Reconstructing Identity and Contesting History: The Meenas of Jaipur-III
February 15, 2021
Tribal Legends point towards Rajput state formation which succeeded the tribal chiefdoms and transfer of power from tribes to state-society. — Prof. Nandini Sinha Kapur
The foremost legend that constitutes the history of Meenas is that of Rajput treachery and the Meena foster father. The story not only reasserts the Meenas’ jurisdiction over the territory of Jaipur state but also links their past with the Kachwaha ruling family Dhola Rae, the founder of Kachwaha state, was brought up by the Meena king of Khohgong, 8 km from modern Jaipur The mother, along with her son, the fugitive prince (Dhola Rae). joins the Meena royal household as a cook. Pleased with the food cooked by her, the Meena king enquires and discovers her illustrious past. He adopts her as his sister, and Dhola Rae as his nephew When Dhola Rae attains the age of 14 years, he is sent to the court of Delhi as a Meena representative, with a tribute from Khohgong. The Kachwaha young prince remains there for five years, where he conceives the idea of usurping his benefactor’s authority On the fateful night of Diwali.
Dhola Rae along with his Rajput allies from Delhi, enslaves a number of Meenas and takes over Meena country (DhundharDhola Rae’s son Maidal Rae, later captures Amber (the subsequent capital of Kachwaha state of Jaipur) from the SusawataMeenas (Amber being the capital of their chief Rao Bhato, the head of the Meena confederation In fact, the story of Rajput treachery had been popular throughout those tribal regions of Rajasthan where the process of regional state formation crystallized over a long period of time in the pre-colonial times. A similar story can be seen in the traditions of the Bhils of Mewar (southern Rajasthan).42 The Meenas of Bundi, too, claimed the treacherous killing of their ancestors by the Hada-Chauhans to establish Hada power in Bundi. “ It is important to note that the Meenas of Bundi had started narrating their history’ as early as the seven teenth century. The idea of treachery spread from Bundi to Jaipurbetween the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and evidently became popular in the territory of the Meenas of Jaipur.
The above-mentioned story clearly reveals the attempt of the Meenas to highlight the loss of their territorial rights and resources because the Kachwaha state had already integrated the Meena settlements and Meena chiefs into its territorial and political set-up without driving them away The humiliation of military defeat and submission had to be compensated by Meena chiefs reminding themselves of their pre-Kachwahasupremacy in the region. Hence, arose the idea of the Meena foster father (Dhola Rae) of the Rajput prince, implying Kachwaha suppression of Meena chiefs. An element of struggle and military defeat can be clearly discerned in the treacherous killing of the Meena foster father, evoking popular sympathy. Reminiscences of Kachwaha success due to their Mughal connections are also disguised in the story of Dhola Rae conspiring against the Meenas along with his Rajput allies at Delhi.
The other important aspect of the legend of Rajput treachery is the projection of Meenas’ close links with the local royal house (resultant of interaction over a long period of state formation. This is clearly an attempt by the Meenas to raise the status of their community in the local society. In a society where Rajput dominated the socio-political scenario, old connections with the royal house would undoubtedly enhance one’s prestige in the present. Jan Vansina observes a similar phenomenon in the kingdom of Kazembe (Zambia), where the historical tradition of descent or local groups, apart form their stories of origin and foundation, all featured kings along with a forebear of the group in question. Thus, the whole historical perspective was shaped by the existing political structure. This situation obviously flows from the dynamics of social stratification. Any connection with royalty Teflects on the status of descent or local groups, especially if the anecdote recalls a service rendered to dynasty, or even more when descent from a king is claimed. Such anecdotes went beyond these obviously flattering memories.
The Meenas of Jaipur measured the social significance of theirhistory using the Kachwaha royal family as the standard of reference.
We next examine the legend of Meena kingdoms and symbols of royalty Following their connection with the royal family, the Meenas obviously lay claim to the pre-Kachwaha kingdoms of the Meena sovereigns and their forts in the Jaipur region. Colonel James Tod recorded the following legend, popular amongst the Meenas of Nain:
Mynamurd, Naenka raja,
Booroo raj Naenko,
JubBhoos men bhutto manga
General A Cunningham of the Archaeological Survey of India translates it as there were fifty-two forts and fifty-six gates to the Meena man, who was Nain’s Raja. It was sorry time for the realm of Nain, when they were glad to beg their share of chaff When ACL Carlleyle, assistant to General Cunningham, visited the ancient temple in the deserted township of Nain in 1871-2. the priest repeated a similar saying -
Ja men raheNaenka Raja”
There were fifty-six fort and fifty-two gates. where the Raja of Nain did hold his state. implying Meena control over 56 forts Hence, Meenas claimed proprietorship over the kingdom through the control of the forts.