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About Kshatriya Rajputs

 

The Rajputs (from the Sanskrit ''rāja putra, "son of a king") are a social group of northern India and Gujarat. In the Hindi and Gujarati languages, those belonging to the Kshattriya caste of Hindus are generally referred to as "Rajputs" (alternately: "Thakurs").

The use of the term "rājaputra", precursor to "Rajput", is first found in the 7th century AD. Evidently, the use of the term "Rajput" originated in the areas that form the present-day states of Rajasthan (formerly named Rajputana) and Gujarat and spread only gradually to other Hindi-speaking areas; the Kshattriyas of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh still do not generally self-describe as rajputs. The association of this term with Rajasthan and Gujarat is definite; even in areas where the term is used widely, the people referred to as "Rajputs" tend to ascribe an origin in those areas to themselves.

Rajput dynasties played a very prominent role in the history of northern India. Furthermore, the rajputs developed an ethos of warlike chivalry that served as the benchmark, in past centuries, for other Indian communities as they ascended to regional dominance. This muscular ethos did not preclude patronage of the arts: distinctive forms of painting and architecture developed under the aegis of rajput courts, and classical music found support. Thus, the rajputs have contributed directly and indirectly to many facets of the Indian crasis; a detailment of some of these should be of interest to historians, sociologists, political scientists and Indologists among others.

Origins

The traditional occupations of the Rajput are war and agriculture. As many scholars have pointed out, these areas lend themselves uniquely to the ingress of groups that were formerly not affiliated with the community that previously dominated those professions. The gradual accomodation of the new entrants into the social and family circle of the traditional community is the essential quid pro quo of the Sanskritization that the aspirant community essays. This phenomenon of gradual inclusion has indubitably obtained in the case of the Rajputs, with certain Jat and Maratha dynasties being among the most recent to venture the claim of affiliation with the Rajput community. In view of this, to seek a single and common, definitive origin for every present-day rajput is widely recognised as being an exercise in futility. However, we present both the traditional view and certain scholarly speculations made by researchers on the origin of the Rajputs.

As Kshattriyas, the Rajputs regard themselves as being descended from the Vedic warrior class. Legend ascribe to the Rajputs an origin springing from certain Hindu deities; every rajput must eventually belong to one of three great lineages, being:

  • the Agnivanshi lineage, claiming descent from Agni, the Hindu god of Fire
  • the Suryavanshi lineage, claiming descent from Surya, the Hindu Sun-god;
  • the Chandravanshi lineage, claiming descent from Chandra, the Hindu Moon-god;

Some scholars also count Nagavanshi, Rishivanshi and Vayuvanshi as traditional lineages. The Yaduvanshis, claiming descent from the Hindu god Krishna, are in fact a great sept of the Chandravanshi lineage.

The aforementioned three lineages (Vanshas) sub-divide into 36 main clans (Kulas), which in turn divide into numerous branches (Shakhas) to create the intricate clan system of the Rajputs. The principle of patrilineage is staunchly adhered to in determining one's place in the system and a strong consciousness of clan and lineage is an essential part of the Rajput character. Authoritative listings of the 36 rajput clans are to be found in the Kumarpala Charita of Jayasimha and the Prithviraj Raso of Chandbardai.

Scholarly speculations

Among these legends, the one which addresses the origin of the Agnivanshi rajputs is particularly interesting, not least because they were the earliest to rise to political prominence. This legend begins with the puranic legend wherein the traditional Kshattriyas of the land were exterminated by Parashurama, an avatara of Vishnu. Later, sage Vasishta performed a great Yagya or fire-sacrifice to importune the gods to provide for the defense of righteousness on earth. In answer to his prayer, a youth arose from the very flames of the sacrifice -- the first Agnivanshi rajput.

This legend is interesting in suggesting the possibility that people who were not hitherto regarded as kshattriyas/rajputs could come to be regarded as such after the customary fire-sacrifice based purificatory rituals. This legend has been used as the basis for many scholarly speculations on the origin of the rajputs. James Tod uses this legend as a basis for speculating upon a scythian origin for the rajputs. He suggests that scythian tribes which invaded India in the 6th century AD and disappeared into the population soon afterwards were the forbears of present-day rajputs.

The Rajput Rule of India

Rajput kings are mainly remembered as warriors and as influential rulers. They were responsible for emergence of the modern-day society in northern India.

Archaeological evidences and contemporary texts suggest that the Indian society had achieved significant prosperity during the Rajput rule. Most of the archaeological remains in several regions of the Indian subcontinent are from the Rajput period.

It was also a period of spread of literacy. Numerous inscriptions from this period have been found. A significant fraction of them are by people who were unaffiliated with the nobles, suggesting that education was spreading among the common people. The literature composed in this period in Sanskrit and in Apabhramshas constitutes a large segment of the classical Indian literature. The Paramara king Bhoj of Dhara was not only a patron of scholars, but was himself a distinguished and prolific scholar. His Samarangana-sutradhara deals with architecture and Raja-Martanda is a famous commentary on Yoga-sutra.

The intermarriage among the Rajput clans interlinked different regions of India, making it easier for the trade and scholarship to flow from one part of the country to another.

Character

The Rajput ethos is martial in spirit, fiercely proud and independent, and emphasizes lineage and tradition. Rajput patriotism is legendary, an ideal they embodied with a sometimes fanatical zeal, often choosing death before dishonour. Rajput warriors were often known to fight until the last man. The practice of jauhar and saka was followed only in rajput communities. When the outcome of a battle was against the Rajputs, jauhar would be committed by Rajput women and children in the night and next morning men would commit saka. Brahmin priests would chant Vedic mantras and Rajput women wearing their marriage dresses, along with their young children, would embrace sandalwood flames. The next morning after taking a bath, the men would wear kesariya and apply the ash from the maha samadhi of their wives and children on their foreheads and put a tulsi leaf in their mouth. Then the palace gates would be opened and men would ride out for complete annhiliation of the enemy or themselves. Rajput men and women could not be captured alive. When Hindus fought against other Hindus there were never any johars or saka because the defeated were treated with dignity. However, history records very few instances wherein a Rajput king sued for peace after a battle reversal and the Muslims initially agreed to the peace terms, only for the Rajputs, and their women and children, to be slaughtered upon surrender and once the pols or gates of their mighty fortresses were opened. One example of this is war between Puran Mal of Raisina and Sher Shah Suri.

Rajputs honour their word more then their life and are renowned for their loyalty.

Rajasthan, which has a very high concentration of Rajputs, is located in northwestern India, near the Khyber Pass route used by most foreign invasions of India, including the Arabs, Afghans, Turks, Mughals, and other Islamic invaders of the Middle Ages. In his New History of India, Stanley Wolpert wrote "The Rajputs were the vanguard of Hindu India in the face of the Islamic onslaught."

