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The Multifarious Faces of Sikhism throughout Sikh History
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Jat Sikhs

Time of origin: During the times of Akali Guru Hargobind (early 1600s, as he gradually militarized Sikhism in the early 1600s)

Sikhism at the racial and caste level also has varieties. For each racial group that adopted Sikhism, be they Khatri, Tarkhan, Jat, Labana, Pappa, etc., each has brought its own ‘Jati’ (racial) culture with them.

The Ten Sikh Gurus
The Sikh Gurus, who belonged to the 'Khatri' caste

This is particularly true of the largest Sikh racial group - the Jats. There are said to be over three thousand Jat clans on the Asian continent. These clans reside mainly in North India and Pakistan. The vast majority of them can be considered to be Sikhs. Some historians speak of Jats as ‘Aryan’ clans who originally came from central Asia to India. An ancient Indian myth speaks of Jat origins from Shiva’s Jats (matted hair). Regardless of which tale of origin one accepts, Jats have resided in Northern India for a very long time.

A folio from Adi Guru Durbar commissioned by Sodhi Bhaan
Singh (center circle, seated left), depicting Chandi - named Mahakali (center, mounted
on a tiger), Shiva - named 'Mahakal' (center, trampling a foe), and the Sikh Gurus, circa 1839

In the great Indian epic, the 'Mahabharat', there are references to numerous Jat clans in northern India. Jats were initially war-like clans engaged in feudal wars over land. At one time they ruled lands all over northern India and beyond, even as far as modern day Iran. History recounts that Alexander the Great had to over come the obstinate war like Jats in order to subdue the Punjab. According to Indian tradition, the great Alexander was beaten on the plains of the Indus by Raja Porus (circa 326 BC), a powerful Emperor who can be considered the greatest Indian general of all time.

Raja Porus
A coin marking the encounter between Alexander the Great and the mighty Raja Porus

General Sir John J. H. Gordon wrote of the difficulties the Muslims encountered during their conquests of the Punjab:

At every step taken by the Mohamedan invaders from the north they encountered the Jats, who showed themselves a power to be reckoned with. They so vigorously opposed Mahmud’s army in the passage of the Indus, and harassed his line of march that he had in person to lead his troops against them in 1207. The famous Tamerlane in the fourteenth century, at the head of his mighty Tartar host, felt their weight, and waged a war of extermination against them: while the Emperor Baber in his Memoirs writes in 1525 that in all his expeditions into India he was assailed by multitudes of Jits. These Afghan and Moghul invaders knew them by the name of Jits, but they were known in the Punjab as Jats. Their early settlements were along the whole valley of the Indus from the north down to Sindh. Pliny and Ptolemy in their writings mention the Jati of these regions. By the Sixteenth century they had spread over the Punjab to the deserts of Rajputana and south to the banks of the Jumna as the results of wars and tumults following the Moslem invasions, when they were brushed aside for the time.’
‘The Sikhs’, by General Sir John J. H. Gordon, 1883, Pa. 8-9

Alexander the Great
Detail from the Alexander mosaic from the House of the Faun,
Pompeii, circa 80 B.C. National Archaeologic Museum, Naples, Italy

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