Khas people (Nepali: खस) also called Khas Arya[nb 1] (Nepali: खस आर्य) are an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group native to South Asia, what is now present-day Nepal and Indian states of Uttarakhand (Kumaon-Garhwal) and Himachal Pradesh. The Khas people speak the Khas language. They are also known as Parbatiyas, Parbates and Paharis/Pahades. The term Khas has now become obsolete, as the Khas people have adopted communal identities such as Bahun and Chhetri because of the negative stereotypes associated with the term Khas.
|2 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Khas language and regional dialects (e.g. Doteli language)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Kumaoni people, Garhwali people, Dogra, Pahari people and Other Indo-Aryan peoples|
Although the term "Khas" has gained popularity in Nepali identity politics since the 1990s, many castes currently categorized as Khas may not identify themselves as Khas. According to the Constitution of Nepal, Brahmins, Chhetris, Thakuris, and Sanyasis who are citizens of Nepal should be considered as Khas Arya for electoral puposes.
They have been connected to the Khasas mentioned in the ancient Hindu literature. Historian Bal Krishna Sharma and Dor Bahadur Bista speculates that the Khas people were of Indo-European origin. Historian Baburam Acharya speculates that Khas are a sub-clan of Aiḍa, an Arya clan originated at Idavritt (modern day Kashmir).[nb 2] Khas were living in the Idavaritt in the 3rd millennium B.C.E. and the original meaning of the term Khas was Raja or Kshatriya (Yoddha). He further speculates that Kashmir has been named from its local residents Khas as Khasmir. In the 2nd millennium B.C.E., one group of Khas migrated towards Iran while the other group migrated east of Sutlej river settling only in the hill regions up to Bheri River. Historian Balkrishna Pokhrel contends that Khas were not the Vedic Aryans but Aryans of latter period like the Gurjara, Darada, Shaka, Pallava and Pisacha. He further asserts that post-Vedic Aryans were akin to Vedic Aryans in terms of language and culture.
Khas are believed to have arrived in the western reaches of Nepal at the beginning of first-millennium B.C. or middle of first-millennium A.D. from the north-west. It is likely that they absorbed people from different ethnic groups during this immigration. They have been connected to the medieval Khasa Malla kingdom. In the initial phase, majority of Khas people became Brahmins and others became Kshatriyas.
Traditionally, the Khas were divided into "Khas Brahmins" (also called Bahuns) and "Khas Rajputs" (also called Chhetris). In the Kumaon and Garhwal regions of Uttarakhand in India, the Khas Brahmins and Khas Rajputs had a lower social status than the other Brahmins and Rajputs. However, in present-day western Nepal, they had the same status as the other Brahmins and Rajputs, possibly as a result of their political power in the Khasa Malla kingdom.
Until the 19th century, the Gorkhali referred to their country as Khas Desh (Khas country). As they annexed the various neighbouring countries (such as Newar of the Newar people) to the Gorkha kingdom, the terms such as Khas and Newar ceased to be used as the names of countries. The 1854 legal code (Muluki Ain), promulgated by the Nepali Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana, himself a Khas, no longer referred to Khas as a country, rather as a jāt (species or community) within the Gorkha kingdom.
The Shah dynasty of the Gorkha Kingdom, as well as the succeeding Rana dynasty, spoke the Khas language (now called the Nepali language). However, they claimed to be Rajputs of western Indian origin, rather than the native Khas Kshatriyas. Since outside Nepal, the Khas social status was seen as inferior to that of the Rajputs, the rulers started describing themselves as natives of the Hill country, rather than that of the Khas country. Most people, however, considered the terms Khas and Parbatiya (Pahari/Pahadi or Hill people) as synonymous.
Jung Bahadur also re-labeled the Khas jāt as Chhetri in present-day Nepal. Originally, the Brahmin immigrants from the plains considered the Khas as low-caste because of the latter's neglect of high-caste taboos (such as alcohol abstinence). The upper-class Khas people commissioned the Bahun (Brahmin) priests to initiate them into the high-caste Chhetri order and adopted high-caste manners. Other Khas families who could not afford to (or did not care to) pay the Bahun priests also attempted to assume the Chhetri status but were not recognized as such by others. They are now called Matwali (alcohol-drinking) Chhetris.
Khas language, Belongs to the north Indo-Aryan Hill group as shown as Nepali, in purple
Because of the adoption of the Chhetri identity, the term Khas is rapidly becoming obsolete. According to Dor Bahadur Bista (1991), "the Khas have vanished from the ethnographic map of Nepal".
Historian Balkrishna Pokhrel writes the communities or caste in Khas group were Brahman, Chhetri, Gharti, Damai, Kami, Sarki, Hudka, Tamote, Gaine, Badi, etc. The tribal designation Khas refers to in some contexts only to the upper-class Khas group, i.e. Bahun and Chhetri, but in other contexts may also include the low status (generally untouchable) occupational Khas groups such as Kāmi (blacksmiths), Damāi (tailors), and Sārki (shoemakers and leather workers). Khas people are addressed with the term Khayan or Parbatiya or Partyā, Parbaté meaning hill-dweller by Newars. The hill Khas tribe are in large part associated with the Gorkhali warriors.
The Khas people originally referred to their language as Khas kurā (Khas speech), which was also known as Parbatiya (language of the hill country). The Newar people used the term Khayan Bhaya, Parbatiya and Gorkhali as a name for this language, as they identified it with the Gorkhali conquerors. The Gorkhalis themselves started using this term to refer to their language at a later stage. In an attempt to disassociate himself with his Khas past, the Rana monarch Jung Bahadur decreed that the term Gorkhali be used instead of Khas kurā to describe the language. Meanwhile, the British Indian administrators had started using the term Nepal (after Newar) to refer to the Gorkha kingdom. In the 1930s, the Gorkha government also adopted this term to describe their country. Subsequently, the Khas language also came to be known as Nepali language. It has become a national language of Nepal and lingua franca among the majority of population of North Bengal, Sikkim and Bhutan.
Modern-day Khas people are referred as Khas Brahmin (commonly called as Khas Bahun), Khas Rajput (commonly called as Khas Chhetri) and Khas Dalit. Khas people are popularly referred in modern times as Khas Arya.
In Kumaon and Garhwal regions of Uttarakhand in India, too, the term Khas has become obsolete. The Khas (or Khasia) people of Kumaon adopted the self-designation Kumaoni Jiagahari Rajput, after being elevated to the Rajput status by the Chand kings. The term Khas is almost obsolete, and people resent being addressed as Khas because of the negative stereotypes associated with this term.
Khas Malla rulersEdit
- Historian Baburam Acharya speculates that in the 3rd millennium B.C.E., there were two clans of Arya in the northern Indian subcontinent; Aiḍa and Mānava. Aiḍa who were named after their homeland Iḍavritt (modern day Kashmir), settled over Panjab and Ganga-Jamuna plain while Mānava settled over Awadh region. Chandravanshi kings like Bharata and Yudhisthir belonged to Aiḍa while Suryavanshi kings like Ramachandra belonged to Mānava. Later, Aiḍa built dominion over Magadh while Mānava had dominion over Videha.
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