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This article is about the Punjabi caste 'Khatri'. For the Jat clan, see Khatri clan.
Religions Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism
Languages Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu
Country Primarily India, a significant population in UK, United States, Canada and Pakistan
Populated States Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi.
Status Forward caste

Khatri is a caste from the northern Indian subcontinent. Khatris in India are mostly from the Punjab region.

Khatris played an important role in India's trans regional trade during the Mughal Empire.[1] They adopted administrative and military roles outside the Punjab region as well.[2] Scott Cameron Levi describes Khatris among the "most important merchant communities of early modern India."[3]

All the Sikh Gurus were Khatris.[3]

Origin and varna status

Khatri is the Punjabi word for kshatriya, a designation in the Brahmanic varna system of ritual ranking that is often translated as "warrior caste".[4][page needed] Caste members consider themselves to be of pure Vedic descent and thus superior to other claimants to kshatriya status, such as the Rajputs. Their standards of literacy and caste status were such during the early years of the Sikh community that, according to W. H. McLeod, they dominated it.[5] Nath called Khatris a warlike race, a claim further supported by their employment as soldiers by Mughal emperors. But if Khatris were once warriors, then, why they are found to be involved in merchant and scribe occupation. Khatris sources explained it as the act of Mughal emperors who terminated the services of Khatris chieftains as they moved against their order of widow re marriage.[6] Kenneth W Jones quoted that "the Khatris claimed with some justice and increasing insistence, the status of Rajputs, or Kshatriyas, a claim not granted by those above but illustrative of their ambiguous position on the great varna scale of class divisions" [7] Khatris claim that they were warriors who took to trade.[8] The 19th-century Indians and the British administrators failed to agree whether the Khatri claim of Kshatriya status should be accepted, since the overwhelming majority of them were engaged in Vaishya (mercantile) occupations.[9] There are Khatris that are found in other states of India and they follow different professions in each region. The Khatris of Gujrat and Rajasthan are said to have tailoring skills like "Darji" (tailor) caste.[10] Dasrath Sharma described Khatris as a mixed pratiloma caste of low ritual status but suggested that Khatris could be a mixed caste born of Kshatriya fathers and Brahmin mothers.[11]

According to Bichitra Natak, said to be the autobiography of the last Sikh Guru Gobind Singh, but whose authenticity is a matter of ongoing dispute,[12][13][14] the Bedi sub-caste of the Khatris derives its lineage from Kush, the son of Rama in the Hindu mythology. The descendants of Kush, according to the disputed Bachitar Natak legend, learned the Vedas at Benares, and were thus called Bedis (Vedis).[15] Similarly, according to the same legend, the Sodhi sub-caste claims descent from the Lav, the other son of Rama.[16]


The Khatri were originally engaged in the weaving of silk saris, and subsequently some of them became merchants.[17][disputed ] The region in which the Khatris originally lived was ruled by Hindu kings until 1013 AD. Khatris encountered hardships after the Muslim conquest of the region, but stubbornly clung to their heritage. Because of high levels of education and scholarship, they were able to survive even in difficult times.[18][page needed]

The Khatris subsequently rose as an important trading community, and played an important role in India's trans regional trade under the Mughal Empire.[1][3] With the patronage of Mughal nobles, the Khatris adopted administrative and military roles outside the Punjab region. According to a 19th-century Khatri legend, the Khatris followed the military profession until the time of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Several Khatris were killed during the Aurangzeb's Deccan Campaign, and the emperor ordered their widows to be remarried. When the Khatris refused to obey this order, Aurangzeb terminated their military service, and directed them to be shopkeepers and brokers.[2]


Hindu Khatris

Sanatan Khatris

The Khatris are among the very few non-Brahmin communities that have traditionally studied the Vedas.[citation needed] Khatris were estimated to constitute 9% of the total population of Delhi in 2003.[19]

Arya Samaji Khatris

Dayananda Saraswati was invited to Punjab by prominent individuals who also founded the Singh Sabha, to counter the missionaries. He established Arya Samaj in Lahore in 1877, a society and reform movement which was against casteism, rituals, and idol worship. The group promoted strict monotheism, which Swami Dayanand claimed was the essential message of the Vedas. Arya Samaj became popular among Punjabi Hindus, especially Khatris[20] who were attracted to a similar message by the Sikh Gurus earlier.[citation needed] Arya Samaj inspired individuals like Swami Shraddhanand and institutions like the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic Schools System, started by Lala Hansraj Gupta.[21]

Sikh Khatris

Guru Gobind Singh (with bird) encounters Guru Nanak Dev. An 18th-century painting of an imaginary meeting.

