Before the beginnings: The Nehru Genealogy from Jhelum to Ganga



Read the first part here

So the Nehru, aka Jawaharlal Nehru’s story begins from Allahabad. But where did the Nehrus, including his father Motilal Nehru, a former Congress President and a great freedom fighter in his own right, begin? How did a family of Kashmiri Brahmins living by the river Jhelum end up in the city that marks the confluence of the Ganges, holiest river for the Hindus, Jamuna and the mythological Saraswati in the era of far less outward migrations almost three centuries ago. 

Thinking of this always brings a smile to my face. While traveling in Indonesia, a local friend has once shared a belief that no two rivers can ever be disconnected, they would always find a way to meet each other even if they are continents apart.

The Nehru story is one such story with no exact information on how the family living, perhaps, in the village by the banks of Jhelum in Baramulla reached Delhi by the banks of the Yamuna. Everything, however, is crystal clear after that. In fact it is even poetic, Jamuna has to meet the Ganges, so the Nehrus living by it could do nothing but follow the flow. 

Going by the first account, endorsed by Jawaharlal Nehru himself, Mughal emperor Farukhsiyar noticed his great great granddad (Jawaharlal Nehru was his 7th generation) Pandit Raj Naraian Kaul, a great knowledgeable person, during his visit of Kashmir around 1716 and invited him to Delhi with a Jagir (estate) and a haveli(mansion) by a Nahar (canal). Now, who could deny either: a call by the emperor or the opportunities it bestowed on him? So Raj Kaul took the plunge and started getting called Kaul-Nehru by the other Kashmiris which slowly got reduced to just Nehru. 

However, Kashmiri scholar Muhammad Yusuf Tang disagrees with this therory arguing Farukhsiyar, in his short regime, did never went to Kashmir. He also argues that the contemporary historians do not mention Raj Narain Kaul much so it is unlikely of him being any great intellectual. He asserts that the name Nehru came from their original village- Nuhar in Baramulla. 

Yet, both stories concur on one fact- of Raj Narain Kaul being in employment of ill fated Farrukhsiyar, and steadily losing their rank with his weakening, and finally all together with his assassination. The last beneficiaries of the zagir were Raj Narain Kaul’s grandsons Mausa Ram Kaul and Saheb Ram Kaul. The family started looking for other avenues shortly afterwards with Mausa Ram's son, Lakshmi Narayan, getting employed as the first Vakil of the East India Company at the Mughal court of Delhi. 

His son Gaaga Dhar Kaul, the father of Motilal Nehru and the grandfather of Jawaharlal Nehru also became Kotwal under the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar during the 1857 mutiny. Ganga Dhar Kaul, incidentally, was the last Kotwal of Delhi as the institution fell when the East India Company took over Delhi after the collapse of Mughal Emperor. 

One thing clearly established by this is the fact that the Kaul Nehrus were already settled in Delhi for over a century and a half intermarrying with Kashmiri Brahmins as it was required by both, culture and religion. Now, remember that the Kashmiri Brahmins are one of the closest knit communities of India thanks to their rather small numbers. Why I am asking this, I would come to that later. 

Back to the story, Lakshmi Narayan being a Vakil (advocate) for East India Company saved them and got them to Agra. As historian B. R. Nanda who wrote the most authoritative biography of Motilal Nehru writes, this was a hard journey with added threat of the British soldiers mistaking one of his daughter with her fair complexion and fine Kashmiri features for an English girl and almost killing them but for Ganga Dhar's sons, who spoke English, clearing up the misunderstanding. 

This is what got them to Agra, on the banks of Jamuna safely, from where they had to reach Khetadi, a vassal state of Jaipur. It was to follow another upheaval that would bring them to Kanpur, on the banks of the river Ganges from where Motilal Nehru would take the final plunge into Allahabad, the Sangam! 

This post is part of #BlogchatterA2Z

This post is also part of the global Blogging from A to Z 2021


  1. How you connect this to Indonesia and where not is simply beautiful. Kudos.

  2. Love the way you make this travel to Indonesia and all over


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