Chhetri

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Chhetri / Kshetri / Khas
छेत्रि / क्षेत्रि / खस
Regions with significant populations
Nepal 16.6 per cent of total population (2011 census)
India Indian Gorkha Populations in Sikkim, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Assam.[1][2]
Languages
Nepali , Hindi, Dzongkha and Burmese
Religion
Almost all are Hindu
Related ethnic groups
Kumaoni people, Garhwali people; Kshatriya
Selected ethnic groups of Nepal; Chhetri are members of the wider Pahari community (yellow).

Chhetri (Chettri, or Chetri) (Hindi: छेत्री , Nepali: क्षेत्री), synonymous with Kshetri (Nepali: क्षेत्री) and Khatri (Nepali: खत्री) is a caste among Nepali people (Nepalese), Burmese Gurkhas, Indian Gorkhas and Lhotshampa Bhutanese peoples, which are a part of Khas people, along with some Brahmins (Bahun), and Thakuris. (Nepali: खस).[3][4] Chhetris are of Indo-Aryan origin claiming to be of the Kshatriya varna.[3] They make up 16.6% of Nepal's population according to the census of 2011, making them the most populous caste or ethnic community in Nepal. The majority of Chhetris speak Nepali.[5][6][7]

Chhetris are primarily Hindu (99.48% according to the 2001 Census). Those Chhetri who follow Hinduism may also follow Buddhism. The ancient religion of the Chhetri is Masto which uses nature worship and can still be seen in western Nepal's Karnali district and in India's Gorkhaland. In Nepal's hill districts the Chhetri 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.[8][9]

History[edit]

The origin of the Chhetris is uncertain. They were formerly known as Khas, but that term has now fallen into disuse.[10] They are thought to be connected to the Khasas mentioned in the ancient Indian literature and the medieval Khasa kingdom.[11][12][13]

The Chhetris first settled in Sinja Valley of Karnali in Nepal. The ancient name of this Himalayan region was Khas-des. Many Chhetris exhibit traits of mixed racial heritage, more so than Brahmins (also called Bahun in the Nepalese hills).[14][15] There are several recognized ways to enter the Chhetri caste apart from Jharra (pure) Chettri :

  1. Having nothing but ancestors ultimately traceable to Kshatriyas.
  2. Being the scion of a pure Brahmins father and any "clean" Nepali native caste including Magar or other Tibeto-Burman "hill tribes" such as Gurung, Tamang, etc.
  3. The child of a Chhetri father and a woman from these lower but "clean" castes is still Chhetri.[16][17]
  4. An arbitrary community can start following Chhetri caste rules (especially in diet), hiring Brahmin to conduct certain rituals and even writing dubious genealogy. Over generations these claims of Chhetri affinity become plausible to broader audiences.[18]

Despite racial admixture, Chhetris remain strongly indo-Nepalese in culture and language.[citation needed]

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 one regiment of the Indian Army.[14]

Society[edit]

The most prominent feature of Nepalese Chhetri society has been the ruling Shah dynasty (1768–2008), the Rana Prime Ministers (1846–1953),Pandey,Thapa,Kathayat, khadka, Karki, Bhandari, Basnet,etc. that marginalized the monarchy, and the Chhetri presence in the armed forces, police, and government of Nepal. In traditional and administrative professions, Chhetris were given favorable treatment by the royal government.[5][14][page needed][15][19][20][21]

Chhetris comprise many subgroups, including Khasa (clans from Khas) and Thakuri (aristocratic clans). The Khasa subgroups are widespread in Karnali and Indian States Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, North side of West Bengal, Assam, Manipur as well as in Bhutan and Myanmar. Members of certain Khasa subgroups are called pawai ("peripheral"), or matwali ("bacchanal"), because of their use of alcohol.[citation needed] These populations are descendants of Khas people who did not convert to Hinduism, and who today do not don the janai (sacred thread).[14][page needed]

Chhetris 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.[14][page needed].

Religion[edit]

As per 2011 census, almost all Chhetris are Hindu. Chhetri religion began with shamanism and nature worship. The ancient religion of Khas people is Masto. 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.[22] The Chhetri people started following Hinduism around the 12th century, when Indian Hindus converted them into Hinduism. Today they still follow Buddhist gods along with Hindu, but their ancient Masto religion is now extinct.

The religion followed by most Chhetri today is very much patterned after Hinduism. Like the Brahmin, 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 Brahmins; 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 subcastes whose ancestors converted to Hinduism or who claim to be of pure Kshatriya blood.[14][page needed]

Hindu Chhetris, like the Brahmin, wear a sacred thread called a janai, which signifies their "twice-born" status. They also abstain from alcohol, but this is not upheld by most urban Chhetris of today.

Matwali Chhetri religion[edit]

Many Chhetri 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.[14][page needed]

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.[14][page needed]. The matwali (Alcohol drinking) Chhetris share their caste system highly with Magar people of Nepal. The caste of Matwali Chhetri are Aidi,Thapa, Budha, Roka (Rokaya), Bhandari, Budhathoki, Rana, Pandey, and so on.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Folklore of Nepal. p. 5. 
  2. ^ Indian Nepalis
  3. ^ a b Bista, Dor Bahadur (1980). People of Nepal (4 ed.). Ratna Pustak Bhandar. pp. 2–4. 
  4. ^ "The Caste System". Nepal: A country study (Savada, Andrea Matles, editor). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (1991).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ a b "Social Classes and Stratification". Nepal: A country study (Savada, Andrea Matles, editor). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (1991).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ "Ethnic Groups". Nepal: A country study (Savada, Andrea Matles, editor). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (1991).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ Social and Gender Analysis in Natural Resource Management: Learning Studies ..edited by Ronnie Vernooy
  8. ^ Dahal, Dilli Ram (2002-12-30). "Chapter 3. Social composition of the Population: Caste/Ethnicity and Religion in Nepal" (PDF). Government of Nepal, Central Bureau of Statistics. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  9. ^ "Nepal in Figures 2008" (PDF). Government of Nepal, Central Bureau of Statistics. 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-23. Retrieved 2011-04-03. 
  10. ^ William Brook Northey; C. J. Morris (2001). The Gurkhas: Their Manners, Customs, and Country. Asian Educational Services. p. 123. ISBN 978-81-206-1577-9. 
  11. ^ Kumar Pradhan (1984). A History of Nepali Literature. Sahitya Akademi. p. 5. 
  12. ^ "The Three Kingdoms". Nepal: A country study (Savada, Andrea Matles, editor). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (1991).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  13. ^ "The Making of Modern Nepal". Nepal: A country study (Savada, Andrea Matles, editor). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (1991).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h Gurung, Harka B. (1996). Faces of Nepal. Himal Books. pp. 1–33, passim. 
  15. ^ a b Burbank, Jon (2002). Nepal. Cultures of the World (2 ed.). Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 0-7614-1476-2. 
  16. ^ John Whelpton (2005). A History of Nepal. Cambridge University Press. p. 11. 
  17. ^ D. B. Bista (1991). "The Caste System in Nepal". Fatalism and Development. Orient Longman. 
  18. ^ Prayag Raj Sharma (1977). "Caste, social mobility and sanskritization: a study of Nepal's old legal code". Kailash: A Journal of Himalayan Studies. 5 (4). 
  19. ^ "Recruitment, Training, and Morale". Nepal: A country study (Savada, Andrea Matles, editor). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (1991).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  20. ^ Bajracharya, Bhadra Ratha; Sharma, Shri Ram; Bakshi, Shiri Ram (1993). Cultural History of Nepal. Anmol Publications. pp. 286–8. ISBN 81-7041-840-2. 
  21. ^ "Society". Nepal: A country study (Savada, Andrea Matles, editor). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (1991).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  22. ^ "Introduction". Nepal: A country study (Savada, Andrea Matles, editor). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (1991).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.