The Jats - Their Role in the Mughal Empire/Chapter I

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The Jats - Their Role in the Mughal Empire
The book by Dr Girish Chandra Dwivedi, Edited by Dr Vir Singh 2003.

Chapter I: The Jat Uprising of 1669

Gokula, the leader of Jat Uprising

[p.15]: Paradoxical though it might appear and strange though it might seem, the Jat uprising of 1669 under Gokula occurred at a time when the Mughal government was by no means weak or imbecile. In fact this period of Aurangzeb’s reign witnessed the climax of the Mughal Empire.1, during the early medieval period frequent breakdown of law and order often induced the Jats to adopt a refractory course. 2 But, with the establishment of the Mughal rule, law and order was effectively established and we do not come across any major Jat revolt during the century and a half proceeding the reign of Aurangzeb.

Causes of the revolt

The underlying causes of the Jat revolt of 1669 have not been properly analyzed so far. Historians have generally ascribed the said rebellion to Aurangzeb’s religious discrimination and the oppression of local officers. 3 These, however seem to have been the contributory causes but neither the sole nor the dominant factors which precipitated the revolt.

Long before Aurangzeb even the bigotry of Firuz Tughluq and Sikandar Lodi4 did not provoke the Jats for any such rebellion. It leaves the impression that religious persecution of the Emperor was not responsible for the Jat insurrection. When Jiziya was imposed ten years later, it did not create a similar stir among the Jats and the outrageous conduct5 of the imperial officers seldom provoked a revolt of this magnitude. Hence, the real causes of the Jat rebellion of 1669 lay deeper than have been assigned-to it so far. - ----

1. J.N. Sarkar, History of, Aurangzib (Calcutta: 1912), I, Introduction, XI-XIII; F.X. Wendel, Memoires des Jats, 10.

2. For details, Sarkar, Aurangzib, I, Introduction, XXVIII f.

3. K.R. Qanungo, History of the Jats (Calcutta: 1925),34; Sarkar, Aurangzib, III, 291-294; vide also Gokul Chandra Dikshit, Brajendra Vansha Bhaskar (Agra: 1983 V.S.), II; YP. Shastri Jat Kshatriya Jtihas (Hardwar; 1944),73-76; Thakur Deshraj, Jat Itihas, 629; U.N. Sharma, Itihas, 88 ff

4. For treatment of the Hindus under Firuz Tughlug, see Tarikh-i-Firozshahi, in Elliot, (Allahabad edition), III, 365-377 and for destruction of temples by Sikandar Lodi, see Tarikh-i-Daudi, in Elliot, IV, 447.

5. Niccolao Manucci, Storia Do Mogor, trans. William Irvine (Calcutta: 1966), II, 424; Bernier, Travels in Mogul Empire, trans. A. Constable (Delhi: 1968), 231, Satish Chandra, Uttar Mughal Kalin Bharat Ka Itihas, 10.

Changed nature and scope of the Mughal government

[p.16]: One of the main causes may be sought in the changed nature and scope of the Mughal government under Aurangzeb6 which was detrimental to the democratic and tribal way of life of the Jat fraternity. Akbar assiduously tried to build a comprehensive state based on religious and social freedom, respect for village autonomy and willing acquiescence of the people at large.7 The nature of the Mughal despotism generally retained its previous character under Jahangir.8 In spite of Shahjahan's intolerant attitude in the beginning, the government in his times also displayed a "sense of justice" and kept the interests of the people in its view.9

But, with the accession of Aurangzeb, the comprehensive nature of the state gradually yielded to a narrow an over-cenrralized despotic regime.10 A despotic system rests upon the personality of the ruler which motivates the entire administrative machinery.11 Aurangzeb was gifted among therqualitiess with an astonishing industry, a dogged perseverance and an indomitable will. This bred in him a deep distrust of an intolerance for others, a narrow outlook, a "one track mind" and a passion to personally "supervise every minute detail of administration."12 Theoretically, the basis of the despotism remained the same as under Akbar, but in practice Aurangzeb's personal character and his ideal of the state moulded it into an over centralized autocracy.13 The enlightened and generous outlook of Akbar caring for all his people alike,14 gave way to a narrow political outlook.

The over-centralized set-up, accompanied by the 'narrow outlook of the ruler, was naturally antagomstic to the tribal and democratic outlook of the Jats. An instinctive attachment to democratic ways and a "sturdy independence" have throughout been their chief characteristics. They have a pronounced aversion to external interference and have been accustomed to self governance of their internal affairs.16 The tendency to settle everything pertaining to their

6. Sarkar, Auranztb, I, Introduction, xv.

7. Beni Prasad, History of Jahangir (London: 1930), 88 ff.

8. Ibid., 444f.

9. B.P. Saksena, History of Shahjahan of Delhi (Allahabad: 1938),269,271 and 296.

10. Sarkar Aurangzib (Calcutta: 1924), V, 455,457. 477f., see also III, 216.

11. J.N. Sarkar Mughal Administration , II, 16 and 254.

12. For details see Sarkar, Aurangzib, I, Introduction, XV, vol. V. 1,2, 455ff., also studies in Mughal India (Calcutta: 1919), 60-63, Anecdotes of Aurangzeb (Calcutta: 1925). 59, 107; Storia, II, 309, 366 and 371; Ishwari Prasad, A Short History of Muslim Rule in India (1st ed. Allahabad). 728ft.

