We present with thanks an essay written by W.H.Mcleod in his book -'Exploring Sikhism'

The eighteenth century was a period of considerable turbulence for the Punjab. It began with Mughal authority still to all appearances in full control of the area, and it terminated on the threshold of a return to firm rule under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Between these two periods, however, there were rebellions, invasions, a fragmenting of authority, political confusion. By the middle of the century, following the final collapse of effective Mughal power, there were emerging the celebrated Sikhs misls autonomous armed bands each under an acknowledged chieftain (sardar or misldar) and each asserting control over an ill-defined portion of central Punjab. During the period of their emergence a sense of unity was sustained, partly by the ties of a common allegiance to the Sikh faith but more effectively by the recurrent attacks of the Afghan invader, Ahmad Shah Abdali. Together with the preceding period of Mughal persecution these years constitute an interval of critical importance in the development of the Khalsa1 and exploits associated with it have secured an enduring popularity in Sikh tradition.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh

The removal of the Afghan threat in 1769 the precarious unity of the invasion years rapidly collapsed and for the remainder of the century political affairs in the Punjab were distinguished by inter-misl rivalry, leading on occasion to open war. Eventually one of Misaldars, Ranjit Singh of the Shukerchakia misl, by means of marital alliance, intimidation, and judicious use of force succeeded in eliminating almost all his rivals. The only major exception was the Phulkian misl which, because its territories lay in the Malwa region (south of the Satluj river), came within the ambit of the advancing British before Ranjit Singh could swallow it, and survived in consequence as a cluster of princely states. North of the Satluj Fateh Singh of Kapurthala managed to retain an empty title by accepting a thoroughly one-sided 'alliance' with Ranjit Singh. The fact that he succeeded in retaining his title was, however, important. We shall have reason to refer to the House of Kapurthala later in this essay.

Sikh misaldars holding a conference

Ranjit Singh belonged to a third generation of misl leadership. The first successful generation was the second (that of his father) and amongst the sardars of this middle generation his father does not stand out as one of the most prominent. Two sardars enjoy a particular prominence within this second generation, both of them bearing the name Jassa Singh. The older of the two first appears as Jassa Singh Kalal but subsequently Kalal was dropped and replaced by Ahluwalia. Similarly, his namesake abandoned his original name Jassa Singh Thoka in favour of Jassa Singh Ramgarhia. In accordance with these changes the groups which they led came to be known as the Ahluwalia and Ramgarhia misls respectively.

S.Jassa Singh Kalal (Ahluwalia)

For the purposes of this essay both sets of names are important. In each case the change of name serves to represent the process which the essay discusses, and all four are names which must recur frequently during the course of the discussion. The original names Kalal and Thoka designate castes, both of them artisan and both low in the status hierarchy of the Punjab. The Kalals as brewers and distillers occupied a conspicuously low ranking. Thoka means 'carpenter' and indicates a member of the a Tarkhan caste.2 The Tarkhan, or carpenter, caste ranked distinctively higher than that of the Kalals or indeed of any other Punjabi artisan caste, but artisan it remained and its actual status was in consequence comparatively low. Both ranked well below the Jats, who were the dominant caste within the Khalsa and who were, during the eighteenth century, establishing a much wider dominance over rural Punjab.
There seems little doubt that the obvious explanation for this abandoning of caste names must be the correct one. Both leaders sought to relinquish inherited names redolent of lowly status. This they did by appropriating names more in accord with the exalted status earned in each case by successful military enterprise. Jassa Singh Kalal followed the common practice of assuming the name
of his native village. This was a small place near Lahore named Ahlu or Ahluval and he accordingly came to be known as Jassa Singh of Ahluval (Jassa Singh Ahluvalia).3 Initially his namesake followed the same convention and, as a resident of Ichogal village (also near Lahore), was known as Jassa Singh Ichogalia as well as Jassa Singh Thoka. In 1749, however, he played a critical role in relieving the besieged fort of Ram Rauni outside Amritsar.

