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Datt or Dutt is a Brahmin clan from the Punjab. They are one of the seven clans of the Mohyals who are Saraswat Brahmins of the Punjab. The six other clans are Bali, Bhimwal, Chhibber, Lau, Mohan and Vaid. Most Datts are Hindus, but like most Mohyals, many follow Sikhism and other religions as well; their gotra is Bharadwaj. Some Datt Brahmins migrated eastward and mingled with Bhumihar Brahmins and became one with them.[1 ]



Datts claim descent from Rishi Bharadwaja and derive their gotra from his name. Some consider Gaj Bhavan, the grandson of Bharadwaj to be the real founder of their clan. All Datts are Saraswat Brahmins of Punjab.


The word Datt is derived from the Hindi word daata meaning a charitable person. Some interpreted it as a corruption of the word Aditya which means 'sun' in Sanskrit; the surname is unrelated to Datta, one of the five clans of Bengali Kayasthas. Traditionally Mohyals of the Datt Clan have the last name 'Datt', whilst the name 'Dutt' is considered to be a closely related derivative of 'Datt'.

Chief Datt and Alexander the Great

The origin of the Datts is also traced to a chieftain named 'Datt' who accompanied Alexander the Great as an envoy of Porus. However on the way, Alexander fell seriously ill and died at Babylon. Datt along with his followers drifted to Arabia and settled at Harya Bunder. With the passage of time, there emerged a viable community of Datts in Arabia and in the subsequent era, they became rulers of small dominions in that country. Datts practiced Hindu Dharma strictly. They read Vedas and Upanishadas. They followed the teachings of Vedas.

Rahib Datt and Imam Hussain

In the year 681 AD, a great battle was fought in the Iraqi city of Karbala over the fate of the Islamic Caliphate. This battle eventually led to the great schism in Islam between the Sunnis and the Shias. According to some traditions, [2] at the time, Rahib Sidh Datt, a Hindu Saraswat Brahmin, was a highly respected figure in Arabia and had close relations with the family of Mohammed. When Ali ibn Abu Talib, the fourth Caliph and son-in-law of Muhammad was murdered, his younger son, Hussein, came out to oppose the new Caliph,Yazid ibn Muawiyah. The vastly superior forces of Yazid, at Karbala surrounded his force consisting of two hundred men. In the war, when no Muslim king came to his help, Rahib fought on the side of Hussein and sacrificed his seven sons in the bloody war [3]. Hussein was fatally wounded by Shamer, the commander of Yazid, and was killed in the desert on the tenth day of Muharram (Today observed as the Day of Ashura). Rahib chased the murderers as they ran with the severed head of Hussein, up to Kufa. Later, the head was carried to Damascus and finally buried with the rest of the body at Karbala. The Shia disciples of Imam Hussein and the valiant Datts did not lay down their arms till they saw the end of Yazid who could rule for just forty days. Later on, when an orgy of vendetta was let loose on the Shias and the followers of Rahib, who were mostly Hindu Saraswat Brahmins. Rahib was overwhelmed with grief due to the slaughter of his seven sons, left Arabia in 728 AD and migrated to Afghanistan via Iran and Turkistan. Later descendants of Rahib, Hindu Saraswat Brahmins had many clans (Kabilas) in modern day Afghanistan and NWFP. The clans were called Mohdaa. To this day, a group of Brahmins called Hussaini Brahmins claim ancestry from Rihab Sidh Datt and participate in Muharram celebrations in India. [4]

Shiv Datt and Pir Wahun

On their arrival in India, the descendants of Rihab were received with great hospitality by the native Mohyals. They eventually settled near Nankana Sahib in the district of Sheikhupura in present-day Pakistan. It was here that in the closing decades of the tenth centuty an interesting incident took place involving a Pir called Wahun - a trickster chess player, and Shiv Datt - the chief of the Datts. Wahun was known for his knack of invariably winning the games. According to a bet fixed by him, the loser would either pay the price with his head or embrace Islam. In this way, he converted a large number of Hindus to the Muslim faith until he met his match in Shiv Datt. He challenged the Pir to a game of chess and defeated him three times in a row, thereby claiming the heads of his wife and two sons as per the stakes. However out of sheer magnanimity, Shiv Datt pardoned their life. When Wahun came to know that one of the ancestors of Shiv Datt had sacrificed his seven sons for the sake of Muhammad in the battle of Karbala, he took a solemn vow that in the future he would never convert any Hindu by coercion to Islam. It was on this occasion that the Pir echoed the famous words: Wah Datt Sultan, Hindu ka Dharam Musalman ka Iman(Hail, O King Datt for Thou are endowed with the Dharma of the Hindu and the Iman of the Muslim). Many direct descendants of Rahib Dutt use last names such as Dutt, Datt, Sharma, Bharadwaj.

