Portrait of a Lahore distiller and vendor of liquor (Kalwar, Kullal, Kalal, or Kalar), ca.1862–72

The Kalwar, Kalal or Kalar are an Indian caste historically found in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir and other parts of north and central India. The caste is traditionally associated with the distillation and selling of liquor, but around the start of the 20th century assorted Kalwar caste organisations sought to leave that trade and redefine their community through Sanskritisation process.[1]


Because their hereditary occupation of distilling and selling liquor was considered degrading, the Kalals held a very low status in the traditional caste hierarchy of South Asia. This situation changed when the Kalal chief Jassa Singh rose to political power in the 18th century. Jassa Singh styled himself as Ahluwalia after the name of his native village, and established the ruling dynasty of the Kapurthala State.[2]

Following Jassa Singh's rise, other Sikh Kalals also adopted Ahluwalia as the name of their caste, and started giving up their traditional occupation. The regulations imposed by the colonial British administration on manufacture and sale of liquor accelerated this process, and by the early 20th century, most Kalals had abandoned their traditional occupation. By this time, they had started claiming Khatri or Rajput origins to try and enhance their social status.[2]

Before the advent of the British rule, the Muslim Kalals also attempted to raise their social status by adopting the Kakezai Pashtun identity. Some of these Kalal-turned-Kakezais, such as the Hoshiarpur family that ruled the Jalandhar Doab in the 1840s, further raised their status by claiming to be high-caste Shaikhs. Sikh Kalals also claimed Khatri or Rajput origin.[2]

Kalwars in Allahabad were claiming themselves to be of the Kshatriya status in the 1890s.[1]

During the British rule, the Kalals took up a variety of occupations, including trade, agriculture, army service (especially the Ahluwalias), government service, and law.[2]


  1. ^ a b Bayly, Christopher A. (1973). "Patrons and Politics in Northern India". In Gallagher, John; Johnson, Gordon; Seal, Anil (eds.). Locality, Province and Nation: Essays on Indian Politics 1870 to 1940 (Reprinted ed.). Cambridge University Press Archive. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-52109-811-3.
  2. ^ a b c d Donald Anthony Low (1968). Soundings in Modern South Asian History. University of California Press. pp. 70–71. OCLC 612533097.