The Khatris (From Sanskrit क्षत्रिय Kshatriya) are a north Indian community that originated in the Potwar Plateau of Punjab. This region is historically connected with the composition of the Vedas and classics like the Mahabharata and Ashtadhyayi. The Kshatriya are members of the Hindu military order. As administrators and rulers, Kshatriya are assigned with protecting the Hindu Dharma, and serving humanity. In course of time, however, as a result of economic and political exigencies, the Khatri also expanded into mercantile occupations. When Pakistan and India gained independence, most of the Khatris in what became Pakistan migrated to India. Today Khatris live in all regions of India, but are concentrated in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. While most Khatris are Hindu, some are also Sikh or Muslim and a small minority are Jain. Khatris of all these faiths collectively form one community. In modern times, the Khatri play a significant role in the Indian economy, serving as businessmen, civil and government administrators, landlords and military officials. Khatri family names include Anand, Awal, Badhwar, Baijal, Bagga, Bajaj, Bakshi, Batta, Bedi, Behal (Behl), Bhalla, Bhola, Bhasin, Bhandari, Bhandula, Bindra, Birghi, Chadha, Chandok, Charan, Chona, Chopra, Choudhary,Chetal, Dhall, Dhawan, Dhingra, Dhir, Dua, Duggal, Dhupar, Dumra, Gambhir, Gandhi, Gandhoke, Gadok, Gadhiok, Ghai, Gujral, Gulati, Gulla, Handa, Jerath, Jairath, Jaggi, Jalota, Jolly, Kakkar (Kacker) ,Kapoor (Kapur), Kalra, Katyal, Keer, Khanna, Kehar, Khosla, Khullar,Kochhar, Kohli, Koshal, Lala, Lamba, Loomba, Madhok, Mahendru, Maini, Malhotra, Malik, Mangal, Mankhand, Manraj, Mehra, Mehrotra, Mehta, Midha, Monga, Nair(Nayyar), Nagpal, Nayer, Nehra, Nijhawan, Nikhanj, Oberoi, Ohri, Parwanda, Passi, Phull, Phul, Phool, Puri, Rai, Rehan, Roshan, Sabharwal, Sablok, Sadana, Saggar (Sagar), Saggi, Sahni(Sawhney), Sami, Sarin(Sareen), Sarna, Sehgal (Sahgal), Sekhri, Sethi, Seth, Sial (Syal), Sibal, Sikka, Singh, Sobti, Sodhi, Sondhi, Soni, Sood(Sud), Suri, Talwar, Tandan (Tandon), Tehim, Tuli, Thapar, Trehan, Uberoi, Uppal, Vadehra, Vasudeva, Ved, Verma, Vig, Vij, Vinaik (Vinayak), Vohra, Wadhawan, Wahi (Wahie), Walia, Wassan(Wason).The Arora (Ahuja, Aneja, Khurana, Chawla, Juneja), Sood, One interesting difference between Aroras and Khatris is the colour of bangle (churah), which brides wear during the marriage ceremony. Arora women wear white bangles (Chitta churah) and Khatri women wear red ones (Laal churah), along with their bridal wear. But in many areas of Punjab, Arora women women red bangles as well and vice versa.
For the most part, Khatris have been in the civil, government, and military administrators roles for centuries. Some subgroups of Khatris have gone in the merchant business as traders, and have participated in trade well beyond India’s borders, for many centuries from Burma to Russia. At one time, the Khatris controlled a significant share of the trade in the central Asian region. The Hindu fire-temple of Baku, Azerbaijan, supported for centuries by Khatri merchants flourished until the middle of 19th century. The Hindu temples of Kabul built by the Khatris still exist.
Khatris continue to be the most educated group in modern Punjab. Their historical access to resources and education, has translated into wealth, influence and service to the society.
Many prominent historical figures have emerged from the Khatri. All ten Sikh Gurus were Khatri, belonging to the Bedi, Trehan, Bhalla and Sodhi subcastes. Raja Todar Mal was a Tandon Khatri who codified the revenue collection system as Revenue Minister for Akbar. Haqiqat Rai was a Puri Khatri whose martyrdom was celebrated on Basant Panchami in Lahore until independence. Hari Singh Nalwa, an Uppal Khatri, was a prominent general under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The father and son pair of the Diwans Sawan Mal and Mul Raj Chopra were successive governors of Multan under Ranjit Singh. The former instituted vast improvement in agriculture, while the latter was instrumental in leading the revolt against the British to prevent the annexation of the Sikh kingdom into the East India Company territory. Sadhu Singh Gulla fought against the British Empire in 19th century. Later on he died in prison or battle.
Khatri gots are divided into three major groups; Baraghar, Bawanji, and Sarin. These divisions were reported by Emperor Akbar’s close adviser Abu’l Fazal in his book Ain-i-Akbari(compiled in 1590 AD). These grouping is said to be happened at the time of Ala-uddin Khilji (1296-1316 AD).
Bhai Gurdas (b. AD 1551) in his “Varan Bhai Gurdas Ji”, Vaar 8 – Pauri 10 (Khatri jatan) mentions: barahi, bavanjahi, Pavadhe, pachadhia, phalian, khokharainu, chaurotari and serin sections.
