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Bikaner

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Bikaner was founded in 1488 AD by Rao Bika Ji, it's located in north west part of Rajasthan state in India. He annexed the territories of Godara Jats and by 1587 A.D. the construction of Junagarh Fort had begun. A major centre for trade in the 16th century on the ancient silk route , Bikaner has retained its medieval aura. Outside influences are minimal here and the traditional life-style endures. The imposing palaces, beautiful and richly sculptured temples of red and yellow sand stones display some of the finest creations of Rajput civilization.

From James Tod's ` Annals and Antiquities of Rajastan.( 1829 CE)

BIKANER


Bikaner holds a secondary rank amongst the principalities of Rajpootana. It i.s an offset of Marwar, its princes being scions of the house of Joda, who established themselves by conquest on the northern frontier of the parent state and its position, in the heart of the desert, has contributed to the maintenance of their independence.

It was in S. 1515 (A.D. 1459). the year in which Joda transferred the seat of government from Mundore to Jodpoor, that his son Beeka, under the guidance of his uncle Kandul, led three hundred of the sons of Seoji to enlarge the boundaries of Rahtore dominion amidst the sands of Maroo. Beeka was stimulated to the attempt by the success of his brother Beeda, who had recently subjugated the territory inhabited by the Mohils for ages.

Such expeditions as that of Beeka, undertaken expressly for conquest, .were almost uniformly successful. The invaders set out with a determination to slay, or be slain ; and these forays had the additional stimulus of being on 'fated days,' when the warlike creed of the Rajpoots made the abstraction of territory from foe or friend a matter of religious duty.

Beeka, with his band of three hundred, fell upon lhc Sanklas of Jangloo whom they massacred. This exploit brought them in contact with the Bhattias of Poogul, the chief of which gave his daughter in marriage to Beeka, who fixed his headquarters at Korumdesir, where he erected a castle, and gradually augmented his conquests from the neighborhood.

Beeka now approximated to the settlements of the Jats or Getes, who had for ages been established in these arid abodes ; and as the lands they held form a considerable portion of the state of Bikaner it may not be uninteresting to give a sketch of the condition of this singular people prior to the son of Joda establishing the feudal system of Rajwarra amongst their pastoral commonwealths.


Of this celebrated and widely-spread race, we have already given a succinct account.[1] It appears to have been the most numerous as well as the most conspicuous of the tribes of ancient Asia, from the days of Tomyris and Cyrus to those of the present Jat Prince of Lahore, whose successor, if he be endued with similar energy, may, on the reflux of population, find himself seated in their original haunts of Central Asia, to which they have already considerably advanced. [2]In the fourth century, we find the Yuti or Jit kingdom established in the Punjab[3]; but how much earlier this people colonized those regions we are ignorant. At every step made by Mahomedan power in India, it encountered the Jats. On their memorable defence of the passage of the Indus against Mahmood, and on the war of extirpation waged against them by Timoor, both in their primeval seats in Maver-ool-nehr, as well as east of the Sutlej, we have already enlarged; while Baber, in his commentaries, informs us that, in all his irruptions into India, he was assailed by multitudes of Jats [4] during his progress through the Punjab, the peasantry of which region, now proselytes to Islam, are chiefly of this tribe; as well as the military retainers, who, as sectarian followers of Nanuk, merge the name of Jit or Jat, into that of Sikh or ' disciple.' [5]

In short, whether as Yuti, Getes, Jits, Juts, or Jats, this race far surpassed in numbers, three centuries ago, any other tribe or race in India, and it is a fact that they now constitute a vast majority of the peasantry of western Rajwarra, and perhaps of northern India.

At what period these Jats established themselves in the Indian desert, we are, as has been already observed, entirely ignorant, but even at the time of the Rahtore invasion of these communities, their habits confirmed the tradition of their Scythic origin. They led chiefly a pastoral life, were guided, but not governed by the elders, and with the exception of adoration to the ' universal mother ' (Bhavani), incarnate in the person of a youthful Jitni, they were utter aliens to the Hindu theocracy. In. fact, the doctrines of the great Islamite saint, Shekh Fureed, appear to have overturned the pagan rites brought from the Jaxartes ; and without any settled ideas on religion, the Jats of the desert jumbled all their tenets together. They considered themselves, in short, as a distinct class, and, as a Pooniah Jit informed me " their wuttun was far beyond the five Rivers." Even in the name of one of the six communities (the Asiagh), on whose submission Beeka founded his new state, we have nearly the Asi, the chief of the four tribes from the Oxus and Jaxartes, who overturned the Greek kingdom of Bactria.

