BHALLĀ, a sub-division of Khatrī (Prākrit form kṣtriya) caste, one of the four castes into which the Hindu society is divided. Khatrīs are further divided into four sub-groups, i. e. Bāhrī, Khukhrain, Buñjāhī and Sarīn; the Bhallās belong to the Sarīn sub-group. According to a legend, once 'Ālā ud-Dīn Khiljī, the Muslim ruler of India (d. 1316), attempted to impose widow remarriage upon the Khatrī class. The Khatrīs of western region of the Punjab sent a deputation of fifty-two persons, each representing a sub-group of the Khatrīs, to plead their case at the Emperor's court. These memorialists who were against widow remarriage came to be known as Bāvañjai or Buñjāhī from the number bavañjā or 52, comprising the deputation. Those living in the eastern part of the Punjab or Bārī Doāb did not sign that memorandum and obeyed the royal dictum on widow remarriage. They came to be known as followers of sharā'īn (Muslim law) which subsequently got abbreviated into Sarīn. According to another view, sarīn is corruption of śreṇī or line or a guild of traders. The Baṛā, or elder, Sarīn group which Bhallās belong to comprises ten or, according to others, thirteen sections with whom they intermarry. Generally, they do not give their daughters outside their group, but take wives from Chhoṭā, or junior Sarīn group, which comprises 108 sections. The Bhallās trace their origin to a pious man, who being philanthropic and kind-hearted, was known as Bhalā, lit. a good person. It might be his name or an honorific. His descendants came to be known as Bhalās or Bhallās. This caste acquired sacred character among the Sikhs when the Gurūship was conferred upon Gurū Amar Dās, the third in line from Gurū Nānak, who was born in a Bhallā Khatrī family and whose descendants are reverently called Bhallā-Bāvās.
S. S. Vañjārā Bedī