Description of Major Muslim Communities in India: Muslim Bhumihar / Kamsar Pathan

In this post, I look another major Indian Muslim community, found mainly in eastern Uttar Pradesh and parts of north western Bihar. There preferred self-designation now is Kamsari Pathan, although history they were known as Muslim Babhan, or Muslim Bhumihar. The Kamsari are a community of rural Muslims, who are descended from the Hindu Bhumihar community.

To start off with, I will briefly discuss the origin of the Bhumihar community, from whom the Kamsar trace their descent. The Bhumihars claim Brahmin status, and are also referred to as Bhumihar Brahmin. In Bihar, they are also known as Babhan and they have also been called Bhuinhar. The word Bhumihar is itself of relatively recent origin, first used in the records of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh in 1865. It derives from the word bhoomi (“land”), referring to the caste’s landowner status. The term Bhumihar Brahmin was adopted by the community in the late-19th century to emphasize their claim of belonging to the priestly Brahmin class. The alternate name “Babhan” has been described as a distorted colloquial term for “Brahmin. As with many castes in India, there are numerous myths regarding the origins of the Bhumihar community. One legend claims that their ancestors were Brahmins who were set up to take the place of the Kshatriyas slain by Parashurama but some non-Bhumihars have implied that they are the mixed-race offspring of Brahmin men and Kshatriya women. Other legends state that they are the offspring of a union between Rajput men and Brahmin women, or that they derive from Brahman-Buddhists who lost their high position in Hindu society.

With regards to Ghazipur District, the terms Bhumihar and Rajput are somewhat elastic, since the line of demarcation between these two communities is often extremely vague, both claiming a common origin in several instances, such as the case of the Kamsar Pathans. The Kamsar Pathans, who are found mainly in the Ghazipur District of eastern Uttar Pradesh. According to tribal traditions, they ancestor was a Kam Deo, a Sikarwar Rajput who came from the region of Agra. According to tribal traditions, Kam Deo served in force led by his brother Dham Deo, a leader of four thousand troops and fought alongside Rana Sanga of Mewar, who led a large Rajput alliance against the Mughal Emperor in the battle of Khanwa, a place near Agra in 1527. The Mughals were victorious and the Rajput army was scattered. Dham Deo and his elder brother Kam Deo came down to Ghazipur with their families and followers. The refuges are said to have settled in a territory between Karmnasha and Ganges in what is now Ghazipur district, Dham Deo and his followers settled in Gahmar, while Kam Deo settled in Zamania. Kam Deo’s descendants intermarried with other settled Bhumihars in the region, and founded the clan of Kinwar Bhumihars.
Subsequent to their arrival, both brothers and their followers entered into the service of Tikam Deo, the Cheru tribal chieftain of Birpur and eventually overthrew him, seizing his capital and occupying his estate At the time of the arrival of the refugees, the Cheru were said to be the rulers of most of Ghazipur. After a couple of generation, the community split into three main branches; after the founders Rajdhar Rai, Mukund Rai, and Pithaur Rai. Rajdhar Rai captured Birpur and one of his subdivisions settled in the Bara taluka of Zamania, and converted to Islam. There is however some dispute as to when the conversion to Islam. According to some traditions, the conversion occurred during the period of Lodhi rule over Ghazipur district, while others traditions point to a much later date during the rule of Sher Shah Suri. The first to convert to Islam was a Narhar Dev, later called Narhar Khan after his accepting of Islam.

The Kamsari are now mainly a community of peasant cultivators, but historically were in possession of most of the Bara of Ghazipur District. They speak Bhojpuri, although most also understand Urdu. The Kamsar now occupy a compact territory near the town of Bara, between the Ganges river and the Bihar state border. The most important settlement in Kamsar region of Dildarnagar Kamsar. Each of their settlement contains an informal caste council known as a panchayat, which enforces communal norms as well as resolving intra-community disputes. This region is also known as Kamsar-O-Bar, and the following villages Usia, Rakasaha, Tajpur Kurrah, Gorasara, Mania, Khajuri, Kusi, Bhaksi, Jaburna, Dewaitha, Fufuao, Bahuara, Saraila, Chitarkoni, Akhini come in the Bar sub region. Other then the Kamsar, there are several lineages of Muslim Bhumihar found in Munger and Muzaffarpur of Bihar, where they are called as Diwani Pathan.

Census of Delhi Province 1931

The population breakdown by religion, caste and community of the Province of Delhi in British India, now the National Capital Territory of Delhi, in the 1931 Census of India.

 

Religion-wise

 

Religion Population Percentage
Hindu 399,863 63%
Muslim 206,960 33%
Sikh 6,437  1%
Jain 5,345 0.8%
Christian 16,989 3%
Others 652
Total 636,246 100%

 

 

Caste-wise

 

 

Religion Caste or tribe Population
Hindus 399,863
Aggarwal 25,383
Ahir 13,039
Bawaria 32
Brahmin 65,434
Chamar 65,738
Chirimar 270
Chura (Bhangi) 17,905
Dagi and Koli 6,928
Dhanak 1,321
Dhobi 3,172
Faqir 43
Gaderia 2,413
Gujar 14,291
Jat 50,609
Jhinwar 12,654
Julaha 8,616
Kayastha 10,569
Khatik 3,522
Khatri 13,780
Kumhar 9,259
Kurmi 556
Lodha 1,207
Lohar 1,599
Mali 12,886
Nai 4,433
Rahgar 7,175
Rajput 30,664
Sansiya 227
Taga 1,043
Tarkhan 4,046
Teli 1,457
Tank Kshatriya 107
Dhiman Brahmin 5
Not Declared 1,096
Muslims 206,960
Arain 3,330
Brahmin 48
Chamar 11
Chura 345
Dhobi 1,022
Faqir 2.870
Gujar 331
Jat Muslim 1,245
Jhinwar 24
Julaha 800
Khatik 5
Khatri 5
Kumhar 92
Lodha 8
Lohar 711
Mali 15
Meo 5,253
Mughal 6,420
Nai 807
Pathan 26,387
Rajput Muslim 5,736
Sayyid 18,257
Shaikh 118,079
Taga Muslim 3,402
Tarkhan 319
Teli 1,852
Others  9,586
Sikh 6,437
Brahmin 36
Chura (Bhangi) 35
Jat Sikh 1,517
Jhinwar 37
Khatik 64
Khatri 497
Lohar 13
Rajput 186
Tarkhan 1,123
Tank Kshatriya 188
Others  2,815
Jain 5,345
Aggrawal 3,052
Brahmin 15
Others  2,278
Christian 16,989
Chamar 2,744
Chura (Bhangi) 2,863
Others  11,382
Others 652
Total 636,246

 

 

Source

Census of India 1931 Delhi Volume XVI Imperial tables, XVII

Description of Major Muslim Communities in India: Bhale Sultan

In this post, I stick with the state of Uttar Pradesh, and look at the Bhale Sultans, a community of Khanzadas found in Uttar Pradesh. There name is a combinationation of the Sanskrit, Bhala, a kind of arrow or spear and the Arabic word Sultan meaning lord. The Bhala in medieval India was a type of spear given only to army commanders, and possession signified leadership. So technically, any army commander was a Bhale Sultan, but the title is now restricted to a specific community of Hindu Thakurs and Muslim Khanzadas found in the Awadh region and Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh. In fact, when we talk of the Bhale Sultan, we are really talking about two distinct communities, those of Bulandshahr and those of Awadh, each with their own origin myths. In the introduction to my article on the Ahbans, I discuss the exact meaning of the word Khanzada, and I ask the reader to look at that post.

