|Regions with significant populations|
15% population (2001 Census)
|India||Population in Sikkim, West Bengal and Assam (migrated towards the east from western part of Nepal after the mid 18th century AD. After Nepal and Limbuwan treaty).|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Kshatriyas; Kumaoni people; Pahari Rajputs|
Chhetri or Chhettri (Nepali: छेत्री), synonymous with Kshetri (Nepali: क्षेत्री) and Khatri (Nepali: खत्री) are all derivatives of Kshatriya (Sanskrit: क्षत्रीय), the warrior and ruler caste group or varna of Hinduism. Chhetris speak Nepali, the national language, and are part of the dominant Khasa culture and the wider Pahari Khas-Nepali population. Chhetri refers to Kshatriyas from the hills of Nepal but not from the Nepalese Terai or India.
They formed Nepal's largest caste group, 15.5% of the population. Chhetris are overwhelmingly Hindu (99.48% according to the 2001 Census). In Nepal's hill districts their proportion of the population rises to 41% compared to 31% Brahmin and 27% other castes. This greatly exceeds the Kshatriya portion in most regions with predominantly Hindu populations.
The Himalaya were considered a sacred place for attaining liberation in Hindu mythology. References to Brahmins and Kshatriyas are found in Banawali (Tantric texts) on Nepal, in whose ancient setting the Kathmandu Valley was still a lake. The lake was owned by Banasura or some claims Danasur ( The mix of kirati and Assyrian or often called Ashur). Manjushree (mongoloid or related to Kirat people) came from china and drained the water from the pond and thus the valley came into existence.
Before the Shah dynasty (1768–2008) united Nepal excluding the eastern region of Nepal from Arun onwards Limbuwan was the only federal state with whom Prithivi Narayan Shah signed treaty and continued as a federal state. The Limbuwan and Nepal treaty was renewed often till Mahendra Shah imposed 'Bhumisudhar Ain' or kind of Land reform Act. kings of various ethnic and caste groups ruled about 50 small kingdoms. The ancient name of this Himalayan region was Khas-des. Khas peoples (Nepali: खस) were the most populous and are mentioned in the histories of India and China. The Khas were Indo-European-speaking Aryan mountain dwellers, spreading from west to east across the hills of the Central Himalaya. They established many independent dynasties in early medieval times. The Khas people had an empire, the Kaśa Kingdom which included Kashmir, part of Tibet, and Western Nepal (Karnali Zone).It is also believed that during the rule of Shah dynasty "Lahad Singh" and "Pahad Singh" were invited for making strategical war against kasthamandap and kritipur.Later they were renowned as "Deuwa" and then "Deuja". Their bravery let the king defeat Kasthamandap and Kritipur. Since then "Deuja" and "Shah" have had a smooth relationship.
Anthropologists believe that within the context of Indo-Aryan migration, the majority of Chhetris derive from unions between Khas and indigenous groups, as the Khas progressively encroached on indigenous homelands. Many Chhetris exhibit traits of mixed racial heritage, more so than Brahmins (called Bahun in the Nepalese hills). There are several recognized ways to enter the Chhetri caste apart from Jharra(pure)Chettri or Khas :
- Having nothing but ancestors ultimately tracable to Kshatriyas.
- Being the scion of a Brahman father and any other "clean" caste including Magar or other Tibeto-Burman "hill tribes".
- The child of a Chhetri father and a woman from these lower but "clean" castes is still Chhetri.
- An arbitrary community can start following Chhetri caste rules (especially in diet), hiring Bahuns to conduct certain rituals and even to write dubious genealogy. Over generations, these claims of Chhetri affinity become plausible to broader audiences.
Despite racial admixture, Chhetris remain strongly indo-Nepalese in culture and language.
In the early modern history of Nepal, Chhetris played a key role in the unification of the country, providing the core of the Gorkhali army of the mid-18th century. During the monarchy, Chhetris continued to dominate the ranks of the Nepalese Army, police, Nepalese government administration, and even one regiment of the Indian Army. Under the pre-democratic constitution and institutions of the state, Chhetri culture and language also dominated various ethic groups to the disadvantage and exclusion of many minorities and indigenous peoples. The desire for increased self-determination among these minorities and indigenous peoples was a central issue in the Nepalese Civil War and subsequent democratic movement.Till the date chhetri, bahun, dasnami and dalit had allied to seek the brotherhood and protested against the federal state system and go along with the late King Mahendra's administrative structure consisting of 14 zones and 75 districts however, the 5 development region introduced by late King Birendra is the mandate to be followed in the future too .
