Chhetri: The Most Populous Caste of Nepal

Chhetri: The Most Populous Caste of Nepal
Chhetri often called Kshetriya are Nepali speakers of the Khas community that represent the warrior ethos of our country.

The word itself is considered a direct derivative of the Sanskrit word Kshatriya. According to the 1854 Legal Code of Nepal, They are the social group among the sacred thread bearers (Tagadhari) and twice-born people of the Hindu tradition. Almost all are Hindu. Khas Chhetris were traditionally considered a division of the Khas people with Khas Brahmin. They make up 16.6% of Nepal’s population according to the 2011 Nepal census, making them the most populous caste or ethnic community in Nepal so let us find out more about this caste :

Who are Chettri’s?

They belong to the Hindu Kshatriya community based in Nepal but have roots in India. They are the warrior and ruler caste group, who speak Khasa Nepali. They have always dominated positions in the Nepalese Army, police, government, administration, and an Indian Army regiment also.

Chhetri: The Most Populas Caste of Nepal
Khas people in Traditional Clothing

As of today, they are the largest ethnic group in Nepal. The 2011 Nepal census recorded them as the largest Hindu adherents in the nation with 43,65,113 people which is 99.3% of the total Chhetri population. In Nepal’s hill districts the their population rises to 41% compared to 31% Brahmin and 27% other castes.

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Chhetri: The Most Populous Caste of Nepal
Demographics of Chhetri in Nepal

History of Chhetri’s in Nepal:

They are a caste of administrators, governors, and military elites in present-day Nepal as well as in the medieval Khas Kingdom and the Gorkha Kingdom which later unified Nepal. The nobility of the Gorkha Kingdom mainly originated from Chhetri families. They had a strong presence in civil administration affairs as well.

Chhetri: The Most Populous Caste of Nepal

The bulk of prime ministers of Nepal before the democratization of Nepal belonged to this caste as a result of the old Gorkhali aristocracy. Gorkha-based aristocratic families included the Pande dynasty, the Basnyat dynasty, the Thapa dynasty, and the Kunwars later known as the Rana dynasty.

Contributions of Chhetris in the Military:

Since they were born with a warrior ethos they served primarily in the military and contributed a lot to the Unification campaign of Nepal. They provided the core of the Gorkhali army of the mid-18th century. Famed warriors Abhiman Singh Basnyat of the Basnyat dynasty and Kalu Pande of the Pande dynasty were both members of the Chhetri caste. Jung Bahadur Rana, founder of the Rana dynasty also belonged to this community.

Chhetri: The Most Populous Caste of Nepal
Kalu Pandey, a famous Nepalese warrior was a Chhetri (Image Source: Wikipedia)

Chhetris dominated the position of the senior officers of the Nepal Army comprising 74.4% of total senior officers in 1967. Similarly, They composed 38.1%, 54.3%, and 55.3% of the senior officers in the years 2003, 2004, and 2007 respectively.

Chhetri: The Most Populous Caste of Nepal
Nepal Army

Contributions of Chhetris in Civil Administrations:

Chhetri families comprised the major nobility in Gorkha so had a strong presence in civil administration affairs. All of the Prime Ministers of Nepal between 1768 and 1950 were Chhetris with the exception of Ranga Nath Poudyal, being a Brahmin. These numbers varied after the democratization of Nepal. Between 1951 and 1997, out of the 16 Prime Ministers of Nepal, 5 of them were Chhetris.

Chhetri: The Most Populous Caste of Nepal
Bir Shumsher was a Chhetri Prime Minister

Current Demographic Situations:

They are considered the largest caste group in 21 districts of Nepal as per the 2001 Nepal census and 24 districts as per the 2011 Nepal census. Among them, the district with the largest Chhetri population is Kathmandu district with 347,754 (i.e. 19.9% of the total district population). The literacy rate among them is 72.3% as per the 2011 Nepal census.

Chhetri: The Most Populous Caste of Nepal
Current Situation

As per the Public Service Commission of Nepal, Brahmins (33.3%) and Chhetris (20.01%) were the two largest caste groups to obtain governmental jobs in the fiscal year 2017–18, even though 45% of governmental seats are reserved for women, Madhesis, lower caste and tribes, and other marginalized groups.

Conclusion: Present Day Situation of Chhetris in Nepal

They together with Brahmin and Thakuri falls under Khas Arya, who are denied quota and reservations in civil services and other sectors due to their history of socio-political dominance in Nepal. The European Union has been accused of direct interference, creating ethnic strife and negative discrimination towards Khas Arya due to their recommendation to remove the reservation for Khas Aryas.

Chhetri: The Most Populous Caste of Nepal
European Union Flag

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Ethnicity in Nepal: A Complex Diversity in Making

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