by John McLeod, M.A., Ph.D. (Toronto)
Professor of History, University of Louisville (U.S.A.)
Honorary Rajvanshi Genealogist, Rajvara Heritage Institution, Rajkumar College, Rajkot
(appointed by the former President of the College, H.H. the Maharaja Sriraj of Dhrangadhra)
Few regions of India have so long a history as Kutch. It formed part of the domains of the Harappans, who created India’s first civilisation five thousand years ago. In subsequent ages, its sovereigns included the Mauryan emperors, the Greek Buddhist king Menander, the Guptas of Magadha, and the Maitrakas of Vallabhi. Later, it became the seat of one of the oldest of all the Hindu dynasties, the Jadejas. For hundreds of years, Jadeja kings ruled in Bhuj, the capital of Kutch, while junior branches of their family held outlying feudatory estates, called Jagirs.
The Jadejas are one of the clans of the Rajput caste, who as the heirs of the ancient Kshatriyas were for generations the aristocratic warrior class across much of northern and western India. According to tradition, the Jadejas are descended from none other than Lord Krishna himself. Lord Krishna came from the Yadava family, and in his Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan the great British scholar James Tod calls the Jadejas “the most conspicuous of the Yadu race.” The Jadejas tell us that after leaving Lord Krishna’s kingdom of Dwarka, their ancestors lived successively at Shonitpur in South India, in Egypt, and at Cambay. They then established a kingdom in southern Sindh, since 1947 part of Pakistan, where they became known as Sammas.
In 1147, the western and central portions of Kutch were conquered by a Lakhaji, a junior member of the Samma dynasty of Sindh. Lakhaji’s descendants were called the Jadejas. There are several explanations of the origin of this name. One story has it that it arose when the Goddess Hinglaj Mata hid one of their ancestors in her mouth, called jada. A second account derives the name from Lakhaji’s adoptive father Jada. According to a third story, Jadeja is from jado, Sindh§ for “twin,” since Lakhaji and his brother Lakhdhir were twins. A fourth explanation is that Lakhaji was the only one of seven brothers to survive an epidemic, and that as he was cured by waving a peacock feather brush, jada, round him, he came to be called Jadeja.
At any rate, Lakha Jadeja and his brother Lakhiyar founded the city of Lakhiyarvira, which became the capital of the Jadejas. Lakha’s son Rayadhanji I extended his kingdom and conquered Wagad, or eastern Kutch, so that the Jadejas ruled over all of Kutch. Rayadhaji I died in 1215, when Kutch was divided into three parts, each ruled by one of his sons. Almost three hundred years later, a dispute between two branches of the family caused a Jadeja prince named Khengarji to take refuge at Ahmedabad, the seat of the Sultan of Gujarat. Khengarji killed a lion on behalf of the Sultan, who (1508) rewarded him with a grant of territory and the royal title of Rao. The Jadeja prince then returned to his homeland, defeated the heads of the other branches of the family, and in 1540 united all of Kutch under his rule. In 1547 he shifted his residence from Anjar to Bhuj, which has been the main city of Kutch ever since. Khengarji’s descendants, called Maharaos or “Great Raos,” ruled Kutch without a break from then until 1948, when the Government of India took over the Jadeja kingdom.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, most of the Maharaos of Kutch gave to their younger sons lands within the kingdom, known as Jagirs. These junior members of the Jadeja dynasty and their descendants, called Jagirdars or “holders of Jagirs,” formed the nobility of the kingdom of Kutch. Within their lands, they exercised administrative and judicial powers, collected taxes, and maintained troops. By the time of the independence of India, there were no fewer than 139 Jagirdars. One of them was Nagercha, in Western Kutch. The Jagirdars of Nagrecha were descended from Rayadhanji II, the sixth Maharao of Kutch, who ruled from 1666 to 1698. His great-great-grandson Kesarji became the first Jagirdar of Nagrecha in 1744. Although Nagrecha was small in size, its Jagirdars were prominent. In 1819, for example, Kesarji’s grandson Prithvirajji was appointed a member of the Council of Regency that administered Kutch during the minority of Maharao Desalji III; and in 1875, when the Maharao and the Jagirdars concluded an agreement defining their respective rights and privileges, Prithvirajji’s son Chandaji was one of just fifteen Jagirdars who retained administrative and judicial powers over the people of their lands. The story of the Jadejas of Nagrecha forms an important, if little-known, part of the glorious history of Kutch, and I am very grateful to Shri J.K. Jadeja, scion of this family, for creating this website.