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History

(For private circulation through Mathur Association Bombay) (Not to be reproduced without author’s prior permission) (By KRISHNA MURARI)

Legendary versions say that MATHURS originally came from a total of 84 villages in the erstwhile vast kingdom of Mathura and that the said 84 villages were the basis of their respective AL’s. Today, Mathurs are settled almost all over, having migrated largely internally and also to other countries in the world particularly during last about half a century. But it may be fascinating to know that migration of Mathurs from the legendary Mathura to other places within India itself is said to have started about five centuries ago, around 1500 AD.
There is no record of the conditions that caused these migrations, nor of the exact periods of occurrence. However, a number of hearsay (but authentic) versions known to our Biradri buzurgs of the bygone days of the 19th and 20th centuries and verbally handed down from generation to generation contain enough interesting material on the subject. I had the good fortune, as a young boy in the mid-forties, of often being in the august company of such knowledgeable Mathur elders (who were themselves 70-75 years of age then) from whom and from some others later I learnt and carefully noted many such versions that, to me are reliable and without any doubt. Piecing all such scattered hearsay versions together and connecting them to the relevant dates of recorded history, an interesting and understandable version of Mathur migrations within India emerges. I give it herein, in my own words, keeping the basic substance intact, for those interested in the subject.

To appreciate and grasp this version properly the following periods from recorded Indian history may be kept in mind:

  • Hindu kingdom (till Prithviraj Chohan): upto year 1192
  • Muslim Sultanate period: from 1192 to 1526
  • Mughal era – I : 1526 to 1539 (Babur / Humayun)
  • Suri dynasty: 1540 to 1554
  • Mughal period – II: 1555 to 1857 (Humayun – Bahadur Shah Zafar)
  • British period: 1857 to 1947.

Now the version:

Hindu Period & Sultanate period

Hindu Period & Sultanate period

a) Not much is known about Mathurs during this period except that Mathurs were mainly engaged in agriculture or some as clerks with merchants or in local jobs. As a carried forward legacy of the Hindu period the business accounts and records were generally maintained in Marwari / Devnagri till quite late even in the Muslim period.

b) Some Mathurs employed with traders having import / export dealings with Persia (Iran) and Arab countries had acquired proficiency in Arabic and Persian languages, though the number of such Mathurs was not large..

c) Sikandar Lodhi (1498-1517), the founder of Agra city, had established a school at Agra (the then capital of India) in around 1500 AD to impart regular teaching of Arabic and Persian to Hindus so as to develop a much needed and large cadre of clerks, accountants and petty officials for his empire. Since a number of Mathurs were already on such jobs, Sikandar Lodhi encouraged (some say forced) Mathurs from all around in the neighboring areas to join this school. In those days people used to move enmass on caste basis, so this school ever attracted Mathurs and became a factory, supplying regular batches of Arabic-Persian literate Mathurs for the Sultanate and later, even for the Mughals.

Suri Dynasty Period

Suri Dynasty Period

Sher Shah Suri (1540-45), perhaps the originator of major land reforms and revenue system in India was initially a Jagirdar at Sasaram in Bihar. He had one Todar Mal (a Khattri from Laharpur, UP) as an advisor on revenue matters who framed the land reforms and revenue system for Sher Shah which were later adopted as general basis of land management by the succeeding Mughals and later, even by the British in India. It is said that Todar Mal in turn, had one Sanwal Rai, (a highly talented Mathur from the Agra school) as a close, childhood friend. On the advice of Todar Mal and Sanwal Rai, Sher Shah dispatched a number of literate Mathurs to his native Bihar as revenue officials and these and their future generations ultimately settled down in Bihar, notably at Aarah and Chhapra, besides at Patna.
So, that was a great (probably the first known) Mathur migration to the east, more than four centuries ago. Many Mathurs with roots in Bihar (even if no more in Bihar now) today claim their ancestry to these early migrants. In course of time, however, many of them may have further migrated to other places.
It may be mentioned here that the same Todar Mal, after the end of the Suri dynasty, was picked up by Akbar (1556-1605), titled as Raja and made one of his Nauratans. He introduced the same land reforms and new revenue systems in Akbar’s reign, much to the emperor’s satisfaction. It has been a firm belief of our forefathers, that the real original, spadework brain behind framing and detailing these reforms and systems first for Suri and later for Akbar was the modest, unassuming Sanwal Rai ( Mathur) who himself preferred to remain behind the scene and let all the Royal credit go to his beloved friend, Raja Todar Mal.

