About the book
Geographical and culturally diverse country like India, regional studies have yet not got the attention they deserve. Mewat: Folklore. Memory History is an attempt to study the hitherto understudied research. Being near to the two capitals Delhi and Agra, the region comprises parts of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The people are known as 'Mewatis' who are scattered all over the country. Many of them are also settled outside India, in Pakistan particular.
The present work is a collection of different research articles mostly published in the journals of International recognition and attempt to illuminate some aspects of the life and conditions of the people of Mewat. The region though has played a significant role in Indian History since the time of Mahabharta the people have continued to suffer in the hands of the Hindu as well as Muslim rulers. They struggled for their survival throughout the centuries till the khanzadas took over the reins of Mewat. The Khanzadas played a very important role in the then politics of Delhi court during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and had become the king-makers at Delhi. They also fought against Babur, sided with Rana Sanga in the battle of Khanua under the leadership of Hasan Khan Mewati. Numerous buildings in the region stand mute witness to their cultural heritage. The Mewati played a significant role in the revolt of 1857 and were punished severely by the British. The author has provided a very well written survey of the region and raised certain questions to be re-considered in the context of contemporary debates.
About the Author
G.D.Gulati (b.1946) obtained his Master and Ph.D. degrees in Medieval Indian History from the University of Delhi. Joined as a lecturer in History in Satyawati College (University of Delhi) and retired as an Associate Professor. The author is removed scholar of medieval history. He has two monographs to his credit-India's Northwest Frontier in Pre-Mughal Times (1985) and Central Asia under the Mongols (2010). Both the books were well-received by the academic community. Besides he has contributed a number of research papers at various seminars and conferences.
I have happy memories of my childhood and schooling years spent at Firozepur Jhirka in the Mewat region. Hence this small venture is dedicated to my Mewati brethren.The present volume is a collection of some research papers mostly presented at various National and International seminars, conferences and symposiums. For preparing this book I consulted the relevant literature available at different centres of learning and from the learned and knowledgeable persons of the area. In this endeavour many friends who had interest in the history and from culture of the region, happily extended their hospitality, shared the relevant information and gave valuable suggestions.
Muhammad Sualeh Khan, advocate of village Biwan in district Mewat, was very helpful in my tour to various parts of the region. He also provided me with some valuable texts in Urdu. Late Choudhary Rahim Khan, Member of Parliament, also encouraged me and took me to Indore to introduce me to the Meo friends who had migrated and settled down there. Presently, they are living in Indore City, at a location known as 'Mewati mohalla'. Their leader an advocate Mohd. Iqbal Khan Meo and his friends were of immense help to me in conducting field work. Comrade Choudhary AbdulHai was happily surprised seeing a non-Meo, doing research on Mewat. He offered me to visit his office to go through his collection on the region. Unfortunately, due to his sudden demise I was deprived off his treasure of knowledge.
Safeda Mirasi of village Kolgaon near Doha in Mewat district, was one of those who entertained me with some folksongs concerning 1857 revolt and socio-cultural life in Mewat.Comrade Muhammad Ahmad of village Gumat Bihari in Nagina, a sub-division of Mewat district, was the first who told me about Yasin Khan, his career and Yasin Ki Baat.
During my tour in the region I happened to be in the Alwar court where I met Mr. Anil Joshi who had already earned his name by translating number of works available in English and Urdu into Hindi and was busy in writing more on the Mewati folklore (see bibliography). At this juncture I also met Dr. Jugmandir Tayal, Dr. Mumtaz Khan of Raj Rishi College, Alwar who encouraged me for this mission. Later on, I came to know about Shail Maya Ram, the wife of the then collector of Alwar Mr. Arvind Maya Ram, working on the oral traditions of the Meos. I discussed with her certain aspects of the Folklore of Mewat and later found her book Resisting Regimes: Myth, Memory and the Shaping of a Muslim Identity (Oxord, 1997) very useful in finalizing some conclusions in this book.
