History and origin
The word Nayak means a head of a regiment. This word is derived from the Sanskrit senanayaka, which means head of a regiment. The Nayak trace their origin back to Suryavanshi Rajputs. They were highly regarded for their bravery, in due course they became a powerful group and occupied several forts and jagirs. In fear of their growing power the rulers tried to defame them in various ways. Then the Nayak withdrew themselves from the association of the Rajput and came out as a separate community. It is said that when Parashuram the great mythical character was killing the Kshatriyas then the Nayak had to conceal their Kshatriya identity. They have several other legends in which they trace their ancestry back to the mythical characters of lnchhbasu. One of the five sons of Surya to one of the wives of Brihaspati who was impregnated by Chandrama to Sangnya, One of the three wives of Surya. They recall their origin at Jatala village whence they migrated to Jaisalmer and hence to the various other parts. They are distributed in the districts of Sri Ganganagar, Churu, Sikar, Jhunjhunu etc. Their spoken language is Marwari. They are conversant with Hindi, Script used is Devnagari.
The Nayak have the two divisions of nakh and dudh (clan). There are altogether sixteen nakhs namely Panwar, Solanki, Chauhan, Chalukya, Bhati, Tanwar, Rang-ghad, Bagla, Chandela, Dhol, Sodath, Khinchi, Ran, Gor, Galhot and Rathore. Each of the nakh has a number of dudh in it. Bhati have nine dudh. Panwar have seven. Tanwar includes eight. Rathore have nine dudhs. Dudh are namely Malkhot, Potwana, Dhulkia, Kayat, Bokra, Dagla, Sudia, Chanwaria, Chandalia, Boyat, Rojh, Ghoran, Barwasa, Banyal, Goglia, Chaaran, Saarsar, Gagrhia, Arhia etc. Concept of hierarchy is not associated with these divisions. In the traditional varna order they are ranked as Kshatriya. Community endogamy and nakh and dudh exogamy are the rule. Junior levirate is allowed. Child marriage has been replaced by post-puberty marriage. Selection of match is ﬁnalised with the performance sagai (betrothal). Marriage is solemnized at bride's place. The bride and the groom take phera (circulations of sacred ﬁre). Garuda Brahman performs the job of priest. A feast is arranged by the bride's parents. The consummation of marriage is held at groom's house. Monogamy is the prevalent practice. Polygamy is permissible in case of barrenness of the wife. Bora (toe ring), aonla and pajeb (silver anklet) are the marriage symbols for women. Bride price is paid in cash and in kind. Post-marital residence is patrilocal. Divorce is permitted. Either the spouses can initiate its proceedings. Remarriage is allowed for widow, widower and divorcee. Remarriage of a woman is called nata consisting of only a bief formality. However in case a widower is marrying an unmarried girl than the marriage is solemnised with phera and in detail. The prevalent type of family is extended type followed by nuclear family. The male member holds the authority and decision-making power. In a family the relation between father-in-law and daughter-in-law and that between brother-in-law (husband's elder brother) and sister-in-law (younger brother's wife) is of avoidance. Joking relations exist between elder brother's wife and husband's younger brother and also among elder sister's husband and wife's younger sister. Property is inherited in the male line and male equigeniture is the norm. Authority succeeds from father to the eldest son. Inter-family linkages among the community people are maintained through mutual help and cooperation.
The women in normal circumstances do not go out for earning. Household work and looking after the children is their main responsibility. They participate in social and religious activities but have no role in socio-political organization of the community. They bring potable water, collect ﬁrewood, in family as well as in society women are subordinate to men. After delivery. sutak (pollution period) is observed for soa-mahina(five weeks) during which the mother and the baby are kept conﬁned in a room. The pollution period for the family members end with suraj pujan. Name of the child is selected on that day. After five weeks jarhula (tonsure) is done in case of male child. Among the Nayak dead are cremated. The corpse is taken to the samsan (crematorium) on arthi (wooden bier). The widow of the deceased gives up her marriage symbols on the arthi. The corpse is placed on the pyre with its head to the east. Eldest son acts as chief mourner, who lights the pyre. On the third day unburnt bones and ashes are collected which are disposed of at Haridwar. Sutak (death pollution) is observed for twelve days which ends with kriya (death rites). The funeral feast arranged on this day is attended by kins and caste men. The succession rites are performed for the eldest son in the evening. The Nayak by religion are Hindu. Pabuji is their main deity. He is believed to be the incarnation of God. They also worship Gogaji, Ramdevji, Shivji, Kalka (Kali) mata, Nagechi Mate, Bheruji, Karni mata etc. They have kula devi (lineage goddess). Besides, Nagechi is their community goddess. They go to pilgrimage to Runecha (Jaisalmer), Gangaji at Haridwar etc. Gauda Brahman acts as sacred specialist in their life cycle rituals. Holi, Deepavali, Rakshabandhan, Gangaur etc. are their major festivals. The community have the oral tradition of songs and tales. During festivals and in marriage women sing folk songs. The Nayak have traditional linkages with Garuda Brahmans, Dholi, Nai, who offer them priestly and other specialized services. They accept water and cooked food from the all the clean castes and vice versa. But do not accept the same from Sansi, Meghwal, etc. Putative kinship is maintained with whom they have commensal relations. They share water source with other communities in the locality. They have access to schools, temples etc. They use both traditional and modern medicare system. They have favorable attitude towards family planning. Hand pump and tap water are their sources of drinking water.
- People of India, Volume II, edited by K.S Singh.