Introduction / History
The Jat people are a historical Indo-Aryan tribal group native to the Punjab region.
The Jats rose to prominence following the 1669 Jat uprising against Mughal rule, and they ruled various princely states throughout the 18th century. After 1858, under the British Raj, the Jats were known for their service in the Indian Army, being categorized as a "martial race" by the British, specifically in the Jat Regiment, the Punjab Regiment and the Sikh Regiment.
There is some evidence connecting the Jats and the Romani people, the descendants of Indo-Aryan groups which emigrated from India towards Central Asia during the medieval period.
The Jats have apparently formed during the centuries following the collapse of the Kushan Empire, during the early medieval period. They are assumed to be the product of admixture of Indo-Scythian elements to local Indo-Aryan groups.
There are very few records concerning Jats prior to the 17th century. There are records of Jat states in Rajasthan (the north Rajasthan region, then known as Jangladesh). It is not known when the Jat people established themselves in the Indian desert. By the 4th century they had spread to the Punjab.
According to earlier censuses, the Jat people accounted for approximately one-quarter of the entire Sindhi-Punjabi speaking area, making it the "largest single socially distinctive group" in the region.
Jat people are considered a forward class in all the states of India with those of Punjabi or Haryana origin.
The Jat people are one of the most prosperous groups in India on a per-capita basis (Punjab, Haryana, and Gujarat are the wealthiest of Indian states). Haryana has the largest number of rural crorepatis (similar to "millionaires") in India, all of whom are Jats.
Traditionally Jats have dominated as the political class in Haryana and Punjab. A number of Jat people belonging to the political classes have produced many political leaders, including the 6th Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh.
A large number of the Jat Muslim people live in Pakistan and have dominant roles in public life in the Punjab and Pakistan in general. In addition to the Punjab, Jat communities are also found in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, in Sindh, particularly the Indus delta and among Seraiki-speaking communities in southern Punjab, the Kachhi region of Balochistan and the Dera Ismail Khan District of the North West Frontier Province.
The Association of Jats of America (AJATA) is the main Jat people organization of North America. It serves as the main body, forum and lobby for Jat people issues in North America.
Where are they located?
In 1931, the date of the last census of the British Raj before the abolition of caste, they were distributed throughout North India, mostly in the Punjab and Rajputana. Today, the largest population centre is located in the Punjab region, Haryana and Rajasthan; there are smaller distributions across the world, due to the large immigrant diaspora. In the immigrant diaspora major populations centers include the U.K., U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, Russia, Belgium and Australia.
What are their lives like?
The life and culture of Jats is full of diversity and approaches most closely to that ascribed to the traditional Central Asian colonists of South Asia. The Jat lifestyle was designed to foster a martial spirit. Whenever they lost their kingdoms, Jat people retired to the country-side and became landed barons and the landlords with their swords girded round their waists. They would draw the sword out of the scabbard at the command of their panchayat to fight with the invaders.
Jat people have a history of being brave and ready fighters. They are fiercely independent in character and value their self respect more than anything, which is why they offered heavy resistance against any foreign force that treated them unjustly. They are known for their pride, bravery and readiness to sacrifice their lives in battle for their people and kinsmen. In the government of their villages, they appear much more democratic. They have less reverence for hereditary right and a preference for elected headmen.
Sikh and Muslim Jat people from the Punjab mostly speak Punjabi and its various dialects (such as Maajhi, Malwi, Doabi, Saraiki, Pothohari, and Jhangochi).
The Jat people are required to marry within their community. The Joint family system was popular amongst the Jats and large families use to share the same house and hearth. With the advancement of modern civilization, as people are becoming less dependent upon and less tolerant towards each other, the joint family system is going out of vogue. It was still prevalent in the less advanced areas in the 1930s. Jat marriage ceremonies are traditionally conducted in according with Vedic rituals. The Jats are required to marry within their community. Widow marriage is not only permitted and practiced but is also a social obligation.
Historical records show from 1000 AD, when the population of jats was small and marrying within ones own gotra was not encouraged. However, from about 1650 AD onwards marrying within same gotra became more common. Scholars have reasoned this had to do with the size of the Jat population becoming much bigger and the chances of being related to someone, in the same gotra, became very small. The modern day yard stick (check) that Jat people use in marriage now is if the girl and boy do not have the same great-great-grandparents (not related for 4 generations). If they have the same gotra but are not directly related for 4 generations then it is considered acceptable.
What are their beliefs?
The census in 1931 in India recorded population on the basis of ethnicity. In 1925, the population of Jats was around nine million in South Asia and was made up of followers of three major religions: Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism. Today there is a small group of adherents to Christianity, especially Jats living in the in UK.