There is a long list of friends who have helped me in the writing and researching of this project. I would like to thank all of them who are especially mentioned in the introduction of some chapters and other at relevant places. Prof. G.S.L.Devra, Former Professor in History and Vice-Chancellor of Kota Open University; Professor B.L. Bhadani and Prof. I.H.Siddiqui of Centre of Advanced Study, Department of history, Aligarh Muslim University; Prof. Jigar Muhammad of Jammu University, Jammu; Prof. Azizuddin Ahmad, Dr.R.P. Bahuguna, Prof. Inayat Ali Zaidi, Prof. Sunita Zaidi, Department of History, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi; Dr M.M. Juneja, Jat College, Hissar (Haryana); Dr. Suraj Bhan,Moti Lal Nehru College, University of Delhi; Dr. P.K. Shukla, former Member Secretary, Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi; Dr. S.Y. Qureshi, Election Commissioner, Govt. of India whom I met when he wasAdministrator at Haryana Bhawan, New Delhi in the course of my research work and Prof. Dilbagh Singh of Jawahar Lal Nehru University who helped me in preparing the project for financial grant from University Grant Commission, New Delhi. All these individuals deserve my sincere thanks for their suggestions, guidance and help in more than one ways.
I fondly remember the hospitality of Lord Sannu Khan Mewati and Maulana Mufti Jamaluddin whose knowledge about the Meos and Mewat was of an immense help to me for this study. Late Choudhary Tayyab Hussain, the Ministerin Haryana and Rajasthan Governments also deserve my thanks for his guidance to carry on the project and providing me with some details about his father (Late) Chowdhary Yasin Khan. Dr. Munshi Khan too deserves my thanks who gave me an opportunity to interact with other scholars, working on the different aspects of the life and conditions of the people of Mewat. Among the non-Meo Mewatis, I wish to thank Shri Tara Chand Premi, a renowned poet of the region and Khem Chand Khurana, brain behind the 'Mewat Mitra Mandal', an organization of the Mewatis settled in Delhi who helped and guided me in pursuing the project.Shri Harmohinder Singh Sarna of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Khalsa College, University of Delhi deserves my special thanks for accompanying me many a times during my tours into Mewat, sharing my thoughts on various occasions and suggesting certain research tips. My special thanks to Dr.Shamsul Islam, my colleague in the Political Science department for acquiring some useful information and material through his e-mail service.
It is my duty to wish to thank the staff of the Oriental Institute of Rajasthan at Alwar and Bharatpur; Public Library at Alwar; National Archives of India, New Delhi; Delhi University Library System; Library of the Department of History, Centre for Advanced Studies, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh; National Library, Kolkatta; Nat Nagar Shodh samsthan,Sitamau,MadhyaPradesh; Universit Library, Maharishi Daya Nand University, Rohtak;Libraryof Panjab University, Chandigarh; State Archives of Haryana, Chandigarh; State Archives of Punjab, Patiala and the Library of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla.
I am highly grateful to my friends Jugmandir Tayal and Jeevan Singh Manavi of Alwar who spared their valuable time to go through the manuscript of this book and made valuable suggestions for making this work a presentable one.Special thanks to Professor Bhagwan Josh of Centre for Historical Studies, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, New Delhi for giving me many valuable suggestions.
It is my duty to acknowledge Dr. S.P. Maheshwari, Delhi, Headmaster Dina ath Khanna, village Mandikhera (Mewat); Master Inder Bhan Chutani, village Raoli (Mewat), Patwari Taneja Sahib, village Baroda Meo (Alwar); Isa Khan,village Shahpur Khera (Mewat); Kunwar Hazari Singh, Faridabad; Abdur Razzak, village Mohali (Mewat); Ibrahim Sahib,village Sarpanch, Bhagola (Mewat); Jaga Bhagwan Dass, village Ghat Khunteta (Alwar) and Shri Bharat Dogra, a free lance journalist, New Delhi and other friends without whose keen interest in my work and ecouragement I would have not done justice to my job. Finally, Pankaj D. Jain deserves my appriciations for showing his keen interest and taking up the task of the publication.
Needless to say that the region of Mewat is without coherent history. There are reasons for it: the paucity of historical source material and little interest among the scholars to make a study of the region which is spread over on the borders of three states Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Another reason could be that the region had never been an independent state like Alwar, Bharatpur and Jaipur; therefore, no patronage to the scholars, hence no history.
In the beginning, I had a plan to bring out a series of research papers on the historical aspects of Mewat. Being a student of medieval Indian history, the first paper was presented at the Punjab Historical Conference held at Patiala under the title 'Mewat during the thirteenth century'. The paper was based on the contemporary Persian literature and the empirial records. But it was not possible to continue with my initial plan in the absence of enough source material in contemporary literature.
