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II

THE POSITION OF THE JĀT IN THE PUNJAB

229

preserving their purity of blood by refusing to marry with families of inferior social rank, of rigidly abstaining from widow-marriage, and of refraining from degrading occupations. Those who transgressed these rules have fallen from their high position and ceased to be Rājpūts; while such families as, attaining a dominant position in their territory, began to affect social exclusiveness and to observe the rules, have become not only Rājas but also Rājpūts or sons of Rājas. For the last seven centuries at least the process of elevation has been almost at a standstill. Under the Delhi Emperors king-making was practically impossible. Under the Sikhs the Rājpūt was overshadowed by the Jāt, who resented his assumption of superiority and his refusal to join him on equal terms in the ranks of the Khālsa, deliberately persecuted him wherever and whenever he had the power, and preferred his title of Jāt Sikh to that of the proudest Rājpūt. On the frontier the dominance of Pathāns and Biloches and the general prevalence of Muhammadan feelings and ideas placed recent Indian origin at a discount, and led the leading families who belonged to neither of these two races to claim connection not with the Kshatriyas of the Sanskrit classics but with the Mughal conquerors of India or the Qureshi cousins of the Prophet; in so much that even admittedly Rājpūt tribes of famous ancestry, such as the Khokha, have begun to follow the example. But in the hills, where Rājpūt dynasties, with genealogies perhaps more ancient and unbroken than can be shown by any other royal families in the world, retained their independence till yesterday, and where many of them still enjoy as great social authority as ever, the twin processes of degradation from and elevation to Rājpūt rank are still to be seen in operation. The Rāja is there the fountain not only of honour but also of caste, which is the same thing in India.

“ The Jāt is in every respect the most important of the 4. The Punjab peoples. In point of numbers he surpasses the position of Rājpūt, who comes next to him, in the proportion of nearly the Punjab. three to one ; while the two together constitute twenty-seven per cent of the whole population of the Province. Politically he ruled the Punjab till the Khālsa yielded to our arms.

Ethnologically he is the peculiar and most prominent product of the plain of the five rivers. And from an economical and administrative point of view he is the husbandman, the peasant, the revenue-payer par excellence of the Province. His manners do not bear the impress of generations of wild freedom which marks the races of our frontier mountains. But he is more honest, more industrious, more sturdy, and no less manly than they. Sturdy independence indeed and patient, vigorous labour are his strongest characteristics. The Jāt is of all Punjab races the most impatient of tribal or communal control, and the one which asserts the freedom of the individual most strongly. In tracts where, as in Rohtak, the Jāt tribes have the field to themselves, and are compelled, in default of rival castes as enemies, to fall back upon each other for somebody to quarrel with, the tribal ties are strong. But as a rule a Jāt is a man who does what seems right in his own eyes and sometimes what seems wrong also, and will not be said nay by any man. I do not mean, however, that he is turbulent; as a rule he is very far from being so. He is independent and he is self-willed ; but he is reasonable, peaceably inclined if left alone, and not difficult to manage. He is usually content to cultivate his fields and pay his revenue in peace and quietness if people will let him do so; though when he does go wrong he takes to anything from gambling to murder, with perhaps a preference for stealing other people's wives and cattle. As usual the proverbial wisdom of the villages describes him very fairly though perhaps somewhat too severely: 'The soil, fodder, clothes, hemp, grass-fibre, and silk, these six are best beaten ; and the seventh is the Jāt.' 'A Jāt, a Bhāt, a caterpillar, and a widow woman; these four are best hungry. If they eat their fill they do harm.' 'The Jāt, like a wound, is better when bound.' In agriculture the Jāt is pre-eminent. The market-gardening castes, the Arāin, the Māli, the Saini are perhaps more skilful cultivators on a small scale ; but they cannot rival the Jāt as landowners and yeoman cultivators. The Jāt calls himself zamīndār or ‘husbandman' as often as Jāt, and his women and children alike work with him in the fields : ‘The Jāt's baby has a plough-handle for a plaything.' 'The Jāt stood on his corn heap and said to the king's

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elephant - drivers, Will you sell those little donkeys ? ' Socially the Jāt occupies a position which is shared by the Ror, the Gūjar, and the Ahir, all four eating and smoking together. He is, of course, far below the Rājpūt, from the simple fact that he practises widow-marriage. The Jāt father is made to say in the rhyming proverbs of the countryside, Come, my daughter, and be married ; if this husband dies there are plenty more.' But among the widow-marrying castes he stands first. The Bania with his sacred thread, his strict Hinduism, and his twice-born standing, looks down on the Jāt as a Sūdra. But the Jāt looks down upon the Bania as a cowardly, spiritless moneygrubber, and society in general agrees with the Jāt. The Khatri, who is far superior to the Bania in manliness and vigour, probably takes precedence of the Jāt. But among the races or tribes of purely Hindu origin, I think that the Jāt stands next after the Brāhman, the Rājpūt, and the Khatri."

