Thursday, February 23, 2006


Rajput origins
The Rajputs are comprised of many different clans. They were known for their valor and chivalry in battle. For centuries they were India's line of defense against invaders. They proved their chivalry by fighting with honor and by the mercy that they showed to the vanquished. When fighting against the hordes of Arabs, Moghuls, Afghans, and Turks, many preferred to die rather than to forsake their ancestors' faith (Hindu dharma) for Islam. While the nations of the Middle East fell in a matter of a few years to the rapid advance of Islam's new followers, the Rajput men and women refused to let them capture India for over 700 years. A few Rajput Kings did convert to Islam and eventually in an alliance with the Mughalslaid the foundations for the largest Indian Empire. The heroism and sacrifice displayed by these tribes is undisputed in the chronicles of Indian history.
The concept of the Raja-putra, or "son of a king," is mentioned in Vedic literature. Rajput, a shortened version of Raja-putra, is a name that has come to be associated with specific clans that would gain political importance in a given region. Because of the fluid social structure in early medieval India, a tribe could gain or lose its status based on its political importance, its occupation, and its survival or extinction. Many tribes over the course of time became extinct because of war, or relocated to another location and changed their names. Traditionally, 36 "royal races," or raj-kul, were known as Rajputs.
They were allegedly migrants to India from Central Asia who mingled with the aboriginal tribes and were given Kshatriya, or warrior status by the priests. However this view of Rajput descent from the Hepthalites or White Huns is disputed, and arises from the rise of Rajput ascendacy in the wake of the successful invasion by the Hepthalites into the Gupta empire.
During the rule of the British, Lieutenant Colonel James Tod visited Rajasthan and attempted to write a definitive list of the 36 Rajput tribes. However, everyone that he spoke to gave him varying lists of tribes. It can thus be concluded that a tribe that had furnished warriors or was politically dominant in a particular region can justly call itself a Rajput tribe.
Of all the Rajput tribes, there are some that deserve special mention.

Suryavanshi people were those, according to the Historian C.V.Vaidya, who adopted a system of counting the Varna and period based on solar movements. They followed Solar Calendars. Myth is that they are said to have descended from Shri Ram Chander.

Chandravanshi people were those, according to the Historian C.V.Vaidya, who adopted a system of counting the Varna and period based on lunar movements. They followed Lunar Calendars. These are the Rajputs who are descendants of Lord Krishna's tribe Yadu. The most famous Chandravanshi tribes are the Bhatti tribe and the Chadhar tribe.

There are also several Agnivanshi tribes considered to be born of fire. Although different sources vary, the generally acknowledged Agni-kul are the Chauhans, Parmaras, Chalukyas, and the Parihars. The name Chahamana was actually the original name of the Chauhans.

Social Structure
In ancient India, society was divided into four parts (varnas): brahmins, kshatriyas, vaishyas, and shudras. The Rajputs eventually came to occupy the place in society of the kshatriyas. In that ancient era, this system was very fluid and flexible. Ibbetson writes in his book, "In the earlier Hinduism we find that, while caste distinctions were primarily based upon occupation, considerable license in this respect was permitted to the several castes, while the possibility of the individual rising [or falling] from one caste to another was distinctly recognized (4)."
The original intent of caste was to provide a convenient social structure to the Indian civilization, with the actions of an individual determining their rank in society. A parallel may be drawn to the West's social classification of people into different classes such as the middle class and the wealthy class. An individual's accumulation of wealth can easily propel them from one class to another.
However, this basic Indian classification would eventually be expanded and intolerably abused. Different levels of status came to be associated with each caste, and changing one's status in life became virtually impossible. As a result, the caste system of today hardly represents its original intent and has lost much of its intended usefulness. In fact, the mere mention of the word "caste" nowadays brings negative connotations to many people's minds.
Within the above framework, Ibbetson identifies two principles, the community of blood and the community of occupation (2). The community of occupation reflects one's caste. The community of blood reflects one's tribe.

Emergence of Royal Clans
The first Rajput kingdoms are attested in the 6th century, and the Rajputs rose to prominence in Indian history in the ninth and tenth centuries. The four Agni kula clans, the Pratiharas (Pariharas), 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 Sind during the 6th and 7th centuries. Sind was conquered by an Arab Muslim army of the Califate, led by Bin Qasim, in the 8th century. Bin Qasim attacked Chittorgarh, and was defeated by Bappa Rawal Guhila. 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.
The inscriptions from this period mention frequent intermarriage among the ruling clans.

