Genealogy registers, of Hindu families, maintained by Brahmin Pandits (Priests) or ‘Pandas’, who double up as professional genealogists, at Haridwar, has been a subject of study for many years now [1][2]. In several cases, these voluminous records or Vahis (Bahi), have also been used in settling legal cases regarding inheritance or property disputes, as these records are held sacrosanct both by the pilgrims and the Pandas themselves [1], and in many places these records trace family history, for over twenty prior generations, stretching across many centuries [3][4].

As Haridwar has traditionally been a site, for death rites and also Shraaddha, amongst Hindus, it soon also became customary for the family pandits (priest) to record each visit of the family, along with their gotra, family tree, marriages and members present etc, grouped according to family and home town. And over the centuries, these registers became an important genealogical source for many families, part of splintered Hindu families, in tracing their family tree and family history as well, especially after the Partition of India in 1947, and later amongst the Indian diaspora, [5][6]

This custom is similar to Panjis or Panji Prabandh, the extensive genealogical records maintained among Maithil Brahmins in Bihar.


This custom not well known today to Indians settled abroad, in an ancient custom detailed family genealogies of Hindu families for the past several generations are kept by professional Hindu Brahmin Pandits, popularly known as Pandas, at the Hindu holy city of Haridwar in hand written registers passed down to them over generations by their Pandit ancestors which are classified according to original districts and villages of ones ancestors, with special designated Pandit families being in charge of designated district registers, even for cases where ancestral districts and villages that have been left behind in Pakistan after Partition of India with Hindus having to migrate to India.

Haridwar from opposite bank of the Ganges, 1866

Haridwar, a site for Hindu pilgrimage, 1866 photograph.

In several cases present day descedents are now Sikhs and many maybe Muslims or even Christians. It is not uncommon for one to find details of up to or even more than one's past seven generations in these genealogy registers kept by the Pandas of Haridwar.

For centuries when Hindu ancestors visited the holy town of Haridwar for any purpose which may have mostly been for pilgrimage purposes or/and for cremation of their dead or for immersion of ashes and bones of their kin after cremation into the waters of the holy river Ganga as required by Hindu religious custom, it has been an ancient custom to go to the Pandit who is in charge of ones family register and update the family's genealogical family tree with details of all marriages, births and deaths from ones extended joint family.

In present day India people visiting Haridwar are dumbfounded when Pundits out of the blue solicit them to come and update their very own ancestral genealogical family tree, news travels like wildfire among the Pandits with ones family's designated Pandit being quickly notified of ones visit. Nowadays with Hindu joint family system having broken down with people preferring more nuclear families, record keeping Pandits prefer visitors to Haridwar to come prepared after getting in touch with all of ones extended family and bringing all relevant details regarding ones ancestral district and village, names of grand parents and great grand parents and marriages, births and deaths that have occurred in the extended family, even with as much details as possible of the families married into. A visiting family member is required to personally sign the family genealogical register furnished by ones Family Panda after updating it for future family visitors and generations to see and to authenticate the updated entries, friends and other family members accompanying on the visit may also be requested to sign as witnesses.

Records on Microfilm

Starting around 1977 [3], Hindu genealogy records were microfilmed, and later housed at the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU), USA since 1981, other places in these records having records of Hindu families are Kurukshetra, Pehowa, Chintpurni, Jawalapur, and Jawalamukhi [7][8][9]

Further reading

  • The Hindu world: an encyclopedic survey of Hinduism, by Benjamin Walker, Published by Praeger, 1968.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Brahman pandas Divine Enterprise: Gurus and the Hindu Nationalist Movement, by Lise McKean, University of Chicago Press, 1996. ISBN 0226560104. Page 151.
  2. Janasakhi Janamsakhis of Miharban and Mani Singh, Janamsakhi Tradition, Dr. Kirpal Singh, 2004, Punjabi University, Patiala. ISBN 81-7205-311-8. 169.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Reporter at Large, The Mountain of Names The New Yorker, May 13, 1985.
  4. Abstract - Alex Shoumatoff, A Reporter at Large, "THE MOUNTAIN OF NAMES," The New Yorker, May 13, 1985, p. 51.
  5. The Greatest Mela on Earth, the Kumbh at Haridwar
  6. Haridwar genealogy registers or Vahi (Bahi) at BBC BBC, "Meera Syal traced her family tree at Haridwar"...
  7. India Genealogical Society of Utah.
  8. Tracing your Asian roots
  9. Hindu Pilgrimage Marriage Records

External links

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