Bhale Sultan of Bulandshahr

In Bulandshahr, the Bhale Sultans are found mainly in villages around the ancient town of Khurja. According to tribal traditions, there ancestor was Sidhrao Jai Sinh, a Solanki Rajput of Anhilwada Pattan in what is now Gujarat. A descendent of Sidhrao, Sarang Deo, a nephew of the then Solanki Raja of Gujarat, settled in the ancient city of Baran (now known as Bulandshahr), which was then part of a principality ruled by the Dor clan of Rajputs. These Solanki were then granted an estate of eight villages by Prithvi Raj Chauhan, as a reward for services rendered during the Mahoba war. Most of the country was inhabited by the Meo community, who Sarang Deo and his followers conquered. His grandson, Hamir Singh, obtained from Shah ab-ud-din Ghori the title of Bhala Sultan or lord of the lance.” From then on the clan became known as Bhale Sultan. Kirat Singh was seventh in descent from Hamir Singh, and his descendant, Khan Chand, seven generations later, converted to Islam during the rule of Khizr Khan and took the name of Malha Khan. His son, Lad Khan and his nephew, Narpat Singh, who divided the property between them, moved from their homes at Arniyan and Kakaur to Khurja during the reign of Akbar and received the office of Chaudhri. Over time, the Bhale Sultan, both the Muslim branch descended from Lad Khan and Hindu branch descended from Narpat Singh became effective rulers of Khurja. At their height, the Muslim branch owned forty-four villages and the Hindus of the same clan thirty-two villages and-a-half. However, with rise of Kheshgi Pathans of Khurja, the Bhale Sultan power declined, with further losses when the British conquered the Doab in the early 19th Century.

Bhale Sultan of Awadh

In Awadh, there are several communities of Bhale Sultans, each with their own origin myths. The most important are those communities found in Faizabad and Sultanpur.

Among the Bhala Sultan of Sultanpur, there is a tradition that four hundred years ago Rai Barar, son of Amba Rai, brother of the then Raja of Morarmau, commanded a troop of cavalry recruited entirely from the Bais clan in the service of the Mughals, and was deputed to exterminate the trouble sum Bhars (an indigenous community) in the Isauli Pargana in present day Sultanpur District. Having accomplished his task, he returned to Delhi and presented himself at the head of his troop before the Emperor, who, struck with their manly bearing, exclaimed, “Aao, Bhale Sultan” meaning “come, spear of the Sultan”. Palhan Deo, great grandson of Rai Barar, is said to have been converted to Islam during the rule of Sher Shah Suri. From this branch of the Bhale Sultan descended the taluqdar families of Deogaon, Mahona and Unchgaon. In addition, the more minor Muslim Bhale Sultan formed the main landowning group in the north-west corner of Sultanpur district, then forming the parganas of Isauli, Musafirkhana and Jagdispur

In Faizabad, the Bhale Sultan claim descent from Rao Mardan Sinh, who is said to be a Bais Rajput, of Dundiya Khera, who was a horse-dealer by profession. During a visit Gajanpur, in Isauli Pargana, of the Sultanpur District, where there was a fort of the Rajbhars, which the Thakur is said to have captured. His son, Rao Barar, entered the service of the Sultan of Delhi, and as he was a good horseman and clever spearman, he obtained the title of Bhale Sultan. One of his descendants, Baram Deo, obtained the title Khanzada from a Sultan of Delhi, and from that period his descendants have been called Khanzada.

While a little known tradition, in Rae Bareli claims that they were Ahirs who were raised to the rank of Rajputs by Tilok Chand, a legendary figure in Awadh history.

Distribution of Bhale Sultans by District According to 1891 Census of India

District Hindu Muslim
 Saharanpur  17  27
 Meerut  20
 Bulandshahr  6,370  4,790
 Agra  59  3
 Farrukhabad  9  6
 Mainpuri  36
 Badaun  11
 Shahjahanpur  9
 Pilibhit  19  4
 Kanpur  11  75
 Fatehpur  3
 Banda  1
 Allahabad  824 18
 Lalitpur  2  2
 Benaras  15  86
 Jaunpur  25  3
 Ghazipur  7
 Gorakhpur  35  64
 Basti  155  53
 Azamgarh  122  29
 Lucknow  17  283
 Unnao  5  38
 Rae Bareli  377  372
Sitapur 20 23
 Lakhimpur Kheri  3  108
 Faizabad  757  687
 Gonda  406  352
 Bahraich  108  271
 Sultanpur  8,016  4,607
 Partapgarh  49  17
 Barabanki  329  735
Total Population in UP  17,320  12,670

 

Description of Major Muslim Communities in India : Behlim and Nagar

In this post, I return to the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), and the Muslim communities that inhabit it. In particular, I will look at the Behlim and Nagar Muslims, both of whom fall within the category of Shaikh. Briefly, the word sheikh is an honorific in the Arabic language that literally means “elder.” It is commonly used to designate an elder of a tribe, a revered wise man, or an Islamic scholar. In the South asian context, Shaikh is a title used by the descendants of Arab and other Muslim immigrants who were said to have arrived from the Middle East or Central Asia, although it was also extended to converts from Hinduism, generally those who came from the Brahman or Vaishya category. What I want to make clear about the term Shaikh, it does not denote a single identity, but contains within a multiple and complex groupings. In some parts such as Bihar and West Bengal/ Bangladesh, the term Shaikh refers to Muslim who practices farming, while in UP Shaikh is invariably an urban group. The two groups I am looking at in this post, namely the Behlim and Nagar display this diversity of origin, with former claiming a Central Asian origin, while the Nagars claiming to be a Muslim branch of the Nagar Brahman caste.

Behlim

I will start off by looking at the Behlim, who are actually two distinct communities. We have infact two distinct communities of Behlim, those of UP and those of Gujarat. I shall start of by looking at the UP Behlims.

According to tribal tradition, the Behlim trace their descent the Sufi Salar Masud Ghaz (1015 –1032 AD), and the word is said to be a corruption of the word ba-ilm, meaning those who are knowledgeable in Arabic. Masud was a Ghaznavid army general and the nephew of Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi. Masud was son of Ghazi Salar Sahu, a descendant of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah, son of Hazrat Ali, and Sitr-i-Mu’alla, who was sister of Ghaznavi. Salar Masud came along with his uncle Salar Saifudin and teacher Syed Ibrahim Mashadi Bara Hazari (Salar-i-Azam of Ghaznavi) in early 11th century to the South Asia for propagation of Islam. According Sufi traditions associated with Salar Masud, he was killed in battle fighting local Hindu forces in what is now the Awadh region of UP. As Ghazna dynasty were of Central Asian Turk origin, this would make the Behlim to be partly of Turkish origin. In another origin story, the Behlim claim to be descended from Central Asian Turkish troopers, having arrived in India during the time Iltutmish (reigned: 1211–36). This would mean there arrival was a good two centuries after the Salar Masud. What does seem to be certain is that Behlim have been in UP for fairly long time, and are likely to of Central Asian Turkish origin.

The Behlim families of the city of Bulandshahr played an important role in the history of that city. Other Behlim are found mainly in the neighbouring districts of Meerut and Muzaffarnagar. In addition of the Behlim of the Doab, there are two other settlements in Gonda District and Basti District in eastern Uttar Pradesh. These Behlim have little or no connection with those of western Uttar Pradesh. Both the Behlim communities speak Urdu, and as a largely urban community very rarely speak any of the local dialects of Hindi. They are largely Sunni, although there is a small Shia minority.

Separate from the UP Behlims, are those of Gujarat, who are found mainly in Mehsana and Banaskantha districts. These Behlim are an agrarian community, found mostly in north Gujarat. According to some traditions, they were once Rajputs, and their customs are similar to other Muslim Rajput communities, such as the Maliks. The Behlim intermarry with other Gujarati Muslim communities of similar status such as Pathan, Shaikh and Molesalam Rajputs. Unlike other Gujarati Muslims, they have no caste association, and generally are allied to other Rajput landholding classes. They speak Gujarati and are Sunni Muslims.


Nagar

I now look at the Nagar, who are now found entirely in Bulandshahr District, who particular in and around the town of Ahar.

The Nagar are Muslim converts from the larger Nagar Brahmin community who were said to have ruled the Ahar pargana of Bulandshahr District, prior to the Muslim conquest of the region in the 11th Century. These Nagar are widespread Brahmin sub-caste, who have always been connected with the Doab, the region in which Bulandshahr District is situated. The town of Ahar lies along the banks of the Ganges river, a site which also considered sacred to Hindus.

