Situating Themselves in History and Reconstructing Identity: A Note on the Meenas of Jaipur–VI
June 15, 2021
Meenas seem to have reconstructed their identity when a leadership had emerged and their due position and contributions to the Jaipur state were ignored and denigrated. — Prof. Nandini Sinha Kapur
It is significant that when the Meenas were being ignored, ascendancy of groups such as the Jats was being noted in the royal records. The making of an official map of the land of the Jats and its siege by the Kachwaha state speak for the gradual emergence of the Jats. It is important to note that while the Jats and Sikhs were assigned seats in the darbar (royal court), no Meena chief was granted a similar status.
However, the Meenas of Jaipur did not perceive themselves through the eyes of the contemporary Rajput society. They perceived themselves as per their actual status. For instance, in chithis (applications) to the AmilPargana (Pargana officer) of Sawai Jaipur, dated AD 1731, complaining about the dispute over ownership of patti land and agricultural land between Har Ram Meena, patel of Nagrivas village, and one HathilaMeena, Har Ram Meena wrote his official designation, that of patel.
Har Ram Meena ultimately had to approach state officials to implement the decision of the Panchayat.” Disputes over mortgage of land in village Vilana in ParganaLiasot, between a brahman and a Meena resident is also reported in the eighteenth century records of Jaipur state. These records amply prove that some of Meenas were important functionaries in the local administration, Elsewhere in eastern Rajasthan (Bhura), arzdashts (documents written and maintained by officials frequenting villages) mention Meenazamindars along with the Gujars in the late seventeenth century. It was precisely at this juncture, around the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century, that the Meenas of Jaipur laid claim to an elaborate ‘history of their own. Nainsi records the traditions of the seventeenth century Meenas of Bundi. We have already noted that the Meena chiefs of Bundi had started composing an elaborate history for themselves in which they claimed territorial proprietorship prior to the coming of the Hada-Chauhan power in Bundi. Claim by the Meena chiefs to matrimonial ties with the Brahmanas in the past indicates the need for social respectability Evidence from the NainstriKhyär points towards emergence of such traditions, at least amongst the elite Meenas of south-eastern Rajasthan, by the seventeenth century The “history that came to be narrated in the early nineteenth century was a further step in the same direction. Incentive for making a “history” at this point also came from the declining political importance of the state of Jaipur as well as the intruding colonial apparatus. Recurring Maratha depredation in the eighteenth century, increasing pressures to pay a huge tribute to the East India Company and revolts by the Shekhavati contingents undoubtedly dented the prestige of the Kachwaha royal family”.
As a concluding note to the above study, few other important points can be mentioned. Two such areas would be caste areas formations and claims about origin made by Meenas in the subsequent period, highlighting the process o of Rajputization First, the entire community claimed descent from the matsya (fish) incarnation of Vishnu.” This claim continued to be upheld in the post-Independence era with the organization of some ofthe principalities of eastern Rajasthan-Alwar, BharatpurDholpur, Karauli and the chiefship of Neemrana-into Matsva Union on 18 March 1984.2 The famous social reformer Muni MaganSagar is known to have compiled MeenPurna (meen is synonym of matsya), in 1937,” lending further credibilityto the Meena claim to be descendantsof ancient Matsyas. The claim has an interesting dimension-itsrecent origin can be seen from the fact that the Meenas do not take fish but fail to explain its ritual importance.4Their claim reminds us of their attempt at comparingtheir origin myth with that of the local royal dynasty the Kachwaha, claim origin from the kkrmaavatr (tortoiseincarmation)of Vishnu Another version of Meena history dating back to 500 BC suggest that the Meenaswere the subjects of Maurya king, Mauryadhwaj of Dausa, with his capital at Moreda. This version too is a legend that supports their claim to antiquity and a ‘civilized past’. The process of Rajputization seems to have been more significant amongst the Meenas than the Bhils, for claims to Rajput castes is more widespread amongst the Meenas. Origin stories of most of these castes are undoubtedly concocted.
1. Mer Panwars-Like the Chauhans, some Panwar (Paramar) Rajputs settled in the Olina villages and the children of such marriages between ParamarRajputs and Meenas came to be known as Mer Panwars.
2. Mer Gehlots (with sub-castes Godhat, Bhondak, Bhilat, Bhailot)-Descended from GehlotRajputs and Mer-Meena woman in ancient times.
3. Joharwarls-Descendants of Nahrawat Rajput men and Meena Women.
4. Bodwals-Descended from one Sopal Rajput and a woman named Rama Dai, daughter of BhodiaMeena of Narwal caste.
5. Gehrawats-Descended from marriage between Rajput ruler Neemrana’s son Gehrawat and daughter of Tula Ram Meena of Mehad sub-caste.”
6. BargujarMeenas-Descendants of Ikshvaku prince Rama chandra’s son Lav Kumar came to be known as Bargujars.
7. KachwahaMeenas-Kush’s (Rama’s son) descendants are known as Kachwahas (sub-castes Mandal, Singhal and GobingaMeena). It is significant that they appropriate the origin claims of the Kachwaha dynasty of Amber.
8. Sangats-Descendants born of marriage between NiharRawat and Meena woman. Eva, Balji, Goya, BishnaMeenaDevatwala, Baljiwat, Soosia and BanswatMeenas belong to this group.
9. Parihars (Pratihars)-Their origin is traced from a Rajput ruler of Mundore (Jodhpur) and they spread throughout Jalore, Jodhpur, Bundi, north-east of Mewar; sub-castes: Raj, Motus, Murgal and Marwat in Jaipur district. 101 The skill with which their bards jaegaldholildhom (genealogists)102 have compiled the genealogies in nineteenth-twentieth centuries also points towards the influence of the caste society.