The Kachwaha are a caste group with origins in India. Traditionally they were peasants involved in agriculture but in the 20th century they began to make claims of being a Rajput clan. Some families within the caste did rule a number of kingdoms and princely states, such as Alwar, Amber (later called Jaipur) and Maihar.
The Kachwaha are sometimes referred to as Kushwaha. This umbrella term is used to represent at least four communities with similar occupational backgrounds, all of whom claim descent from the mythological Suryavansh (Solar) dynasty via Kusha, who was one of the twin sons of Rama and Sita. Previously, they had worshipped Shiva and Shakta.
The modern-day Kushwaha community, of which the Kachwaha form a part, generally claim descent from Kusha, a son of the mythological avatar of Vishnu, Rama. This enables their claim to be of the Suryavansh dynasty but it is a myth of origin developed in the twentieth century. Prior to that time, the various branches that form the Kushwah community - the Kachwahas, Kachhis, Koeris, and Muraos - favoured a connection with Shiva and Shakta.
Ganga Prasad Gupta claimed in the 1920s that Kushwah families worshiped Hanuman - described by Pinch as "the embodiment of true devotion to Ram and Sita" - during Kartika, a month in the Hindu lunar calendar.
A Kachwaha family ruled at Amber, which later became known as the Jaipur State, and this branch is sometimes referred to as being Rajput. They were chiefs at Amber and in 1561 sought support from Akbar, the Mughal emperor. The then chief, Bharamail Kachwaha, was formally recognised as a Raja and was invested into the Mughal nobility in return for him giving his daughter to Akbar's harem. A governor was appointed to oversee Bharamail's territory and a tribute arrangement saw Bharamail given a salaried rank, paid for from a share of the area's revenue. The Rajput practice of giving daughters to the Mughal emperors in return for recognition as nobility and the honour of fighting on behalf of the Empire originated in this arrangement and thus the Mughals were often able to assert their dominance over Rajput chiefs in north India without needing to physically intimidate them, especially after their rout of rulers in Gondwana.
The Kushwaha were traditionally a peasant community and considered to be of the stigmatised Shudra varna. Pinch describes them as "skilled agriculturalists". The traditional perception of Shudra status was increasingly challenged during the later decades of British Raj rule, although various castes had made claims of a higher status well before the British administration instituted its first census.[a] Pinch describes that "The concern with personal dignity, community identity, and caste status reached a peak among Kurmi, Yadav, and Kushvaha peasants in the first four decades of the twentieth century."
From around 1910, the Kachhis and the Koeris, both of whom for much of the preceding century had close links with the British as a consequence of their favoured role in the cultivation of the opium poppy, began to identify themselves as Kushwaha Kshatriya. An organisation claiming to represent those two groups and the Muraos petitioned for official recognition as being of the Kshatriya varna in 1928. This action by the All India Kushwaha Kshatriya Mahasabha (AIKKM) reflected the general trend for social upliftment by communities that had traditionally been classified as being Shudra. The process, which M. N. Srinivas called sanskritisation, was a feature of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century caste politics.
The position of the AIKKM was based on the concept of Vaishnavism, which promoted the worship and claims of descent from Rama or Krishna as a means to assume the trappings of Kshatriya symbolism and thus permit the wearing of the sacred thread even though the physical labour inherent in their cultivator occupations intrinsically defined them as Shudra. The movement caused them to abandon their claims to be descended from Shiva in favour of the alternate myth that claimed descent from Rama. In 1921, Ganga Prasad Gupta, a proponent of Kushwaha reform, had published a book offering a proof of the Kshatriya status of the Koeri, Kachhi, Murao and Kachwaha. His reconstructed history argued that the Kushwaha were Hindu descendants of Kush and that in the twelfth century they had served Raja Jaichand in a military capacity during the period of Muslim consolidation of the Delhi Sultanate. Subsequent persecution by the victorious Muslims caused the Kushwaha kshatryia to disperse and disguise their identity, foregoing the sacred thread and thereby becoming degraded and taking on various localised community names. Gupta's attempt to prove Kshatriya status, in common with similar attempts by others to establish histories of various castes, was spread via the caste associations, which Dipankar Gupta describes as providing a link between the "urban, politically literate elite" and the "less literate villagers". Some communities also constructed temples in support of these claims as, for example, did the Muraos in Ayodhya.
Some Kushwaha reformers also argued, in a similar vein to the Kurmi reformer Devi Prasad Sinha Chaudhari, that since Brahmans and also Kshatriya Rajputs and Bhumihars worked the fields in some areas, there was no rational basis for assertions that such labour marked a community as being of the Shudra varna.
- Jai Singh I
- Ramsingh I
- Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II
- Maharaj Sawai Madhosingh I
- Maharaja Sawai Pratapsingh
- Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II
- Maharaja Sawai Bhawani Singh
- Rao Shekha
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