S. Jassa Singh Ichogilia (Ramgarhia)

The fort was subsequently entrusted to his charge, rebuilt and renamed Ramgarh, and it was as governor of the fort that he came to be known as Jassa Singh Ramgarhia.4 Although the old caste appellation Thoka continues to appear in many later references, Ramgarhia is clearly regarded as a more elevated title and later heroic literature almost invariably refers to him by this name.
An understanding of the careers of the two Jassa Singhs is certainly relevant to what follows. Our concern, however, is not with two distinguished individuals of the eighteenth century, but rather with the caste groups to which they belonged-with the means whereby sections of both groups have subsequently endeavoured to enhance their corporate status, and the degree of success each has achieved. The scanty literature dealing with the two groups will be consolidated and, where possible, supplemented.5 Particular attention will be directed to their common Sikh allegiance; the extent to which status ambitions have encouraged conversion to the Khalsa; and the degree to which the Sikh affiliation has encouraged and facilitated the continued pursuit of these ambitions.
From this declaration of intent it is obvious that the discussion must concern the issue of upward caste mobility. Does this necessarily imply that it must in consequence concern Srinivas's celebrated theory of 'Sanskritization'? The answer must be that, although a general correspondence may be discerned, the 'Sanskritization' formulations relating to caste mobility are more likely to confuse than to enlighten and that the term ought, in consequence, to be eliminated from the discussion. We are dealing with a comparatively simple process of emulation, one which in its essential rudiments was recognized and understood by the earliest of the systematic British observers of Punjabi society. In his treatment of Punjab castes in the 1881 census Ibbetson includes a section entitled 'Instances of the mutability of caste'. In this and the following section he gives several examples of castes which have moved up or down in status by means of adopting or abandoning particular customs or occupations.6 Although Ibbetson produced nosophisticated theory to cover the phenomenon there can be no doubt that he and his colleagues were well acquainted with its more obvious features as they manifested themselves in Punjabi society of the late nineteenth century.
The case against retaining the terminology of the Sanskritization debate in this examination of the Ahluwalia and Ramgarhia communities can be illustrated by reference to the patterns of behaviour which have provided models for Punjabi Kalal and Tarkhan imitation. These can scarcely be described as brahmanical. In several respects they are distinctly anti-Brahman in sympathy and in actual practice. The overt model has been the Khalsa discipline, a pattern which represents the teachings of Nanak and his successors transformed and extensively supplemented by the culture of the dominant Jats. Neither Nanak nor his Jat followers betray a particular affection for Brahmans. Nanak frequently goes out of his way to denounce brahmanical pretensions and specifically the notion that real worth or salvation must necessarily relate to degrees of caste status. Although Jats still showed a residual respect for Brahmans during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,7 it has since dwindled to vanishing point as they secured an increasing dominance over rural Punjab. Because the principal Kalal and Tarkhan attempts come within this latter period it would be surprising to find in them a conscious imitation of brahmanical ideals, apart from such as have been retained within the Sikh faith or continuing Jat practice. This applies most strongly in the case of theTarkhans who, as rural artisans dependent on landlord patronage, have been in particularly close association with Jats.
Before proceeding to discuss the Kalal and Tarkhan castes it is perhaps wise to clarify the meaning of the term 'caste' when used in a Punjabi context. Within the Punjab caste consciousness has comparatively little to do with the concept of varna, except for those at the upper and lower extremities of the classical hierarchy. For the bulk of the population the status hierarchy which really counts is one which takes slight account of the traditional fourfold varna distinction. It is in the Punjab a hierarchy, which exalts the mercantile Khatri and agrarian Jat while tending to depreciate the Brahman. For the Jat the classical hierarchy has little relevance except perhaps to increase the condescension which nowadays he characteristically bestows upon
Brahmans. It has had relevance for the Khatris as a means of claiming Kshatriya status, but even here its importance has been only marginal. Khatri status obviously owes much more to commercial, industrial and administrative success than to a dubious etymological assertion.8 As far as this essay is concerned the only relevance of the traditional varna theory derives from intermittent Kalal claims to Khatri status. The link is an exceedingly tenuous one, as the target has been the actual Khatri mode rather than the vague status of the warrior Kshatriya.