Before the Muslim invasion this part of the country was known as the Chaurasi of the Nagar Brahmans, who still hold a few villages. According to local folklore, the name Ahar is locally derived from’ ahi’ and ‘har,’ the killing of the serpent, and the present town is said to be the place where Janamejaiya performed the great snake sacrifice, and rewarded the Nagar Brahmans who assisted him with. Janamejaiya, in Hindu mythology, was a Kuru king who reigned during the Middle Vedic period (12th or 11th century BCE). Along with his predecessor Parikshit, he played a decisive role in the consolidation of the Kuru state, the arrangement of Vedic hymns into collections, and the development of the orthodox srauta ritual, transforming the Kuru realm into the dominant political and cultural center of northern /Iron_Age_India. From these legends and myths, we can ascertain that the Nagar have long been established in this region, were the effective local rulers.

The Nagars were said to have converted during the period of rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (reign 1658-1707). Aurangzeb is said to have begun a campaign in the hinterland of Delhi to suppress all the minor principalities that had maintained their autonomy. When he decided to end the Nagar control of Ahar, one of his advisors convinced him that it was inexpedient to allow all of the members of the Chaudhri’s family of that town to exercise the functions of their hereditary office. Aurangzeb is said to have agreed but on the condition that only two of them should be recognised as Chaudhri He them chose two members of the clan that had just been converted to Islam to the Chaudhri’s position. The principality of Ahar thus passed into the control of the Muslim Nagars, and town itself also converted, with the Muslims presently making 70% of the population.

As Mughal authority declined, the Nagar Muslim became important power in the Doab region, in particular in Bulandhshar District. With the arrival of the British in beginning of the 19th Century, the Nagar Muslims were confirmed their estates. In 1857, during the War of Independence, the Nagars were led by their Chaudri Sohrab Khan, who set himself up as the independent ruler, taking advantage of the collapse of British authority. However when British authority was re-established, the Nagars lost all their estates

The Nagar are Sunni Muslims, and largely Barelvi. Their customs are similar to other Shaikh communities in the Doab region. The Nagar generally speak standard Urdu. Most Nagar stil;l reside in Ahar and four villages nearby.

List and Population of Jat clans of the Rawalpindi Division According 1901 Census of India

Below is a list of Muslim Jat clans and their population in the Rawalpindi Division of Punjab, drawn up for 1901 Census of India. Please also read my introduction for the 1911 Census on the Jat clans to give you some background. Almost all the population that professed to be Jat were Muslim, with exception of Kharian Tehsil of Gujrat District, which was home several Hindu Wariach Jats.

Rawalpindi District

The total Jat population in 1901 was 46,061, of which 43,853 (95%) were Muslim. Below is a list of the major clans:

Tribe Total
Aura 1,660
Badhan 246
Baghial 647
Bains 1,388
Bhagiara 270
Chatha 130
Chhina 653
Dhamial 2,203
Dhamtal 695
Gangal 325
Gill 373
Gondal 958
Hanial 155
Harial 194
Hattial 222
Heer 428
Hindan 489
Jatal 395
Jodhra 5,157
Kalial 1,791
Kanial 954
Kassar 105
Khalis 102
Khatril 1,578
Khor 389
Langrial 120
Lodhra 134
Magial 596
Magrial 486
Mangral 226
Matyal 314
Mial 599
Mundra 150
Phira 164
Phul 135
Salhal 215
Sandhu 99
Sangal 427
Sial 618
Sudhan 1,765
Tama 231
Thathaal 534
Walana 112
Wariach 347

Jhelum District

The total Jat population in 1901 was 73,364, of which 72,763 (99%) were Muslim. Below is a list of the major clans:

Tribe Total
Badhan 248
Bains 962
Bhakral 585
Bhatti 2,053
Bhutta 678
Chadhar 121
Chauhan 224
Dhudhi 352
Gondal 879
Harral 460
Heer 243
Janjua 120
Jhammat 929
Kanial 1,990
Kassar 111
Langah 482
Mahil 320
Minhas 824
Ranjha 236
Sahi 445
Sial 126
Tarar 758
Thaheem 139
Wariach 388

Gujrat District

The total Jat population in 1901 was 198,075, of which 192,000 (97%) were Muslim. Below is a list of the major clans:

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Tribe Total
Bains 478
Bajwa 532
Bhullar 106
Bhutta 373
Chatha 812
Cheema 2,923
Chhina 287
Dhariwal 388
Dhillon 568
Dhotar 1,513
Ghumman 739
Gill 503
Goraya 148
Harral 158
Heer 1,654
Hanjra 2,338
Jakhar 235
Kang 1,183
Langrial 3,702
Mangat 1,031
Marral 168
Pannun 242
Randhawa 298
Sahi 4,498
Sandhu 228
Sarai 661
Sidhu 2,157
Sipra 1,259
Sohal 374
Tarar 14,531
Virk 775
Wariach 37,805

Shahpur District

The total Jat population in 1901 was 63,876, of which 63,649 (99%) were Muslim. Below is a list of the major clans:

Tribe Total
Aulakh 103
Bains 613
Bhachar 166
Bhatti 3,864
Bhutta 1,298
Burana 657
Chadhar 3,303
Chhina 538
Hanjra 528
Harral 1,849
Heer 553
Hurgan 236
Jhawari 1,092
Jora 718
Lak 2,197
Lali 531
Lala 357
Langah 604
Mahil 181
Mangat 226
Marath 548
Nissowana 518
Panjootha 966
Rehan 1,567
Sahi 164
Sidhu 100
Sipra 1,382
Tarar 1,223
Thaheem 288
Tulla 1,403
Virk 318
Wariach 445

Mianwali District

The total Jat population in 1901 was 137,665, all of whom were Muslim. Below is a list of the major clans:

Tribe Total
Aheer 843
Asar 1,377
Atar Khel 181
Atra 652
Aulakh 1,887
Aura 232
Autrah 1,075
Bains 353
Bedha 472
Bhachar 1.422
Bhadwal 1,207
Bhatti 1,880
Bhullar 483
Bhumla 793
Bhutta 778
Birkan 130
Budhwana 366
Chadhar 1,226
Chandhar 235
Chhajra 367
Chhina 1,580
Dab 103
Deo 915
Des 158
Dhandla 286
Dharal 419
Dhariwal 184
Dhillon 949
Dhudhi 335
Dumra 585
Gandhi 1,288
Ghallu 818
Gill 190
Goraya 365
Gorchar 807
Hanbi 336
Hans 498
Harral 347
Heer 603
Janjua 573
Jatal 164
Jakhar 1,229
Jhammat 507
Joiya 670
Kahlon 442
Kalasra 918
Kallu 1,301
Kallu Khel 147
Khandoa 1,278
Khera 176
Kohawer 1,020
Lak 452
Langah 704
Langrial 222
Lohanch 676
Mallana 454
Naul 229
Pala Khel 169
Rawana 215
Saggu 434
Sahgra 321
Sahi 963
Samtia 1,007
Saandh 948
Sandhila 701
Saandi 410
Sarai 150
Sawag 460
Srb 1,144
Sial 2,945
Sohal 435
Soomra 930
Talokar 1,096
Thaheem 352
Turkhel 1,344
Turk 1,499
Waghora 173
Wawana 258

Description of Major Muslim Communities in India : Bhatti

In this fifth post of mine on Muslim communities in India, I shall stick with the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). The state is home to 38,519,225, who make up 19.3% of the total population. This population is not only large, but very diverse, home to perhaps as much as two hundred odd groups, castes and sects, speaking various dialects, as well as standard Urdu. In this post, I shall look the Bhatti community, which has traditions of migration from the Punjab, in particular from the Sirsa Rania region that is now divided between Haryana and Indian Punjab. Several Bhatti groups claim that there migration to UP was the result of the Chalisa Famine of 1783-84, the affected the territories south of Sultjej river, which were prior to the famine rich grassland. As the Bhatti were pastoral groups relying heavily on cattle rearing, and the Chalisa effectively wiped out these grasslands. However, as I shall discuss in this post, various groups of Bhattis have different and complex origin myths.