The period of Rahtore domination over these patriarchal communities was intermediate between Timoor's and Baber's invasion of India,. The former, who was the founder of the Chagitai dynasty, boasts of the myriads of Jat souls he " consigned to perdition " on the desert plains of India, as well as in Transoxiana ) so we may conclude that successive migrations of this people from the great " storehouse of nations " went to the lands east of the Indus, and that the communities who elected Beeka as their sovereign, had been established therein for ages. The extent of their possessions justifies this conclusion ; for nearly the whole of the territory forming the boundaries of Bikaner was possessed by the six Jat cantons namely:—

1. Poonia, 2, Godara, 3. Saran 4. Asiagh 5. Beniwal 6. Johya, or Joweya

though this last is by some termed a ramification of the Yadu-Bhatti: an affiliation by no means invalidating their claims to be considered of 'Jat or Yuti origin[6]

Each canton bore the name of the community, and was subdivided into districts. Besides the six Jat cantons, there were three more simultaneously wrested from Rajpoot proprietors ; namely Bhagore, the Kharriputta, and Mohilla. The six Jat cantons constituted the central and northern, while those of the Rajpoots formed the western and southern frontiers.

Disposition of the Cantons at that period.


Cantons Villages Districts


1 Poonia 300 Bahaderan, Ajltpoor, Scedmookh, 'RaJgurh', Dadrewoh, Sankoo, etc

2 Beniwal 150 Bookurko, Sondurie, Munohurpoor, Kooie, Bae etc.


3 Johya 600 Jaetpoor, Koombanoh, Maha]in, Peepa sir Uodigoor etc.


4 Asiag'h 150 Raotsir, Birmsir, Dandoosir, Gundaeli

5 Saran 100 Kaijur, Phoag, Boochawas, Sowae, Badinoo Sirsilah. etc.


6 Godara 700 Poondrasir, Gosensir (great)) Shelihsir Gursisir) Garibdesir, Rungaysir) Kaloo) etc.

___________ Total in the six Cantons 2,200 ___________

7. Bhagore 300 Bikaner, Nal, Kailah, Rajasir,Suttasir Chatturgarh, Rindsir, Betnokh Bhavanipur,Jeimulsir etc

8 Mohil 140 Chaupur (capital of Mohil), Saondan, Herasir, Gopalpur, Charwas, Beedasir, Ladnoo, Mulasir,Khurbooza ra kote


9. Kharri-putta or The Salt District 30 _________ Grand Total 2,670 __________


With such rapidity were states formed in those times, that in a few years after Beeka left his paternal roof at Mundore, he was lord over 2670 villages, and by a title far stronger and more legitimate than that of conquest—the spontaneous election of the cantons. But although three centuries have scarcely passed since their amalgamation into a sovereignty, one-half of the villages cease to exist ; nor are there now 1300 forming the raj of Soorut Sing, the present occupant and lineal descendant of Beeka,

The Jats and Johyas of these regions, who extended overall the northern desert even to the Garah, led a pastoral life, their wealth consisting in their cattle, which they reared in great numbers, disposing of the superfluity, and of the ghee (butter clarified) and wool, through the medium of Sarsote (Sarasvat) Brahmins (who, in these regions, devote themselves to traffic), receiving in return grain and other conveniences or necessaries of life.

A variety of .causes conspired to facilitate the formation of the state of Bikaner, and the reduction of the ancient Scythic simplicity of the Jit communities to Rajpoot feudal sway; and although the success of his brother Beeda over the Mohils in some degree paved the way, his bloodless conquest could never have happened but for the presence of a vice which has dissolved all the republics of the world. The jealousy of the Johyas and Godarras, the two most powerful of the six Jat cantons, was the immediate motive to the propitiation of the ' son of Joda ' ; besides which, the communities found the band of Beeda, which had extirpated the ancient Mohils when living with them in amity, most troublesome neighbours. Further, they were desirous to place between them and the Bhattis of Jessulmer, a more powerful barrier ; and last, not least, they dreaded the hot valour and ' thirst for land ' which characterised Beeka's retainers, now contiguous to them at Jangloo. For these weighty reasons, at a meeting of the ' ciders ' of the Godarras, it was resolved to conciliate the Rahtore.

