Warriors and Merchants : Gujarati Sources on the History of Lohanas (Historical Self-identification of the UK Lohanas) Rohit Barot Department of Sociology Centre for the Study of Minorities and Social Change University of Bristol This report is based on a systematic examination of several Gujarati sources to provide an overview to the Lohana Research Group of historical material which is relevant for an understanding of the Lohana community now permanently settled in the West. 1 It is useful to introduce this narrative by distinguishing purely factual history from the history of self-consciousness. The factual history is a necessary but not a sufficient basis for producing a historical account of the Lohanas. The method I use focuses much more on the changing self-consciousness of the Lohanas and their understanding of history of their own community. Hence the readers of this report should not read it as confirming “facts” about the Lohanas but should see it as a historical narrative of self-consciousness and its expression through community’s own historical perception. The following account provides a description of the material I have been able to study in Gujarati language sources. I record my comments on each of these sources and summarise the findings. These findings could contribute towards a proper historical account that can be constructed by using both documentary and non-documentary evidence about the Lohanas and their past. It is best to regard this as a provisional report which the research group may want to modify and change for the final production. In order to research and construct a systematic historical account based on Gujarati language sources, at the present moment, I have consulted three main sources. First of all there is a chapter about the Lohanas in Chandrakant Bakshi’s Mahajati Gujarati which is an unusual study of Gujarati caste or jati groups by a leading figure in Gujarati literary world. Bakshi writes about I am thankful to Nizar Kanji for drawing my attention to a possibility of doing this research. I am also specially grateful to Subhash Thakkar, Vijay Thakrar and Hasmukh Manek for their kind support in making this study an interesting and stimulating experience. 1
2 Warriors and Merchants ____________________________________________________________ 12 jati type of groups which are well-established and successful entrepreneurial Gujarati communities. He devotes a chapter to the Lohanas (Chapter 9, pp. 91-103) which provides some useful information about the community and its historical background. The most important source for the martial history of the Lohanas (rather Lohranas as they were known), there is Harubhai Thakkar’s historical narrative Loharana : Raghuvamshi Lohana Jatino Udbhav ane Astitva. This volume provides a most interesting body of information. With certain limitations which constrain folk historians, Thakkar’s material provides interesting and significant insights into earlier history of the Lohranas as the Lohanas were known then. A summary of his narrative follows after an account of Bakshi’s chapter dealing with the Lohanas. Finally there is 990 page long Lohana Hitechchu Suvarna Mahotsava Gnati Gaurav Granth (1970) .This volume merits a more detailed study for documenting fully various facets of Lohana life. For the purpose of this report , I have carefully looked at Kanjia’s 12 chapters which provide an outline of history of the Lohanas. The ancient Hindu social organisation of varna is the starting point for locating the origins of the Lohanas in antiquity. According to this scheme the Hindus are classified into four main categories : Brahmins, the priests, Kshatriyas, the warriors, Vaishyas, the merchants and Shudras the workers and the untouchables Indian groups often placed outside this hierarchical scheme2. The Lohanas have always claimed to be the Kshatriya - the warriors. This suggests a martial tradition and a preoccupation with deployment of power and a historically valid Kshatriya status deriving from the ancient social organisation of the Indian society It is this Kshatriya background and transition over a period of time to a mercantile Vaishya background that seems to be a key factor in the Lohana history. In this context, it is appropriate that Bakshi begins his account of the Lohanas by saying that they have produced many brave people. He regards this martial trait as an essential characteristic of the Lohanas. He notes the wellknown Lohana claim that they are descendants of Ram - the hero of the ancient Hindu epic Ramayan. They regard Lav, the son of Ram as their primary ancestor. Among 18 different grades of Kshatriya, there was one called Lavnam - which may have been rendered into Lavana, , Luhana, Lohrana and Lohana through a series of modifications through centuries. Bakshi regards the Northwest Frontier encompassing Afghanistan, Kashmir and Punjab as the possible ancient homeland of the Lohanas - Larkot in Chandrakant Bakshi, Mahajati Gujarati, 1981 Bombay, Navabharat Sahitya Mandir, pp. 208 2
History of Lohanas 3 _______________________________________________________________________ _
Punjab rendered Lahore, Lohar in Kashmir, Lohanpur in Multan and Lohar city in Kabul district 3. As this frontier region was subject to outside invasion, Lohanas were involved in warfare to resist the intruders. The legends of their valour abound. A Lohana warrior Jasraj had beheaded Changezkhan in the Multan fort. Although historical “evidence” as normally understood by modern historians may not substantiate such stories, these narratives are an important part of the “folk” history of the Lohanas and lay down a charter and a time frame for the existence of the community. As Bakshi shows, the Islamic historian Zubeni had noted in 1255 in his Tarkh-i-Jahan-Kushi that Shahbuddin Ghori who had defeated Prithviraj Chauhan had been subsequently slain by the Khakhar Lohanas of the time. Bakshi argues that Lohanas carried over this tradition of valour into modern age in their resistance to British rule during the nationalist movement for Indian independence. He notes examples of Lohana defiance of the colonial judiciary 4. A 10 year old Amritlal Kariya was arrested for picketing and asked what his name was. He said inklab meaning revolution. He received a punishment of 12 lashes for defying the colonial authority. A young Lohana merchant Hemraj Betai had settled in Burma in 1924. He came in contact with the Indian nationalist leader Subhash Chandra Bose