It was Professor Nurul Hasan who advised me that being a 'Mewati', I should work on a full time project on 'Mewat' which may include different aspects of the region i.e. social, cultural and historical. Therefore, I decided to work on this project and prepared the synopsis: 'The Folklore of Mewat'. Later on, discussed it with Professor Irfan Habib, the then Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi, for some financial assistance from the council. He advised me that the project should have some historical bias. Therefore, the project was re-worked as "Folklore and History - Writing: A case study of Mewat". And now finally the title of the book Mewat: Folklore Memory History is before the reader.
The project required to visit different institutions and libraries and an extensive tour of the region. While making survey and conducting the field - work in Mewat, I met personally the learned and senior persons to know more about their socio-cultural life. It took me three years to give it a final shape and the detailed report was submitted to the Indian Council of Historical Research.
There was a symposium on the regional history sponsored by the University Grant Commission, held at Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra. My friend Dr. KL. Tuteja introduced me at this forum as a student of regional history. I had to justify my position as a student of regional history working on the region of Mewat. It proved a big challenge for me. I presented a long paper including some aspects of the folklore of Mewat and how it helps the scholars in bringing together the historical aspects of the region in the absence of written literature. It was a half-day session chaired by Professor Dwijender Tripathi. There were numerous quarries and observations from the scholars present in the seminar. I received encouragement from the scholars and friends presented at there.
The folklore is an important aspect of the Mewati culture. Culture which has been defined in different ways since the inception of the word 'Folklore' in 1846 AD. In brief the common idea present in all folklore is that of traditions, something handed down from generation to generation and preserved either by memory or practice, including the written records. The historians have begun writing on the social and economic formation and evolution of different cultures, shifting away from merely chronological or political history. They have recognized the oral literature as source of history which includes folklore, though with some hesitation. Not only this, many institutions have established 'Oral History Cells' or 'Centre for Contemporary History' which underlines the importance of the non - recorded history.
The main object of the first chapter is to study the region called 'Mewat' and how the rich folk traditions of the people make us understand their history. Folksongs sung by their mirasis or bards highlight the bravery and warlike qualities of its people, evoking a sense of pride in their history. Though some historical facts on the basis of the Persian chronicles have been taken into consideration, most of the chapter contains a survey of the folk traditions of the region. It includes certain folktales reflecting the position of the village bania without whose presence the agrarian production cycles could come to a halt. The same way the monopoly of the qazis has been highlighted and how it was challenged by their folk hero - Dada Heja on the occasion of nikah performing ceremonies. Many more miraclous actions of their folk hero have also been described showing him as a superman of his people.
The region of Mewat had been the seat of sufis and saints viz. Lal Das, Charan Das, Sahjo Bai, Allah Baksh, Shah Chokha and others. Among them, Lal Das, born in a Meo family could attract thousands of his followers to his sect Laldasi whose shrine is at Sherpur in Alwar district of Rajasthan.
The Mewatis played a significant role in the revolt of 1857. The folk traditions as well as official records throw sufficient light on their bravery and sacrifices. The twentieth century too saw the rise of the Meos as a political power under the leadership of Yasin Khan who happens to be a first graduate and an advocate in the Meo community. He played an important role in the then politics which resulted the exile of Maharaja Jai Singh of Alwar state. In his praise the mirasis of the community always sing a full length folksong at certain social gatherings.
In colonial texts, the Meos have been depicted as lazy and spent - thrift and have always been in debt. The Eurpoean scholars have highlighted this aspect in their literary works, especially M. Darling in his Punjab Peasant in Prosperty and Debt. He has compared them with Jats, Ahirs and Meenas who live in better conditions in the neighbouring areas of Mewat.
Women in Mewat are well-known as hardworking not only at the domestic front but also in the field work. The male folk just kill their time in smoking their huqqa. They work only in ploughing in the fields. There are many folksongs on the position of women and their relations with their spouses. Recently the drinking habit of male folks has become a curse in the region, which has been reflected in one of the folk songs sung by the mirasis. Thus the whole chapter is full of anecdotes, folksongs and folktales throwing light on the Meo society in the past and present.
