Khas people

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Regions with significant populations

Khas language and regional dialects (e.g; Doteli language) in Nepal

Kumaoni and Garhwali in Uttarakhand
Om.svg Hinduism
Related ethnic groups
Pahari people, Kumaoni people, Garhwali people, Other Indo-Aryan peoples

Khas people (Nepali: खस) also called Khas Arya[1][2][3] (Nepali: खस आर्य) are an Indo-Aryan[4] ethno-linguistic group native to the present-day Nepal as well as Kumaon and Garhwal regions of Uttarakhand and speak the Khas language (modern Nepali language). They were also known as 'Parbatiyas' and 'Paharis', the term "Khas" has now become obsolete, as the Khas people have adopted other identities such as Chhetri and Bahun, because of the negative stereotypes associated with the term Khas.[5][6][7]

The hill 'Khas' tribe who are in large part associated with the Gorkhali invaders are addressed with the term Partyā or Parbaté meaning hill-dweller by Newars.[8] The tribal designation Khas refers to in some contexts only to the upper-class Khas group, i.e. the Bahun and the Chhetri, but in other contexts may also include the low status (generally untouchable) occupational Khas groups such as Kāmi (blacksmiths), Damāi (tailors), Sārki(shoemakers and leather workers).[8]


Khas man of Nepal, as depicted in The People of India (1868-1875)

The origin of the Khas people is uncertain: they are believed to have arrived in the western reaches of Nepal in beginning of first millennium B.C from the north-west,[9] it is likely that they absorbed people from different ethnic groups during this immigration.[10] They have been connected to the Khasas mentioned in the ancient Hindu literature, as well as the medieval Khasa Malla kingdom.[11]

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 the 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.[12]

Copper Inscription by King of Doti, Raika Mandhata Shahi at Saka Era 1612 (शाके १६१२) (or 1747 Bikram Samvat) in old Khas language using Devanagari script

Until the 19th century, the Gorkhali referred to their country as Khas des ("Khas country"),[13] 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,[14] no longer referred to "Khas" as a country, rather as a jāt (species or community) within the Gorkha kingdom.[15]

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,[16] 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 or Hill people) as synonymous.[13]

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 "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;[17] 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".[18]

Jung Bahadur also re-labeled the Khas jāt as Chhetri in present-day Nepal.[16] 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),[19] 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, which 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.[7]

Because of the adoption of the "Chhetri" identity, the term Khas is rapidly becoming obsolete.[5] According to Dor Bahadur Bista (1991), "the Khas have vanished from the ethnographic map of Nepal".[7]



Modern day Khas people are referred as Khas Brahmin (commonly called as Khas Bahun) and Khas Rajput (commonly called as Khas Chhetri).[12] Khas people are popularly referred in modern times as Khas Arya, they are denied quota and reservations in civil services and other sectors due to their history of socio-political dominance in Nepal.[20][21]


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.[6]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "Nepal's election may at last bring stability". The Economist. Retrieved 1 May 2018. 
  2. ^ "Khas Arya quota provision in civil services opposed". 10 November 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2018. 
  3. ^ "What does high caste chauvinism look like?". Retrieved 1 May 2018. 
  4. ^ Hagen & Thapa 1998, p. 114.
  5. ^ a b William Brook Northey & C. J. Morris 1928, p. 123.
  6. ^ a b K. S. Singh 2005, p. 851.
  7. ^ a b c Dor Bahadur Bista 1991, p. 48.
  8. ^ a b Whelpton 2005, p. 31.
  9. ^ Dor Bahadur Bista 1991, p. 15.
  10. ^ John T Hitchcock 1978, p. 113.
  11. ^ John T Hitchcock 1978, pp. 112-119.
  12. ^ a b John T Hitchcock 1978, pp. 116-119.
  13. ^ a b Richard Burghart 1984, p. 107.
  14. ^ a b Dor Bahadur Bista 1991, p. 37.
  15. ^ Richard Burghart 1984, p. 117.
  16. ^ a b Richard Burghart 1984, p. 119.
  17. ^ Richard Burghart 1984, p. 118.
  18. ^ Richard Burghart 1984, pp. 118-119.
  19. ^ Susan Thieme 2006, p. 83.
  20. ^ Khadka, Suman (25 Feb 2015). "Drawing caste lines". The Kathmandu Post. Retrieved 25 January 2018. 
  21. ^ "Khas Arya quota provision in civil services opposed". 10 November 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2018. 
  22. ^ a b c Pradhan 2012, p. 22.


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