Sikhism does not endorse caste based distinctions in society that lead to unequal opportunities for some people. In fact, Sikhism completely rejects class or race based distinctions between humans, that leads us to make an inequitable society. Such distinctions have surfaced only due to ill interests of certain section of people, who, on the pretext of making a society more manageable through these classifications, eventually paved the way to an unequal grouping within the human race. This article is just for information purpose and to share how people from different castes came into the Sikh fold. So, please treat this article as a source of general information about this issue and kindly do not amend this article to highlight this important underlying Sikh principle. If you have any comments, please discuss them appropriately here
The Khatris (Punjabi) or Kshatriyas (Sanskrit, (K) silent) 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. In the old varna (caste) system the Kshatriya were members of the Hindu military order who as administrators and rulers, were tasked with protecting Hindu Dharma, and serving humanity. In the course of time, however, as a result of economic and political exigencies, Khatris also expanded into mercantile occupations.
When India was divided to placate the demands of its Muslims for a country of their own, most of the Khatris in the Panjab which was divided to create Pakistan migrated to India. In one of the worst human trajedies of modern history, which resulted in the deaths of untold thousands, millions of Hindu and Sikh families, many of them of the Khatri caste, were forced to abandon their heriditary family lands and flee to the Indian side of the British imposed dividing line. Today Khatris live in all regions of India, but are concentrated in East Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. While most Khatris are Hindu, some are also Sikh, some Muslim and even 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
Khatri family names include Anand, Awal, Bachewal, 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), Katyal, Keer, Khanna, Kehar, Khosla, Khullar, Kohli, Koshal, Lala, Lamba, Loomba, Madhok, Mahendru, Maini, Malhotra, Malik, Mangal, Mankhand, Manraj, Mehra, Mehrotra, Midha, Modi (Awal) , Monga, Murgai, Nair(Nayyar), Nagpal, Nakra, Nayer, Nehra, Nijhawan, Nikhanj, Oberoi, Ohri, Parwanda, Passi, Phull, Phul, Phool, Puri, Rai, Rehan, Roshan, Sabharwal, Sablok, Sadana, Saggar (Sagar), Saggi, Sahi (Shahi), Sahni(Sawhney), Sami, Sarin(Sareen), Sarna, Sehgal (Sahgal), Sekhri, Sethi, Seth, Sial (Syal), Sibal, Sikka, Singh, Sobti, Sodhi, Sondhi, Soni, Suri, Talwar, Tandan (Tandon), Tehim, Tuli, Thapar, Trehan, Uberoi, Uppal, Vadehra, Vasudeva, Ved, Verma, Vig, Vij, Vinaik (Vinayak), Vohra, Wadhawan, Wahi (Wahie), Walia, Wassan(Wasan/Wason).
There are some more Khatri initials in south India [Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka] like Bachewal, Barad, Bharatwaj, Bochkar, Chauhan, Damankar,Dhondi, Jessu, Khode, Kubeer, Ghatadi, Gujarathi, Namaji, Padaal, Pawaar, Ring Ring, Satpute, Vadde, Vaidya etc. There are some towns like Armoor [NZB, AP], Nirmal [ADB, AP],Narayankhed, Mahaboob nagar, Hubli[KN], Nanded[MH] etc where population of khatri people is above 60% and here khatries are well known as Pategars, patkari, kshatriya and loddies. 
The Arora (Ahuja, Aneja, Khurana, Chawla, Juneja), Sood, Bhatia and Lohana are distinct communities of the Punjab and Sindh. Although they are not Khatri, they share a similar cultural background with the sub-group communities of Khatris who are in the commercial/trade businesses.
One interesting difference between Aroras and Khatris is the colour of bangles (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 into 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 improvements 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 the 19th century.
Khatri gotras are divided into four major groups; Baraghar, Bawanji, Sarin and Kukharain. These divisions were reported by Emperor Akbar's close adviser Abu'l Fazal in his book Ain-i-Akbari (compiled in 1590). These grouping are said to been around at the time of Ala-uddin Khilji (1296-1316).
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 names mentioned above have existed for long time. We know that the four gots of the Sikh gurus have existed at least since the 15th century CE:
- 1. Guru Nanak: Bedi
- 2. Guru Angad: Trehan
- 3. Guru Amardas: Bhalla
- 4. Remaining seven: Sodhi
One of the most important characters, of famous Punjabi legends, was Raja Rasalu's 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 the Chopra family name, of the Baraghar Khatris developed by that time. The actual timing of the development of other Khatri family names is an interesting subject which 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 * Shreshtha Seth * Dhavan Dhavan * Mahendra Mahindru * Bahukar Bahora (Vohra) * Chakravali Chaupada (Chopra) * Karalagni Kakkar Priests: Kumadiye * Surya Suri * Sahasrakar Sahgal Priests: Mohile
According to the 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 (worshipped as Mihir or Mithra in Persia and Rome). 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. After 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. The Sikh institutions till the early 20th century were led by Mahants (Masands) who were generally Khatri. Widespread abuses by the Masands, such as the introduction of idols in Gurudwaras, led to calls for reform (which were met more than once by deadly resistance from the Mahants) by the Singh Sabha which resulted in formation of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee to oversee Sikh Gurudwaras.
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 continued in spite of the religo-political competitive zeal of both the Arya Samaj and the Tat Khalsa effort at creating purified separate 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.
The Khatri's also in large numbers started converting to Sikhism, from the time of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, upto the time of the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji But then the Khatri Sikhs started to shrink, as the majority of them started reconverting back to Hinduism. And their population also became very tiny, as before there houses were found in all villages, Towns, Cities, but now they are rarely found. The Majority of the Khatri's follow Hinduism, with a tiny number following Sikhism, and Islam.
The Khatri Sikhs also used to have a intermarriage with the Hindu Khatri's, as most of the famous Khatri Sikhs on their maternal side were Hindu.
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. In 1890 he was the first person to be raised to the rank of a Jain Acharya in the past 400 years. He was invited to visit the Congress of World Religions held in Chicago in 1893. 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.
The sessions of Akhil Bhartiya Khatri Mahasabha were held in Lucknow in 1916, 1936, 1952 and 1980. Lucknow Khatri Sabha was established in 1927 and publication Khatri Hitashi was started in 1936.
Divisions among the Khatris
There are several subdivisions within the Khatri clans . There are , the Dhai Ghar (i.e. 2 1/2 -the number 3 being considered unlucky) grouping comprising of Khanna, Kapur/Kapoor and Mehra/Malhotra . Along with the Seth clan these four form the Char Ghar grouping. The Dhai Ghar Khatris originally consisted of three family groups – Kapoors, Khannas and Mehras. They were referred to as the Khatris of two and a half families because the number three is considered unlucky. Aurangzeb banished many Khatris from the Moghul military and administrative roles because of their non-cooperation and since that time many of the dhai ghar khatris adopted trading and business professions that many other khatris were already engaged in and from where they frequently took wives for their sons, while giving their daughters only to the other dhai ghar khatris in marriage.
The origin of this caste is not clear and requires further research but it appears that they are a relatively recent addition to the khatri clan as may be inferred from Ain-i-Akbari (Eyes for the Emporor, Compiled in 1590) by Abu’l Fazal a prominent historian of Emporar Akab who recorded the Khatri Gotras. There is a story that the grouping was formed by the families of three adminstrators - Kapur Chand, Khan Chand and Mehar Chand who had come to work in Akbar’s court from Multan. But this story appears to be a fictional one since the Kapoor clan has pre-existed in India as a Kshatriya clan. It is more likely that the grouping was formed in Akbar’s time for marriages from three existing family groups - the Kapoors, Khannas and Mehras that preexisted in India. They were later expanded to form the char ghar khatris ( Khatris of four families) by including the Seth clan. Some members of the Mehra family also adopt the alternative family names of Malhotra or Mehrotra. This group has expanded rapidly since the time of Akbar and spread across the entire North India.
The Chopra, Dhavan, Mahendru, Sahgal, Talwar, Tandon, Vohra and Wadhawan sub castes, all 12 form the barah-jati grouping. another group is called Bavanjai (52). The Sarin are yet another grouping, . The historical reasons for these divisions need research. A regional clan grouping is the Kukhrain grouping (see below). Yet another grouping is one associated with the ten Sikh gurus (Bedi, Trehan, Bhalla, and Sodhi).
Regionally Churamani, Nanda, Khullar, Jerath, Chopra and Vig were particularly connected with Ludhiana; Bahl, Kapoor, Mehra, Seth, Beri, Sencher and Dhir with Jagraon ; Batte, Sondhi and Karir with Machhiwara and Bahlolpur ; Sehgal and Thapar with Raikot; and Had and Cham with Khanna.
The origin of many clans and surnames is not exactly clear. It is possible that some of the clans among the Khatris, Rajputs and Jats, along with other similar subgroups, are somehow related.
