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Religions Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism
Languages Punjabi (Pothohari),[1] Hindi,[2] Urdu,[3] Kutchi, Gujarati,[4] Sindhi[5]
Country Primarily India and Pakistan
Region Punjab, Sindh, Delhi,[6] Haryana,[7] Gujarat[8]

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

Khatris played an important role in India's trans regional trade during the Mughal Empire.[9] They adopted administrative and military roles outside the Punjab region as well.[10] Scott Cameron Levi describes Khatris among the "most important merchant communities of early modern India."[11]

All the Sikh Gurus were Khatris.

Origin and varna status

Khatris consider themselves to be of pure Vedic descent and thus superior to the Rajputs, who also claim Kshatriya status. 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.[12] Nath called Khatris a warlike race, a claim further supported by their employment as soldiers by Mughal emperors. However, by the time of British arrival in India, the Khatris were mostly merchants and scribes. Khatris sources explain this transition as follows: the Mughal emperors terminated the services of Khatris chieftains for moving against the imperial order of widow remarriage.[13] 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" [14] Khatris claim that they were warriors who took to trade.[15] 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.[16] There are Khatris that are found in other states of India and they follow different professions in each region. The Khatris of Gujarat and Rajasthan are said to have tailoring skills like "Darji" (tailor) caste.[17] 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.[18]

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,[19][20][21] 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).[22] Similarly, according to the same legend, the Sodhi sub-caste claims descent from Lav, the other son of Rama.[23]


The Khatri were originally engaged in the weaving of silk saris, and subsequently some of them became merchants.[24][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.[25][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.[9][11] 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.[10]


Hindu Khatris

Sanatan Khatris

Khatris were estimated to constitute 9% of the total population of Delhi in 2003.[26]

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[27][page needed] 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.[28][page needed]

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.[29] Guru Nanak was a Bedi, Guru Angad was a Trehan, Guru Amar Das was a Bhalla, and the rest of the Gurus were Sodhis.[30] 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.[31]

Other Khatris influential in the history of Sikhism include:

A Khattri nobleman, in Kitab-i tasrih al-aqvam by Col. James Skinner, aka Sikandar (1778–1841)

Muslim Khatris

The Muslim Khatris are originally from Hindu Khatri community who had converted to Islam and form the majority of the Khatri population. In western districts of the Punjab (Sargodha, Mianwali, Multan, Jhang, Chakwal, Rawalpindi and Faislabad), converted Khatri traders called themselves Khawaja. Some times they are called Khawaja Sheikh.


Social divisions

Before the partition of India in 1947, the Khatri sub-castes were particularly connected with specific regions:[33]

After the partition, the different Khatri castes have widely dispersed.[33]

See also


  1. ^ "Khatri". 
  2. ^ Kumar Suresh Singh, Tapash Kumar Ghosh, Surendra Nath (1996). People of India: Delhi. Anthropological Survey of India. p. 375. ISBN 9788173040962. 
  3. ^ Christine Everaert (1996). Tracing the Boundaries Between Hindi and Urdu: Lost and Added in Translation Between 20th Century Short Stories. BRILL. p. 259. ISBN 9789004177314. 
  4. ^ Rajendra Behari Lal, Anthropological Survey of India (2003). Gujarat, Part 1. Popular Prakashan. p. 671. ISBN 9788179911044. 
  5. ^ K.S. Singh (2010). People of India: A - G., Volume 4. Oxford Univ. Press, 1998. p. 3285. ISBN 9780195633542. 
  6. ^ A. H. Advani (1995). The India Magazine of Her People and Culture, Volume 16. the University of Michigan. pp. 56–58. 
  7. ^ Kiran Prem (1970). Haryana District Gazetteers: Ambala. Haryana Gazetteers Organization. p. 42. 
  8. ^ Satish Chandra Misra (2010). Muslim communities in Gujarat: preliminary studies in their history and social organization. Asia Pub. House. p. 97. 
  9. ^ a b Gijsbert Oonk (2007). Global Indian diasporas. Amsterdam University Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-90-5356-035-8. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ a b Levi, Scott Cameron (2002). The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and Its Trade, 1550–1900. Leiden: BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-12320-5. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ 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. |page=31
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ W. H. McLeod (2009). The A to Z of Sikhism. Scarecrow Press. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-8108-6828-1. 
  16. ^ 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... 
  17. ^ 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 practised as tailor in central Auckland..."
  18. ^ 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
  19. ^ Different approaches to Bachitar Natak, Journal of Sikh studies, Surjit Singh Hans, Volume 10, 66-78, Guru Nanak University.
  20. ^ 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..."
  21. ^ Dasam Granth: A historical study, Sikh Review, 42(8), Aug 1994, 9-20
  22. ^ Major Nahar Singh Jawandha. Glimpses of Sikhism. Sanbun. p. 16. ISBN 978-93-8021-325-5. 
  23. ^ 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
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ The Khatris, a Socio-Historical Study. by Baij Nath Puri Published in 1988, M.N. Publishers and Distributors (New Delhi)
  26. ^ "534 Sanjay Kumar, A tale of three cities". 
  27. ^ Political Elite and Society in the Punjab, by Nina Puri. Published 1985 Vikas
  28. ^ Mahatma Hansraj: Maker of the Modern Punjab By Sri Ram Sharma, Published 1941, Arya Pradeshik, Pratinidhi Sabha
  29. ^ H. S Singha (2000). The encyclopedia of Sikhism. Hemkunt Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-81-7010-301-1. 
  30. ^ W. H. McLeod (2009). The A to Z of Sikhism. Scarecrow Press. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-8108-6828-1. 
  31. ^ Bhai Gurdas Ji, Varan Bhai Gurdas Ji, Vaar 8 – Pauri 10.
  32. ^ Sangat Singh (2001). The Sikhs in history: a millenium study, with new afterwords. Uncommon Books. p. 71. ISBN 978-81-900650-2-3. 
  33. ^ a b "Punjab District Gazetteers". Retrieved 2008-11-15. 

Source texts