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





Patiala State 19,794


206,658 258,718 485,170


Sialkot 162,403


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



 1,594,876 (including 16 Jains)

1,389,530 4,941,658

Basra and Sarai Jats

In this post, I intend to look at two tribes, namely the Basra and Sarai, who are found mainly in the northern half of the Ravi Chenab (Rechna Doab) Doab, mainly now the districts of Hafizabad, Sialkot, Gujranwala and Narowal. Historically, the Basra also had a presence in Gurdaspur, but like other Punjabi Muslims they had to migrate to Pakistan at the time of partition. While the Sarai were fairly widespread, found as far east as Patiala State.  Both the Basra and Sarai are Jat clans, and this region of Pakistan perhaps has the clearest boundary between Rajput and Jat. Jats are found all over this region and form the backbone of the agricultural community. They are divided into numerous clans and historically belonged to different religions. It was not uncommon to find in a village a few Jat families practicing Sikhism while others Islam. Along the border with the Jammu and Kashmir state, many Jats had remained Hindu, and many Hindu Randhawa and Nagra Jats are still found in the  Jammu Region. Therefore, we find among the Basra and Sarai groups following Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism. The Gazetteer of the Sialkot District (1920, Part A) gave the following description:

profess different religions, but a strong family likeness pervades the whole tribe. The Muhammadan is sometimes said to be less energetic than his Hindu or Sikh brother, but it is very doubtful whether any such distinction exists. The Sikh sometimes indulges a taste for liquor and a certain amount of illicit distilling occurs in the district. All are patient, hardworking cultivators without much enterprise but tenacious of their rights and proud of their position as zamindars or landowners, even if their holding be but an acre or two.

Another interesting factor is that both the Basra, like the Goraya, also found in this region, claim descent from the Saroha Rajputs, a tribe of which little is known. The quote makes reference to the word zamindar, literally landowner, and almost Jats in this region interchangeably describe themselves as zamindar and Jat.

Map of Sialkot District: Source Who

The table gives the population of the larger Muslim Jat Tribes of Sialkot District according to the 1911 Census


Tribe Population








Kahlon / Kahlawn


Waraich 5,917


















Deo / Dev










Dhariwal / Dhaliwal


Pannu / Pannun 498












Maan 169






I would ask the reader to look at my posts on the Goraya, Tarar and Warriach, which more information on the Jats of the region. The largest tribe in the region were the Bajwa, and time permitting I hope to write a post about them.


I start of by looking at the Basra, a clan found mainly in the northern part of the Rechna Doab. Like many of other Jat tribes in the Sialkot region, they claim descent from the mysterious Saroha tribe. There are currently very Saroha Rajputs, but most claim to be Chandravanshi Rajputs. Many Basra also connect themselves with the mythical Rajah Salvahan, who is said to founded the city of Sialkot. According to this tradition, Raja Salvahan has two sons named as Basra and Sarra. From Basra descend the Basra tribe of Jats and from Sarra the Sarai, another well known Jat tribe. Basra is said to have migrated to Phagwara, now located in the Kapurthala district of Indian Punjab. There original settlement was the village of Mehli, located near the town of Phagawara. Incidentally, almost all Basra of the Sialkot / Narowal region claim Mehli to be their village of origin. Melhi is also still home to Basra Jat families who follow the Sikh faith. Some five centuries ago, a famine drove the Basra from Phagwara, and they established their first settlement at the village of Gharial Kalan, south of the town of Pasrur. They then founded the village of Gharial Khurd , due to the unavailability of land in Gharial Kalan. It is unclear when the Basra began converting to Islam, but the majority were Muslim at the time of the arrival of the British in the Punjab 1849. Most Basra are now found mainly near the city of Daska.

In terms of distribution, most Basra are still found in Raya Tehsil of Narowal District, and Daska Tehsil of Sialkot District. There are a second cluster of Basra villages in the Kali Subha region of north eastern Gujranwala. In the district Sheikhupura, they are found in the villagers of Bule Chak, Akbarian-Bhagian, Hamidpur and Gundowal. Outside their historic area, the Basra Jats have settled in the Canal Colony districts of Faisalabad and Toba Tek Singh, where there are now several Basra villages.


The other tribe I am going to look are the Sarai. They are a Jat tribe, whose homeland is the upper Rechna Doaba, including Hafizabad, Sialkot and Narowal districts The Sarai find along the Sutlej and Beas, all have traditions of migrating from the Rechna. They were until the arrival of the British, a largely pastoralist tribe.


The Sarai are closely connected with the Basra tribe, according to some traditions, both tribes have a common ancestor. However, most Sarai claim to be clan or at least by origin Bhatti Rajput. In each of the origin story, there ancestor is called Sarai. In Hafizabad, Sarai is said to have come originally from Jaisalmer, and was a Bhatti Rajput chieftain.  According to the 19th Century orientalist, James Tod makes Sahrai is the title of a clan of Panwar Rijputs who founded a, dynasty at Aror in Sindh on the eastern bank of the Indus and ” gave their name Sehl or Sehr as a titular appellation to the country and its prince, and its inhabitants the Sehrais.” However, almost all Sarai traditions make their ancestor a Bhatti, and not Panwar. Although in the Gujranwala Bar, the uplands located between Ravi and Chenab, the Sarai are now quite distinct from the Bhattis. In Gurdaspur, in census of 1881, many Sarai returned as their tribe Sindhu, Sarai simply being a clan of the Sandhus. However, in other parts of Punjab, the Sarai are quite distinct from the Sandhus. According to the British ethnologist Rose. The Sarai may however be an offshoot of the Sandhu and they certainly do not intermarry with that tribe. But it in the Rechna, where majority of the tribe are found, there close connection is with Basra and not the Sandhu.

Distribution of Sarai Jats According to the 1901 Census

District / State Hindu Sikh Muslim Total
Amritsar 136 2,610 171 2,917
Ludhiana 636 2,014 39 2,689
Sialkot 642 306 1,358 2,306
Gurdaspur 1,047 987 226 2,260
Gujranwala 581 451 1,166 2,198
Patiala State 1,273 218 258 1,749
Faridkot State   1,577 33 1,610
Jalandhar 961 327 173 1,461
Nabha State 379 1,062   1,441
Hisar 77 1,300 17 1,394
Lahore 31 452 602 1,085
Chenab Colony 55 375 417 847
Gujrat 119   661 780
Ambala 338 164 17 519
Montgomery   75 367 442
Rohtak 421   10 431
Hoshiarpur 189 56 34 279
Mianwali     150 150
Malerkotla State 105     105
Other Districts/ States       339


7,096 12,160 5,746 25,002



At the beginning of the 20th Century, the Sarai were found in two clusters. Those of Rechna Doab, had spread across the Ravi into Lahore, Amritsar, Montgomery and Faridkot State, and across the Chenab into Gujrat,  together these Sarai accounted over half the population, and had a slight Sikh majority. A second cluster of Sarai were found along the Sutlej, and across in the Malwa, which included the largely Sikh Sarai of the Hisar, made remining half the tribe. These Sarais all have traditions of migration from Rechna Doaba. Sarai were one of the earlier Jat clans to start converting to Sikhism, and the majority were Sikh at the start of the 20th Century. But in the Rechna Doaba, the Sarai were evenly divided between Muslims and Sikh.  On the Hindu Sarai, other then those of Rohtak, the rest of the Sarai were Sultani, followers of the Sufi saint Sakhi Sarwar. Most of these were in the process of converting to Sikhism. My post on the Bharai caste give somes background on the Sultani sect. The Sultani sect is practically dead now.