In Uttar Pradesh, the Bhatti are an extremely diverse set of communities, many with quite different origin myths. I shall initially give a brief background to the origin myths of the Bhatti, the migration history of the some of these groups and finally look briefly the Bhatti Taluqdars of Bara Banki, who were perhaps the most prominent family among Bhattis of UP. Just a point of clarification, the name is pronounced as Bhatti in UP, Haryana and Punjab, and Bhati in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Sindh. In terms of distribution, the Bhatti are fairly widespread, but there main concentrations are in Bulandshahr, Budaun, Kasganj, Farrukhabad, Barreilly, Pratapgarh and Barabanki districts.

Origin

According to tribal legends, the Bhatis were initially Yadavas, claiming descent from Krishna as an avatar of Vishnu, and thus identify themselves as a Chandravanshi Kshatriya. The Yadava homeland was the territory of Braj, roughly what is now Agra, Mathura and the adjoining areas of Rajasthan such as Bharatpur, from they were driven out by Paras Ram and fled to the Thar desert area of Jangladesh. Jangladesh was infertile and there was a constant scarcity of water throughout this region. The people had to wander from one place to another in search of water and food. These people were known as the Bhati. The word “Bhati” is therefore derived from the Hindi word, ‘Bhatakna’ (“to wander”). What is interesting about this legend is that it makes oblique reference to the most desert dwellers of the Jangaldesh acquired the name Bhati, which probably suggest a mixed origin. It is also interesting most Bhati of this region, now divided between Rajasthan and Sindh, remain herdsmen.

James Todd the colonial historian makes reference to another origin myth, involving a Mamnenez, the king of Khorasan, who drove out King Shal Bahan from Ghazni. He then established his capital at Sialkot. One of his sons was Rao Bhati and his descendants came to be called Bhatis. In Punjab, Rajah Risalu, the founder of Sialkot is often said to a Bhatti, and in that province, at least a third of those who called themselves were of the Bhatti clan. In Punjab, the Bhatti story also talks about a period of exile to Ghazni, followed by their return.

I now return to the Jangaldesh, the present regions of Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Mallani (split now between Umerkot in Pakistan and Barmer) and an individual named Jaisal. Jaisal is said to have founded the city of Jaisalmer in 1156 AD. The new fort that he built was on a hill called Trikuta. The state of Jaisalmer was positioned right on the route from Afghanistan to Delhi. Taking advantage of this strategic position, the Bhatis levied taxes on the passing caravans. At the height of Bhati power, it covered a large part of what is now the Bahawalpur Division of Pakistan, Bikaner extending into southern Haryana. With the arrival of the Rathore in Bikaner in 1504, the traditional homeland of the Bhatti split, with the northern region becoming known as Bhatiana.

Bhatiana

Almost all the tribal traditions connect the Bhati Rajputs to Bhatnair or Bhatner (present-day Hanumangarh in northern Rajasthan. Bhatner was historically important as it was situated on the route of invaders from Central Asia to India. Whether the Bhati Rajputs initially spread from Bhatner and Bhattiana or these were their final abodes is unclear. It might be the case that the drying up of the Ghaggar forced them to migrate to the plains of Punjab. However, its worth pointing out that most Bhattiana Bhattis trace their history to the desert principality of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, in the border villages of Bikaner and some tehsils of Jodhpur (Osian and Shergarh). Sirsa in the heart of Bhattiana became home to a Muslim Bhatti principality, which survived until the arrival of the British in the 19th Century. Most of the local Rajput tribes, such as the Bhatti and Joiya had become Muslim with the arrival of the Mughals (early 16th Century) and led a pastoral life. However, with the Chalisa famine of 1783-84, almost the entire ecosystem was destroyed, forcing significant Bhatti migration into the Doaba region of Uttar Pradesh. The Awadh Bhattis have slightly different story to their migration, and I will look at that latter in the article.

Migration to UP – Traditions of the Bhatti of the Doab and Rohilkhand

Various groups of Bhatti in the Doab have different traditions as to their origin and migration. In terms of distribution, the Bhatti in the Doab are found mainly in Bullandshar, in Etah District mainly in Azamnagar tehsil, with Bhargain being their most important settlement, and in Kakrala in Badaun and Thriya Nizamat Khan in Bareilly. Most Bhatti settlements like along the banks of the Kali Nadi between Bullandshahr and Etah. Many of these Kali Nadi Bhattis have origin myths suggest that they predate the Chalisa migration. It is of course quite possible a number of waves of Bhatti arrived in UP over different times. They say they came to Bulandshahr under Kansal, or as others say, Deo and Kare, in the time of Prithivi Raj Chauhan (1149–1192 CE), and drove out or more likely subdued the Meos. The clan then divided into two branches, the Bhatti and Jaiswar. Interestingly, looking at colonial censuses of UP shows that most Jaiswars are Hindu, and Bhatti Muslim. It should also be noted that Hindu Jaiswar and Bhatti do not intermarry, under the rules of clan exogamy, considering themselves to be the same clan. Conversion to Islam is said to have taken place during the times of Qutubudin Aibak (1150–1210) and Alaudin Khilji (ruled 1296 to 1316). This would make them some of the earliest converts to Islam. In Bulandshahr, most Hindu Bhattis consider themselves as Gujjars, while the Muslims groups are now known as Ranghar, a term used to describe any Muslim Muslim Rajput. They are said to be over a 150 Bhatti villages in the Noida, Bulandshahr and Meerut region, most of whom are Muslim. Important villages include Til Begumpur, Hirnoti, Vellana, Vair ,Rabupura and Bakaswa.

The Bhatti of Til Begumpur

The most important Bhatti settlement in the Bullandshar / Greater Noida region is village of Til Begumpur. It was a site of an independent Bhatti Muslim principality until 1857. According to tribal traditions, the ancestors of the Bhattis are said to have come to Til Begumpur from Bbattiana, in the t.ime of Prithvi Raja of Dehli, and to settled here after expelling the Meos. The Bhatti are said to have founded two villages Ghodi Bachchera and Til Begumpur, now located on the outskirts of Greater Noida. The founders of these two villages were said to be two brothers. During 16th Century, Gujjars began immigrate from across the Yamuna, thereby reducing the Bhatti principality to a few villages. According to tribal tradition, Til was established by Rao Kasan Singh, who after defeat at the hands of a Allauddin Khilji was converted to Islamic . Kasan Singh was renamed himself Rao Qasim Ali Khan after conversion. While the village Ghodi was established by Kasan Singh’s younger brother Ranbir Singh who lived and died a Bhati Rajput. One of the brothers was also supposed to have fathered Bhati Gujjars after marriage with a Gujjar girl. The Bhattis in Til and other villages – Dhaula, Andhel, Mandpa, Kaumra and Jalalpur – all claim descent from Rao Qasim.

The Til Begumpur Bhatti’s played an important role in the 1857 War of Independence, and after the reestablishment of British rule, the estate was confiscated for their rebellion. The lands were handed over to the Skinner Estate, which was created by Colonel James Skinner CB (1778 – 4 December 1841) was an Anglo-Indian military adventurer in India, who became known as Sikandar Sahib later in life. The town of Sikanderabad near Tilla is named after Skinner. The Skinner family remain proprietors of Tilla until the independence of India in 1947.

The Bhatti of Bhargain

However, the Bhargain Bhattis have strong traditions of migration during the Chalisa, and as I have already said, this probably shows a steady flow of Bhatti migrants from the arid region of Bhattiana. According to the Bhargain tradition, two brothers named Khawaj Khan and Mehmood Khan came and settled in the region fertile region between the Bhurhi Ganga and Kali Nadi river. They are said to be fleeing the Chalisa famine and found the area occupied by Ahir groups, whom they displaced. The brothers are said to have founded the village of Bhargain during the later part of 18th century. From their various sons descend most of sub-clans of the Bhagain Bhattis. The region where the Bhattis settled was in a vacuum, and they became effectively independent, sometimes fighting with their neighbours the Pathans of Kasganj, and sometimes allied with them. Two descendants of Khawaj Khan, Dillu Khan and Sharabu Khan moved to Badaun and founded Kakrala. Most Kasganj, Badaun and Farrukhabad Bhattis claim some connection with the brothers Khawaj and Mahmood. Other then Bhargain, there are several villages in Azamnagar tehsil.

