As per legends the Khatri clan originated in the Potahar Plateau region of Punjab. It is notable that the Sikh Khatris encompass only a minor section of the Khatri populace which includes certain proportions of Hindus, Muslims and even Jains. Among them, the Kukhran or Khukrain were the most prominent and they usually raised their eldest son as a Keshadhari Sikh. A similar trend was also observed among the Hindu Khatri populace whose first-born were brought up conforming to the “Amritdhari Sikh” faith. The Khatri Sikhs have been primarily categorised into four main divisions according to the lineage of the Sikh Gurus who belonged to the four Khatri clans, namely, the Bedi, Trehan, Bhalla and Sodhi. Guru Nanak was a descendent of the Bedis while Guru Amar Das, the third Guru was a Bhalla. The final seven Gurus of the Sikh faith comprised the Sodhis and Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru, belonged to the Trehan clan.
Sikhism is primarily based on the philosophy that everyone is equal in the eyes of God, the supreme divine authority. Therefore, they denounced the existence of social divisions on the basis of caste or creed. For this reason, the Sikh Gurus have hardly stressed their Khatri descendency and have neither shown any discrepancy in their association with other Sikh clans. Their main purpose was to unify the Sikhs under the homogeneous umbrella of the Sikh religious faith which was based on simple devotion to God. Since the foundation of Sikhism was laid in late 15th century by Guru Nanak, most of the cohorts and disciples of the Sikh gurus were Khatri Sikhs. The establishment of the Khalsa system in 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, further escalated the prominence of the Khatri Sikhs. For five centuries since its inception, a major section of the Sikh establishments were headed by the Khatri Sikhs who were popularly referred to as “Masands” or “Mahants”. However, the Masands soon began rampant exploitation of the Sikh faith. There were numerous instances when they initiated the establishment of idols in the gurudwaras against the tenets of the Sikh faith. Such mistreatment practiced by the Masand Khatri Sikhs resulted in widespread protests and in the beginning of the 20th century; the Masands were overthrown from their position which was undertaken by the Tat Khalsa and Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee or SGPC.
Khatri Sikhs are primarily recognised for their expertise in martial warfare and military skills and the most prominent among them were the Sikh Gurus. Historical sources reveal that since Guru Nanak, most of the Sikh Gurus were instrumental in instilling the martial spirit among their followers and disciples. This is evident in the codes and documents that preserve the teachings of the Gurus. Guru Angad Dev, the second Sikh guru facilitated the practice of physical activities among the Sikhs. Kabaddi matches and wrestling were some of the major sporting activities of the day. Guru Hargobind, the sixth of the Sikh gurus was proficient in armed warfare and participated actively in armed struggles against the formidable Mughals and valiant Rajputs. Evidences also suggest that Guru Hargobind and the ninth Guru Tegh Bahadurwere engaged in martial conflicts and both were famed for their proficiency in this art. But the most gifted of the Khatri Sikh Gurus was Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru who had been a descendent of the Kshatriyas from his maternal side. Gobind Singh was not only adept in the art of martial combat, but at the same time was immensely skilled in equestrian warfare and sword fighting.
Some eminent Khatri Sikhs, who were known for their gifted martial skills, include Sahib Singh Bedi (1756-1834) and Bhai Daya Singh who was the earliest to submit to the call of the Guru. Sahib Singh Bedi was a Khatri Sikh and a predecessor of Guru Nanak who had actively participated in the coronation of Ranjit Singh, the great Sikh ruler who fought gallantly against British domination.
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