There hardly is any doubt in our mind that project such as tracing out the roots of the Bhat Sikh Community is of great significance for all of us and hence calls for the best and all serious efforts.
Considering the nature of this project namely The Origin Of Bhat Sikh Community, we hope to live up to the expectations of the Community, by resorting to a professional and research-based approach, to achieve our goal. We like to mention here that the work already done to trace out the roots of BHATRAS ( Bhat Sikh Community), in the past,by our well experienced, learned and lagends such as Gyani Rattan Singh Shaad, Makhan Singh Mirgind, Baba Gurmukh Singh JI, Samunder Singh Historian, Surinder Singh RAJPUT, Mewa Singh Garhiwale, to name but a few, will serve as the invaluable guiding & referral source, to help us complete our targetted project.
DEVINDER SINGH TAKPAUL
In this direction, we have recently come across a very young and talented person, who is all set to emerge as an asset to BHAT SIKH COMMUNITY. He is SANDEEP RAI, who has recently undertaken intensive research into THE ORIGIN OF THE BHATRAS. It took him several months to study in tracing out the roots of Bhat Sikh Community. We hope, this will prove of significant importance &inv aluable recod to know & understand better the roots of Bhat Sikh Community.
We therefore consider it important to reproduce the contents of his incredible research work, for the information of our community.
THE BHATRAS, AN INTENSIVE STUDY OF THEIR ORIGIN :
The origin of the Bhatra community remains highly elusive, for the reasons that there is not much Historical or Genetic Information available in written format which could reveal more than what is already known. The information exists relating to their origin is incredibly speculative. Shree Guru Granth Sahib and the Janamsakhis of Shree Guru Nanak Dev Ji, mention a community of Sri Lankans under the kingdom of Raja Shivnabh who have been associated with the Bhatras. Many Sikh scholars and even older and learned individuals in the Bhatra community have connected Raja Shivnabh and the Bhatras to have a common origin in History.
However, the only evidence suggesting that the Bhatras originated from the people of Raja Shivnabh’s Kingdom is derived directly from the Janamsakhis. which records that the individuals who converted to Sikhism returned to North India with Shree Guru Nanak Dev ji
The Janamsakhis, however, doesn’t name the group of converts as belonging to any certain caste or distinguishable tribe. What we do know is that the people of Shivnabh’s kingdom, were said to be Atheists. An unfamiliar concept in Sri Lanka if we consider the Historical Context of South Asia at the time. Self-professing Atheism could also imply that this community was of a Buddhist origin, as Buddhism is fundamentally a religion that seeks to reject the concept of Deity, the two immediately make sense of one another. Sri Lanka has been a Buddhist bastion for centuries adopting the faith during the Third Century BCE. In the Janamsakhis, the Guru Sahib is questioned by the confused Shivnabh, who doesn’t know if Guru Nanak was a Brahmin, a Yogi or a Householder. There is also a reference, to CHANGA BHAT RAI, of losing his status as a Kshatriya by taking the path of a mystic, to the dismay of Aryapat Naik who believed Changa Bhat Rai had fallen from the Kshatriya caste to the caste of a Bard, which is a class of musical poets historically associated with perjury.
This shows that this society has some basis of the Hindu Varna being imposed. The Varna of this community isn’t revealed. This suggests that the community has attempted to conceal its caste status in accordance with the Sikh traditions of actively avoiding caste discrimination.
According to older members of the community. the Bhatras are associated with perjury in Punjab and often faced unfounded discrimination mostly from members of the Jat community. The Jats are an Ethnic group spread across India and Pakistan and even into the regions of Afghanistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. In the regions of Punjab and Haryana, they are believed as the major caste groups.
The Jats are not part of the caste system, as the caste is clearly defined as being part of the Varna system. One’s caste can only be from the four: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. They were rejected from Kshatriya status by the Rajputs and Brahmin Rulers and socially elevated by conversions to Non-Hindu faiths.
They were once associated with peasantry; however, their community has produced many noble individuals who fought for the Sikh and Hindu faiths. However, their discrimination against Bhatras originates from the professions that the community has been stereotyped to be involved in. Many Bhatras of the older generation, especially those born Pre-1940s and still practise Palmistry and Astrology as a means of generating income.Due to being engaged in these two professions, they were deemed to be lowly Pedlars as the males often went Door-to-door and Village-to-village for selling wares. This could explain the source of Anti-Bhatra Sentiments from some other Sikh castes as groups of people with unsettled or disliked professions were stereotyped as belonging to Lower Castes.
An example would be of Chamar community, engaged in leather-trade, who are recorded to have once belonged to the Vaishya caste. But according to the Brahmanical social standards,they descended into Shudra caste status when they began working with Leather. Cows have been sacred in Hinduism for millennia and working with Leather in Hinduism, is deemed incredibly impure. It indicates that the Vaishyas who began working with Leather, their caste status fell to Shudra Status.
The example cited above co-relates as to how the Bhatras have been associated with Low Status on account of their profession. However, the origins of Bhatras goes farther than discrimination against them by neighbouring communities.
In “A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province” by Horace Arthur Rose,
the Bhatras are compared to Low Status Pedlar communities such as Manihars and Banjaras. The Writer continues to say that the Bhatras claim Brahmin origin. He also claims that the Bhatras have traditions that tell of a progenitor of the community, Madho Mal, who wedded a dancing girl called Kam Kundala. According to the information in this tale, the Bhatras are descended from two individuals who successfully produced the dozen sub-castes in the community without incestual genetic diseases killing the offspring. From reading this, it clearly indicates that the Writer has done a quick job of both giving an incredibly biased and insulting explanation of the Bhatras. The only reliable information given in the Book pertaining to Bhatras is stated in bullet points below:
The Bhatras at the time claimed Brahmin heritage
Madho Mal was born and raised in Sri Lanka and in the reign of Babar, Guru Nanak visited the Island. His descendant Changa Bhat Rai became a disciple and went back to India with Guru Nanak and the converted members of his community.
They were initially thought to be called Madhwas.
The community was found across North India, especially in the Dadra Desh and along the Banks of the Ganges in the Bijnor district. Many were Pedlars by trade selling Jewellery and Folk Medicine.
They migrated to Sialkot and Hoshiarpur and were found in all the Pilgrimage cities of India.
In Hoshiarpur, the Bhatras were all Sikhs. although children under Twelve had their Head’s hairs shaved.
In Sialkot, a majority were true Sikhs, observing all the Sikh customs.
The Bhatras wore the Janeo and Tilak and were given offerings on auspicious days by other castes.
The Writer has presented Bhatras through the stereotypes associated with them by other communities. He has written intensively on their association with being Pedlars, the reason why he has written so extensively on the Bhatras status rather than their origins presents the British persistence to discriminate peoples in India at the time.
There are Twenty-Two Gotras mentioned which were found in Sialkot, those mentioned include:
From what is suggested by the sources given. the Bhatras are speculated to have descended from Sri Lankans. However, the only evidence that establsh this, is Historical. The evidence which suggests the Bhatras have a North Indian heritage as well as a Southern heritage, is derived from Etymological analysis of the Gotras concentrating on Twenty amongst so many. If the Bhatras were solely of a Southern heritage, then it would need to be some form of Etymological evidence derived from the Gotras. That means in order to prove this, the Gotras of the Bhatras need to be of a primarily Southern origin. However, if one looks at the Gotras and analyse the origins, there is a incontrovertible evidence which shows that the Bhatras are of a North Indian heritage.
Bhains- (Bhains- Jat Gotra)
Bhatti (Bhatti- Jat, Rajput and Brahmin Gotra)
Potiwal- (Pote- Jat Gotra)
Digwal- (Raigar Surname)
Gojra- (Gujar Surname)
Kasba- (Kaswa- Jat Gotra)
Lande/ Lakhanpal- (Lakhanpal- Jat Gotra)
Lar- (Lar- Jat Gotra)
Lohi- (Lohian- Jat Gotra)
Rathor- (Rathor- Jat and Rajput Gotra)
Rodh- (Rodh- Rajput Gotr
The background of the Bhatras, indeed begins in Southern India when Shree Guru Nanak Dev went on his journey to Sri Lanka. He met a community of Sri Lankan Buddhists. They were familiar with Punjabi people as merchants who often travelled and lived in the region. They were ruled by Raja Shivnabh who himself converted to Sikhism in 1517 AD. Many people followed their King and accepted Sikhism and renounced Buddhism. When Guru Nanak Devji returned to India, he travelled back towards the Punjab. The community that came with him, could be considered the seedlings of the Bhatras. The converts became missionaries and preached Sikhi. Those who converted would join the community of missionaries. The modern Bhatra or Bhat Sikh Community, as such, began progressig & developing. In Northern India, especially in the Punjab, Hindus began to join the missionaries. These Hindus were from varieties of different castes. Jat individuals, couples and families from the Lar, Lohian, Rodh, Kaswa, Lakhanpal, Pote and Bhains joined the developing community of Missionary Sikhs abandoning their families, villages and their Tribes to become Sikhs.
In Rajasthan, Rajput individuals, couples and families from the Rathor and Bhatti Tribes began converting to Sikhism and also joined the community of missionaries.