In Punjabi usage the term most commonly encountered is zdt, a cognate form and synonym ofjati. The word is, in practice, used very loosely and one must frequently construe its meaning from the context. It may refer to the larger endogamous unit of caste organization; to the smaller exogamous unit, or to the groupings of exogamous units. In some contexts it may even be used to signify varna.9 A strict definition is, however, possible and it designates one of the two major units of caste organization in the Punjab. In its strict sense zdt connotes the larger endogamous unit and is thus properly applied to such groupings as Khatri and Jat. The smaller exogamous units, which together constitute the zat or jati, are called got (Hindi gotra).
In Punjabi society it is the adt hierarchy which is most significant and it is upon his zat s ranking that an individual's status will normally depend. Within each zat, moreover, one can expect to find an internal got hierarchy of varying clarity and precision. Kalal and Tarkhan are both regarded as zats, each containing its own gots. This much is clear and easily understood, and it retains its clarity as long as the discussion is confined to the Kalals. In the case of the Tarkhans, however, an interesting complication is introduced following the assumption of the tide Ramgarhia by Sikh Tarkhans. Sikh members of other artisan zats, notably the Lohar (blacksmith) and Raj (mason), have also claimed to be Ramgarhias and on the whole their claim has been accepted by Punjabi society in general. This has, in effect, created a new composite Ramgarhia zat by an alliance of the Sikh segments of various artisan zats. It should be added that the alliance has been an unequal one in most areas. In practice the Ramgarhia grouping has always been overwhelmingly dominated by its Tarkhan constituency.
One other term, which will be encountered in any detailed investigation of caste relationships, is baradari (lit. 'fraternity'), the group responsible for making decisions which affect the members of any given got. In theory the baradari embraces the entiremembership of the got. In practice, however, baradaris are much more restricted in size than the theory would suggest. The effective biradari is much more likely to comprise the members of a particular got within a single village or group of contiguous villages. Each got will thus have many baradaris and the number of baradaris in any given area will approximate to the number of gots. These baradaris have been important in terms of caste mobility. Movement in either direction has only partly been the product of fortuitous changes in external circumstances. Positive decisions by baradaris (as for example in such areas as education) have commonly produced significant local results, some of which will have spread by imitation to got members in other geographical areas. The action taken by many Sikh Tarkhans in returning themselves as Ramgarhias in the 1921 and 1931 censuses presumably represents baradari decisions in most
Having thus defined three of the key terms we can return to the Kalal and Tarkhan zats, and specifically to the question of when they first entered the Sikh community in substantial numbers. This is a very difficult question to answer satisfactorily, as there exist neither statistics nor detailed reference for the entire period preceding the 1881 census. The earliest British observers, writing in the late eighteenth century, were plainly under the impression that the overwhelming majority of Khalsa Sikhs were fats.10 The impression is understandable as all the evidence (both from contemporaneous sources and from the censuses of a century later) confirm a strong preponderance of Jats. It seems likely, however, that there may have been some measure of exaggeration in their emphasis. Pre-Khalsa sources (notably the eleventh var of Bhai Gurdas) point to a significant Khatri constituency, plus a sprinkling from several other diverse castes. Although the Khatri proportion failed to carry over in the same strength into the Jat-dominated Khalsa it is clear that the Khalsa has always included an indeterminate minority of non-Jats and that particular individuals from amongst this composite minority have achieved high rank in its counsels. The two Jassa Singhs testify to this general truth and to the specific presence of both Kalals and Tarkhans.
Beyond this observation we are, however, reduced to little more than cautious; conjecture, much of its based upon the appreciably later evidence of the censuses. In the case of the Kalals we can assume that in terms of influence as well as numbers their pre-census
representation was small. The same may also be posited with regard to the influence of the Tarkhans but not with reference to their numbers. The Tarkhans were, after all, tied to the Jats in an intimate jajmani relationship and if the patron chose to follow a particular way it would scarcely be surprising if the client should do the same. This might be unlikely in the case of a lowly menial, but not for the higher ranks of the artisans. Scattered hints offer some small support for this assumption. There are, for example, the reference in police files concerning Baba Ram Singh, leader of the Kuka sect of Sikhs from 1862 until his deportation in 1872. Ram Singh was himself a Tarkhan Sikh and in a police report of 1867 on the Kukas it is claimed that 'converts are chiefly made from Juts, Tirkhans, Chumars, and Muzbees'.11

