :—

Sehgal

Sethi

Vohra

Kapoor

Chopra

Duggal

Rawar or Ror

Gorawal

Magoon

Mahindru

And a tenth section, Matoli, does not appear to be a Khatri section, but it ranks with the first six, and from these seven the last three cannot obtain wives, though they give brides to them. Rose wrote the following of the Bhera Khojas:

Khojas of Bhera claim to be strictly monogamous, so much so that, as a rule, a Khoja cannot obtain a second wife in the caste, even though his first have died and ho is thus driven to take his second wife from some other Musalman tribe.

The Matoli section have an interesting history as to their conversion to Islam. As noted by Rose, Matoli were not a section of the Khatri, and according to the Matoli themselves, they were Brahmans. There ancestor was said to have accepted Islam at the hands of the famous Sufi Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (1142–1236 CE) of Ajmer. On his return to Bhera, there ancestor was disowned by his clansmen. Despondent, he returned to Ajmer, where the the Khwaja declared the henceforth they would be known as khwaja, and they should become traders. Over time, as members of the Khatri community in that city converted to Islam, and joined the Matoli, forming the Khwaja community.

By the beginning of the 20th Century, the Khoja of Bhera were involved in the cotton and grain trade, especially as the British began a process of settling the Kirana Bar, introducing widespread production of cotton, Bhera Khojas became extremely wealthy, with there trade networks expanding to Bukhara on end, and the newly expanding port city of Karachi on the other hand. The Bhera Khojas were among the earliest of this caste to enter the textile trade in the newly built city of Lyallpur.

 

Qanungoh Shaikhs of Jalandhar

Jalandhar is an important city located in the Doaba region of Indian Punjab. Like Bhera, the city was associated with Khoja merchant families, who used the title qanungoh.

The Khoja of Jalandhar belonged two such families of Qanungohs, one was that of the Sehgals. They were the traditional proprietors of the city, the other being the Thapars, who were a landowning family, owning the village of Chak Husaina. The Khatris of Jalandhar were divided into two groups, the Darbari, who were involved in government service, and the bazari, who were merchants. The four darbari gotras were the Sodhi, Saigal, Thapar and Bhalla, with the Khojas of Jalandhar all originating from darbari families.

I just want to add a brief note about the title qanungoh. This was an administrative position under the Delhi Sultans and Mughals and referred to employees of the court and judicial system. The title Qanungoh literally referring to an “expounder of law” or the Qanun. These included judges; qazi who were styled sahib or sahibzada, lawyers and a wide variety of other legal functionaries, who would form the principal officers in district or regional courts of investigation, in criminal matters and in offences of a “spiritual nature”. By the Mughal period, the position of Qanungoh had become hereditary, who were now government agents and “permanent repositories of information concerning the revenue receipts, area statistics, local revenue rates and (the) practice and customs” of local areas and municipalities, across the various empires that existed in the subcontinent. Members of the Khatri caste often occupied these positions in Punjab, and some, not all of these families converted to Islam. In Jalandhar, although many of the darbari Khatris converted to Islam, however in Jalandhar there were several families of Sehgal and Thapar Khatris that remained Hindus.

The Jalandhar Khojas immigrated to Pakistan and have settled largely in Faisalabad. Here they provided some of the earliest investors in the textile industry.

 

Chinioti Shaikh

 

Perhaps, the most important group of Khoja families are those of the city of Chiniot, historically part of Jhang District, but now a district in itself. Chiniot is a small town of 200,000 inhabitants, on the banks of River Chenab, in Southwestern Punjab famous for it woodwork. It also associated with the Khojas, who are called Chinyoti, literally a resident of Chiniot. About Chiniot, the Imperial Gazetteer of India gives the following information:

The town is a very old one, and is perhaps identified with Sakala, the capital of the White Huns, which was visited by Hiuen Tsiang. It suffered much from Durrani inroads during the last half of the 18th Century, and also during the troubles of 1848, being the scene of constant sanguinary struggles between leaders of the local factions. It now bears a prosperous aspect, most of the houses being of excellent brickwork, lofty and commodious, especially those of the Khoja traders, who have business dealings with Amritsar, Calcuta, Bombay and Karachi.

 

In Chiniot, the Khojas are mainly of Khatri origin, although some Arora sections over time have been absorbed. About the the Khoja sections of Chiniot, Rose described them as fallows:

 

Khatri Immigrants from the south-west:

Adal.

Behrara.

Churra.

Maggun.

Sehgal.

Wadhwa.

Vohra

Khatri section indigenous to Chiniot:

Talwar.

Puri.

Chopra.

Arora sections.

Tarneja,

Goruwala.

Khurana.

Dhingra

Chawla

 

Rose also makes an interesting obsrvation on the social system of the Chiniot Khojas:

The original Khatri classification into Bari and Bunjahi groups is said to be still preserved. Formerly the Khatri sections used not to intermarry with the Aroras, but this restriction is said to be no longer absolute, though such marriages are not usual

 

In late 19th Century, as the British built in ports and railways in their Indian Empire, allowing groups of Khoja to migrate to Calcutta and other parts of the united India to deal in hides in the 19th century since Hindus who dominated trade in India did not want to deal with leather due to religious taboos, giving these Khoja traders an opportunity. Out of 100,000 people who proudly call themselves Chinioti today, only 5,000 live in Chiniot and an estimated 2,000 of them are still living in Calcutta where they had the biggest concentration in the undivided India, with pockets at Kanpur and Madras. Compared to the Memons who had sailed to far off places, as early as 18th century, the Chinioti’s migration was limited to India.

 

At the time of partition, Chiniotis were mostly rooted in leather, hides and skins trade and there was only one Chinioti group, Mohammad Ismaeel Maula Baksh group which had ventured and Haji Sheikh Maula Baksh who had set up their first ginning factory in 1889 and by 1946, when they split, the group comprised 14 ginning factories, four flour mills and oil extraction plants. The remnants of Maula Baksh group are still active in the Sunshine group of Aftab Ahmad Sheikh. Partition saw most Chiniotis move back to Pakistan, and took opportunity of the fact business in Punjab had been in the hands of their unconverted Khatri kinsmen, who all moved to India. By the 1970’s, three Chinioti groups – Colony, Crescent and Nishat – were already vast behemoths, and were counted among the richest 22 Families’ in the country, a somewhat demeaning term coined by the world-renowned development economics guru, Dr Mahbub-ul-Haq, then the chief economist at the Planning Commission of Pakistan, suggesting that this lofty eminence was actually obtained through capturing and monopolising national resources, which had resulted in inequitable distribution of wealth at the national level.

