Bhatra or Bhattra
The Bhatra or Bhattra community, also known as the Sangat Bhatra or the Bhat Sikh community, are a group of Sikhs whose origins lie in the Punjab. Today in the United Kingdom there are significant numbers of Sikhs with Bhatra ancestry, as there are in India. In the Punjab most Bhatra Sikhs are now in Patiala, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur or Bhathinda districts, or in Jullunder or Chandigarh; elsewhere in India they tend to live in cities, particularly Delhi and Calcutta. Bhatra Sikhs started to arrive in the United Kingdom in the 1920s, but most immigrated in the late 1940s or 1950s. Bhatra tradition and traditional Sikh literature say their ancestors came from Sri Lanka and were the original 16th century followers of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. In the 17th century some religious Bhatra went to fight as “warrior-saints” against Mughal persecution in the Khalsa campaign inspired by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Since many Bhatra lived as travelling missionaries, their mobility led them to depend on occupations which did not require a settled life By the 19th century Bhatra was the name of a caste or jati within the Indian tradition of social classes, each with its own occupation. Even though Sikhism itself does not support separation by caste, the social system meant that the Bhatra followed a hereditary profession of itinerant salesman, while some also foretold the future, if they were considered to have clairvoyant ability. They have been praised for business acumen, described as people with “a spirit of enterprise” In the 1920s some men travelled to Britain to work as door-to-door salesmen, most leaving their families in the Punjab to begin with. By the time of the Second World War there were a few hundred Sikhs clustered in British seaports like Cardiff, Bristol, and Southampton. Some returned to India when war broke out, but others stayed on and used contacts with Punjabi merchant seamen to import scarce goods. Partition The Partition of India in 1947 led many Sikhs to emigrate, and the Bhatra population in the UK was greatly enlarged. Later arrivals tended to join relatives, friends and neighbours from the Punjab, so that some British Bhatra communities have links to one or two particular villages.Nye Difficult journeys following Partition are not forgotten. The Edinburgh Sikh women’s group (Sikh Sanjog) has exhibited artwork telling the story of leaving the Punjab and arriving in a strange land. A 2001 obituary of a senior figure in the Cardiff Bhatra community described the trials of leaving northern India in turbulent times. Jobs The traditional Bhatra profession of itinerant salesman was useful to those arriving in the UK, and was “a skill with considerable potential”. At first most Bhatra, like some other Sikhs, worked either as doorstep or market traders (working with the Khatri community), but some settled in big cities like Leeds or Birmingham, gave up self-employment and took waged jobs in industry. (At this time many educated immigrants to Britain had difficulty finding employment suited to their qualifications and experience, because of racial and/or cultural prejudice.) Bhatra traders gradually moved into other roles as self-employed businessmen, often specialising in retailing. By the end of the 1950s selling door-to-door was less common and many British Bhatra Sikhs moved towards commercial enterprises like market stalls, shops, supermarkets and wholesale warehouses. Pradesh Nowadays the younger Bhatra genaration are represented in many varied professions from doctors to accountants, from engineers to musicians.