The Bhatti of Kakrala

The Kakrala Bhattis however have a slightly different story to their origin. According to one of their traditions in 1610 AD, the Bhattis were settled in Agra, when they seized Noorjahaan, the wife of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, as she was travelling from Bengal to Delhi. When Jehangir came to know of this, he sent a force against them, forcing them to flee to the country of the Meos, lying east of their homeland in Agra. Their the Bhattis converted to Islam, and remained until the death of Jahangir. Their circumstances changed, when Noorjahaan wanted her son-in-law to be enthroned. She needed allies and the Bhatti came in support. They were then granted lands that became settlement of Kakrala. If this legend is to be believed then, Kakrala was founded a century before Bhargain, and the connection between the two Bhatti communities becomes weaker. The Kakrala Bhatti state was absorbed into the Rohilla state in early 18th Century, and the Bhattis also played a part in 1857. Closely connected to the Kakrala Bhattis are those of the town of Thirya Nizamat Khan in Bareilly, which said to have been founded by migrants from Kakra. In additions, there are also several Bhatti villages near Baheri in Bareilly District.

The Bhatti Khanzada

I now move to Awadh, and look at the very interesting community of the Bhatti of Barabanki. The Bhatti Khanzada of Awadh are a sub-group within the larger Khanzada community of Awadh. However, unlike other Khanzadas, the Bhattis are now closely associated with the Qidwai Shaikhs, with whom they intermarry.
There is also a distinct community of Bhattis found in the village of Yahiapur in Pratapgarh district. The Awadh region covers most of the eastern areas of Uttar Pradesh, and is home to a distinct culture with the extensive use of the Awadhi language.

The Awadh Bhatti also claim to orignate from Bhatner in Haryana, and the Bhattis were some of the earliest converts of Islam. According to tribal traditons, there ancestors Zabar Khan and his brother, Mustafa Khan, accompanied the governor Tatar Khan to Awadh at the time of the first Muslim conquest. In return for his services Zabar Khan received the parganas
of Mawai and Basorhi. He and his brother were the disciple of the saint, Saiyid Shah Jalal, whose tomb is at Basorhi, and in consequence of an insult offered to the holy man they exterminated the Brahmans of Mawai. Zabar Khan’s descendants
held the land for several generations, and then Kale Khan and Munna Jan divided their estates, taking Basorhi and Mawai respectively.
From the former springs the Neora house, which takes its name from a village in the south of Basorhi.

The two Bhatti taluqdars of Barauli and Neora in Barabanki district, and are closely related to the Qidwai Shaikhs, a neighbouring Muslim community through intermarriage. Other then the taluqdar families, the majority of the Barabanki Bhatti are small to medium sized farmers. With the abolishment of zamindari system of feudal ownership, has had a strong impact on the large landowning families, as much of their land has been redistributed. Bhattis are found mainly in and around the town of Mawai, with important villages include Makhdumpur, Neora and Basorhi.


Bhatti of Yahyapur in District Pratapgarh

The village of Yahyapur in Pratapgarh District has quite a unique history. The village is located on the north bank of the river Sai, near its junction with the Paraya stream, about seven miles from Partapgarh city. Located within the village is the famous temple of Bilkhar Nath, which stands among the ruins of Kot Bilkhar, the ancient fort of Ghaibar Sah, a Dikhit Rajput of Bisauli in Banda District. This man was sent by the Emperor of Dehli to exterminate the Bhars, and settling here founded the family of Bilkharia Thakurs, who ruled the pargana till the days of Raja Ramdev Singh. Ramdev Singh was defeated and slain some 650 years ago by Bariar Singh, the ancestor of the Bachgoti clan. On the division of the Baohgoti property the fort fell to the lot of Dingur Singh, the ancestor of the present taluqdar of Dalippur. It was destroyed by the forces of the Nawab of Awadh in 1773 after the defeat of Rai Maharban Singh. The ruins stand on the river bank on a plateau surrounded on three sides by ravines and covered with scrub jungle. The Awadh rulers then settled a colony of Bhattis, who now make up the majority of the population. However the shrine of Bilkbar Nath in the village has remained an important site of Hindu pilgramage.

Distribution of Bhattis by District According to 1891 Census of India
 

District
Hindu Muslim
Barreilly 3,763
Bulandshahr 3,482 2,455
Etah 80 2,671
Pratabgarh 1,652
Barabanki 1,353
Farrukhabad 10 1,177
Ghazipur 854
Aligarh 5 576
Moradabad 514
Saharanpur 37 443
Muzaffarnagar 80 343
Bahraich 267
Hardoi 198
Lakhimpur Kheri 195
Sultanpur 127
Unao 112
Gorakhpur 125 66
Mathura 49
Badaun 587
Meerut 180
Total Population in UP 4,619 17,170

 

Description of Major Muslim Communities in India : Rautara or Zamindara

This is my fourth posting on a Muslim community in India, and like the previous one, it will focus on the state of the Uttar Pradesh (UP). I shall be looking at the interesting group called Zamindara, also known as Rautara, who extremely localized, found only in Azamgarh, Jaunpur and Mau districts. During the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, most Rautara insisted on calling Shaikhs, although this has now lessened. From the late 20th Century, the self-designation is now Azmi or Azmi Biradari or Azmi Qaum, which literally means a resident of Azamgarh District.

Like most communities, there are a number of traditions as to the origin of the Rautara. The word Zamindara is simply a corruption of the word zamin dar, meaning landowner or in many instances a cultivator. In the eastern most region of, it refers to a group of Muslim communities found mainly in villages who were traditionally associated with farming. They are also known as Rautara, which a corruption of the word ryot. I shall now further explore the term ryot as it can give a clue to the origin of the Rautara. Ryot and its alternative raiyat was a general economic term used throughout India for peasant cultivators but with variations in different provinces. During the Mughal Period (circa 16th onwards), a raiyat was defined as someone who has acquired a right to hold land for the purpose of cultivating it, whether alone or by members of his family, hired servants, or partners. It also referred to succession rights. Under the Mughal system of land control there were two types of raiyats: khudkasta and paikasta. The khudkasta raiyats were permanent resident cultivators of the village. Their rights in land were heritable, while other type of raiyats was called paikasta. They did not cultivate land on a permanent basis in any particular mauza (lowest revenue plus village settlement unit), but instead moved from mauza to mauza and engaged themselves for a crop season. In terms of revenue, the paikasta raiyats were generally paid a much lower rate of rent than the khudkashta raiyats.

Under the British, two system of land tenure were established. The Ryotwari (or ryotwary) tenure related to land revenue imposed on an individual or community owning an estate, and occupying a position analogous to that of a landlord..While under zamindari tenure, the land is held as independent property; while under ryotwari tenure it is held of the crown in a right of occupancy, which is under British rule both heritable and transferable by the ryots. It is therefore interesting how closely this community’s identity is closely connected with landownership, both zamindara and rautara referring to a type of landownership. The Rautara therefore a groups of people who held the land as cultivators and or landowners under the Mughals, and continued there position under the British. British writers such as Drake-Brockman writing the District Gazetteer of Azamgarh wrote favourably about them as cultivators.

As one would expect of a community defined by land tenure, the Rautara have a number of different origin myths. The Ain-i-Akbari, referred to them being the largest community in pargana Nizamabad a Mughal area of administration that roughly covers the present Azamgarh District. In early British colonial accounts, the Rautara were referred to in their words as a broken community of Brahmans and Rajputs, who had converted during the period of the Lodhi dynasty (1451-1526). However, the Rautara of Mohammadpur near Nizamabad had traditions of Afghan origin. There story runs like this, the village of Mohammadpur was founded during the rule of Jai Chand of Kannauj (1173 -1193). When area became part of the Delhi sultanate, the Afghans were joined by Arabs, and Moghals, who identified themselves as Sheikh, Mirza and Pathan respectively. These groups intermingled with each other each other but retained their individual identities as Pathan, Sheikh and Mirza. Incidentally, the Mohammadpur tradition accept that high caste Hindus such as Chattaris, Brehmins and Rajputs who adopted Islam, were also welcome incorporated into the community. By time of the rise of the Jaunpur Sultans, these communities referred to themselves as Ryot or in the Bhojpuri Rautara, based on their position as cultivators.

It was during the rule of the Mughal emperor Akbar (1542-1605) the Afghans the people of the area including the people of Mohammadpur came under period of persecution. In the eyes of Akbar, the local Afghans had supported Sher Shah Suri, who briefly ended Mughal rule in North India. The Mohammadpur villagers, according to their stories, had to destroy all proofs of their being Afghan. They therefore emphasized their identity as ryots, and when the British arrived they noted a community of Brahman and Rajput converts, rather then Afghans or Turks. I feel that that as claims to Afghan or Arab identity are recent, while not denying that there may be some among them who are of Afghan or Mughal origin, by and large the late 19th Century and early 20th Century British writers were probably right. Incidentally, most Rautara had recorded themselves as Shaikhs, a term used through eastern UP and Bihar for recent converts to Islam. Imtiaz Ahmad has looked at the case of Kayastha Muslims in Allahabad changing their identity to Siddique Shaikhs as an attempt at raising there status. This process has been called Ashrafization, where groups start to claim an extra Indian identity to raise their social status. In Azamgarh, furthermore as communal relations between Hindus and Muslims have worsened, the insistence of Afghan and Central Asian identity has increased.

The Rautara speak a distinct dialect of Bhojpuri, although most also speak Urdu. Greater Ashrafization has meant that the Rautara have begun to call their Bhojpuri dialect Azmiat. Most Rautara sub-divide themselves into three groups, the Shaikh, Pathan or Khan and Turk. Azamgarh District remains the centre of the community, substantial number in neighbouring districts of Mau and Jaunpur, and in certain pockets of Gorakhpur and Sultanpur. In terms of major villages, starting with Shaikh sub-division include Sanjarpur (King Sanjar Shaikh) Amilo Khas, Saat Gao, Mangrawan Raipur, Kundanpur Kotila, Bindawal- Jairajpur, Bisham, Nandao, Anjan Shahed, Mahwara , Ashrafpur, Mande and Sarai Poohi. Among the Pathan sub-division, the main iinclude Mohammedpur (Ghazni), Fariha (Farah) Khandwari, Daudpur, Sherwaa, Surahi and Rajapur Sikrour. While the Turk sub-division villages include Muslim Patti, Manjeerpatti, Mirzapur, Hasanpur-Beenapara and Shahpur.

Description of Major Muslim Communities in India : Muslim Gujar in Uttar Pradesh

This is my third post on Indian Muslim communities, and here I will only focus on Muslim Gujjars found in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. They are Muslim converts of the wider Gujjar community of South Asia. The Gujjar of Uttar Pradesh are, in fact, three distinct communities, those of the Doab Region, those of Awadh and the nomadic Van Gujjar. Their early history is shrouded in mystery, and each of the three communities has different traditions as to their conversion to Islam. Furthermore, each of these three communities is endogamous, with no case of inter-marriage, and having unique customs and traditions. The Gujar are further divided into clans called gotras, and Muslim Gujjar by tradition are said to have 35O. I wish to make one more point, not all Muslim dairymen in Uttar Pradesh belong to the Gujar caste, for example the Ghosi and Gaddi are distinct communities, who are associated with pastoralism.


The Muslim Gujjar of the Doab

The Muslim Gujjar of the Doab region are found in the districts of Saharanpur, Muzzafarnagar, Meerut, Bulandshahr and Aligarh. They were said to have peacefully converted to Islam during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Gujjars traditionally belonged to the OBC.

Some Muslim Gujjars are cattle herders, breeders and land owners. They are engaged in the production and distribution of milk and milk products. The Muslim Gujjars are small and medium-sized farmers, and cultivate wheat, paddy, maize, millets, pulses, sugar cane and vegetables. They also grow fodder for their cattle. Their customs are similar to the other Muslim cultivating castes, such as the Ranghar and Muley Jat.

They are an endogamous community, and practice gotra exogamy. Their main gotras are the Panwar, Nagar/Nagra, Nirbaan, Tak, Banja, Bhati, Chandel, Chechi, Dodhar, Gorsi, Jinar, Katarya, Kasana, Kasave, Poswal, Rawal and Tomar. Each of these clans is equal status, and they all intermarry. The Gujjar are Sunni Muslims, and many especially those in Saharanpur District have been affected by the reformist Deobandi sect, while those in other districts are Barelvi. They speak Khari boli and most educated Gujjar speak now Urdu.

In Saharanpur District they are found mainly in Nakur and Saharanpur tehsils, and Nakur was at one time known as Gujrat or the land of the Gujjars. In neighbouring Muzzafarnagar District Muslim Gujjar villages are found mainly in the valley of the Yamuna. A small number of Muslim Gujjar are also found in neighbouring districts of Meerut, Bulandshahr and Aligarh in the Doab, and the districts of Bijnor and Moradabad in Rohilkhand.

The Gujjar of Awadh

The Gujjar of Awadh are found mainly in the districts of Raebareli, Sultanpur, Barabanki, Gorakhpur and Bahraich . They claim to have settled in the Awadh region, after the fleeing the countryside near Delhi from the forces of Tamelane. The Awadh Gujjar are small to medium sized farmers, often inhabiting multi-caste villages. Their main gotras are the Ekkisa, kharroha, pasuwar, kori, Chauhan, Godha, Ghongar, Ghori, Kathariya, Muker, Nagarpanthi, Panwar and Sengarwar. The community do not practice gotra exogamy, and marry close kin. They speak Awadhi, but most also speak Urdu. Historically, many were tenant farmers or dairymen, but the abolishment of the zamindari system has led to redistribution of the land, and many are now owner cultivators. In Raebareli District, they make up a quarter of the Muslim population of that district, and it is always considered the centre of the Gujjar of Awadh. They are found mainly in Salon and Maharajganj tehsils, especially in Rokha. While in Sultanpur District, they are found chiefly in Jagdishpur, Gaura Jamun and Amethi. The Gujjar are largely Sunni, but many in Barabanki District are Shia.

The Van Gujjar

The Van Gujjar are a nomadic tribe found in the jehlem state and forested Bhabar tract of Uttar Pradesh . They get their name from the Hindi word ban or van which means a forest and the word Van Gujjar literally means a forest dwelling Gujjar. According to their traditions, the Van Gujjars originate in Jammu, and some three hundred years ago the community accompanied a princess of the royal house of Jammu who married a prince of Sirmaur in Himachal Pradesh. The community moved from Sirmaur to the Uttarakhand region in the early nineteenth century. They are now found in the forests of Dehradun, Saharanpur, Bijnor, Pauri Garhwal and Nainital districts. They undertake an annual migration to their summer pastures in Uttarkashi and Kedarnath. The Van Gujjar follow defined routes, and with each clan assigned a particular route. The governments of both Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have made repeated attempts to settle them.

The Gujjar economy revolves around the buffaloes, and they survive by selling milk and milk products to settled villagers. They often rely on middlemen of the Bania caste, to whom many are now indebted. They also suffer discrimination at the hands of forestry officers, who often extract money from the Gujjars. As nomads, the Gujjars have difficulties proving land ownership, and often face eviction from their camp sites. The Van Gujar of the Rajaji National Park have been involved in a campaign to safe their pastures from the state authorities.[10]

The Van Gujar are strictly endogamous, and maintain a system of gotra exogamy. Their main gotras are the Kasana, Lodha, Padhana, Bagri, Dinda, Bhainsi, Chauhan, Baniya, Bessuwal, Chechi, Khatana, Chopra and Kalas. They are Sunni Muslims, but have maintained a number of pre-Islamic customs. They speak the Gojri language and most understand Hindi.

