Lohanas are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group and are an urban Hindu mercantile community of India. In India, they mainly reside in Gujarat, Mumbai and other parts of the country. They have also spread to all parts of the world.
Originally Lohanas were a prominent community of the Kshatriya caste (Sanskrit क्षत्रिय Kshatriya) that originated in the region of Punjab and later on migrated to Sindh and present day Gujarat state in India around 800 years ago. As administrators and rulers, Kshatriya Lohanas are assigned with protecting the people, and serving humanity. In course of time, however, as a result of economic and political exigencies, the Lohanas are now mainly enganged into mercantile occupations.
Some of the Lohanas converted to Islam, they are called Memon (Gujarati: મેમણ ).
Ismaili Dai’ Pir Sadardin converted many of them to the Ismaili sect of Islam. They are known as “Khoja”. Presently Khoja Ismailis are Spread in many countries like India, Pakistan, Canada, England, USA etc.
The Lohanas trace their roots in history right up to the advents of Aryas (Aryans) in the Indian sub-continent, making theirs the probably oldest surviving community in the world. According to Puranic (ancient Indian texts of lore and legends) sources the Aryan civilization was established by king Ishaku (Ikshvaku) some two or three millennia before Christ (BC). His 22nd descendant(Ref: Valmiki Ramayan; Balkand Sarg 70 shlok 38 to 43;) was the great king Raghu, a great conqueror, who established the Rahguvansh Dynasty.
Lohanas’ history begins with king Raghu, who belonged to the Suryavanshi lineage, so called because they worshiped the Sun (Surya). Raghu’s 14th Descendant was Sri Ram(Valmk Ramayan Balkand sarg 70); his younger three Brothers being being Bharat,Laxman,and Shatrughna. Sri Ram is the hero of Ramayana.
Rama was considered an Avatar or God-incarnate of Lord Vishnu, the protector of the Universe according to Vedic or Hindu mythology. Lord Rama divided his vast kingdom into eight parts, giving one each to his and his three brothers’ eight children. Elder of Ram’s two sons was [Kush, who was given a (Dakshin Kaushal), which was in the Gangetic basin.Descendants of Kush are known as KUSHWAHA. His younger son Luv was given the North (uttar Kaushala) of his kingdom (Refer :Valmk Ramayan Uttar Kand sarg 107], which came to be, called Luvalka or Luv’s land consisting of present day Lahore (Pakistan) as it’s Capital.
Luv is portrayed as a brave warrior. In one of the episodes of the Ramayana even though he is a mere boy in the hermitage, he brings the entire army of his father Lord Rama (under the command of his uncle Laxman) to a standstill by the prowess at archery (of course along with his older brother Kush). His descendants too were cast in the same mould, but they were not satisfied with Luvalka and pushed to the west and annexed today’s Afghanistan and adjoining areas.
Around 580 BC., when king Bimbisara ruled over Bharat (India), the society came to be divided into different communities based on their occupation. One of their communities was called Kshatriyas and King Luv’s descendants were classed with them and came to be known as Luvanam, which was also referred to as Luvana. The Luvanas from Loharghat became known as Loharana (masters of swords), which later became Lohana.
Chinese traveller Fa-hien, who visited India between 414 and 399 B.C., calls Lohanas a brave community ruling the northwest territory of India, in his diary. Another Chinese traveler, Kurmang who came in the eleventh century A.D. speaks of a Lohana kingdom as a mighty power. Historian Burton writes Lohanas were brave people and says they were spread over today’s Baluchistan (Pakistan), Afghanistan and eastern fringes of Central Asia. Col. Todd, who delved into history of Rajasthan, describes Lohanas as the oldest Kshatriya community.
From Fa-hien downward all pay tribute to the Lohanas as brave. A possible reason for the bravery is that they had placed themselves for centuries in the direct path of invaders from northwest like Persians, Macedonians, Huns, Mughals, etc.
They held their grounds for long in northwest but finally had to fall back and moved initially to the Sindh province of today’s Pakistan. Meanwhile, Muhammad established Islam. His followers spread out in different directions to preach His religion and in due course they turned towards India too. When these preachers reached northwest, Sindh fell to Muslims and Lohanas disintegrated into small segments. But the saga of this brave community did not end there. After the community split, they found a new leader. He was Veer Jashraj, who is revered as Dada Jashraj, who was born in the city of Lohar (today’s Lahore in Pakistan), which was the capital of Lohargadh. His domain extended from Lahore to Multan (also in Pakistan today).
As the folklore goes, Mongol invader Changez Khan, attacked Multan and was killed by Dada Jashraj, Rana of Lohargadh. A plaque in Chinese language on the great Khan’s grave says ” Killed by Rana Jashraj of Lohergadh”. This finds mention in folklore, which say, ” King of Mongols was killed by Mirana, the tiger of Multan fort”.
His descendants who proudly carry the surname of ‘Mirana’ preserve the memory of this great warrior king. He was treacherously killed when only 28 – a life so short but full of heroic deeds.
After the death of Dada Jashraj, the decline of Lohanas began and their reign at Lohargadh ended.
In 1422 AD, 700 Lohana families comprising of some 6178 individuals, accepted Islam at the hands of one Saiyed Yusuffuddin Qadri in Thatta Sindh, they are known as Memons.
Uderlal who is revered as Dariyalal, his father was Ratnarai Thakur, who lived in Nasasrapur, about 90 miles from Hyderabad (Pakistan). Uderlal fought with the chief Markah. Even today he is revered both by Hindus and Muslims who visit the site of his samadhi. In Gujarati, Lohanas performing the puja (ritual worship) of Dariyalal are known as Pujaras and Dariyalal’s descendants as Ratnani. The Lohanas felt their identity was increasingly threatened in Sindh and they began to migrate towards Kutchchh, Saurashtra and Gujarat. Famous warriors once, they took to trade and business. Their instincts of the warrior past were tested in 1764, when Gulam Shah Kora attacked Kutchchh and they had to account for themselves in the battle of Zora. Lohana women fought alongside their men in this battle and the land of Kutchchh is strewn with memorial stones marking the deaths of brave Lohanas. A saying in Gujarati eulogies Lohana women thus: Only Rajputani, Loharani and Miyanai bring forth gem of children.
Lohanas are still to be found in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are now Islamic states. In Afghanistan, they still maintain their religious identity and are known as Lokhathra. The Lohanas who keep their Hindu identity in Sindh are known as Sindhi Lohana.
Those Lohanas who converted to Islam are known as Memons. Those who converted to Shia or Shiite Islam are known as Khojas. Many of them retain their Hindu names. The most celebrated among them was the creator of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, whose father’s name was Jinabhai Thakkar.
A large number of Hindu Lohana from Gujurat migrated to the British colonies of East Africa during the early part of the 20th century. The descendants of these settlers have moved to Great Britain in recent decades. The lohanas in East Africa were great entrepreneurs. The Madhwani and Mehta families being the prominent industrialists.
Today, a good number of Lohanas are residing in Gujarat and in other parts of India. In Gujarat, a majority of them are in Rajkot, Jamnagar, Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat. Outside Gujarat, they can be found in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Bangalore, Mangalore and other major Indian cities. Also, the majority of food businesses, especially “farsan marts,” in Ahmedabad and Vadodara are owned by Lohanas. They also have a noticeable share in other businesses. A significant number of Lohanas are also residing outside India.