In the chapter entitled 'Mewat during the 13th century' attempt has been made to identify the region and the origin of the Meos who gave the region its name 'Mewat' on the basis of the empirical records specially the gazzetteers of different districts of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The importance of the physical features has also been taken into account which allowed the people to adopt guerilla tactics to harass the caravans of the traders and extend the depredations to the far off places of Haryana, Siwalik and Bhiana. Ulugh Khan, the wizir of Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud (AD 1246-65) showed much zeal in ravaging the region of Mewat. The leader of the Meos, Maika had been compared with a gigantic demon and a serpent hued under whom the Meos had paralysed the movement of the royal forces. Later the brutality of the royal soldiers was intensified by the reward of one silver tanka for each head and double the amount for a living Meo. Such expeditions into the region proved only a temporary relief to the Sultans of Delhi. After ascending the throne of Delhi Ulugh Khan took the title of Ghiasuddin Balban. He gave top priority to the task of crushing the Meos of Mewat. He used to take hunting expeditions into the neighbourhood of the capital Delhi. A fortress at Gopalgir was raised for guarding the capital's south - western approach against the Meos or Mewatis garrisoned with the Afghans troops. Balban lost almost one lakh of his special soldiers in this act. This act was fruitful as we do not find Meos' turbulence for lout a century.
In the course of the project, an international seminar on the folklore under the auspices of the Department of Slavic Studies was held at University of Delhi in its South Campus. This was my first experience to present a paper on the folklore in a gathering of non - historians. I read a paper on the image of a 'Village Baniya as reflected in the Folklore of Mewat'. The paper was well received by the scholars present. Some of them criticed the paper that these anecdotes were merely the local titbits. Professor Lokesh Chandra former Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research was presiding over the proceedings supported my case and convinced the scholars that the paper was well within the theme. Later, the same paper with some modification, was presented at the Punjab History Conference held at Patiala and was published in its proceedings. The paper is based on the folktales,describing the village bania as a cunning fellow who with his sweet and clever tongue lures and exploits the villagers. Since the village herdsmen cannot survive without the services of the village baniya, therefore they had to believe what the baniya speaks. The economy of the village centres around him and he remains a significant player in the agrarian system of any village society.
A few seminars and symposiums were held at various institutions either on Mewat or folklore. A two day seminar on 'Saint Tradition' was organized at Jaipur. This, once again, provided me with an opportunity to highlight the importance of folklore as well as religious traditions of Mewat. Later, a detailed chapter was prepared on La! Das of Mewat and his teachings, titled 'Tradition of Bhakti in Mewat and the controversy of Sant La! Das and his shrine'.
During medieval period of Indian history the impact of the socio-religious movement was felt throughout the country. Sufi silsilahs and the teachings of the Bhaktas like Nanak and Kabir preached love and humanity. Mewat too produced number of sufis and saints who taught the lesson of equality and sacrifice to the people of this region. Among them Sant Lal Das is most revered among the Meos and non-Meos. His teachings are available in a gutka called Lal Das ki bani. Among his teachings the most important are the condemning of begging, respect for the right to property of the others. In the above chapter many miracles of Lal Das have been referred to just like other saints of that age. The followers of Lal Das called Laldasis live a very simple life and believe in hard labour. They are Meos, Banias, Kalals and Khatis.
There arose a dispute over the proprietorship of the shrine of Lal Das when some Meos erected some structure inside the shrine and began performing namaz, thus challenging the very right of the Laldasis who were residing in the complex for more than three hundred years. Ultimately the dispute was settled by the court which went in the favour of the Laldasis. The paper is based on the oral traditions as well as written records. (Copy of the decision of the court is enclosed) In January 2001, Dr. Vir Singh, Secretary, Suraj Mal Institute, Now Delhi approached me to prepar a research paper for a National Seminar on the fats in Indian History organized by the Centre for Research and Publication of Suraj Mal Memorial Education Society. On his insistencce a paper entitle 'Jat-Meo Alliance against Jaipur State: Evidence of Murraqa-i-Mewat' was prepared and presented. On my request the paper was not included in the publication of the proceedings of the seminar, as it needed little revision. Now it is one of the chapters of the book. The main object of the paper is to hightight Murraqa-i-Mewat for the study on Jats and how the Meos of Mewat played important role against the Jaipur State, allying Jawahar Singh of Bharatpur. Moreover this text in rude has not been used by the scholars working on the Jats or Meos. However, the Hindi translation by Anil Jo hi is available which has been used for this article.
Folklore Memory History
Mewat During thirteenth Century
Village Bania as Reflected in the Folktale of Mewat
Tradition of Bhakti in Mewat and the Controversy of Sant Lal Das and his Shrine
Jat-MEOS Alliance Against Jaipur State: Evidence of Muraqqa-i-mewat
Yasin Khan ki Baat
Babur's Observations of Mewat and the Mewatis
1857: Mewat and its Neighbouring Regions
Khanzadas and their Buildings in Mewat
Lesser Known Sources of Regional History: A Case Study of Arjang-i-Tijara
Alwar Ank of Vinay: A Survey of History and Culture of Mewat
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