History of Bedis

BEDI is a subcaste of the Khatris. It is the prakritized form of the Sanskrit ksatriya which is one of the four caste groups into which the Hindu society is divided. The Khatris are mainly Hindus though there is among them a Sikh element which is small in number but important historically. There are no Muhammadans in the caste because a Khatri after conversion into Islam ceases to be a Khatri and becomes a Khoja. The Khatris are further divided into four subgroups Bahri, Khukhrain, Bunjahi and Sarin. Bahris have twelve castes, Khukhrain eight, Bunjahi fifty-two and Sarins twenty.

In Sikhism, the Bedi caste became preeminent because of the birth into it of Guru Nanak, founder of the faith. Although the caste acquired sacred character which is enjoyed not only by the descendants of Guru Nanak but by all those born into this caste group, yet this inherited sanctity has not altered the social status of the people within the caste.

A legend narrated in Bachitra Natak by Guru Gobind Singh refers to the Pauranic division of the Ksatriyas into three branches Solar, Lunar and Agnikula (Fire race). According to this tradition, the Bedis belong to the Solar race and are descendants of Kusa, the twin brother of Lava and son of Lord Rama. Owing to a misunderstanding, the descendants of Kusa (ruler Kalpat) and Lava (ruler Kalrai) fought amongst themselves. Kalrai was defeated and moved to Deccan where he married a King’s daughter and their son Sodhi Rai later recaptured Lahore from descendants of Kalpat. In this fight, the descendants of Kusa were defeated and they rehabilitated themselves at Kashi (Varanasi) where they studied the Vedas and thus came to be called Vedis: in Punjabi V often turns phonetically into a ‘b’. Vedis became Bedis. The descendants of Sodhi Rai came to be known as Sodhis. Subsequently out of respect for the knowledge gained by Bedis, the Sodhis gave away their kingdom to Bedis and took Sanyas for enlightenment. It is at this time that the Bedis blessed Sodhis and prophesiesed that in Kalyug the Bedis will return to Sodhis all that they had given to Bedis and that they would also give their daughter in marriage to them. The giving away of Guruship out of Bedis by Guru Nanak and ultimately the fourth Guruship to Guru Ram Das Sodhi and the marriage of the youngest daughter of Guru Amar Das, Bibi Bhano to him was in line with this prophecy. Sikh history also records a prophecy of Baba Sri Chand (Bedi), the elder son of Guru Nanak, and of the promise of Guru Amar Das. When Guruaai Gaddi was given by Guru Nanak to his disciple Angad Dev Trehan, Baba Sri Chand, who had great mystic powers prophesised that the possessor of Pothi-mala shall never be at peace. This has turned out to be true as the Pirthia Sodhis who possess the Pothi-mala have always been infighting amongst themselves. The promise of Guru Amar Das to his daughter Bibi Bhano that the Guruship shall remain within Sodhis but there shall be extreme sacrifices to be made and that one lineage of Sodhis will terminate and some continue has also proved correct. In Sikhi we know of the sacrifices made by the Sodhi Gurus and their families, the culmination of the Sodhi lineage from the Tenth Master Guru Gobind Singh and the ongoing Sodhi clans of Kartarpur, Anandpur and Guru Har Sahai.

Bedis are mostly concentrated in Dera Baba Nanak (DBN), in Gurdaspur district, in the Punjab. Among Sikhs, the Bedi lineage continued after Guru Nanak through his younger son Baba Lakhmi Chand, whose son Dharam Chand settled down at Dera Baba Nanak. Two other important centres of Bedis in the Punjab were at Una, Hoshiarpur district, and Kallar, Rawalpindi district.

Two of the charismatic personalities of later period in the line were Sahib Singh Bedi (1756-1834), a contemporary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Baba Sir Khem Singh Bedi (1832-1905), one of the founders of the Singh Sabha movement. He was knighted by the British and is said to have owned several villages with land holding exceeding 25000 acres.

References:
1. Rose, H.A., A Glossary of the Castes and Tribes of the Punjab and North-West Province. Patiala, 1970
2. Nara, Ishar Singh, RajaJogi arthatJivan Itihas Sri Baba Sahib Singh ji Bedi. Delhi, n.d.
3. Sobha Ram, Bhai, Gur-bilas Baba Sahib Singh Bedi. Patiala, 1988