The Jats in the Chachnamah: Some Observations
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The Chachnamah is a Persian version of a manuscript in Arabic, containing an account of the conquest of Sindh by Arabs. The original manuscript in Arabic was preserved by one Kazi Ismail of Sakifi family of Alor (Aror) as a family heritage. It was handed over to Ali Kufi for the purpose of presenting the same in Persian language for the benefit of the people at large (the readership in Arabic being negligible in Sindh). The manuscript was a gift very dear to the heart of Ali Kufi as he was already intent on writing an account of the conquest of Hindustan by Muhammad Kasim and the chiefs of Arabia and Syria. Ali Kufi found the original book adorned with jewels of wisdom and embellished with pearls of morality. He prepared a Persian translation of the work in prose (perhaps the original was in Arabic poetry) adorning it with chains of style and ornaments of virtue and religiousness. The creation of Ali Kufi appears to be not merely a literal translation in Persian of the original in Arabic but also a new creation giving a sense of achievement and pride to him as can be seen from his preface to the book. It is not that the original in Arabic contained pure history. According to Ali Kufi apart from an account of the conquest of Hind and Sind (for Sindh to rhyme with Hind)1 it contained eloquent discourses on religious and state matters and treated of territorial and national peculiarities. There is little doubt that the original in Arabic and its version (with whatever additions) in Persian were books of literary merit having at their core the events during the Arab conquest of Sindh.2
I do not carry any credentials for speaking on matters of history. But my zeal for understanding the position and role of the Jats as reflected in the Chachnamah have impelled me to commit an audacity. My observations are based on a study of the English translation of the
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work by Mirza Kalichbegh Fredunbegh, first published from Karachi in 1900 and later reprinted in India in 1979.3
One cannot fail to notice the vast amount of material in the Chachnamah having striking similarity with the literary & didactic works, lessons in statecraft and polity contained in ancient Indian compendiums on the respective subjects.4 In the different discourses by the Wazirs Budhiman and Siyakar that we come across in the Chachnamah appear to be echos of Manu Smriti, Kautilya's Arthashastra5 and pithy sayings of wisdom found in various Subhashitas6 come to our mind. As could be gathered from the literal translation in English the Persian version too must have been written in the best tradition of the literary genre. Though Elphinstone may not have agreed if it was suggested to him that the long lectures on matters of statecraft and on questions of propriety introduced in the form of correspondence between Hajjaj and Kasim was only an innovation of the author(s) employed to enhance the level of the work from a mere recounting of the events during the campaigns of the Arabs in Sindh. (Hajjaj's so called correspondence with Kasim and the latter's queries could be compared to the discourse of Shri Krishna to Arjuna imparted on the battleground of Kurukshetra). The distance involved, the flow of events and the logistics involved do not countenance such a correspondence to have actually taken place. But how could a man with literary flavour let such an opportunity go unavailed!
In the narration of the events the bias of the author(s) against the conquered population, especially in the context of the religious agenda is understandable and therefore, due allowance has to be given to that context while shifting facts from fiction. No doubt it is difficult to determine the extent of reliability of the material available in the Chachnamah for the purposes of the history of the times and the people. However, an attempt could be made to cull from the account an idea about the people and their condition at the time of the conquest. It may be worthwhile to notice the references to the Jats and analyze their role before, during and after the Arab conquest of Sindh.
Jats and Luhanas
The Jats are described as a major tribe along with the Luhanas living in the region of Brahmanabad in Sindh. The first thing Chach, the son of a priest, did after usurping the throne of Brahmanabad by a stratagem was to curb the Jats and Luhanas, (presumably because they must have combined with the Luhanas to oppose him). He took hostages from them to ensure their further non-involvement in the conflict and imposed certain restrictions on them with a view to disarm them and
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to prevent them from projecting themselves as belonging to the nobility (p. 36-37). He also did not forget to reward those who turned to his side by appointment to high posts.
Bai the Jat wife of Chach
That Chach had a Jat wife is borne out by the assertion of his son Dahar that there was no impropriety in the latter's marrying his step-sister Bai for the reason that though she was connected with his father, nevertheless she was born of the daughter of the Jats. As if to mitigate his incestuous intent (though only notional) he goes on to pass derogatory remarks against the Jats and describes Bai as a woman of foreign origin (good for marriage?). He goes on to refer to a proverb which says,
- "whoever caught hold of a sheep's leg, got milk for himself, and whosoever caught the hand of a Jat, fell down on his face."
The Jats are familiar and used to such calumny against them in various periods of history and in absentia even in contemporary times.
We learn about the daring acts of the tribal residents of Debal (including most probably the (Jats) in detaining and dispossessing some Arab travelers floating to the coast nearby (p. 70). Even Dahar showed his helplessness in curbing these elements when Hajjaj complained to him about-the above excesses (p. 70-71). The Jat agriculturists living around the town of Budhiah formed an important component of the force under the leadership of Kakah Kotak for giving resistance to Kasim. But the credulous leader, going by the soothsayers wilted under pressure and betrayed the Jats, who had rallied to fight but were left leaderless and rudderless - they had neither a leader nor a ruler. The Jats were again in the forefront of the forces of Dahar arrayed on the eastern bank of Indus to stop the cross over by Kasim's troops from the western bank to the territories on the east. It means that the Jats were among the tribes of the plains engaged in agriculture and they could be deployed for military purposes whenever required.
Kasim and Jats
Kasim was aware of the prowess of the Jats. He therefore made all efforts to first win as many of them as possible to his side. Divided on the issue as the Jats were, some joined to help the Arabs. There must have been a good number still opposing them. The Jats of the eastern region of Sindh were arrayed in support of Dahar against the Arab forces.