 

In 1970 there were only five Chinioti groups among the top 42 families including Colony at no 5, Crescent at no 9, Nishat at 15, Monnoos at 26 and Maulabaksh at 27. However while nationalization shattered the will of the Karachi-based groups to invest in Pakistan and triggered a flight of capital, it proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Chiniotis who had been hitherto disadvantaged for lack of access to banking and other facilities, traditionally dominated by Gujarati groups such as the Bohra, Khoja and Memon. This change can be seen by the fact that by 1997, Chiniotis had 14 places among the top 45 groups controlling at least 110 companies at the Karachi Stock Exchange. There are several other Chinioti groups like Mahboob Elahi, Diamond, Guard, Kaisar group of Kaisar A Sheikh, MNA, Kaisar Apparel group and JKB which are known to be immensely rich but have little or no presence at the stock exchange and therefore, it was not possible to rank them.

 

 

 

 

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Chhimba Population of Punjab according to the 1901 Census of Punjab

This is my final post looking at the size and distribution of castes that were involved with a certain occupation. I would ask the reader to look at my posts on the Tarkhans and Lohar to get some more information on the history and position of occupational castes in Punjab. In this post, I will look at Chhimba, sometimes pronounced as Chhimpa or Chhipi, who were traditionally engaged in the arts of dyeing, printing and tailoring clothes. Rose wrote thee following about the Chhimba:

is by occupation a stamper or dyer, but he also turns his hand to tailoring or washing. Hence the caste includes the Darzis or tailors, the Lilāris or dyers, and the Dhobis : also the Chhapgar. By religion the Chhimbās are mainly Hindus and Muhammadans.

Also Lilaris, who were entirely Muslim, by the beggining of the 20th Century formed a distinct caste from Chhimba. Like the Tarkhan, the Chhimba had become to convert to Sikhism, and at the beginning of the 20th Century, about 20% were Sikh. By the time of independence in 1947, almost half the Chhimba population was Sikh.

District/State Hindu Sikh Muslim Total

 

Firozpur

 

2,021 4,421 9,059 15,501
Patiala State

 

8,388 4,330 2,420 15,138
Amritsar

 

1,721 5,190 7,754 14,665
Lahore 391 2,998 10,752

 

14,141
Jalandhar

 

7,033 2,187 727 9,947
Ludhiana

 

4,814 3,700 310 8,824
Hisar

 

5,118 372 2,352 7,842
Gurdaspur

 

2,547 582 3,566 6,695
Hoshiarpur 5,985 397 82 6,464

 

Karnal

 

1,226 65 5,162 6,453
Gujranwala

 

441 221 5,180 5,842
Rohtak 5,002 5,002

 

Ambala

 

4,020 278 245 4,543
Kapurthala State

 

1,541 950 1,086 3,577
Nabha State

 

1,671 1,207 389 3,267
Sialkot

 

1,238 144 1,920 3,302
Montgomery 18 3,094 3,112

 

Mianwali

 

3,031 3,031
Delhi

 

2,267 542 2,809
Kangra

 

2,393 63 2,456
Jind State

 

1,301 645 414 2,361
Faridkot State 91 881 1,231 2,203

 

Gurgaon

 

1,194 1,194
Malerkotla State 522 166 688
Chenab Colony 110 448 558
Kalsia State 289 62 22 373

 

Jhelum 161 39 39 239

 

Gujrat

 

61 51 112
Other District

 

Total 62,611 28,855 60,051 151,517

 

 

 

 

 

Tarkhan Population of Punjab According to the 1901 Census of India

In this post, I return to the distribution of different castes foound in the Punjab, at the beginning of the 20th Century. The Tarkhans were the carpenters of Punjab, although in what is now Haryana, the term used was Khati. Unlike the three castes I have looked in the previous posts, the Teli, Julaha and Lohar, the Tarkhan didnot have a Muslim majority. Indeed, the Tarkhan played an important role in the rise of Sikhism in the Punjab, with Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, a Tarkhan, founding the Ramgarhia misal. Sikh Tarkhans at the beginning of the 20th Century made up about 43% of the total population. By the time of partition in 1947, a slight majority of the Tatkhan were Sikh. I would ask the reader to look at the book Textures of the Sikh Past: New Historical Perspectives, which has detailed accounts of the evolution of the Ramgarhia community.

Rose, the early 20th Century British ethnologists oberved the following about the Tarkhans:

Like the Lohar he is a true village menial, mending all agricultural implements and household furniture, and making them all, except the cart, the Persian wheel, and the sugarprees, without payment beyond his customary dues.

Like the Lohar, the Tarkhan were in seipi relationship with the other villagers, providing service in kind, in return for payment in wheat and other agricultural produce. Seipi refers to the barter system among Punjabi villagers, where for example a carpenter would exchange their well sought after service for agricultural produce from farmers. This system was particularly strong in villages in central Punjab. Most Tarkhan were found in the central Punjabi speaking districts, stretching from Gujrat to the Phulkian States. Although included with the Tarkhans, the Khati of Karnal, Hisar and Rohtak formed a distinct caste, largely Hindu, although some Khati were Muslim. Muslim Tarkhans, like the Muslim Lohar increasingly now call themselves Mughals.

 

District / State

 

Hindu Muslim Sikh Total
Patiala State

 

28,782 1,596 16,322 46,700
Sialkot

 

6,509 34,542 2,916 43,967
Amritsar

 

1,604 11,837 27,579 41,020
Lahore

 

1,245 23,293 15,687 40,225
Gurdaspur

 

14,763 6,374 14,139 35,276
Hoshiarpur

 

24,947 2,184 6,190 33,321
Gujranwala

 

3,505 23,450 6,343 33,298
Jalandhar

 

14,882 11,247 6,031 32,160
Firozpur

 

4,855 16,750 9,519 31,124
Rawalpindi

 

388 23,830 833 25,051
Gujrat

 

626 23,428 101 24,155
Ludhiana

 

12,624 764 7,606 20,994
Hisar

 

16,749 2,123 1,340 20,212
Karnal

 

13,096 6,368 566 20,030
Ambala

 

15,567 2,944 1,331 19,842
Multan

 

81 17,176 104 17,358
Kangra

 

15,932 78 141 16,151
Chenab Colony

 

2,065 11,266 2,793 16,124
Jhelum

 

27 15,065 39 15,131
Shahpur

 

36 13,989 68 14,093
Gurgaon

 

13,116 369 13,485
Rohtak

 

12,565 123 12,688
 

Montgomery

122 10,192 480 10,794
Nabha State

 