The above account clearly indicates the social position 5. Social of the Jāt. His is the highest caste except the aristocracy the Játs. consisting of the Brāhmans and Rājpūts, the Khatris who are derived from the Rājpūts, and the Banias who are recognised as ranking not much below the Rājpūts. The derivation of some of the Rājpūt clans from the Jāts seems highly probable, and is confirmed by other instances of aristocratic selection in such castes as the Marāthas and Kunbis, the Rāj-Gonds and Gonds, and so on. If, however, the Rājpūts are a Jāt aristocracy, it is clear that the Jāts were not the Sūdras, who are described as wholly debased and impure in the Hindu classics ; and the present application of the term Sūdra to them is a misnomer arising from modern errors in classification by the Hindus themselves. The Jāts, if Sir D. Ibbetson's account be accepted, must have been the main body of the invading host, whether Aryan or Scythian, of whom the Rājpūts were the leaders. They settled

They settled on the land and formed village communities, and the status of the Jāt at present appears to be that of a member of the village community and part-holder of its land. A slightly undue importance may perhaps have been given in the above passage to the

practice of widow-marriage as determining the position of a great caste like the Jāts. Some Rājpūts, Kāyasths and Banias permit widow-marriage, and considerable sections of all these castes, and Brāhmans also, permit the practice of keeping widows, which, though not called a marriage, does not differ very widely from it. The Jāt probably finds his women too valuable as assistants in cultivation to make a pretence at the abolition of widow-marriage in order to improve his social status as some other castes do. The Jāt, of course, ranks as what is commonly called a pure caste, in that Brāhmans take water to drink from him. But his status does not depend on this, because Brāhmans take water from such menials as barbers, Kahārs or bearers, Bāris or household servants, and so on, who rank far below the Jāt, and also from the Mālis and other gardening castes who are appreciably below him. The Jāt is equal to the Gūjar and Ahir so far as social purity is concerned, but still above them, because they are graziers and vagrants, while he is a settled cultivator. It is from this fact that his status is perhaps mainly derived ; and his leading characteristics, his independence, self-sufficiency, doggedness, and industry, are those generally recognised as typical of the peasant proprietor. But the Jāt, in the Punjab at any rate, has also a higher status than the principal cultivating castes of other provinces, the Kurmi and the Kunbi. And this may perhaps be explained by his purer foreign descent, and also by the fact that both as Jāt and as Sikh his caste has been a military and dominant one in history and has furnished princes and heads of states.

The Jāts themselves relate the following Brāhmanical legend of legend of their origin.

legend of their origin. On one occasion when Himāchal origin. or Daksha Rāja, the father-in-law of Mahādeo, was per

forming a great sacrifice, he invited all the gods to be present except his son-in-law Mahādeo (Siva). The latter's wife Pārvati was, however, very anxious to go, so she asked Mahādeo to let her attend, even though she had not been invited. Mahādeo was unwilling to do this, but finally consented. But Daksha treated Pārvati with great want of respect at the sacrifice, so she came home and told Mahādeo about him. When Mahādeo heard this he was

6. Brāhmanical

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THE JĀTS IN THE CENTRAL PROVINCES

233

Central

filled with wrath, and untying his matted hair (jata) dashed it on the ground, when two powerful beings arose from it. He sent them to destroy Daksha's sacrifice and they went and destroyed it, and from these were descended the race of the Jāts, and they take their name from the matted locks (jata) of the lord Mahādeo. Another saying of the caste is that “The ancestor of the Rājpūts was Kashyap' and of the Jāts Siva. In the beginning these were the only two races of India.”

No detailed description of the Jāts need be attempted 7. The here, but some information which has been obtained on

Jāts in the their customs in this Province may be recorded. They Provinces. entered the Hoshangābād District, Sir C. Elliot states, in the eighteenth century, and came originally from Bharatpur (Bhurtpur), but halted in Mārwār on the way. “They are the best cultivators in the District after the Pardeshi Kurmis, and though they confine themselves to ordinary crops they are very laborious, and the tilth of their fields is pleasant to look on.” For the purposes of marriage the caste is divided into

exogamous sections in the usual manner. The bulk of the section - names cannot be explained, being probably corrupted forms of the names of villages, but it is noticeable that several pairs of them are considered to be related so that their members cannot intermarry. Thus no marriages can take place between the Golia and Gwalwa, the Choyala and Sārana, the Bhukar and Bhāri, and the Lathial and Lālar sections, as each pair is considered to be descended from a common ancestor.

A man may not take a wife either from his own section 8. Maror that of his mother or his grandmother, nor from those riage of the husbands of his father's sisters. For a Jāt wedding a square enclosure is marked out with pegs, and a thread is wound seven times round the pegs touching the ground, and covered over with rice or wheat so that it may not be burnt. The enclosure is known as Chaonri, and inside it the hom or fire sacrifice is performed with butter,

customs.

1 Kashyap was a Rishi or saint, but he may probably have developed into an eponymous hero from Kachhap, a

tortoise.

2 Hoshangābād Settlement Report,

p. 62.

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