Gujari Language and Identity in Jammu and
by: P. N. Pushp and K. Warikoo
and Cultural Foundation
- by Dr. R.P. Khatana
The Gujari language is the language of all the Gujars, who constitute
a big population group in Jammu and Kashmir State. These Gujars are tall and
hardy people. Basically nomadic, with the changed tunes some of them live on
agriculture. The majority of them still rear sheep and goats and buffaloes. The
Gujars' physical characteristics, language manners, customs, dress and social
organisation have very little common with non-Gujar Kashmiris. They have
maintained their cultural identity. In appearance Gujars in Kashmir look very
much different from non-Gujar Kashmiris. They have long beards and wear a big
turban. Inspite of living amidst Kashmiris Gujars have not adopted the former's
way of the life and dress.
The Gujar cultural group is found in states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh,
Madhy, Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Delhi and Punjab,
where they have settled and occupied large tracts of land. In the Jammu and
Kashmir State they have conspicuous geographical concentration all over the
State except the Ladakh region. In the Kashmir division the concentration of
Gujars is on the mountain slopes and side valleys in the areas of Kukernag,
Kangan, Tral, Doru, Pahalgam, Shopian, Kulgam, Handwara, Karnah, Kupwara and Uri
In Jammu division the Gujars dominate in the border tehsils along the Line of
Actual Control i.e. Haveli, Mendhar, Nowshera and Sunder Bani. There are Gujar
pockets found in Bhadarwah, Doda, Gool, Kishtwar, Kathua, Udhampur and Arnas
There are three major groups among the Gujars of Jammu and Kashmir based on
the type of animal they rear. The sedentary agriculturist group is called Muqami
Gujars. The second group is called Bakarwal Gujars, because they rear Bakri
(goat) in large numbers. The third group is Banihara Gujars, who rear
buffaloes and live in forests (Bans).
The language of Gujars has been termed as Parimu or Hindki by
Lawrence. It was, however, categorized as Rajasthani by the State in the census
reports conducted before partition. Lawrence remarks: "Their language known
as Parimu or Hindki is wholly different from Kashmiri
language". The scholars after investigations have disagreed with it. The
conclusion of Drew about their language being a type of Pahari is also
not very palatable to the Census of India, 1911.
Census of India 1941 remarks, "Since after this account of Drew, Gujari
has been classified under Pahari, but it is doubtful if this is more
correct than its previous classification under Rajasthani. Those families
of this nomadic race, which have permanently settled in various parts of Jammu
and some parts of Kashmir and taken to agriculture, anyhow adopted the local
language but the wandering classes, who from the largest majority, have
absolutely no dealings with the natives of the country, and leading the isolated
life that they do, far removed from the villages and in the pastures and woods
of the land; they have managed to retain their language which continues to be
akin to Rajasthani rather than Pahari". The Census of India 1941
remarks, "Gujari the language of the Gujars is included with Rajasthani.
Pahari which is shown separately in the Scheme is closely connected with Gujari
and is spoken in much the same areas."
Characteristics of Gujari Language
Grierson was of the opinion that the Gujari spoken by the Gujars of the
submontane districts of the Punjab and Kashmir was allied to Rajasthani. He
says, "one of the two things is quite certain. Either Gujari is a form of
Rajasthani or conversely, Rajasthani is a form of Gujari and resemblance of
Gujari to Mewari is very striking. But still closer is the resemblance of
Gujari to Mewati dialect of Rajasthani spoken in Alwar, some distance to
the north of Mewar and separated from that state by the territory of Jaipur".
Roots and Affinities
All the scholars agree on one point that the Gujari of the Gujars of Jammu and
Kashmir is a form of Rajasthani. How and when the Gujars entered the State of
Jammu and Kashmir is lying in obscurity.
