Tuesday, Oct 03, 2023

Calling Prithviraj Chauhan A Gurjar King Is An Act Of Identity Grabbing: Rajput Body

Calling Prithviraj Chauhan A Gurjar King Is An Act Of Identity Grabbing: Rajput Body

A few Gurjar groups have threatened to not permit the screening of Akshay Kumar-starrer movie ‘Prithviraj’, if the emperor is depicted as a Rajput king.

A painting of emperor Prithviraj Chauhan Twitter

Rajput organisations and historians have dismissed the claim made by top Gurjar leader Himmat Singh Gurjar that 12th-century emperor Prithviraj Chauhan belonged to his community.

Singh, in a recent interview with Outlook, had threatened to not allow the screening of Akshay Kumar-starrer movie ‘Prithviraj’, if the emperor is depicted as a Rajput king. Directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi and produced by Yash Raj Films, the movie is scheduled to be released around Diwali.

Mahendra Singh Tanwar, President of the Akhil Bhartiya Kshatriya Mahasabha and Virendra Singh Rathore, a budding historian who has authored the book "Prithviraj Chauhan- a light on the mist in History" have claimed in an interview with Outlook that Singh among other are merely fringe elements among the Gurjar community, who are issuing threats for the sake of publicity. Excerpts:

Q) The Gurjar community has threatened that if Prithviraj Chauhan will be depicted as a Rajput king in the upcoming movie, they will not let it run in theatres. What’s your take on this?

VS Rathore: I believe it is only some fringe elements and wouldn’t like to attribute these threats to the whole community. But you pick any caste and you will see it is the same modus operandi with their fringe elements – they threaten, make false allegations and concoct controversies where none exist.

Films that overlap with history even in a feeble manner do offer a lucrative opportunity to these fringe elements in making noise and staying relevant. What will run in theatres shall be decided only by the Central Board of Film Certification, if and when necessary, in consultation with the subject matter experts.

Q) According to the leaders of the Gurjar community, the dispute started when leaders of Karni Sena, which belongs to the Rajput community, sent threats to the moviemakers and demanded change in the depiction of Prithviraj as a Rajput King. How far is this true?

VS Rathore: Threats, as I said already, are not something that the larger communities endorse as a way of putting forth their stand. Be it Gujjars or Rajputs. I will leave it for the filmmakers to disclose who approached them in what manner.

It is better to let them explain what they’re aiming to present be it providing screening in advance to the interested parties or receiving inputs from seasoned social leaders, historians, etc. If an impasse persists, there’s a court of law open for all of the sides to get their grievances addressed.

Q) How do you want to react to their claims that Rajputs did not exist before the 13th century and there were only Gurjars, who later converted to Rajputs?

MS Tanwar: In your interview, the Gujjar community has claimed that in the 10th canto of verse 50 of Prithviraj Vijay, the fort of Prithviraj Chauhan has been called a Gurjar Fort. Let me clarify that this is a completely wrong and misleading statement. First, the Gurjar fort mentioned in the canto denotes a fort of the Gurjara (Gujarat) region and not of the Gurjar community.

Secondly, the canto makes no mention of the fort of Prithviraj Chauhan of the Shakambhari Chauhan dynasty to which Prithviraj belonged. The canto in consideration is talking about the fort of Nadula Chauhan, rulers of Nadol region. Their other claims are also forgery of historical texts. Never before in the history of independent India, there has been such a malicious campaign based on pure lies.

VS Rathore: I will call it a diversion tactic that they adopt when their attempts to juxtapose Gujjar genealogical ancestry on any historical personality fail miserably. Coming to the existence of Rajputs, they are as old as the Vedic society itself. That is because Rajputs and Kshatriyas have always been synonymous. They have been used interchangeably in literature throughout thousands of years of our history.

Contemporary and near-contemporary sources like PrithvirajVijaya, HammirMahakavya and the majority of Chauhan inscriptions call them Suryavanshi Kshatriyas. When Apabhramsha gained currency in medieval languages, the word ‘Rajaputra’ became ‘Rajput’ just as Kshatriya had become Khattiya/Khattiyo in many languages. Any linguist will happily ratify that.

Q) So, do you mean to say that those who were referred to as Kshatriyas in historical documents later came to be known as Rajputs?

VS Rathore: Yes. Often people allude to limiting the meaning of Rajaputra to only the reductive and literal translation i.e. son of a king or a prince. This mistake is owing to the apathy towards history in modern education. It is incorrect to claim that Rajputs didn’t exist as a social group before 13th century AD. The propagandists are trying to show that Rajputs and Kshatriyas are two different people.

Throughout thousands of years of our history - from Rigveda to Ramayana and Mahabharata; from Pali Canon literature to KathaSaritaSagara; from Upanishads to Lichhavi inscriptions; everywhere Rajaputra has been used interchangeably in literature with Kshatriya.

The term Rajaputra has been in use to mean a clear, separate social group at least since the 10th century as seen in Al Masudi's work and the Chamba inscription. Coming close to Prithviraj, the 12th-century inscriptions of Nadol & Jalore Chauhans who shared their ancestry with that of Prithviraj, have their Chauhan officers being called Rajputs. Similarly, the famous 12th-century text called Rajataramgini refers to Rajputs as a social group.

