Historical Background-

  • Col.Mackenzie in his account of the Banjara community remarks "It is certain that Chárans whoever they were, first rose to demand, which the great armies of Northern India, contending in the exhausted countries, far from their basis of supply, created, viz. the want of a reliable and fearless transport service.
    The start of which the Chárans acquired, they are retained among the Banjaras to this day, though in very much diminshed splendour and position. As they themselves relate, originally they were five brothern, Rathor, Turi, Chavan, Panwar and Jadon, but fortune particularly smiled on Bhika Rathod, as his four sons, Mersi, Multasi, Dheda, Khamdar great names in Charans rose immediately to eminence, a commissariat transporters in North, and not only under the Delhi Emperors but under Satara, sunsequently under Poona Raj and Subhasanship of the Nizam, did several of the decendants rise at consideration and power. It thus seems reasonable hypothesis that the nucleus of Banjara community was constituted by Charans and Bards of Rajputana". Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam also indentifies the Chárans and Banjaras, Col. Mackenzie could not find the exact passage.

  • The following notice by Col. Tone is of interest in this connecion. He states, "The vast consumption that attends the Maratha army necessarily super induces the idea of great supplies, not-with-standing this, the native powers never concern, themselves, about providing for their forces, and had no idea of grain and victualling department, which froms so great an object, in the European campaigns. The Banians or the grain sellers in an Indian army, have always their servants, ahead of the troops, on the line of march to purchase in the circumjacent countries whatever necessaries are to be disposed off. Articles of consumption are never wanting in a native camp, though they are generally twenty five per cent dearer than in the town bazzar, but independent of this mode of supply the Vanjaries or itinerant grain merchants, furnush large quantities, which they bring on bullocks from an immence distance. These are very peculiar race and appear marked and discriminated people from any other. "

  • Mr. Irvine notices, Banjaras with the Mughal armies in the said terms, "It is by these people that the Indian armies in the field are fed, and they are never injured by either armies. The grain is taken but are invaribably paid for. They encamp for safety every evening in a regular square formed of bags of grain, of which they construct a breast work. They and their families are in the centre, and their oxen are made past outside, guards with match-locks and spears are plced at the corners, and their dogs do duty as advance posts. I have seen them with droves of 500 bullocks. They do not move more than two miles an hour, as their cattle are allowed to graze as they proceed on march."

  • One may suppose that Chárans acted as carriers for Rajput Chiefs and Courts both in times of peace and in their continous internal feuds; were pressed into service when Mughal armies entered Rajputana and passed through it to Gujrat and Deccan. In adopting the profession of transport agents for the Imperial troops, they may have been amalgamated into fresh caste, with other Hindus and Mussalmans doing the same work, just as the camp language is formed by super imposition of Persian vocabulary on grammatical basis of Hindi became Urdu or Hindustani.

  • The Cháran Bajaras, Mr. Cumberledge states came to Deccan with Asafkhan, in the campaign, which closed with the annexation, by Emperor Shahjahan, Ahmednagar and Berar about 1630 AD. Their leaders were Bhángi and Jánghi of Rathor and Bhagwandas of Jadon clan. Bhángi and Jánghi had 18,000 pack bullocks and Bhagwan Das had 52,000. It was naturally an object with Asaf Ali to keep his commissariat well-up with his force.

  • And as Bhángi and Jánghi made diffculties, with the supply of grass and water to their cattle, he gave them an order engraved on copper, in letters of gold to the following effect:
    "Ránganká Páni
    Chapperka ghás
    Din ke Tin khun Muáf
    Aur Jhan Asaf Khan ke ghore
    Wahan Bhángi Jánghi ke bail"

    Which may be rendered as follows, "If you find no water elsewhere, you may take it even from the pots of my followers, grass you make take even from the roofs of thier huts, I will pardon you, upto three murders a day, provided whereever I find my cavalry, Bhángi and Jánghi's bullocks shallbe with them."

  • This grant is still in possesion, with the Bhángi Naik's decendants, who live at Musi near Hingoli. He is recognised as the head, Naik of Banjara Community and on his death his successor received the Khillat or Dress of Honour from His Highness of Nizam. Both Bhángi and Bhagwandas (of Jadon clan) were slain in feud and Jadons captured the standard consisting of eight thans of cloth, which was annually presented by Nizam to Bhángi's decendants.