The religious identity of indigenous Gujjars (particularly the Van Gujjars) in the Himilayan region remains largely unexplored. David Emmanuel Singh’s recently concluded research presents a detailed account of Deobandi Islamization among them and argues that the Gujjar choice to associate with Deobandis occurs in the wider context of conservation debates, local government-led efforts to relocate them from the Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand, India, and the failure of NGOs to fully represent their interests. Based on documents and interviews, this detailed work explores both the continuing expansion of Deobandi reform and the responses of the Gujjars. It points too toward the role of Islam in integrating marginal groups in South Asia.

Distribution of Muslim Gujjars by District According to 1891 Census of India

 

District Hindu Muslim
Dehra Dun   527   439
Saharanpur   57,053   18,454
Muzaffarnagar   27,856   13,239
Meerut   69,387  65
Bulandshahr   46,692
Aligarh   11,397  11
Mathura   7,430 23
Agra 13,238 1
Farukhabad  83 28
Mainpuri 111
Etawah 3,113
Etah  9  22
Bareilly   7,361
Lakhimpur Kheri
Sultanpur
Unao
Gorakhpur
Badaun
Meerut
Total Population in UP

 


Bibliography

Muslim Gujjar in People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part Two edited by A Hasan & J C Das, pages 1031 to 1041, Manohar Publications

Rivalry and brotherhood : politics in the life of farmers in northern India / Dipankar Gupta pages 50 and 51 Delhi ; Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1997 ISBN 0195641019
Gujar in Tribes and Castes of North Western Provinces and Oudh by William Crook Volume II
Status and Power in a Muslim Dominated village by Zarina Bhatti in Caste and social stratification among Muslims in India / edited by Imtiaz Ahmad page 211 New Delhi : Manohar, 1978.
Politics, power, and leadership in rural India / SM Ijlal Anis Zaidi pages 39 and 41New Delhi : Commonwealth Publishers, 1988. ISBN 8190006630

At the Tail of the Buffalo: Van Gujjar pastoralists between the forest and the world arena by Pernille Gooch Dept. of Sociology, Lund University (1998)

Description of Major Muslim Communities in India – Ahbans, Bachgoti, and Bisen

This is my second post looking at some important Muslim communities in India. All the communities looked are members of the Khanzada community. The Khanzada or Khan Zadeh are a community of Muslim Rajputs found in the Awadh region of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India.

The Khanzada comprise a large numbered of dispersed intermarrying clans. These exogamous groups are made up of myriad landholding patrilineages of varying genealogical depth, ritual, and social status called biradaries or brotherhoods scattered in the various districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh. The biradari, or lineage is one of the principal point of reference for the Khanzadas, and all biradaris claim descent from a common ancestor. Often biradaris inhabit a cluster of villages called chaurasis (84 villages), chatisis (36 villages) and chabisis (26 villages). Important biradaris include the Bachgoti, Bais, Bhale Sultan, Bisen, Bhatti, Chauhan, Chandel, Gautam, Sombansi and Panwar.

The sense of belonging to the Rajput community remains strong, with the Khanzada still strongly identifying themselves with the wider Rajput community of Awadh, and often refer to themselves as simply Rajput. This is shown by the persistence in their marriages of Rajput customs, like bursting of fire crackers and sending specially made laddoos to biradati members. Many members of the community continue to serve in the armed forces of India, an activity traditionally associated with the Rajputs. However, like other Indian Muslims, there is growing movement towards orthodoxy, with many of their villages containing madrasas.

I also wish to add a quick word about the term Taluqdar, which appears quite a bit in this post. Taluqdar in Persian literally means a holder of a Taluq, and were often appointed during the period of Mughal rule in India. A Taluq was district usually comprising over 84 villages and a central town. The Talukdar was required to collect taxes, maintain law and order, and provide military supplies/manpower to the provincial government (similar to the role of feudal lords in Europe). In most cases the Talukdars were entitled to keep one tenth of the collected revenue. However, some privileged Talukdars were entitled to one quarter and hence were called Chaudhry, which literally means owner of the fourth part. As Mughal authority weakened, the taluqdar became independent rulers, only paying lip service to the Nawabs or rulers of Awadh. The khanzada families made a large part of the taluqdari class in Awadh. This semi-independent status ended when Awadh was annexed by the British in 1856.

 

Ahbans

The Ahbans Khanzada are Muslim converts from the Ahbans clan of Rajputs, who are found mainly in the Awadh region.

The name of this clan is derived from the Sanskrit word ahi which means a snake, and bans meaning clan. They claim to be one of the earliest Rajput settlers in the Awadh region. According to their tribal traditions, they are descended from two brothers, who belonged to the Chavda clan who found in Gujarat. The two brothers were Gopi and Sopi, and who are said to have come from Anhalwarra Patan in what is now Gujarat. They went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Gaya around, around the first century AD. On their return, the brothers settled in Gopamau and Bhurwara in Lakhimpur Kheri District. Ahbans became effective rulers of Kheri during the period of the Mughal Emperor Humayun, a position maintained until the arrival of the British in the 19th Century.
Groups of Ahbans started to convert to Islam during the rule of Bahlol Lodhi, the Sultan of Delhi, who appointed his nephew Mohammed Farman Ali, also known as Kalapahar, as governor of Bahraich. This Kalapahar is said to have induced the conversion of the Ahbans ranas of Lakhimpur Kheri to Islam. The Ahbans Khanzada provided the taluqdar families of Kotwara, Agar Buzurg, Chauratia, Kukra, Jalalpur, Raipur and Gola.

 

The first Ahbans to have converted to Islam was said to be a Rajah Mul Sah, who is said to have then gone to Delhi, the capital of the Islamic Sultanate. From him descended two brothers, Fateh Khan and Baz Khan, from whom most of the present day Ahbans Khanzada claim descent. Baz Khan had twelve sons, of whom eight had no issues, while from the two eldest, Sangi Khan and Turbat Khan are the ancestors of the taluqdar families of Kotwara, Jalalpur and Raipur, and the zamindar families of Bhurwara, Ghursi, and Amethi.

The Jalalpur family were descended from Tarbat Khan, who had three sons, the eldest being Mohammad Hasan Khan. These estate was one of the largest in Lakhimpur Kheri District, and consisted of thirteen villages. From the second son of Tarbat Khan came the taluqdar family of Kotwara. This estate eventually passed into the ownership of a Sayyid family. The final taluqdar estate was Raipur, whose taluqdar claimed descent from Bahudur Khan, a younger son of Baz Khan.

 

It is worth pointing out that most Ahbans were small to medium farmers, obviously excluding the taluqdar families. This especially the case of the Ahbans found in Bagarmau in Hardoi District.
Sectarian Affiliation
While the taluqdar families are Ithna Ashri Shia, most farming families belong to the Sunni sect.

Distribution

Found mainly in Kheri, but a second cluster of settlements found in Bargarmau in Hardoi.

Bachgoti

The next community I will look at are the Bachgoti, who were the first clan to acquire the name Khanzada.

The Bachgoti Khanzada claim descent from Tilok Chand, a Bachgoti Rajput chieftain, who was a contemporary of the Mughal Emperor Babar. Tilok Chand is said to have been captured by the Emperor, after an unsecusful rebellion, and given the option to convert to Islam, or face long incarceration. He chose the former option, and took the new name Tatar Khan. His sons, Barid Khan and Jalal Khan adopted the name the khanzada, which literally means a son of a khan. Hasan Khan, a son of Barid Khan, is said to have founded the town of Hasanpur, which was the headquarters of the tribe. The Bachgoti Khanzada were substantial landowners in eastern Uttar Pradesh, and provided the taluqdar families of Hasanpur, Maniarpur and Gangeo.

The Bachgoti Khanzada are found mainly in the districts of Faizabad and Sultanpur. They are Sunni Muslims, except the taluqdar families, but incorporate many folk beliefs. The Bachgoti speak both Awadhi and Urdu. They were at one time substantial landowners, but with the carrying out of land reform by the government of India after independence in 1947, they lost many of their larger estates.