Pandu was the patriarchal head of the Godarraa; his residence was at Shekhsiri[6] The ' elder ' of Roneah was next in rank and estimation to Pandu, in communities where equality was as absolute as the proprietary right to the lands which each individually held: that of pasture be common.

The elders of Shekhsir and Roneah were deputed to enter into terms with the Rajpoot prince, and to invest him with supremacy over th community, on the following conditions :-

(1) To make common cause with them, against the Johyas and other cantons, with whom they were then at variance.

(2) To guard the western frontier against the irruption of 1 Bhattis.

(3) To hold the rights and privileges of the comniunity inviolable.

On the fulfilment of these conditions, they relinquished to Beeka and his descendants the supreme power over the Godarras; assigning to him, in perpetuity, the power to levy dhooa, or a ' hearth tax' of one rupee on each house in the canton, and a land tax of two rupees on each hundred beegas of cultivated land within their limits.

Apprehensive, however, that Beeka or his descendants might encroach upon their rights, they asked what security he could' offer against such a contingency ? The Rajpoot chief replied that, in order to dissipate their fears on this head, as well as to perpetuate the remertlbrance of the supremacy thus voluntarily conferred, he would solemnly bind himself and his successors to receive the iika of inauguration from. the hands of the descendants of the elders of Shekhsir and Roneah, and that the gadi Should be deemed vacant until such rite was administered.

In this simple transfer of the allegiance of this pastoral people, we mark that instinctive love of liberty which, accompanied the Gete in all places and all conditions of society, whether on the banks of the Oxus and the Jaxartes, or in the sandy desert of India; and although his political independendence is now annihilated, he is still ready even to shed his blood if his Rajpoot master dare to infringe his inalienable right to his `bapota', his paternal acres.


It is seldom that go incontestable a title to supremacy can be asserted as that which the weakness and jealousies of the Godarras conferred upon Beeka, and it is a pleasing incident to find almost throughout India, in the observance of certain rites, the remembrance of the original compact which transferred the sovereign power from the lords of the soil to their Rajpoot, conquerors. Thus, in Mewar, the fact of the power conferred upon the Gehlote founder by the Bhil aborigines, is commemorated by a custom brought down to the present times. (See vol. i. p. 183.) At Amber, -the same is recorded in the important offices retained by the Meenas, the primitive inhabitants of that land. Both Kotah and Boondi retain in their names the remembrance of the ancient lords of Harouti, and Beeka's descendants preserve, in a twofold manner, the recollection of their bloodless conquest of the Jats. To this day, the descendant of Pandu applies the unguent of royalty to the forehead of the successors of Beeka ; on -which occasion, the prince places ' the fine of relief,' consisting of twenty-five pieces of gold, in the hand of the Jat. Moreover, the spot which he selected for his capital, was the birthright of a Jat who would only concede it for this purpose on the condition that his name should be linked in perpetuity with its surrender. Naira or Nera was the name of the proprietor, which Beeka added to his own, thus composing that of the future capital, Bikaner.

Besides this periodical recognition of the transfer of power, on all lapses of the crown, there are annual memorials of the rights of the Godarras, acknowledged not only by the prince, but by all his Rajpoot vassal-kin, quartered on the lands of the Jat ; and although ' the sons of Beeka,' now multiplied over the country, do not much respect the ancient compact, they at least recognise, in the maintenance of these formulae, the origin of their power.

On the spring and autumnal festivals of the Holi and Dewali, the heirs of the patriarchs of Shekhsir and Roneah give the `tika' to the prince and all his feudality. The Jat of Roneah bears the silver cup and platter which holds the ampoule of the desert, while his compeer applies it to the prince's forehead. The Raja in return deposits a nuzzerana of a gold mohur, and five pieces of silver ; the chieftains) according to their rank, following his example. The gold is taken by the Shekhsir Jit, the silver by the elder of Roneah.