The family name mentioned above existed for long time. We know that four gots of Sikh gurus existed at least since 15th century AD.:
Guru Nanak: Bedi
Guru Angad: Trehan
Guru Amardas: Bhalla
All seven others: Sodhi
One of the most important character of famous Punjabi legend Raja Rasalu is minister Mahita Chopra. Most scholars agree that Raja Rasalu ruled from Sialkot and lived sometime between 400 to 500 AD. [Temple] If it is true then Chopra family name, a Baraghar Khatri, developed by that time. The actual timing of the development of other Khatri family names is an interesting subject and requires more research.
Khatris and Sun Worship
Raja Vanvihari Kapoor has written that major Khatri clans are named after Lord Sun. The Sarasvat Brahmin clan of which some of these these were yajamanas are also mentioned below.
Mitra Mehra Priests: Jetali
Kripakar Kapoor Priests: Pambu
Shankan Khanna Priests: Jhingana
Martanada Tandan Priests: Jhingana
Bahukar Bahora (Vohra)
Chakravali Chaupada (Chopra)
Karalagni Kakkar Priests: Kumadiye
Sahasrakar Sahgal Priests: Mohile
According to Bhavishya Purana, Punjab indeed was an ancient center of Sun worship.
Khatris and Saraswat Brahmins
As noted in the introduction, the mercantile communities were the socio-religious leaders in the Punjab. The Khatris were the patrons (‘yajamansas’ or in Punjabi ‘jajmani’) of the Saraswat Brahmins. Together the two communities represent the heritage of ancient Aryan center of NW India. The Saraswat Brahmins accept both Kachcha and Pakka food from the Khatris.
A few Nukhs (Sub-castes) of Kapoor, Malhotra/Mehra, Seth, Tandan and a few nukhs of Chopra (Chakravali) are known to be descendents of Shakdvipi Maga Brahmins and have close affiliation with the Sarasvata Brahmins. Among them Chopra equals to Chau-Pada (4 Ranks) were originally Worshippers of Lord Mitra (Mihir in Persian). They were invited to Punjab by the Kings to perform rituals for the Great Sun Temple near Multan. Among them are both non vegetarian as well as some that do not consume alcohol, meat and egg or fish..
Khatris and the Sikh Panth
A minority of the Khatris are Sikh. The Sikh panth is not caste based, still the Khatris played a major role in development of Sikhism as a gentle and inclusive faith. All the Ten Sikh Gurus were Khatri. During the lifetime of the Gurus, most of their major supporters and Sikhs were Khatris. The Sikh institutions till the early 20th century were led by Mahants (Masands) who were generally Khatri. Widespread abuses by the Masands, such as introduction of idols in Gurudwaras, led to agitation for reform by the reformist Singh Sabha resulting in formation of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee to oversee Sikh Gurudwaras. After the formation of the Khalsa (1699), and especially during the reign of Ranjit Singh, Hindu Khatri families raised at least one son (usually the oldest) as an Amritdhari Sikh.
Among the Khatris the Khukrain or Kukhran were one of the foremost followers of the Sikh Gurus and traditionally brought up one son as a Keshdhari Sikh . This is evident from the large number of Kukhran surnames among Khatri Sikhs .
A predominant section of the Hindu Khukrain continue to follow dual religious traditions of both Sikh as well as Arya Samaj mores . This has been in spite of the religo-political competitive zeal of both the Arya Samaj and Tat Khalsa effort at creating purified identities.
Intermarriage between Khatri as well as Khukrain Sikhs and Hindus are common . The dual religious Hindu and Sikh identity and Kukhran biradri identity comfortably coexists
Khatris and Jain Dharma
The number of khatris who are Jain is very small. However One of the best known Jain munis in recent times, Acharya Atmaram (also known as Shri Vijayanandsuri) (1841-1900) was a Kapoor Khatri, born at Lahra, Firozepur. He was the first person to be raised to the rank of a Jain Acharya in the past 400 years in 1890. He was invited to visit the Congress of World Religions held in Chicago in 1893 A.D. The rules for Jain monks prevented him from going overseas, but he sent his lay disciple Virchand Gandhi, who is now considered to be the father of American Jainism.
Khatris and Islam
With the advent of Islam into Sindh and the southern Punjab region with the invasion of the Arab general, Muhammad bin Qasim in 711 CE and subsequent invasions by Turkic tribes from Afghanistan and the North West Frontier Province from the 11th century onwards, there were conversions of Hindus to the faith from among various Punjabi communities, including Khatris . While the conversions took place at different times, often when entire communities converted they retained their tribal, clan or caste affiliations as has been the norm in the Indian Subcontinent. Similarly, the Khatris who converted to Islam, continue to retain a strong social identity and are known as Punjabi Shaikhs. This also holds true of Rajputs in the Punjab, who converted to Islam but have continued to retain a sense of their Rajput origins. One such example are the Janjua Rajputs of the province.
Khatris and Indian Culture
The Khatris were adversely affected by the partition of India, as it resulted in the loss of their traditional home regions.
Khatris have traditionally been an orthodox community, although there is now a significant amount of exposure to modernity in some Khatri families. However, even when they are modern, Khatris have a great affinity with their traditions and values.
Khatris take pride in their Indian heritage and have contributed significantly to the Indian culture in terms of industry, commerce, administration, scholarship, etc.