The census of India 1941 informs us: "Historians seem to be satisfied
that the tribes called "Gurjaras" were established in the area near
Mount Abu in Rajasthan, around 6th century A.D. onwards. It is believed that
these and other sections of the tribe were the ancestors of those now known as
Gujars in this state. The "Gurjaras" were Hindus at the time they are
first noticed in India. They had established a Kingdom of their own at the time
of Harsha about 640 A.D. It seems that they, successfully resisted the Arab
invasion from the north early in the eighth century A.D. It is alleged that
about 750 A.D. the Chapa dynasty of the Gurjaras which had been in power for
about 200 years, was displaced by the Pratiharas who seem to have carried on
till about 1000 A.D., when their power was broken by the coming of Mahmud of
Ghazni. Nothing much appears to be known of the Gurjaras in the Punjab until 980
A.D. When Raja Shankervarman of Kashmir is said to have invaded Gujarat, the
Gurjara Kingdom was ruled over by one Lakhandev. A region known as Takka,
situated in the area now known as the Punjab was ceded by Shankervarman. It is
reasonable to presume that Gurjara tribes had extended to the Punjab and it is
probable that such places as Gujarat, Gujranwala and Gujar Khan and Gurdaspur,
where Gujar families are still found derived their names from this fact. The
Gurjara Kingdom ceased to exist by the time of Akbar the Great when their
country was annexed. By this time a number of Gujars, as we will now call them,
had embraced Islam and from now onwards the connection of the northern sections
with their Hindu ancestors becomes less and less. It is the summary of the views
given in various works in an attempt to link the Gujars now living in the Jammu
and Kashmir State with those believed to have been their ancestors. The
migration of a part of the tribe to the territories now known as the Jammu and
Kashmir State is attributed to the outbreak of a serious famine in the region
inhabited by the tribe, now known as Rajputana, Gujarat and Kathiawar. The exact
period has not been fixed but it is Known as the Satahsiya famine. It is
stated that some part of the migrating tribes moved to the Punjab whilst others
moved further north to the areas now known as Kaghan, Swat, Hazara, Kashmir and
Gilgit. The same source states that the Gujars now living in the Jammu and
Kashmir State are parts of two separate migrations, one direct from the Gurjara
tribes of Rajputana, Gujarat and Kathiawar, the other, and latter migration,
form the Gujar tribes settled in the Punjab.
The scholars trace the historical roots and affinity of the Gujari language
from the Gurjara Apabhramsa of the Sanskrit grammarians. Scholars are
also of the view that Gujari language spoken by the Gujars in the north-western
Himalayas has a very close relation with Marwarib (Rajasthani) which is a region
around Mount Abu (Rajasthan) and was known Gurjara Desa in the sixth
Gujari Language, Status and Identity in Jammu and
The status of a language is generally judged by the number of persons who speak
the language. The speakers of Gujari language have been enumerated in the
various census reports from 1891 onwards as follows:
Population of Gujars in Jammu and Kashmir
(1891 to 1941)
||Population of Gujars
||Percentage of variation increase (+)
|| - 5.6
Table I explains that since 1891 to 1931 there is a steady increase in their
population. Between the decade 1891-1901 the percentage of variation is (+
24.5), between 1901-1911 (+ 12.7), between 1911-1921 (+ 9.4). The percentage of
net variation is +46.42 from 1891 to 1931. According to 1931 census 4,02,781
persons were Gujars, where as according to 1941 census, this population
decreased to 3,81,457 persons which is 21,324 less than 1931.
Census of India 1941 remarks about this decrease in 1941, "This decrease
cannot be accounted for unless it is due to the fact that in many cases they did
not describe themselves correctly. Muslims as a whole show an increase in
numbers which compares favourably with the increase of population for the whole
State. There is no reason to believe that the Gujar element of the community was
an exception to this tendency. Gujars show a decrease in the district Reasi,
Poonch and Chenani in the Jammu Province. The tabulation figures for the Gilgit
Agency did not separate the various elements of the population. In 1931, 2,454
Gujars were recorded as living in Gilgit Agency. However, it is not necessary to
attempt to account for the variations, to do so would be pure guess work when we
have no reliable evidence to explain the decrease".
In 1951 the census was not conducted owing to the partition of India in 1947.
The Census of India 1961 was not conducted on caste basis and the population of
Gujars which had been reckoned separately by the previous censuses was merged
with the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore the estimates of the 1961
strength of the Gujar population are far from accurate.
