Reconstructing Identity and Situating Themselves in History: A Preliminary Note on the Meenas of Jaipur, Pt-IX
September 17, 2021
It is important to note that Ravat Saraswat in the 1960s claimed a pre-vedic, Harappan origin of the Meenas tracing the origin of the term Meen to the Tamil word Meen meaning fish. However, it is interesting that even Ravat Saraswat quoted Brahmanical sources only to strengthen his thesis. — Prof. Nandini Sinha Kapur
Transfer of power from the Khohgong Meenas to the Kachwaha dynasty is presented in the Meena version. The queen (claimed as a sati) of the slain Meena king Alansimha, cursed the Bhat that his descendants won’t be patronized/Transfer of power is legitimized through voluntary ‘transfer’ of the Meena kingdoms of Jaipur Chanda-Khohgong by the widow of the slain Meena king Alansimha, to Dhola Rae. This queen instructed him to worship ‘her’ as she would be transformed into ‘Gurvaya Devi’ and every successor of Dhola Rae would receive a tika of blood from the Alansimha’s descendants during his coronation. Dhola Rae’s widow became a sati and the Meenas began torevolt. Dhola Rae pacified them and declared himself as the ‘adopted son’ of Alansimha.” The cult of Gurvaya Devi may be derived from the cult of Jamua Mata of Ramgarhtahsil Worship of Gurvaya Devi indicates legitimation of Kachwaha power through appropriation of this cult of the Meenas of eastern Rajasthan. Muniji also narrated some traditions related to Khohgong. Even the surname Singh which is suffixed to Rajput names is claimed by Muniji to originally belong to the Meenas.
Finally, a chronological dynastic history of the royal family of the Meenas of Manchi (Maunch) is narrated, including conquests of three Meena strongholds of Kalikhoh, Getoreghati and Jhotwara by Dhola Rae,” transfer of his capital from Dausa to Manchi and its renaming as Ramgarh,” and Dhola Rae’s successor Kankila Rao’s alliance with the Meenas by giving them jagir (land) and enlisting them in his army, leading to the defeat of the Meena king Rao Meda. Thus, the Kachwaha state founded by Dhola Rae was consolidated by Kankila Rao through the subjugation of the Meenas of eastern Rajasthan.
As a concluding note to Muniji’s Meena Purana Bhûmikâ, it is important to mention very briefly the contention of the Meena leadership in the 1960s regarding their ‘self-identity’ and ‘image’ The movement for writing ‘history’ and a grand narrative for the Meenas continued after the Reservation Act of ST/SC 1956 which declared the Meenas a ST” The commitment of the Meenas to the writing and publishing of their ‘history’ can be understood from the list of meetings given in Exhibit 1. These meetings which preceded the publication of Ravat Saraswat’sMeenaItihasa in 1967.
If the Meenas claimed Rajput-Kshatriya status in the 1930s, Saraswat rejected any ‘varna’ or Kshatriya status for the Meenas in the 1960s. The change from a ‘Sankritized’ status to an ‘indigenous’ (adivasi) status can be perceived in the context of tribal leadership and politics following the passage of the SC/ST Reservation Bill in 1956.
Ravat Saraswat refused to accept an Aryan, Rajput-Kshatriya origin for the Meenas and assigned a ‘proto-Dravida’ castestatus, implying that the Meenas originated in the Indus Valley Civilization. The Meenas of Indus valley sported the totem of fish.” This pre-Aryan community also built fortresses for defence. As the Aryans and others intruded into the Indus valley. the displaced Meenas went to the Aravalli Hills and settled there. Saraswat claimed that the word ‘Meena’ was not derived from Sanskrit but from a pre-Sanskritic linguistic group, Tamil. The word ‘Meena’ means fish in Tamil. Hence, linguistic evidence supports the thesis of proto-Dravidian/Tamil origin of the Meenas. Interestingly, Saraswat strengthened his thesis by referring to the Vedas, Brahmanas and classical Sanskrit literature to claim that the ancient Matsyas of eastern Rajasthan Aravallis were the ancestors of the Meenas.50 Saraswat concluded that the Meenas were therefore not the descendants of Scythians, Shakas, Kshatriyas and Hunas.” They were ‘adivasis’52 who might even have come from outside and settled here. Saraswat also opined that the Meenas were militant, held land and therefore, were a part of the ruling elite.”
However, it is equally interesting to note that Saraswat devoted a large part of MeenaItihäºa to the history of ‘Rajput Meena struggle for political and military supremacy in eastern Rajasthan in the same pattern as Muni MaganSagar in his MeenaPuranaBhûmikâ. Saraswat narrates the same story of Dhola Rae treacherously killing a Meena ‘king’ and Kankila Rao exterminating the rest of the Meenas to secure the Kachawaha Rajput state. Meenas, thus, present us with an interesting situation in the latter half of the twentieth century. They have contextualized their movement for a share in the political power by an indigenized/tribalized ‘self-image’ in modern, democratic India while retaining a place in the ‘political history’ of pre Rajput Rajasthan. Meenas seem to have been more successful than the Meos in lending an overall leadership to this tribal community encompassing different branches of the Meenas in independent India.
Genealogical trees, including claims to Rajput castes, of some famous Meena families listed by Ravat Saraswat at the end of Meena Itihasa. Ravat has listed the following details on the basis of bardic accounts: bahis written by jagas (bards of the Meena community). Patron deities: Goddess Banjarimata or Pippalajmata. A festival is still held in her honour in every summer and monsoon. Saha’s son NimbuRavat settled the village of Gotha and Gothvals lived in the villages of Gotha, Sikarori and Bhamvaro. Originated from a Brahmana Vamsha of Patanpur, Gurjaradesha (Gujarat). Nadho Rishi worshipped at Galta. This sage granted Rao ChandaMeena of Khohgong a boon of successors with a promise that the eldest child would be dedicated to Nadho Rishi. The eldest child, Illa, was a daughter. Sage Nadho married Illa and their descendants came to be known as Nandhla Meenas. Nandhla Meena established their ‘kingdoms’ at Jamroli, Getoreghati and Jethwara. Kachawaha prince Dulha Rai annexed the kingdom of Nandhla Meenas. Ancestor Bardeva of YaduVamsha reigned Barmer. His descendant Rao Bada lost to Kachawaha prince Raja Rasdeva and founded the Meena ‘kingdom’ at Nahan.
Raja Rasdeva annexed Nahan too. Raja Manchdeva came from Dhar (Malwa), established a kingdom at Maunch in Samvat 252 and built the fortress of Kile Kota. Rao Singoji built the temple and propitiated Goddess Dantamata. Rao Aspala built a temple of Thakurji (Krishna?) Rao Nathu lost his ‘kingdom’ to Kachwaha Kankila. End
Author is a Ph D Programme Coordinator, SOITS, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi