Rajput (from Sanskrit raja-putra, "son of a king") is a large multi-component cluster of castes, kin bodies, and local groups, sharing social status and ideology of genealogical descent originating from the Indian subcontinent. The term Rajput covers various patrilineal clans historically associated with warriorhood: several clans claim Rajput status, although not all claims are universally accepted. According to modern scholars, almost all Rajputs clans originated from peasant or pastoral origin.
|Religions||Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism|
|Languages||Hindi, Haryanvi, Marwari, Mewari, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Maithili, Sindhi, Urdu, Punjabi, Odia, Dogri and Pahari|
|Region||Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Eastern Punjab, Western Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Azad Kashmir, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Sindh|
The term "Rajput" acquired its present meaning only in the 16th century, although it is also anachronistically used to describe the earlier lineages that emerged in northern India from the sixth century onwards. In the 11th century, the term "rajaputra" appeared as a non-hereditary designation for royal officials. Gradually, the Rajputs emerged as a social class comprising people from a variety of ethnic and geographical backgrounds. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the membership of this class became largely hereditary, although new claims to Rajput status continued to be made in the later centuries. Several Rajput-ruled kingdoms played a significant role in many regions of central and northern India until the 20th century.
The Rajput population and the former Rajput states are found in northern, western, central and eastern India as well as southern and eastern Pakistan. These areas include Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, Eastern Punjab, Western Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Sindh.
The origin of the Rajputs has been a much-debated topic among the historians. Modern historians agree that Rajputs consisted of a mixing of various different social groups including Shudras and tribals.
Colonial-era writers characterised them as descendants of the foreign invaders such as the Scythians or the Hunas, and believed that the Agnikula myth was invented to conceal their foreign origin. According to this theory, the Rajputs originated when these invaders were assimilated into the Kshatriya category during the 6th or 7th century, following the collapse of the Gupta Empire. While many of these colonial writers propagated this foreign-origin theory in order to legitimise the colonial rule, the theory was also supported by some Indian scholars, such as D. R. Bhandarkar. The Indian nationalist historians, such as C. V. Vaidya, believed the Rajputs to be descendants of the ancient Vedic Aryan Kshatriyas although he accepted the "Aryan Invasion theory" to explain that the solar and lunar race were "two hordes of invaders" who colonised India at different times. A third group of historians, which includes Jai Narayan Asopa, theorised that the Rajputs were Brahmins who became rulers.
However, recent research suggests that the Rajputs came from a variety of ethnic and geographical backgrounds as well as from varnas including Shudras. The root word "rajaputra" (literally "son of a king") first appears as a designation for royal officials in the 11th century Sanskrit inscriptions. According to some scholars, it was reserved for the immediate relatives of a king; others believe that it was used by a larger group of high-ranking men. The derivative word "rajput" meant 'horse soldier', 'trooper', 'headman of a village' or 'subordinate chief' before the 15th century. Individuals with whom the word "rajput" was associated before the 15th century were considered varna–samkara ("mixed caste origin") and inferior to Kshatriya. Over time, the term "Rajput" came to denote a hereditary political status, which was not necessarily very high: the term could denote a wide range of rank-holders, from an actual son of a king to the lowest-ranked landholder.
According to scholars, in medieval times "the political units of India were probably ruled most often by men of very low birth" and this "may be equally applicable for many clans of 'Rajputs' in northern India". Burton Stein explains that this process of allowing rulers, frequently of low social origin, a "clean" rank via social mobility in the Hindu Varna system serves as one of the explanations of the longevity of the unique Indian civilisation.
Gradually, the term Rajput came to denote a social class, which was formed when the various tribal and nomadic groups became landed aristocrats, and transformed into the ruling class. These groups assumed the title "Rajput" as part of their claim to higher social positions and ranks. The early medieval literature suggests that this newly formed Rajput class comprised people from multiple castes. Thus, the Rajput identity is not the result of a shared ancestry. Rather, it emerged when different social groups of medieval India sought to legitimise their newly acquired political power by claiming Kshatriya status. These groups started identifying as Rajput at different times, in different ways. Thus, modern scholars summarise that Rajputs were a "group of open status" since the eighth century, mostly illiterate warriors who claimed to be reincarnates of ancient Indian Kshatriyas – a claim that had no historical basis. Moreover, this unfounded Kshatriya status claim showed a sharp contrast to the classical varna of Kshatriyas as depicted in Hindu literature in which Kshatriyas are depicted as an educated and urbanite clan.
