Saturday, April 22, 2000
M A I N   F E A T U R E

Ranbir Singh recounts the history and tradition of a unique village in Haryana
The khaas baat about Farmana Khaas

SOME of the village communities in Haryana like those at Farmana Khaas are fairly old and offer unique opportunities to the study of rural life in this part of the country. Besides struggling consistently against the vagaries of nature to raise crops and rear cattle, the villagers paid special attention towards works of art and traditional Indian architecture in the later Mughal period.

Although the Jats have been in continuous possession of whole of this village estate for only about four centuries, it was originally settled by Panwar Rajputs in the late 12th century. About 950 years ago, one Kalu Singh Parmar (now called Panwar) is said to have come to Dilli from Ujjain when evicted by southern kings. His son, Ratey, was awarded a large estate west of Rohtak by Chauhan kings of Dilli wherewith he founded Kalanaur, now a small town on the Bhiwani-Rohtak state highway. Ratey had two sons, Uddha and Dhamma. These sons and their heirs founded several villages in the neighbourhood.

Farmana Khaas was founded in mid-13th century by Dhamma near a large old mound already known as ‘Khaas’. Earlier, after decades of occupation by unknown people, the settlement at ‘Khaas’ was said to have been abandoned, the proof of which was occasionally found by archaeologists from time to time in the form of large size bricks and pottery.

  The second settlement of the Panwars remained small for nearly 15 generations. It is said that around 1580 A.D a Jat named Nehbal Saharan, who arrived from Bhairang in Rajasthan, settled close to ‘Khera Khaas’, and named it as ‘Girauri Khera’. Both, the Panwars and Saharans seemed to have lived peacefully for several centuries until Bani Singh Manderna’s arrival here. Once in later Moghul period when anarchy was the order of day, a group of seven Jat villages, known till today as ‘Satrol’, collectively attacked ‘Khera Khaas’ with the intention of plundering and winning territory. Bani Singh Manderna, who was grazing a large herd of cattle in the vicinity of ‘Khera Khaas’, which was, by an order of Emperor Shahjehan, already known as Farmana Khaas, smelt trouble. The attackers, called Dharees in local slang, were repulsed by Bani Singh alone. He used tricks and threats to counter their designs. Upon hearing of this episode, the headmen of the Thakurs were so pleased that they asked Bani Singh if he desired anything. Bani Singh asked for two things: grant of a natural water tank called ‘Jauna Aala’ and a ‘Dom’, a sort of a Bhat. While doing so, the Thakurs ordained that henceforth he would celebrate the festival of Divali only when the Dom sings his praise by presenting himself at his doors on the day of Govardhan Pooja, locally called Girree. In case the Dom abstains, bad luck would fall upon his descendants and the lineage would cease to exist. Thus, it was how a Manderna Jat established his foothold at Farmana Khaas.

A carved wooden column of a chaupal at the villageWhat happened until 1580 AD is hard to chronicle since even Pirthee Laree, 80, the most reliable oral source of history about this settlement among Saharan Jats could not sufficienty recall the intervening events. He, however, felt that the Thakurs of the village and the descendants of Bani Singh Manderna could not have lived cordially. Since the Khera was saved from a ‘Dhaar’ (a group of attackers) by a Manderna Jat, the Thakurs could have thought it proper to bestow the whole village estate to the Mandernas and leave forever to settle in Kelanga, a nearby village of their own fraternity. Mandernas then invited Nehbal Saharan to forget Girauri Khera and join them at Farmana Khaas. Since those times, both the Saharans and the Mandernas have been living amicably at Farmana Khaas.

The Panwar villages now lie south-west of Farmana Khaas among which Kelanga is prominent and with whom its relations since the early days were never cordial. Till a 150 years ago, tensions ran high between the two villages on account of territorial claims. The roots of this hostility were sown in late 18th century when, according to a legend, Bani Singh, a Jat of Manderna gotra, arrived here from Tusham and asked the Thakurs to employ him as a caretaker of their herds.

Not all the Panwars could leave Farmana Khaas at the time the estate was bestowed on Bani Singh Manderna. A few families preferred to staywith the Jats. In order to avoid future trouble, an enigmatic proposition was put forth by the Jats. "If the Rajputs wanted to stay back", it was said, "they could do so only by converting themselves to Jogis." This is a class slightly inferior in status but otherwise honourable. They could also retain the right to landed property. The Rajputs had no option but to accept this proposition. Thereafter, these Panwar Rajput Jogis admitted themselves to ‘Jangam Sampradaya’. The transition from the Rajput traditions to that of Jogi traditions was not easy. But the Rajputs had accepted the terms and, therefore, learnt to not only sing devotional songs in praise of Lord Shiva but also soon became adept at teaching the old Devanagri script. They became ‘Padhas’, traditional teachers. These Padhas or Jangam Jogis earlier used to live in Dara Shikohpur on the western side of the village, i.e., towards Kelanga, but fearing attacks on the eastern border of the village by Ranghars of Bainsi, the Jats settled these Jogis on the eastern side and secured it. The logic being that the Ranghars (Rajput converts to Islam) would never attack Jangam Jogis who are also Panwar Rajputs. The trick worked.

