The Jat Uprising of 1669

Paradoxical though it might appear and strange though it might seem, the Jat uprising of 1669 under Gokula occurred at a time when the Mughal government was by no means weak or imbecile. [1] In fact this period of Aurangzeb's reign witnessed the climax of the Mughal Empire.[2][3] during the early medieval period frequent breakdown of law and order often induced the Jats to adopt a refractory course. [4]But, with the establishment of the Mughal rule, law and order waseffectively established and we do not come across any major Jat revoltduring the century and a half proceeding the reign of Aurangzeb. [5]

 


Causes of the revolt


The underlying causes of the Jat revolt of 1669 have not beenproperly analyzed so far. Historians have generally ascribed the said rebellion to Aurangzab's religious discrimination and the oppression oflocal officers. [6][7][8]These, however seem to have been the contributory causes but neither the sole nor the dominant factors which precipitated the revolt. The real cause of the Jat rebellion of 1969 lay deeper than have beenassigned to it so far. [9]


One of the main causes may be sought in the changed nature and scope of the Mughal government under Aurangzeb [10]which was detrimental to the democratic and tribal way of life of the Jat (Hindu)fraternity. Akbar assiduously tried to build a comprehensive statebased on religious and social freedom, respect for village autonomy and willing acquiescence of the people at large. [11] The Nature of the Mugal despotism generally retained its previous character under Jahangir. [12]In Spite of Shahjahan's intolerant attitude in the beginning, the government in his times also displayed a "sense of Justice "and kept the interests of the people in its view. [13]

But, with the accession of Aurangzeb, the comprehensive natureof the state gradually yielded to a narrow and over centralized despotic regime.[14], A despotic system rests upon the personality of the ruler, which motivates the entire administrative machinery. [15]

The over-centralized set-up accompanied by the narrow outlook ofthe ruler, was naturally antagonistic to the tribal and democratic outlook of the Jats. An instinctive attachment to democratic ways and a"sturdy independence "have throughout been their chief characteristics.15 [D. Ibbetson, The Punjab Castes, 102] They have a pronounced aversion to external interference and have been accustomed to self governance of their internal affairs. [16]


Giving due regard to their tradition customs and laws, Akbar issued two firmans, dated 8th Ramaza, 987 A.H. and 11th Ramzan, 989 A.H. grantinginternal freedom to the clan councils of the Jats of the upper Doab region in religious matters and "to carry out their functions according to their ancient customs and laws" [17]Akbar's sagacious policy seems to have been followed until the time of Shah Jahan. Jahangir sometimes showed the top Jat leaders the uniquefavour of calling them to his audience and giving Khilats. [18]But Aurangzeb reversed this policy. He "restricted the activities" of their customary institutions. This along with his religious fanaticism,created concern among the Jats. They discussed this issue in a meetingat Chhaprauli (1718 V.S) and decided to protest against the new laws and pleaded for the reversion of the policy of the Delhi court. [19][20]


The courageous Jats who had reminiscences of their republican past and who still retained that spirit could hardly afford to remain quiet before in immensely centralized system based on a narrow outlook which threatened to devour their traditional tribal and democratic ways. [21]


Probably, not less significant was the role of the economic factors inleading the Jat peasantry to rebellion. Emperor assigned a certain piece of land to the officials in lieu of their pay and also to enablethem to defray the expenses over their troops on condition of theirpaying a sum to the Emperor out of the surplus revenue. Such grantswere called Jagirs [22]Since they were mainly grants of revenue out of which the holders (Who were usually Manasabdars) maintained their quota of troops for the Empire, the tendency was to fix revenue at the highest possible rate almost equal to the surplus produce. [23] Even this high rate went on increasing with the passage of time. [24] under the circumstances the peasants were financially hit very hard. [25] They were usually left with the barest minimum needed for supporting their lives. [26][27]

What added further to the hardships of the cultivators was the frequent transfer of the jagirs to different assignees. The jagirdars held their jagirs at the pleasure of the Emperor. Bhimsen remarks"Their is no hope of a jagir being left with the same officer next year." [28][29]This constant insecurity of the tenure of office proved unfortunate in two ways. Firstly it offered little incentive to the holders to exert for alleviating the distress of their tenantry. Instead it led them to employ all possible tactics to extort money from the Peasantry.Secondly, quite often at the time of the transfer the hard hit peasants of the same Jagir were pressurized to pay the same sum twice, first to the collectors of the outgoing jagirdar and then to those of the incoming one. Thus this system ended in a mad looting of the peasantsby the rival collectors. [30][31]


If the peasants refused to pay the revenue, very severe punishment was meted out to them. At times they were left with no other option than to sell their women, children and cattle, or to run away form their home to avoid extermination through-ill-treatment. [32][33][34]



In its actual operation Mughal assignment system became extremely "ruinous to the peasants and ultimately harmful to the interests of the Empire" [35] The exploitation by the collectors increased as time went on. [36]Atlast a stage was reached when " excessive acts of oppression" by the officers could lead some of the peasants to shifting their hand from plough to the sword, [37]as happened in the case of the Jats following the atrocities of Abdun Nabi. We know it on the testimony of Shah Waliullah that "the cultivators of the villages between Delhi and Akbarabad were of the Jat caste. [38]

Against this background, it was quite natural for the Jats to ventilate their resentment over the prevailing assignment system as agriculture occupied the uppermost place in the there life. [39]


It is obvious that an oppressive system goes hard with the agriculturists. Its sharp reaction among the Jats, culminating into a rebellion, appears to have been because of their adventurous disposition and martial character. [40]


The Jats had been a race of warrior agriculturists. [41]


Highly disapproved of the enhanced revenue, the levying of the "harmful taxes" and "looting by government tax collectors "they were prone to opposing such thing and other oppressions even by force, if theoccasion demanded this may explain better why in face of similar provocations other weak agricultural communities remained more or lessinactive while the Jat peasants unsheathed their swords. [42]


Apart form it, the Jats more than any other people, are reputed to be deeply attached to personal freedom and to resenting external control. [43][44][45]


Auranzeb pursued a fourfold course with regard to his religious policy,namely, promotion of Islamic practices, regulations against the Hindus,conversion to Islam and destruction of temples. [46]


His supreme object was to make both Muslim and non-Muslim conform to the orthodox holy law. Hence he issued regulations aiming at suppressing the un-Islamic ceremonies and encouraging Muslim ways among the people at large. [47]


In 1665 restrictions were imposed on the public celebration of the Hindu festivals of Holi and Diwali. [48][49]In 1668, the Hindu fairs were prohibited in the Empire. In 1665 discriminative duties were imposed upon the Hindus. They were ordered to pay 5% while the Muslim merely 2.5% duty on their goods. In 1667,the Muslims were totally freed form this burden. [50][51]

These steps apart from being a source of revenue were intended to pressurise the Hindu into accepting Islam. In addition, Aurangzebadopted seductive methods to attract the non Muslims to Islam, he offered posts money grants, public honour and even amnesty as rewardsfor embracing Islam. [52]


Above all Aurangzeb embarked upon the policy of temple demolition; here he displayed his characteristic subtlety of approach. Early in 1659 hedeclared that his Canon Law prohibited the construction of new temples but did no ordain the demolition of the old ones. Gradually he opened out. [53]


The temples of Somnath were razed to the ground early in his reign. 64 Ahkam-i-Alamgiri, by Inayetullah, I, 10a] In 1665, he ordered to redemolish the repaired temples of Gujarat which had once been destroyed by him during his viceroyalty of the province. [54]He next ordered the pulling down of all the newly constructed templesin Orissa. In 1669, he fully unmasked himself. In that year he issued ageneral order for the destruction of the Hindu Schools and temples and the suppression of their teaching and religious practices throughoutthe Empire. [55] several temples pulled down in the wake of this order included those of Malarna and Vishwanath. [56]Thus, within a short span of 11 years, Aurangzeb reversed the liberaland tolerant approach of Akbar, While Akbar's liberalism had secured him the willing co-operation of his people Aurangzeb's bigotry created mounting discontent among the suffering non Muslims. [57][58]


Mathura, the birth centre of the Jat rising, suffered heavily in Aurangzeb's reign. This venerated place of Hindu worship was naturallyan object of annoyance to Aurangzeb. He appointed Abdun Nabi, "a religious man", as faujdar of the place to "suppress the Hindus". [59]This officer amassed through questionable means, cash worth 93000 mohars and thirteen lakhs of Rupees and valuables worth four and a half Lakhs. [60][61]Abdun Nabi demolished a temple in the city and upon its ruins erected a Jama Masjid in 1661-1662. Next, in pursuance of Aurangzeb's order, he removed the stone railing of the famous temple of Keshava Rai in 1666. [62]

All these acts must have provoked the Jats further. We know thatduring the Sultanate danger to or suppression of their religion generated disaffection among them. [63]There is no reason to believe that a more systematic religious persecutions by zealot Aurangazeb did not offend the religious feelings of the Jats. Generally speaking the Jats have never been orthodox in their religious belief. [64][65][66]They do not bother about the philosophical or the ethical nuances ofreligion, but the outward ritualistic aspects do commonly touch them.Hence, measures like the closing of fairs and festivals and desecrationof religious places could not but have caused concern among them. [67][68]


The religious bigotry of Aurangzeb and the consequent suffering of the non Muslims however had not assumed full proportion by 1668 – 1669. Jiziya, orders for the exclusion of the Hindus from public officers and even the destruction of the temple of Keshava Rai at Mathura followed later. And yet the Jats under Gokua unfurled the banner of revolt. [69]


The `floating literature' or the" Sakhas "as they are called among theJats and other local people refers to the visit of Samarth Guru Ram Daswho exhorted the Jats for insurrection. He urged them to meet excesswith excess. He also impressed upon them that tyranny is a sin but totolerate tyranny is greater sin. Having been urged and inspired by theGuru, Gokula took a vow to save the Hindus from destruction and rose in rebellion. [70]




The Jats being restive, fuel was ready. Only fire was needed and it was according to the "Sakhas" provided by Ram Das. [71]K.R.Qanuago observes that in the revolt of 1669 "one flare of the might conflagration kindled throughout India by the missionary zeal of the Emperor" and revived the Hindu Nationalism. Thus religious factors played and appreciable part in the Jat Insurrection. [72]

The economic causes although important, may not be over-emphasized. [73]The vices in the operation of the assignment system did not multiplyovernight in the reign of Aurangzeb. Their increasing tendency wasdiscernible even before him. But when the tightening grip of Aurangeb threatened the age old democratic and tribal traditions of the Jats,the economic factors made their weight felt heavily. [74]




From the foregoing discussion it may be concluded that the Jat rebellion of 1669 was essentially the result of the politicalprovocation aggravated by the economic discontent and set ablaze by the religious persecution. [75]


 


The outbreak of the rebellion



The year 1669 witnessed, the bursting forth of the pent up fury ofthe Jats into a very powerful revolt under the inspiring leadership of Gokula, the zamindar of Tilpat. A remarkable feature of this rebellionwas its composite character. [76]Though the Jats counted for its majority and provided leadership to it,it consisted of other local people as well such as, Mev, Meena, Ahir,Gujar, Naruka, Panwar and others. [77]The rebels gathered at the village of Sahora (about 6 miles fromMathura) Abdun Nabi, the faujdar of Mathura, attacked them. At first heappeared to be gaining ground, but in the middle of the fighting he was killed on 12 may, 1669 (21st Zil-Hijja, 1079 A.H.) [78][79][80][81]


Overjoyed at this success, Gokula ravaged the paragana and town of Sadabad (24 miles from Mathura) in the Daob. [82][83][84]The turbulance spread to Agra District also where to Radandaz Khan wassent (13th May – 22nd Zil-Hijja) with a force to put down the rebels.Aurangazeb appointed Saf Shikan Khan as the new faujdar of Mathura. [85][86]As arms failed to prevail, diplomacy was resorted to. The Mughal government offered to forgive Gokula provided he surrendered his spoils. But Gukula spurned the offer. Gokula provided the surrendered his spoils. But Gukula spurned the offer. On the other side, as the situation was assuming serious proportions, the Emperor had to proceed (28th November-14th Rajab, 1080 A.H.) in person to the Disturbed area.On his way on 4th December (20th Rajab) Aurangazeb learnt of the circumstance of rebellion in the villages of Rewara, Chandarakanta andSarkhud (Sarkharu ?). He dispatched Hasan Ali khan to attack theseplaces. Till noon the insurgent fought with bows and muskets. Getting desperate thereafter, many of them having performed the jauhar of their women fell upon the Khan, A fierce fight raged till the evening in which many imperialists and 300 rebels were killed. Hasan Ali Khanreturned to the Emperor, taking 250 male and female prisoners.Aurangazeb was pleased with his performance. He made him the faujdar ofMathura in place of Saf Shikan Khan who had obviously failed insuppressing the rebels. [87][88][89]


Under Hasan Ali Khan, were placed 2,000 barqandaz troops 1000 archers1000 musketeers 1,000 rocketmen, and 25 pieces of cannons. Amanulla,the faujdar of the environs of Agra, was also ordered to help Hasan Ali. The latter immediately got engaged in quelling the rebellion. InJanuary 1670, Gokula with 20,000 Jat and other followers, rushed forward to face the imperialists at a place 20 miles from Tilpat. Both the sides suffered many casualties in the battle in which the Jats,despite showing utmost bravery, could not cope with the trained Mughalsand their artillery. They retreated to Tilpat. Hasan Ali followed the mand besieged the fortalice. Fighting continued for three days in which muskets and bows were used by the contestants. On the fourth day, the royalists charged the besieged from all sides and having made a breachin the walls entered Tilpat. Then ensued a sanguinary conflict. TheJats displayed their reckless courage and undaunted valour. The experienced Mughals gained the day but not before losing 4,000 men. Of the vanquished 5000 lay dead, while 7000 were arrested. Gokula, withhis two associates including " Sonki" (Udai Singh Singhi), was captured alive through the efforts of Shaikh Razi-ud-Din, the peshkar of HassanAli. They and other prisoners were presented to the Emperor. Being furious, he ordered Gokula and Singh to be cut limb on the Chabutara ofthe Kotwali (Agra). Other captives either met fate of their leader orwere put in chains. [90][91][92][93]





 


Aftermath of the Rebellion



Never before in the history of the Mughal Empire had the standard ofsuch a formidable rebellion been raised by the Jats as was done bythose of Mathura under Gokula in 1669. Although the rebellion failed,it had considerable though indirect, repercussions upon the futurecourse of the Jat History and in the long run upon the Mughal Emperor itself. The crushing defeat of the Jats in 1669 was not without a lesson. It exposed to them certain strategic flaws in their ways of fighting. They had seen their 20,000 gallant brethren being easily routed by the Mughal forces in a face to face combat. It must have been laid bare to them that, in the absence of proper military training and sufficient equipment their reckless courage and obstinate valour alone would not prove effective against the mighty Mughal army. Besides, the fall of Tilpat within the short duration of three days must havepointed out to them the hopeless vulnerability of their defence and its corresponding implications. The military tactics of Raja Ram and Churaman II clearly indicate that the Jats had benefited from the failure of 1669. [94]


They gradually turned to making a change in their existing military methods. The subsequent Jat leaders grew alive to the efficacy of discipline and proper equipment in warfare. There developed an increasing tendency to build their forts in the fastness of dense Jungles capable of withholding the onslaught of powerful armies. Likewise they avoided the rashness of Gokula in inviting pitched battles with the mighty Mughals. [95]