To resume our narrative:

When the preliminaries were adjusted, by Beeka's swearing to maintain the rights of the community which thus surrendered their liberties to his keeping, they united their arms) and invaded the Johyas. This populous community which extended over the northern region of the desert, even to the Sutlej reckoned eleven hundred villages in their canton ; yet now, after the lapse of little more than three centuries, the very name of Johya is extinct. They appear to be the Jenjooheh of Baber, who, in his irruption into India, found them congregated with the 'Juds, about the cluster of hills in the first doabeh of the Punjab, called " the mountains of Joude " ; a position claimed by the Yadus or Jadoos in the very dawn of their history, and called `Jaddoo ca dang', ' the Jaddoo hills.' This supports the assertion that the Johya is of Yadu race, while it does not invalidate its claims to Yuti or Jit descent, as will be further shown in the early portion of the annals of the Yadu-Bhaitis.[7]

The patriarchal head of the Johyas resided at Bhuropal; his name was Sher Singh. He mustered the strength of the canton, and for a long time withstood the continued efforts of the Rajpoots and the Godarras; nor was it until treason had done its worst' by the murder of their elder, and the consequent possession of Bhuropal, that the Johyas succumbed to Rahtore domination.

With this accession of power, Beeka carried his arms westward, and conquered Bhagore from the Bhattis. It was in this district, originally wrested by the Bhattis from the Jats, that Beeka founded his capital Bfkaner, on the 15th of Baisakh, S. 1545 (A.D. 1489) thirty years after his departure from the parental roof at Mundore.

When Beeka was thus firmly established, his uncle Kandul, to' whose spirit of enterprise he was mainly indebted for success, departed with his immediate kin. to the northward) with a view of settling in fresh conquests. He successively subjugated the communities of Asiagh, Beniwal) and Sarun( Saran), which cantons are mostly occupied by his descendants, styled " Kandulote Rahtores," at this day, and although they form an integral portion of the Bikaner state, they evince, in their independent bearing to its chief, that their estates were " the gift of their own swords not of his patents " : and they pay but a reluctant and nominal obedience to his authority. When necessity or avarice imposes a demand for tribute, it is often met by a flat refusal, accompanied with such a comment as this: " Who made this Raja ? Was it not our common ancestor Kandul ? Who is he, who presumes to levy tribute from us ? ' Kandul's career of conquest was cut short by the emperor's lieutenant in Hissar ; he was slain in attempting this important fortress.

Beeka died in S 155I (A.D. 1495) leaving two sons by the daughter of the Bhatti chief of Poogul) namely, Noonkurn.who succeeded, and Gursi,who founded Gursisir and Ursisir. The stock of the latter is numerous, and is distinguished by the epithet Gursote Beeka, whose principal fiefs are those of Gursisir and Garthdesir, each having twenty-four villages depending on them.

Noonkurn maade several conquests from the Bhattis on the westein frontier. He had four sons ; his eldest desiring a separate establishment in his lifetime, for the fief of Mahajin and one hundred and forty villages, renounced his right of primogeniture in favour of his "brother Jaet, who succeeded in S. 1569- His brothers had each appanages assigned to them) He had three sons, 1. Calian Sing; 2, Seoji; and 3) Aishpal. Jaetsi reduced the district of Narnote from some independent Grasia Jat chiefs, and settled it as' the appanage of his second son, Seoji. It was Jaetsi also who compelled ' the sons of Beeda the first Rahtore colonists of this region, to acknowledge his supremacy by an annual tribute, besides certain taxes.

Calain Sing succeeded in S. 1603. He had three sons, 1. Rae Sing; 2. Ram Sing ; and 3, Pirthi Sing.

Rae Sing succeeded in S. 1630 (A.D. 1573)- Until this reign the Jats had, in a great degree, preserved their ancient privileges. Their maintenance was however, found rather inconvenient, by the now superabundant Rajpoot population, and they were consequently dispossessed of all political authority. With the loss of independence their military spirit decayed, and they sunk into mere tillers of the earth. In this reign also Bikaner rose to importance amongst the principalities of the empire, and if the Jats parted with their liberties to the Rajpoot) the latter in like manner) bartered his freedom to become a Satrap of Delhi.