13. M Athar Ali, The Nobility Under Aurangzeb (Asia Publishing House: 1966), 95; Sarkar, Aurangzib, V, 477ff., Vol. III. 248-264 et passim: Mughal Administration, 18; H.G.Keene, The Mughal Empire (London: 1866), 27; Ishwari Prasad, op. cil., 721 and 732.

14. A.L. Srivastava, 'Akbar's Theory of Kingship'. Journal of Indian History, 1962.

15. The Punjab Castes, 102.

16. A.I1 Bingley, SIkhs (Simla: IS99), II, says, "From the earliest times, Jats have been remarkable for their rejection of the monarchical principle and their strong partiality for self governing commonwealth".

[p. 17]: daily life in accordance with their cherished ideals has been, and still is, in vogue among them. Unfortunately, we do not have any contemporary written evidence about the Jats of the Mathura region during the time of Aurangzeb. But the evidence of their tribal and democratic practices has come down to us in respect of certain other regions.17 The Jats being a homogeneous people, it would not be unfair to believe that those in perview also breathed almost, the similar spirit. Giving due regard to their tradition customs and laws, Akbar issued two firmans, dated 8th Ramzan, 987 A.H. and 11 th Ramzan, 989 A.H. granting internal freedom to the clan-councils of the Jats of thee Upper Doab region in religious matters and "to carry out their functions according to their ancient customs and laws".18 Akbar's sagacious policy seems to have been followed until the time of Shah Jahan. Jahangir sometimes showed the top Jat leaders the unique favour of calling them to his audience and giving khilats.19 But Aurangzeb, reversed this policy. He "restricted the activities" of then customary Institutions.This, along with his religious fanaticism, created "concern"among the Jats. They discussed the Issue in a meeting at Chhaprauli (1718 V.S.) and decided to protest against the new laws and pleaded for the reversion of the policy of the Delhi Court.20 We have no information about Aurangzeb's specific treatment of the Jats of Mathura. But, on the basis of his dealings with the Jats of the Uper Doab region, it may be inferred that the former also suffered a similar encroachment upon their cherished customary rights was by itself a matter of resentment for the tribal Jats. And, as it came after the spell of Akbar's liberal treatment, the feeling of resentment must have been deep and strong.

The courageous Jats, who had reminisences of their republican past and who still retained that spirit, could hardly afford to remain quiet before an immensely centralized system based on a narrow outlook which threatened to devour their traditional tribal and democratic way.

17. The clan groups of the Jats of the Upper Doab region managed their own affairs, military, political, religious, social and economic, in medieval times. M.C. Pradhan, The Political System of the Jats of Northern India (Oxford: 1966), chapter IV, V. The Jats of Rajputana and central and eastern Panjab had organised small republics; Bingley, Sikhs, I.

18. Akbar's farmans quoted by M.C. Pradhan, op. cit., 97.

19. Mandate of Jahangir, dated 3rd Rabi I, 1030 A.H. referred to by M.C. Pradhan, op. cit., 98, 112.

20. Kanha Ram (Hindi Ms., Muzaffarnagar Records), 17; The date of the meeting IS, however, wrong because by that time (i.e. 1661 A.D.), the Jiziya, referred to in the proceedings of the Federal Council meeting, had not been imposed.

The economic factors

[p.18]: Probably, not less significant was the role of the economic factors in leading the Jat peasantry to rebellion. In actual operation the Mughal revenue assignment system was extremely harmful to the interests of the peasants and the Empire itself.21 As the proprietor of land, the Emperor assigned a certain piece of land to the officials in lieu of their pay and also to enable them to defray the expenses over their troops, on condition of their paying a sum to the Emperor out of the surplus revenue. Such grants were called jagirs.22 Since they were mainly grants of revenue out of which the holders (who were usually mansabdars) maintained their quota of troops for the Empire, the tendency was to fix revenue at the highest possible rate almost equal to the surplus produce.23 Even this high rate went on increasing with the passage of time.24 Under the circumstances, the peasants were financially hit very hard.25 They were usually left with the barest minimum needed for supporting their lives.26

Frequent transfer of the jagirs

What added further to the hardships of the cultivators was the frequent transfer of the jagirs to different assignees. The jagirdars,held their jagirs at the pleasure of the Emperor. Bhimsen remarks, "There is no hope of a jagir being left with the same officer next year."27 This constant insecurity of the tenure of office proved unfortunate in two ways. Firstly it offered little incentive to the holders to exert for alleviating the distress of their tenantry. Instead it led them to employ all possible tactics to extort money from the peasantry.28 Secondly, quite often at the time of the transfer the hard hit peasants of the same jagir were pressurized to pay the same sum twice, first to the collectors of the outgoing jagirdar and then to those of the incoming one. Thus this system ended in a "mad looting" of the peasants by the rival collectors.29The consequences were worse if a jagir was farmed out. Bhimsen points out, "when a jagirdar sends a collector to his jagir, he first takes an advance from the latter by way of loan. This collector, on arriving in the village, fearing lest a second man who had given a larger loan to the jagirdar was following (to supplant him), does not hesitate to collect the rent with every oppression".30

21. Bernier, 225-226; Sarkar, Auranzib, V. 452-453.

22. Bernier, 224.

23. Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India (Bombay: 1963), 318f.

24. Ibid, 320.

25. Bernier, 230.

26. I. Habib, op. cit., 319, Sarkar, Mughal Administration, 80.

27. Dilkusha by Bhimsen, quoted by Sarkar, Aurangzib, Y, 453; Bernier, 227.

28. I. Habib, op.cit., 320; Bernier, 227.

29. Sarkar, Aurangzib, V, 446-447, 452-453; I. Habib, op.cit., 268.

30. Dilkusha, op.cit., V, 453; Khafi Khan also testifies to the oppression of the revenue collectors in his time. Khafi Khan, I, 157-158.

[p.19]: If the report of Khan-i-Dauran to Aurangzib is any indication, the lot of the peasants attached to Khalisa was by no means better either.31 And if the peasants refused to pay the revenue, very severe punishment was meted out to them. At times they were left with no other option than to sell their women, children and cattle, or to run away from their home to avoid extermination through-ill- treatment.32 It is not that the Mughal government did not take measures to prevent their exploitation. But the measures were often inadequate and the officers generally discovered a way out to perpetuate their unusual excesses.33 Thus the grievances of the peasantry generally went unredressed.34

In its actual operation Mughal assignment system became extremely "ruinous to the peasants and ultimately harmful to the interests of the Empire".35 The exploitation by the collectors increased as the time went on.36 At last a stage was reached when "excessive acts of oppression" by the officers could lead some of the peasants to shifting their hand from plough to the sword,37 as happened in the case of the Jats following the atrocities of Abdun Nabi. We know it on the testimony of Shah Waliullah that "the cultivators of the villages between Delhi and Akbarabad were of the Jat Caste".38 Wendel also refers to the rack-renting of the tenants but is not sure if the Jats resorted to lawlessness around Agra as a retaliation against oppression or as a means to gratify their lust for further gains.39

Against this background, it was quite natural for the Jats to ventilate their resentment over the prevailing assignment system as agriculture occupied the uppermost place in their life. "To be a Jat is to be a ploughman",40 is the testimony of the French Missionary F.X. Wendel, who lived among the Jats under study for quite a long time.

31. See the report quoted by Sakar, Studies in Mughal india, 223-224.

32. Bernier, 205, 226, 227; Storia, II, 423; I. Habib, op.cit., 322-329. The burden of the prevailing systems of giving presents and the sale of governments, also ultimately fell upon the agricultural classes. Sarkar, Mughal Administration, 84f., Aurangzib. Y, 467; Bernier, 230.

33. I. Habib, op. cit., 273 ff; Bernier, 225, 231, 235; Sarkar, Mughal Administration, 80-81, Aurangzib. III, 291f. M. Athar Ali (op.cit., 150) adds, "He (Aurangzib) was prepared to forgive or overlook any disobedience to his orders where his own military interests were not involved."

34. I. Habib, op.cit., 247 and 297; Sarkar, Mughal Administration, 80-81.

35.Sarkar, Aurangzib, Y,..52.

36.I. Habib, op.cit., 324.

37. Storia (II, 424) says, "Sometimes these faujdars commit excessive acts of oppression, which cause rebellion and bring on battles". I, Habib, op.cit., 329.

38. Siyasi Muktubat of Shah Waliullah Dahlavi, (Pers. Text and Urdu trans. by Prof. K.A. Nizami, 2nd ed., Delhi), 2.

39. Memoires des Jats (Fr. Ms.), 3.

40. Ibid.

[p.20]: The author of Maasir-ul-Umra seems to represent the official attitude when he remarks that the Jats of Mathura and Agra pretended to be agriculturists.41 Modave, a keen French observer who visited India (1774-76), did not, however, fail to be impressed by the industry and voluntary attachment to and skill in agriculture which the Jats of Bharatpur displayed. Modave remarks, "The Jats are, in general, good men and would occupy themselves voluntarily in agriculture and the arts if they were not obliged almost always to keep themselves under arms ..... One thing in my judgement does honour to the industry of the Jats; if is that. ..... the plain is not as much abandoned as might be imagined and the fields there are better maintained than one would have expected.42

It is obvious that an oppressive system goes hard with the agriculturists. Its sharp reaction among the Jats, culminating into a rebellion, appears to ave been because of their adventurous disposition and martial character.43 Probably not many agricultural communities possessed obstinate courage, indomitable spirit, heroic valour and tribal unity of the Jats which were needed to transfer a deep resentment into a military resistance. The Jats had been a race of warrior agriculturists. A close look into their past reveals that they were as keen to promote agriculture as to manufacture good arms and to receive military training.44 They highly disapproved of the enhanced revenue, the levying of "harmful taxes" and "looting by government tax collectors". They were prone to opposing such things and other oppressions even by force, if the occasion demanded.45 This may explain better why in face of similar provocations other weak agricultural communities remained more or less inactive while the Jat peasants unsheathed their swords.

Collusion between the Jat cultivators and the Jat zamindars

An auxiliary factor for the Jat rebellion was the circumstantial collusion between the Jat cultivators and the Jat zamindars,46 The zamindars often displayed a tendency to disobey the Mughal government. In applying force against neighbours and in defying the imperial authority

41. Maasir-ul-Umra, (trans. H. Beveridge and B. Prasad (Calcutta: 1941), I,436.

42. Modave's French account, trans. by Sarkar, Islamic Culture, XI, 1937, 387-388.

43. I. Habib's general statement (op. cit., 330) that by inclination the mass of the people were anything but warlike does not entirely hold good in case of the Jats at least.

44. See the decision of the Federal Council meeting (held on 10th Asarh, 1256 VS., under the presidentship of Hari Pal Rana at Tikri) of the Jats of the Upper Doab, in Kanha Ram (Hindi Ms.), 7.

45. See council decisions dated 1256 VS. (Tikri), 1344 VS. (Sikarpur), 1383 VS. (Sisauli) and 1547 VS. (Baraut), in Kanha Ram (Hindi Ms.), 7, 10-12, 14.

46. For full discussion about the zamindars in general see I. Habib, op. cit. 136-189, 334-338.

[p.21]: they had their own motives of self-aggrandisement.47 But the nature of their struggle against the Mughals before the reign of Aurangzeb was more defensive and passive in character. For various reasons, however, it did not remain merely defensive for long.48 Manucci draws attention to this change, "Usually there is some rebellion of the rajaha and zamindars going on in the Mughal kingdom".49 Thus, with their peculiar set of grievances, the zamindars and cultivators joined hands to oppose a common foe. We see Gokul and the subsequent Jat zemindars providing leadership to the rank and file.50 But the association between the early Jat zamindar leaders and their Jat followers must have been of a precarious nature. If the general practice of the numerous zamindars of the Empire is an index, Gokul and his predecessors51 also might have pressed their usual zamindari rights52 over the Jat peasantry thereby displeasing the latter. Apart from it, the Jats, more than any other people, are reputed to be deeply attached to personal freedom and to resenting external control.53 These factors must have come in the way of a cohesive union between the zamindars and the peasants. But it seems that they gradually got over them.

Promotion of Islamic practices

It is against this background that the part played by Aurangzib's religious bigotry in the Jat rebellion may best be appreciated. By nature Aurangzeb was an orthodox man. He had claimed the Empire as "the champion of pure Islam."54 As an Emperor he cherished the vision of a Muslim State. He had set his heart upon governing his composite Empire in accordance with the tenets of orthodox Islam.55

47. According to the writer of the Agyapatra (c. 17th century; quoted in Indian History Congress Proceedings, V, 405) the zamindars were eager "to acquire new possessions bit by bit and to become strong .... and to seize (land and power) forcibly from some and to create enmities and depredations against others." Manucci (Storia, II, 405) also says, "Usually the viceroys and the governors are in a constant state of quarrel with the Hindu Princes and zamindars-with some because they wish to seize their lands; with others to force them to pay more revenue than is customary". Also see I. Habib, op. cit., 334.

48. I. Habib, op.cit., 338.

49. Storia, II, 434.

50. I. Habib, op.cit., 341.

51. Hereditary succession to zamindari was a general law in the Mughal Empire, I. Habib. op.cit., 154.

52. For zamindari rights see I. Habib, op.cit., 136ff.

53. Bingley, Sikhs, 90-91; D. Ibbetson, The Panjab Castes, 102. The statements of both these are illustrative of the whole Jat people, "The Jat was not very submissive to his chiefs" "Jat", Encyclopaedia Britannica, XII.

54. Sarkar, Aurangzib, III, 81.

55. Ibid., III, 81; S.R. Sharma, Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors (Bombay; 1962), 132 and 152

[p.22]: Aurangzeb pursued a fourfold course with regard to his religious policy, namely, promotion of Islamic practices, regulations against the Hindus, conversions to Islam, and destruction of temples. Although he made a cautions start, his fanaticism increased with the passage of time.56 His supreme object was to make both Muslim and non-Muslim conform to the orthodox Holy Law.57 Hence, he issued regulations aiming at suppressing the un-Islamic ceremonies and encouraging Muslim ways among the people at large.58 They corresponded to Islam but contained little which was substantially prejudicial to any religion.

But certain other promulgations were provocative to the Hindus. The revival of pilgrimage tax is a case in point. In 1665, restrictions were imposed on the public celebration of the Hindu festivals of Holi and Diwali.59 In 1668, the Hindu fairs were prohibited in the Empire. In 1665, discriminative duties were imposed upon the Hindus.They were ordered to pay 5% while the Muslims merely 2.5% duty on their goods. In 1667, the Muslims were totally freed from this burden.60 The same discrimination was practised in respect of the taxes on the produce from gardens.61

These steps, apart from being a source of revenue, were intended to pressurise the Hindu into accepting Islam. In addition, Aurangzeb adopted seductive methods to attract the non-Muslims to Islam.He offered posts, money grants, public honour and even amnesty as rewards for embracing Islam.62

Temple demolition policy

Above all Aurangzeb embarked upon the policy of temple demolition, here he displayed his characteristic subtlety of approach. Early in 1659 he declared that Canon Law prohibited the construction of new temples but did not obtain the demolition of the old ones.63 Gradually he opened.

56. S.R. Sharma top.cit., 122) is of the opinion that the presence of Raghunath Das, Jai Singh and Jaswant Singh applied "a restraint upon his (Aurangzeb's) religious enthusiasm. "

57. Sharma, op.cit., 109; also 'Aurangzeb's Religious Policy Indian Historical Quarterly, III, 81. We would trace here the course of his religious policy only until the outbreak of the Jat rebellion in 1669.

58. For details see Sharma op.cit., 107-115; Sarkar, Aurangzib, Ill, 81-90; Storia, II, 3-6.

59. Mirat-i-Ahmedi by Ali Muhammad Khan, (trans. by M.R. Lokhandwala Gaekwad Oriental Series, No. 146, 223; Manucei tStona, II, 144), however, claims that Holi was stopped altogether.

60. Mirat, 237; Storia, II, 55-56 and 389; Maasir-i-Alamgiri by Muhammad Saqi Mustaid Khan (Pers. text, Bib. Ind. Series), 530.

61. For details see Sharma, op.cit., 142, 144; Sarkar, Aurangzib. 111,275-279.

62. Sharma, op.cit., 170; Sarkar, Aurangzib, III, 276.

63. The original farman in this respect in the name of faujdar of Banaras is preserved in the Bharat Kala Bhawan, Banaras Hindu University.

[p.23]: out. The temple of Somnath was razed to the ground early in his reign.64 In 1665, he ordered to redemolish the repaired temples of [Gujrat]] which had once been destroyed by him during his viceroyalty of the province.65He next ordered the pulling down of all the newly constructed temples in Orissa. In 1669, he fully unmasked himself.In that year he issued a general order for the destruction of the Hindu schools and temples and the suppression of their teaching and religious practices throughout the Empire.66 Several temples pulled down in the wake of this order included those of Malarna and Vishwanath.67 Thus, within a short span of 11 years, Aurangzeb reversed the liberal and tolerant approach of Akbar. While Akbar's liberalism had secured him the willing co-operation of his people, Aurangzeb's bigotry createdmounting discontent among the suffering non-Muslims.68

Mathura, the birth centre of the Jat rising, suffered heavily in Aurangzeb's reign. This venerated place of Hindu worship was naturally an object of annoyance to Aurangzeb. He appointed Abdun Nabi, "a rellgious man", as faujdar of the place to "suppress the Hindus". This officer amassed, through questionable means, cash worth 93,000 mohars and thirteen lakhs of Rupees and valuables worth four and a half lakhs.69 Abdun Nabi demolished a temple in the city and upon its ruins erected a Jama Masjid in 1661-1662. Next, in pursuance of Aurangzeb's order, he removed the stone railing of the famous temple of Keshava Rai in 1666.70

All these acts must have provoked the Jats further. We know that during the Sultanate danger to or suppression of their religion generated disaffection among them.71 There is no reason to believe that a more systematic religious persecutions by zealot Aurangzeb did not offend the religious feelings of the Jats. Generally speaking, the Jats have never been orthodox in their religious belief.72 They do not bother about the philosophical or the ethical nuances of religion, but the outward ritualistic aspects do commonly touch them. Hence, measureslike the closing of fairs and festivals and desecration of religious places could not but have caused concern among them.73

64. Ahkam-i-Alamgiri, by Inayetullah (R.S.L. Pers. Ms., hereafter referred to as Ahkam), I, 10a.

65. Mirat, 231 and 233.

66. Maasir, 81; Storia, II, 143.

67. For details of temple destruction see Sharma, op.cit., 130-133: Sarkar, Aurangzib, III, 265-267, 280-282.

68. Sharma op.cit., 132-133.

69. Maasir, 83 and 73.

70. Sarkar, Aurangzib, III, 293.

71. Ibid. Aurangzib, I, Introduction, XXX.

72. Ibid, XXII, XXIII; Shastri op.cit., 121; J.H. Hutton, Caste in India, 33.

73. Deshraj (op.cit., 126-127), rightly points out that fairs and festivals occupy an important place in the life of the Jats: Shastri, Op.cit., 121.

[p.24]: The religious bigotry of Aurangzeb and the consequent suffering of the non Muslims however had not assumed full proportion by 1668 – 1669. Jiziya, orders for the exclusion of the Hindus from public officers and even the destruction of the temple of Keshava Rai at Mathura followed later. And yet the Jats under Gokua unfurled the banner of revolt.

The ‘floating literature’ or the "Sakhas"74 as they are called among the Jats and other local people refers to the visit of Samarth Guru Ram Das75 who exhorted the Jats for insurrection. He urged them to meet excess with excess. He also impressed upon them that tyranny is a sin but to tolerate tyranny is greater sin. Having been urged and inspired by the Guru, Gokula took a vow to save the Hindus from destruction and rose in rebellion. 79

No doubt, an implicit reliance cannot be put on an evidence of the nature of "Sakhas' alone. 'Floating literature,' is passed on from one generation to another orally and as such is subject to exaggeration and change in the process. However, considering the character of the Jats, it is-difficult to reject the testimony of the " Sakhas" altogether. Few would acknowledge, much less a Jat, anybody's superiority for nothing. Besides, there is a very strong and persistent tradition among the Jats about the visit and activities of the Samarth Guru in the Jat areas.80 The traditional account as preserved by Devdatta also avers that Ram Das came and exhorted the Jats to throw off the Mughal Yoke.81 The teachings and philosophy of Samarth Guru are not the matter under study but it is very well known that he was a religious preacher of a different brand. He did not subscribe to a life negating philosophy. He was vitally interested in

74. The "Jogis" sing these "Sakhas" on 'ektara' on festive occasions. The author listened to and collected these Sakhas" from various Jogis of Haryana and western U.P.

75. "Shakha": एक शक्ति पैदा हुई दक्षिण में वो उत्तर में आई, ब्राह्मण के घर जन्म लिया फेर साधु वेश धारा, समर्थ गुरु की पदवी पाकर भारत का तारा.

