Historical Background of Meenas
Meena, Mina, Minot or Maina is numerically the largest tribe of Rajasthan, dominating the eastern part of the state (i.e. the Aravalli range) which is most fertile and ecologically rich. In the past, the greed for this fertile strip in the remaining arid Rajasthan led to constant invasions by the Aryans, Kshtriyas, Muslims and later by the British; but the Meenas did not succumb to these alien forces and retained their individuality by confining themselves to the interior areas of the region.
According to studies it has been found that Meenas originally seems to have been an aboriginal or pre-Aryan tribe of Rajasthan. About the ethnic identity and origin of Meenas, they recognize their progeny from the ‘Meenaavatar’, the tenth fish incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The Indus Valley Civilization also seems to bear a link in the history of this tribe. Meena or Matsya cast was among the Dravids of Mohenjodaro and Harappan Civilization who were driven out after the advent of the Aryans.
From Vedic period to the present, Meenas have seen many ups and downs. In ancient period they were a ruling tribe of Rajasthan. Coming to medieval period they were cut off from their own land, to the interiors of mountain and forests. The oral history preserved in the traditional folktales and folklores of this tribe affirm the kingdom of Meena (Mindesh) with its capital at Amber. Col. James Tod has written that, Meena was a great community which ruled over large part of Rajasthan. During the 10th century AD, Meenas were totally routed out from Amber and Jaipur and thus deprived of their privileges (Col. James Tod, Annals & Antiquities of Rajasthan, Rupa & Co. New Delhi, 2002, vol.-II, p. 281-283).
An old historical proverb thus records the power of Meena prince of Naen:
Bawun kote chapun durwaza
Meena murd, Naen ka Raja
Booroo raj Naen ko
Jub bhoosi myn bhutto mango
That is ‘There were fifty-two strongholds, fifty-six gates belonging to the manly Meena, the Raja of Naen, whose sovereignty of Naen was extent, when even of chaff (bhoos) he took share.’ If this is not an exaggeration, it would appear that, during the distractions of the first Islamic dynasties of Delhi, the Meena had attained their primitive importance.
Later, with advent of the Rajputs and other invaders into their territory, the Meenas were gradually sidelined and pushed deep into the forests. Even so, they continued to be a threat due to their guerilla tactics against the Rajputs and the British. To arrest their power and strength, and to curb their spirit, the British notified them under the Habitual Criminal Act in 1930, referring to them as robbers and criminals. Under this Act, permits were issued to restrict and limit their movement in the area. As a result, historical literature has completely bypassed the Meenas.
Above: View of fort constructed by Raja Alansingh Chanda at Khoh-Gong.
Left: Criminal Tribal Pass – Facsimile of ‘M’ Pass issues to a Meena by Inspector General of Police, 1941.
Courtesy: Shri Laxminarain Jharwal, Jaipur.
Read more about Meena-Rajput struggle : Entry of Kucchhawa rulers into territory of Meenas during 10th century AD.