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Gujjars: Know about the History of India’s Religiously inclined Tribal Community!

Earlier Gujjar were nomads, but now they are settled and practice animal husbandry along with cultivation of crops like wheat, gram and maize

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The nomadic tribe of Jammu Image Source: Wikipedia Commons
  • Quite a few number of Gujjars claim to be descents of the  Suryavanshi Kshatriyas or the  Sun Dynasty and connect themselves with the Hindu deity Rama
  • Gujjars are a large community concentrated in the Indo-Gangetic plains, the Himalayan region
  • Earlier Gujjars were nomads, but now they are settled and practice animal husbandry along with cultivation of crops like wheat, gram, and maize

The ethnic group of the Gujjars is basically a pastoral and nomadic community and now lives in settled communities. They are also known as Gurjara, Gurjar and Goojar. In India, they are categorized as ‘other backward classes’ or ‘OBC’ and are present in large numbers in Rajasthan and other parts of North India.

In Sanskrit, Gurjar means “Destroyer of the enemy”. Gujjars are about 5.6 million in number distributed mainly across the states of Rajasthan (2.1 million), Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand (1.4 million), Madhya Pradesh (840,000), Haryana (640,000), Maharashtra (230,000), Delhi (210,000), Punjab (120,000), Orissa (13,000), Chandigarh (7,000), Himachal Pradesh (3,300), Jammu and Kashmir and Gujrat (2,800).

The origin of the Gujjar is debatable as the origin of the word ‘Gujjar’ can be viewed from many angles. While many of them claim to be descents of the Suryavanshi Kshatriyas or the  Sun Dynasty and connect themselves with the Hindu deity Rama; but scholars are of the opinion that Gurjars were foreign immigrants.

In Ramayana, it is said that Gurjars fought against the demons under the leadership of King Dasharatha and during the Mahabharata, the Gurjars  are said to have moved along with lord Krishna migrated from Mathura to Dwarka in Gujarat. There is also a view that they were a pastoral community dealing in milk and dairy products because they adore Lord Krishna (a Hindu diety), who loved milk and butter.

A woman belonging to Gujjar Community. Image source: sophiaindia.org
A woman belonging to Gujjar Community. Image source: sophiaindia.org

The others believe that the name “Gujar” was sanskritized to “Gurjara” or “Gūrjara after they migrated from Central Asia,  from places such as “Gurjistan”,  that is named after them. Also an ancient kingdom to the east of lower Indus named Gujjara is said to have existed from 400 AD to 800 AD. Found in great numbers in most parts of the northwestern India, these are the only people whose tribal names seem to offer a clue to their descent from the Kushans.

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A majority of Gurjars follow Hinduism or Islam, but a few of them follow other religions as well. The Gujjars who practice Islam still follow Hindu traditions and ideals. Some Gujjar communities say they converted to Islam from Hinduism during Aurangzeb’s rule. Though Eid is celebrated by them with great enthusiasm, they also observe Hindu rites like making an idol of Govardhan out of cow dung and worshiping it as a newborn in the family.

The Gujjars living in some states like Himachal Pradesh and Haryana speak Gujjari, an Indo-Aryan language, while the others have adapted the language of the states, they reside in. The Gujjars of the Muslim community speak Urdu as their first language and use the Persian-Arabic script to write it. They speak Hindi among themselves and use the Devanagari script in regions like Chandigarh, Punjab, Delhi, and Madhya Pradesh. They also speak languages like- Punjabi, Pasto, Pahari, Kutchi, Gujarati language, Khowar, Balti, and Kashmiri language depending on the type of locality they are in.

 

Image Source: indianetzone.com
Image Source: indianetzone.com

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Earlier Gujjar were nomads, but now they are settled and practice animal husbandry along with the cultivation of crops like wheat, gram, and maize. They rear domestic animals and sell dairy products in the market. Pulses, vegetables and sugarcane and green fodder for the cattle are cultivated.

The level of literacy among the Gujjar is low. Many Gujjars have also found themselves in the public and private services. Some of them who are living in urban centers run businesses like grocery shops and some work as contractors and traders.

Child marriages were common and but slowly it has been replaced by adult marriages. According to peoplegroupsindia.com, marriage by an exchange is also practiced by some Gujjars of Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh.

– by Ajay Krishna of NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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