The history of Khadayata community traces back approximately 700 years. The original families seem to have come from a village named "Khadat" in North Gujarat. However a formal organization of the community members began in the earlier part of this century. At that time a vast majority of the families lived in villages in and around Gujarat. The education level of most of the members was very low with the main occupation of trading of commodities. only a few educated community members were living in cities such as Bombay and Ahmedabad.
A few Khadayata community members living in Bombay started an organization "Khadayata Samaj" in the year 1912. These well-wishers recognized that higher education was the only way to advance the fate of younger members of the community. Hence the very first activity of the Samaj was to establish facilities and scholarship funds for the higher education of the children of Khadayatas.
It is difficult for us to realize the situation that existed at that time. Many of the villages or fairly large communities did not have facilities for even primary education. The students from villages, where most of the Khadayata families were settled, had to live with their relatives in the cities to obtain primary education. Education for the girls was almost nonexistent.
The first convention of Khadayatas, the Khadayata Parishad, was convened at Nadiad in 1914 and was attended by delegates from many parts of Gujarat. The convention passed resolutions to establish scholarship funds to provide financial assistance to the needy students. Khadayata Education society (Kelavani Mandal) was established in the year 1916 to serve the financial needs of the sons and daughters of the community members. The funds were distributed as scholarships and interest-free loans for studies in schools, colleges and foreign education. This organization has been at the center of the growth of education of many Khadayata community members for the last 80 years. During the last 90 years thousands of students have benefited from the funds made available by the Mandal.
Since the first Parishad more than a dozen Parishads have been arranged. Each of them has addressed the timely issues and made progressive resolutions to meet the financial, educational and social needs of the community. This proves the dynamic nature of the community and willingness to ride the tides of time to stay afloat.
The community members were keenly aware of the problems facing students from villages where educational facilities were practically nonexistent. It was essential to live away from home, usually at a relative's house, for the youngsters to attend even a primary school. A movement was started to establish lodging and boarding facilities for the students in major cities. Presently more than 10 facilities are available for the students. Obviously the needs of the students have changed and many of these facilities are now used by students pursuing college and post graduate studies.
During the early part of this century the community leaders observed the status of women and young girls and they did not like what they saw. The educational level was extremely low, the girls were getting married at a very young, as low as 14 years, and in many unfortunate cases they were widowed at the age of 15 or so. In order to promote higher education and training for these needy women, an organization Woman's Advancement or Development society (Mahila Vikas Mandal) was established. This organization provided facilities for the training in small-scale business and funds for the necessary equipment.
AS the educational level of the community members improved, many of them moved to the bigger cities such as Bombay, Ahmedabad, Baroda etc. for employment. Their main problem was to find a place to live. The community philanthropists donated funds and facilities to start guest houses in the big cities. Such facilities provided a place to live for a short period for the newly employed youngsters. Additional facilities for the community members who needed temporary place to live during medical treatment or hospitalization etc. were also established in the major cities.
During the later years the community leaders recognized a need for providing financial assistance to the needy families when times were tough for them. An organization, Janata Charitable Trust, was established to provide help to Khadayata families.
The community extended its activities to the service of God (Ishtadevata) by building a new temple and a guest house at Mahudi (popularly known as Kotyarkdham) during the sixties. Subsequently facilities have been added at Gokul and Nathdwara for the pilgrims from the community.
Other areas of organized activities include youth meetings, trade assistance and training, group weddings, co-operative stores and financing organizations, business assistance and limited access schools for specific areas of education.
A broad overview of the activities of the organizations serving the Khadayatas gives a distinct impression of progressive views and leadership qualities of the workers. They have observed the social, political and economic changes taking place in the society and have adjusted their efforts to provide necessary services to the community members.
At the beginning of 21st century Khadayata families are spread over the entire world. They cover all continents of the world, all states of India. No matter where they live, they have never forgotten the roots and have maintained close relationships with their fellow Khadayatas.