The trend of Gujar population as shown indifferent census reports in the
State of Jammu and Kashmir has consistently shown a downward trend and has come
down from 37% in 1931 to 25% in 1941 and further down to 10% in 1971 although it
showed some increase during the year 1971 census, but this percentage to total
population did not improve and showed a further decline of 2%. According to 1981
report Gujars and Bakarwals constitute about 8% of the State population, i.e.,
from 10% in 1971, the population of this tribe has further decreased to 8% in
1981. In contrast to the figures provided by the census reports other local
sources indicate a different picture of their population. R.R. Khojuria mentions
that "about 12 lakh people that constituted about 25% of the State
population belonged to Gujars and Bakarwals, covering almost one-third of the
State land in 1981". The Daily Pratap dated February 2, 1969 mentioned in
its column that the total number of persons from Gujars and Bakarwals of Jammu
and Kashmir was 14 lakhs and this number decreased to 10 lakhs in 1976 as
reported by Jyoteshwar Pathik in one of his essays "Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir-Identified Socio-Cultural Groups
(Proportion of Population) Census of 1981
||% age to total population
||Kashmiri Speaking Muslims
||Kashmiri Speaking Hindus
||Bakarwal/Gujar/Pahari (Kashmir Division)
||Shina Speaking Muslims
||Punjabi Speaking (Kashmir Division)
||Kashmiri and Hindi mixed language (Jammu Division)
||Dogri Speaking (Jammu Division)
||Bakarwal/Gujar/Pahari (Jammu Division)
||Punjabi Speaking including Lahnda (Jammu Division)
||Balti Speaking (Ladakh Division)
||Ladakhi and Botia Speaking (Ladakh Division)
The analysis of various censuses conducted in the State of Jammu and Kashmir
about the Gujari speakers shows that they are consistently decreasing, whereas
some scholars indicate a steep increase in their population. This is a moot
point of discussion as to why the population of Gujari speakers has shown a
considerable decrease in the census reports, despite the fact that since long,
this community has not remained open to the syndromes of modernization, and the
crises of development around them specially in the field of family planning. Nor
has the community fallen a victim to any natural calamity like epidemic, flood,
famine or any demographic transformation. It becomes imperative for the State
Government as well as for the Government of India to look seriously into the
reasons of the tremendous decrease in population of this community.
As the censuses conducted in the past were based on linguistic identity, it
created a controversy among the writers, historians and even among Gujars about
their real population. They demanded that a special survey or census of the
Gujar population be conducted separately for Gujars and their population be
estimated on the tribal identity and not on linguistic identity. For linguistic
survey does not reveal the actual facts and cannot determine the actual
population of Gujars in the State, as there were other people who speak Parimu
dialect in the state. The Gujar Bakarwal community of the State was never
satisfied with the methods of survey and censuses conducted by the State
Government from time to time. The information available in such reports was not
accepted by the Gujars. The Gujars alleged that the persons who enumerated them
played with the figures as they were having little knowledge about the Gujar
Community; obviously the enumerators counted them for the other linguistic
This prompted the Gujar-Bakarwal leadership to press upon the Government to
change this attitude of discrimination and many representations were made to the
Government of Jammu and Kashmir for conducting a separate survey of this
community, so that actual figures of Gujari speakers is made known to the
community in the State. As such a special census was conducted in the year
1986-87 to find out the actual number of Gujari speakers in the State.
Jammu and Kashmir
Population of Gujars and Bakarwals (1987)
||Name of the District
Table III reveals that prior to 1986-87 (Special census) census reports were
not accurate. The total population of Gujars in the State according to this
census was 5,47,150 and that of Bakarwals as 34,900. Evidently, the total
population of Gujars and Bakarwals in the State of Jammu and Kashmir has been
5,82,050 and this was about 9% of the total population.
As the Gujars and Bakarwals are scattered all over the State on the slopes of
the mountains, to them it seems that the enumerators have cooked up the figures,
and the Gujar Bakarwal community who speak Gujari do not believe the figures
projected by the Special survey of 1986-87. As such they have no faith in this
special census also.