5,358 228 4,905 10,491
Jhang

 

13 10,432 10,445
Muzaffargarh

 

33 9,670 45 9,748
Kapurthala State

 

3,045 3,749 2,949 9,743
Mianwali

 

9,575 9,575
Delhi

 

8,123 1,077 52 9,252
Bahawalpur State

 

236 7,714 207 8,157
Jind State

 

4,992 316 1,205 6,513
Faridkot State

 

111 469 4,904 5,484
Dera Ghazi Khan

 

11 4,454 4,465
Nahan State

 

1,916 113 27 2,056
Kalsia State

 

1,470 127 292 1,889
Chamba State

 

1,313 14 16 1,343
Shimla

 

771 280 1,051
Suket State

 

941 941
Dujana State

 

644 644
Keonthal State

 

581 581
Jubbal State

 

533 533
Pataudi State

 

462 462
Mandi State

 

286 14 300
Other Districts / States

 

Total

 

238,946 147,475 294,096 680,517

 

 

 

Lohar Population of Punjab according to the 1901 Census of India

This is my third post looking at the distribution of castes in Punjab, in this case the Lohar, at the time of carrying out the 1901 Census. The traditional occupation of the Lohar was that of  a blacksmith, but among the occupational groups in Punjab, the Lohar were the most likely to be agriculturists. Unlike the Teli, who were entirely Muslim, and Julaha who were largely Muslim, the Lohar only had a small Muslim majority (around 60%). In fact in south east Punjab, the modern Haryana state, the Lohar were largely Hindu. The Hindu Lohars of what is now Haryana called themselves as Dhiman. Rose, the British colonial ethnologists wrote the following about the Lohar:

The Lohar of the Punjab is, as his name implies, is blacksmith pure and simple. He is one of the true village meniele, receiving customary dues in the shape of a share of the produce, in return for which he makes and mends all the iron implement of agrculture, the material being found by the husbandman. He is most numerous in proportion to the total population in the hills and the Districts that lie immediately below them, where like all other artisan castes he is largely employed in field labour. He is present in singularly small numbers in the Multan division, the Derajat and Bahawalpur; probably because men of other castes engage in blacksmith’s work in those parts, or perhaps becausa the carpenter and the blacksmith are the same.

 

Like the Tarkhans, the Lohar were in seipi relationship with the other villagers, providing service in kind, in return for payment in wheat and other agricultural produce. Seipi refers to the barter system among Punjabi villagers, where for example a blacksmith would exchange their well sought after service for agricultural produce from farmers. This system was particularly strong in villages in central Punjaby the beginning of the 20th Century. Sikh Lohars were merging with the Sikh Tarkhans to form a single Ramgarhia caste. While Muslim Lohar groups began to call themselves Mughals at around the same time. I would ask the reader to look at Khalid Nadvi’s book The Post-Colonial State and Social Transformation in India and Pakistan, about of the Lohar in Sialkot, and their role in creating the surgical instrutments industry. Sialkot had the third highest number of Lohars, and in the city made up a third of the population. However, in 1901, these trends has just begun, with most Lohar groups still registering themselves as Lohar.

 

 

District/State

 

Muslim Hindu Sikh Total
Patiala State

 

8,635 8,493 5,306 22,434
Amritsar

 

16,257 323 5,550 22,130
Sialkot

 

19,253 1,866 147 21,266
Gurdaspur

 

6,860 6,595 3,295 16,750
Lahore

 

14,394 413 1,741 16,548
Rawalpindi

 

16,115 62 185 16,362
Hoshiarpur

 

2,507 11,476 1,928 15,911
Kangra

 

166 15,695 40 15,901
Gujranwala

 

15,440 103 286 15,829
Jalandhar

 

5,012 6,283 4,182 15,477
Gujrat

 

13,504 71 13,575
Karnal

 

8,168 5,233 88 13,489
Ambala

 

4,547 8,438 325 13,310
Jhelum

 

10,536 10,536
Firuzpur 7,775 680 1,384 9,839

 

Hisar

 

7,067 2,709 47 9,823
Ludhiana

 

1,600 4,624 2,503 8,727
Rohtak

 

2,503 6,158 8,661
Chenab Colony 7,255 602 541 8,398
Gurgaon

 

2,040 4,873 6,913
Shahpur

 

6,523 6,523
Delhi

 

2,173 4,174 6,347
Mianwali

 

4,762 4,762
Jind State

 

2,163 2,216 264 4,643
Kapurthala State 2,452 1,427 430 4,309
Montgomery

 

3,813 11 109 3,933
Multan

 

3,678 39 57 3,774
Mandi State

 

3,641 3,641
Malerkotla State

 

390 2,267 882 3,539
Jhang

 

3,535 3,535
Nabha State

 

973 1,581 622 3,176
Nahan State

 

85 1,896 181 2,162
Muzaffargarh

 

1,697 1,697
Chamba State

 

1,684 1,684
Faridkot State

 

1,171 157 163 1,491
Bahawalpur State

 

1,368 1,368
Dera Ghazi Khan

 

1,187 1,187
Kalsia State

 

519 547 38 1,104
Nalargarh State

 

44 721 765
Shimla

 

31 639 670
Other Districts/ States

 

Total

 

206,371 113,100 30,935 350,622

 

 

 

 

 

Padha Caste of Pakistani Punjab

An interesting community of Muslims of Punjab is that of the Padha. They are a group of Saraswat Brahmans, that converted to Islam during the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Conversion to Islam among Brahman groups was rare, the Padha being interesting exception. I would also ask the reader to look at my post on the Rawals, who have very similar background. The Padha, like some other Brahmins, and Khatris after their convertion to Islam in the Punjab region had adopted the title Shaikh. The Muslim Padha are therefore a sub-group within the larger Shaikh community of Punjab.

To get some background on the Padhas, we need to explore who the Saraswats are. They are a sub-group of Brahmins, who trace their ancestry to the banks of the Rigvedic Sarasvati River. The Saraswat Brahmins are mentioned as one of the five Pancha Gauda, the five major divisions of the Brahmin communities. Rose, the early twentieth Century British ethnologists describes the Sarawats as essentially the Brahmans of Punjab.