The most prominent features of Nepalese Chhetri society have been the ruling Shah dynasty (1768–2008), the Rana Prime Ministers (1846–1953) that marginalized the monarchy, and the Chhetri presence in the armed forces, police, and government of Nepal. The King of Nepal was a member of the Thakuri subcaste. In traditional and administrative professions, Chhetris were given favorable treatment by the royal government.
Chhetris comprise many subgroups, including Khasa (clans from Khas) and Thakuri (aristocratic clans). The Khasa subgroups are widespread in Karnali. Members of certain Khasa subgroups are called pawai ("peripheral"), or matwali ("bacchanal") because of their use of alcohol. These populations are descendants of Khas people who did not convert to Hinduism, and who today do not don the janai (sacred thread).
Chhetris, like Bahuns, do not practice cross-cousin marriage, which distinguishes them from the Thakuri who marry maternal cross-cousins. Though marriage among Chhetris is usually monogamous, some practice polygamy. Girls are married at an early age, and remarriage by widows is prohibited by social norms. Chhetris practice cremation of the dead.
Khas religion began with shamanism and nature worship. When the Shakya Prince Siddartha Gautama achieved Nirvana and started preaching Buddhism in the 5th century BCE, Khas largely converted to Buddhism. The inhabitants of Khas later largely adopted Hinduism, however they revere and worship Buddha along with Hindu deities, and continue some shamanistic practices.
The religion followed by most Chhetri today is very much patterned after Hinduism. Like the Brahmin Bahuns, their caste is among the "twice-born", so called because males are symbolically reborn at age thirteen, when they begin to wear the janai. Likewise, they share the same festivals as the Bahuns; the life cycle rites of birth, initiation, marriage, and death are celebrated with Brahmanic rites. This is especially true of the aristocratic Thakuri subcaste and members of Khas subcastes whose ancestors converted to Hinduism or who claim to be of pure Kshatriya blood.
Hindu Chhetris, like the Brahmin, wear a sacred thread called a janai, which signifies their "twice-born" status. They also abstain from alcohol. Among Chhetris, the menstruation period is considered highly polluting.
Matwali Khasa religion
Many Khasa subgroups, collectively called Matwali ("alcohol drinking") Chhetris, retain faith in their traditional shamanistic and oracular religion. Their priests are called dhami, and all adherents are permitted to drink alcohol. However the Matwali do not wear the sacred thread typical of other Chhetris.
Principal Matwali deities are referred to collectively as masto, and also have individual names, such as Babiro or Tharpo. Each masto has a geographical domain in the Khas region. Other indigenous Khasa deities include the Mali-ka goddesses, associated in Hinduism with Bhagavathi, whom the Matwali worship on certain full moon days on high ridges. Matwali and other Chhetris also have a tradition of worshiping their kul-deuta or kul-devata (ancestral deity) at annual lineage gatherings.
The Chhetri are divided into many descent groups with names associated with place-names in the Karnali region or representing occupations. Some of these names are shared among Bahuns, indicating a common Khas origin among these higher castes. Examples of occupation-derived surnames are Khadka ("sword-bearer") and Kunwar ("prince"). The so-called higher caste bahun intermingled with the khas and the child born to them was denounced or degraded from bahun to chhetri. The majority chhetri living in the eastern are the results of the such intermingle. e.g. Chaulagain are bahuns but there are also chaulagain chhetri the degraded bahun. The history indicates only Six pure chhetri or Jhhara Chhetri
Family names of Nepali Chhetri
- Karki (revenue officer)
- Bhandari (military officers and some are store keeper)
- Khadka (sword-bearer)
- Bisht (baron/distinguished)
- Baniya (Military Officers)
- Thapa(Officer) (Tibetan: man at the border)
- Thada rahi Adhikari
- Khatri (KC)
- Gharti Chhetri (GC)
- Budhathoki Chhetri (BC)
- Dangi Chhetri (DC)
- Chhetri (Kshatriya)
There is some confusion about the surname Rana. This was a self-designated surname of the former hereditary prime ministers of Nepal. The first autocratic Prime Minister of Nepal, Jang Bahadur Kunwar, changed his surname to Rana to strengthen his claim and association with Rana kings in Rajasthan, the claimed origin of his ancestors.
- Jang Bahadur Kunwar, The first autocratic Prime Minister of Nepal
- Madan Kumar Bhandari, Famous Politician of Nepal and Former President of UML Party
- Surya Bahadur Thapa, Former Prime Minister of Nepal
- Nar Bahadur Bhandari, Former Chief Minister of Sikkim
- Sunil Chhetri, Indian football player
- Rajendra Bhandari, athlete
- Nirmal Chettri, Indian football player
- Bharat Chettri, Indian field hockey player
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