These conflicting figures of various census reports and other sources reflect
the following facts:
i. Since 1931 to 1941 census, the decreasing trend in this decade about Gujari
speaking population can be attributed to the fact "that in many cases
they did not describe themselves correctly". The policies of begar
(forced labour) and repression by the government of the time on Gujars forced
them to hide their caste.
Whatever the reasons behind the conflicting views of the census reports the
statistics regarding the figures of Gujari speakers reveal that the status of
this language in the state is after Kashmiri and Dogri and it is the third
largest linguistic /cultural group in the State.
ii. Since 1941 to 1961 census, a majority of the Muslim Gujar population
from Jammu and Kashmir districts either migrated to Pakistan or the Tehsils of
Mirpur, Kotli, Sudhnuti, Bagh and Muzzafarabad under the illegal occupation of
Pakistan. These areas were dominated by Gujars. There was, thus, a
considerable loss of Gujar population to the State at the time of partition in
iii. From 1961 to 1981 censuses, the census was not conducted on caste
basis but on linguistic basis. The electoral politics in the State of Jammu
and Kashmir played its role. The Gujars have been split into various
linguistic groups-Hindi, Rajasthani, Punjabi, Gujari, Bakarwali, Pahari,
Parimu, Urdu. And in some areas which were dominated by Kashmiri and Dogri
speakers, the bilingual Gujars living in these areas were enumerated into
these linguistic groups. This resulted into tremendous decrease in their
population in the various census reports.
i. The Guiari language which is the language of the Gujars and Bakarwals of
Jammu and Kashmir is a form of Marwari (Rajasthani), and has its roots in
Sanskrit. These Gujars carried the cultural traits from an area around Mt. Abu
(Rajasthan) which was known as Gurjara Desa in the sixth century A.D.
to the sub Himalayan ranges in the course of their migrations in historical
times. These Gujars had close affinities with the Gujars (Hindu) of the other
areas of India.
ii. Various census reports conducted in the State of Jammu and Kashmir
about the Gujari speakers have shown that they are consistently decreasing,
whereas some research scholars indicate a steep increase in their population.
The question arises; why has the number of Gujari speakers shown a
considerable decrease in census reports? The community has certainly, not
fallen victim to any natural calamity like epidemic, flood, famine or any
demographic transformation. Nor have the family planning methods been adopted
by them. The State Government as well as the Government of India need to look
seriously into the reasons of tremendous decrease of their population.
iii. The information available in census reports is not believed by
Gujar-Bakarwals. This has created a feeling of mistrust among them towards the
attitude of the Government.
iv. The Gujari language speakers in various census reports have been split
into various linguistic groups i.e. Hindi, Rajasthani, Punjabi, Pahari, Gujari,
Bakarwali, Parimu and Urdu.
v. As to the status of Gujari language in Jammu and Kashmir, the
Gujari speakers constitute the single largest group of its persons in the
state after Kashmiri and Dogri speakers.
SPECIMEN OF GUJARI (JAMMU AND KASHMIR)
AND MARWARI (RAJASTHANI)
1. Lawrence, Walter R, The Valley of Kashmir, Srinagar, Kesar
Publishers (Reprinted-1967), p. 316
2. Drew F, The Jammu and Kashmir Territories. 1875, p 110.
3. Census of India, 1911, Vol. XX, Kashmir, I, Report.
4. Census of India, 1941,Vol. XXI, Jammu and Kashmir Part I
and II Essay and Tables. p. 302.
5. Census of India, 1941, Jammu and Kashmir pp, 9-11.
6. Sarwari Kasana, "Gujari-Kashmir Te Rajasthani Ki Ekta,"
Shirazo, J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, Srinagar, Vol.2, 1
June 1979. pp13-19.
7. Census of India, 1941,pp9-10.
8. Khajuria, R.R., Gujars of Jammu and Kashmir. (In Urdu)
Srinagar, Gulshan Publications, 1981, p. 138.
9. Jammu and Kashmir Chronicle 1976, Srinagar. Quoted by
Dr.R.R.Khujoria in his book, Gujars of Jammu and Kashmir, op cit. p.149.
10. See Census Department of Jammu and Kashmir, Special Census
report 1986-87 on Gujars and Bakarwals.
11. Census 1941 op cit pp. 9-10.