The  Muslim Padha claim descent from a sub-group of the Sarawat called the Nagarkotia, or the Saraswat of the Kangra region, now in Himachal Pradesh, but closely connected with the Punjab. These Saraswats were the Brahmins of the Katoch dynasty that ruled Kangra. According to the traditions of this caste, they were divided into 13 functional groups by Dharam Chand, the Rajah of Kangra. One of these of 13 groups were Upadhya or readers of the holy books. Captain A. H Bingley, the colonial soldier and ethnologist writes:

The Dogra Brahmin may thus be roughly divided into two ‘praying’ Brahmins and ‘ploughing’ Brahmins. The former, called Padha, are generally sacredotal in their functions; they caste horoscopes, officiate at marriages

 

The name Padha is really a shortened version of Upadhya which means teacher or guru in Sanskrit. There traditional occupation was teaching students in gurukula, a tradition that most Padha’s continued to practice until partition.  The etymology of the term Upadhaya is that word is a combination of two different words upa and adhyaya which means an undertaker of higher study. Groups of these hill Brahmans migrated to the foothills of Punjab, which now forms the border between Himachal and Punjab. During the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, several families are said to have converted to Islam. However, most Padha’s remained Hindu, in the Duns or foothills that forms the border between Himachal and Punjab.

Coming back to the Padhas, Pandit Harikishan Kaul, the author of the 1911 Census report wrote the following about them:

Padhas are all Muhammadans who were converted sometimes back from Brahmans; and have been returned chiefly from the Ambala, Hoshiarpur Districts and Patiala State. They are well versed in the Hindi system of teaching arithmetic and are still seen in the cities coaching boys of both Hindus and Muhammadans

While Rose the author of the 1901 Census of Punjab wrote the following about them:

The Padha are described in Ambala as a caste, originally Jogis, but purely secular and now endogamous

While Sardar Arjun Singh, Patiala State census commissioner for 1931, wrote the following about the Padha:

 

Padha literally is more a profession than a caste. ‘It means the teacher of elementary Arithmetic and Landa script. Now they have become a distinct endogamous caste. It is believed that they were originally Brahmans, who, after their conversion to Islam, adhered to their hereditary profession of teaching. They number 48 persons in all, and are Mohammadans by religion.

 

Like Rawals, a community of similar origin, partition led to the migration of most Padha to Pakistan. Partition also led to changes in cultural practices among the Padhas.

 Padha Population According to the 1911 Census of India

District/ State Population
Patiala State 72
Hoshiarpur 37
Ambala 20
Other 7
Total 136

The likely number of the Padha was greater, as many had registered themselves as Shaikhs.

 

 

Muslim Labana of Punjab

In this post I will look at Muslim members of the Labana caste. I will ask the reader to look at my post on the distribution of Labana caste according to the 1901 Census of India. The Muslim Labana often refer to themselves as Rahmani. They are one of the lesser known communities of Punjabi Muslims.

Etymologically, the word  labana is derived from two Sanskrit words, where lun from Lavana which means salt and Vana from Vani which means to trade. The Labana, Lobana or Libana  were those who were involved in salt-carrying and salt trading. Originally, the Labanas were traders and carriers and were largely nomadic, like Banjaras and Lambadis. They used animal-powered transportation and moved with entire families, cattle and dogs, around the Punjab.  During the Mughal period (16 and 17th centuries), the Labana groups in Punjab were employed by various empires for transportation of military material. The Banjaras are the traditional peddlers of North India, and their place has been taken by the Labanas in Punjab. Indeed, both groups served under empires of Mughals, British, and Sikhs as a commissariat. Sir Horace Rose, early 20th Century British ethnologists observed the following about the Labanas:

 

Indeed the Labana is occasionally called a Banjara. In Ambala he is also said to be called Bahrupia, on account of his versatility in adopting different avocations. Headmen among the Labanas are called Naik, and under them work is carried

 

This shows a very close connection between the two groups. However, the Punjab experienced war and famine throughout the 18th Century, and many Labana settled down as agriculturists. By beginning of the 20th Century, the Labanas were largely agriculturists group. A major setback to their traditional profession was the introduction of  railways by British, so there dependence on agriculture increased.

 

The Labana are of a very mixed background as shown by the fact different groups had different origin stories. In Ludhiana they claimed descent from Chauhan Rajputs of Jaipur and Jodhpur. In Gujrat Labana groups claimed that they were originally Raghubansi Rajputs, while in Kapurthala descent was claimed from Gaur Brahmans, who had come from Rohilkhand. The Labana were largely Sikh, with two exceptions. Those of Firupzur district were entirely Muslim, and were found in Abohar. A bit further down along the Sutlej, in Bahawalpur State, many Labanas were also Muslim. Their villages are found mainly along Sutluj near Minchinabad, extending towards Abohar in British territory. There was also a single Muslim Labana village in the Sirsa Tehsil of  Hissar District called Panniwala. In Abohar and Sirsa, the Muslim Labana were divided into 12 clans, the main ones being Panwar and Gujar, said to be the tribe from to which their ancestor belonged too. While in Bahawalpur, Muslim Labanas claimed to be Panwar Rajputs who had come from Delhi. The Labana spoke Labanki, which was very close Seraiki. This reflected a eastward migration from Bahawalpur towards Hissar.

 

After partition, Muslim Labanas from Firuzpur and Hissar migrated to Pakistan, where many are now found in Bhakkar District. I would ask the reader to look at Muhammad Alamgir’s excellent interview with a Muslim Labana from Hissar now settled in Multan.

 

Muslim Labana Population According to the 1921 Census of India

 

District / States Population
Firuzpur 2,730
Bahawalpur State 1,009
Dera Ghazi Khan 66
Hissar 54
Multan 51
Other Districts 152
Total 4,062

 

 

 

Lilari / Neelgar (Leelgar) Caste of Pakistani Punjab

This post will look at the Lilari caste in Punjab, sometimes pronounced as Nilari, a sub-group with the Shaikh biradari of that province. They are also known as nilgar (neelgar) or leelgar from lil or nil, an Urdu/Hindi term for indigo and gar, meaning the makers of indigo. Historically, the Lilari were found mainly in eastern Punjab and Haryana, and considered themselves as members of the Shaikh community, and refer to themselves as Multani Shaikh.

The Lilari are sub-group within the Rangrez caste. Both the Rangrez and Lilari were dyers and both were artisans and not menials, being chiefly found in the towns and are really branches of the Chhimba caste. The distinction with the Rangrez is that the Lilari would only dye, as the name implies, indigo; while the Rangrez dyed in all country colours except indigo. Indeed in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, the Rangrez are said to have three subdivision, the Lalgar, Nilgar and Chhipi, and not seen as distinct caste. The basis of these social divisions is occupation. In this social hierarchy, the Chhipi are placed in the lowest position, because they dyed and printed clothes, whereas the Lalgarh and Nilgarh generally prepare colour from indigo. The Lilari in Punjab however had become quite distinct from the Rangrez, although both groups were Muslims.