During the era of the Mughal empire, "Hypergamous marriage" with the combination of service in the state army was another way a tribal family could convert to Rajput. This process required a change in tradition, dressing, ending window remarriage, etc. Such marriage of a tribal family with an acknowledged but possibly poor Rajput family would ultimately enable the non-Rajput family to become Rajput. This marriage pattern also supports the fact that Rajput was an "open caste category" available to those who served the Mughals.
Rajput formation continued in the colonial era. Even in the 19th century, anyone from the "village landlord" to the "newly wealthy lower caste Shudra" could employ Brahmins to retrospectively fabricate a genealogy and within a couple of generations they would gain acceptance as Hindu Rajputs. This process would get mirrored by communities in north India. Scholars refer to this as "Rajputization" and consider it similar to Sanskritization. This process of origin of the Rajput community resulted in hypergamy as well as Female infanticide that was common in Hindu Rajput clans. German historian Hermann Kulke has coined the term "Secondary Rajputization" for describing the process of members of a tribe trying to re-associate themselves with their former tribal chiefs who had already transformed themselves into Rajputs via Rajputization and thus become Rajputs themselves.
Emergence as a community
Scholarly opinions differ on when the term Rajput acquired hereditary connotations and came to denote a clan-based community. Historian Brajadulal Chattopadhyaya, based on his analysis of inscriptions (primarily from Rajasthan), believed that by the 12th century, the term "rajaputra" was associated with fortified settlements, kin-based landholding, and other features that later became indicative of the Rajput status. According to Chattopadhyaya, the title acquired "an element of heredity" from c. 1300. A later study by of 11th–14th century inscriptions from western and central India, by Michael B. Bednar, concludes that the designations such as "rajaputra", "thakkura" and "rauta" were not necessarily hereditary during this period.
During its formative stages, the Rajput class was quite assimilative and absorbed people from a wide range of lineages. However, by the late 16th century, it had become genealogically rigid, based on the ideas of blood purity. The membership of the Rajput class was now largely inherited rather than acquired through military achievements. A major factor behind this development was the consolidation of the Mughal Empire, whose rulers had great interest in genealogy. As the various Rajput chiefs became Mughal feduatories, they no longer engaged in major conflicts with each other. This decreased the possibility of achieving prestige through military action, and made hereditary prestige more important.
The word "Rajput" thus acquired its present-day meaning in the 16th century. During 16th and 17th centuries, the Rajput rulers and their bards (charans) sought to legitimise the Rajput socio-political status on the basis of descent and kinship. They fabricated genealogies linking the Rajput families to the ancient dynasties, and associated them with myths of origins that established their Kshatriya status. This led to the emergence of what Indologist Dirk Kolff calls the "Rajput Great Tradition", which accepted only hereditary claims to the Rajput identity, and fostered a notion of eliteness and exclusivity. The legendary epic poem Prithviraj Raso, which depicts warriors from several different Rajput clans as associates of Prithviraj Chauhan, fostered a sense of unity among these clans. The text thus contributed to the consolidation of the Rajput identity by offering these clans a shared history.
Despite these developments, migrant soldiers made new claims to the Rajput status until as late as the 19th century. In the 19th century, the colonial administrators of India re-imagined the Rajputs as similar to the Anglo-Saxon knights. They compiled the Rajput genealogies in the process of settling land disputes, surveying castes and tribes, and writing history. These genealogies became the basis of distinguishing between the "genuine" and the "spurious" Rajput clans.
The Rajput kingdoms were disparate: loyalty to a clan was more important than allegiance to the wider Rajput social grouping, meaning that one clan would fight another. This and the internecine jostling for position that took place when a clan leader (raja) died meant that Rajput politics were fluid and prevented the formation of a coherent Rajput empire.
The first major Rajput kingdom was the Sisodia-ruled kingdom of Mewar. However, the term "Rajput" has also been used as an anachronistic designation for leading martial lineages of 11th and 12th centuries that confronted the Ghaznavid and Ghurid invaders such as the Pratiharas, the Chahamanas (of Shakambhari, Nadol and Jalor), the Tomaras, the Chaulukyas, the Paramaras, the Gahadavalas, and the Chandelas.Although the Rajput identity did not exist at this time, these lineages were classified as aristocratic Rajput clans in the later times.
In the 15th century, the Muslim sultans of Malwa and Gujarat put a joint effort to overcome the Mewar ruler Rana Kumbha but both the sultans were defeated. Subsequently, in 1518 the Rajput Mewar Kingdom under Rana Sanga achieved a major victory over Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi of Delhi Sultanate and afterwards Rana's influence extended up to the striking distance of Pilia Khar in Agra. Accordingly, Rana Sanga came to be the most distinguished indigenous contender for supremacy but was defeated by the Mughal invader Babur at Battle of Khanwa in 1527.
Legendary accounts state that from 1200 CE, many Rajput groups moved eastwards towards the Eastern Gangetic plains forming their own chieftaincies. These minor Rajput kingdoms were dotted all over the Gangetic plains in modern-day Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. During this process, petty clashes occurred with the local population and in some cases, alliances were formed. Among these Rajput chieftaincies were the Bhojpur zamindars and the taluks of Awadh.
The immigration of Rajput clan chiefs into these parts of the Gangetic plains also contributed the agricultural appropriation of previously forested areas, especially in South Bihar. Some have linked this eastwards expansion with the onset of Ghurid invasion in the West.
After the mid-16th century, many Rajput rulers formed close relationships with the Mughal emperors and served them in different capacities. It was due to the support of the Rajputs that Akbar was able to lay the foundations of the Mughal empire in India. Some Rajput nobles gave away their daughters in marriage to Mughal emperors and princes for political motives. For example, Akbar accomplished 40 marriages for himself, his sons and grandsons, out of which 17 were Rajput-Mughal alliances. Akbar's successors as Mughal emperors, his son Jahangir and grandson Shah Jahan had Rajput mothers. The ruling Sisodia Rajput family of Mewar made it a point of honour not to engage in matrimonial relationships with Mughals and thus claimed to stand apart from those Rajput clans who did so.Once Mewar had submitted and alliance of Rajputs reached a measure of stability, matrimonial between leading Rajput states and Mughals became rare. Akbar's intimate involvement with the Rajputs had begun when he returned from a pilgrimage to the Chisti Sufi Shaykh at Sikri, west of Agra, in 1561. Many Rajput princesses were married to Akbar but still Rajput princess were allowed to maintain their religion.
Akbar's diplomatic policy regarding the Rajputs was later damaged by the intolerant rules introduced by his great-grandson Aurangzeb. A prominent example of these rules included the re-imposition of Jaziya, which had been abolished by Akbar. However, despite imposition of Jaziya Aurangzeb's army had a high proportion of Rajput officers in the upper ranks of the imperial army and they were all exempted from paying Jaziya. The Rajputs then revolted against the Mughal empire. Aurangzeb's conflicts with the Rajputs, which commenced in the early 1680s, henceforth became a contributing factor towards the downfall of the Mughal empire.
In the 18th century, the Rajputs came under influence of the Maratha empire. By the late 18th century, the Rajput rulers begin negotiations with the East India Company and by 1818 all the Rajput states had formed an alliance with the company.
British colonial period
The medieval bardic chronicles (kavya and masnavi) glorified the Rajput past, presenting warriorhood and honour as Rajput ideals. This later became the basis of the British reconstruction of the Rajput history and the nationalist interpretations of Rajputs' struggles with the Muslim invaders. James Tod, a British colonial official, was impressed by the military qualities of the Rajputs but is today considered to have been unusually enamoured of them. Although the group venerate him to this day, he is viewed by many historians since the late nineteenth century as being a not particularly reliable commentator. Jason Freitag, his only significant biographer, has said that Tod is "manifestly biased".
In reference to the role of the Rajput soldiers serving under the British banner, Captain A. H. Bingley wrote:
Rajputs have served in our ranks from Plassey to the present day (1899). They have taken part in almost every campaign undertaken by the Indian armies. Under Forde they defeated the French at Condore. Under Monro at Buxar they routed the forces of the Nawab of Oudh. Under Lake they took part in the brilliant series of victories which destroyed the power of the Marathas.
The Rajput practices of female infanticide and sati (widow immolation) were other matters of concern to the British. It was believed that the Rajputs were the primary adherents to these practices, which the British Raj considered savage and which provided the initial impetus for British ethnographic studies of the subcontinent that eventually manifested itself as a much wider exercise in social engineering.
