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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The People of India - The Khas

The People of India series was researched and written by School Without Walls student, Cal Berer.   Cal was an intern at the Freer|Sackler Archives from January 2011-June 20011 where he was then sponsored by the State Department to learn Hindi while spending the summer in India. 

The Khas

    While the Bhurs were swept away by the torrential series of Muslim invasions, these very same endeavors strengthened the Khas.  Indigenous to Central Asia, they settled in Nepal long before the British, or the Muslims, arrived in India.  In the 12th century, the invasions pushed Hindu Brahmins out of their homelands in the plains, and sent them fleeing into the Himalayan foothills.  There, they sought to convert the native populations, and did so with considerable success.  By offering new converts status as members of the Khastriya order, the Brahmins were able to attract countless tribesmen, thus creating the Khas tribe.  The Khas, fiercely loyal to the religion that favored them so, set about conquering neighboring tribes, until they were the dominant power throughout Nepal.  The People of India asserts that they “gradually merged the greater part of their own habits, ideas, and language, but not physiognomy, with those of the Hindoos and the Khas language became a corrupt dialect of Hindi.”  Their influence remained mighty and singular throughout the region, until 1816, when the British encroached upon their lands.  The last king of the Khas was called Tirot Sing, and he led his people against the British in the Khasi-Anglo War, which lasted from 1829 to 1835.  The conflict was the result of a territorial dispute between neighboring tribes, the British governor-general of North India, and the Khas, who attacked a British garrison on April 2nd, 1829, after the British failed to honor an agreement regarding the return of traditional Khas lands.  Vastly outnumbered, and possessing inferior weaponry, the Khas soon resorted to guerrilla warfare, which finally ended in 1835, when Sing was captured by the British, and deported to a prison in modern day Bangladesh, where he died within a few months.  The rest of the tribe was left largely intact, and became a valuable asset to the British military, until Independence.  Currently, the vast majority of Khas descendents (numbering about 1.3 million) live in Meghalaya, an Indian state north of Bangladesh and south of Assam.  

To see all text and images of the Khas as they are represented in the People of India, go to our catalog in the Collections Search Center

The People of India series will be published once a month highlighting the various tribes as they're covered in the People of India. 

Cal Berer, Intern

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