|About Choppra Khemlani family
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This website will contain the family tree and ancestral history of Joginder Nath Choppra and Kusum Choppra, of the Chopras-Nanda, Khemlanis-Vaswanis and many other families related to them. Readers may find some gaps. These have been left deliberately. Perhaps this will become a happier site if family members from all sections of the family tree would send in their own recollections of past and present, so that stories may emerge from many angles, rather than a single perspective. Please do send in names, anecdotes, photos and any other information to email@example.com The gotra of the Chopra clan is according to the Pandas at Haridwar, "Aulaksh". That of the Khemlanis (my maternal family) is "Kashyap" and nukh is 'Chhabra". The Chopra story begins rather abruptly with the marriage of a gentleman, Rai Bahadur Sita Ram Chopra to Leelavati, the eldest daughter of Diwan Sant Ram Nanda. Rai Bahadur Sita Ram Chopra is our mystery ancestor. (Pl see stories section) Of him, few details are available except the name of his son Lala Amar Nath Chopra (born 1878) who inherited estates of both Diwan Sant Ram Nanda and his brother Diwan Ganga Bishan. What were the antecedents of Rai Bahadur Sita Ram Chopra? After all, he must have been a substantial personality of his times to marry the eldest daughter of an Eminabad Diwan. Why were his son "Lala" Amar Nath and his numerous offspring "Diwans?" We look forward to getting information from those who read this and know. Please do check out the story on him in the Stories section with recent information updates. On the Leelavati Chopra side of the family, her father, Diwan Sant Ram Nanda of Eminabad descended from Rai Ugar Sen of Bikaner, a secretary of Emperor Babur. Rai Ugarsen’s father was Baba Pheru, resident of Bhatner, on the Haryana-Rajasthan border. On an official trip to Eminabad in Gujranwala, Ugrasen married the daughter of the Quanungo, Devi Ditta. The Quanungo was keeper of revenue records of a Pargana, a Mughal Administrative unit, and therefore a substantial personality of his time. Devi Ditta adopted his daughter's son Lakhu. The office of the Quanungo was then within the family for several generations. Eminabad, District Gujranwala in modern day Pakistan, is known in history for Guru Nanak's stay there and his penance there when he made his bed on a heap of stones (Rohri), his capture by Mughal Emperor Babar, a miracle he performed there of getting the grain mill or chakki (which he was given as punishment) to grind on its own and his subsequent release by Babar. There are Gurudwaras, including the Rohri Sahib and Chakki Saheb, and a Sikh community still living there whom my son, Mehirr Nath met on his 2004 trip. The Sikhs and Khatris are historically closely connected - all the 10 Gurus were Khatris. One Khatri son of any family was inevitably a Sikh. During the Sikh regime, the family saw ups and downs. With several members from different branches of the family at the Jammu court, family and court politics took its inevitable toll. The family then headed by Diwan Karam Chand was reduced from its three Gujranwala villages, Suliman, Kotli Mazbian and Kot Karam Chand to merely three wells in Eminabad, after a fall out with Jwala Singh, also at the Jammu court. Their mothers were feuding sisters. Refusing inducements from Maharaj Gulab Singh, Diwan Karam Chand and his son, Sant Ram rendered valuable services to Raja Jawahir Singh, the nephew of Gulab Singh, before and after the 1857 Mutiny. At the end of the Ferozepur and Rohtak actions, Karam Chand's contingent was amalgamated with the police. As commandant of the 10th Police Battalion he drew a pay of Rs. 500 p.m. After the 1861 police reorganization, Karam Chand went home with a jagir at Eminabad and Kot Karam Chand. After nine years as an Honorary Magistrate, he resigned in 1874 in favor of his son, Mohan Lal. There is little to explain why he then took up service with the Maharaja of Jammu, "by whom he was held in the highest esteem." Extract from Sir Lepel Griffin's book: "On the Diwan's death in 1884, the jagir was resumed, with the exception of the holding in Nagri, Puranpur and Rajpur, Tahsil Gujranwala, yielding Rs 1200 per annum, which were released in favor of his eldest son, Sant Ram, who was also owner of 160 ghumaons of land in Chak Duni Chand, Tehsil Gujranwala. He and his youngest brother, Ganga Bishan, were in the service of the Jammu Maharaja, receiving each Rs. 1800 per annum. The brothers Sant Ram and Mohan Lal were Provincial Darbaris of the Gujranwala district. The former died in 1899 and his jagir was resumed. His landed property in Chak Duni Chand descended to Lala Amar Nath Chopra, an advocate of Lahore who is the son of his eldest daughter. He has also been accepted as the heir to the property of Diwan Ganga Bishan, who still continues to be the nominal head of the family." (Chiefs