Mughal Period

Mughal Period

It was in this period that the Mathur star shone the brightest, as the number of Arabic-Persian literate Mathurs had been steadily growing and the rulers were greatly impressed with the Mathur culture, adaptablity, loyalty and honesty. During Akbar’s reign Sarkars & Nizamats (like today’s High Courts ) were set-up at principal places like at Sambhal (near Moradabad, UP) and Agra, and “Munsifies” (smaller courts) at other places, mainly for limited decentralization of judiciary for expeditious dispensation of justice, while the Imperial Durbar (like the Supreme Court) was at Agra, then the country’s capital. These courts and the public at large needed “Katibs” (writers), “Mukhtyars” (pleaders) “Peshkars”(court clerks), “Moharrirs” (case clerks), “Arzi Navees” (application writers) etc, in large numbers at all these places. Besides, more revenue officials like “Quanongo”and “Wasil baqi Navis”(customs / excise / municipal officials) were also needed for the government. And who could stand up to meet this great manpower demand except the literate Mathurs readily available off the Agra School in plenty by then. So, a good number of them migrated from their native villages to Agra and Moradabad and nearby smaller towns (like Amroha, Sambhal etc.), some to earn a decent living and some others to lead a respected life in coveted “Sarkari Naukri”. Later on, some other semi-judicial offices of “Sadar” and Sadar-Aala” (like today’s Hon. Magistrates and Notaries ) were created, mostly headed by respectable Hindus and mainly to settle disputes of Hindu religious holdings, temple properties etc. A few Mathurs of those times are known by name to have been appointed to these exalted posts during subsequent regimes of Mughal emperors.
In setting up such institutions, perhaps Akbar’s strategy was to restore some confidence in the Hindu population (known to have suffered badly all along the earlier Muslim regimes) and thus to gain their absolute loyalty. This process was continued by Akbar’s successor, Jahangir, resulting in more demand for literate persons and the Mathurs continuing picking up jobs by migrating from their native villages to Agra, Moradabad and Aligarh (then known as Kol), Badaun, Bulandshahar etc., where many were already settled and even awarded Royal Jagirs and Zimindaris. “Quanoongoyan Mohallas”, inhabitated mostly by Mathurs, came up in many west-UP cities. Similarlyin course of time Mohallas with Mathur concentrations developed in other cities also, like Pipalmandi at Agra, Peerghaib at Moradabad, Dewan Mohalla at Patna, Gangapole Gate at Jaipur, Guiyan Talab at Rampur (U.P) etc., all stronghold of the Biradri till very recent past. The descendents of quite a few Mathurs coming originally from these places but now settled elsewhere even today make reference to their “Shajra” (family tree) showing their ancestry to Mughal period, (I have a copy of two from Amroha (UP) going back to Humayun’s period with mention of award of hereditary Royal decrees and Jagirs, and two others from Aligarh, going back to Akbar’s reign.).. Another mass migration !
After Akbar had subdued many princely states in Rajputana a good number of literate and experienced Mathurs were deputed to these states (notably Jaipur, Aamer, Amber and Ajmer) to bring the state’s revenue and administrative systems in line with the Mughal system. Many others went later on their own to serve in these states for better prospects. Another migration.
Akbar’s capital for sometime was at Fatehpur Sikri (near Agra) and not at Agra proper. A number of Mathurs originating from Amber (from where Jodhabai, Akbar’s favorite queen and Jahangir’s mother came) had migrated to Sikri as part of Jodhabai’s entourage. As Royal favour some of them were given Jagirs and were settled at Sikri.. Their descendents continued at Sikri during the entire Mughal period and even much after on their lands and in their Havelis which exist even today, though nobody lives there now. A small but significant migration.
The fifth Mughal emperor, Shahjahan (1627-58) shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi on the 16th April, 1648, naming it as Shahjahanabad. Naturally, the rush of Mathurs now turned immediately towards Delhi where they readily found respectable positions not only in Government jobs and in the Royal court but also in public life, living in harmony with Muslims and Hindus of other castes within the walled city. Another mass migration !
This was the time when Delhi had the distinction of having the Mathur population larger than in any other city in the country. Delhi enjoys the same distinction perhaps even today despite large number of Mathurs getting in and out of Delhi regularly. However, it is said that in the later part of the Mughal regime (say around year 1700) religious fanaticism and intrigues started rising in the Royal court, gradually making conditions difficult for Hindus (including Mathurs) in the higher positions in the Royal court and even at lower offices. Feeling uncomfortable and insecure, many Mathurs, settled in Delhi for almost a century by then, started thinking of getting out. But where to go ?
After Aurangzeb’s death in the year 1707 the Mughal empire started declining fast, some of the later (historically called “Lesser”) Mughal kings having a reign of only a few months before being dethroned or murdered. In this atmosphere, other neighboring states like Patiala, Rohtak, Jhajjar, Alwar, etc., were getting stronger and de-aligned from the Delhi Durbar. These places therefore appeared attractive to many for migration. A large number of beleaguered Delhi Mathurs quietly and gradually migrated to these places in search of jobs and shelter and they were not disappointed. This may have been around the years 1730-35.
The final blow came in the year 1739 in the form of an attack by Nadir Shah of Iran and the great massacre at Delhi. On the 22nd March of that year. Nadir Shah, it is said, seated himself at the porch of the Sunheri Masjid at the fountain end of Chandni Chowk, Delhi with a naked sword in his hand and with instructions to his soldiers to keep performing “Qatle-aam” (mass murder) and mass looting in the walled city as long as the sword was seen held high in his hand. At dusk on that day dead bodies lying on Delhi streets and houses were counted upto a figure of 30,000 after which further counting was given up, leaving the city burning and totally ruined. How many Mathurs were dead or alive in Delhi on that day is anybody’s guess.