in 1942 and donated gold and diamonds worth more than 180,000 rupees to Bose for the cause of liberation of India. It should be noted that Bakshi’s account does not explore fully and adequately the importance of precolonial migration of the Lohanas from the Northwest frontier towards Kutch, Kathiawad and Gujarat where they were to settle for a long period of time. In modern times, their search for work stimulated them to migrate to East and Central Africa where opportunities for capital accumulation made them a prosperous community. As Bakshi notes, their growing prosperity was reflected in a series of successful all Lohana conferences they began to hold from 1910, marking increased solidarity of their jati community. They also founded Lohana In her research Report on the History of the Lohannas (1993). The information that Dr Katherine Prior has compiled contains information which is relatively similar. It is not uncommon for English language sources influence Gujarati writing on these issues. 4 Bakshi, 1981, p.93. 3
4 Warriors and Merchants ____________________________________________________________ Hitechchu, a jati magazine concerned with social, economic and cultural affairs of the community. Prosperity and solidarity have legitimated the status of the Lohanas as an entrepreneurial class in Gujarat as well as in their settlement in Africa, Europe and North America. Bakshi notes the effect on this prosperity within the community. Lohanas ploughed their wealth into widening access to educational facility for their children at all levels from primary schools to colleges and vocational school. The establishment of gurukul boarding schools both for boys and girls was an important contribution of the Lohana community to their own jati fellows as well as to the people of Gujarat. Bakshi attributes this to community solidarity whereas it is clear that it was the material transformation of the Lohanas as a mercantile community which enabled the leaders to bring about a sense of greater group solidarity. Bakshi is obviously familiar with the fact that members of mercantile groups sought opportunities in Bombay as it became the main location of trade and commerce in Western India. He expresses a measure of puzzlement about Lohanas migrating to East Africa rather than to Bombay. However, the Gujarati tradition of migrating overseas is well-established and going abroad to work and even to make a fortune or misfortune was not unknown among the Gujaratis. In my assessment, migration is one of the key factors in the contemporary history of the Lohanas - a theme to which Bakshi devotes a single paragraph, referring to Mehtas and Madhvanis as two outstanding Lohana industrialists who contributed much to Ugandan and East African economy . A description of their rise merits detailed documentation and analysis. Finally, Bakshi notes achievements of the Lohanas in a variety of fields such as sports and literary world. The editor of Chitralekha, a popular Bombay based magazine, Vaju Kotak was universally known among Gujaratis as someone who did not hesitate to criticise the establishment. In the field of public service, following the Gandhian way was Amritlal Vitthaldas Thakkar, popularly known as Thakkar Bapa who did much to protect the human rights of the tribal population in Gujarat. Bakshi also lists the names of Lohana individuals who became successful merchants in India, including those who were able to secure political office in the state of Saurashtra. To sum up, Bakshiâ€™s account provides a useful overview of the Lohana history but does not explain fully the factors which have stimulated
History of Lohanas 5 _______________________________________________________________________ _
advancement of the community in profession and business. Further research should fill this critical gap. In contrast to Bakshiâ€™s outline of the Lohanas, which is somewhat general in character, Harubhai Thakkarâ€™s Lohrana : Raghuvamshi Lohana Jatino Udbhav ne Astitva. provides a historical narrative from the point of view of the Lohanas themselves. In view of this perspective, this narrative is a history of consciousness and memory rather than a history of facts only. However, it is not lacking in factual content which is reflected through this narrative. The book also emphasises strongly the warrior, Kshatriya tradition to which the Lohanas belonged for centuries before historical changes led them to become merchants and traders, the Vaishya, the wealth creaters in the varna scheme The opening of the book highlights the importance of this heritage. Before the title page the President of the Porbander Lohana Mahajan reminds members of the community to sustain the memory of this hertiage. He refers to Vir Jasraj , a Lohana Kshatriya hero who lost his life while defending his domain on 22 January many centuries ago (please se a later section which documents important events in life of Vir Jasraj). A number of Kshatriya symbols appear at the beginning of this narrative. As the Lohanas believe that they have descended from the Kshatriya hero Ram of the epic Ramayana who belonged to the descent of the Raghus, they call themselves Raghuvamshi. They literally mean that they are the descendants of the Raghus5 and Ram. As the Raghus were always known to have been the descendants of the sun, the surya . the Lohanas have always used the expressions Suryavamshi and Raghuvamshi to identify their origin and their descent as Kshatriyas. Two illustrations reinforce this warrior origin theme. There is a tricolour flag in yellow, white and safforn with a semi-circle marking the sun and its rays in the first yellow part. The flag is described as Raghuvamshi Kshatra dhwaj which is the Kshtriaya flag of the descendants of Ram. There is a lithogrph to follow. It shows Ram in his traditionally regal pose with an arrow and his bow in his hands - the weapons which signify his preoccupation with the Hindu notions of legitimate power and force. There are several photographs which depict the mother goddess of the Lohanas. She is Shri Hinglaj Bhavani , the primordial goddess. The photographs show the seats of the goddess in Vajiristana and Pakistan. There follows a further lithograph which shows a royal figure on a galloping horse with a spear and a castle in the background. This is Kumar Vir Dada Jasraj - the last king of the Lohar Pradesh , the region which the ancestors of the Lohans controlled when 5
The Sanskirt word vamsha literally means the lineal descent.
6 Warriors and Merchants ____________________________________________________________ they were the masters of their own territorial domain. It is significant that the author has presented his birthdate, the date of his accession to the throne and his death virgati6, meaning passing of the warrior in Hindu, Muslim and Christian chronology . The use of three different systems of dating expresses ecumenical spirit of the Lohanas, their tolerance and their willingness to acknowledge the importance of the traditions to which they do not belong. There are eight photographs of leading personalities of the Lohana gnyatimaiya, the jati group which is attributed with the notion of motherhood by the use of Sanskrit suffix maiya which, in this context symbolises the solidarity of reproduction of the Lohanas as a group. In harmony with the authorâ€™s concern for the warrior origins of the Lohanas, he dedicates this historical narrative to Kumar Vir Dada Jasraj . A number of short expositions follow. Keshvram K Shahstri, the President of Gujarati Sahitya Parishad blesses the book and legitimates its historical authenticity. There is a further statement of welcome, with additional comments on authenticity of history and a statement by the author about his contact with Abdul Gafar Khan 7 at 1938 Congress Party meeting where he learned from the Khan about the presence of Vajiri Hindu Pathan and the way this information stimulated his interest in the history of the Lohanas. The author has also included a list of monuments and books consulted for interpretation and reinterpretation of Lohana history which is essentially an interpretation of memory and self-consciousness of the Lohanas as a corporate group. The author uses time frames which he considers appropriate for grasping and understanding the main phases of the Lohana history. There is the ancient Vedic period much of which is subsumed under the story of Ramayan and the lineage of Raghu, most powerfully personified in the person of Ram. The end of this triumphal period is marked by Islamic invasions which threatened military, political and territorial integrity of the Lohana kingdoms on the western front. At the same time there is internal strife between different Lohana chiefs which undermines their ability to counter the external threat. These invasions and the resistance of the Lohanas to sustain their autonomy provides the most remarkable focus of the martial and Kshatriya character of The word vir refers to a brave person, usually a man and gati refers to the passage away from life. This expression has resonnaces which go beyond the conventional notion of death mrutyu. For it implies a passage marked by exceptional valour - yet again an important attribute of a Kshatriya status. 7 Abdul Gafar Khan was a Pathan leader who was a close follower of Mahatma Gandhi throughout his life time. 6
History of Lohanas 7 _______________________________________________________________________ _
the Lohanas as fighters who bore weapons to defend themselves and their kingdoms. The outcome of the theme is the decline of the Lohana as a military and political power on the frontier and the loss of their status as Kshatriya as they could no longer provide protection to their subjects. Their military and political displacement is the basis of social and cultural change among them and especially in their transformation from Kshatriya to Vaishya status as they entered trade and commerce to survive as migrants in Sindh and subsequently throughout Gujarat, but specially in Kutch and Kathiawad. Thakkarâ€™s narrative explores these main themes in 37 chapters over more than 400 pages. As his approach is eclectic rather than logical and systematic, it is best for the purpose of this report to provide an exposition of the themes with the kind of evidence that appears to have survived through folk traditions supplemented with historical reports which became available with the advent of modernisation. Although it is appropriate to apply the notion of folk history to the historiography which comes from the community sources itself, it is rather unreasonable to assess it by academic standards which apply to a rigorous study of history based on factual evidence. Methods of history of consciousness seem more relevant here in the sense that it is the structure of meaning which the actors bring to bear on their particular historical situation which should be the focus of inquiry. It is with the conception of history of changing self-consciousness of the community that I have undertaken the study of a variety of sources. Loharanas (as the Lohanas were known then) went through distinctive political and military activities which are reflected in Thakkarâ€™s account as well as others. In order to describe these activities and their significance for the history of Lohanas today, first of all, it is important to make certain observations which appear to apply to the ancient period to which Thakkar and others refer to. First of all, Lohranas did not constitute a single homogenous category. Given that the Lohranas belonged to different grades of Kshatriya class, there were different political and military communities of the Lohanas. Notwithstanding that these communities traced a common origin to Ram and his sons Lav and Kusha, the degree of unity and solidarity they sustained varied from time to time, depending on the nature of power relations between different Loharana communities. This means that Lohranas were not always unified and as the author suggests, they were frequently involved in internal Lohrana conflicts. Some of these conflicts were of military character and tended to sustain a degree of tension among the Lohranas. The second theme which runs through the history of the Lohranas is the effect of external aggression on their kingdom from Alexander the
8 Warriors and Merchants ____________________________________________________________ Great to successive waves of Islamic invasions. In light of our contemporary knowledge, it is tempting to argue that these were essentially wars between Hindus and Muslims and that the seeds of religious differences were manifest from the earliest period. Thakkarâ€™s discussion suggests the political and military character of these wars in which religious differences may not always have played a significant part. Although the Lohranas no doubt put up resistance to outside aggression, alliances between them and Islamic invaders were perhaps not uncommon where both the sides were able to make territorial and political gain. However, in the long run the rise of the Islamic dynasties and empires has a great impact on the political and military displacement of the Lohranas and the transformation of their status as the protectors of the realm and the Brahmins. Vedic and Post Vedic Background of the Lohanas First of all, Thakkar attempts to locate the origins of the Lohanas in demographic movement of the Aryans - the earliest dominant settlers of India. He explores the story of Ramayan and the sun based Raghuvamshi lineage as the primary source of the emergence of the Lohanas. Thakkar asserts that the Aryans discovered India and subjugated the nonAryan population and got the non-Aryans to follow the Aryan way of life. The Aryan who discovered the land of Bharat was Ikswaku . He and his wife Ratnadevi who lost her life in battles with him are identified with Punjabi Lohar Thakurs who had descended from the lineage of Raghu and according to their tradition, they were always known as Raghuvamshi Kshatriya. The author says that he would explain the historical events which transformed the Lohanas from Suryavamshi and Raghuvamshi Kshatriya to Vaishya, the traders and creaters of wealth The Lineage of Rama: Lohanas believe that they evolved as a community from the days of Ram and Sita and their families. They recount the story of Ram and his triumphal return to his Kingdom Ayodhya after he had slain the evil King Ravana and rescued his wife Sita from his captivity. Ram and Sita had two children : Lav and Kush who subsequently founded their own kingdoms. Lav founded his domain which encompassed area from Kashmir to Sindh and from Punjab to Afghanistan. The other version is that Ram asked his younger brother Bharat to quell a rebellion in Gandhara and Sindh which he was assigned to rule He established a kingdom at Pushkapur (where contemporary Peshawar is).
