Jats

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Jats

 

a large group of tribes who in the early centuries A.D. settled the western regions of Punjab and who spoke West Punjabi dialects.

Later the Jats became widespread throughout Northern India. They constituted the ethnic foundation of the Punjabi and are also part of the Sikh group. In India a considerable number of the Jats became a large land-owning caste bearing the same name (and it is in this meaning that the term “Jat” is usually mentioned in historical literature and population censuses).

During the Middle Ages the Jats composed a social stratum of community members enjoying full rights; they had military traditions and were hired as mercenaries in the armies of the Delhi sultans and the Mogul padishahs. At the end of the 17th century the Jats rose up in revolt against the yoke of the Grand Moguls. Taking part in this struggle was the upperclass community of Jats, who had adopted the feudal system and were attempting to take the place of the Mogul aristocracy in the feudal exploitation of the Jat peasantry. The first uprising was in the Mathura district (1669) with Gokhla as its leader. A second (1672) occurred in the district of Narnaul. Actively participating in the latter rising were members of the Satnami (“good name”) sect, which included communal servants and craftsmen from the lower castes. The insurgents captured Narnaul and a number of other cities, but on the approaches to Delhi they were defeated by troops of the padishah. A third uprising (1686-91) was led by Raja Ram, a village elder; these insurgents asserted their power over a large territory along the right bank of the Jumna River. The struggle of the Jats against the Moguls continued into the 18th century. By the mid-18th century an independent Jat principality had been formed. It reached its strongest position under Suraj Mai, but in 1763 it disintegrated, leaving only the small principality of Bharatpur.

The present-day Jats live in the north of the Republic of India and in Pakistan. Their total number amounts to several million persons (there are no exact data). Most of the Jats in India speak Punjabi and northern dialects of Hindustani; they profess belief in Hinduism and Sikhism. In Pakistan the Jats speak Punjabi and their own dialects (Jatki, Hindki), and most profess Islam. They do not recognize caste distinctions. Many groups of Pakistani Jats are engaged in livestock raising. Regardless of their type of employment, religion, and caste membership, all Jats retain an awareness of their former ethnic communality.

REFERENCES

Narody luzhnoi Azii. Moscow, 1963.
Reisner, I. M. Narodnye dvizheniia v Indii v XVII-XVIH vv. Moscow, 1961. Chapter 6.

K. Z. ASHRAFIAN and M. K. KUDRIAVTSEV

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