Reconstructing Identity and Situating Themselves in History: A Preliminary Note on the Meenas of Jaipur Locality-VIII
August 17, 2021
Muniji 'sanskritized' the Meena elite of the bardic traditions. He gave them a respectable past to claim a prestigious present. — Prof. Nandini Sinha Kapur
Contradictions in the Meena’s ‘Brahmanical’ origin can be seen here. This theory clearly indicates their tribal origin and matrilineal traditions as Muniji mentions that clans were named after mothers and the Meenas were named after their mothers, Meena and Maina.” However, the tribal origins are quickly Sanskritized’. Skanda Purana is quoted to mention that Shiva, the God of Kailash, was the lord of the Kshatriya Meenas. The other major PurâGas like Shiva Purana offers yet another mythological origin of the Mainas.
In unifying the community, Muniji quoted Abhidhana Cintamani Koœa, Sabdastoma Mahânidhi%, Siddhanta Kaumudi and other historical traditions to mention the conversion of a few Meenas into Islam who were then known as Meos. Hence, the Meena leadership attempted to unify their community across religious divisions. The Meos who had emerged as a powerful gentry in some parts of eastern Rajasthan interestingly trace their lineage to various Rajput clans: Tomar Rajputs of Delhi, Mathura’s Jadus, Jaipur’s Kachwahas and Ajmer’s Chauhans. Meena PurâGa Bhumika combines ‘Sanskritic’ traditions of the origin of the Meenas with popular traditions. Bardic chronicles are also quoted by Muniji in which the origin of the Meenas is traced to the Meena avatar of Vishnu: Kshatriva Vishnu). The first Meena king reigned in Satya Yuga and his descendants have been reigning since then. Very interestingly, bardic traditions mention the 36 clans of Rajputs as ‘ancient and Adi Sanatan Arya, and the Rajakula Meenas (royal Meenas) as Adivasi Meena-kula (indigenous Meenas or pure Meenas who did not have mixed marriages) having 12 pals, 32 tadas and 5,200 gotras. Some of the leading seers of the twentieth century such as Baba Kali Kamblivale Svami Visuddhanandaji of Haridwar, Mahatma Abhilasa Das ji of Ayodhya and Mahatma Agradasji of Galta are quoted to prove that ‘Meena’ was an avatâra of Vishnu. Thus, Muniji sought legitimation from a long lineage of seers in claiming a ‘Sanskritized’ image for the Meenas.
Muniji devotes an entire chapter in the Meena Purana Bhûmika to the birth of Vishnu Matsya. The chapter titled Matsyavatâraaur Arya DevakulakaItihasa begins with the Puranic account of the mahapralaya (deluge) and Vishnu taking the form of Matsya, a general discussion on the ten avatâras of Vishnu: Matsya, Kachchhapa, Varaha, Nrsimha, Vâmana, Parasurama, Râma, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki. Although Muniji quotes the Puranic story of the origin of Matsyaavatâra as given in the Matsya Purana (birth of Vishnu with the upper half of a human body and a lower half of a fish), Muniji denied fish status to this avatara and claimed it was actually a Mahapuruca (a sage), who assisted Manu during the Mahapralaya. And, Muniji declared that the Meenas originated from this Matsya god. However, he laments that subsequently to the birth of the Matsyaavatâra, the community got divided, lost solidarity and the Meena empire’ broke into small parts. And then he repeats the traditional divisions of the Meenas into 12 pals, 32 tadas and 5,200 gotras and claims that these divisions originated from the break up of the ancient Meena empire’. Perhaps, the most important point here is the appeal by the Meena leadership for ‘unity and solidarity indicative of the typical tribal characteristic of closing intra-tribal divisions. On the other hand, the search for respectability within the great tradition’ continued with the claim for Rajput status.
In the subsequent chapters, Muniji constructs a historical account of the royal’ houses of the Meenas. Both the imperial Mauryas of Magadh and the later Mauryan dynasty of Mandsaur and Chittor (Chittorgarh locality in district Chittorgarh) are claimed as branches and sub-branches of the Meenas. Raja Mauryadhvaja is upheld as the ancestor of the imperial Mauryan kings, Chandragupta, Bindusara and Asoka and is said to belong to a sub-branch of the Meena Kshatriyas.” MahârâjaMânaMaur of the eighth century who reigned at Chittor belonged to the clan of the Maurade (a sub-clan of the Meenas) Meenas. Hence, ancient Indian history and prestigious dynasties are being appropriated to reconstruct a ‘respectable’ past and present.
Muniji ‘Sanskritized’ the Meena chiefs of the bardic traditions into the ‘Candravamœiya’ (Rajput) Meena kings of Jaipur of the pre-Rajput (pre-Kachwaha) era. A dynastic and genealogical list of the Candravamœiya Meena kings of Jaipur is provided in Appendix at the end of the book. Maharaja Alansimha was the last of the Meena kings of Jaipur in the pre-Kachwaha period who had his capital at Khohgong. Tod’s story of Dhola Rae, the founder of the Kachwaha dynasty brought up by the Meena chief of Khohgong is incorporated into the history of the Meena king of Jaipur, Maharaja Alansimha. Kachwaha prince Dhola Rae was brought up by the Meena king of Jaipur. More importantly, he is stated to have married a Meena princess, daughter of Mauryaking Muraria of Maura kingdom. Thus, for the first time the Meena elite claimed direct social links with the Kachwaha dynasty of Jaipur Subsequently, Dhola Rae in alliance with the Tomar Rajputs of Delhi hatched a conspiracy, exterminated the Meena king and appropriated the Meena kingdom of Jaipur.
The alliance with the Mughals (Tod’s story) was dropped and Kachwaha alliance with the Rajputs was highlighted, indicating inter-Rajput network of political and military alliances. Muniji introduced a new element into this popular tradition.A Bhat (a genealogist), named Barhat turned disloyal towards his Meena master and instigated Dhola Rae to appropriate the Meena kingdom of Jaipur by treacherously killing his benefactor. This perhaps points towards Meena rivalry and contestation with the Bhats and Charans who legitimized Rajput power in the medieval period. Bhats and Charans had refused recognition to the Meenas in the royal traditions of Jaipur state. Appropriation/annexation of the capital city of the Meenas, Khohgong and Dhundhar by the Kachwaha prince Dhola Rae is dated to AD 1128.)
Author is a Ph D Programme Coordinator, SOITS, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi