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HISTORY OF MEENA

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HISTORY OF MEENA

Meena or Mina is a caste/community mainly found in Rajasthan, India. The name Mina is derived from Meen (fish), and the Minas claim descent from the fish incarnation of Lord Vishnu also called Matsya Avatar. This fact is supported by the centuries old culture of celebrating Meenesh Jayanti in the name of Loard Vishnu by Meena community on 3 Tithi of Chaitra Shukal paksha according to Hindu calendar.Originally they were a ruling cast, and were ruler of Matsya, i.e., Rajasthan, but their slow downfall began with the rise of the Rajputs and was completed when the British government declared them a “Criminal Tribe”. This very action was taken to support their alliance with Rajput kingdom in Rajasthan, and Meenas were still in war with Rajputs, doing gorilla attacks to retain their lost kingdoms.        According to Britannica, "the Minas are possibly of inner Asiatic origin, and tradition suggests that they migrated to India in the 7th century with the Rajputs".[Meena of India]

Contents

  • 1 Geography
  • 2 Ancient history
  • 3 Medieval history
  • 4 Meenas under British rule
  • 5 Meo and Meenas
  • 6 Origin of the Rajputs in Rajasthan and the Meenas
  • 7 Recent history
  • 8 References
 

 Geography

Members of the Meena community are found in the northern part of Rajasthan. Meenas share the Brij and Matsya Area of Rajasthan i.e.Sawai Madhopur,Dausa,Jaipur,Dholpur and Karauli districts in Jaipur and Bharatpur region (also the Bharatpur and Bayana districts) with other communities. They inhabit the area from Jaipur-Sikar in Shekhawati region and Alwar in the northeast region of the state. They are also widely spread in Kota, Jhalawar and Bundi. Meenas are also found in north-western Madhya Pradesh. The Meenas, community of Rajasthan, are an agricultural people occupying one of the most fertile regions of the state. The Meena kings were the early rulers of major parts of Rajasthan including Amber (early capital of Jaipur).

In the book “Culture and Integration of India Tribes” by R.S.Mann it is clearly mentioned that Meenas are considered as a Kshatriya cast equally as Rajputs, and having higher social status in the society. They are well integrated with other higher cast like Rajputs, Brahmins, Jats etc. Brahmin perform all rituals from birth, marriage and death for Meenas like for any other higher Hindu cast.

 

 ANCIENT HISTORY

At the time of great Epic Mahabharat was written there was a Janpad known as "Matsya Janpad".The capital of this Janpad was "Virat Nagar", now known as "Bairath" and renamed as Virata Nagar again.The Pandavas got shelter there for one year.There are still places known as "Pandupol" near Virat Nagar.Abhimanu the son of Arjun and great warrior married to daughter of King of Virat Nagar the princess was named Uttara. After Abhimanu died in battle of Kurukshetra,and all Pandav sons were killed by Ashwathama they were left without progeny.Uttara was pregnant then.After Pandavas went to Himalaya, the son delivered by Uttara was "Parikhishit" who inherited Pandavas and ruled India. He was killed by "Takshak" a Naga or Nagvanshi Khastriya.His son Janmejay did a Yagya to finish all Nagas at "Nagdah" known as "Nagada" now in MP.King Virat and all his sons and brothers were killed at Kurukhestra in Mahabharat.Perhaps some of clan brothers ruled this area after him. Many historical evidence is recovered from this area all belonging to time of Lord Buddha.

Meenas are considered the brothers and kinsmen of Virata, the ruler of Virat Nagar. They ruled this area(Near to Virat Nagar) till 11 th century.

 

MEDIEVAL HISTORY

Very little has been recorded of the true history of Meenas. Col James Tod, gathered together stories that ran through families hundreds of years later and while his efforts remain appreciated, a lot of what he wrote is fiercely disputed by modern historians.According to Tod the Meena King Raja Ralun singh also known as Alan Singh Meena of Khogong kind-heartedly adopted a stranded Rajput mother and her child who sought refuge in his realm. Later, the Meena king sent the child, Dhola Rae, to Delhi to represent the Meena kingdom. The Rajput, in gratitude for these favours, returned with Rajput conspirers and massacred the weaponless Meenas on Diwali while performings rituals i.e PitraTrapan , it is customery in the Meenas to be weaponless at the time of PitraTrapan , "filling the reservoirs in which the Meenas bathed with their dead bodies" and thus conquered Khogong. This act of Rajputs was most coward and shameful in Rajasthan history.