History of Lohanas 9 _______________________________________________________________________ _
Descendants of Lav, divided into different grades of Kshatriya warriors, eventually built Lohgadh or Loh Kot as their fortified settlement 8 .Under the lineage of Raghus and glorious kingdom of Ram and Sita. Lohranas and their multiple communities Loharanas went through distinctive political and military activities which are reflected in Thakkarâ€™s account as well as others. In order to describe these activities and their significance for the history of Lohanas today, first of all, it is important to make certain observations which appear to apply to the ancient period to which Thakkar and others refer to. First of all, as Thakkar notes in his historical account, the ancient Indian society was divided into four hierarchical parts: First of all, there were the Brahmins whose prime duty was to sustain the knowledge of the Vedas and to reinforce religious and social foundation for social order according to the precepts of the Dharmashashtra. The second category in the varna classification was Kshatriya, the warriors who were responsible for deployment of power. The precepts of dharma required that they protect the sacred cow, the Brahmins and sustain dhrama rajya - a political regime based on the principle of fairness and justice according to rules of ancient society of the time. The Vaishya were the merchants who were mainly involved in trade and commerce and the creation of wealth and they performed a variety of occupational tasks. Finally there were the Shudra who provided their labour for sustaining the local communities through rural division of labour. The ancient Indian society already had the untouchables and they were often seen to be outside the framework of the varna society. As Ganatra notes in his account and something that is well-known in the history of ancient Hindu social organisation , jatis or nat-jat as the Gujarati Hindus know the institution did not exist at the time. As Aryans and non-Aryan intermarried as much as men and women belonging to different varnas, the fourfold organisation of the varnas gave way to a more complex social structure in which men and women were identified clearly according to the groups in which they were born. With their affiliation to Raghuvamsha and further being the descendants of Lav and Kush, the earliest pattern of difference among the Lohanas may have been the distinctions made within the varna The words Gadh and Kot in Gujarati and orth Indian languages refer to walled fortifications consturcted to protect local kingdoms from military attacks. It is possible that Lohana atak name such as Kotak my have once referred to those responsible for thokse who duty was to look after these fortifications. 8
10 Warriors and Merchants ____________________________________________________________ category. Thakkar refers to the creation of grades within the Kshtriaya category as a series of distinctions which, over a period of time, crystallised into who was or was not a Lohrana. The folk narrative contained in these volumes shows that the Lohranas did not constitute a single homogenous category. Given that the Lohranas belonged to different grades of Kshatriya class, there were different political and military communities of the Loharanas. Notwithstanding that these communities traced a common origin to Ram and his sons Lav and Kusha, the degree of unity and solidarity they sustained varied from time to time, depending on the nature of power relations between different Loharana communities. This means that Lohranas were not always unified, and as the author suggests, they were frequently involved in internal Lohrana conflicts. Some of these conflicts were of military character and tended to sustain a degree of tension among the Lohranas. The second theme which runs through the history of the Lohranas is the effect of external aggression on their kingdom from Alexander the Great to successive waves of Islamic invasions. In the light of our contemporary knowledge, it is tempting to argue that these were essentially wars between Hindus and Muslims and that the seeds of religious differences were manifest from the earliest period. Thakkarâ€™s discussion suggests the political and military character of these wars in which religious differences may not always have played a significant part. Although the Lohranas no doubt put up resistance to outside aggression, alliances between them and Islamic invaders were perhaps not uncommon where both the sides were able to make territorial and political gain. However, in the long run the rise of the Islamic dynasties and empires had a great impact on the political and military displacement of the Lohranas and the transformation of their status as the protectors of the realm and the Brahmins. After the stability of Hindu Kingdoms which lasted for a long time, the author begins to discuss both internal and external factors which began to pose a threat to Lohrana kingdoms on the borders of Bharat. Towards the end of Harashaâ€™s kingdom, increasing degree of fragmentation began to occur among the Hindus as the centralised power of an earlier era began to give way to new political shifts. This internal fission combined with external attacks began to end the dominance of the Hindus.
History of Lohanas 11 _______________________________________________________________________ _ Lohranas and the Invaders from the West Thakkar provides an account of these invasions on Lohrana kingdoms with the arrival of Alexander the Great . There is a brief account of his attack on Brahmanabad which the Brahmins governed themselves and therefore were known as Brahamkshatriyas, combining the attributes of both the priests and the warriors. Lohranas played an important part in this battle by providing shelter to wives and children of these brave warriors who lost their lives in large numbers. As the invasions continued, there was growing evidence to suggest that Lohranas and other Hindus were going to lose their territorial possessions, specially to those invaders who came from the countries of the Middle East Thakkar refers to Lohar Tribhuvan Pal who appears to have been an earlier Lohrana king who had to contend with growing number of Islamic invasions of India. Tribhuvan Pal had been a successful warrior who had conquered Kapisha (present day Kabul which appears to have been the locus of political and military rivalry ), Gandhar and Kandhar and areas north of Multan in 697. One of the leading commanders of Shah Hizaz who had attacked Tribhuvan had lalter surrendered himself to the Lohrana chief. As a consequence, Shah Hizaz threatened to attack his kingdom. Thakkar states that Tribhuvan committed suicide for reasons which are unexplained but which appear to have to do with the way his military position had become untenable. Thakkar reiterates the themes which seem relevant to this period. That is , the frequency of external invasion was increasing and internal strife and fission was making it difficult if not impossible for the Lohranans to put up a collective stand to defend themselves although the were in no way short of kshtriaya khamir their traditional warrior valour. Thakkarâ€™s account of Islamic invasion is relatively consistent with the known historical dates but his references to Lohar kings and their domains lacks continuity and internal coherence for a high degree of historical authenticity. References to Lohar kingdoms are much less systematic either logically or chronologically. While traditional historians may view such evidence with some degree of scepticism, oral historians and anthropologists will take even such fragments as evidence of remembered and forgotten history and an attempt on the part of the community to construct for itself a reasonably coherent view of the distant past in keeping with its historical as well as contemporary aspirations. There are references to 12 Raghuvamshi families and their landed estates in Chapter 5 (p.75) and the spread of Hindu influence
