Following a discussion on a LinkedIn Group ‘Sethi’, I have been inspired and excited to write about the history and origin of my surname Sethi, a subgroup of the major Khukhrain clan . The information in this write up has been collected from various reliable sources and has been passed on to me by Sethi elders and seniors . This article is intended for and of interest, mainly, to Khukhrains or Sethis. I welcome further discussions and comments on the subject and am open to reliable additions or modifications to this information.
The Sethi surname was derived from Sanskrit word sreshthi which means shreshth,”the best among all”. They have also been called ‘Pulseti’ (based on their gotra from Pulastya Rishi). Sethis belong to a warriors’ clan Khukhrains (etymological derivative of Khokhar their ancestor Raja Khokhar Mal or khukhri, a lethal dagger or sword Khukhrains used to carry during turbulent times). Sethis are a regional sub caste of the ten Khukhrain clans ,viz., Anand, Kohli, Suri, Bhasin, Sahni, Chadha, Sethi, Sabharwal, Ghai, and Chandhok. Khukhrains, traditionally and historically a warrior community, bore the brunt of invasions from various central Asian tribes now converted to Islam who came from the northwest during the 12th-16th centuries.
Most of the Khukhrains who moved to India following Partition in 1947 descended from Doab region of Pakistan that comprised of Khushab, Pindi Gheb, Talagang, Campbellpur, Chakwal, Pind Dadan Khan, Peshawar and Nowshera. Various contemporary and historical places in Pakistan Punjab and Afghanistan corresponding to traditional areas associated with Khukhrain or Khokhar bear the name or variants of Khukhrain or Kokrana. Today, Khukhrain Hindus or Sikhs are, by and large , an urbanised highly educated and economically well off community. Khukhrains in India and Pakistan have excelled in almost all spheres including business, politics, arts, military, and in various fields of sciences as well as in the judiciary and law. Among all Punjabi communities, the Khukhrains are the most respected and counted as the topmost.
Sethi’s are an Indo-Scythian community and have originally followed Hinduism however, a significant number adapted Sikhism during the 18th and 19th centuries. A predominant section of the Hindu Khukhrains, continue to follow dual religious traditions of ,both, Sikhism and Arya Samaj. Sethis’ mother tongue is Punjabi but Sethis in Pakistan speak a different dialect of Punjabi than the Sethis of East Punjab.
Originally, Sethis have their roots in the town of Bhera (Bhadravati) in the Jech Doab (Jhelum – Chenab interfluves) region of Sargodha district of Pakistan Punjab. Bhera was an important trading outpost on the road to Kabul, and a ‘taksal’ (mint) during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The palace of Sopeithes which the Greek historian Arian mentions as the palace on the Hydaspes was supposed to be at Bhera. The present day Sethi’s are descendents of Raja Khokhar Mal who ruled a part of West Punjab with his seat at Bhera. He was instrumental in forging unity of all other sections and laid the foundation of a single powerful kingdom, which came to be known as Khukhrain clan. The last chief or Raja of Bhera was a Sethi Khukhrain, Diwan Bahadur Jawahar Mal.
Sethis are believed to be one of the bravest of the clans of Khukhrains. The various constituents of this clan were so brave a people that Mahmud Ghazni (the clash of the Khukhrains with Mahmud Ghazni took place in his third invasion after the defeat of Jayapala, at the Battle of Bhera in 1004-5) while invading India was so scared of Sethis that he instructed his generals not to antagonise them and to keep off their territories while conducting their campaigns.
Sethis developed as warriors and defenders of land, initially, have been on high ranks in the civil, government, and military administration roles, for centuries. Sethis were also referred to as heads of a tribe or business as they expanded into trade and mercantile businesses. The Sethis have always been a very powerful and wealthy group of Punjabis, especially those living in large cities, either in Pakistan or now in India.
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