Baba Ram Singh

This is, however, essentially conjecture. With the appearance of the 1881 census light begins to break. A total of 1,706,909 persons were returned as Sikhs at this census. As everyone had expected the caste analysis of this figure produced a pronounced absolute majority in favour of the Jats (more than 66 per cent of the total community). The second-largest figure, however, produced a surprise. From the Jat total there is a spectacular drop to the second-largest constituent which, it turns out, is provided by the Tarkhans with 6.5 per cent.12 Other constituents in excess of 2 per cent were the two outcaste groups of Chamar (5.6 per cent) and Chuhra (2.6), the Aroras (2.3), and the Khatris (2.2 per cent). The Kalals with 0.5 per cent emerge as one of the smallest of the remaining twenty zats appearing in the census table.13 Another table lends some support to the theory that Tarkhan adherence to the Khalsa will have derived its impulse from the jo/mam relationship with Jats. Abstract 55, 'Distribution of Male Sikhs by Caste for Divisions', shows a parallel area concentration of Jats and Tarkhans.14
Elsewhere in the 1881 Census analyses of religious affiliation are provided for each caste. Out of a total of 40,149 Kalals 22,254 were returned as Hindus (55.4 per cent), 8,931 as Sikhs (22.2 per cent), and 8,964 as Muslims (22.3 per cent).15 Tarkhans totalled 596,941. Of these 219,591 were Hindus (36.8 per cent), 113,869 were Sikh (19 per cent), and 263,478 were Muslims (44.1 per cent).16
A similar range of figures are provided in the 1891 Census, but thereafter the Kalals are dropped from the tables which provide informative analyses. There is, however, no reason to assume that the Kalal trend will have been significantly different from that of the Tarkhans or of the Sikh returns as a whole. The Sikh Kalals doregister a small proportionate drop during the decade 1881-91, but so too does the overall Sikh total. Thereafter both the Sikh total and that of its Tarkhan component register comparatively steep rises through to the 1931 Census (the last to incorporate caste returns) and it is probably safe to assume that the Kalal component also increased. The 1931 Census gives the following figures:17

for Sikhs

Percentage increase


Proportion per 10,000
* Includes figures for Delhi.
The same Census also provides a table showing 'for each of the last six censuses the variations in the population figures of certain castes, which claim both Hindus and Sikhs among their members'. This table includes the following entry for Tarkhans:18