Bisen

Moving on to the Bisen, who are largest in terms of numbers among the Khanzada community. There are in fact several distinct communities of Bisen Khanzada scattered throughout eastern Uttar Pradesh. Each has a different traditions as to its conversion to Islam. Perhaps the most famous Bisen Khanzada family is said of the taluqdars of Usmanpur in Barabanki District. This estate was founded by one Kaunsal Singh (also known as Raja Khushhal Singh), who obtained an estate as a reward for military service under the Mughal Emperor Humayun. One of his sons Lakhan Singh converted to Islam, and took the name Lakhu Khan. The estate of Usmanpur was founded by Ghanzafar Khan, who was confirmed ownership of Usmanpur and neighbouring villages by the Nawabs of Awadh.

In addition to the Rajah of Usmanpur, prominent Bisen families are also found in Balrampur District, where the zamindars of Mahua and Burhapara were substantial landowners.

The Bisen are found in the districts of Basti, Azamgarh, Sitapur, Faizabad, Barabanki, Sultanpur and Balrampur. They are generally Sunni, and speak Awadhi and Urdu.

Description of Major Muslim Communities in India – Abdal, Arab (Chavuse), Arain, Arghon, Atishbaz and Attarwala

In this blog, I will look at some of larger Muslim communities or castes found in India. I will keep the description brief and I have added a bibliography at the end for people interested in further reading. This is my first posting and hopefully several more will follow time permitting. What I wish to show is the extraordinary diversity of the of Indian Muslim community.

Abdal

The Abdal are one of a number of Muslim semi-nomadic community, traditionally associated with begging at shrines of Sufi saints. They are likely to be a division of the Domba community. The word Abdal is the plural form of the Arabic word Abdul, which means slave or follower. According to the traditions of the Abdal, they acquired this name on account of the fact that they were followers of various Sufi saints. As such, the Abdal is not a single community, but refers to groups that are traditionally associated with begging at shrines. The Abdal of Bihar, who speak the Maithili language, and are found mainly in the district of Purnea, while other Abdal communities speak the language of the region they reside in.I n Gujarat, the Abdal are a community of beggars, who are also known as Dafalis and Nagarchis. Their traditional occupation was beating drums at Muslim shrines. The community is found mainly in Ahmedabad city.
In West Bengal, according to the traditions of the community, the community is known as Abdal, as they are true slaves of God, and the word Abdal means a servant of God. Little is known when the community emerged in West Bengal, but presently form a distinct Muslim community.

Sectarian Affaliation

The Abdal belief incorporate several folk traditions, and follow several Sufi orders such as the Qadriya and Sarwariya.

Distribution

In terms of distribution, the Abdal are found mainly in Bihar, Gujarat and West Bengal.

 

Arabs in Gujarat, also known as Chavuse

The Arabs community found in Gujarat, also known as the Chavuse, are descendents of Arabs soldiers who were in the employment of various rulers of states in Gujarat, Kathiawar and Kutch. They are said to have arrived in India in the 17th, 18 and 19th Century. According Satish Chandra Mishra, they are divided in 169 clans, but generally divided into groups, the Hejazi, originating from Saudi Arabia, and the Hadhramis from Yemen. With the collapse of Mughal authority in Gujarat in early 18th Century, a number of local feudal chieftains, both Hindu and Muslim became independent. Most of their armies were made up of mercenaries, and Arabs became the main source of soldiers. This was especially the case in Jamnagar, Junagadh and Bhavnagar. The Arabs who came were mainly men, very rarely bringing their families, and intermarriage with local Muslim as well as Koli women was common.

The present Arab community has kept a distinct identity, with many moving to the Gulf States, where they have acquired citizenship. They continue to speak a dialect of Gujarati with Arabic loanwords. The Arbs also continue to maintain distance from groups claiming Sayyid or Shaikh status. Arabs are subdivided into the following sub-groups, the Akvon, Acari, Ansari, Anuj, Kathiri, and Qureshi

Sectarian Affiliation
Sunni, many are now Salafi

Distribution

Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Panchmahal and Surat. districts of Gujarat

Arghon

The Arghons are a small community of descendants of immigrants from Yarkand (Xinjiang) and Kashmir that have intermingled with the local Ladakhi community. Most are said to have arrived in the 17th and 18th Century, although some Arghons descend from Kashmiri traders who arrived in the 19th Century. The distinction between the different lineages has disappeared; a new Arghon identity has come into being. Most Arghon are still concentrated in Leh city. The Arghon speak Ladakhi among themselves, but most understand Kashmiri and some also speak Urdu. They are essentially a community of traders and merchants.

Sectarian Affiliation

They are Sunni, and as such quite distinct from the Balti, another Tibetan speaking Muslim group, who are Shia.

Distribution

In Leh District of Ladakh (in Jammu and Kashmir), mainly in Leh town.

 

Arain

The Arain in India are now two distinct communities, the Arain of Delhi, and those of Malerkotla. Historic, there were Arain communities in what is now Haryana and East Punjab, but most of these immigrated to Pakistan in 1947.

The Arain have a number of origin myths, including descent from Arabs soldiers that came to India with Mohammed bin Qasim. Among the Malerkotla Arains, the tradition of Arab descent is growing, although others still make reference to Raja Bhutta, ruler of Uchh in what is now Pakistan, who lost his kingdom and settled along the banks of the Sutlej. The Malerkotla Arain are Punjabi speaking, and remnants of much larger community in found in eastern Punjab that immigrated to Pakistan at partition.

Separate from the Punjab Arain are those of Delhi. They claim descent from Rai Jaj, grandson of Lara, the mythical founder of the city of Lahore. This Jaj was the ruler of Sirsa territory, and was thus called Rai, a title used by rulers in ancient Haryana. This was latter corrupted to Arain over time. They were converted to Islam during the rule of Mohammed Ghori. The Arain of Delhi are said to have emigrated from Sirsa, during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. A good many of the Delhi Arain emigrated to Pakistan, at the time of partition of India.

The community was traditionally involved in horticulture and the selling of vegetables. They had their gardens and agriculture lands in Kureni near Narela, Jharoda, Azadpur, Malikpur Chuni and Model Town localities. Malikpur Chuni was traditionally an Arain locality, getting its name from Malik, meaning chief, which is a common surname found among the Arain. From the 1960s onwards, the lands of the Arain have been taken over by the Delhi Development Authority. Many are involved in various trades and businesses.

Sectarian Affiliation

Entirely Sunni

Distribution

Malerkotla in Punjab, and Delhi State

Atishbaz,

The Atishbaz are also known as Atishbaz Shaikh or sometimes just Shaikh.

The word atishbaz literally means a firework maker, from the Persian atish meaning fire, and baz meaning to play, and the community is said to have acquired the name on account of their traditional occupation, which was the manufacture of fireworks. According to the traditions of the community, they were originally brought over by the Mughals from Central Asia, as their ancestors were specialists in the manufacture of gunpowder. With the decline of the Mughal Empire, the community took to the manufacturing of fireworks.

Sectarian Affiliation
They are entirely Sunni.

Distribution
In easternUttar Pradesh, in the districts of Mirzapur, Azamgarh, Jaunpur, Basti, Gonda and Varanasi. In Varanasi, they are found in the Kashipura, Aurangabad and Ram Nagar localities

Attarwala

The word attarwala simply means the manufacturer of perfumes. The Attarwala claim to be descended from a group of Hazara soldiers who were initially settled in Agra, during the rule of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. After the failure of 1857 uprising, the Attarwala moved to Gujarat. Once settled in Gujarat, the community took up the occupation of manufacturing of perfumes known locally as ittars.

The community is subdivided into biradari, literally meaning lineages, the larger ones being the Peer Baksh, Ammer Ali, Khorata, Mandusa, Hussainsa, Zahur Hussain, Mohammad Hussain, Khodar Baksh, Barkhan, Mashoob Khan and Ghulam Khan. They also differ from other Gujarati groups in that they still speak Urdu, although most also understand Gujarati.

Sectarian Affiliation
Ithna Ashri Shia

Distribution
Mainly in Ahmadabad in Gujarat, a few also in Baroda