All the ten Sikh Gurus were Khatris.[22] Guru Nanak was a Bedi, Guru Angad was a Trehan, Guru Amar Das was a Bhalla, and the rest of the Gurus were Sodhis.[23] During the lifetime of the Gurus, most of their major supporters and Sikhs were Khatris. A list of this is provided by a contemporary of the Sikh Gurus, Bhai Gurdas, in his Varan Bhai Gurdas.[24]

Other Khatris influential in the history of Sikhism include:

  • Hari Singh Nalwa (1791–1837), the Commander-in-chief of the Khalsa army of the Sikh Empire.
A Khattri nobleman, in Kitab-i tasrih al-aqvam by Col. James Skinner, aka Sikandar (1778–1841)


Social divisions

Before the partition of India in 1947, the Khatri sub-castes were particularly connected with specific regions:[26]

After the partition, the different Khatri castes have widely dispersed.[26]

See also


  1. ^ a b Gijsbert Oonk (2007). Global Indian diasporas. Amsterdam University Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-90-5356-035-8. 
  2. ^ a b John R. McLane (2002). Land and Local Kingship in Eighteenth-Century Bengal. Cambridge South Asian Studies (Volume 53). Cambridge University Press. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-521-52654-8. 
  3. ^ a b c Levi, Scott Cameron (2002). The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and Its Trade, 1550–1900. Leiden: BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-12320-5. 
  4. ^ Nesbitt, E. M. (2004). Intercultural Education: Ethnographic and Religious Approaches. Sussex Academic Press. 
  5. ^ Syan, Hardip Singh (2013). Sikh Militancy in the Seventeenth Century: Religious Violence in Mughal and Early Modern India. I. B. Tauris. pp. 35, 39. ISBN 9781780762500. 
  6. ^ Syan, Hardip Singh (2013). Sikh Militancy in the Seventeenth Century: Religious Violence in Mughal and Early Modern India. I. B. Tauris. 29-Jan-2013 - History - 315 Macmillan ISBN 9781780762500. |pages=31 |quote=...Nath goes on to say...
  7. ^ Kenneth W. Jones (1976). Arya dharm: Hindu consciousness in 19th-century Punjab. University of California Press. pp. 4–5. ISBN 978-0-520-02920-0. ...among Vaishyas, the Khatri and his associates, the Saraswat Brahmans. The Khatris claimed, with some justice and increasing insistence, the status of Rajputs, or Kshatriyas, a claim not granted by those above but illustrative of their ambiguous position on the great varna scale of class divisions ... 
  8. ^ W. H. McLeod (2009). The A to Z of Sikhism. Scarecrow Press. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-8108-6828-1. ...Khatris claiming that they were warriors who took to trade. 
  9. ^ John R. McLane (2002). Land and Local Kingship in Eighteenth-Century Bengal. Cambridge South Asian Studies (Volume 53). Cambridge University Press. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-521-52654-8. The Khatris were a Punjabi mercantile caste who claimed to be Kshatriyas. Nineteenth-century Indians and British administrators failed to agree whether that claim should be accepted. The fact that overwhelming majority were engaged in Vaishya (mercantile), not Kshatriya (military), pursuits was balanced against the Khatri origin myths... 
  10. ^ Indian settlers: the story of a New Zealand South Asian community, p48, Jacqueline Leckie, Otago University Press, 2000/ quote :"Tailoring was a caste occupation that continued in New Zealand by those from Darji and Khatri castes who had been trained in appropriate skills. Bhukandas Masters, a Khatri, emigrated to New Zealand in 1919. He practiced as tailor in central Auckland..."
  11. ^ Early Chauhān dynasties: a study of Chauhān political history, Chauhān political institutions, and life in the Chauhān dominions, from 800 to 1316 A.D., Dasharatha Sharma, p 279, Motilal Banarsidass, 1975
  12. ^ Different approaches to Bachitar Natak, Journal of Sikh studies, Surjit Singh Hans, Volume 10, 66-78, Guru Nanak University.
  13. ^ The Sikh Struggle in the Eighteenth Century and Its Relevance for Today, W. H. McLeod, History of Religions, Vol. 31, No. 4, Sikh Studies (May, 1992), pp. 344-362, The University of Chicago Press/ quote: " "Although Bachitar Natak is traditionally attributed to Guru Gobind Singh, there is a strong case to be made for regarding it as the work of one of his followers..."
  14. ^ Dasam Granth: A historical study, Sikh Review, 42(8), Aug 1994, 9-20
  15. ^ Major Nahar Singh Jawandha. Glimpses of Sikhism. Sanbun. p. 16. ISBN 978-93-8021-325-5. 
  16. ^ The Cosmic Drama: Bichitra Natak, Author Gobind Singh, Publisher Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the U.S.A., 1989 ISBN 0-89389-116-9, ISBN 978-0-89389-116-9
  17. ^ Singh, Kumar Suresh (1998). India's Communities, volume 2 H–M. People of India, Anthropological Survey of India. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press. pp. 1722, 1729. ISBN 978-0-19-563354-2. 
  18. ^ The Khatris, a Socio-Historical Study. by Baij Nath Puri Published in 1988, M.N. Publishers and Distributors (New Delhi)
  19. ^ HT-CSDS 2003 Survey Estimates
  20. ^ Political Elite and Society in the Punjab, by Nina Puri. Published 1985 Vikas
  21. ^ Mahatma Hansraj: Maker of the Modern Punjab By Sri Ram Sharma, Published 1941, Arya Pradeshik, Pratinidhi Sabha
  22. ^ H. S Singha (2000). The encyclopedia of Sikhism. Hemkunt Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-81-7010-301-1. 
  23. ^ W. H. McLeod (2009). The A to Z of Sikhism. Scarecrow Press. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-8108-6828-1. 
  24. ^ Bhai Gurdas Ji, Varan Bhai Gurdas Ji, Vaar 8 – Pauri 10.
  25. ^ Sangat Singh (2001). The Sikhs in history: a millenium study, with new afterwords. Uncommon Books. p. 71. ISBN 978-81-900650-2-3. 
  26. ^ a b "Punjab District Gazetteers". Retrieved 2008-11-15. 

Source texts

Further reading