On his father's death, Rae Sing in person undertook the sacred duty of conveying his ashes to the Ganges. The illustrious Akber was then emperor of India. Rae Sing and the emperor had married sisters, princesses of Jessulmer. This connection obtained for him, on his introduction to court by Raja Maun of Amber, the dignity of a leader of four thousand horse, the title of Raja and the government of Hissar. Moreover when Maldeo of Jodpoor incurred the displeasure of the king and was dispossessed of the rich district of Nagore, it was given to Rae Sing. With these honours, and increased power as one of the king's lieutenants,he returned to his dominions, and sent his brother Ram Sing against Bhutnair, of which he made aconquest. This town was the chief place of a district belonging to the Bhattis, originally Jats[8]of Yadu descent, but who assumed this name on becoming proselytes to the faith of Islam.

Ram Sing, at the same time, completely subjugated the Johyas, who, always troublesome, had recently attempted to regain their ancient independence. The Rajpoots carried fire and sword into this country, of which they made a desert. Ever since it has remained desolate: the very name of `Johya' is lost, though the vestiges of considerable towns bear testimony to a remote antiquity.

Amidst these ruins of the Johyas, the name of `Sekunder Roomi' (Alexander the Great) has fixed itself, and the desert retains the tradition that the ruin called Rung-mahl, the ' painted palace,' near Dandoosir, was the capital of a prince of this region punished by a visitation of the Macedonian conqueror. History affords no evidence of Alexander's passage of the Garah, though the scene of his severest conflict was in that nook of the Punjab not remote from the lands of the Johyas. But though the chronicler of Alexander does not sanction our indulging in this speculation, the total darkness in which we appear doomed to remain with regard to Bactria and the petty Grecian kingdoms on the Indus, established by him, does not forbid our surmise, that by some of these, perhaps the descendants of Python,-such a visitation might have happened. [9] The same traditions assert that these regions were not always either arid or desolate, and the living chronicle alluded to in the note, repeated the stanza elsewhere given, which dated its deterioration from the drying up of the `Hakra' river, which came from the Punjab, and flowing through the heart of this country, emptied itself into the Indus between Rory Bekher and Ootch.

The affinity that this word (Hakra) has both to the `Caggar', and Sankra[10] would lead to the conclusion of either being the stream referred to. The former we know as being engulphed in the sands about the Haryana[Heriana] confines, while the Sankra[10] is a stream which, though now dry, was used as a line of demarcation even in the time of Nadir Shah. It ran eastward, parallel with the Indus, and by making it his boundary, Nadir added all the fertile valley of the Indus to his Persian kingdom. (Sec map.) The only date this legendary stanza assigns for the catastrophe is the reign of the Soda prince, Hamir.

Ram Sing, having thus destroyed the power of future resistance in the Johyas, turned his arms against the Poonia Jats, the last who preserved their ancient liberty. They were vanquished, and the Rajpoots were inducted into their most valuable possessions. But the conqueror paid the penalty ot his life for the glory of colonising the lands of the Pooniahs. He was slain in their expiring effort to shake off the yoke of the stranger ; and though the Ramsingotes add to the numerical strength, and enlarge the territory of the heirs of Beeka, they, like the Kandulotes, little increase the power of the state, to which their obedience is nominal. Seedmook'h and Sankoo are the two chief places of the Ramsingotes.


Thus, with the subjugation of the Poonias, the political annihilation of the six Jat cantons of the desert was accomplished: they are now occupied in agriculture and their old pastoral pursuits, and are an industrious tax-paying race under their indolent Rajpoot masters.

Raja Rae Sing led a gallant band of his Rahtores in all the wars of Akbcr, He was distinguished in the assault of Ahmedabad, slaying in single combat the governor, Mirza Mohamed Hussein. The emperor, who knew the value of such valorous subjects, strengthened the connection which already subsisted between the crown and the Rahtores, by obtaining for prince Selim (afterwards Jehangir) Rae Sing's daughter to wife. The unfortunate Purvez was the fruit of this marriage.

Rae Sing was succeeded by his only son, Kurrun, in S. 1688 (A.D. 1632).

Kurrun held the 'munsub of two thousand,' and the government of Doulatabad, in his father's lifetime. Being a supporter of the just claims of Dara Sheko, a plot was laid by the general of his antagonist, with whom he served, to destroy him, but which he was enabled to defeat by the timely intelligence of the Hara, prince of Boondi. He died at Bikaner, leaving four sons 1.Pudma Sing; 2, Kesuri Sing; 3, Mohun Sing; and4,Anop Sing.