76. Sobha Ram Jogis "Sakha": बड़े-बड़े वीरों से विद्रोह के नाम अपने सामने प्रण लिया, आर्य हिन्द यह आर्य देश हमारा है.

77. "Sakha": धर्म बचाओ, देश बचाओ, यही वचन सबसे प्यारा है। जुल्म को जुल्म से रोको, यह मेरा सबको कहणा।

78 "Sakha": जुल्म करना पाप घणा, जुल्म का शेणा पाप बड़ा।

79. "Sakha" गोकुल योद्धा ने पहला बीड़ा पान का आण चबाया। गुरु ने हाथ धर उसके सिर पर नूं उसे समझाया॥

81. In course of my wide tour of the Jat area (Western U.P. and Haryana) I heard from elderly Jat people stories associating different local places with the Guru's sojourn. His interest in wrestling warlike activities and his journey in the company of his followers are characteristically typical of the Guru. The common Jats have to this day preserved the liveliest memorial of the Guru and his activities in the Jat area.

81. Devdatta (Hindi Ms , Muzaffarnagar Records), 12-13. side note.

[p.25]: contemporary problems facing the society and the country. His visit and exhortation seem to have considerably influenced Gokul and his followers.

The Jats being restive, fuel was ready. Only fire was needed and it was according to the “Sakhas” provided by Ram Das.82 K.R.Qanuago observes that in the revolt of 1669 “one flare of the might conflagration kindled throughout India by the missionary zeal of the Emperor” and revived the Hindu Nationalism. Thus religious factors played and appreciable part in the Jat Insurrection.

The economic causes although important, may not be over-emphasized.84 The vices in the operation of the assignment system did not multiply overnight in the reign of Aurangzeb. Their increasing tendency was discernible even before him. But when the tightening grip of Aurangzeb threatened the age old democratic and tribal traditions of the Jats, the economic factors made their weight felt heavily.

From the foregoing discussion it may be concluded that the Jat rebellion of 1669 was essentially the result of the political provocation aggravated by the economic discontent and set ablaze by the religious persecution.

The outbreak of the rebellion

The year 1669 witnessed, the bursting forth of the pent up fury of the Jats into a very powerful revolt under the inspiring leadership of Gokula,85 the zamindar of Tilpat. A remarkable feature of this rebellion was its composite character. Though the Jats counted for its majority and provided leadership to it, it consisted of other local people as well such as, Mev, Meena, Ahir, Gujar, Naruka, Panwar and others.86 The rebels gathered at the village of Sahora (about 6 miles from Mathura). Abdun Nabi, the faujdar of Mathura, attacked them. At first he appeared to be gaining ground, but in the middle of the fighting he was killed on 12 may, 1669 (21st Zil-Hijja, 1079 A.H.)87. Overjoyed at this success, Gokula

82. "Sakha": सारे देश में सूखा इंधण बिछा पड़ा है, आग लगावन चाहिए। आग लगा दो मेरे वीरों आगे आवणा चाहिए।

83. Qanungo, Jats, 36 and 37.

84. I. Habib top.cit., 338-342), attributes the Jat rising only to economic factors and totally dismisses the others.

85. Maasir, 93; Fatuhat-i-Alamgtri by Ishwar Das Nagar (R.S L. Ms.) 53 a; Tazkirat-us-Salatin-i-Chughtai by Muhammad Hadi Kamwar Khan (R.S.L.Ms.) II, 166; M. U,I, 437, and 618. Without mentioning by name, Wendel also refers to Gokul and his rebellion Memoires des Jats (Fr. Ms.), 9. About Gokul it is said that his original name was Ola and he was the son of Roria Singh of Sinsini. Gokul settled first near Mahaban and finally at Tilpat, as the zamindar.Vide Ganga Singh, Yadu Vansh. I, Bharatpur Rajvash Ka Itihas (Bharatpur: 1967), 43; U.N. Sharma, Ittihas,I. 89f.

86. Ganga Singh, op.cit., I, 64-65.

87. Maasir, 83; Roznamcha also known as Ibratnama by Mirza Muhammad (R.S.L.Ms) 133; Kamwar (Pers. Ms.), II, 163; M.U., I, 437 and 618.

[p.26]: ravaged the paragana and town of Sadabad (24 miles from Mathura) in the Daob.88 The turbulance spread to Agra District also whereto Radandaz Khan was sent (13th May – 22nd Zil-Hijja) with a force to put down the rebels. Aurangazeb appointed Saf Shikan Khan as the new faujdar of Mathura.89 As arms failed to prevail, diplomacy was resorted to. The Mughal government offered to forgive Gokula provided he surrendered his spoils. But Gukula spurned the offer. Gokula provided the surrendered his spoils. But Gukula spurned the offer. On the other side, as the situation was assuming serious proportions, the Emperor had to proceed (28th November-14th Rajab, 1080 A.H.) in person to the Disturbed area. On his way on 4th December (20th Rajab) Aurangazeb learnt of the circumstance of rebellion in the villages of Rewara, Chandarakanta and Sarkhud (Sarkharu ?). He dispatched Hasan Ali khan to attack these places. Till noon the insurgent fought with bows and muskets. Getting desperate thereafter, many of them having performed the jauhar of their women fell upon the Khan. A fierce fight raged till the evening in which many imperialists and 300 rebels were killed. Hasan Ali Khan returned to the Emperor, taking 250 male and female prisoners. Aurangazeb was pleased with his performance. He made him the faujdar of Mathura in place of Saf Shikan Khan who had obviously failed in suppressing the rebels.90

