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A Preliminary Note on the Meenas of Jaipur-V

Situating Themselves in History and Reconstructing Identity
A Preliminary Note on the Meenas of Jaipur-V

Kachhwaha state took help of the Meenas in administrative and political functioning. However, with the Rajput domination and subjugation, the Meenas did not get the social and political status in later period as the Kachhwaha state consolidated its power. Prof. Nandini Sinha Kapur


Kachwahas might have faced an initial difficulty in controlling the Jamua Ramgarh locality is apparent from the royal appropriation of the local cult of Jamua Mata as the presiding deity of the Kachwaha dynasty. It is significant to note from the royal records that the cult of Budwai Mata, which was linked to Meena rulers at Maunch was renamed Jamua Mata after the fall of the Meonas An inscription, located at Jamua Ramgarh, dated to reign of Mughal Emperor Jahangir (AD 1634), records Kachwaha ruler, Raja Man Singh. The construction of a fort local importance-the Meena chief of Kalikoh had the right to put the tikapl sovereignty on Kachwaha rulers by drawing blood from his to similar rituals are known to have been performed by the Bhil chiefs at the coronation of the Guhila kings of the construction of a fort, well and garden at Ramgarh by, la early indicates royal attempts to control the Meenas at Jamua Ramgarh. The predominance of Meenas in the core area of Jaipur beyond state is also evident from the early acknowledgement of their local importance—the meena chief of kalikoh had the right to put the tika of sovereignty on kachwaha rulers by drawing blood from his toe. Similar rituals are known to have been performed by the Bhil chief at the coronation of the Guhila kings of mewar. 

A long gap in the genealogical traditions of the Kachwaha dynasty between the early eleventh and the late fifteenth centuries and the fact that the early Kachwaha inscriptions (dated to the sixteenth century) begin the royal genealogy only with Raja Prithviraj, who succeeded to the throne of Amber in AD 1502,7 attest to the initial difficulties posed by local Rajput chiefs, such as the Bargujars of Dausa (about 48 km east of Jaipur). The Kachwahas do not figure in the history of Dhundhar region before Mughal Emperor Akbar’s reign. It is only the later traditions from the court of Jaipur, which refer to Raja Isha Singh’s (ruler of Gwalior) son Raja Durlabhraja, who conquered Dhundhar from the Meenas and established his kingdom there. Such later royal claims are not surprising in view of the long drawn negotiations and military engagements with the local Meenas. Besides the core area the Kachwaha state found it impossible to administer routes of communication and trade through the forests without cooperation from the Meenas. 

Dynastic traditions record that Raja Dhola Rae (AD 1006-36) routed the Meenas completely and restored order andsecurity as they were obstructing trade and disturbing peace in the region. It is claimed that the Jaipur state settled 12 Meena chiefs as zamindars by granting them plots of land and they in turn performed some duties for the Kachwaha state. The lawless elements from among Meenas were settled as chaukidars or watchmen in the villages. However, all the evidences discussed above do not necessarily suggest a peaceful settlement. On the contrary, it is the close kinsmen of the Kachwaha royal family who obtained bhom/bhum rights (allodial proprietorship) called watan-zamindari in the country of the Meenas for having subjugated the latter. Thus, the Kachwaha chiefs were settled in the villages of Meenas for the latter had to be controlled. The Rajput chiefs also found good cultivators in the Meenas” and hence began the process of mobilization of resources from Meena settlements. This process culminated in actual incorporation of some of the Meena chiefs and headmen into state administration. From chaukidari of villages to guarding of the royal jewellery and the royal palace are known to have been performed by the local Meenas.”

However, what was not granted to the Meenas of Jaipur region was social status equivalent to their initial importance to the Kachwaha state in the medieval period. Nor inscriptional record of the Kachwaha dynasty refers to the Meena chiefs DA similar situation for the Bhils can be seen in medieval Mewar and Vagod where Bhil villages were merely termed as an ethnic entity and Bhil women derogatorily mentioned. 

Secondly, the problem should also be viewed in the historical context of the Kachwaha state. The nature of evidence on the Meenas from the mid-sixteenth century onwards offers clue to the changing situation in the Meena-Kachwaha relationship. Hence, it becomes imperative to examine evidences from the eighteenth century, the period prior to claims by the Meenas of Jaipur to a ‘history’ of their own. Evidences, undoubtedly point towards a decline in the importance of the Meenas for the Kachwaha state. Although casual reference to Meenas in the royal records would seem to give the impression that they werebeing ignored as they were socially despised, a comparison of the evidences of sixteenth century with that of the eighteenth century is likely to point out the actual historicity of the process Eighteenth-century Kachwaha records refer to Meena households very casually. In a partly coloured paper drawing of the town of Baswa dated eighteenth century, unlike the step wells and gardens of the Rajputs, the location of Meena habitat finds only passing mention.” In the plan of the route of a canal from river Sarbhavati, the habitat of the Meenas is similarly mentioned.” In another plan of the route of this canal, Tadau Meenanka (Habitat of Meenas) is mentioned.” In coloured sketch of the area between Bhao Sagar and Jhotwara, the habitat of the Meenas is again casually mentioned. In the map of Nahari-ka-Naka the Meenas are referred to as an entirely separate social group, for the inscription mentions that the white rocks at this locality figure in the traditions of the Meenas, who claim that tigers came here to pay respect. Hence, what is clearly evident is that by the eighteenth century, the Meena localities in the core area of the state got incorporated into the growing towns and villages. Second, the right to anoint the Kachwaha princes at the coronation ceremony had already fallen into abeyance after the Mughals started anointing them with sandal wood paste.

Author is a Ph D Programme Coordinator, SOITS, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi

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