This family furnishes another example of the prodigal sacrifice of Rajpoot blood in the imperial service. The two elder princes were slain in the storm of Beejipoor, and the tragical death of the third, Mohun Sing, in the imperial camp, forms an episode in Ferishta's History of the Dekhan.[11]


[1]Vol. i. p, 88, History of the Rajpoot tribes— Article, Jits, or Getes.

[2] Runjeet has long been in possession of Peshore, and entertained views on Cabul, the disorganized condition of which kingdom affords him a favourable opportunity of realizing them.

[3] See Inscription, vol. i. p. 621.

[4] " On Friday the i4.th (Dec. 29, A.D. 1525), of the first Rebi, we arrived at Sialkote. Every time that I have entered Hindostan, the Jits and Gujers have regularly poured down m prodigious numbers from their hills and wilds, in order to carry off oxen and buffaloes." The learned commentator draws a distinction between the Jit inhabitants of the Punjab and of India, which is not maintainable.

[5] " It is worthy of remark," says Colonel Pitman (who accompanied Mr. Elphinstone to Cabul), 'that in the two first Dofibehs (return of the embassy), we saw very few Sikhs, the Jat cultivators of the soil being in general Moosulmauns, and in complete subjugation to the Sikhs "


[6]This town is named after the Islamite saint, Shekh -Fureed of Palputtun, who has a durgah here. He was greatly esteemed by the Jits, before the boa dea assumed the shape of a Jitni to whom, under the title of Carani, ' a ray of the mother,' all bend the head.


[7] I presented a work on this race, enticed The Book of the Johyas (sent me by the prime inmiater of Jcssulmcr) to the Royal Asiatic Society. Having obtained it Just before leaving Rajpootana, I never had leisure to examine it, or to pronounce on its value as an historical document : but any work having reference to so singular a community can scarcely fail to furnish matter of interest.


[8] In the Annals of Jessulmer, the number of offsets from the Yadu-Bhatti tribe which assumed the name of Jat, will be seen; an additional ground for asserting that the Scythic Yadu is in fact the Yuti.

[9] My informant of this tradition was an old inhabitant of Dand'oosir, and althoupli seventy years of age, had never left the little district of his nativity until he was brought to me, as one of tlie most intelligent living records of the past. [10] The natives of thiese regions cannot pronounce the sibilant ; so that, as I have already stated, the `s' is converted into `h'. I gave as an example the name Jahilmer, which becomes ' the hill of fools,' instead of ' the hill of Jasil.' `Sankra', in like manner becomes `Hankra'.


[11] 'The young desert chieftain, like all his tribe, would find matter for quarrel in the wind blowing in his face. Having received what he-deemed an insult from the brother-in-law of the Shazada, in a dispute regarding a fawn, he appealed to his sword, and a duel ensued even in the presence-chamber, in which young Mohun fell. The fracas was reported to his brother Pudma, at no distance from the scene. With the few retainers at hand, lie rushed to the spot, and found his brother bathed in his blood. His antagonist, still hanging over his victim, when he saw the infuriated Rahtore enter, with sword and shield, prepared for dreadful vengeance, retreated behind one of the columns of the Aum Khas {Divan). But Pudma's sword reached him, and avenged his brother's death ; as the record says, " he felled him to the earth, cleaving at the same place the pillar in twain." Taking up the dead body of his brother, and surrounded by his vassals, he repaired to his quarter where he assembled all the Rajpoot princes serving with their contingents, as Jeipoor, Jodpoor, Harouti, and harangued them on the insult to their race in the murder of his brother. They all agreed to abandon the king's army, and retire to their own homes. A noble was sent to expostulate by Prince Moozzim; but in vain. He urged that the prince not only forgave, but approved the summary vengeance taken by the Rahtore: they refused to listen, and in a body had retired more than twenty miles, when the prince in person joined them, and concessions and expostulations overcoming them, they returned to the camp. It was subsequent to this that the two elder brothers were slain. It is recorded of the surviving brother, that he slew an enormous lion in single combat. For this exploit, which thoroughly entitled him to the name lie bore {Kesuri). ' the Lion,' he received an estate of twentv-flve villages from the King.

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