The Lilari is an occupational term, used for those who were stampers or dyers, but by the beginning of the 20th Century, they had also turned their hand to tailoring or washing. They are a classic functional caste, based on their traditional occupation, which is dyeing. Although most members have now abandoned their traditional occupation, the caste name persists. The British ethnographer Rose made reference to the several territorial divisions among the Chimba groups, include the Lilari, e. g., in Patiala there were three:

the Sirhindis (endogamous), the Deswals and Multanis, who intermarry, as is also tho case in Jind. In Gurgaon the Desi Chhimbas are said to be converts from the Tank and Rohilla.

This showed who the Lilari are of very mixed background. However, the Lilaris themselves claim to be originally Arabs of Multan, who made their way along the Sutlej, settling in Narnaul and Mahendragarh tehsils of Patiala State and the neighbouring Jind state. From there spread to what is now Haryana, where about a third were found at the beginning of the 20th Century. Most of Lilari in Haryana referred to themselves as Sirhindi, from the ancient city of Sirhind that was the centre of Muslim power in eastern Punjab and Haryana during the middle ages. The Lilari were followers of Hakeem Luqman, who is said to thought there ancestor the art of dyeing.

In Punjab (including Haryana), the Lilari groups were organized in guilds and overtime these guilds formed themselves into castes. The Lilari were further divided by language, those in Haryana spoke Haryanvi, while those in central districts of old Punjab spoke Punjabi.

The partition of India had a profound impact of the Lilari, with many becoming refugees. Most Lilari are now found in southern Punjab, in Multan and Muzaffargarh, and Ghotki in Sindh. Furthermore, industrialization has seen the end of traditional dyeing practices. Increasingly, the term Lilari is falling out to use, replaced with the term Shaikh. I would ask the reader to look at the Youtube channel of Mohammad Alamgir, who has interviewed members of the Lilari community now settled in Pakistan.

Lilari Population According to the 1921 Census of India

 

District / State
Population
Hissar 3,415
Rohtak 2,271
Gujrat 2,152
Karnal 2,101
Patiala 1,899
Sialkot 1,895
Gujranwala 1,768
Lahore 1,560
Amritsar 1,508
Gurgaon 1,412
Rawalpindi 1,182
Jind State
1,077
Jhelum 1,008
Firuzpur 1,008
Hoshiarpur 828
Ambala 792
Gurdaspur 629
Sheikhupura 626
Jalandhar 470
Nabha 347
Ludhiana 330
Kangra 280
Other Districts 1,840
Total Population 30,051

Maliar/Malyar caste of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa

In this post, I will look at the Maliar, sometimes written as Malyar, a community that is found mainly in the Pothohar region of Punjab and Hazara and Peshawar Valley regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Maliar are a large community, of which little has been written about. There has always been some confusion as to their connection with the Arain, as both groups have been associated with growing vegetables. My post on the distribution of the Maliar according to the 1901 Census also gives additional information about the tribe.

 

British colonial ethnographers, such as Denzil Ibbetson, argued that the term covered a large class of petty cultivators and market gardeners. Indeed Ibbetson author of the Punjab castes noted that:

Baghban, Mali, and Maliar are in Jhang and Rawalpindi a very mixed body of men, the names denoting occupation rather than caste

The author of the 1907 Attock District Gazetteer makes the same point:

Maliar appears to denote the occupation of the holder rather than the caste to which he belongs or the tribe from which he originally sprang. There can be no doubt that many of the present  day Maliars are descended from an ancestor of some other tribe  who took to market-gardening as an occupation

This was seen by the fact many Maliar of the Rawalpindi division returned their clans as Janjua, Qutbshahi (Awan), Khokhar, or Bhatti for 1891 Census of India, though some of them give what are apparently true Arain clans, such as Wahand. It does suggest that the Maliar are of a mixed background, which over time have formed into a distinct caste.

The origin of the word maliar has been uncertain, but is very likely connected with the term Mali, another caste of mixed origin, that practices market gardening. A point to note is that there were no Malis in the Pothohar and Hazara regions, while there no Maliar south and east of the Jhelum river. It is likely that like the term Maliar, like Mali comes from the Sanskrit Malakara, meaning the makers of garland, but according to other traditions its roots are from the Persian and Arabic word Mal which means wealth or land e.g. Malir Kotla in India or Malir an area in Karachi, the equivalent of Bagh in Urdu or garden in English.

Like most castes found among the Punjabi Muslims, the community has an origin myth that claims its origins outside South Asia. According to their traditions their ancestor Mahbub accompanied Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna to India. The Sultan assigned him gardening as a vocation, and as such the community became horticulturists. There is no consensus as to the ethnic identity of this Mahbub. If we accept this account, the community thus settled in India at the start of the 11th century. However, as I have already alluded too, some Maliar groups claimed to be connected to one of the larger groups in the Pothohar such as the Janjua and Awan.

 

The Maliar as caste were given agriculture tribal status, under the Punjab Land Alienation Act, 1900, which meant that they were  allowed to own land. However, unlike other tribes found in the Potohar region, military recruitment was not open to them, because they were deemed not to be a martial race. These British discriminating policies sadly have had a lasting impact on the Maliar. After independence, an argument that has broken out within the Maliar community as to whether they are a distinct caste or simply Janjuas and Bhattis who practice market gardening. This was noted by Makhdum Tasadduq Ahmad in his book Systems of social stratification in India and Pakistan. However, the Maliar castes members intermarry with each other and not with families of Awan or Janjua status. Historically, the community was at a disadvantage, particularly in the Peshawar valley, where it suffered at the hands of Pashtun landlords. The Maliar like other Potohar communities, have started to emigrate to the west particularly the United Kingdom. They have also benefited from the loosening of social restrictions in Pakistan, and as successful horticulturists have entered into the wholesale fruit and vegetable business.

 

Distribution

 

According to the 1901 Census of India, there numbers in Jhelum District were 23,000, in Rawalpindi District, they numbered 17,000 and in Attock District they numbered 37,000. In that particular district, they are the fourth largest tribe. Shahpur District, the modern day Sargodha District was home to a further 4,000. They are found through the Potohar region, with especial concentrations in the Attock District. They also extend into the neighbouring Peshawar valley and into Haripur district of Hazara, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There are also settled in a few villages in the Mirpur District of Azad Kashmir.

Villages

 

They are found in just about every village in the Pothohar region, but there are a few villages which they occupy as the dominant tribe. In Jhelum District, Kazi Hussain and Rajjo Pindi are two important Maliar villages.

 

Batala, Chahal, Maniand are important Maliar villages within Kahuta Tehsil, in Gujar Khan Tehsil Bhatta Maliar, Kant Maliar and Bagh Sangra, Jabbar Derwaish,Kuri Malrian are important villages and in the Rawalpindi Tehsil, Dhalla, Dughal, Khasala Kalan, Gulidana Maliar, and Salargarh are important villages. In Attock District, Dhok Maliaran in Fateh Jang Tehsil is a major Maliar village. They are also found in the town of Mansar.

 

In Chakwal District, Mohra Maliaran, Marjan Maliran and Saloi in Choa Saidan Shah Tehsil are important villages.

 

in Jhelum District, the villages of Dheri Malliaran and Maliar in Pind Dadan Khan Tehsil are important settlements.

 

In Gujrat District, the village of Dandi Maliar.

 

Language

 

They speak either the Potwari language, or the closely related Hindko language

 

Pachhada

In this post, I will look at a Muslim community called the Pachhada historically found in what is now the state of Haryana in India. Their ancestral homeland was the Ghagar River Valley and the semi-desert territory that now forms part of the Sirsa, Fatehabad, Hissar and Mahendragarh districts of Haryana, and the Ganganagar district of Rajasthan. They were a nomadic and pastoral community and are closely related to the Rath community of Rajasthan. Most reared the local Rathi cattle breed and would migrate with flocks to the rivers Sutlej and Ravi, and as such were also known as Rathi. In neighbouring Rajasthan, Muslim pastoral nomads of Bikaner and Ganganagar are still known as Rath, which literally means a charioteer.

The  term  Pachhada  was historically  applied  collectively  to  miscellaneous  Muslim  tribes  that  inhabited  the  Ghaggar  valley  and  villages  adjacent thereto  in  what were the  Sirsa  and  Fatehabad  Tehsils of the erstwhile Hissar District.  The  word  is  derived from the Punjabi “pachham,”  meaning  west,  and  da meaning from, so literally westerners, and was used by the Jats and Ranghars to describe tribes which had settled in the region after the famous chalisa famine. The Chalisa famine of 1783–84 in the Indian subcontinent followed unusual El Niño events that began in 1780 and caused droughts throughout the region. Chalisa (literally, “of the fortieth” in Hindustani) refers to the Vikram Samvat calendar year 1840 (1783). This led to the depopulation of the Ghaghar valleys as pastoralists such as the Bhatti moved further west. As things settled, a number of clans moved from Sutlej valley, in what is modern day Pakistani Punjab and settled in the region. In terms of their dialect of Punjabi, it was very close to that to that spoken in the Neeli Bar region. The tribes never used the term Pachhada to describe themselves as the author of the Hissar District gazetteer notes:

Neither the name Pachhada, nor the name Rath is used by these people when speaking of themselves, unless, indeed, the  person who calls himself a Pachhada is a man  of low caste such as a  Mochi or a Lohar, in which case the  name Pachhada is used to conceal  the real caste. The majority of the persons called Pachhadas claim to be Rajputs,  and  when  asked  their  caste  usually  answer “Pachhada sadaunde,” they call us Pachhadas.

The tribes themselves have called themselves Rajputs, and had intermarried with long settled Rajputs of the Ghaghar such as the Bhatti and Chauhan. Groups that were sometimes included within the Pacchada category included the Wattu , Joiya and  Kharal, however the term was strictly used to refer to four tribes, namely:

Tribes Origin Stories
Sohu Traditionally, the Sohu claim to be Chauhan Rajputs, but the they have a number of traditions as to their origin. The Sohus of the village of Bhirrana, the head-quarters of the clan, stated that at the turn of the 20th Century that their  ancestor  came  some  eight  generations  ago  from Rawalpindi,  under  a  leader  named  Jatu, via Bhatner  and Rania, to Bhirrana: Jatu returned to Rawalpindi, while Lal, his  son,  remained  as  leader,  and  he  is  regarded  as the  founder of the present Sohu clan.

Another version is that the Sohus are Chauhans who came via Delhi from Jilopattan near Jaipur, and settled on the  Ravi, whence they again migrated to Sirsa.

 Sukheras They claim descent from the Tunwar  Rajputs  of  Bahuna.  Thirpal,  a  Tomar  of  that place, married a Jatni, and was in consequencv outcasted. Thirpal  is  said  to  have  settled  in  Basti  Bhiman  near Fatehabad,  and  his  descendants  subsequently  spread into Sirsa  and  as  far  as  Abohar.  They  were,  however,  driven backagain  and  settled  in  Begar;  it  and  Basi  Bhiman  was their chief  villages.  They  take  their  name  from  Sukha,  the son of Thirpal.
Hinjraon This clan  claimed  descent  from  the  Siroha Rajputs, and was said to have migrated from the banks of the  Ravi into this district. Their principal ·village was Hinjraon  in the Fatehabad  Tehsil of the then Hissar District. However, according to other traditions, they are infact Hanjra Jatts who arrived from the banks of the Ravi, in present day Okara.
Chotias or Bhanekas According to their tribal traditions, they  were originally Chauhan Rajputs,  but they appear in reality to be  Dandiwal  Jats,  who  were  converted  to  Islam  a  few generations ago. The Dandiwals themselves claim to have been originally  Chauhans,  and  state  that  they  emigrated  from Delhi via Jaisalmer to Sirsa

From the origin myths of these tribes, it is clear the Pachhada sat on the boundary between Jat and Rajputs, and at time intermarried with both groups.

 

The Pachhada were of among a number of Rajput pastoralist groups found the Ghaghar valley and north Rajasthan, and were often closely identified with the Ranghar and Bhatti communities, who have similar customs and traditions. With the establishment of British rule in the early 19th Century, the new authorities took the view that all pastoral nomads in the Ghaghar valley were a threat to their newly established control, and took stringent measures against all the nomad groups of the region such as the Ranghar, Johiya and Bhatti. Land was allocated to peasant settlers, and an attempt was made to forcibly settle the Pachhada. As a result of these policies, the Pacchada played an important role in the attack on Sirsa in the 1857 Indian War of Independence.

After the reestablishment of British colonial authority, the Pacchada were severely punished by British. There were considerable confiscations of land, and the Pachhada were forcibly settled. By the early 20thcCentury, the Pachhada were settled agriculturists, although animal husbandry remained an important subsidiary occupation. At the time of the partition of India in 1947, the Hissar District fell within the territory of India, and all the Pachhada immigrated to Pakistan.In their new homeland in Pakistani Punjab, mainly in Okara, Sahiwal, Muzaffargarh and Layyah districts, the Pacchada maintain their distinct identity. Many still speak the Haryanvi language. The Pacchada are entirely Sunni, and their customs are similar to other Haryana Muslims settled in Pakistan such as the Ranghar and Meo.

Pacchada Population According to the 1901 Census of India

District Population
Hissar 30,484
Other Districts 633
Total Population 31,117

The Pachhada were essentially a tribe of the Hissar region, the Pachhadas in other districts were either soldiers serving in the army or migrant labourers.

Jat Population of Punjab According to the 1901 Census of India

In this, my final post on the distribution of castes in Punjab, according to the 1901 Census of India, I will look at the distribution of the Jats. I would ask the reader to look at my post on the Major Muslim Jat clans, which gives some more background on the caste in Punjab. The Jats were the largest single caste, numbering 4,941,658, and more then any other caste grouping, the Jat are associated with the Punjab. In this post, I will also discuss the socio-economic and cultural changes that Jat community were undergoing in the first half of the 20th Century.

Punjab 1909.jpg

Colonial Map of Punjab Source Wikepedia

The 1911 Census and the effects of Jats migration to the Canal Colonies

In 1911, the Jats population was 4,956,586,  of which Muslims numbered 2,279,158 (46%), Hindus 1,057,932 (21%) and Sikhs 1,619,408 (33%), the remaining population was either Jain or Christian. In the Jalandhar and Lahore divisions, we were witnessing a steady conversion of Hindus to Sikhism, which will eventually drastically reduce the number of Hindu Sikhs outside what is now Haryana. They were found in almost every district, with the exception of Jubbal (Simla Hill States) being the only district/ state where no Jats were returned. Pandit Harikishan Kaul, author of the 1911 report wrote the following:

Throughout the rest of the Province, the ubiquitous Jat is found in larger or smaller numbers. They are somewhat scarce in the Attock District and the Himalayan Natural Division, the proportion being lowest in Attock, Nahan, Mandi, Suket and Chamba, while the strength is small in Kangra and Simla. The principal Jat tracts are Rohtak (34 per cent.), Ludhiana  (35 per cent.), Mianwali (34 per cent.), Muzaffargarh (36 per cent.), Multan (31 per cent.), Loharu (43 per cent.), Maler Kotla (32 per cent.), Faridkot (36 per cent.), Jind (34 per cent.), Nabha (30 per cent.), and Patiala (29 per cent.). In other words, the Jats are found in abundance on the banks of the Indus and in the east  central tract consisting of the Phulkian States and Ludhiana, the zone spreading out towards Firuzepur and Hissar, on the one hand, and Jalandhar and Amritsar on the other. The central Punjab has a fairly large Jat element, ranging from 27 to 24 per cent, in the Lyallpur, Gujrat, Shahpur, Gujranwala and Sialkot Districts.

In 1901 many Jats from centre and east of the province were settling in canal colonies established by the British. This process began pick after 1901, which was especially the case in the Chenab Colony, which according Pandit Harkishan Kaul was:

the premier canal colony of the Province is that irrigated by the Lower Chenab Canal. It comprises the whole of the Lyallpur and Jhang districts and the Hafizabad and Khangah Dogran Tehsils of the Gujranwala District.

The Chenab Colony was the largest colonisation project in the Punjab, beginning in 1892 and ending in 1905. Jats were the single largest community of migrants, as the 1911 census report points out:

The Jats who represent over 23 percent of the total number of immigrants are the most useful body of peasants. They consist of 57 percent Muhammadans, 40 percent Sikhs and 3 percent Hindus. Most of the Muhammadan Jats (21,377) have come from Sialkot, and the Montgomery, Multan, Shahpur, Gujrat, Gurdaspur, Amritsar and Lahore districts have also furnished large numbers of them. Sikh Jats are chiefly immigrants from Amritsar (15,830); the other units which have sent large numbers being Ambala, Hoshiarpur, Jallandhar, Ludhiana, Gurdaspur, Sialkot and Patiala.Sialkot has also sent in the largest number of Hindu Jats (1,250) and Ambala, Hoshiarpur and Jullundur have contributed about 500 persons each.

In 1901 Census, we can already see that the Chenab Colony was now the 5th highest in terms of number of Jats in the province. The Jhelum Colony, which was settled between 1902 and 1906, was was situated in the Shahpur district, and had its headquarters in the newly founded town of Sargodha. The 1901 census therefore does show this second focus of Jat migration. The 1911 Census report picked up on the Jat migration to the Jhelum canal:

The largest caste among the immigrants is that of Jats who have come chiefly from Sialkot (10,696), Gujrat (10,657), Jhang (6,205), Gujranwala (4,461) and Jhelum(2,898).They are mostly Muhammadans, work as cultivators and cattle-breeders.

In 1901, there number was still around 5 million. In terms of religious make up, a big change that has happened since the 1901 census is the decline of Hinduism in the next decades of the 20th Century in the Majha, Doaba and Malwa regions. Most of these Hindu Jats were followers of Sakhi Sultan Sarwar, a Sufi saint whose shrine is in Dera Ghazi Khan. Almost all these Punjabi speaking Hindu Jats are Sikh now. I would ask the reader to look at the book Spatializing Popular Sufi Shrines in Punjab: Dreams, Memories, Territoriality. which has some good information on the Sultanis. David Gilmartin’s book Blood and Water: The Indus River Basin in Modern History, is an excellent recent history of the settlement of the Bar, in which the Jat played an important role.

Changes in the Socio-religious status of the Jats Between 1901 and 1931

In 1901, the total Jat population of Punjab was 4,941,658, of which Hindus (including Jains and Buddhist) numbered 1,594,876 (32%), while Sikhs numbered 1,389,530 (28%) and Muslim 1,957,252 (40%). The 1931 Census of India was the last one that counted caste, the Jats had increased to 6,070,032. In terms of distribution, the Jat, were found throughout Punjab, except the Punjab Hill States.

