||This article possibly contains original research. (October 2010)|
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (October 2010)|
Chinyoti (Urdu: چنیوٹی ) are one of the leading industrialists of Pakistan. They come from a small town of Chiniot. Chiniot is the headquarters of Chiniot District of Punjab province of Pakistan with a catchment area population of nearly 1 million inhabitants (rural and urban), is located on the banks of Chenab, southwestern Punjab. Chinioti term is reserved only for those residents and their descendants who migrated to far off Indian cities in the late 19th or early 20th century to set up small businesses. They are also known as Chinioti Shaikhs.
The Chinioti Shaikh are a multi-ethnic community who are partly descended from Arabs, Persians, Afghans and Turks. The Muslims of Middle East and Central Asia have historically, travelled to South Asia as technocrats, bureaucrats, soldiers, traders, scientists, architects, teachers, theologians and Sufis during the Islamic Sultanates and Mughal Empire and settled permanently.
Out of 100,000 people who proudly call themselves Chiniotis, only 5,000 live in Chiniot. A small number of these Punjabi families were settled in Kolkatta (Calcutta) where they had migrated from Punjab in the 19th century to set up businesses near the source. The group remains endogamous and marries within the Punjabi Khatri community only. Beside Chiniot, they are living in Faisalabad, Lahore and Karachi.
The ancestors of these traders belonged to two Hindu caste groups ; Khatri and Arora. After embracing Islam they called themselves Khoja and adopted Sheikh or Mian as title. They are also known as Chinioti Sheikh or Khoja Sheikh. The Khatri gotras of these traders are: Adal, Bharrara, Churra, Maggun (or Maghoon), Sahgal, Wadhaun (or Vadhavan), Vohra (Wihara), Chawala, Pasricha (Pasree cha), Talwar, Puri, Topra, etc.. Where Arora gotra is Goruwala. Hence these groups are hetrogenous and Chiniotis themselves are not an ethnic group but a collection of various castes of Khatris and Aroras who came to live in close proximity due to their common occupation with trade. Originally these were upper caste Kashatriya tribes who took to trade a few hundred years ago. The extended clan extends from the Kashmiri Khatris of the valley to the Potohar plateau and also to Western Punjab in Chiniot within Jhang district.
The exact date of their ancestors' conversion to Islam is not certain. The People of the Punjab starting accepting in 11th century. There is an interesting reference of rich Khatris and Khojas in the Heer Ranjha of Waris Shah (1735-1790 AD).
"The beauty of her (Heer) red lips slays rich Khojas and Khatris in bazar, like murderous Kizilbash (Afghan soldiers) troopers riding out of the royal camp in to bazar with a sword"
The British Raj (1848-1947 AD) provided stability in the Punjab. The improved communication provided opportunities to those who wanted to progress. Chinioti traders took full advantage and expanded their activities beyond Punjab. Most of these traders started leather and hide trade in undivided India.