Kukhran (also spelt Kukhrain) Khatris are a regional grouping of ten subcastes of Punjabi Khatris originally from the town of Bhera in the Jech doab (Jhelum - Chenab interfluve) region of Sargodha district of Pakistani Punjab. In keeping with Khatri traditions, Bhera was an important trading outpost on the road to Kabul, and a 'taksal' (mint) during the reign of Ranjit Singh. Kukhrans are Aryan and Vedic peoples and have originally followed Hinduism, however a significant number adapted Sikhism during the 18th and 19th centuries. This, and also because many Hindu Kukhran families, as well as other Khatri clans, raised at least one Sikh son after the formation of the Khalsa in 1699, resulted in Kukhran family names, as well as other Khatri clan names, being present in both Hindu and Sikh communities worldwide. Common Kukhran names are Anand, Bhasin, Chadha, Chandok,Gadhok, Gadok, Kohli, Sabbarwal, Sahni, Sethi and Suri many of whom had migrated from present Pakistan to India during partition.
The Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh is a Kukhran of the Kohli subcaste. Other famous Khukrain personalities are: Mulkh Raj Anand (English novelist/Writer), Dev Anand (Actor/Producer/Director), Balraj Sahni (Actor), Geet Sethi, Narinder Kohli (Hindi Novelist), Gurinder Chadha (UK based film director), Bhism Sahni (Sahitya Academy Award and Padam Shree winner).
Uttar Pradesh Khatris are those who have been living in Uttar Pradesh for several generations. They have culture quite distinct from Punjabi Khatris. They speak local dialects of Hindi rather than Punjabi.
Khatris in Burma
Prior to revolutionary and nationalist movements in Burma, Chinese and Indian merchants and landowners formed an economic upperclass in the country. Many of the Indians landowners in Burma were Khatri that settled in the country for generations because of their economic control and prosperity. Wealth became increasingly concentrated in the hands of very few Indian upperclass families. However, as nationalist sentiments grew, most all Indian and Chinese merchants were forced out of the country.
- Manmohan Singh (Kohli), Prime minister of India
- Dev Anand - Bollywood actor
- Om Prakash Malhotra Former Chief of Army Staff, Governor of the Punjab
- Mulk Raj Anand, pioneering Indian novelist in English
- Vijay Kumar Malhotra MP, Deputy leader BJP
- Sangam Rai Kapoor - Founder of the house of Maharajas of Burdwan
- Gurinder Chadha - Kenyan- Brit movie director ('Bend it like Beckham', 'Bhaji on the Beach')
- Yash Chopra - Bollywood movie director and producer
- Satish Gujral, artist and muralist who trained under Diego Rivera
- Inder Kumar Gujral former Prime Minister of India
- Anish Kapoor - Indo-British sculptor
- The father-son duo of Prithviraj Kapoor and Raj Kapoor legendary actors, directors, and producers of Indian movies
- Shekhar Kapur - movie director ('Bandit Queen', 'Elizabeth')
- Devaki Nandan Khatri, pioneer Hindi author
- Raj Khosla-Renowned Movie Director
- Narendra Kohli, Hindi author
- Master Tara Singh (Malhotra) - freedom fighter and leader of the movement for creation of Punjabi subah
- Deepa Mehta - award winning Indo-Canadian director of the trilogy 'Earth','Wind','Fire'
- Meera Nair, the director and producer of the award winning movies as 'Salaam Bombay'
- Kuldip Nayyar - crusading Indian journalist
- Mohan Singh Oberoi- hotelier, founder of the Oberoi chain of hotels
- Y.K. Sabharwal, Chief Justice of India
- The brothers Balraj and Bhisham Sahni, the former a well known actor and the latter the Hindi author ('Tamas')
- Birbal Sahni - renowned botanist
- Kundan Lal Saigal (Sahgal/Sehgal), the legendary singer and actor in early North Indian (Hindi and Bengali) talkies, known as the Enrico Caruso of North India for his vocal range.
- Roshan Seth - Indo-British actor ('My Beautiful Laundrette' etc.)
- Vikram Seth, the novelist, who so sensitively portrayed urban Khatri life after the partition of India in 'A Suitable Boy'
- Dr Karam Singh Kapur -litterateur, author of 'Punjabi Mahakav' etc.
- Najam Sethi - crusading Pakistani editor of the Friday Times
- Prakash Lal Tandon - Indian professional manager, author of 'Punjabi Century' and 'Beyond Punjab'
- Purushottam Das Tandon freedom fighter
- Sukhdev (Thapar) - freedom fighter, revolutionary comrade of Bhagat Singh
- Khushwant Singh, Author and commentator
- Bhai Mohan Singh, Founder of Ranbaxy
- Sunny Vij, LSE