  • Mr. Cumberledge wrote in 1869, this standard was in possession of Naik; a decendants of Bhagwan Das, who had an estate near Muchi Bunder in Madras Presidency.

  • In 1791-92, Banjaras were employed to supply grain to the British army under the Marquis of Cornwalis during the seize of Sering Pattam, and the Duke of Welligton regularly engaged them as a part of commissariate staff of his army. On one occasion he said of them, "Banjaras, I look upon in the light of servants of public, whose grain I have right to regulate sale, always taking care that they have proportionate advantage."

  • They were first prominently noticed, about at the end of the nineteenth century, during the wars between Maratha & Tipu Sultan, when immense number of them were employed by the armies of both sides, as forgers and transporters of supplies required for the troops. They are to be met with all over Mysore wandering gangs accompanied by large herd of bullocks especially in the hilly and forest tracts, where there are a few good roads. They do not keep fixed to one place, but move from place to place, according to the demand for their services in gang of twelve to thirty families including twenty five to one twenty men, women and children.

  • Banajara the caravan men are found all over the districts of Maharashtra. they say they came from Bombay and Karnataka when and why they do not know. In south of the district of Akola (Balapur) are Vanjaries and Banjaras, the two are absolutely distinct. The Vanjari hold Patilki of sixteen villages in the north of Wasim taluka, all bearing a kind of allegiance to a "Naik" or the Patil of Rajpura. In former days, considerable trade between Noth India and the seaboard passed through the district of Ahmednagar. The carriers were a class of Vanjaras called as Lamans, owners of herds of bullocks ,but since the opening of the two lines of the Great Indian Peninsula Railways the course of traffic has changed. The trade is almost entirely carried on by means of permanent market. Lamans or Vanjaries, pass through the district of Ratnagiri (Sawantwadi), along the trade routes between the coast and the Deccan. Carriers of grain and salt on pack-bullocks, they generally pass rains in Deccan and after the early harvest is over, come to the coast. They generally make two trips each fair season. Formerly they were a very large class, but since the opening of the hill-passes fit for the carts, the demand for their services has in great part ceased.

  • Banjaras of Berar ( Vidharb & Varhad) are the same people as the Lambadies of Madras Presidency and the Manaris mentioned by Tavernier. They are supposed to be the people, mentioned by Arrian in the 4th century B.C., as leading wandering life, dwelling in tents and letting out their beasts of burden.
  • The roads even though the most wild and unhealthy were traversed by troops of pack bullock, after several hundreds in number and sometimes numbering in thousands. They belong to a peculiar class of people named Banjara,who are both traders and carriers. they travelled at considerable expenses; at some risk of human life and health and with great wear and tear of cattle and carriage, the distance maximum 339 miles from Raipur via aran & Sonpur to Cuttack and Raipur to Ganjam, (Central Provinces)

  • The Banjaras in Sarkar of Basim (Washim) are mentioned in the Ain-i-Akbari, as being under the headship of a women and it is known from the change of surname, among the local Naiks, who have their head-quarters in Parbhani district in Hyderabad State (then, now in Maharashtra), that the office has been decendend atleast once in a female line.

  • That the deshmukhs of Basim (Washim) received in the seventeenth century a large number of grants and perqusities from Mughal emperors and the family has always been of some consideration in the South Berar. From the Imperial Gazzatteer of India - Khandesh District, we get information that Vanjaries or Lamans, the pack-bullock carriers of the former and Gypsies of the present times have suffered much from the increased use of carts and the introduction of railways.

  • We learn from the book " Punjab Castes" by Ibetson ,1916, that they were the great travelling traders and carriers of the Central India, the Deccan and Rajputana; under the Moghal and Afghan Empires were the commissariats of the Imperial forces. In anarchical times, when breaks of feuds of the petty governors, would drive the Jats and Gujars to seek temporary abiding place away from their ancestral villages, Laohans would stand their ground and perhaps improve their grasp, over the best lands in the villages in which their less provident, and short sighted lords of Manor, had permitted them in some former period to take their abode or purposes of commerce. Several cases of this nature came into the light, during the settlement, and in most of them the strength and spirit of progress were as apparent in the Labhanas, as were opposite, qualities, conspicuous, in their Gujar opponents.