12 Warriors and Merchants ____________________________________________________________ upto Tajikistan. Later on there are references to Lohkot - the castle which a Lohrana Sardar Khimpal had built as a well-organised state with a cavalry of 25,000 horses, 25,000 troops and a total population of about one million. There are occasional references to specific group of Lohranas such as Bhatti Thakurs (pp.85-86) who are known to have migrated to Kutch and Saurashtra. In a similar and somewhat anecdotal fashion, Thakkar refers to Anouppal Thakur who is believed to have been the ruler of Gajpat which later come to be known as Gazni with the rise of Islamic influences in 10th century. When Sabuktigin 9attacked Anouppal’s kingdom, he lost the battle in the first instance and then regrouped in Bukhara to regain Gazni. He used a secret entrance to access the city and mounted a cavalry attack on his opponents. They tracked him down and using Lohrana disguises killed him . Similarly Tanna or Tanda , another Loharana had established himself at Bukhara. Turks attacked this city and destroyed the city as well as the power base of the Lohrana. In chapter 7 of his book, Thakrar explicitly refers to the rise of Islamic political hegemony throughout the region which the Lohranas might have traditionally controlled for many centuries. He proves a brief but powerful narrative of the fall of Lamghat or Lam, one of the Lohrana kingdoms. Amir Subktigin attacked it and ransacked it. Harchand Thakrar and a large number of brave Lohranas lost their lives defending Lam, only to leave it to looting and destruction by the invaders. Lohkot was to meet a similar fate. The invaders desecrated a sacred pond devoted to a mother goddes. This signalled a calamity which was to befall on Lohkot and Latur. As the invaders advanced, Maharana Rampat of Lohkot and Rana Harchand Raithththa of Latur lost their lives in the battle. However, the battles were not always one-sided. The Lohranas of Lohgadh asked Gandhar’s Rana Raghupal to recapture Lam. Dada Harpal and others defeated Sabuktigin and reestablished the authority of the Lohranas. However, with his many conquests of the land of the Lohranas, Muhammed of Gazni was able to incorporate the Lohranas into his service and eventually converting many of them to Islam. However, he did not succeed in conquering Lohkot of Dada Vasupal which is an indication of the kind of power base some Lohranas were able to sustain. The history books note the fall of Gazni as well as the part that Khokhar tribe played in the battle and how they and their allies slew thousands of Muslim invaders in a few minutes 10. Further Chapter 10 focuses on “the dance of the war” which accounts for massive loss of lives on both invading and defending sides. Vincent Smith’s The Oxford History of India, 1923 Oxford, At the Clarendon Press, refers to this invasion. See p.190. 10 Ibid., p.191. 9
History of Lohanas 13 _______________________________________________________________________ _ Although this narrative is replete with various examples to show that Muslims were attacking India and thus displacing the Lohranas, Thakkar does not express the slightest expression of animosity towards Islam as a religion. Chapter 10 contains various statements on Islam which highlight the magnitude of religious tolerance among the Lohranas. In criticising the oppression which the Islamic invaders carried out, the author does not make conventional and stereotypical statements against Islam. He criticises the invaders for their ruthless cruelty which, he argues, Islam does not teach ! Some of these passages (pp. 153 et.el) are most remarkable examples of the distinction which the Lohana historian has made between religion and politics and between ideology and political practices. In the context of his liberal and tolerant attitude to Islam, Thakkar describes a number of episodes which depict the dynamic between Islamic aggression and Lohana resistance. There is also a triumphal dimension to resistance whenever the Lohranas defeat their enemies. However, the fact that Muslim invaders were eventually successful in undermining the power of the Lohrana kingdoms emerges as a categorical theme. Chapter 10 describes an additional episode in which Harpal Dev, with a well-trained Lohrana army of 100,000 defeated Masood. These wars which lasted for several centuries created legends about those Lohranas who gave great sacrifices in battles to save their kingdoms. There is a story about Vachchraj . A rabid dog bit him on his foot during a battle. To save himself from poisoning, he bit off the flesh which cut off one of his veins, leaving him permanently lame. According to Thakkar, there is a monument in the memory of Vachchraj in Afghanistan. The local Afghans believe that water that washes this monument still cures bites from rabid dogs. When the Lohranas began to migrate to Sindh and eventually to Kutch and Kathiawad, they transmitted this legend to their new homes where the belief in Vachchrajâ€™s power to cure rabid dog bites persists. According to the author, the descendants of these brave Lohranas are still known as Hindu Pakhtunlala. They own land and trade in asafoetida ( pp.166-168). Thakkar continues his narrative of battles between the Loharanas and Muslim invaders which captures the complexity of interaction between the two sides and further conversion and incorporation of the Lohranas into armies and service of their new overlords. Dada Harpal Dev had defeated Masoodâ€™s army and sustained his autonomy victoriously. Salarshah Jalal, the Shah of Kabul sent his commander Firoz Durani to deal with Harpal Dev. When the two opponents met, they decided to make a treaty of friendship. After the
14 Warriors and Merchants ____________________________________________________________ documents of the treaty were exchanged, Durani offered a glass of milk to Hardev Pal as a mark of good will. The milk was poisoned to ensure that Harpal Dev would find it difficult if not impossible to urinate. When he did not come out the tent, his soldiers became suspicious and rushed to the tent to find out what had happened. A battle broke out between two sides in which Harpal Dev fell down from his horse. Durani’s soldiers pierced his body with many spears but he did not lose his life. Durani himself came upto him and asked him why was he still holding onto life and if he had any last wish. Harpal Dev said that he was keeping alive to kick Durani for his trickery. Durani threw his spear at him to kill him. Dada Harpal Dev caught the spear and threw it back towards Durani ,wounding his shoulder and calling him a dirty dog. Then a Lohrana who had converted to Islam came to Harpal and promised to restore his urinary function if he converted to Islam. Harpal slew him with his dagger and the Muslim Lohrana lost his life instantly. By then , Dada Vachchraj had arrived with his troops to assist Harpal Dev. He pursued Firoz Durani and eventually speared him to death. He then brought Firoz’s corpse to Harpal Dev who kicked it before he died, thus fulfilling his desire to see his treacherous opponent dead. To this day Pakhtuni Lohranis, the women, sing songs to remember Dada Hardev Pal’s extraordinary gallantry. In contrast to Hardev Pal and Vacchraj’s fighting spirit and courage, the affairs of the Lohranas of Gandhar took a different and disastrous turn when Shah Jalal’s large Bidayu and Arab troops attacked Gandhar in 1047. In fierce fight that occurred, Lohranas lost out. Rana Raghupal was speared to unconsciousness althrough both Lohrana men and Lohrani women fought bravely to protect their kingdom. As Thakkar notes with a touch of melancholy, the Hindu Kingdom of Gandhar was to turn into an Islamic city Kandhar. Lohranas in the Sindhukhet battle were to encounter the same Bidayu and Arab commanders . Although Rana Vasupal and his troops fought bravely, they lost out to their enemies who tricked them first into believing that they were surrendering and then attacked them fiercely to eliminate them and a large population of Sindhukhet. Rana Vasupal continued fighting although his skull had been already fractured. His soldiers rescued him and at the same time speared Bismargin to death . Every effort was made to revive Vasupal but he lost his life. As Sindhukhet fell, many Lohrana women fought to protect the place and eventually lighted pyres to commit Johar - collective self-immolation. The loss of Sindhukhet after Gandhar stirred Lohranas to do all they could to contain the waves of attacks which were weakening their hold over their kingdoms. Vir Dada Jasraj : A Model of Kshatriya Hero among the Lohranas
History of Lohanas 15 _______________________________________________________________________ _ Thakkar’s extended narrative on the battles between Lohranas and various Islamic invaders is not unproblematic as the evidence he presents is lacking in internal cohesion and consistency for high credibility. However, in assessing this material, one needs to refresh the distinction between remembered and factual histories which influence the conception groups and individuals who develop particular set of ideas about themselves. It is this perspective which enables us to appreciate the significance which the Lohanas attach to Vir Dada Jasraj as a charismatic hero who expresses the essence of Kshatriya, par excellence. According to Thakkar’s narrative, after Vasupal’s death, there was a question of succession to the throne of Lohkot. Vachchraj, who had fought bravely and lost his leg during one of the wars, was the rightful heir to the throne. However, he declined to be enthroned as lack of fullness of his limbs disqualified him in theory from assuming the affairs of the state. Therefore what he did was to have his younger brother Dada Vir Jasraj. enthroned as a new chief of the Lohkot kingdom. When he assumed power, he vowed to regain the domains which the Lohranas had lost out to Islamic invaders. As a mark of their sorrow for the loss of their domains and population , the Loharanas were going to wear a black strip over their turban as a mark of kalank, a stigma they had incurred. Dada Vir Jasraj vowed to regain these territories and associated military and political influence of the Lohranas. Jasraj began to organise his statecraft to contend with the possibilities of further Islamic invasion as well as to urge Loharanas to consolidate their defences. According to Thakkar’s account, his men infiltrated the surrounding Islamic domains to collect intelligence and to generally create a sense of unease and insecurity among the local populations. As a consequence of his strategy, the ruler of Kabul, Shah Jalal was worried about the state of his kingdom. At this juncture, Chengizkhan and his Mongol army were sweeping their way to Afghanistan and Punjab. When Vir Jasraj learned about this Mongol invasion, he encountered Chengizkhan in a battle near Multan. With the loss of thousands of lives on both the sides (Lohanas lost about 20,000 men), Vir Jasraj and his men fought ferociously and Jasraj managed to spear Chenkizkhan to death. This victory spurred Vir Jasraj into further military action at Kabul which was under the headship of Jalaludoula. Vir Jasraj went to Kabul disguised as a nobleman who dealt in buying and selling horses. He and his troops then attacked the local ruler and Vir Jasraj beheaded him too in
16 Warriors and Merchants ____________________________________________________________ Kabul. There were many Lohranas in Kabul who had converted to Islam. Vir Jasraj arranged for them to be reconverted to the Hindu fold and eventually consolidated his position in the Lohar Paradesh. Thakkar also deals with internal strife and conflict among the Lohana chiefs in Chapter 18. More than anything else, this chapter shows clearly that not withstanding their common origin, the Lohranas constituted a whole range of different and competing political and military communities. Thakkar aptly titles this particular chapter as “the storm of internal strife”. It records a family dispute between Meghraj of Laturgadh and Rana Karanpal of Bijnor. It appears as if the Rana of Bijnor decided not to accept Meghraj’s daughter in marriage - an alliance which may have been arranged in advance. This created a dispute which led to an armed conflict. Meghraj, the Rana of Latur allied with a Bidayu Muslim who had attempted to undermine the Lohranas to attack Rana Karanpal of Bijnor. Vachchraj came to support the Rana of Bijnor almost at the same time when he himself was being threatened with a battle by Raisingh Kotecha. Whatever interests were involved in the formation of such a complex conflict, what is clear is that the Loharanas were by no means constituted a unified political kingdom. The second point which is worth noting is the nature of the relationship between Lohranas and Muslim chiefs. The conventional division between Hindus and Muslims may indicate a dichotomy between the religious communities. However, what is most significant is that religious differences were not always identical with political differences and Lohrana kings were, therefore able to recruit support from Muslim rulers in conditions where their military and political interests prevailed over religious issues. Recent history of Punjab also illustrates , not a dichotomous, but a complex relationship between religion and political groups. Be that as it may, Vir Jasraj intervened in the conflict between Meghraj and Rana Karanpal . However, for his association with Bidayu Muslims which brought about the fall of Bijnor, when Meghraj returned to his Latur kingdom, his wife killed him with a spear for his treachery. The enemies of Latur rushed in to make a gain. Women , Lakshma and Kamladevi fought to save Latur against overwhelming odds. Vir Jasraj and his troops arrived in time to save Latur from the Bidayus. The event for which the Lohanas still remember Dada Vir Jasraj occurred when he was getting married at Unadkot after his glorious victories in the war. Just as his family were arranging his wedding, Bidayu soldiers came to Unadkot. They entered the village and drove all the cattle away with them. Sindhusharma, one of Jasraj’s commander pursued them and encountered them outside Unadkot . In a stormy battle, Bidayus beheaded Sindhusharma.
