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Monday, November 28, 2011

The People of India - The Bhurs

The People of India series was researched and written by School Without Walls student, Cal Berer.   Cal was an intern at the Freer|Sackler Archives from January 2011-June 20011 where he was then sponsored by the State Department to learn Hindi while spending the summer in India.

The Bhurs

    Unlike many of the tribes discussed in the People of India, the Bhurs, at least in the context in which they are discussed by the British, seem to have all but disappeared from India.  However, before their diaspora, they were one of the most long settled tribes on the subcontinent.  In fact, the British surmised that, in all likelihood, the Bhurs were an aboriginal tribe.  They founded the town of Baraitch, and had significant influence in central Oude for quite some time.  Their time in the sun came to an abrupt end when they were scattered by the then Emperor of the Delhi Sultanate.  POI identifies their conqueror as “Alla-hoo-deen Ghazee of Delhi”, and remarks that the Bhurs “appear to have been systematically extirpated by Mahomedon conquerors in the early part of the 14th century.”  Their last stand before submission appears to have been at the Sultanpur (a name given by Muslim conquerors.  The original Bhur designation has been lost) fort town, where Ghazee laid siege to them.  They put up strong resistance at first, but, according to historians, were defeated during the Holi festival, as a result of excessive drinking and festivities, and the inevitable carelessness that ensues.  After this defeat, Baraitch was more or less deserted, and fell into dereliction.  The following decades saw a similar scattering of the tribe all throughout Oude, until, by the time of POI’s publication, the region was something of an unmarked graveyard.  “Brick ruins of forts, houses, and wells” filled the countryside, but none of the current inhabitants seemed to have any knowledge of their unfortunate predecessors.    Those who managed to remain were forced to accept menial positions, and occupied a very low echelon in society.  The Bhurs, and their devastating fall, are yet another example of India’s endless cultural, political, and religious revolutions; its constant, all encompassing samsara.  

To see all text and images of the Bhurs as they are represented in the People of India, go to our catalog in the Collections Search Center.

The People of India series will be published once a month highlighting the various tribes as they're covered in the People of India. 

Cal Berer, Intern

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