Under Hasan Ali Khan, were placed 2,000 barqandaztroops 1000 archers 1000 musketeers 1,000 rocketmen, and 25 pieces of cannons. Amanulla, the faujdar of the environs of Agra, was also ordered to help Hasan Ali. The latter immediately got engaged in quelling the rebellion. In January 1670, Gokula with 20,000 Jat and other followers, rushed forward to face the imperialists at a place 20 miles from Tilpat. Both the sides suffered many casualties in the battle in which the Jats, despite showing utmost bravery, could not cope with the trained Mughals and their artillery. They retreated to Tilpat. Hasan Ali followed them and besieged the fortalice. Fighting continued for three days in which muskets and bows were used by the contestants. On the fourth day, the royalists charged the besieged from all sides and having made a breach in the walls entered Tilpat. Then ensued a sanguinary conflict. The Jats displayed their reckless courage and undaunted valour. The experienced Mughals gained the day but not before losing 4,000 men. Of the vanquished 5000 lay dead, while 7000 were arrested. Gokula, with his two associates including “ Sonki” (Udai Singh Singhi)91, was captured

88. Maasir, 93; MU, I, 437 and 618; cf. Fatuhat, (pers. Ms.), 53a.

89. Maasir, 83 and 84; M.U, I, 618, II, 673.

90. Maastr, 91-92; Also Kamwar (Pers. Ms.), II, 166; Sarkar, Aurangztb, III, 294.

91. It is related that his full and correct name was Udai Singh Singhi. He was the uncle of Gokul and lived in Mauza Girsa. Vide Ganga Singh, op.cit., I, 43.

[p.27]: alive through the efforts of Shaikh Razi-ud-Din, the peshkar of Hassan Ali. They and other prisoners were presented to the Emperor. Being furious, he ordered Gokula and Singh to be cut limb on the Chabutara of the Kotwali (Agra). Other captives either met fate of their leader or were put in chains.92

The overthrow of their leader dampened the spirits of the followers of Gokul. Hasan Ali Khan dealt with them sternly. For a few months more he kept on slaying, capturing and plundering the rebels and their families and demolishing their strong fortresses along both banks of Yamuna. Not long after, the last vestiges of the insurrection disappeared and peace was re-established in the region for some time. On 6th April, 1670 (25th Zi-qada, 1080 AH.)), Aurangzeb granted audience to Hasan Ali and highly praised him for his distinguished services.93

Aftermath of the Rebellion

Never before in the history of the Mughal Empire had the standard of such a formidable rebellion been raised by the Jats as was done by those of Mathura under Gokula in 1669. Although the rebellion failed, it had considerable though indirect, repercussions upon the future course of the Jat History and in the long run upon the Mughal Emperor itself. The crushing defeat of the Jats in 1669 was not without a lesson. It exposed to them certain strategic flaws in their ways of fighting. They had seen their 20,000 gallant brethren being easily routed by the Mughal forces in a face to face combat. It must have been laid bare to them that, in the absence of proper military training and sufficient equipment their reckless courage and obstinate valour alone would not prove effective against the mighty Mughal army. Besides, the fall of Tilpat within the short duration of three days must have pointed out to them the hopeless vulnerability of their defence and its corresponding implications. The military tactics of Raja Ram and Churaman II clearly indicate that the Jats had benefited from the failure of 1669.

They gradually turned to making a change in their existing military methods. The subsequent Jat leaders grew alive to the efficacy of discipline and proper equipment in warfare. There developed an increasing tendency to build their forts in the fastness of dense Jungles capable of withholding the onslaught of powerful armies. Likewise they avoided the rashness of Gokula in inviting pitched battles with the mighty Mughals.

Gokula’s rebellion also gave to the posterity an inspiration of political nature, namely, the usefulness of working under a united leadership.

92. Fatuhat (Pers. Ms.), 53a-53b; Maasir, 93-94; Kamwar (Pers. Ms.), II, 166; M.U., I, 437 and 618.

93. Maasir, 100; Roznamcha (Pers. Ms.), 133.

[p.28]: We know that the Jats had the reputation of being impatient of any external control. Although success did not crown them in 1669, it was perhaps, heartening for them to perceive that their joint efforts could gather so powerful a momentum as to disturb even the Mughal Emperor, compelling him to rush to the disturbed region. On the other hand, it was disheartening to them that the effectiveness of their resistance withered away once their chief leader Gokula was no more. This seems to have emphasized to the Jats the advantage to working united under a common leader. Although progress in this direction was necessarily slow in due course it proved to be of considerable political importance to them. Once their combined efforts proved fruitful under later leaders and bright future prospects appeared ahead. Their circumstantial union assumed a little fixed character. Consideration of common benefit might also have been instrumental in leading the tribal and democratic Jats to prefer, accept and finally adopt the institution of kingship. To such circumstances may be traced the genesis of the Jat state of Bharatpur and the eventual emergence of the principalities of Patiala, Nabha and Jhind which were republican until recently.94

In the light of the above considerations it seems that from the viewpoint of the long term interests of the Jats, Gokula’s abortive exertions were no less significant than the more fruitful struggles of Raja Ram and Churaman II. The brighter careers of these two have dimmed the image of Gokula whose full importance has not been duly appreciated so for.95 The circumstances in which they worked were not altogether similar. Gokula had to face more formidable odds than the two later fortunate Jat leaders. It is doubtful whether, even with their better organizing capacity their success could have been assured in Gokula’s circumstances. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that though Gokula failed, his failure paved the way for the subsequent success of Raja Ram and Churaman II.

Prior to the Jat uprising, other revolt had taken place in a different part of the Empire.96But they were not so powerful and the place of their occurrence were comparatively too distant from the capital. The rebellion under Gokula was, however quite different. From the point of view of time, dimension and place it was the first fierce repudiation of the authority of Aurangzeb under his very seat. Though such evidence is not forthcoming, the possibility cannot be ruled out that his audaciousness provided a stimulus to the later rebels such as the Satnamis.