History of Lohanas 17 _______________________________________________________________________ _ His faithful horse brought his torso back to the place where Vir Jasraj was about to perform his duty as a bridegroom. As soon as he saw Sindhusharma’s torso, he threw away his wedding gear and mounted his horse to pursue the Bidayus with a band of his soldiers. He drove the Bidayus out and brought the cattle back to Unadkot. However, an enemy Bidayu had disguised himself as a Lohrana Hindu. He came to Vir Jasraj and first bowed before him. In the next instant he drew his sward and beheaded Vir Jasraj, and he himself being put to death at that very instant by Vir Jasraj’s faithful commander. According to the traditional narrative, on the fourth day after Vir Jasraj’s murder, the Bidayus rushed to Unadkot which was the last seat of the Lohrana power after the fall of Lam. The enemies were able to use fire power against the Lohranas. Even Vir Jasraj’s sister Harkar Pabaru held a bloodstained sword as she defended the last Lohrana Kingdom. So did Dhara Singh Ganatra who slew many Bidayus to death. Harkar Pabaru injured and slew Salabat Khan, one of the leaders of the Bidayus. However, his supporter Zulfikar brought further reinforcements to Unadkot which finally fell to the Bidayus. His troops entered the settlement and carried out looting and destruction and a gruesome massacre that saw the end of the Lohrana power in the area. In Chapter 22 of his narrative, Thakkar notes that Vir Jasraj lives as a legend in Sindh. According to a local legend, there were two pirs, Islmaic holymen in 12th century.. They were Changa Pir and Mangha Pir. Sindhi Lohanas believe that these pirs were reincarnations of Vir Dada Jasraj and his dear and brave horse Lalu. The location where the pirs were buried is 10 miles from Karachi in Pakistan. There is a pond near the burial place. Locals identify it as the “crocodile pond”. There are two large crocodiles with gold ring in their nostrils. The local people also believe that the two crocodiles reincarnate Vir Jasraj and his faithful horse Lalu. There is a popular believe that the water of the pond has curative properties. Those who suffer from skin disorders find that a bath in the water of the pond cures them. There were three prospects which the Lohranas faced as their military power eclipsed in what used to be their kingdom. One was the loss of life that occurred both during and after the battles they had fought. The second prospect was conversion to Islam that had already happened as the Islamic rulers began covering the Lohranas from the earliest period. The third prospect was migration away from the area of Islamic hegemony. However, many contemporary Lohanas regard their Kshatriya and martial background
18 Warriors and Merchants ____________________________________________________________ as an essential part of their contemporary identity. It has prompted Thakkar to note this legacy in a powerful statement that he makes when he says, â€œ We the Lohanas the Lohranas (of earlier times) may have become merchants and traders, employees or industrialists or labouring workers, our martial tradition still runs through our bloodâ€?. Lohranas and their Migration to Kutch, Kathiawad and Gujarat : Warriors become merchants and traders As the Lohranas lost their attributes as the holders of power, they began to feel uneasy using the designation Rana associated with the status of warrior chiefs in many parts of north India and the modification of Lohranas to Lohanas coincided with the transformation of their status and communities. In chapter 26 of historical narrative, Thakkar talks about the hijrat, the migration of the Loharanas and the formation of different groups that occurred through conversion , both the processes taking place simultaneously. Thakkar believes that as the Lohranas moved out of the boundaries of their kingdoms, they moved towards Sindh from where they began to migrate further in Kutch, Kathiawad, Gujarat, and no doubt, further afield , as the global movements of the Lohanas would indicate today. Migration and conversion had a profound effect on the Loharana population as it began to change with the passage of time into a variety of different communities. Thakkar lists a number of groups which the Lohranas formed. These include Sikhs, Sodha Rajput, Vajiri Hindu Pathan, Thakur, Parajiya Soni, Depala, Mer, and Meman. These groups ceased to call themselves Lohranas as the historical differentiation progressed further and as new groups began to assume different identities. Conversion to Islam and different Islamic sects is one of the most distinctive change that affected the Lohranas. The Muslim community which is most easily identifiable as having both Lohrana and Lohana origins is the community of Gujarati Khojas or Ismailis as they are more formally known. Thakkar rightly attributes the conversion movement to Pir Saddrudin who spread Ismailism among the Lohanas, possibly in 16th and 17th centuries. He refers to Imam Shah Pirna Pracha as a Khoja text which explicitly documents the conversion of the Lohanas in the follwoing lines: Pir Sadruddin panthaj kiya, jaherkhana makan Pir Saddrudin created a way with a house as a place of worship pahelo khano avi kiyo, Kotada gam nidhan.
History of Lohanas 19 _______________________________________________________________________ _ He opened the first place of worship at Kotada Pir Sadruddin Jaher Thaya, Hindu karya Muslman Pir Sadruddin made himself public and converted Hindus to be Musalman Lohana feri Khoja karya, tene apyo sacho iman Converted Lohanas to Khoja and gave them the right way11 Lohanas and Khojas share a common culture. The evidence of the affinity between the communities is sufficient to confirm a whole range of common patterns including surnames (atak the exogamous subdivision within the jati community). As Thakkar suggests, the process of conversion must have deeply offended the traditional leaders of the Lohanas and when these conversions occurred, the local community were divided and estranged from each other till the converted were able to set up their own religious groups. Now the communities form totally separate units with some tacit recognition of the fact that in times gone by they were a single unitary community. The rise of Islam and Islamic rulers eventually compelled the Lohranas to shed their Kshatriya status as they migrated further and further away from their homelands in the North West Frontier Province to Sindh, Kutch, Gujarat and Kathiawad. As they adapted to mercantile ideology of Gujarati merchant communities, they became Vaishya, the creators of wealth. Their warrior quality or their kshtratva and their spirit of adventure led them to new directions in Gujarat. As many of them integrated into Gujarati mercantile life, they were also able to secure official positions, such as the position of diwan. The position of diwan in princely states of Kutch and Kathiawar endowed them with authority and influence and enabled them to sustain their warrior ideology in everyday life. In modern times, their emergence and success as a mercantile community throughout Gujarat and India, and more recently in East Africa and Europe is a chapter unto itself which should be researched thoroughly so that the factors which helped the Lohanas to accumulate capital can be understood more fully and in details. Besides Hirubhaiâ€™s Thakkarâ€™s interesting historical narrative, there is there is Lohana Hitechchu Suvanrna Mahotsava Gnati Gaurava Granth. Laljibhai Ganatra Memorial Charitable Trust published it in 1970. It has a massive body of material consisting of 990 pages which cover four main sections of the volume. For the purpose of this historical research, I mainly concentrated on the first part which focuses on providing an outline history of the Lohanas 11
.Thakkar, p. 340.
