One has often seen the terms ‘Gurjara’ and Gujjar’ being used interchangeably. Do both terms mean the same thing? If that were the case, then why are these two terms different instead of having just one standard term? A deep dive into history throws up clear answers and tell us the difference between Gurjara pradesh and Gujjar community.
If we go back into history, one of the first mentions of ‘Gurjara’ in Harshacharita, a Sanskrit work authored by King Harsha’s court poet Bana around 640 AD. The relevant verse describes the military success of king Prabhakarvardhan against kings of various regions including Sindhu, Gandhara, Malava and Gurjara (Glory that was Gurjaradesa, p. 3 )The Aihole inscription of Pulkeshi II from 634 AD also mentions Gurjara in similar vein as poet Bana, discussing
how Pulkeshi II defeated the kings of Malavas, Lata and Gurjara (No. 1, Epigraphica Indica Vol VI). That Gurjara denotes a region is made clear by another noted traveller Hiuen Tsang, who mentions visiting an area, Ku-che-lo which was also known as Gurjara, which was then ruled by Chavda Rajputs in 6 th to 7 th century AD (The History and Culture of Indian people Vol-3, p. 154). In recent times, the use of the title Gurjar Naresh, can be found in the princely state of Baroda. Even though the rulers of Baroda were Marathas, they used the title of Gurjar Naresh because they ruled over the territories of the erstwhile Gurjara region.
Has anyone ever heard of a Gurjara Brahmin? The Tasgaon plate inscription of Yadav ruler Krishna in 1172 AD mentions a Gurjara Brahmin named Satananda of Krishnatreya gotra. The text refers to Satananada who is a Brahmin from the Gurjara region. If Gurjara wasacaste, it would not have been confused with Brahmins.This reference also helps us understand why Gurjara was a region and not a caste ( Epigraphica Indica Vol XXVII, p.208-9 ).
However, the earliest mention of the word “Gurjara” is from the 8 th century Kuvalayamala Kaha written by Jain monk Udyotana Suri. It mentions Gurjaras alongside Saindhavs, Latas, Malvas, which clearly mean people from Gurjara, Sindh,Lata, Malwa respectively. The communities it mentions include Kshatriyas, Brahmins, Vaishyas, Bhils, Kiratas, Ordas, Gonda, Pulinda, Shabara but no Gujjars [Read here].
A literary work, Kumarpalaprabandha, written in the 12 th century by the court chroniclers ofone of the greatest rulers of the Chalukya dynasty, Kumarpala Solanki, mentions 36 clans of Kshatriyas but there is no Gujara in that list. The mention of Gujara comes in the form of Gurjaradharitri and Gurjaratraikdeshe as regions in Gujarat. It also mentions Vadhiyardeshe and Panchasargrame for the region around Patan in Gujarat ( Kumarpal Prabandh (12 th Century CE) ). Jammu and Kashmir has a Gujjar population of around 10 lakhs as per the 2011 Census. Yet the 12th century historical chronicle, Rajatarangini, written by Kalhana mentions many tribes including Khas, Bhutiyas and Dards but there is no mention of “Gurjara tribe”.
Other instances of Gurjara being used happens much later when the term is used for communities from a particular region e.g. Gurjar Kshatriyas, Gurjar Vanias, Gurjar Jains, and Gurjar Suthars. All of them can trace their origins from Gujarat and speak the Gujarati language. What is interesting to note is that even though they belong to the same region, they are neither related to the Gujjar community nor speak the Gojri language. These Brahmins include Srimali,Pareek, Gaur, and Vyas among others ( Check http://www.pareeksamaj.com/…/brahmin…/gurjar-gour-samaj.html ).
It was only towards the 20 th century that the term ‘Gurjara’was revived by KM Munshi, who was India’s leading writer and historian. He was a Gurjar Vyas Brahmin who wonderfully captured the subject of distinction between Gurjara and Gujjar in his “Glory that was Gurjara Desa”.Many eminent Gujarati personalities from the 20 th century were members of the Gurjara Sabha whose aim was to revive Gurjara’s regional identity and promote Gurjara bhasha
(Gujarati). Both Mahatma Gandhi and Jinnah were key speakers at the Gurjara Sabha. On January 14, 1915, Jinnah lauded Gandhi and went to the extent of saying that, “Every Gurjar on earth is proud of Gandhi”(Read here). Another example of Gurjara referred as a region. So how did the regional identity “Gurjara” come to be appropriated by a particular caste unrelated to that region. The time has come to put facts in the public domain and ask valid questions.