There are many more Bhatra Gotras and the trend we may find is that there are origins of the Gotras from Khatris and many other caste groups.
The Brahmin foundation begins in South India. The community which followed Guru Nanak to India, were originally of a Brahmin heritage. Their conversion to Buddhism is dated back to the first influx of Buddhism across South Asia. Brahmins in Southern India during the time when the Buddhist religion was dominant, were poor and often left Hinduism in favour of Buddhism, because many people thought Brahmanism was an illogical and dangerous system that offered no Spiritual Self-Improvement.
Gotras are passed down from male to male. father to son. This is why the Gotras remain Jat, Rajput, Gujar, Khatri and Southern Brahmin. The male converts retained their Gotras and from the mixture of the formed community of Sikh missionaries produced the Bhatra community. However, they weren’t originally known as Bhatras. “Bhat Rai” is the form of the term without corruption which literally means Noble Bards. This term came to be known because the mixed community of Jats, Rajputs etc, would often sing the hymns Guru Nanak spoke.
The newly formed community of Sikhs, stayed and travelled together, some staying in villages and settling. The travelling Bhat community, would sell hand-made products and among other things to generate income whilst preaching. Some who were of a Brahminical origin would draw Astrological charts and Practise Palmistry to earn income. When the other major castes began to convert to Sikhism, the Bhatras were tolerated but thought lowly of as they had no professions. The missionary work was over for many of them, as the Punjab had become increasingly Sikh.
The stereotypes surrounding the community evolved in this time, as the
Jats of the Bhatra community were no longer Jats, the Rajputs no longer Rajputs, the Brahmins no longer Brahmins and the Khatris no longer Khatris. The Bhatras became so obsessed with Missionary Work and Pedlar Work that they forgot about their own lowering social standards. The Bhatra community evolved from the combination of a dozen or so distinct Caste groups across the whole of India. When they left Hinduism, they also lost their Varna Status. The Southern community married with the converted Northern community. The Gotras remain the same, however Bhatras are an incredibly diverse and mixed community. They have no particular Varna Status, but historically one could say it was Kshatriya, Brahmin and Vaishya for the first Non-Sri-Lankan converts.
The Bhatras are not low people; they have genetic contribution from many of the communities associates with the High Caste Varna Status. The Bhatras are a diverse group, with Light Skinned Individuals and Dark Skinned Individuals, explained by the Northern and Southern heritage, which all Bhatras should be proud of. No other community in Sikhism has truly followed Guru Nanak’s teachings on Anti-casteism as Bhatras originated from several dozen caste groups.
My Mother’s DNA Test
My Mother’s Four Grandparents belonged to Bhatra Gotra Clans: Rathor, Landa, Digwa and Bhakar.
My Mother’s Mtdna Haplogroup was of M variety, common over all of India, found in nearly every region. It is widespread across Asia.
My Uncle (Mother’s Brother) also did a Test and his Paternal Haplogroup was (R1a1a,) a Haplogroup believed to be derived from the ancient Indo-Aryan peoples
From the DNA analysis software on Gedmatch using the Harappa World Calculator. my Mother had 67% Caucasian Ancestry and 36% Dravidian Ancestry and some East Asian and Ancient African DNA.
The average High Caste Indian, possesses 60% Caucasian Ancestry and 30% Dravidian Ancestry.
When her Genetic Contributions were isolated into the Four Grandparents, her Digwa Grandfather, possessed the Highest amount of Dravidian DNA. And an Average amount of Caucasian DNA. Her Landa Grandmother, possessed Average amounts of Dravidian and Caucasian DNA. Her Bhakar Grandfather possessed High amounts of Caucasian DNA and Average amounts of Dravidian DNA. However out of all her Four Parental Contributors, the Rathor Grandmother possessed the Highest amount of Caucasian DNA and the Lowest amount of Dravidian DNA.
This is genetic evidence, which proves that the Bhatras originate from distinct caste populations who combined Southern DNA with Northern DNA. It is clearly shown in my Mother’s DNA Test, that she has a mixture of South Indian and North Indian DNA. The closest populations that replicate my Mother’s Ethnic Mixture are all from the Brahmin and Kayastha communities in South India, North India and Bengal.
This is evident from the fact that the Bhatras have come out from other castes, and their origins loosely lie in South India, but mostly lie in North India. It is in evidence that the Bhatras are an Indo-Aryan community like their Jat and Rajput neighbours. This also is in evidence that the Bhatras originate from High Caste Populations.
I would strongly advise to whosoever read this study, should do a DNA Test and post the results on the Bhat Sikh Community Page. If you would like me to do more research please send me your DNA files and I will be able to increase the Information known about Bhatras or Bhat Sikh Community.
SANDEEP RAI (AUTHOR)