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Labana
(With Thanks From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Classification: tribe

Subdivisions - Significant populations in Punjab and other parts of India

Languages: Lubanki, Punjabi, Hindi and its dialects

Religions: Sikhism, Hinduism & Islam

Labanas are a tribe which live all over India. Labanas have their own language called lubanki. However, this language is only spoken by Labanas outside the Punjab state of India. The Labanas of Punjab and Haryana are mostly Sikhs.

Historical Background

Origin of Labanas

The term Lobana appears to have been derived from LOON (salt) and the BANA (trade). The Lobanas were the great salt-carrying and salt-trading community.[citation needed]They were occasionally called Banjaras. Locally, they were known by different names in parts of the Punjab. In Ambala district, for example, on account of their versatility in adopting different vocations, the labanas were called Bahrupias.

Different views are prevalent about the origin of the Lobanas. It is said that labanas are of Turkish origin they travelled from turkey toward india . In Ludhiana and Jhang districts, the Lobanas claimed to be the descendants of Chauhan Rajputs of Jaipur and Jodhpur. In Gujrat district, they claimed to be Raghuvanshi Rajputs. The Lobanas of Kangra and Hoshiarpur districts claimed their origin from the Gaur Brahmins of Pilibhit. A good number of them traced their origin from Gaur Brahmins who came to the Punjab from Ranthambore in Aurangzeb's time. It appears to be more appropriate to regard the Lobanas as a sub-division of the great Banjara tribe, forming one of their Principal sub-castes. for more details click www.labanas.com

The Lobanas are well-known in the history of the Punjab in general and that of the Sikhs in particular since the days of the last two Sikh Gurus.

Sikh History & After Guru's Period

After the death of Guru Harkrishan, there was a confusion about the identification of his successor. According to Sikh legends, Makhan Shah, a great merchant of the Lobana tribe, identified Guru Teg Bahadur as the successor of Guru Harkrishan. Makhan Shah was very helpful to Guru Teg Bahadur during his pontificate.

Another Lobana Sikh, Lakhi Shah, did valuable service to Sikhism in November 1675 by the cremation of Guru Teg Bahadur after his execution in Delhi. Afterwards Lakhi Shah, accompanied by his companions, went to Anandpur to pay homage to Guru Gobind Singh. It is said that his services were highly appreciated by Guru Gobind Singh.

The Lobanas participated in the battles fought by the tenth Guru. We know that Hem Singh. son of Lakhi Shah sacrificed his life in 1703 in the battle of Anandpur. After Guru Gobind Singh the Lobanas gave financial and military support to Banda Bahadur on his arrival in the Punjab. They joined Banda's army and took active part in the battles fought by him. Banda Bahadur consulted the Lobanas during his exploits like at Sadhaura. The Lobanas like Kaur Singh, Baj Singh and Bhagwant Singh occupied important positions in the army of Banda Bahadur.

During the MISL period, the Lobanas joined the services of various MISLDARS. They mostly served in the Bhangi, Ramgarhia, Shaheed and Ahluwalia MISLS. Some of them were in the ruling class of the Ahluwalia Misl. During the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Lobanas were recruited into the Khalsa Army. They proved to be good soldiers.

During the eighteenth century the Lobanas began to follow a settled way of life. There are many instances regarding their settlement as cultivators by the Sikh rulers to extend cultivation. The Lobanas of Lower Indus, Gujranwala and Jhang, for instance, settled as cultivators during the Sikh rule. In Kangra district, the Lobanas ascribed their settlement by Raja Dharam Chand and Langrapal. In the early nineteenth century, the Lobanas had established their own important villages. For instance in Gujrat district, they had three villages named Bazurgwal, Khori Dunna Singh and Tanda. Tanda was a well-known Lobana settlement. It was situated on the land of Moth-sa-duddin which was a part of chhachhan TAPPA.

Wherever the Lobanas settled they mainly named their villages as Tandas. Tanda in Lobanki dialect means a travelling body or gang. In Kangra district the Lobanas had four hamlets each called Tanda. In this way the Lobanas replaced their nomadic and pastoral life by settled way of life. By the mid-nineteenth century, the Lobanas at some places owned not only parts of villages, but also entire villages and even groups of villages. They were chiefly found in the Panjab during the Sikh rule.

Originally, the Lobanas were transporters and carriers. They supplied grains and other things of necessity in different parts of country. They had their own pack of animals. The trade was conducted in the shape of caravans and was responsible for security particularly in the dangerous tracts like forests and deserts. It was his duty to arrange fodder and make other administrative arrangements. He lived like a prince and wore a chain of pearls hanging from the neck.