After the occupation of Brahmanabad Kasim asks the surrendering Wazir Siyakar as to the treatment meted out to the Jats by Chach and his son Dahar. Since he himself would like to continue the same arrangement Siyaur lists the restrictions and obligations earlier placed of the Jats, which Kasim decides to be continued. It may be noted that the Jats are described here to belong to the Luhana tribe. The other
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two tribes Lakhas and Sammas are-also described, as Luhanas. It can be deduced from the above that Jats were among three prominent tribes of Sindh and were sometimes taken as identical with Luhanas and at other times as separate from them. The lists of restrictions and obligations imposed on the Jats on both the occasions were more or less identical. The salient points of these restrictions were disarming of the Jats, a dress code indicating their identity and moving out barefoot and bare head. Among the obligations were serving as guides for travelers, rendering of services like supply of fire Wood to the royal kitchen and helping the injured in cases of accidents in their vicinity. But the words coming out of the mouth of Kasim about Jats indicate an utter contempt, which he had in his mind for them verily for the reason of their standing in opposition to him.
However, may be inadvertently, Kasim does not fail to mention that there was no distinction of high or low among the Jats. It is as true today. Kasim also imposed a punitive tribute to suppress the Jats as they were perceived as potential rebels at any time as their spirit had been undaunted. A number of those who fought against him were made prisoners of war and were dispatched to Hajjaj, the Persian governor of Iraq as part of the war booty. This event is corroborated by Biladhuri who according to H. M. Eliot has stated that Hajjaj received from Kasim not only gold and other material wealth but also prisoners of war with their families and livestock.8 German sociologist couple in a monograph, published in 1964 has traced these migrants as the ancestors of the modern Madan tribe living as buffalo breeders in the Marshy lands of southern Iraq.9 They have also plotted the possible alternative routes taken for the movement along with their cattle (buffaloes) towards Iraq.
The Jats of Sindh (including modern Sindh and both East and West Punjab) continued to pursue their vocation of agriculture and cattle rearing for centuries. Those of the west came under the influence of Islam while those of the east remained in the Hinduistic fold. Many of the latter branched off and became the bedrock of Sikhism. But they are proud of their Jat identity irrespective of the persuasion of different religion.
It is relevant to note here that the author of Mujmal Tawarikh (early 12th century AD) making use of a Persian version of an Arabic translation of a Indian book, Manjushrimulakalpa states on the one hand that the Jats (Zutt) were one of the two tribes (Jats and Meds) of Sindh, and that this country was the "country of the Zutt," while on the other he remarks that "By the Arabs the Hindus are called Jats"
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and further states that ultimate peace was brought about by settling some Brahmanas in their midst.10 In the Chachnamah also we read the suppression of the Jats by the Brahmana rulers Chacha and Dahar. Centuries passed, regimes changed, religions changed, but the Jats remained the same in their democratic spirit and irrepressible zeal to revolt against suppression. Whatever is history or whatever is myth in Chachnamah, it is hardly material. If Jat is the term used for the fanner or the cattle breeder he has been throughout history at the receiving end as far as privileges or positions are concerned. But that is not the subject of my paper today.
1 Eliot and Dowson surmise that the author of Chachnamah lived in the eighth or ninth century A.D and could have relied on the accounts of eyewitnesses (Quoted by Westphal, Sigrid and Heinz in their German work: Zur Geschichte und Kulture der Jat, p. 12).
2 At the time of the Arab invasion Sindh included Punjab also and Hind was the name of the territory of North and North- West India, which the Britishers in their earlier contacts called Hindustan.
3 The Chachnamah, an Ancient History Of Sindh, giving the Hindu period down to the Arab Conquest. Translated from the Persian By Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbegh, First edition, Karachi, 1900, reprinted in India, 1979.
4 Chachnamah refers to books of Hind (p. 23).
5 (i) In the author's description of the love affair between the widow of [[Sahasi Rai]] and Chach (pp. 16-22) we are reminded of Kautilya's (5.6.41) strategy for keeping a young widow queen from falling for a lover in the kingdom-Matushchitta-kshobha-bhayatkulyamalpasattvam Chhatram cha lakshnayamupanidadhyat.
- (ii) We can also note in the Chachnamah (p. 101) the description of the four
methods of acquiring a kingdom, which correspond to Kautilya's Sama (9.6.21-22), Dana (9.6.23), Danda (9.6.53-55) and Bheda (9.6.50-51).
- (iii) Chachnamah prescribes secret tests of wisdom, faith, intelligence and
honesty for an envoy sounding so very similar to the four secret tests (the Upadhas of Dhanna, Artha, Kama and Bhaya) prescribed by Kautilya (1.10.1-20) to be applied to ministers before their appointment to the post.
6 Wazir Budhiman's reference (p. 45) to five things, which, when they shift from their proper places have a sorry look sounds like an echo of the traditional Indian saying found in the Subhashitas: sthanabhrashta na shobbante kesha danta nakhakuchanarab
7 If the Luhanas were identical with the Jats Suhandi, the widow of Sahasi Rai could be Chach's Jat wife, whom he had enticed treacherously.
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8 H.M. Elliot: edited by J. Dowson. The History of India, The Muhammadan Period, Calcutta, 1955, pp. 59, 62, 64, 65, 75.
9 Westphal, Dr. Sigrid and Dr. Heinz: The Jat of Pakistan, Berlin, 1964; reprinted in Pakistan.
10 Westphal, Sigrid and Heinz, Zur Geschichte Und Kultur der Jat, p. 12.
- Jats in Islamic History
- Socio-Political and Military Role of Jats in West Asia as Gleaned from Arabic Sources
- Qazi Athar Mubarakpuri's studies on Jats
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