As for the claim of Gujjars converting to Rajputs, if you go through the British Gazetteers and DevNarayan Ki Phad, you will find contrary claims made by ancestors of present-day Gujjars, that it was Gujjars who came out of Rajput ancestry.

MS Tanwar: There is ample evidence to suggest that it is the other way round. Most of the Goojar’s clans have traced their lineage to Rajput clans for centuries. For example, Chhokar Goojars have claimed to be descendants of Yaduvanshi Rajputs. Bhati Goojars of West UP have claimed to be descendants of Bhati Rajput Prince of Jaisalmer Kasal Bhati. There are many more such instances. So, if Goojar's themselves have claimed to be descendants of Rajputs in past, how come Rajputs who are Kshatriyas from time immemorial be Goojars?

Q) As alleged by the Gurjars, the movie is based on 16th-century poet Chand Bardai’s book Prithviraj Raso which is a piece of fiction and has a lot of historical distortion. Do you agree?

VS Rathore: I do not know what the film is based on and wonder how these fringe elements have come to know things that aren’t in the public domain. The filmmakers haven’t said anything in that regard. So, all of it seems to be speculative at this point.

If we assume for a moment that the film will liberally adopt Raso’s narrative, then I can understand why our friends are frustrated. The trolls of these fringe elements used to paste with glee on the whole internet that such and such line from Raso proves that Prithviraj was a Gujjar. These lies standing on long and thin legs were debunked. It was proven using multiple references from various recensions of Raso that it calls Prithviraj an authentic 36 kuli Rajput. Amusingly, ever since then, the gears have changed. Now, Raso is a strict no-no and a dubious text.

Yes, Raso doesn’t enjoy an ace reputation in terms of historiographic credibility. But those problems have no relevance for our propagandist friends. Their only and recently risen tiff with Raso is that it has called Prithviraj a Rajput. That is what they can’t digest.

Q) What do historical documents, inscriptions and literature of that period say about Prithviraj Chauhan’s ancestry?

VS Rathore: If we seek in history, the crux of fusing this whole commotion lies in the connotation of terms used in literature and epigraphy. Hence it becomes imperative to look at the context. We’ve been through the connotation of Rajaputra and have enough data to conclude how Prithviraj Chauhan was a Rajaputra by genealogical ancestry.

Now we attend to why he wasn’t a Gujjar. Basis of all the frivolous claims regarding Gujjar ancestry is the unfounded assertion that the term Gurjara owes its origin to Gujjars. Factually, throughout history, every single mention of Gurjara and its derivative terms has the connotation of geography not ancestry.

Gurjara is and has always been a geographic cognomen. Places, where enough pastoral lands were available for cattle, have been referred to as Gurjara land. Research suggests the use of such pastoral land in Gujarat at least since the Harappan era. It continues as documented by 1st century AD Greek trading manuals like The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

From Chavdas to Solankis, Paramaras to early Muslim rulers, whoever reigned over Gurjara lands got the Gurjara title due to territorial association. From Brahmins to Vanias, Jainas and Oswals, all have used the Gurjara cognomen because they hailed from the Gurjara lands. We have loads of further evidence to establish that Gurjara means geography, not ancestry.

Medieval experts, who lived in that very era, have given the meaning of “Gurjarānāá¹Âƒ” i.e. Gurjars as ‘Gurjara-deÅ›odbhava-nraá¹Â‡Äm’. It means the people born in the desha called Gurjara. This happens barely decades after Prithviraj.

Q) Is the dispute between the two communities only related to the movie? Or is this just a part of much deeper caste politics? If this is so, then what is the reason for that?

VS Rathore: This issue is nested in a bigger game. To put it bluntly, it is identity politics and in that context the appropriation of the past for glory. Similar claims have been made on numerous other medieval and ancient figures.

What we’re seeing is well explained as a sequence of human psychology. Once you have sorted survival, you go after luxury and material comfort. When that is achieved, you gun for glory.

But for that enterprise, they have turned toward history. Or more appropriately – imagining history. History is exploited in this case because of its capability to innately define many dimensions of our currently held macro identity.

Q) Gurjars are also mentioned as Gujjars or Goojars. Are all the three terms different or the same?

VS Rathore: The traditionally pastoral community Gujjars subsisted on animal husbandry etc. Hence the name Gujjar, derived out of Gauchara (cattle pastures). And being occupational, it stuck wherever they migrated.

Gurjara on the other hand is the earliest term that has always appeared only in the geographical sense. The application sustains only as long as the entity is in the geography. We emphasize the difference because the propagandists have tried to obfuscate the two by equating Gujjar/Goojar to Gurjara.

Q) What solution do you suggest if you are right in saying that they are doing all these things just for the sake of glory?

VS Rathore: A large number of heroes of history worshipped by our society (cutting across the board) are Kshatriyas/Rajputs by ancestry. Any attempt of appropriating such figures poses a challenge not only to social heritage but to the values of cherishing the truth. It will obviously be resisted.

Modern nation-states have commendably embraced democracy and given voice to all. We’re all proud of that. But the flip side of an imperfect democracy is that there’s yet to be an effective mechanism to sift which loud narratives are just noise and what are the facts of merit.

Perhaps it is time for them to collectively introspect on which path they’re treading for their community.


Must Read