Hindu 213070

Sikh 113067

Khan Ahmad Hassan Khan, author of the 1931 Census Report, explaining the apparent drop in the number of Sikh Tarkhans following the 1911 Census, indicates that the earlier pattern of increase had in fact continued through to 1931. He says:
Among occupational castes, such as Tarkhan and Lohar, Hindus have been decreasing since 1901, while the number of Sikhs has been rapidly growing, though of late it has had a downward tendency. This is merely due to the failure on the part of Sikh artisans to return any caste at all or to claim Ramgarhia as their caste instead of the traditional caste, Tarkhan.19
Although one must certainly treat these census returns with considerable caution it is obviously safe to conclude that the period from 1891 to 1931 is marked by a substantial movement within several castes away from a Hindu identity to a conscious Sikhidentity. The Tarkhan zat is one such caste and given the nature of the general trend it would be extremely surprising if the Kalals were not another. Earlier in his report Khan explain the trend:
The main conclusion is that the varying strength of the population returned as Hindu or Sikh in the Punjab States is due to social causes that are at work in that section of the population from which both Hindus and Sikhs are drawn. The Akali movement during the last decade is mainly responsible for numerous persons being returned as Sikhs instead of Hindus. Such persons for the most part comprise members of depressed classes, agriculturists and artisans in rural areas, who obviously consider that they gain in status as soon as they cease to be Hindus and become Sikhs.20
This comment here restricted to the princely states is subsequently extended to cover the bulk of British Punjab.
The main cause for the discarding of Hinduism by some of the agricultural and artisan classes in the central and eastern Punjab is the enhanced prestige gained by agricultural tribes in the countryside by their becoming Sikh .... Similar influences are operative in the case of such tribes as Tarkhan (carpenter), Lohar (blacksmith), Julaha (weaver), Sunar (goldsmith) and Nai (barber).21
Up to this point the Kalal and Tarkhan zdts have been considered together. This has been convenient insofar as they manifest a similar impulse and produce similar responses. There are, however, distinctive differences and each will now be treated separately.
Ibbetson's classic Report on the 1881 Census of the Punjab pro-vides the first systematic description of the Kalal caste in general and Ahluwalias (Sikh Kalals) in particular. In this brief account he refers to Jassa Singh's assumption of the name Ahluwalia and indicates that the borrowing of the name by Sikh Kalals was already general by 1881. The caste', he adds, 'was thus raised in importance' and in consequence 'many of its members abandoned their hereditary occu-pation [as distillers].'22 Ibbetson here implies as consequence what was probably a simultaneous process, directed towards the same ob-jective. Moreover, he refers in the same description to an economic incentive for renouncing the traditional Kalal vocation. This was pro-vided by British regulation of the distilling and sale of spirits. As a result of the restrictions thus imposed many Kalals, particularly Sikhs and Muslims, had 'taken to other pursuits, very often to commerce,
and especially to traffic in boots and shoes, bread, vegetables, and other commodities in which men of good caste object to deal'. He adds: They are notorious for enterprise, energy, and obstinacy.'23
Ibbetson indicates that the Sikh Kalals (whom we must henceforth call Ahluwalias24) were in a period of transition during the late nineteenth century. Another British observer writing less than twenty years later accepts the fact of change but disagrees with regard to its direction. In his Handbook on Sikhs for Regimental Officers (Allahabad, 1896) R.W. Falcon claims that most Ahluwalias had become agriculturalists.25 Falcon, however, writes from personal observation rather than from statistics and the claim which he makes probably amounts to an impression derived from experiences as a recruiting officer, an occupation which directed attention to rural rather than urban groups. His statement should probably be regarded as a supplement to Ibbetson's information. We thus retain the clear impression of a caste in transition, moving in response to both economic pressure and deliberate choice. By the end of the nineteenth century many Ahluwalias had taken up agriculture and many more had moved into petty commerce. Some were already securing positions of responsibility in the army or civil administration, and others were appearing as lawyers.26
This process has continued throughout the present century, with the result that although Ahluwalias may still be found in petty commerce this is scarcely the image they project. Ahluwalias are now to be found in more exalted commercial enterprise and particularly in government service where many have achieved notable success. Some have achieved prominence in the army. Others have done so in literature and the universities, earning for themselves an acknowledged reputation as intellectuals. One of the finest flowers of Punjabi literature was in fact of Ahluwalia origin, the result of a decision by the Ahluwalia barddarl of the Abbotabad area to send two of its young men to Japan for their education. One of these, Puran Singh (1881-1931), matured into a poet of considerable renown within the Punjab.
Ahluwalias' status today is unquestionably a high one in Punjab society and few would deny them an honourable rank. It is, how-ever, by no means clear what specific status the Ahluwalias have aimed to achieve, nor what precise status they are accorded in mod-ern Punjabi society. The target of the Kapurthala princely family (the descendants of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia) appears during the later nineteenth century to have been Rajput status.27 For at least some
Ahluwalias there appear to have been Jat ambitions, but if so these have been frustrated by Jat unwillingness to intermarry. As a whole the community seems generally to have regarded Khatri status as the desired objective, a claim which once produced a short-lived 'All India Ahluwalia Khatri Mahasabha'.28 Solid evidence is not avail-able, but one will often encounter claims that increasingly Ahluwalias are marrying Khatris. For a group moving strongly towards urban residence and commercial or professional occupations the Khatri identity provides an appropriate target.
The details are imprecise, but of the general outcome there can be no doubt. A fair summary of current attitudes was probably provided by a conversation with three Sikh graduate students (all non-Ahluwalias) in 1972. When asked to identify the caste status of the Ahluwalias one volunteered the suggestion that they must be Jats, a second linked them with the Khatris, and the third did not know. None were aware of any links with the Kalals. Ahluwalia success is, it seems, assured. It can be attributed partly to the comparatively lengthy spread in temporal terms of their ascent to a respectable corporate status; partly to the relative smallness of the community; partly to its association with the princely house of Kapurthala; and partly to the intelligent determination of so many individual Ahluwalias.
The experience of the Ramgarhias has been distinctly different, notwithstanding the place of high honour accorded individual Tarkhans in Sikh history and tradition. Jassa Singh Thoka we have already noted. Even higher in the traditional estimation stands the figure of Bhai Lalo, a carpenter who plays a central part in one of the most popular of all janam-sakhi stories about Guru Nanak.29 As we have already seen, however, their strength and status within the Sikh Panth remains generally obscure until we reach the later nineteenth century.