and Families of Note of Punjab by Sir Lepel Griffin). L M Puri, grandson of Sat Bhawan Puri who was the younger sister of Leelavati Chopra recalls: Rai Bahadur Sita Ram Chopra's wife Smt. Leelavati was daughter of the first wife of Diwan Sant Ram Nanda. I remember my father used to address Amar Nath Chopraji Mamaji. Diwan Sant Ram Nanda had three daughters and no son. 1. Leelavati 2 Amardevi 3 Satbhavan. Leelavati was married into Chopra family, Amardevi was married into Puri family of Batala and my father's mother Satbhavan was also married to Puri family of Gujranwala. Both of Puris of Batala and Gujranwala has no relations with each other. I was told that Puris were originally from Ghartal, a village near Gujranwala. There were three brothers, one migrated to Gujranwala other to Batala and one to Jammu. Diwan Amar Nath Chopra and his wife were brought to Jullundher after his leg injury in Lahore to our house where my father was posted as income tax officer. Both stayed there till Amar Nathji died after long illness. Apart from his leg injury both of them had great shock of murder of their sons in Lahore. I was in class 7th/8th. I remember all of relatives came to our house where Kriya ceremony was performed. Mamiji (Mrs. Chopra) used to tell me how both of her sons were murdered and how mamaji got injured). I don't know of Chopras, the only person I know is Watni bhuaji at Dehradun but as you know she is not in a state to tell. I was also told that A. N Chopra, son of Leelavati and Ishwar Das Nanda, son of Amardevi were adopted. By respective mothers. There is another story which was told to me that Ganga Bishan had no issues, he also adopted his brother in law Jagan Nath Duggal. (See stories: the Amar Nath Chopra story) The Eminabad property was divided between my father Hans Raj Puri, Ishwar Das Nanda, Madan Lal Puri, Amar Nath Chopra and Jagan Nath Duggal. They all were called by the title Diwan. (Ishwar Das Nanda was the son of Amar Devi, the daughter of Diwan Sant Ram and his second wife, Bebe Haur Kaur. Amar Nath was the son of Leelavati and Rai Bahadur Sita Ram Chopra who remarried soon after Leelavati died in childbirth. The child was brought up by his Nanaji, Diwan Sant Ram who adopted both Amar Nath and Ishwar Das as Diwanji had three daughters from his two wives, but no son.) Family legend has it that two marriages were common because from one marriage, there was usually only one son. The family tree appears to bear this out on the Nanda side, until modern times when the one son norm seems breached!! The Chopra Family: The Chopra family haveli in Diwana Mohalla at Eminabad co-exists with a laneful of jharokha fronted havelis of other Eminabad Diwans. They are now in the hands of those who took over after the Partition. When my son Mehirr Nath visited it in 2004, he found the new owners of the now dilapidated haveli very friendly. He brought pictures that revived memories; some portions still ornate enough to remind "Khandarat batate hain ki imaarat kabhi khubsurat rahi hogi." The main entrance still has some intricate carved traceries, inside were still beautifully painted walls, all worth emulating. Of the original 120 roomed four storeys, two storeys were taken down to prevent collapse after a huge old railing fell. It was later replaced with brick and cement. For years after they got the haveli after Partition, the old Dadi scared everyone into not going down. When someone eventually did, they went through one door after another to reach the back wall which opened into the market. Mehirr was taken around the entire haveli; on the mobile with father, he actually traced his father’s old room, now a feed store; also the chor room craved out of four rooms used to hide refugees in the old days, and the matkas buried in the walls of what was once the treasury, now used to store coal! Today the haveli still boasts of 64 rooms and two basements, accommodating a large 85 strong family, headed by 88 year old Saiyyed Shauqat Ali Shahji, from Patiala, his two brothers, 22 sons and 45 grandchildren, respective wives, with one phone, one mobile and no TV. The old man felt that TV would spoil the little ones. My husband Jogi remembers that the family had two other havelis, one near the school grounds with an orchard and a tabela and the Chhoti Mandiwali Haveli which had very tall walls and a godown packed with supplies which stood the extended family in good stead during the Partition crises. At one stage, it was not possible to get wheat ground into atta, so it was cooked like dahlia and rationed. There were ample internal sources of water, but all hands took turns to draw it up for all the havelis. There was also a resident Sainji (sadhu) on the top floor, revered by all. (See story) After the Partition, the family of Bishan Nath Chopra, eldest son of Diwan Amar Nath, was granted some 24 murabbas of land at Pharal, in the Karnal district, Shimla’s Elysium Hotel Complex and Durga Cottage