94. Bingley, Sikhs, 12.

95. According to Qanungo (Jats, 39) Gokul "Watered" the newly-sprouted seedling of liberty in the heart of the Jats. But Sir Denzil Ibbetson (The Panjab Castes, 102) writes "Sturdy independence" has been one of their Strongest characteristics". The Jats have always clung to liberty.

96. For minor risings vide Sarkar, Aurangzib, III. 21ff.

[p.29]: Aurangzeb's harsh policy itself seems to have duly contributed in fostering rebellious spirit among the Jats. Although with his overwhelming power he succeeded in suppressing the first Jat insurrection, the resentment underlying it not only lingered on but also probably received fresh provocation from his imprudent attitude. It is a fact that an autocratic regime cannot hope to survive if rebellions are not resolutely crushed. Occurring under the very shadow of the imperial Metropolis, the Jat revolt had additional ground for being crushed sternly, in that it might serve as a deterrent against similar eruptions. However, in the future interests of the Empire, the reasons justifying strict measures also warranted at the same time the removal of their just grievances and their pacification. It was for the first time that they had defied the imperial power in such large numbers in an organised way.97 Aurangzeb did very little to reconcile them beyond despatching 200 horsemen to protect the village crops and preventing the soldiers from oppressing the villagers or taking any child captive.98 He was anxious, no doubt to relieve the peasantry in general of the economic distress but his repeated farmans, as we have seen above, remained generally ineffective.

Aurangazeb pursued a course which seems to have estranged the Jats further. He wrecked terrible vengeance upon them. Apart from the treatment meted out to 7,000 captors, the family of their leader, Gokula was forcibly tried to convert to Islam. Gokul's daughter was married to Shah Quli Chela and his son renamed Fazil.99 Even after the fall of Gokula the Mughal forces kept on imprisoning plundering the Jats. Not content with it, as it were, Aurangzeb broke loose his fury upon the temple of Keshava Rai. It was levelled to the ground (during the month of Ramzan, 1080 A.H. 13th January to 11th February 1670) and mosque was built upon its site. Its idols were desecrated and later buried under the footsteps of the Begum Sahiba mosque at Agra. The name of Mathura was changed to ‘Islamabad’ and that of Brindaban to ‘Mominabad.’ The temples and idols of the rest of the holy places in the Brij were gradually destroyed.100 This added insult to injury. The affront inflicted upon the families of their leader and kinsmen must have outraged the feelings of the entire tribe in whose social consciousness and tribal sentiments have always been uppermost. It appears that Aurangzeb, despite his

97. The Jats were turbulent for some time. But this state was not a little due to the local oppression Storia, II, 77; Sarkar, Aurangzib, III, 291-292; Muttra Gazetters, 194; Also see Z. Faruki, Aurangzib, and His times (Bombay: 1935), 124.

98. Maasir. 92.

99. Ibid., 94, Kanwar (Pers Ms), II, 166; M.U., I,437 .

100. Maasir, 95-96; Storia, II, 143; Kamwar, II, 167; Raghubir Singh, Brij, I, 163, Faruki (op. cit., 125), who is generally apologetic for Auranzeb, also thinks that the demolition of the temple was a retaliatory measure

[p.30]: shrewdness, failed to appreciate properly the character of the Jat people, who are normally moderate, light-hearted and not unmanageable, unless of course when excited.101 Modave is emphatic on the point that Bharatpur Jats "are in general goodmen" who follow their peaceful pursuits "not obliged almost always to keep themselves under arms."102 Such were generally the people whom Aurangzeb had to deal with.

There is basis to believe that they might have been largely pacified and the chances of their subsequent lawlessness minimized, had he displayed a little caution and foresight in his dealings with them. But Aurangzeb lacked that "warm generosity of the heart" and "chivalry to fallen foes" which had enabled Akbar to win the people's affection and praise.103 can hardly be called an act of political wisdom on his part to have tried to put down the warlike and stubborn Jats in a ruthless manner. Probably, Aurangzeb was too obstinate, vindictive and blind104 to visualize this, as in some other cases, the evil consequences of leaving such a hardy people deeply annoyed in the neighbourhood of the Capital.

So long as the Emperor had a firm grip over the north the Jats remained subdued but as soon as it loosened, their pent up fury was let loose and they resumed their lawless course with added vigour. Thus the policy of Aurangzeb towards them defeated its very object and in the long run proved harmful for the Empire. It has been rightly remarked that "a little indiscretion and persistence in a wrong policy" converted “ peaceful husbandmen (Jats) into flaming warriors as it did "friends (Rajputs) into foes".105 Ironical though it may sound, it appears that the persistence of the defiant attitude among the Jats and the eventual emergence of their political power were, thus, in no mean measure, due to the impolitic and vindictive attitude of Aurangzeb himself.106

101. Ibbetson, op.cit., 102, Bingley, Sikhs, 91-94.

102. Supra, Ch. I, f.n. 42.

103. Sarkar, Studies in Mughal India, 62

104. Sarkar, Studies in Mughal India, 44.

105. A.B. Pandey, Later Medieval India (Allahabad; 1963),247.

106. U.N. Sharma, Itihas, 90: Raghubir Singh, Brij, 164.

End of Ch.I: The Jat Uprising of 1669

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