Emergence of Rajputs as a Community
The term Rajputra was first used by Harshavardhan (606-648 AD) of Kannauj. The term was used for the descendants of the Shahi dynasty present in Kashmir in Rajatarangini of Kalhana.
The 36 Rajput clans are first mentioned in Kumarpala Charita of Jayasimha and then in Prithviraj Raso of Chandbardai. The lists include classical clans like Ikshvaku, Soma, and Yadu, well-known Rajput clans such as Parmar, Chauhan, Chalukya, Rathore, Parihar, Chandela etc as well as lesser known clans such as Silar (Shilahar), Chapotkat, Tank, etc.
Today, with the aid of inscriptions and copperplates discovered, it is possible to trace the history of the royal clans with considerable certainty. However they were not available in 17-18th century when a number of chronicles (khyats) were compliled, often based on oral tradition. By this time the agni-kunda myth had been expanded to explain the origin of four of the major clan. James Tod wrote his influencial book "The Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan" in 1829 and 1832 on the basis of these chronicles. Some of his hypotheses have been used by other authors, even though the texts discovered and read during the 20th century show that Todd's hypotheses are sometimes inaccurate.

Major Rajputs
The Major Rajputs are a tribe, as it is a community related by blood. That does not mean that all Major Rajputs are related to one another. Instead, since marriages form bonds of blood, the Major Rajputs traditionally marry only other Major Rajputs. The caste of the Major Rajputs eventually has come to be goldsmiths, because that is currently their predominant occupation.
Here is a possible method of classification that should reduce some confusion. The asli kaum or original community of the Mairs is the Rajput community. The Majors, as far as I can tell, are a conglomeration of branches of different Rajput tribes. The Major Rajputs collectively form a jaath, or tribe. The "traditional" trade or occupation of the Mairs is goldsmithing. The gothras, or families, are the sections that comprise the Major Rajput tribe.

Rajput Resistance to Muslim invasions
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 managed to defeat 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), 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 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, and Rana Sangha of Mewar convinced Babur to challenge Ibrahim Lodi for control of the Delhi Sultanate, hoping that the struggle between Muslim rivals would allow the Rajputs to reclaim Delhi. 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 barely 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, and struggles between Babur's successor Humayun and the Suri Dynasty for control of the Sultanate preoccupied the Muslims for several decades.

Akbar's alliance with Rajputs
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 marriages 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 Rajputs were betrayed by their kings, the warriors were never asked about their opinions about marrying their women to the Mughals. The royal families of the clans made the decisions and it was always the one family and not the clan which gave in to the mughal regime.

Aurangzeb and Rajput Rebellion
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.

Maratha Domination and British Rule
The quarrels amog the Rajputs 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.
Nepal was conquered by a Rajput family in 1768. Nepal was never conquered by the British, and remains today the only Hindu kingdom, still ruled by a Rajput clan.

Independent India
On India's independence in 1947, the native rules were given three choices, join one of the two states Indian or Pakistan, or remain independent. Rajput rulers of Rajputana and Central India acceded to newly-independent India and Rajputana, renamed Rajasthan, became an Indian state in 1950. The Maharajas were given special recognitions and an annual amount termed privy-purse was set for them.
Many of the Rajput Maharajas entered politics and served India as elected representatives. In 1971, Indira Gandhi "de-recognized" the Maharajas and abolished the privy-purses. As a result, the Maharajas had to transformed some of their palaces into hotels. Some of them are now recognized as among the world's best.
Today, the Maharajas still fulfill some of the ceremonial duties as recognized elders, but as private citizens, in the Indian society.

Famous Rajput people
Several Rajputs have served Independent India with distinction as elected representatives. Thse include:
Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Raja of Manda, Prime Minister, Dec. 2,1989 - Nov. 10, 1990
Chandra Shekhar, Prime Minister, Nov. 10,1990 - June 21, 1991
Arjun Singh, Former Chief Minister of MP, currently in central cabinet
Kunwar Virbhadra Singh, Himachal Pradesh, Chief Minister
Dharam Singh, Former Chief Minister of Karnataka,
Jaswant Singh, Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha
Shankarsinh Vaghela, former CM of Gujarat, currently in central cabinet
bhainro singh shekhawat-- sub president of india

Rajput traditions
The Rajput lifestyle was designed to foster a martial spirit. The festival of Rakhi, known as Lakhri in Punjab, is typically held in August. The rakhis, or bracelets, are tied to a brother's wrist by his sisters. The belief amongst Rajputs was that the bracelets would avert evil in battle and designated those who would make a proper return from battle (Tod i.463). This festival was and is still celebrated all over India. Tod described at length the bond between the Rajputs and their swords. The double-edged scimitar known as the khanda was the favorite weapon of the Rajput. On special occasions, a primary chief would break up a meeting of his chiefs with khanda nareal, or a distribution of swords and coconuts (453). In order to attain a greater bond with one's sword, Rajputs revered their swords and conducted the ritual of Karga Shapna during the annual festival of Navratri. bhainro singh shekhawat-- sub president of india

Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Several volumes published during the 20th century.
A.K. Warder "An Introduction to Indian Historiography", Popular Prakashan 1972.
Thakur Udaynarayan Singh , "Kshatriya Vamshavali" (in Hindi), Khemaraj Shrikrishnadas, 1989.
Jwalaprasad Mishra, "Jati Bhaskara", 1914, Khemaraja Shrikrishnadas
Col. James Tod, "Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan" Two volumes, published in 1829, 1832.