He then subjugated the Sihra Gotra of Meenas at much later on known as Jamwa Ramgarh near Jaipur, and transferred his capital thence. Becoming the son-in-law of the prince of Ajmer, he died when battling 11,000 Meenas. His son Maidul Rae "made a conquest of Amber from the Soosawut Meenas" whose King was the head of the Meena confederation. He subdued the Nandla Meenas, annexing the Gatoor-Gatti district. Hoondeo succeeded to the throne and "continued the warfare against the Meenas". Koontal, his successor, fought the Meenas "in which the Meenas were defeated, which secured his rule throughout Dhundhar". The Meenas were the original builders of Amber, which town they consecrated to Amba, the Mother Goddess, whom they knew as "Gatta Rani" or "Queen of the Pass".

Amber, India Fort view from Jaigarh  Describing the destruction of the Meena town of Naed, Tod wrote: "When this latter prince (Baharmull Cuchwaha, a contemporary of Babar and Humayun) destroyed the Meena sovereignty of Naend, he levelled its half hundred gates, and erected the town of Lohan (now the residence of a Rajawut chief) on its ruins".

The name of Meena ruler of Naen\Nahn was Rao Bada Meena, he was so rich that his wealth was compared to Akbar's empire in a local saying as

 "RAO BADA KO BIJANO, AKBAR KO GHARBAAR"

that mean Rao bada's manual fan was so precious that it was compared with akbar's palace.The Kachawa Rajput ruler Bharmal of Amber always eyed on Nahn and attacked on it several times but could not succeeded against mighty and brave Bada Meena. Akbar had asked Rao Bada to marry his daughter Shashivadini to Akbar. Later on Bharmal married his daughter Jodhabai to Akbar. Then the combined army of Akbar and Bharmal attacked Bada Meena and killed him damaging 52 kots and 56 gates. Bada's treasure was shared between Akbar and Bharmal. Bharmal kept his treasure in Jaigarh fort near Amber.The hill that Jaigarh was built was called Chil Tila, when it was ruled by Meenas.Later on The state is said to have been founded about eleventh century or 1097 by Dûlaha Râya, who hailed from Gwalior; he and his Kachwaha kinsmen are said to have absorbed or driven out the local Meenas and Bargujar Rajput chiefs. In which the Meenas were to become a key ally of the Kachwahas.

Meena under British rule

 

Mark Brown has well elaborated the impact and issues of Meenas community during the British rule, and change in their status from Higher Social Cast to Criminal Tribe. He also mentioned the division in the Meenas as zamindar Mina group and chowkidar Minas. In his case study he answered why and how Meenas have been put under Criminal Tribal category, even being very different from the other tribal people then. How British manage to control Meenas which were growing threat for British rule in Northern India. In Woolbert’s (1898) account of the raising of the Meena Battalion at Deoli the difficulties and achievements of this process were described. Woolbert describes the Minas’ history thus:

“The Meenas are an athletic and brave race, tall, handsome, and pleasing to address, obedient to their leaders and sensible in kindness, but at the same time blood-thirsty and revengeful. …”Vivian (1912) suggested that at the turn of the century there were around one million Minas and related clans, though only a small number of these had ever been involved in criminal activity. Nevertheless, those who were so engaged, most famously the Minas living in the village of Shajehanpur in the district of Gurgaon, south of Delhi, came to be represented as a hereditary band of robbers.

 

 Meo and Meenas

Majority of Meo population come from Meenas and till date they share same gotras (clan names) and follow very similar Ethics and Culture.According to Britannica, also called Meo, or Mewati, tribe and caste inhabiting Râjasthân and Punjab states in northern India, and Punjab province, Pakistan, who speak Hindi and claim descent from the Râjputs. In the 11th century, the Meo branch of the Mina tribe converted from Hinduism to Islâm, but they retained Hindu dress. Although the Mina and Meo are regarded as variants, some Meo claim that their ancestral home is Jaipur. Originally a nomadic, warlike people practicing animal breeding and known for lawlessness, today most Mina and Meo are farmers with respected social positions. In the late 20th century the Mina in India numbered more than 1,100,000, and the Meo, concentrated in northeastern Punjab, Pakistan, numbered more than 300,000. Both are divided into 12 exogamous clans, led by a headman (muqaddam) and a council (panch) of tribe members. They trace descent patrilineally and divide themselves into three classes: landlords, farmers, and watchmen. Both the Mina and Meo permit widow divorce and remarriage, and the Meo allow a man to exchange a sister or close female relative for his bride. Following Hindu tradition, the Mina cremate their dead while the Meo observe burial rites.

Meo of Alwar, Bharatpur, Dholpur, Karauli, Sawai Madhopur, Gangapur districts of Rajasthan made efforts to come back in Meena community, but the intermarriage concept (i.e., roti and bati) has put down their offer by Meena leaders. As Meo are followers of Islam.

 

Origin of the Rajputs in Rajasthan and the Meena

In the book by Satish Chandra, there appears to be a fair consensus that there were drawn from miscellaneous castes including Brahmans, aboriginal tribesmen and foreigners who had settled in the country. The manner in which they become “Hinduized” or were assigned the status of Rajputs is still not clear in detail, but can be summarised from analogous developments during the later medieval period. Thus, those sections which have control over land or gained political authority at the local and regional levels were often successful in gradually rising in the Varna scale. Conversely, those who lost control over land or local authority often sank in the Varna scale.However, apart from the control over the land and politics authority, a higher Varna status could not be acquired without the support and backing of the Brahmans, The emergence of the Rajputs in north India represented a tacit alliance between those who controlled land and possessed political authority, and the Brahmans who were the legitimizers , so to speak. In return from granting recognition to the various ruling element as Rajputs or Kshatriyas, the Brahmans received generous grants of land and money for their sustenance, and for building and maintaining temples. In the villages there are many instance and stories prevalent where Meena chieftain claimed him self a Rajput. In general Rajputs of Rajasthan are mix of Meenas, Gujjars and Jats.

RECENT HISTORY

Despite invasions of their lands throughout history, they were never assimilated, thereby retaining much of their culture and individuality.The Meenas have played an important part in the history of Rajasthan (earlier known as the Rajputana). In former times, Rajput and Meena chiefs, in subordination to the Taur kings of Delhi, ruled over a considerable tract of the country.During the war with Rajputs and Mughals, the Meena community has been divided in basic four sections :-(1.) The Zamindar Meena(2.) The Chaukidar Meena  

(3) Parihar Meenas and

(4.) The Bhil(Tribal) Meena. Historically they have same roots otherwise they do not share any other relation. Like no marriages among them etc.The Zamindar Meena are traditionally connected with farming profession, and most of them are economically good. According to the book "People of India" By Kumar Suresh Singh, among all Meena groups, Zamindar Meena enjoys the highest status. They claim a Kshatriya status equivalent to that of the Rajputs. In the local socio-ritual hierarchy they enjoy a clean cast status.The Chowkidar Meenas, who during the middle age adopted fighting in the armies and later on britishers enforced them to report on Chaukis regularly to ensure that they do not indulge in any criminal activities known as Chowkidar Meena. Like Zamindar Meenas, Chowkidar Meenas call themselves Meena Thakur and claim Kshatriya status.The Bhil Meena are said to be descended from those Rajputs who, in the wars between their own tribes or with Muslims, were compelled to quit their native home and seek refuge in the vastness of Rajputana, where they formed alliances with the aboriginal families and established tribe.The character of Meenas differs from place to place. The Meenas of the Karauli, Sawai Madhopur, Jaipur & Sikar, Gangapur area are the most important cultivators for the last four hundred years. They expelled the Dhangars and Lodhis from a number of villages they occupied 500 years ago, and have retained their possession until now.