As I have said, most Hindu Jat in 1901 belonged to the Sultani sect, which was in decline, as more and more Punjabi speaking Jats converted to Sikhism. We can see the effect of this trend in 1931 census. In that census, Hindu Jats now only numbered 994,309 (16%) in Punjab, most of whom, about 640,101 (65%) lived in the Ambala Division, in which they formed the majority in every district except Ambala itself, and if we add the neighbouring areas of the Phulkian States of Patiala and Jind in what is now Haryana, then the figure was 805,554 (80%). In terms of numbers Rohtak (262,588), Hisar (185,940), Karnal (99,560), the Phulkian States of Jind (87,508) and Patiala State (77,945), Gurgaon (71,388) and Kangra (9,550) were the districts and states with the largest Hindu communities. These communities spoke various dialects of Haryanvi, with the exception of the Jats of Kangra, who spoke Punjabi. There remained clusters of Hindu Jats were in the cis-Himalayan districts of Hoshiarpur (41,069), Sialkot (23,948) Ambala (20,518), Gurdaspur (3,500), and Gujrat (2,299), an area that bordered Hindu dominated regions of Chamba, Kangra and Jammu. These were Punjabi speaking and had strong traditions of intermarriage with the Sikh Jats, and conversion to Sikhism were still on-going. A second group were found in Firuzpur (16,699), which bordered Bikaner State, many of whom spoke the Bagri language, and were an extension of the Jats of Rajputana. Hindu Jats, the majority from Rajputana, also immigrated to the canal colonies established in the Bahawalpur State, and numbered 17,418. While in the canal colonies under direct British control that formed Lyallpur (2,508), Montgomery (2,382), Shahpur (1,430) and Multan (874) districts, the Hindu Jats were immigrants from Haryana or the cis-Himalayan districts.

Sikh Jats now numbered 2,134,598 (35%), making up the majority of the Jat population in central Punjab region. In numbers the largest population was found in the Phulkian State of Patiala (362,581), followed by the districts of Firuzpur (231,532), Ludhiana (211,682), Amritsar (206,751), Jalandhar (160,286), Lahore (122,871), Gurdaspur (100,312),Hoshiarpur (88,263), Ambala (74,927), and the Phulkian State of Nabha (66,897) and the Sikh states of Faridkot (54,699) and Kapurthala (35,757). They also had a large presence in Sialkot (65,630), Sheikhupura (41,812), Gujranwala (35,339), Hisar (33,623), Gujrat (2,722) and in Phulkian State of Jind (22,197). Sikh Jats were actively sought as migrants by the British to settle the canal colonies, and its effect to be seen in 1931 census, with Sikh Jats population in the canal colonies districts as follows: Lyallpur (98,852), Montgomery (29,819), Bahawalpur State (23,476), Multan (16,463) and Shahpur (6,867). Lyallpur in particular was a very important centre of the Sikh Jats by 1931.

The Muslim Jat proportion also increased, now numbering 2,941,395 (49%), but this growth was largely due to a higher birth rate, rather than conversions. The Muslim Jats were found in every region in Punjab, with villages starting east of Peshawar and ending west of Delhi. Muslim Jats were the majority in Bahawalpur State (361,891), Multan (340,584), Gujrat (240,800), Muzaffargarh (207,482), Lyallpur (190,875), Shahpur (174,185), Gujranwala (172,924), Jhang (162,756), Sialkot (147,879), Mianwali (135,204), Dera Ghazi Khan (134,398), Montgomery (118,910), Sheikhupura (101,477), Jhelum (84,361), Rawalpindi (15,722) and Attock (10,081). Muslim Jats also formed a substantial population in the remainder of the old Lahore Division, with the districts of Lahore (77,915), Gurdaspur (54,811), and Amritsar (39,717) also home to large communities. As we moved eastwards, Muslim Jats also had a presence in the Jalandhar Division, with Firuzpur (34,349), Hoshiarpur (24,889), Ludhiana (23,958), Jalandhar (20,879), in states of Kapurthala (12,958) and Faridkot (5,035), and in the Phulkian States of Patiala (17,695) and Nabha (3,366). In the Ambala Division, Muslim Jats were concentrated in Rupar and Kharar tehsil of Ambala District (10,956), who were Punjabi speaking, while in the remaining districts in the Division, starting with Hisar (5,311), Rohtak (4,015), Karnal (3,597) and Gurgaon (433) were home to Haryanvi speaking Muley Jats. They were also found in the states of Jind (848), Kalsia (213), Mandi (103) and Dujana (95). Like Hindu and Sikh Jats, Muslim Jats also migrated to the canal colonies, with Lyallpur (190,875), Shahpur (174,185) and Montgomery (118,910) home to mixture of local Jat tribes and immigrants mainly from the Lahore, Jalandhar and Ambala divisions.

The remaining Jat population of 1,730 was either Christian or Jain.

District / States

Muslim

Hindu

Sikh

Total

Patiala State 19,794

 

206,658 258,718 485,170

 

Sialkot 162,403
61,243

 

32,497 256,143

 

Firuzpur 29,393

 

 39,357 179,021 247,771

 

Ludhiana  25,890  76,886  131,963 234,739

 

Chenab Colony 150,602 19,139 60,518  230,259
Amritsar 38,545 10,101 179,675  228,321
Rohtak 1,913 215,126 59  217,098
Gujranwala 155,416 22,481 27,970 205,867
Hissar 4,540 166,448 24,171  195,159
Gujrat 192,000 2,545 530  195,075
Bahawalpur State 176,630 13,252 3,258 193,140

 

Lahore 84,568 5,321 101,629 191,518
Jalandhar 20,077 84,343 80,824 185,244
Hoshiarpur 25,828 92,129 34,655 152,612
Gurdaspur 45,528 36,268 60,956 142,752
Multan 137,717 325 2,272 140,314

 

Mianwali 137,665  137,665
Ambala 11,754 76,049 37,322 125,125
Karnal 2,869 109,098 7,558 119,525
Dera Ghazi Khan 118,701 142 118,843
Muzaffargarh 117,362 117,362
Delhi 2,885 110,571 102 113,558
Jind State 703 71,118 23,394 95,215
Gurgaon 921 75,782 50 76,753
Jhelum 72,863 146 355 73,364
Nabha State 3,592 30,060 34,419 68,071
Shahpur 63,650 141 86 63,877
Jhang 50,596 20 152 50,768
Kapurthala State 13,895 15,142 19,727 48,764
Rawalpindi 43,853 320 1,888 46,061
Faridkot State 3,581 794 42,085 46,460
Montgomery 41,158 674 3,904 45,736
Malerkotla State 137 17,078 8,453 25,668
Kangra 183 10,964 211 11,358
Kalsia 247 6,110 4,280 10,637
Loharu 6,619 6,619
Nahan 19 161 3,194
Dujana 174 2,458 2,632
Bilaspur 25 1,325 254 1,604
Pataudi 1,594 1,594
Nalargarh 19 804 45 868
Suket 245 245

Other Districts

Total

1,957,252

 1,594,876 (including 16 Jains)

1,389,530 4,941,658