Ghorewaha

Ghorewaha are now a purely a Hindu caste found in Indian Punjab. They say that they have descended from Kachwaha Rajputs but this claim appears to be dubious at best. There is also a town called Ghorewaha in Hoshiarpur district but present day Ghorewahas own almost no land there. In general, Ghorewahas claim origin from an apparently turncoat Rajput who sided with the Muslim conqueror Shahabuddin Ghori against Hindus and was able to gain a small estate from him in Hoshiarpur area as a reward. This is based on the oral legend fondly retold by community elders. There is, however, almost no citable detail in this oral legend which would link this caste group with the royal Kachwaha line of erstwhile Jaipur state in any believable way. As the tale goes, the forefahters of Ghorewahas were two Kachwaha brothers from Kot Kurman or Udaipur who came to Punjab in "Sambat 1130 or 1170 AD" . Later, it is said, they had pleased Shabauddin Ghori to such an extent with their services that he granted them as much land as they could possibly cover on a horse in one day.

This is how this fantastic tale is given in the colonial era work of Denzil Ibbetson et al (a non-academic and an atrociously unreliable source). It is also to be noted that Shahabuddin Ghori's relations with Rajputs were anything but friendly . In fact, as told by the bardic work Prithviraj Raso, Ghori he is universally regarded by Rajputs as one of the greatest villains of the Rajput history for having defeated the Hindu emperor Prithviraj Chauhan using deceit. However, it is possible that some opportunistic Hindus sided with him treacherously against their own community and were suitably rewarded by Ghori in some way.

This legend of origin from Kachwahas is almost certainly apocryphal as Udaipur was not founded until almost 400 years after this claimed date of migration. Further, Kachwahas of Jaipur or their predecessors have never been linked with Udaipur or any neighboring area by any serious historian. At the time of the said migration of these "Kachwaha Rajput brothers" , even Amber, the older capital of Kachwahas, had not yet been founded. Therefore, this oral history of Kachwaha Rajput origin is quite apparently a fib invented much later to gain social mobility. In all likelihood, the caste name "Ghorewaha" is eponymously derived from the name of Shahabuddin Ghori himself. The change of clan name to "Ghorewaha" as a derivative of "Ghori" thus may be reflective of the past loyalty of the clan to Ghori and a ploy to gain legitimacy among the ruling Muslim class of the time. It is also not certain if the progenitors of the clan actually belonged to any bonafide Rajput lineage as the term came to be understood later. The term "Rajput" in the context of Punjab's sociology is mainly used to reflect the land ownership rights and not necessarily any royal bloodline in the Hindu ritual framework (as in Rajputana).

The Muslim section of this caste which constituted the majority within it migrated to Pakistan in 1947. Almost all of the land ownership and Zaildari positions of this caste group actually belonged to this Muslim section, with the poorer subaltern Hindu section largely riding on the social coat tail of the Muslim section. It is only natural that the Muslim section would have had a superior social status as they were the beneficiaries of the convention of Mughal rule whereby Hindus who converted to Islam were granted estates and those who didn't were gradually pauperized through Jaziya and dispossession of property.

From the Hindu and Sikh standpoint any convert to Islam claiming true or false Rajput origin was derogatorily called "Ranghar". In Haryana region this term was used mainly for Chauhan Rajputs converted to Islam who were considered degraded by observant Hindu Rajputs. In the Jalandhar and Bari Doab areas of Punjab , however, this term was disparagingly used for just about any formerly Hindu clan which claimed Rajput origin. Hence Muslim Ghorewahas were also known as "Ranghar" by Sikhs who dispossessed them of most of the estates their forefathers had gained from Muslim rulers for their services against Hindu resistance. It would not be out of context to mention here that one of the most despised characters in Sikh history is a man named Massa Ranghar. Massa Ranghar had sacrileged Hari Mandir Sahib (Golden Temple). Therefore, mutual hatred and rivalrly between Sikhs and Ranghars was intense. This also explains why no Muslim Ghorewaha chose to remain back in the Indian Punjab after partition.

References:

  1. Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North West Frontier Province, Sir Denzil Ibbetson, Maclagan , Asian Educational Services, 1990

  2. Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, Harbans Singh, 2002