  • Places like Bareilly, Tanda, Sujavli, Parganas, Kharigarh, Philbit, Bijnor, Jaunpur, Saharanpur, Kanchangarh from Oudh and United Provinces, inhabited by a large number of Banajaras from the time immemorial, leads us to doubt, if it was their original home. If we go through the historical events , our doubts are confirmed. Fox example Tanda-North Eastern Tehsil f Faijabad district (U.P), Tanda town in the Suhar Tehsil of the State of Rampur (United Provinces) the place, as its name implies, was originally an encampment of Banjaras of grain carriers, who still form the chief inhabitants.They purchased the unhusked rice in the Kumaun Hills or Terai and carried it to Tanda on ponies. There it was husked by the women and taken to Murarabad by the railway station. It ecame one of the most noted weaving centres in India producing muslins which rivalled those of Dacca (This may be the reason, why Banjaras admitted Patwas in their castes, though out-siders). Though never a popular city, Tanda, was always a favourite residence of the Governors of Bengal.

  • Northern Parganas : While Raikwars and Janwars spreading themselves over thus west and east, the North was still held by the hill-chiefs and the tribes of the Banjaras, who under the cover of wood penetrated further south. The Sujauli-Pargana of this time i.e. prior to 1816 A.D. was almost entirely held by Banjaras, who refused to pay tribute to any one.

  • In 1814 A.D. the attitude assumed by the Naipal government towards the Honorable Company became so aggressive that the war was inevitable. by the third article of the treaty of Sujaoli of 4th March 1816, the whole of the low lands between river Kali (Sarda) and Rapti, besides the other territories to the east was ceded to the company, and these lands with district of Kharigarh, were made over by the British to the Oudh Government in satisfaction of the loan of crores of rupees borrowed by the company from the Nawab Vazir in the previous year.

  • The result of the annexation and cession was suppression of the Banjaras in the Sujaoli Pargana (Dharmanpur) Chakladar-Mehendi in his expedition against these turbulent genrty, was assisted by the uncle of talukdar of Isanagar, that they were no longer to hold out and their villages were made over to the assisting noble. it was no doubt the cession of Tarai to the North, that encouraged the Hakim to sweep away the Banjaras once for all.

  • Kharigarh : It is alleged that when the Imperial forces, under Chhatardas Jangre, beseized and took the fort of Kamp, certain Banajaras accompanied the commander as his priest, they being Gaur Brahmanas, probability is that they supplied the force with grains during the long seize. A any rate when the Jangers seized the Bhur and Dhaurahram, the Banjaras got the Kharigarh, it is alledged from Bisen, this must have been in the reign of Jahangir.

  • At any rate from the time of expulsion of the family from Dholi in the year 1790 to that at their seizure of Kanchapur, 1830, they wandered about subsisting either on charity of the Oudh nobles or fighting under the British Government. The year 1630 is important as it is the year, maintained as the time, when Banjaras as pack-bullock carriers came to Deccan with Asaf Ali, Vazir of Shahjahan. It may be the reason, that they prefered, joining Mughal and Afghan Chiefs, being under their service, either as carriers and traders or warriors, than to survive on charity of the nobles. The Banjaras were defeated in 1830, Raj Ganga Sah of Kanchanpur, with the aid of Bhur Raja, when he planned an attack on the Banjara estate, the Banjara family entirely disappeared from Oudh. On ancient women, the widow of Gain Singh came forward in 1870 to claim her husband's property but as the Raja's right to the entire estate had been admitated, both in 1856, when Oudh was annexed and in 1858 after mutiny nothing could be done.

  • Pilbhit : Tradition states that in the 15th century Rao Basant Sah founded Deoria on the land seized from the Banjaras and then expelled the Bhurs from Gehra Khera. Banjaras are of considerable importance in the forest tracts, particularly in Puranpur though many of them are now mussalman.

  • Little is known of the early history of the Banjaras, but as in Kheri also they gradually rose to considerable power in the forest tracts defying all authority and extending the predatory raids for long distances in the surrounding territories, according to the tradition, they held, undisputed sway in this part of the country for several centuries, and their possession reduced only when the onward movement of Jangers and Kalehriyas forced them to retire from Bilaspur and Jahanbad.
    Their original home seems to be the mountain tracts from Gorakhpur to Haridwar in the Northern Provinces.

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