After Nadir Shah left Delhi about a couple of months later, taking with him a huge booty (including the famous Koh-i-noor diamond and the golden peacock throne) and hundreds of slaves, the surviving Mughal king Mohammad Shah Rangeele (1719-48) started the monumental task of rebuilding the ruined Delhi. It is said that plots of abandoned land were auctioned cheaply to local traders to induce them to start re- development. In course of time they raised the various Kuchas, Katras, Wadas and Chhatas and built residential houses and shops therein.
At this stage it dawned on the ruler that the Government machinery could not work unless the old and faithful deserters return and take their places. Mathurs who had left earlier for neighboring places got a welcome signal to return back and a large number of them did return. But they found the ground situation at Delhi entirely changed, their own houses razed and their lands now owned by others. Many went in for rented houses in Kuchas and Katras while many had to buy the very land which was once their own, but all the same feeling happy at being a Delhiwala once again. As birds of a feather flock together, most of these Mathurs settled down in the area roughly bound by today’s Nai Sarak, Chandni Chowk and Dariba. Notable Mohallas in this area with Mathur concentration later emerged as Cheera Khana, Roshanpura, Chailpuri, Chowk Raiji, Masjid Khajoor, Naughara, Katras of Roshanuddaula & Khushalrai, etc., and numerous Chhattas, wadas, gullies and by-lanes therein and around. So, this was another great Mathur Migration , – Village- to- Delhi- to- Patiala / Rohtak / Alwar etc., and back to Delhi. All this would have happened around the years 1700 – 1750.
Many migrated Mathurs had, in the meantime, felt comfortable in the aforesaid princely states and preferred to stay on. A number of them were patronized and given jobs, Zamindaris and Jagirs by the Maharajas. Places like Tapookra, Tijara, Behror, Ismailpur, Narainpur in the then Alwar State and Narnaul, Rohtak, Jhajjar and Patiala proper in Patiala State are examples in point. Around the year 1700 during Aurangzeb’s rule, Ali Quli Khan, the Deccan Governor had taken some Mathurs on temporary transfer from the Delhi Royal court to Hyderabad for important assignments there. They were never returned and continued to be there, with their other kinsmen from Delhi joining them later, thus creating a modest Mathur Biradri at Hydrabad. Later, titles of Raja and Asafjahi was conferred on them as a hereditary distinction by the Nizam, making them highly distinguished citizens of the state.. This was another notable Mathur migration about three centuries ago. Today Hyderabad has a formidable number of Mathurs arrived subsequently (mostly after Indian Independence of 1947) from many other places and settled there.
In the same way some Mathurs migrated during the later years of Mughal era to Lucknow and Daryabad (UP) to serve in the court of the Avadh Nawabs where some received Taluqdari and landlordship. But the real and big Mathur migration to eastern UP cities of Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur, etc., took place in early and middle British period (1857-1947) when the High Court, AG’s Office and other major government offices were established at Allahabad.
Towards the end, the Mughal Empire had greatly shrunk and grown too weak to defend itself against the Afghan invaders and British colonizers. Mughal emperor therefore, at one point of History, turned the Marathas (once an enemy) for defense against these forces. Marathas agreed with a number of conditions, including their virtual rule outside Delhi (particularly in the Doaba area, between the rivers Ganga & Yamuna in the present Western UP) which they effectively ruled in the name of the emperor for about ten years till their rout by Ahmad Shah Abdali in the 3rd battle of Panipat in the year 1761. It is said that the Jagirs and Zamindari granted earlier by the Mughals to many Hindus, including a number of favored Mathurs, were revoked by the later Mughals under pressure from some of their fanatic advisors. These Mathurs thus had to be back to their native villages or elsewhere. The Marathas when in power for about ten years as mentioned above, restored all such Jagirs and Zamindaris in the name of the emperor. Notable amongst Mathurs, these Jagirs belonged to families at Sherkot (Bijnore), Farrukhabad and Shikohabad in UP who returned back after a long gap to their restored Jagirs, maybe around 1755-60 or so.
Mention must be made here about Mathurs who never stirred out of the erstwhile Mathura kingdom area and stayed throughout around where they were, mostly in the princely Rajputana states of Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Marwar and Bikaner etc. It is natural that by virtue of their close and prolonged association with the locals (i.e. non-Mathurs) there they acquired some customs and traditions prevalent in other communities in their region, not common to Mathurs in other areas, say in Delhi & U.P. Even till quite late, they (including those of them who had moved out of these places) were referred to as Desi Mathurs, mostly by the Delhites and Upites. However, they all were and still today are like any other Mathur anywhere. And, with passage of time even their so called customary traditions and practices are fast getting amalgamated with others.
A reference in passing may be made here in the above context just for reader’s information about what were once called “Dussey Mathurs”. Though happily this word is heard no more now, in the past a strict tradition was that if a Mathur boy had married a non-Mathur girl, their progeny were called “Dussey”, meaning half on the purity scale of twenty –Beesey. The so-called Dusseys, then considered as inferior Mathurs, used to intermarry largely amongst themselves and no so-called “pure” Mathur would normally marry a Dussa boy or girl. The only purpose of this casual mention here is that “Dussey” should not be confused with the above-mentioned “Desi”, though fortunately both these concepts are now a thing of the forgotten past. Around 1920 the All India Kayastha Conference had decided that inter-marriages amongst Kayasthas were acceptable, meaning that an issue to a Mathur boy from such a marriage will be considered as a regular Mathur, and not a Dussa..