Gukula's rebellion also gave to the posterity an inspiration ofpolitical nature, namely, the usefulness of working under a unitedleadership. [96]


We know that the Jats had the reputation of being impatient of any external control. [97]Although success did not crown them in 1669, it was perhaps, heartening for them to perceive that their joint efforts could gather so powerfula momentum as to disturb even the Mughal Emperor, compelling him torush to the disturbed region. On the other hand, it was disheartening to them that the effectiveness of their resistance withered away once their chief leader Gokula was no more. This seems to have emphasized to the Jats the advantage to working united under a common leader. Although progress in this direction was necessarily slow in due course it proved to be of considerable political importance to them. Once their combined efforts proved fruitful under later leaders and bright future prospects appeared ahead. Their circumstantial union assumed alittle fixed character. Consideration of common benefit might also havebeen instrumental in leading the tribal and democratic Jats to prefer,accept and finally adopt the institution of kingship. To such circumstances may be traced the genesis of the Jat state of Bharatpurand the eventual emergence of the principalities of Patiala, Nabha and Jind which were republican until recently. [98]

In the light of the above considerations it seems that from the viewpoint of the long term interests of the Jats, Gokula's abortive exertions were no less significant than the more fruitful struggles of Raja Ram and Churaman II. [99] The brighter careers of these two have dimmed the image of Gokula whose full importance has not been duly appreciated so for. [100][101]The circumstances in which they worked were not altogether similar. Gokulahad to face more formidable odds than the two later fortunate Jatleaders. It is doubtful whether, even with their better organizingcapacity their success could have been assured in Gokua'scircumstances. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that thoughGokula failed, his failure paved the way for the subsequent success of Raja Ram and Churaman II. [102]


Prior to the Jat uprising, other revolt had taken place in a different part of the Empire. [103]But they were not so powerful and the place of their occurrence werecomparatively too distant from the capital. The rebellion under Gokula was, however quite different. From the point of view of time, dimensionand place it was the first fierce repudiation of the authority ofAurangzeb under his very seat. Though such evidence is not forthcoming,the possibility cannot be ruled out that his audaciousness provided astimulus to the possibility cannot be ruled out that his audaciousness provided a stimulus to the later rebels such as the Satnamis. [104]


Aurangazeb pursued a course which seems to have estranged the Jats further. He wrecked terrible vengeance upon them. Apart from thetreatment meted out to 7,000 captors, the family of their leader,Gokula was forcibly tried to convert to Islam. Even after the fall of Gokula the Mughal forces kept on imprisoning plundering the Jats. Notcontent with it, as it were, Aurangzeb broke loose his fury upon thetemple of Keshava Rai. It was levelled to the ground (during the month of Ramzan, 1080 A.H. 13th January to 11th February 1670) and mosque was built upon its site. Its idols were desecrated and later buried under the footsteps of the Begum Sahiba mosque at Agra. The name of Mathurawas changed to `Islamabad' and that of Brindaban to `Mominabad.' The temples and idols of the rest of the holy places in the Brij were gradually destroyed. This added insult to injury. The affront inflicted upon the families of their leader and kinsmen must have outraged the feelings of the entire tribe in whose social consciousness and tribal sentiments have always been uppermost. [105]


Jat people are normally moderate light-hearted and not unmanageable unless of course when excited. [106][107]It can hardly be called an act of political wisdom on his part to havetried to put down the warlike and stubborn Jats in ruthless manner. [108]


So long as the Emperor had a firm grip over the north the Jats remained subdued but as soon as it loosened, their pent up fury was let loose and they resumed their lawless course with added vigour. Thus thepolicy of Aurangzeb towards them defeated its very object and in the long run proved harmful for the Empire. It has been rightly remarked that a little indiscretion and persistence in a wrong policy "converted " peaceful husbandmen (Jats) into flaming warriors as it did friends (Rajputs) into foes. [109]


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