History

The first Rajputs kingdoms are attested in the

6th century, and the Rajputs rose to prominence in Indian history in the ninth and tenth centuries. The four Agnivansha clans, the Pariharas (Padhiyars), Chauhans (Chahamanas), Solankis (Chaulukyas), and Paramaras (Parmars), rose to prominence first. The Pratiharas established the first Rajput kingdom in Marwar in southwestern Rajasthan, with the Chauhans at Ajmer in central Rajasthan, the Solankis in Gujarat, and the Paramaras in Malwa. The Rajput Rai dynasty ruled Sindh during the 6th and 7th centuries. Sindh was conquered by an Arab Muslim army of the Caliphate, led by Bin Qasim, in the 8th century. Bin Qasim attacked Chittorgarh, and was defeated by Bappa Rawal Guhila. Lalitaditya of Kashmir defeated Arabs in the 8th century. The Pratiharas rebuffed another Arab invasion in the ninth century. Significant Muslim invasions were then not attempted until the eleventh century, largely due to the formidable reputation of the Rajput clans. The Pratiharas later established themselves at Ujjain and ruled Malwa, and afterwards at Kanauj in the Ganges-Yamuna Doab, from which they ruled much of northern India, from Kathiawar in the west to Magadha in the east, in the ninth century. Clans claiming descent from the Solar and Lunar races, who were originally vassals of the other clans, later established independent states. The Guhilas (later called the Sisodias) established the state of Mewar (later Udaipur), under Bappa Rawal, who ruled at Chittorgarh, which was given in dowry to Bappa in 734 for his bravery. The Kachwaha clan came to rule Dhundhar, with their capital at Amber, and later Jaipur. The Chandela clan ruled Bundelkhand after the tenth century, occupying the fortress-city of Kalinjar and building the famous temple-city of Khajuraho. The Tomaras established a state in Haryana, founding the city of Dhiliki (later Delhi) in 736. The Kachwahas, Chandelas, and Tomaras were originally vassals of the Pratihara kingdom.In the early 11th century, Mahmud of Ghazni conquered the Hindu Shahi kingdom in the Punjab, and his raids into northern India weakened the Pratihara kingdom, which was drastically reduced in size and came under the control of the Chandelas. Mahmud sacked temples across northern India, including the temple at Somnath in Gujarat, but his permanent conquests were limited to the Punjab, and Somnath was rebuilt after the raid. The early 11th century also saw the reign of the polymath king Bhoj, the Paramara ruler of Malwa.The Rathores, as the Gahadvala dynasty, reestablished the kingdom of Kannauj, ruling the Ganges plain from the late 11th through the 12th century, and conquering Marwar in the 13th. The Rajputs fought each other in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Prithiviraj III, ruler of Delhi, crushed Muhammad of Ghor in 1191 at the First Battle of Tarain and Ghori was captured. After Ghori begged for life he was let go despite strong resistance by Prithviraj's generals. Ghori treacherously defeated Prithviraj the following year at the Second Battle of Tarain, and the attacks of Muhammad's armies brought down the Gahadvala kingdom of Kannauj in 1194. The Delhi Sultanate was founded by Qutb ud din Aybak, Muhammad of Ghor's successor, in first decade of the 13th century.

The Chauhans reestablished themselves at Ranthambore, led by Govinda, grandson of Prithviraj III. Jalore was ruled by another branch of Chauhans, the Songaras. Another branch of the Chauhans, the Hadas, established a kingdom in Hadoti in the mid-13th century.

Sultan Ala ud din Khilji (1296-1316) conquered Gujarat (1297) and Malwa (1305), and captured the fortresses of Ranthambore (1301) by bribing generals in Hammir Deo Chauhan's army, Mewar's capital Chittorgarh (1303) and Jalor (1311) after long sieges with fierce resistance from their Rajput defenders. Mewar resestablished there supremacy within 50 years of the sack of Chittor under Maharana Hammir. Hammir defeated Muhammad Tughlaq and captured him. Tughlaq had to pay huge ransom and relenquish all of Mewar's lands. After this Sultanate did not attack Chittor for a few hundred years. Rajputs reestablished their independence, and the Rajput states were established as far east as Bengal and north into the Punjab. The Tanwar, Tomaras established themselves at Gwalior, and the ruler Man Singh built the fortress which still stands there. Mewar emerged as the leading Rajput state, and Rana Kumbha expanded his kingdom at the expense of the sultanates of Malwa and Gujarat. The Delhi Sultanate recovered somewhat under the Lodhi dynasty. Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi at the First Battle of Panipat on April 21, 1526, and the Rana Sangha rallied a Rajput army to challenge Babur. Babur, like his predecessors resorted to treachery and managed to bribe a general in Sanga's army and managed to defeat the Rajputs at the Battle of Khanua on March 16, 1527. The Rajput rulers agreed to pay tribute to Babur, but most retained control of their states.

Humayun's successor Akbar consolidated control of the empire and sought to expand it by realising that wars with Rajputs will not allow him to rule India and he used marriage diplomacy. Kachwahas were the first to give a daughter to Akbar. This prompted Maharana Pratap to ban marraiges between his loyal rajputs with other rajputs of rajasthan. The Kachwaha rulers of Jaipur and Rathore rulers of Marwar became tributaries of the empire. The Sisodias of Mewar and their vassals, the Hadas of Bundi, continued to refuse Mughal hegemony, and Akbar invaded Mewar, capturing Chittorgarh in 1568 after a long siege. The Sesodias of Mewar moved the capital to the more defensible location of Udaipur and carried on fighting the Mughals. Akbar respected the martial prowess of the Rajputs, and he married a Rajput princess, and Rajput generals, particularly the Kachwahas of Jaipur, commanded some Mughal armies.

The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, who was far less tolerant of Hinduism than his predecessors, put a Muslim on the throne of Marwar when Maharaja Jaswant Singh, ruler of Marwar, died without a child. This enraged the rathores. Ajit Singh, Jaswant Singh's son was born after his death. Marwar nobles asked Aurangzeb to give the throne back to Ajit but Aurangzeb refused and instead tried to kill the infant Ajit. Durgadas Rathore and others smuggled Ajit out of Delhi and did not let pursuing Mughals capture them and reached Jaipur safely. This started the 30 year rajput rebellion against Aurangzeb. This cemented all the Rajput clans into a bond of union, and a triple alliance was formed by the three states of Marwar, Mewar, and Jaipur, to throw off the Mughal yoke. One of the conditions of this alliance was that the rulers of Jodhpur and Jaipur should regain the privilege of marriage with the ruling Sesodia dynasty of Mewar, which they had forfeited by contracting alliances with the Mughal emperors, on the understanding that the offspring of Sesodia princesses should succeed to the state in preference to all other children. The quarrels arising from this stipulation lasted through many generations, and led to the invitation of Maratha help from the rival aspirants to power, and finally to the subjection of all the Rajput states to the Marathas. Jodhpur was conquered by Sindhia, who levied a tribute of 60,000 rupees, and took from it the fort and town of Ajmer. Internecine disputes and succession wars disturbed the peace of the early years of the century, and the Rajput princes asked for British protection from the Marathas during the Third Anglo-Maratha War of 1817-1818. At the conclusion of the war in 1818, 18 states in the Rajputana region, of which 15 were ruled by Rajputs, became princely states of the British Raj, while the British took direct control of Ajmer, which became the province of Ajmer-Merwara. A number of other Rajput states in central India, including Rewa, Ajaigarh, Barwani, Chhatarpur, Datia, Orchha, and Ratlam, became princely states as well, and were placed under the authority of the Central India Agency. Rajput rulers of Rajputana and Central India acceded to newly-independent India after 1947, and Rajputana, renamed Rajasthan, became an Indian state in 1950.

Rajputs and Invasions of India

The Rajputs suffered the brunt of the aggression from various Mongol-Turkic-Afghan warlords who repeatedly invaded the Indian subcontinent, then known as Hindustan. Hindustan was one of the most economically prosperous regions in the world till 18-th century and had grabbed the attention of several neighbouring Islamic kingdoms.

Organization of Indian kingdoms during invasions

"Within a hundred years after his (Muhammad's) death, his followers had invaded the countries of Asia as far as the Hindu Kush. Here there progress was stayed and Islam had to consolidate itself during three more centuries before it grew strong enough to grasp the rich prize of India. But almost from first the Arabs had fixed eager eyes upon that wealthy country. Fifteen years after the death of prophet, Usman sent a sea expedition to Thana and Broach on the Bombay coast (647 ? AD). Other raids towards Sindh took place in 662 and 664 with no results.