Bhai Lalo, Bhai Mardana, Guru Nanak & Rai Bular Bhatti

Ibbetson's brief description of the Tarkhan caste suggests that in 1881 there was little evidence of the conscious mobility he notes in the case of the Ahluwalias.30 By 1891, however, the proportion returned as Sikhs was already rising31 and in 1896 Falcon noted that Sikh Tarkhans were commonly called Ramgarhias,32 a title earlier used only by the direct descendants of Jassa Singh Thoka.33 In the 1901 census 4,253 Sikhs returned themselves as Ramgarhias. Aparticular concentration in Gurdaspur district (1,548) indicates the connection with Jassa Singh's descendants, most of whose estates were located in that area.34 The usage had, however, ceased to be a family preserve and its incidence increased rapidly through the three succeeding decennial censuses. Today, if a caste label is to be used for a Sikh of Tarkhan origins, it will almost invariably be Ramgarhia.
This increasing popularity of the name Ramgarhia during the present century accompanies a steady increase in the economic status of many SikhTarkhans (for some a positively spectacular increase). In 1896 Falcon warned his readers that a Tarkhan Sikh 'can rarely be persuaded to enlist on a sepoy's pay as an average carpenter can make Rs. 20 a month in his village'.35 This was but a small beginning for what was to follow. From their homes in rural Punjab numerous Ramgarhias began to travel increasing distances in response to a substantial British demand for their services. The development of communications and industry required in large measure precisely those skills, which the Ramgarhias were able to provide. Carpentry in Shimla, railways in eastern India, contracting in Assam, and a combination of the same opportunities in East Africa progressively attracted the services of the willing Ramgarhia and brought him a mounting economic return. It need occasion no surprise that the largest section of East African Sikhs is still that of the Ramgarhias.36
The economic success achieved outside the Punjab has subsequently been repeated within the Ramgarhias' home state, much of it on the basis of profits repatriated from other pans of India and from East Africa. Two features distinguish this Punjab-based enterprise. The first is its specialization in small-scale industries which relate closely to the traditional Tarkhan vocation. Furniture-making and agricultural machinery are two prominent exam-ples. The second distinctive features has been a concentration in particular towns, notably Phagwara (auto parts and other industries), Kartarpur (furniture), and Batala (foundries and agricultural machinery).37 Concentrations also occur in Ludhiana and Goraya, and impressive fortunes have been made by Ramgarhia contractors in New Delhi.
These enterprises convincingly demonstrate a substantial economic achievement on the part of numerous Ramgarhias. Has their success in the economic area been accompanied by a corporate social rise of any significance? Although individual Ramgarhias of considerable wealth appear to be achieving a measure of success in terms of mar-riage arrangements the corporate status of the community still ap
pears to be essentially unchanged. This failure has not been the result of complacence or inactivity. In addition to their Sikh affiliation and change of name the Ramgarhias have, during the past half-century, achieved a notable degree of corporate cohension and engaged in the kind of corporate activities which are believed to foster advancement under twentieth-century conditions. These include the formation of Ramgarhia sabhas (societies), the erection of Ramgarhia gurduaras (temples), the publication of a Ramgarhia Gazette, and above all the development of an impressive educational complex in Phagwara. This complex now includes a degree college, a teachers' training college, a polytechnic, an industrial training institute, and several schools.38 It is, moreover, evident that Sikhs of other artisan castes have believed . the corporate status of the Ramgarhias to be a desirable one, with the result that Lohars and Rajs have adopted the title and been accepted into the predominantly Tarkhan community. These factors notwith-standing it remains apparent that in terms of corporate status the Ramgarhia community has achieved a comparatively slight success. Certainly it is appreciably less than that of the Ahluwalias.
The future may, of course, produce change in corporate status corresponding to economic success; or it may simply provide for a progressive weakening of caste hierarchies, reducing the present corporate status to meaningless relics. The present provides, in the case of the Ramgarhias, an unusually interesting composite zdt grouping, built around a substantial core of Sikh Tarkhans but somewhat indistinct at its edges. In addition to Lohar and Raj accessions some Nais (barbers) and a few Gujars have also assumed the Ramgarhia mantle. Amongst its more prominent gots are the Kalsi (named after a village in Amritsar District), the Mohinderu (borrowed from the Khatris), and the Matharu. In spite of its impressive educational apparatus in Phagwara the community has produced few scholars and little evident willingness to use education (in the manner of the Ahluwalias) as a means of professional advancement. Very few Ramgarhias will be found in administrative positions and there seems little likelihood that this situation will change. There has, however, been an interesting tradition in many Ramgarhia families of providing granthis (or readers) for gurduaras. Another interesting specialization has been art. Much of the marble inlay and many of the frescoes in the Golden Temple are the work of Ramgarhia craftsmen.39
The current condition of the community in terms of coherence and solidarity is difficult to estimate. Saberwal suggests after a periodof research in 'Modelpur' (Phagwara) that the Ramgarhia coherence in that particular area is now dissolving as baradaris, lose their authority and as Ramgarhias of elevated individual status increasingly seek marriage arrangements outside the community. Ramgarhia involvement in politics has, he maintains, been sparse in the past and for the future it is at once unnecessary and impossible.40 A different impression emerges, however, from the Batala area. Informants in Batala (one of them a former member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly) claimed that locally the Ramgarhias are well organized (at least politically). In recent elections (Punjab state elections of March 1972) their support has been given to the Congress, not to the Akalis whom they identify with Jat interests.
A report from yet another area indicates a similar degree of local cohesion, but a different beneficiary. Nayar found that the Ramgarhias of the rural Sidhwan Bet constituency in Ludhiana District voted solidly Akali in the 1962 elections because 'they insistently wanted to prove that they are as good Sikhs as any other, and the act of voting for the Akali candidate becomes a form of self-assurance and a public demonstration of being a complete Sikh'.41 The difference between Batala and Sidhwan Bet is perhaps explained by a contrast between comparative Ramgarhia affluence in the former and backwardness in the latter. Whereas the Ramgarhias of Sidhwan Bet were still seeking to secure the status associated with their Sikh affiliation, those of Batala are more concerned to maintain favour with the Congress party which, as the central Government, can so affect the fortunes of small industries. In a general sense it seems reasonable to conclude that whereas there is no uniformity of Ramgarhia political policy at the provincial level there are, in at least a few areas, evidences of effective local unity.
Amongst individual politicians two Ramgarhias have achieved notable prominence in recent years. The former Chief Minister of the Punjab, Giani Zail Singh was Ramgarhia and the first of the community to occupy a position normally held by a Jat.

