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Rajput

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For the 1982 film, see Rajput (film).
Rajput

Rajpoots 2.png

An 1876 engraving of the Rajputs of Rajputana, from the Illustrated London News
Classification Forward caste
Religions Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism
Languages Indo-Aryan languages
Populated States The Indian subcontinent, particularly North India, West India, Central India, Sindh, Pakistan

Rajput (from Sanskrit raja-putra, "son of a king"[1]) is a member of the patrilineal clans of the Indian subcontinent. They rose to prominence from the late 6th century CE, and, until the 20th century, the Rajput rulers dominated many regions of central and northern India.

The Rajput population and the former Rajput states are found spread across India where they are spread in north, west and central India. In Pakistan they are found on the eastern parts of the country. These areas include Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Jammu, Chattisgarh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Sindh.

History

Chandramahal in City Palace, Jaipur, built by Kachwaha Rajputs.

Origins

The origin of the Rajputs is the subject of debate. Writers such as M. S. Naravane and V. P. Malik believe that the term was not used to designate a particular tribe or social group earlier than the 6th century AD, as there is no mention of the term in the historical record as pertaining to a social group prior to that time.[2] One theory espouses that with the collapse of the Gupta empire from the late 6th century, the invading Hephthalites (White Huns) were probably integrated within Indian society. Leaders and nobles from among the invaders were assimilated into the Kshatriya ritual rank in the Hindu varna system, while others who followed and supported them – such as the Ahirs, Gurjars and Jats – were ranked as cultivators. At the same time, some indigenous tribes were ranked as Rajput, examples of which are the Bhatis, Bundelas, Chandelas and Rathors. Encyclopaedia Britannica notes that Rajputs "... actually vary greatly in status, from princely lineages, such as the Guhilot and Kachwaha, to simple cultivators."[1] Aydogdy Kurbanov says that the assimilation was specifically between the Hephthalites, Gurjars, and people from northwestern India, forming the Rajput community.[3] Pradeep Barua also believes that Rajputs have foreign origins, he says their practice of asserting Kshatriya status was followed by other Indian groups thereby establishing themselves as Rajputs.[4] According to most authorities, successful claims to Rajput status frequently were made by groups that achieved secular power; probably that is how the invaders from Central Asia as well as patrician lines of indigenous tribal peoples were absorbed.[1]

Rajput kingdoms

During their centuries-long rule, the Rajputs constructed several palaces. Shown here is the Junagarh Fort in Bikaner, Rajasthan, which was built by the Rathore Rajputs.
An inside view of the museum in Umarkot Fort built by Sodha Rajputs in present-day Sindh, Pakistan.[5]

From the beginning of the 7th century, Rajput dynasties dominated North India, including areas now in Pakistan, and the many petty Rajput kingdoms became the primary obstacle to the complete Muslim conquest of Hindu north India.[1] In the 1020s, the Rajput rulers of Gwalior and Kalinjar raised a successful defence against the attacks of Mahmud of Ghazni, Although Mahmud could not subdue the Rajput forts but the two cities did pay him tribute.[6] Thereafter, in the late 12th century Muhammad of Ghor attempted to invade Gujarat but was defeated by the Solanki dynasty of Rajputs.[7] 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.[8] Even after the Muslim conquest of the regions in Punjab and the Ganges River valley, the Rajputs maintained their independence in Rajasthan and the forests of central India. Later, Sultan Alauddin Khilji of the Delhi Sultanate took the two Rajput forts of Chittor and Ranthambhor in eastern Rajasthan in the 14th century but could not hold them for long.[1]

In the 15th century, the Muslim sultans of Malwa Sultanate and the Gujarat Sultanate put a joint effort to overcome Rana Kumbha but both the sultans were defeated.[9] 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.[10][11] 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.[12]

From as early as the 16th century, Purbiya Rajput soldiers from the eastern regions of Bihar and Awadh, were recruited as mercenaries for Rajputs in the west, particularly in the Malwa region.[13]