20 Warriors and Merchants ____________________________________________________________ - although undoubtedly the whole volume merits a detailed study and analysis for proper and systematic documentation and the Lohana Research Group may wish to take this up further. One of the most interesting issues in this outline is the question of quest for history that the editors express on behalf of the Lohana community in the first seven pages. This brief narrative points not only to the Lohana perception of history but also to a preoccupation with the history of the community and its background in history of India. In outlining this preoccupation with history, the author shows acute historical perception. He argues that although the Lohanas claim to have descended from Ram, they do not possess a history which is systematic and contentious from the earliest period of their emergence to now. Then the author proceeds to discuss the way in which the concern for the history of the community has been expressed over a period of time. In doing this, he also sets in a form of periodization which point to some of the fundamental changes in the structure of the modern Lohana community.. He talks about sanstha yug or the age of institutions since the Lohanas established Matushri Kanbai Kanyashala, a girls school in 1905 as an institution which was entirely concerned with the education of women in the community. The second institutional feature he refers to is samasta Lohana parishad or the conference of all the Lohanas - these conferences being the focal point for the expression of relative solidarity of the Lohanas as well as their quest for a construction of their own historical background and identity. In 1923 , a competition was held to stimulate historical writing by the Lohanas themselves. A number of publications and counter publications encouraged budding historians to document what they and their families could remember of the history of their own community. Sheth Shree Raghavji Purshottam did an essay which was published under the title apne raghuvamshi ke bavdha which Harilal Ganatra published and invited a counter narrative under the same title by Naryanji Visanji Thakur. Uddhavji Purshottam Thakur produced ohana Utpatti (The Birth of the Lohanas) and Narayanji G. Dosani published Lohana Ratnamala. In 1925 Dayaram Khattau published Raghuvamshi Ratnakar, an account of the Lohanas. In 1931 yuvak samelan or the meeting of the youth had a special section on writing which resolved to have a proper history of the community. Eventually in the caste magazine Lohana Hitechchu Narayan Visanji Thakur started a series of articles to document the history of the Lohanas. He carried out his own historical research by travelling to Sindh for five months at the cost of 1200 rupees. He also bought books worth 400 expressing the sentiment for a proper history of the community. He had a relatively modernist conception of
History of Lohanas 21 _______________________________________________________________________ _ history based on research, on collection of relevant material by a proper employment of a historian to perform this task. Impressed by his ideas a Lohana merchant in Rangoon presented him with a golden fountain pen worth 1000 rupees with a purse of 500 rupees for his labour. Visanji recruited cusotmers who would buy his historical work to be produced in three parts. Those who had paid their instalments were eventually disappointed to learn that the historian had died without completing his scholarly mission. Laljibhai Ganatra had asserted the improtance of the lineage of Rama as an important part of the history of the Lohanas but had reminded them to produce a systematic history of the community which will show that it was an entity in existence from the earliest Vedic times. He himself passed away in 1957 and the history in the current volume was produced by a non-Lohana, a certain Motilal Kanjia. Concluding Remarks The research that has been carried out for this report is best seen as a primary step towards documenting and systematising a history of the Lohanas from the sources which the community has produced throughout the course of this century. As the reader will notice, among the three sources examined, Harubhai Thakkar’s book provides a rich body of material. While it is perfectly acceptable that the professional historians will be greatly concerned with what they call historical facts - facts backed up by proper documentary and other evidence, the question of “facts”, for instance, with reference to Harubhai Thakkar’s narrative is largely irrelevant. His narrative is a history of consciousness - a history of an entire community and its perception of itself as a collective entity that has changed from its Kshatriya and warrior past to its middle class mercantile and professional present through a series of transformations that has seen rapid modernisation of the community in recent years. It is well-known that the process of modernisation and adoption of life consonant with modernity often threatens traditional identities. Communities which have a minority status in the UK perceive this threat much more acutely as they see the weight of the majority shaping their life, especially the life of their children which can separate or even estrange them from their tradition. Hence the knowledge of the past is a vital element in their present quest for identity as they can locate themselves in a time frame relating to their ancient Indian background and their place in the modern world which they can accept with confidence as , with the certainty of their past, they can confidently face their future as members of the Lohana community with pride and self-esteem.
22 Warriors and Merchants ____________________________________________________________ Some suggestions for future Research There were only three Gujarati sources which were explored for this provisional and primary report. In order to consolidate the history of the community, the group should consider extending this research project so that a number of additional objectives can be achieved. First of all, given the serious commitment that that groups has made to this project both in terms of time and funding, I think the group should consider building up a collection of documents that relate to the past and present state of the Lohana communities. In her report Dr Katherine Prior has suggested further study of Gujarati Language documents. Mr Nizar Kanji has also obtained a photocopy of a volume titled Lohana Ratnavali which he proposes to make available for further study. An investigation of these additional resources should help the group to consolidate the knowledge of historical background of both earlier and modern period so that the entry of the Lohana community, especially in the business world can be assessed more fully and its significance explained much more in the context of what we already know about the economic profile of Indian minorities in the United Kingdom. The research can expand the two related areas of investigation. This report outlines the history of the Lohanas as the warriors and Kshatriya who fought bravely to sustain their military and political power against overwhelming odds they faced from their aggressors. This narrative can be made a bit more coherent and systematic by bringing together traditional history of the community with documented history of the earlier Hindu and Muslims kingdoms so that the part which the Lohanas played in the evolution of this history can be located more firmly. In contrast to less firmly based body of information about premodern Lohanas, modern documents and records should provide plenty of additional material for documentation of more recent history of the Lohanas as an example of their skilful and successful adaptation to migration and social change since the beginning of this century. This seems to me to be one fruitful venue for further inquiry. In their deeply felt quest for knowing more about the ancient Lohanas, I donâ€™t think the group should overlook the question of history of the Lohanas in the United Kingdom since they began to settle here since the early fifties but especially after the period of decolonisation and expulsion from East and Central Africa I also believe that the history of migration of the Lohanas to East and Central Africa is of critical importance in the history of the Lohanas
History of Lohanas 23 _______________________________________________________________________ _ as it is most likely to provide material relevant for an understanding of their settlement in the United Kingdom. Besides the history of economic social and cultural changes among the Lohanas, in view of a large scale Festival of Spiritual Unity organised by the leading members of the community in August 1994, it is equally important to recognise the importance religion. especially bhakti marg in the lives of Lohanas over a period of past 25 to 30 years or more. This particular focus can entail looking into the lives of well-known Lohana saints from Jalaram Bapa to Hirji Bapa of Nakuru and Rambapa of Kampala and more recently of Golders Green. I consider this particular facet of research interesting and important for linking the warrior and merchant status of the Lohanas in influencing their attitude to religious and spiritual values. With special interest in bhakti among the Gujaratis, I am particularly keen to develop this research further.
Published on Jun 18, 2011