Since the Jogis now do not live in Patti Dara Shikohpur, a sub-division of the village, they can accept alms from the whole of the village,except their own patti.

The Baniyon Walah Kuan at Farmana KhaasJat villagers are like small republics; always oblivious to whatever is happening beyond their territories or whosoever ruled Hindostan as long as nobody intervened in their routine chores and challenged their existence. Local rivalries and skirmishes between Jats and Rajputs or between various Jat tribes/sub-castes (Khaps) were of little consequence to the powerful kings, be they Muslims, Turks, Mughals or the Nawabs.

Like other big villages, Farmana Khaas ran its own economy. It produced enough grain for its needs. Several menial and other artisan classes live in this village along with Jats, Brahmins and Vaishyas. Until about a 100 years ago, all houses were kuccha. The village habitation lived and still lives in clusters and is settled in a clearly demarcated, yet conjoined, piece of land. The village habitation was, and still is, surrounded by at least three large johads (water bodies) viz., Dobbhi, Dhammaalaa and Jauna Aala which provided a sort of a moat for defending the village. The three ponds can store large volumes of water. But they have now degenerated due to heaps of garbage thrown around them. The whole of the village habitation was once surrounded by a thick forest.Villagers used to take fuel, fodder and medicinal herbs and produce from this forest. The forest has disappeared now.

The beautifully decorated balcony of Panney ki ChaupalThe most sociable person in the village is Chaudhary Pirthi Saharan, 80, who is also lovingly called Pirthi Laari by his contemporaries. This old sire resides in his ancestoral house on the high mound in the middle of the village near the ‘Bichli Paras’. All Saharans live in the central area running along north-south axis of the village. Mandernas occupy the eastern flank in Dara Shikohpur, while the Jogis and other non-Jats live in the eastern sub division known as Badshahpur. All Saharans call their territory Panna, which is further sub-divided into Dasaans and Bheemaans.

A turning point in the life of the village came when around 1810 AD, two brothers from the local trading community, Lala Hiramal Singhal and Parmu Mal Singhal, migrated from nearby Kirsola village in Jind state to Farmana Khaas and set up their business. Their prosperity became evident in the third generation when the family decided to build temples and wells in the village as works of charity. A broad investigation of the village revealed an Indo-Islamic style of architecture followed by the builders for various utility buildings. The two temples built in Nagar style, one on the western flank of Dobbhi pond by Lala Parmu Mal and another by Lala Hira Mal on the southern flank of Dhamma Alaa pond, demonstrate purely Indian style of architecture and decoration. The exceptionally large well to the north of the village and west of Dhamma Alaa pond built by the grand children of Lala Hira Mal bears testimony to the superior knowledge and impressive workmanship with which the masons raised this structure. Lambardar Hari Singh told me that this well was constructed by the expert masons of Kumhar community of Bhiwani 120 years ago. For nearly a century, the sweet and cool water from this 90-feet deep well continued to be lifted with the help of a Lav and Charas. The village has at least a dozen other attractive wells on various ponds, but none more popular than this ‘Baniyon Walah Kuan.’

A mural of a peasant in traditional attireAs per tradition, two Shiva temples were built near the ponds. Both the temples are more than a century old and most of the existing wall paintings are still attractive. The style is rough and done in free hand in the temple on Dhamma Alaa built by Lala Hira Mal, while of those available in the Shiva temple on Dobbhi pond built by Lala Parmu Mal are dexterously drawn with a fine hand. They depict events and characters from the Puranic era and Brahmanical order. In Parmu Mal’s temple, built around 1848 AD, the wall paintings seem to have been drawn by Rajasthani painters in ‘Dhoondhaar’ style. It is regrettable that mischief mongers have ruined the beauty of Parmu Mal’s temple. Even the ‘astha dhatu kalasha’ and studded carved door panels were taken away long ago by art thieves. The village headmen are utterly indifferent towards the maintenance of these shrines of immense heritage value to the people of Haryana.

The other two more impressive features in this village are four old chaupals and dozens of nauharas and havelis with beautifully carved doors ‘Lakhauri’ bricks have been used to construct them. The ‘Bichli Paras’ is the oldest structure and was completed in 1923. Although the Bheemans had started building their chaupal (or paras) around 1917, it could be completed only in 1927. At the same time, the Brahmins and Mandernas of Dara Shikohpur joined hands and built their own chaupal. In 1924, both the thoks of Saharans built another beautiful chaupal , the fourth in the village, called Panney Alee chaupal to the east of the village near the Dobbhi pond. These buildings were constructed by the expert masons of Meham called Memars. Although the surface of the walls of all the four chaupals was plastered with white mortar, hundreds of wall paintings were drawn to make them socially impressive and culturally relevant. Among the four, the chaupal of the Bheemans was outstanding in respect of the numbers and quality of wall paintings and beautifully engraved patterns on its central main wooden pillar and brackets. In 1995, because of the floods which swept most of Haryana, the whole structure crumbled. A glorious landmark of this village has been lost forever.