On India's independence in 1947, the princely states, including those of the Rajput, were given three options: join either India or Pakistan, or remain independent. Rajput rulers of the 22 princely states of Rajputana acceded to newly independent India, amalgamated into the new state of Rajasthan in 1949–1950. Initially the maharajas were granted funding from the Privy purse in exchange for their acquiescence, but a series of land reforms over the following decades weakened their power, and their privy purse was cut off during Indira Gandhi's administration under the 1971 Constitution 26th Amendment Act. The estates, treasures, and practices of the old Rajput rulers now form a key part of Rajasthan's tourist trade and cultural memory.
The Rajputs, in states such as Madhya Pradesh are today considered to be a Forward Caste in India's system of positive discrimination. This means that they have no access to reservations here. But they are classified as an Other Backward Class by the National Commission for Backward Classes in the state of Karnataka. However, some Rajputs, as with other agricultural castes, demand reservations in Government jobs.
The term "Rajput" denotes a cluster of castes, clans, and lineages. It is a vaguely-defined term, and there is no universal consensus on which clans make up the Rajput community. In medieval Rajasthan (the historical Rajputana) and its neighbouring areas, the word Rajput came to be restricted to certain specific clans, based on patrilineal descent and intermarriages. On the other hand, the Rajput communities living in the region to the east of Rajasthan had a fluid and inclusive nature. The Rajputs of Rajasthan eventually refused to acknowledge the Rajput identity claimed by their eastern counterparts, such as the Bundelas. The Rajputs claim to be Kshatriyas or descendants of Kshatriyas, but their actual status varies greatly, ranging from princely lineages to common cultivators.
There are several major subdivisions of Rajputs, known as vansh or vamsha, the step below the super-division jāti These vansh delineate claimed descent from various sources, and the Rajput are generally considered to be divided into three primary vansh: Suryavanshi denotes descent from the solar deity Surya, Chandravanshi (Somavanshi) from the lunar deity Chandra, and Agnivanshi from the fire deity Agni. The Agnivanshi clans include Parmar, Chaulukya (Solanki), Parihar and Chauhan.
Lesser-noted vansh include Udayvanshi, Rajvanshi, and Rishivanshi. The histories of the various vanshs were later recorded in documents known as vamshāavalīis; André Wink counts these among the "status-legitimizing texts".
Beneath the vansh division are smaller and smaller subdivisions: kul, shakh ("branch"), khamp or khanp ("twig"), and nak ("twig tip"). Marriages within a kul are generally disallowed (with some flexibility for kul-mates of different gotra lineages). The kul serves as the primary identity for many of the Rajput clans, and each kul is protected by a family goddess, the kuldevi. Lindsey Harlan notes that in some cases, shakhs have become powerful enough to be functionally kuls in their own right.
Culture and ethos
The Bengal army of the East India Company recruited heavily from upper castes such as Brahmins and Rajputs. However,after the revolt of 1857 by the Bengal sepoys, the British Indian army shifted recruitment to the Punjab. The Rajputs were designated as a Martial Race in the period of the British Raj. This was a designation created by administrators that classified each ethnic group as either "martial" or "non-martial": a "martial race" was typically considered brave and well built for fighting, whilst the remainder were those whom the British believed to be unfit for battle because of their sedentary lifestyles.
The Rajputs of Bihar were inventor of martial art form Pari Khanda, which includes heavy use of Swords and Shields.This exercise was later included in the folk dances of Bihar and Jharkhand like that of Chhau dance. On special occasions, a primary chief would break up a meeting of his vassal chiefs with khanda nariyal, the distribution of daggers and coconuts. Another affirmation of the Rajput's reverence for his sword was the Karga Shapna ("adoration of the sword") ritual, performed during the annual Navaratri festival, after which a Rajput is considered "free to indulge his passion for rapine and revenge". The Rajput of Rajasthan also offer a sacrifice of water buffalo or goat to their family Goddess ( Kuldevta) during Navaratri. The ritual requires slaying of the animal with a single stroke. In the past this ritual was considered a rite of passage for young Rajput men.
Alcoholism is considered a problem in the Rajput community of Rajasthan and hence Rajput women do not like their men drinking alcohol. It was reported in a 1983 study of alcoholism in India that it was customary for Rajput men (not all) in northern India to drink in groups. The women would at times be subjected to domestic violence such as beating after these men returned home from drinking.
Until recent times polygamy was common among Rajputs also concubines were kept freely depending upon economic status of a person, particularly in Rajasthan where there were three classes of concubines first were called khawals, who were generally jatins and gujarins they lived in harem and children were treated as Rajputs except few restrictions. The other two classes were called Darogi and Goli.
By the late 19th century, there was a shift of focus among Rajputs from politics to a concern with kinship. Many Rajputs of Rajasthan are nostalgic about their past and keenly conscious of their genealogy, emphasising a Rajput ethos that is martial in spirit, with a fierce pride in lineage and tradition.
Rajput politics refers to the role played by the Rajput community in the electoral politics of India.[better source needed] In states such as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttrakhand, Jammu, Himachal Pradesh, and Gujarat, the large populations of Rajputs gives them a decisive role.[better source needed]
The term Rajput painting refers to works of art created at the Rajput-ruled courts of Rajasthan, Central India, and the Punjab Hills. The term is also used to describe the style of these paintings, distinct from the Mughal painting style.
According to Ananda Coomaraswamy, Rajput painting symbolised the divide between Muslims and Hindus during Mughal rule. The styles of Mughal and Rajput painting are oppositional in character. He characterised Rajput painting as "popular, universal and mystic".
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[In Maharashtra]The Lingayats, the Gujjars and the Rajputs are three other important castes which belong to the intermediate category. The lingayats who hail from north Karnataka are found primarily in south Maharashtra and Marthwada while Gujjars and Rajputs who migrated centuries ago from north India have settled in north Maharashtra districts.
- Eugenia Vanina 2012, p. 140:Regarding the initial stages of this history and the origin of the Rajput feudal elite, modern research shows that its claims to direct blood links with epic heroes and ancient kshatriyas in general has no historic substantiation. No adequate number of the successors of these epically acclaimed warriors could have been available by the period of seventh-eights centuries AD when the first references to the Rajput clans and their chieftains were made. [...] Almost all Rajput clans originated from the semi-nomadic pastoralists of the Indian north and north-west.
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Paid employment in military service as Dirk H.A.Kolff has recently demonstrated, was an important means of livelihood for the peasants of certain areas of late medieval north India...In earlier centuries, says Kolff, "Rajput" was a more ascriptive term, referring to all kinds of Hindus who lived the life of the adventuring warrior, of whom most were of peasant origins
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Rajput : Pastoral , mobile warrior groups who achieved landed status in the medieval period claimed to be Kshatriyas and called themselves Rajputs.
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...and it is very probable that the other fire-born Rajput clans like the Caulukyas, Paramaras, Cahamanas, as well as the Tomaras and others who in the eighth and ninth centuries were subordinate to the Gurjara-Pratiharas, were of similar pastoral origin, that is, that they originally belonged to the mobile, nomadic groups...
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Modern historians are more or less agreed that the Rajputs consisted of miscellaneous groups including shudras and tribals
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The term 'Rajput' before the fifteenth century meant 'horse soldier', 'trooper', 'headman of a village' or 'subordinate chief'. Moreover, individuals with whom the word was associated were generally considered to be products of varna–samkara of mixed caste origin, and thus inferior in rank to Kshatriyas.
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When the rank of persons was in theory rigorously ascribed according to the purity of the birth-group, the political units of India were probably ruled most often by men of very low birth. This generalization applies to south indian warriors and may be equally applicable for many clans of Rajputs in northern India. The capacity of both ancient and medieval Indian society to ascribe to its actual rulers, frequently men of low social origins, a "clean" or "Kshatriya" rank may afford one of the explanations for the durability and longevity of the unique civilization of India.
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In short, a process of development occurred which after several centuries culminated in the formation of new groups with the identity of 'Rajputs'. The predecessors of the Rajputs, from about the eighth century, rose to politico-military prominence as an open status group or estate of largely illiterate warriors who wished to consider themselves as the reincarnates of the ancient Indian Kshatriyas. The claim of Kshatriyas was, of course, historically completely unfounded. The Rajputs as well as other autochthonous Indian gentry groups who claimed Kshatriya status by way of putative Rajput descent, differed widely from the classical varna of Kshatriyas which, as depicted in literature, was made of aristocratic, urbanite and educated clans...
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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.
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The twenty-two princely states that were amalgamated in 1949 to form a political entity called Rajasthan ...
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(continued list of OBC classes) 7.Rajput 120.Karnataka Rajput
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The term Rajput denotes a cluster of castes that are accorded Kshatriya status in the varna system.
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...the region's erstwhile ruling aristocracy, a cluster of clans and lineages bearing the label 'Rajput'.
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Many women do not like their husbands to drink much alcohol; they consider alcoholism a problem in their community particularly because Rajput drinking is sanctioned by tradition.
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The British defined Rajputs as a group in part by their affinity for wild pork.
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