at Kareru in Shimla in lieu of properties left behind. Except for memories, all are gone, to finance the family migration to England, to business inefficiency and family disunity which allowed the Durga cottage to fall into the hands of an aggressive tenant. Today the family of Diwan Amar Nath Chopra’s eldest son, Diwan Bishan Nath Chopra is scattered on both sides of the Atlantic, USA and England, and Delhi, Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. While Lala Amar Nath followed his father Rai Bahadur Sita Ram Chopra into law, his sons opted for the Police services. In due course, Diwan Bishan Nath's sons, given their military nick names of Jarnail, Karnail, Major, Captan and Lippy (i.e. General, Colonel, Major, Captain and Lieutenant) too opted for the Services, but none lasted long. When he ran out of military nicknames, Bishan Nath had named his next son Jajji (Judge) who appears in the family tree as Dr. Eric Nath, one of the early migrants of the family who settled in England, married an English lady, Jean and went on to win kudos as a committed public servant and a Justice of Peace. In his long career, he held senior positions in public and private sector organizations, including Non Executive Director of an NHS Primary Care Trust, a Non Executive Director and Vice Chairman of an NHS Foundation Trust and Director of a Council for Voluntary Service. He is remembered as a real 'people person' who worked hands-on to make a difference for both the staff he supervised, as well as the public that all of them were committed to serve. Our family, the Choppras: Ironically, it was Bishan Nath's Dippo (Deputy Commissioner) i.e. my husband Captain Joginder Nath Choppra with the non-military nickname, who was to spend the longest years in the Army, enrolling in the Boys' Regiment as a child in the aftermath of Partition, to eventually win a commission before being boarded out on medical grounds after the Bangladesh War in 1972. We have since then been settled in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, living a colorful life as journalists in the electronic and print medias, with many other interests, including this family tree. Jogi and I married in Delhi in the run up to the Bangladesh War. In no time at all, Jogi had to report back and I was in the care of Praaji (my eldest brother-in-law Shiv Nath Chopra) in a small flat near Maharani Bagh. For that chronic bachelor, I was the daughter he had never had. Every day he would take me into the city via different bus routes to familiarize me with the city. There we would roam on foot, giving me insights into the Old City and its residents that perhaps not many may be privileged to have. Praaji came to Ahmedabad for the first time in the late 1970s. He later told us that what brought him to Ahmedabad in his failing years when he was ailing and alone, was a letter written by my husband saying "If you have to die, why not in your home at Ahmedabad, rather than alone?" He came here to die. But a painful spinal surgery later, he lived almost a decade, shuttling between Ahmedabad and Delhi, with a memorable first trip to England as well. A prohibition bound Ahmedabad could not hold him, not with a teetotaler brother, my husband Jogi. Before he died in Delhi in 1984, typically with a bottle and glass at hand, he had given me enough family history to whet my appetite. He rarely spoke of Eminabad; more of his days at the Karnal farm full of violent disputes over irrigation rights, of the Elysium hotel at Shimla and the glamorous lifestyle there which fell to heartbreaking inefficiency and the subsequent dispersal of the family to greener fields in UK, USA and Germany. Praaji also introduced me to numerology from the books he carried with him. It is an eternal regret that none of the family who rushed to his deathbed realized the value of his collection of rare volumes on palmistry and numerology, which were cleared into a pastiwalla’s lot long before Jogi got there. While he was with us, Praaji was Dadaji to our children, friend philosopher, guide, playmate and grandfather all rolled into one exciting package. The first time he left Ahmedabad on his way to London (those were the days when Ahmedabad had no international flights) Mehirr wouldn’t let go, chasing the train in tears and berating us for letting his Dadaji go. Perhaps it was his Dadaji's and Papa's tales of the old days that eventually led Mehirr into that epoch making trip to Eminabad in 2004. After stints in photography and one of Ahmedabad's early ethnic boutiques, Jogi and I have been committed journalists, scoring many smashing print and TV stories and putting together a massive clippings library which was once the Mecca of all journos visiting Ahmedabad. That library has recently been donated to the National Institute of Media Studies. Today Jogi heads the Gujarat operations of Jain TV and I indulge in my passion for fiction churning out short stories and now a