Giani Zail Singh the first Sikh President of India

He was later President of India. The late Dalip Singh Saund, the first Indian member of the United States Congress, was also a Ramgarhia.42 In each case the success should probably be regarded as essentially personal.
Ahluwalias and Ramgarhias, both of them caste groups within the wider Sikh Panth, have thus had differing success in their commonquest for higher status. We conclude with the questions raised at the beginning of this essay and since then treated only indirectly. To what extent has this quest for higher status encouraged conversion to the Sikh Khalsa; and to what degree has conversion subsequently favoured its pursuit?
Although the first question must defy a precise response, it can be easily answered in a general sense. The census figures alone, testifying as they do to extensive lower caste conversion over the course of at least half a century, demonstrate the appeal of the Khalsa to those dissatisfied with their inherited status. The Sikh Gurus had preached the religious equality of all castes and coinciding with the period covered by the censuses the Singh Sabha reform movement stimulated a significant recovery of this message. Within the Khalsa the customs of sangat and pangat*3 are meaningful conventions and all who join it share in the measure of equal status which they confer. The Khalsa was, moreover, an institution of acknowledged prestige and influence. Within it caste distinctions may have survived, but it offered a promise of equality which was by no means wholly belied. This applied to the Ramgarhias as well as to the Ahluwalias. Tarkhans they may have remained, but their status was plainly superior to that of their Hindu caste-fellows. Apart from the reputation of the Khalsa there appears to be no explanation to account for this difference.
This acknowledgement provides a part of the answer to our second question. In purely economic terms we can, however, proceed further with this question. Saberwal argues that the Sikh symbols, imposing as they do an outward uniformity, enabled Ramgarhias who moved beyond the Punjab to escape from the constricting status of menials.44 The recognizably Sikh exterior could, in fact, achieve even more.
In the eyes of foreigners Sikhs belong to a single community, and qualities attributed to the community as a whole have frequently been ascribed pari passu to its individual members. This would mean that the Sikh reputation for freedom, vigour and initiative (a reputation largely earned by the lats) might well be extended to all who bore the external symbols.
There is perhaps a degree of exaggeration involved in this as the instructions issued to army recruitment officers betray if anything an excessive concern for character differences allegedly based on caste distinctions amongst the Sikhs. At the same time there also appears.] to be a measure of truth in it, a measure which probably increased as one moved away from army circles. The same willingness to endowall Sikhs with a common identity survives today in such instances as the reputation accorded Sikh taxi drivers. To be visibly a Sikh commonly means receiving both the benefits and disadvantages conferred by the composite Sikh reputation.
Others have attempted to go still further in claiming particular qualities for the Sikh regardless of his caste. The Khalsa rahit (code of discipline) is said to bestow advantages in terms of a regular disciplined life; and the specific ban on tobacco effectively debars the Sikh from a deleterious habit. Here, however, we broach issues which are debatable to say the least. The rahit is unquestionably a powerful means of personal discipline if in fact it is rigorously observed, but there is little evidence to indicate a widespread contemporary rigour. Whereas it certainly applies to many individual Sikhs, few would allow the claim to cover the Panth as a whole. Although the ban on smoking is almost universally observed by Sikhs some might want to suggest that gains made here are lost on liquor.
The most one can claim is that the Sikh way of life offers a possibility of temporal success and the certainty of enhanced personal respect for those individuals who strictly observe its precepts. To castes as a whole it offers the same benefits, but to an appreciably diminished degree. The varying success of the Ahluwalias and Ramgarhias suggests that for substantial gains in status other means are also required.
1. The Sikh order, with its distinctive symbols and discipline, instituted by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.
2. The Punjabi thoha and Hindi tarkhdn are synonymous. The latter, however, is almost invariably used as the caste designation.
3. Hari Ram Gupta, History of the Sikhs 1739-1768 (Simla: Minerva Book Shop, 2nd rev. edn, 1952), 1, p. 50n.; Kanh Singh Nabha, Gurusabad Ratandkar Mahan Kosh (Patiala: Bhasha Vibhag, 1960), p. 372.
4. Gupta, op. cit, pp. 61, 90-1; Kanh Singh Nabha, op. cit., p. 372; Teja Singh and Ganda Singh, A Short History of the Sikhs (Bombay: Orient Longmans, 1950), pp. 138-9, 141n.
5. The principal sources are the successive Punjab censuses from 1881 to 1931. Ibbetson's important Report on the 1881 census was subsequently reissued under the title Panjab Castes (Lahore: Punjab Government, 1916). R.W, Falcon, Handbook on Sikhs for the use of Regimental Officers (Allahabad: Pioneer Press, 1896) offers a conspectus of Sikh castes, but adds little to Ibbetson with regard to Kalals and Tarkhans. The only extended treatment of either caste provided by a modern authority is Satish Saberwal's valuable contribution on the Ramgarhias, 'Status,
Mobility and Networks in a Punjabi Industrial Town', Beyond the Village: Sociological Explorations, ed. Satish Saberwal (Simla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1972). More can be expected from this author. Both groups are briefly and usefully described in their nineteenth-century context by P. van den Dungen in D.A. Low (ed.), Soundings in Modem South Asian History (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1968), pp. 64-5, 70-1.