The armies of Islam had carried the crescent from the Hindu Kush westwards, through Asia, Africa and Southern Europe, to distant Spain and Gaul, before they obtained a foothold in Punjab. This long delay was due, not only to the daring of individual tribes, such as Sindh Rajputs, just mentioned but to the military organization of the Hindu Kingdoms.

Each of these groups of kingdoms, alike in the north and in the south, had a certain power of coherence to oppose to a foreign invader; while the large number of groups and units rendered conquest a very tedious process. For even when the overlord or central authority was vanquished, the separate units had to be defeated in detail, and each state supplied a nucleus for subsequent revolt. We have seen how the brilliant attempt in 711, to found a lasting Muhammedan dynsaty in Sindh, failed. Three centuries later, the utmost efforts of two great Musalman invaders (Mahmud of Ghazni and Mohammed Ghori) from the north-west only succeeded in annexing a small portion of the frontier Punjab Province between 977 and 1176 A.D. The Hindu power in Southern India was not completely broken till the battle of Talikot in 1565; and within a hundred years, in 1650, the great Hindu revival had commenced which under the form of Maratha confederacy, was destined to break up the Mughal Empire in India. That Empire, even in the north of India, had only been consolidated by Akbar's policy of incorporating Hindu chiefs into his government(1556-1605). Up to Akbar's time, and even during the earlier years of his reign a series of Rajput wars had challenged the Muhammadan supremacy. In less than two centuries after his death, the succesor of Akbar was a puppet in the hand of the Hindu marathas at Delhi.

The popular notion that India fell an easy prey to the Musalmans is opposed to the historical facts. Muhammadan rule in India consists of a series of invasions and partial conquests, during eleven centuries, from Usman's raid, circ.647, to Ahmad Shah's tempest of invasion in 1761 A.D.

At no time was Islam triumphant throughout the whole of India. Hindu dynasties always ruled over large areas. At the height of the Muhammadan power, the hindu princes paid tribute, and sent agents to the Imperial court. But even this modified supremacy of Delhi lasted for little over a century (1578-1707). Before the end of that brief period the Hindus had begun the work of reconquest. The native chivalry of Rajputana was closing in upon Delhi from the south; the religious confederation of the Sikhs was growing into a military power on the north-west. The Marathas had cobmined the fighting powers of the low-castes with the statesmen ship of the Brahmans, and were subjecting the Muhammadan kingdoms throughout all India to tribute. So far as can now be estimated, the advance of the English power at the beginning of the present century alone saved the Mughal Empire from passing to the Hindus."

A point to note here is that lot of Muslims and some Hindu historians think that Islam/Muslims did not do conversion of Hindus by sword. The argument they give is that there are so many Hindus still today in India. This is completely wrong because most Muslim rulers in India tried to convert as many as they could but it was the strength of Rajput sword and later Maratha,Sikh swords that kept Hinduism alive in India. If there were no Rajputs, Marathas , Sikhs in India, then India would be just like Iraq, Iran, Turkey, or Pakistan in terms of religion of the population.

The preservance of Hinduism in India by the Rajput sword against the entire might of Islamic rulers is the most glorious achievement by a race in the annals of world history and every one should know this fact, more so Indians and most definitely each and every Rajput.

In his Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan James Tod wrote:

"What nation on earth could have maintained the semblance of civilization, the spirit or the customs of their forefathers, during so many centuries of overwhelming depression, but one of such singular character as the Rajpoot? . . . Rajast’han exhibits the sole example in the history of mankind, of a people withstanding every outrage barbarity could inflict, or human nature sustain, from a foe whose religion commands annihilation; and bent to the earth, yet rising buoyant from the pressure, and making calamity a whetstone to courage. . . . Not an iota of their religion or customs have they lost. . . ".

A number of sub-castes, or jatis, claim to be Rajputs. Some of them have a historical basis for the claim. Some are considered to be descendants of the Rajputs but are not generally accepted by the main Rajput community (for example, Girasia). Some branches of Jain's and Marwari's had rajput forefathers but none of them are considered Rajputs today.

 
 

 

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