historical novel, after this family tree is completed. Jogi is known as the man ever ready to help out anyone who needs him, whether his brothers and sisters whenever they have needed him, friends or even total strangers who find their way to our door. His fondness for children has extended to not just our own brood, but also two foster children and numerous others who have spent time under our roof and in our hearts. In true Chopra tradition, our boys have delayed marriage well into their 30s, although they have found beautiful life partners. Our daughter Hemangini married early at 23, to Pitamber Abichandani, a practicing advocate in the Gujarat High Court. They have given us two lovely grandchildren, Muskaan and Aditya who are a cocktail of cultures with their Punjabi-Sindhi and Sindhi Parsi parents. (Please also check out The Sindh story in stories section too) The Sindhi connection comes from my Khemlani roots. My maiden name was Dolly Khemlani. We are of business stock. Bhaibunds were the Merchant Princes of Sindh, trading across the then known world and sending home riches to make their grandiose homes and their handsome bejewelled women the envy of all Sindh. I look forward to family elders who read or hear of this family tree, sharing more information on both my grandfathers, Chuarmal Khemlani and Tirthdas Vaswani and their antecedents. The four Khemlani brothers straddled Africa and the Far East with Wado Dada, Naraindas Khemlani in Casablanca, my father Jethanand Khemlani in Singapore and Jakarta, Bhagwandas and Ramchand Khemlani in Saigon and Phom Penh. Around the 1960s, all of us converged home, with the elder two brothers in Poona and the younger duo in Bombay. Between them, they had fourteen daughters and seven sons. Amongst our generation, all the boys toed parental lines. It was the Khemlani girls who proved to be Rebels with a capital R, gamely fighting for career and marriage choices. As a much younger cousin later told me "You left the gates wide open for us by leaving home to marry a man of your choice, that too a Punjabi Army officer." Today our girls are making their mark in various fields with life partners from many races and continents, a truly multi cultural family. My mother, Ganga Khemlani, ne` Maya Vaswani, was among the earliest Bhaibund girls of her day to study upto her Matric. Her father, my grandfather was always worried about her future as she had a dusky complexion. Those were times long before the 'Black is beautiful’ regime. She used to tell us of how she had to study her lessons hiding her book under her embroidery as her buajis did not appreciate their brother’s insistence on educating a girl. Later, she battled to send Kantu and me to college, as girls in our community were still not encouraged to study as the boys had barely progressed from 5th pass to matric pass. College was facilitated by a scholarship I won on my Senior Cambridge scores, but it never went further than B.A. Post graduate studies came after marriage, thanks to Praaji and my husband's unstinting support and the inspiration of my husband's buaji, Dr. Premvati Ghai who completed her Ph.D well into her 50s. My father Jethanand Khemlani was a learned man, despite having passed only Std. 5 or 6. He spoke several languages, including Dutch fluently and has a cultivated taste in European music. His enviable collection of those records, the old black 78rmp ones, which used to slide out of the cupboard that housed them when he opened it every Sunday for a weekend brunch of music and beer. In his younger days, as husband of the eldest Vaswani granddaughter, he was a pampered jamai in Singapore where Ma’s relatives were well established. In the first flush of nationalism he signed up for the Indian National Army in Singapore in the 1940s. But the severe military training with its hup-two-left-right-left in Jakarta was too much for a debonair trader to stomach. He rushed back to Singapore where, given his talent with a camera, in-laws organized a swift transfer to the INA's publicity wing. This he tackled with gusto and took rare pictures of the first hoisting of the Tiranga in Singapore by Subhash Chandra Bose, which were the pride of our family albums. Among the relatives, there is this perplexing reluctance to talk of the Partition and its immediate aftermath. There is no doubt that a great deal was lost, materially; although the entrepreneurship of the Bhaibunds ensured that it was all recovered and plus. As a matter of fact, the Partition ensured the end of the separation of many Bhaibund couples. Since hoary times, it was usual for the men to go off to trade in different parts of the world. Obviously many liaisons took place there, causing much heartburn at both ends. Given the tradition of 'musavari'(trips) of a minimum of two and half years, children grew up with the female half of the family, seeing their fathers only two- three years apart until the sons were old enough to go off into