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The Khanzada or Khan Zadeh are a community of Muslim Rajputs found in the Awadh region of the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. A few are also found in the state of Bihar. This community is distinct from the Rajasthan Khanzadas, who are also a community of Muslim Rajputs. They also refer to themselves as Musalmaan Rajputs, or sometimes just Rajputs. In Bihar, they are also known as Diwani Pathans, from the Persian word divan which means a royal court, on account of the Rajput converts being giving the status of Pathan by the royal court. In addition, a small number of Khanzada are also found in the Terai region of Nepal. After independence of Pakistan in 1947, many members of this community migrated to Pakistan and settled mainly in Karachi.
History and origin
The word Khanzada in Persian means son of a khan, or king. This has literally the same meaning as the word Rajput, which also means son of a king in Sanskrit. The term khanzada originally applied to the Bachgoti Rajput family of the Rajahs of Hasanpur. They were said to have converted to Islam during the rule of Sher Shah Suri. This family claimed descent from Bariar Singh, a Bachgoti Rajput, who said to have emigrated from Sultanpur in the 13th Century. The Bachgoti had started off as a clan of the Chauhan Rajputs of Mainpuri. Bariar Singh's grandson, Tilok Chand was captured in battle by the Mughal Emperor Babar, who was allowed to choose between the adoption of the faith of Islam and a quick release, or a long imprisonment. Tilok Chand decided to convert to Islam, and took the name the Tatar Khan, and his grandson Hasan Khan, is the ancestor of the Bachgoti Khanzada family of Hasanpur.
Each Khanzada clan has its own tradition as to when they converted to Islam. The community that claims to be the first to convert to Islam are the Dikhit Khanzada of Banda District, who are said to have been converted at the hands of Mohammad Ghori, some eight centuries ago, and calls themselves Ghori Dikhit. Other clans, such as the Chandel of Hardoi District are said to have converted during the rule of Sher Shah Suri. Over time, a number of other Rajput clans in what is now eastern Uttar Pradesh also converted to Islam. Many of these Rajput converts were granted estates or talukas, and estate holders were referred to as taluqdars. The history of the Awadh region is in many ways the history of the various taluqdar families, and their struggle with both the Mughals and then the Nawabs of Awadh. While taluqdars formed as special social class, the bulk of the Khanzada remained a community of peasant proprietors. Included among the Khanzada were immigrants Rajput clans from the Punjab, such as Johiya of Chail, the Khokhar of Kot and Bhatti of Yahiapur. In Pratapgarh District, the Khanzadas included representatives of several well known Rajput tribes such as the Bisen, Rajkumar, Bachgoti, Bhale Sultan, Sombansi, Bais, Kanhpuriya, Bharsaiyan, Mandarkia and Bilkharya. Traditionally the Bilkhariya and Bhale Sultan Khanzada are endogamous, while other groups are exogamous. The Mandarkia and Bharsaiyan are both strictly endogamous groupings, and as such differ from other Khanzada groupings who follow the custom of clan exogamy.
From the middle of the 19th Century, the term Khanzada was extended to refer to all those Rajput clans, who had converted to Islam in Awadh and neighbouring Benaras division. The term is now used in the same manner as the term Ranghar, which refers to any Muslim Rajput in western Uttar Pradesh,and Khanzada is now used to describe any of the Muslim Rajput clans of eastern Uttar Pradesh. In addition, the Muslim Bhumihar of Ghazipur District are also included within the Khanzada category.
The Khanzada comprise a large numbered of dispersed intermarrying clans. These exogamous groups are made up of myriad landholding patrilineages of varying genealogical depth, ritual, and social status called biradaries or brotherhoods scattered in the various districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh. The biradari, or lineage is one of the principal point of reference for the Khanzadas, and all biradaris claim descent from a common ancestor. Often biradaris inhabit a cluster of villages called chaurasis (84 villages), chatisis (36 villages) and chabisis (26 villages). Important biradaris include the Bachgoti, Bais, Bhale Sultan, Bisen, Bhatti, Chauhan, Chandel, Gautam, Sombansi and Panwar. The Khanzada did and many still do practice biradari exogamy, and often also marrying out of their district. But unlike their Hindu Rajput kinsmen, there is no system of clan hierarchy, with all the main clans intermarrying. The Khokhar Khanzada of Fatehpur district are unique, in that marry with in the biradari, and practice both parallel cousins and cross cousin marriages. Historically, the Khanzada were endogamous, but there are now cases of intermarriage with the Mughal and Pathan communities, who are roughly of the same status.
The sense of community belonging remains strong, with the Khanzada still strongly identifying themselves with the wider Rajput community of Awadh, and often refer to themselves as simply Rajput. This is shown by the persistence in their marriages of Rajput customs, like bursting of fire crackers and sending specially made laddoos to biradari members. The wedding ceremony itself of the Khanzada continue to retain many Hindu rituals, the bridegroom sports a safa (headgear) like the Hindus do and a raucous band is a must in a wedding procession as are firecrackers. Many members of the community continue to serve in the armed forces of India, an activity traditionally associated with the Rajputs. This fusion of culture goes beyond just customs. Among some groups like the Gautam Khanzada of Fatehpur and Banda districts in southern Uttar Pradesh, Rajput traditions have eclipsed the religious divide and forged a common identity with the Hindu Gautam Thakurs. Hindu Gautam Thakurs participate in Muslim Gautam functions and vice versa. These intercommunity functions include religious ones as well. The Gautam Muslims help organise Holi milans, Ram Lilas and kirtans.
In northern Awadh, a region comprising roughly Barabanki District in south east to Lakhimpur Kheri District in the north west, the Khanzada have a followed a slightly different path, with a stronger identification with Islam. In a recent study of a Chauhan Khanzada village in Raisenghat Tehsil of Barabanki District, this particular community was seen to be strongly identifying with neighbouring Pathan communities, and there was increasingly intermarriage between the two groups. There economic condition in this region is also been affected, with a dwindling in the size of their farms, especially in Shravasti and Balrampur districts. Many are now, in fact, landless agricultural labourers.
The Khanzada, however have been badly affected by abolishion of the zamindari system, with many now destitute. They still remain a land owning community, but those especially in Balrampur, Gonda and Bahraich are now simply agricultural labourers. The community are also divided on sectarian lines, with the majority being Sunni, while a minority, mainly the ex-taluqdar families being Shia. Like other Indian Muslims, there is growing movement towards orthodoxy, with many of their villages containing madrasas. The madrasas have also facilitated the growth of Urdu, with it beginning to replace the Awadhi dialect they traditionally spoke.
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