6. Census of India 1881, (Lahore: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1883), I, Book I, 174-6, Also Ibbetson, op. cit., pp. 6-9.
7. Avtar Singh, Ethics of the Sikhs (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1970), p. 161.
8. The words ksatriya and hhatri are cognate terms, the latter Punjabi form apparently assumed as yet another example of upward mobility by means of caste titles.
9. Cf. Andre Beteille, Castes Old and New (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1969), pp. 146-51.
10. Ganda Singh (ed.), Early European Accounts of the Sikhs (Calcutta: Indian Studies Past and Present, 1962), pp. 13, 56, 105. The impression was still abroad in the mid-nineteenth century. Cf. W.H. Sleeman, Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official. Rev. edn Annotated by Vincent A. Smith (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 476n.
11. W.H. McLeod, The Kukas: a Millenarian Sect of the Punjab', W.P. Morrell: A Tribute, eds G.A. Wood and P.S. O'Connor (Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 1973), p. 86. See above, p. 190.
12. Ibbetson comments: The [numerically] high place which theTarkhans or carpenters occupy among the Sikhs ... . is very curious'. Census of India 1881, I, Book I, p. 108.
13. Ibid., p. 107.
14. Ibid., p. 139.
15. Ibid., II, table VIIIA, p. 26.
16. Ibid., p. 8. A small discrepancy between the totals for each religion and the grand total appears in both Kalal andTarkhan figures because of returns made by Jains and Buddhists.
17. Loc. cit., XVII, Part I, 304. To this table an important qualification was added: 'Apart from the facts set forth in the extracts quoted above, the number of Sikhs since 1911 has greatly risen on account of the changed instructions about the definition of Sikhism. Prior to that year only those were recorded as Sikhs, who according to the tenets of the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, grew long hair and abstained from smoking, but since then any one is recorded as a Sikh who returns himself as such whether or not he practices those tenets.' (Ibid., p. 306.) It is, however, a qualification which almost exclusively concerns Khatris and Aroras. Neither the Ahluwalias nor the Ramgarhias have observed to any significant degree the practice of calling themselves Sikhs without observing the outward forms of the Khalsa. For them this would havedestroyed any social advantage implicit in the title of Sikh. Indeed, the title would not have been accepted as valid.
18. Ibid., p. 308.
19. Ibid., p. 309.
20. Ibid., p. 293.
21. Ibid., p. 294. On the specific case of the Tarkhans see also pp. 337, 346.
22. Ibbetson, op. cit., p. 325.
23. Ibid.
24. This is sometimes abbreviated to Walia in modern usage.
25. Loc. cit., p. 78.
26. P. van den Dungen, op. cit., p. 71.
27. Punjab District Gazetteers, XIVA ]ullundur District and Kapunhala State 1904 (Lahore: Punjab State Government, 1908), Kapurthala section, p. 3.
28. Dev Raj Chanana, 'Sanskritization, Westernization, and India's North-West', The Economic Weekly (Bombay), 4 March 1961, p. 410.
29. W.H. McLeod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), p. 86.
30. Ibbetson, op. cit., p. 313.
31. Census of India 1891 (Calcutta: Government of India, 1894), XIX, 335 and Appendix C, p. xcviii.
32. Falcon, op. cit., pp. 29, 77.
33. It is used in this sense early in the nineteenth century by Murray in a document posthumously published in 1834 as an appendix to H.T. Prinsep's Origin of the Sikh Power in the Punjab. 'Intermarriage between the Jat Sikh Chiefs and the Aluwaliah [sic] and Ramgarhia families do not obtain, the latter being Kalals and Thokas (mace-bearers and carpenters) and deemed inferior.' Loc. cit. (1970 edition), p. 164n.
34. Census of India 1901, XVII, Parti (Simla: Government of India, 1905), 137, 183.
35. Falcon, op. cit., p. 77.
36. Teja Singh Bhabra, The African Sikhs', The Sikh Sansar (California), Vol. II, No. 3, 78. The economic expansion is well described and acutely analysed by Satish Saberwal, 'Status, Mobility, and Networks in a Punjabi Industrial Town', Beyond the Village, ed., idem.
37. Saberwal convincingly relates the Phagwara concentration to the development of industry in the town with its consequent demand for skilled or semi-skilled workers. Industry, he suggests, was attracted partly by road and rail connections; and party by the town's pre-1947 location within a princely state (Kapurthala). This latter feature meant freedom from British Indian tax scales. Ibid., pp. 128-30. Kartarpur (Jullundur District) presumably owes its popularity, in part at least, to the first and third of these factors; and Batala (a post-1947 development) to its earlyRamgarhia conneaions. Situated within Gurdaspur District it has a substantial Ramgarhia population.
38. Ibid., pp. 155-6.
39. 'Historical Notes on the Ramgarhias: Record of Interviews with Sardar Gurdial Singh Rehill', unpub. MS. prepared by Satish Saberwal. The popular Sikh artist Sobha Singh is also a Ramgarhia: ibid.
40. Beyond the Village, pp. 157, 161.
41. Baldev Raj Nayar, 'Religion and Caste in the Punjab: Sidhwan Bet constituency, Indian Voting Behaviour: Studies of the 1962 General Elections, ed. M. Weiner and R. Kothari (Calcutta, 1965), p. 138.
42. A brother of Dalip Singh Saund, Karnail Singh, has achieved considerable personal eminence as a builder of railways in Assam and subsequently as chairman of the Railways Board. Both positions, it will be noted, are entirely congenial to Ramgarhia traditions.
43. Sangat: lit. association, congregation. In Sikh congregations all must sit together regardless of caste. Pangat: lit. a row of people sitting to eat. In the Sikh langar (the communal kitchen attached to each gurdwara) no caste distinctions are permitted with regard to seating. All dine together.
44. Satish Saberwal, 'On Entrepreneurship: Everett Hagen and the Ramgarhias' (unpublished paper read at National Seminar on Social Change, Bangalore, Nov. 1972), p. 10.