British & Post Independence Period

British & Post Independence Period

After the Indian War of Independence of 1857 the British governed India from Calcutta as capital. Soon after, a number of schools and colleges for teaching English were opened in many important North-Indian towns like Delhi, Allahabad, Agra, etc. (Calcutta already had some). Mathurs were again in the forefront to join such schools to learn English so as to become eligible for Government jobs under the British sooner than other communities. Result: A large number of such qualified Mathurs, migrating from various places got jobs as clerks in courts, post offices, Tehsils etc., and as teachers in schools and Colleges in various cities of North India. Some got good jobs in prestigious deptts. like the Survey of India and Forest Research Institute at Dehra Dun, and in Railways elsewhere. This was perhaps in period 1880-1920. A number of Mathurs by now had also reached higher positions in the Government.
A little later quite a few entered the then top and the most prestigious Indian Civil Service (I.C.S.). Many others migrated to far off places as Lahore as lawyers, professors, doctors, etc. Such professional opportunities continued to shift Mathurs from place to place ever after. Many went to the then princely states on respectable posts of Dewans, judicial & police officers etc.
In the Delhi Durbar of 1911 Delhi was made British India’s capital which opened yet new avenues for Mathurs from various places to migrate to and settle down at Delhi and New Delhi (Raiseena, as it was known then). The second World War (1939-45) created massive number of Government jobs at Delhi and opened floodgates for Mathurs from all over of India to come to Delhi. Today the second or third generation of those migrant Mathurs are settled at or stirred out of Delhi, calling themselves Delhiwalas, but blissfully ignorant of from where their forefathers initially may have came to Delhi. Similarly, the forefathers of those Mathurs calling themselves today as Lucknow-walas, Allahabad-walas etc., may have migrated to these places in the not very distant past from places perhaps not known to them today.
It would be interesting to note that besides Zamindari, Mathurs,in general, have traditionally been a Service (salaried) class throughout, be it in public or private sector. Half a century ago and earlier, barring a very few examples, the typical Mathur mindset feared to tread in business just for the uncertainty of success and fear and inability to suffer or make up for a possible financial loss. Of course, now with the entirely new concept of business, many of the present generation of Mathurs are going successfully in business on modern lines, and MBA is now a ubiquitous qualification amongst young Mathur boys and girls, many in big national and multi-national firms in India or abroad..
In the end I may say that I am neither a historian nor a chronologist of Mathur events. This write-up may have some inaccuracies or points of difference in the eyes of some but I hope it will be of some interest to those looking for an early, unrecorded but reliably known history of MATHURS.

All said and done, human migration, after all, is as old as human history – and Mathurs are no exception to it.

KRISHNA MURARI
President, Mathur Association Bombay
Tel: 022-27468573
murarikm@hotmail.com
November 24, 2003.