Jat - History and Cultural Relations
Little is known about the early history of the Jat, although several theories were advanced by various scholars over the last 100 years. While some authors argue that they are descendants of the first Indo-Aryans, others suggest that they are of Indo-Scythian stock and entered India toward the beginning of the Christian era. These authors also point to some cultural similarities between the Jat and certain other major communities of the area, such as the Gujar, the Ahir, and the Rajput, about whose origins similar theories have been suggested. In fact, among both Muslims and Sikhs the Jat and the Rajput castes enjoy almost equal status—partly because of the basic egalitarian ideology enjoined by both religions, but mainly because of the similar political and economic power held by both communities. Also Hindu Jat consider the Gujar and Ahir as allied castes; except for the rule of caste endogamy, there are no caste restrictions between these three communities. In other scholarly debates about the origins of the Jat, attempts have been made to identify them with the Jarttikā, referred to in the Hindu epic the Mahābhārata. Some still maintain that the people Arab historians referred to as the ZuṠṠ, and who were taken as prisoners in the eighth century from Sindh in present-day southern Pakistan to southern Iraq, were actually buffalo-herding Jat, or were at least known as such in their place of origin. In the seventeenth century a (Hindu) kingdom was established in the area of Bharatpur and Dholpur (Rajasthan) in northern India; it was the outcome of many centuries of rebellion against the Mogul Empire, and it lasted till 1826, when it was defeated by the forces of the British East India Company. Farther north, in the Punjab, in the early years of the eighteenth century, Jat (mainly Sikh) organized peasant uprisings against the predominantly Muslim landed gentry; subsequently, with the invasion of the area—first by the Persian King Nadir Shah and then by the Afghan Ahmad Shah Abdali—they controlled a major part of the area through close-knit bands of armed marauders operating under the leadership of the landowning chiefs of well-defined territories. Because of their martial traditions, the Jat, together with certain other communities, were classified by British administrators of imperial India as a "martial race," and this term had certain long-lasting effects. One was their large-scale recruitment into the British-Indian army, and to this day a very large number of Jat are soldiers in the Indian army. Many Sikh Jat in the Indian part of Punjab are involved in the current movement for the creation of an autonomous Khalistan.