The Datts and Mahmud Ghaznavi

After some time, Shiv Datt along with a long number of followers left Nankana Sahib and moved to Dipalpur, where they lived in peace and harmony until Mahmud Ghaznavi attacked Dipalpur in 1001 AD and uprooted them from there. The Datts along with other Saraswat Brahmins fought against Ghaznavi's forces but they were vastly outnumbered. There were 5,000 brahmins fighting against 85,000 soldiers of Ghaznavi. Many were killed and remaining Brahmins (mostly Datts) migrated to the Shahi kingdom of Raja Anandpal in Lahore. When Anandapala and his successor died, Mahmud Ghaznavi captured Lahore.

The Mughal Period: The Massacre of Paniad

For almost five centuries, the Datts led a maverick life. It was in 1527 AD, during the reign of the Mughal emperor Babar, that Rai Pun Dewan, who was an offspring of Shiv Datt, defeated and killed Rai Meen, and after capturing the territory of Pathankot, founded his capital at Paniad, situated between Gurdaspur and Dina Nagar.

Provoked by this daring victory of Rai Pun, Babar incited the governor of Lahore to attack Puniad and provided him with the troops of royal army. The governor had his own grouse against the Datts as he had fallen in love with a Marwah girl and wanted to marry her but she had sought the protection of the Datts. A large force was deployed to attack Puniad, but they were thrice repulsed and routed by the Datt defenders. Ultimately, due to the treachery of a cook who had been bribed by the invaders, the whole Datt garrison was caught unawares. They were taking meals on a cotton field and were completely unarmed when the army swooped on them. In the ensuing battle, the men were slaughtered while the women committed Sati.

In this tragic war, the Datt clan was annihilated to the last man. Only two infant boys named Shah Swarup and Dholan, escaped because they had gone to live with their maternal grandparents at Samba near Jammu.The horrible episode of Paniad so touched the suscepibilities of the Datts that their future generations never touched any food at Paniad, nor spent a night there. As the carnage took place on a Thursday, that day of the week is considered inauspicious by the Datts and they do not wash clothes or start any new project on that day.

When Babar’s son Humayun fell mortally ill in 1530 and the physicians declared him beyond cure, astrologers were summoned to the royal court. They unanimously declared that the prince was under a curse of retribution due to the bloodshed of the Datts of Paniad and his life could only be saved by propitiating the surviving members of the exterminated clan for divine mercy. After a long search, Shah Sarup and Dholan, were traced at Samba. They were brought into the presence of the dying Humayun and implored to pray for his life. In return, they were offered the gift of land covered by their running horses in a period of twenty-four hours. Shah Swarup got thirteen villages in the district of Gurdaspur while Dholan received some villages in the district of Sialkot. In course of time, Kanjrur and Zaffarwal became strongholds of the Datts.

True to the prediction of the fortune tellers, Humayun's life was also saved.

Mai Karmo

Like the Marathas who had Rani Lakshmi Bai, the Mohyals too had their lady warrior in Karmu Mai Dattani. Shortly before the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1783-1839), Jai Singh, a saraswat brahmin, was the head of the Kanhaiya Misl in Amritsar. The Misls were later consolidated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh into the army of the Sikh Kingdom of the Punjab, when he became the Maharja of the province after capturing Lahore in 1799. Jai Singh appointed Mai Karmo as the chief of the Katra branch of the Kanhaiya Misl. The intrepid lady held her court in the open, in a jostling market square in Amritsar which is known by her name till today: Karmo Ki Deod. She was a terror to local ruffians and used to administer justice without any fear or favour. She once took part in a battle wearing the coat of arms. The seal of her high office is believed to be still in the possession of her progeny.

Dutt Brahmins in Bihar

Some Dutt Brahmins migrated eastward and mingled with Bhumihar Brahmins and became one with them.[1 ] An eminent example was Sir Ganesh Dutt Singh. Sir Ganesh Dutt Singh, who was a freedom fighter, administrator and educationist in which capacity he did a lot for improving education and health services in the state in the pre-independence era.[5][6] Sir Ganesh Dutta made generous donations from his earnings and personal property for the development of educational institutions, like radium institute in Patna Medical College, Darbhaga Medical College, Ayurvedic College and schools for the blind, deaf and dumb, among others.[7] A short film based on the life and works of Sir Dutt has been made by Prakash Jha.[8]

Famous Datts/Dutts


The seven Mohyal clans

Bali | Bhimwal | Chhibber | Datt | Lau | Mohan | Vaid

Surendra Datt, Hindu Brahmin in Uttarakhan



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