Sunday, June 14, 2009



Originally when Guru Gobind Singh made the Khalsa, he banned castes and surname use, instead all Sikhs were either called Singh(Lion) or Kaur(Princess). 
Over the following years, in the times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the Sikh Missls that reclaimed land back from the Moghuls, those leading the Missls eventually settled in those areas taking up farming. Inevitably many of these people originated from the warrior caste, Khatri. As they took up farming, they and the original Jatt communities often merged, so it is often neccessary to go back to these times to truly find the origin of the family. During these times it was only the Jatt community that held a surname and most often the surname was the village to which they belonged . In this way it was largely used in official times when the British demanded they give a surname for official records, it later became a way of identifying where a person came from. 
The other high caste families reverted back to using the surnames in use before they became Sikhs and these included the low caste Ramgharias as well. 
This division meant that it became easy for people to identify a person's caste from their surname. 
However, when very low caste sikhs migrated to countries such as the US, Canada and the UK, they thought of it as a chance to start a clean slate where people would not be able to identify their caste. Some adopted the surnames of their villages such as Gill and Rai, originally Jatt surnames, or close derivatives such as Shergill and Kalirai. 
Therefore over recent years it has been difficult to retrace such surnames to caste, however since communities migrated to the west in such large numbers, many families from the same village came to the same cities. Before long those low caste families using ambiguous surnames were once again segregated. 

From high caste to lower caste below are the surnames and their origins.


1. Brahmin - they originated from the most educated people in ancient India they were able to read the ancient scripts and perform religious activities such as sacrificing. As they were not allowed to come into contact with the lower castes they appointed Kshatriya's (Khatri's most common).Unsurprisingly there are few Brahmins as few wanted to leave their high status as Hindus to become equals as Sikhs. 

2. Kshatriyas were the governors and kings and ruled over the other castes, they also became warriors in time of war and later took up trading (in the UK they are most commonly the Business community). Khatris were very affluent in Punjab and few headed west unlike the Jatts and Ramgharias, this explains they're small numbers in the UK. All the Sikh Gurus and their wives originated from this community. 


3. Jatts were farmers they grew the crops that fed the whole village and therefore were part of the high caste, but ranked 3rd after the Brahmins and Kshatris.Because of the large amount of fertile land in Punjab, Jatts account for 2/3 of the population of Sikhs. As families grew it was neccessary to divide the land-so many Jatts left India and headed towards the west, seeking work, that is why there is such a large number of Jatts in the west. Many Jatts in the West have been led to believe that they are the highest class, however being farmers and given history this is obviously untrue. It must be said that although the Brahmins and Khatris reigned supreme in the cities, in villages the prosperity of the village depended upon he yield of crop, so the Jatts there became almost as important as their higher caste brothers. 


4. Ramgharias (Tarkhans) these were tradesmen, skilled workers who worked for the higher castes making and fixing cultivating equipment for the Jatts and building houses and temples for the Kshatriyas. During the British Raj many were sent or left for Africa to help the British with building the African Railway they far outnumbered the Jatts there (some poorer Jatts went to Africa and learnt trade there). After the British Raj ended in Africa there was cilantro work for them there, but labourers were much needed in the UK. Many Tarkhans came here in the 60's. 

5. Darsi (tailors), Chimba (weavers), Halvyi (sweet makers), Taank Kshatri 
These communities worked under all the above and were particularly busy during weddings where they were invited to high caste houses to prepare for the weddings. There income and standard of living in turn depended upon the yield of crop that year and how much the higher castes could afford to pay them. 

6. Chammar (leather-workers), Lohaar(Blacksmiths) 
These were the menial workforce who worked hard, but treated badly by the other communities. 

7. Churrah (Cleaners) 
This community were called the Untouchables. They originated from the original native communities living in the Punjab before the Turk-derived Arriyan race conquered most of India sending the natives further south or using them as slaves. This is why they are usually very dark skinned and have flatter more Aboriginal features. As Sikhs they often practise as the Ravi Dassi community. 


Obviously over time and although it was looked down upon, intercaste marriages occured and the following mixed offspring eventually became subcaste communities of there own. The same thing happened when people varied their trade i.e. from Governor to Money Lender. Brahmins seldom married outside they're own caste, however Subcastes did frequently exist between the Kshatri and Jatt communities and others below. 

Arora - these were money lenders and therefore frequently came into contact with the lower castes, they fall into the lower end of the Khatri community, but lie above the Jatts 

Saini - these were poor Jatts who did not own much land themselves but cultivated rented land from larger Jatt landowners. Being farmers however they were classed as Jatts and fell into the lower end of the Jatt community. 

Ahluwalia (Walia common subcaste) - They were distillers and were a Bopari community (Business community), however owing to the nature of their business they were ranked between the Khatri and Jatt community. 

Bhatra - these were vagrant gypsies who were not readily accepted in the sikh community, they mix only with one another and have the reputation of lower morals, however this may be ill-deserved. 

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