Under the Sikh rule, majority of the Labanas continued their former occupations on traditional pattern. Bulk of them earned livelihood as professional carriers and only some of them as traders. Cattle-trade was also prevalent among them. In the business management, they could not compete with the Khatris and Aroras. Their position was similar to few other carrying and trading communities like Bhabras, Prachas and Khojas. Like the other trading communities the Lobanas also harvested profits from the expansion of trade. Thus their financial position gradually improved. The improvement in their economic condition paved the way for upward social mobility among the Lobanas.

In the late eighteenth century some of the Lobanas followed pastoral pursuits. Under the Sikh rule, the Lobanas were entering the agrarian hierarchy. This process was accelerated by the agrarian policy of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to extend cultivation. The general policy of Maharaja Ranjit Singh towards the agrarian classes was guided by the security and development of revenues. The grants of waste land were given to new cultivators. Among other factors this gave an opportunity to the Lobanas to become agriculturists. For example, the Lobanas of Lower Indus settled as agriculturists during the period of Diwan Sawan Mal. Similarly, the Lobanas of Gujranwala and Jhang districts entered the agrarian hierarchy when the state repaired and dug the perennial an inundation canals. The land was given to them by Maharaja Ranjit Singh at nominal rent. They acquired proprietorship of the waste land cultivated by them. Thus, the Lobanas became peasant-proprietorship in some districts of the Panjab towards the end of the Sikh rule. Considering the premium attached to the possession of land in a predominantly agrarian society, this may be traced as signifying upward social mobility.

In retrospect, we see that the Lobanas became a well-known community in the Panjab towards the end of the Sikh rule. Their financial position gradually improved under the Sikh rule. A good number of the Lobanas followed pastoral occupation. They began to enter in the agrarian hierarchy by making the best use of facilities provided by the state. But majority of the Lobanas still continued with their traditional occupations.

In addition to those 2 great sikhs there were more lobana sikhs in the period of guru gobind singh to name a few famous ones:

BHAI MANI SINGH

BHAI BACHITTAR SINGH & BHAI UDAI SINGH

BHAI DYALA JI

BHAI MAHA SINGH


About bhai maha singh it is clearly mentioned that he was the son of BHAI RAI CHAND (real brother of BHAI MANI SINGH) and it is also mentioned that BHAI DYALA JI was BHAI MANI SINGH'S real brother.

For all practical purposes Lobanas, Vanjaras have nomadic roots and have been related to the Lambada or Labada tribe of Andhra among others, and there are some who believe that they are of the same stock as the Gypsies or Roma people in Europe. Labana's also have been linked with Gypsies from Turkey. Though some had trading background too, currently most Labana's in Punjab are wealthy & rich and involved in agriculture. For more details check www.labanas.com

Labanas in Sikh history

There are some well known Lobana Sikhs. These include:

Makhan Shah Lobana, who identified Guru Teg Bahadur out of twenty-two imposters at the village of Baba Bakala.

Bhai Lakhi Shah Vanjara, who took the headless body of Guru Teg Bahadur under the cover of darkness, from Chandni Chowk in 1675 AD and cremated it, putting his house on fire (Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib in Delhi is the site).

Bhai Uday Singh and Bhai Bachittar Singh, both brothers were Vanjaras. The latter attacked a tipsy Mughal elephant at Guru Gobind Singh's command.

Vanajaras and Sikligars helped Banda Bahadur with both men and material in his campaigns of the Punjab especially Sirhind.

GEOGRAPHY:

Country: India

Continent: Asia

Region: South Asia

Population in India: 355,000

Largest States on file: Punjab (283,000), Haryana (16,000), Rajasthan (11,000), Jammu and Kashmir (10,000), Uttar Pradesh (10,000), Delhi (8,000), Maharashtra (3,600), Uttaranachal (3,300), Chandigarh (2,200), Madhya Pradesh (1,900).

LANGUAGE:

Primary Language: Panjabi, Eastern (318,000 Speakers)

Secondary Languages: Hindi (4,500), Harauti (20), Mewari (10), Pahari-Potwari: Punchhi (Unknown), Haryanvi: Bagdi (Unknown)

Dialect: Lubanki

Clans In Lobanas:

Ghotra(Or Ajrawat ,Or [1] Baghiana, Lakhman), Multani, Labana, Sujlana, Maniani, chanaina, are main clans mostly found and well known.