the world and the daughters to their marital homes. After the Partition, many of the women went to join their husbands wherever they were and as times went by, Sindhi enclaves became a ubiquitous feature in cities across the globe where new customs were learnt and adopted, giving a multi-cultural hue to the already glamorously flamboyant Bhaibund weddings. My sister Pushpa has some recollection of the flight from Hyderabad Sindh. She remembers that our Vaswani Nanaji’s family (as government contractors they had many official contacts) were able to get hold of an entire carriage to take the family across the border. My mother was the eldest Vaswani daughter and none of the Khemlani men were present. So the Khemlani women also went into the kafila. She remembers that all of them wore several sets of clothes, silks and velvets, one over the other, with cotton ones on top. My father's eldest brother, Naraindas Khemlani was a very wealthy partner in a leading Sindhi trading firm, K A J Choturmalls. He had amassed many treasures in his home. They tried to sneak away as many as possible. Pushpa particularly remembers a pair of heavy pure silver salt and pepper cellars. The train took them across the border, from where the family scattered, to Ajmer, Jullandar, Dehra Dun, Allahabad and the Vaswanis to Calcutta where our nanaji had already started a khadi business long before the Partition. Some later came to Poona where the Khemlanis were also settled. Contributions and corrections are most welcome by way of email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by clicking on "Guestbook" above. These may be along the following lines: a) Origins and detailed histories of the Chopra and Khemlani, Vaswani clans. b) All aspects of the customs, traditions, life and culture of the families/clans, within the context of the Khatris and Bhaibunds. c) Intersection of the histories of the Nanda and Chopra clans and the geographical areas of Eminabad and Lahore in pre partition Punjab. All this applies during the rules of the various ruling dynasties / kings / governors of the Mughals, Sikhs and British, including Ranjit Singh and Gulab Singh. d) Anecdotes, as many as possible, to liven up the personalities. Time is running out since many of the people who have information are now very old. e) Talks with old people and relatives in many cities. f) Extracts from a large number of libraries such as the National Archives, Delhi, Nehru Memorial Library, Delhi, the Bikaner Archives etc. g) Old surviving photographs, letters, souvenirs in the family. h) Visits to Pandas who are priests as well as genealogists and photos of their records. Pandas in Haridwar and in Peohwa near Kurukshetra may be able to provide family trees going back upto 10 generations ie back to the mid 1600's. I would like to thank immensely the following friends and elders who have helped or inspired me: Mrs. Premvati Ghai, my husband’s buaji who was putting together a family history until Alzheimer’s claimed her. Mr L.M. Puri of Kolkata who inspired me with the family tree he had put together of a large extended family. Ravi Mehta who had collaborated with me in this project, with both of working on our respective family trees and trying to find some connection. Hitesh Nanda who provided some insights into the Nanda clan. Mahesh Vaswani, my cousin who had given me a great deal of information on the Vaswani side. All family members who had contributed with information and photographs etc. This website has helped me to fulfill an old ambition of being able to somehow encourage our Gen X to understand their roots by documenting history in an interesting and meaningful manner, while acknowledging the debt we owe to our ancestors. The next segment of this history mission will be finally writing the historical novel on Mastani - Baji Rao that I have been researching. entree from August 2015 --- MASTANI was published in 2012 to make waves in restoring the dignity of a much maligned princess. Its portrayal of Mastani enabled a rapprochement between the two branches of the Peshwa family at Pune and Indore and triggered off a movement that is seeing the restoration of Mastani's estate at Pabal, near Pune in Maharashtra. In fact on my last trip to Pabal, the gram pan chayat and its lady sarpanch felicitated me in the traditional way with a shawl and a coconut -- for bring instrumental in bringing Pabal onto the map with hopes of more jobs for youngsters there after the public recognition of Mastani and the first book on her in English written by me. It is a fond hope that this enterprise will also help to document living history, with many interesting facts and hitherto untold stories and to offer a platform for exchange of missing information which can help solve many puzzles and missing pieces in history. I sincerely hope that all those who view this site and have anything to add, by way of information, anecdotes and photos will be generous with them.