Other Clans are Badwalie, Belia, Bhagtaun, Bhonie, Dahgre, Danie, Dara Shah, Datla, Dhandsi,Dharim, Dotal, Fatra, Ghare, Gojalia, Gujars, Jullon, jTatra, Kankanya, Kharrie, Khera, Khasarya, Kulwana, Lahoriae, Lavana, Lohana, Lulia, Makhan Shahi, Mathaun, Mathaunie, Mochie, Nanaut, Narowal, Padurgi, Palsiya, Parwal, Pelia, Tadra, Vakhil,Wamial, Wamowal, Lalia.

Labanas today

In pre-partition Punjab, Sant Baba Prem Singh Muralewale brought a lot of Labanas into the Sikh fold. After partition, Sant Baba Prem Singh Muralewale shifter to Begowal, Kapurthala. Bibi Jagir Kaur, ex-President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee belongs to the Labana community, . Gulzar Lahoria A Punjabi Singer is also Lobana.Harpreet Singh (Carrom Player) is also a labana from punjab.

Other parts of India

Besides Punjab, these tribes are also found in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharastra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar and Gujarat. In these areas, they may not necessarily follow Sikhism.

Inderjit Singh Labana is also one of the most famous Labana's in the current Sikh world. He is the owner of multi-million pound company HT&E (Hands on Technology & Engineering).

Amrit Labana is currently a student at Cardiff University, son of Inderjit Labana, who has been touted by many to achieve great things in politics.

References:

Lobanas, Vanjaras and Sikligars: Article on Lubanas by Jaswant Singh which appeared in 'Sikhstudies.org'

Gurmat Parkash, October 2002 (pages 11-43) Monthly Journal of Dharam Parchar Committee, SGPC, Amritsar.

Guru Shabad Ratankar Mahan Kosh.

Clans references - http://surnamesslist.googlepages.com/

External links: http://www.labanas.com

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Social history of Lubanas
Review by Satish K. Kapoor

The Lubanas in Punjab: Social, Economic and Political Change (1849-1947) by Jaswant Singh. Murabia Publishers, Begowal (Kapurthala district). Pages 260. Rs 225.

"LAVANIK" is the Sanskrit word for a salt merchant. The Lubana (also spelled as Lobana, Libana and Lebana) community is said to have derived its name from this word because its members traded in salt. But Lubanas did not deal in salt alone but other goods as well including gur, grains, oil seeds, and petty ornaments like ear trinkets and brass rings. In that case they would not have become known after one trade item to the exclusion of others.

Linguistically, the word "lubana" is more in propinquity with the Sanskrit lubhana or lubhavana, meaning that which pleases, attracts or gratifies. The community was once known for continuing the ancient tradition of mimicry through wayside shows; hence the name bahurupia (from bahu, many and rupa, forms) tagged to it. The mendicant actors of the community entertained people by assuming different forms and characters both playfully and derisively.

The historical course of the community did not, however, follow a single track. Many Lubanas assumed the role of carriers of goods from one part of the country to another.

Due to their nomadic life-pattern and their indulgence in trade activity of minor nature, they came to be called banjaras. Their lineage has been variously traced to Chauhan or Raghuvanshi Rajputs, to Gaur Brahmins and even to Suryavanshi and Chandravanshi Kshatriyas, perhaps because of the changing nature of their activities at different places and at different periods of time. Although a vast majority of them came from the Hindu stock, there were some who claimed affinity to the Turks.

This book provides and interesting historical account of the Lubana community of Punjab known for its dexterity, simplicity, religiosity, courage of conviction and loyalty to the Sikh Gurus and to the Sikh ethos. It takes into account the ethnographic, social, economic, political and cultural facets of the community, throwing fresh light on many neglected aspects. It places the community on a broader canvas of the history of greater Punjab, specifically during the British period, with a view to evaluating its role and contribution and exploring the aspects of social mobility, cultural renaissance and political awakening among its members.

The analytical mode of a sociologist leads him from cause to effect; that of a historian from effect to cause. Jaswant Singh coalesces the two approaches to provide varying dimensions of the complex phenomena of social, economic and political change among the Lubanas. The metamorphosis of the community from that of "gymnosophist" traders or carriers of daily commodities to peasant proprietors, and from nomads to settled people is an odyssey of great historical and sociological importance.

The dynamics of social change among the Lubanas lay both in endogenous and exogenous factors. Change, a value-neutral concept, occurred in a gradual way in the community, affecting at times the quintessentials of its sociocultural system. But the change was not born of a sense of alienation or defeatism. It was positive and natural under the exigencies of circumstances. The more or less acephalous character of the community also helped it to imbibe values and norms of other (cultures) without any fear of deviational sin.

The first prominent Lubana to be fascinated by the Sikh way of life was Saundhe Shah who came in contact with Guru Angad Dev. He was followed by many others like Baba Hasna and Baba Takht Mal who served the fifth and sixth Sikh Gurus. Another Lubana Sikh, Baba Dalipa, is said to have preached the Sikh doctrine in the Jalandhar doaba during this period. Makhan Shah, the wealthy trader who discovered Guru Tegh Bahadur from among the impostor Gurus at Bakala, and Lakhi Shah who along with his son Nagahia, cremated the headless body of the ninth Guru by burning his own house, were Lubana Sikhs.

The Lubanas served in the armies of Guru Gobind Singh, Banda Bahadur, the misldars and Maharaja Ranjit Singh and distinguished themselves by their fearlessness and sincerity. Many among them took to agriculture as a result of the agrarian policy of Maharaja Ranjit Singh which entrusted waste land to them on a nominal rent. Gradually, they became peasant-proprietors in some districts.

The Lubanas numbered nearly 50,000 as per the 1881 census. In the next 50 years they showed a demographic increase of 14 to 16 per cent. Jaswant Singh describes how and why the number of Sikh Lubanas surpassed that of Hindu or Muslim Lubanas in the 19th century, and in what way the change in the occupation of members of the community affected their geographical distribution.

Jaswant Singh delineates the social customs and religious beliefs and practices of the Lubanas in a masterly way. He takes note of the expensive and supercilious customs governing birth, marriage and death which underwent a change for the better as a result of western education, interaction with enlightened members of other communities through military and civil services, the ‘‘vihar sudhar lehar’’ of Sant Prem Singh and the pristine form of Sikhism as presented by Singh Sabhas.

Gradually, the polytheistic Lubanas worshipping mother goddess, snake, samadhi, tree or some such object came to abhor the traditional religious practices. Adoration of the pipal tree almost disappeared. The role of purohits or religious mendicants also diminished in their socio-religious life. The use of sacred thread, smoking the hukkah, opium and intoxicating snuffs became a taboo for members of the community. The Lubanki dialect of the Lubanas lost its credibility and use, and with it faded away the obsolescent aspects of their culture.

The political consciousness among the Lubanas was as much the consequence of the administrative policies of the British as of the socio- cultural resurgence brought about by the Singh Sabhas. They acted both as collaborators and opponents of the Raj which is evident from the fact that while they served the British cause during the two world wars, they also participated in Akali morchas and Congress movements.

The book having four useful appendices (on the Lubanki dialect, Lubana establishments, eminent Lubana personalities and Lubana villages) detailed glossary, bibliography and index is a pioneer work of great merit.

(With Thanks from Tribune, Chandigarh.)

Khushwant Singh's Note About Lubanas
A small community about which very little is known are Lubanas of the Punjab. The name is derived from Laban — salt. Apparently they brought rock salt from the Khewra mines on camels and oxen and sold it in different parts of northern India. Like the Banjaras, Lambadis and other nomadic tribes, they were ever on the move with their entire families, cattle and dogs to guard their encampments. They claimed to be of Rajput descent and their dialect Lubanki has many words found in Bagri of Rajasthan. As they changed from being nomadic carriers to settling down on land and taking to agriculture, they named many of their villages Tandas.

They were largely Hindus and animists. They worshipped trees, mostly peepals (ficus religiosa) and snakes. Among their revered deities was Gugga Peer who changed his form from a human to a serpent and went underground. A small percentage of Lubanas were Muslims. They were found in all parts of undivided Punjab, from Bahawalpur to Kangra and Chamba. With the advent of Sikhism, a predominant majority converted to the faith of Guru Nanak and later the Khalsa Panth of Guru Gobind Singh.

By the time the British established themselves as rulers of the Punjab, the Lubanas were mostly engaged in agriculture. They were recognised as an agricultural and martial class. Companies of Lubana Sikhs fought in the two World Wars (some joined Netaji’s INA). They were active in the Akali agitation as well as the Congress-led satyagraha. They set up gurdwaras and schools of their own.

Bibi Jagir Kaur, erstwhile minister in Prakash Singh Badal’s government and now the first woman to become President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee is head of the most important Dera of the Lubanas and the most outstanding person of this Sikh sub-community.

Professor Jaswant Singh of the Department of History of NNSA Government College, Kapurthala has compiled a history of his community: The Lubanas in the Punjab: Social, Economic and Political Change (1849-1947) (Murabia Publishers). His work is largely bases on writings of earlier Lubanas, Census Reports and District Gazetteers. To the best of my knowledge it is the first account of this enterprising community to be written in English.
 
 
 

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