After the mid-16th century, many Rajput rulers formed close relationships with the Mughal emperors and served them in different capacities.[14][15] Some Rajput nobles married their daughters to Mughal emperors for political motives.[16][17][18][19] For example, Akbar accomplished 40 marriages for him, his sons and grandsons, out of which 17 were Rajput-Mughal alliances.[20] Akbar's successors as Mogul emperors, his son Jahangir and grandson Shah Jahan had Rajput mothers.[21] 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.[22] The Rana of Mewar Pratap Singh had successfully resisted the efforts of Akbar to subdue the Mewar kingdom.[23]

It was due to the support of the Rajputs that Akbar was able to lay the foundations of the Mughal empire in India.[24] However, 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.[24] 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.[1][24]

In the 18th century, the Rajputs came under influence of the Maratha empire.[1][25][26]

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.[27]

British colonial period

Mayo College was established by the British government in 1875 at Ajmer, Rajputana to educate Rajput princes and other nobles.
Chittorgarh Fort, built by a dynasty of Sisodia Rajputs, is one of the largest forts in India.
The Derawar Fort built by a Hindu dynasty of Bhatti Rajputs,[28] in modern-day Bahawalpur, Pakistan.

According to historian Virbhadra Singhji, Rajputs ruled in the "overwhelming" majority of the princely states of Rajasthan and Saurashtra in the British Raj era. These regions also contained the largest concentration of princely states in India, including over 200 in Saurashtra alone.[29]

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.[30][31] Jason Freitag, his only significant biographer, has said that Tod is "manifestly biased".[32]

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.[33]

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.[34]

Independent India

On India's independence in 1947, the princely states, including those of the Rajput, were given three choices: 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.[35] 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.[36]

In 1951, the Rajput Rana dynasty of Nepal came to an end, having been the power behind the throne of the Shah dynasty figureheads since 1846.[37]

The Rajput Dogra dynasty of Kashmir and Jammu also came to an end in 1947.[38] though title was retained until monarchy was abolished in 1971 by the 26th amendment to the Constitution of India.[39]

The Rajputs are today considered to be a Forward Caste in India's system of positive discrimination. This means that they receive no special treatment by government bodies because forward castes are considered to be inherently privileged groups. [40] However, some Rajputs too like other agricultural castes demand reservations in Government jobs, which so far is not heeded to by the Government of India.[41][42][43][44]

Subdivisions

Main article: Rajput clans

There are several major subdivisions of Rajputs, known as vansh or vamsha, the step below the super-division jāti[45] These vansh delineate claimed descent from various sources, and the Rajput are generally considered to be divided into three primary vansh:[46] Suryavanshi denotes descent from the solar deity Surya, Chandravanshi from the lunar deity Chandra, and Agnivanshi from the fire deity Agni.[47] The four prominent clans in the post-Gupta period - Chauhans, Paramaras, Pratiharas and Solankis – all claimed their mythological origin to have been from a sacrificial fire at Mount Abu.[4]

Lesser-noted vansh include Udayvanshi, Rajvanshi,[48] and Rishivanshi.[49] The histories of the various vanshs were later recorded in documents known as vamshāavalīis; André Wink counts these among the "status-legitimizing texts".[50]

A contingent of the Rajput Regiment of the Indian Army, during the Republic day parade.

Beneath the vansh division are smaller and smaller subdivisions: kul, shakh ("branch"), khamp or khanp ("twig"), and nak ("twig tip").[51] 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.[52]

Culture and ethos

A Rajput Khanda

The Rajputs were designated as a Martial Race in the period of the British Raj.[53] 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,[54] whilst the remainder were those whom the British believed to be unfit for battle because of their sedentary lifestyles.[55]

Rajput lifestyle

The double-edged scimitar known as the khanda was a popular weapon among the Rajputs of that era. 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".[56] The Rajput of Rajasthan also offer a sacrifice of water buffalo or goat to their family Goddess ( Kuldevta) during Navaratri.[57] 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.[58]

Rajputs generally have adopted the custom of purdah (seclusion of women).[1]

By the late 19th century, there was a shift of focus among Rajputs from politics to a concern with kinship.[59] 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.[60]

Rajput diet

The Anthropological Survey of India identified that in Gujarat, Hindu Rajputs are 'by and large' non-vegetarians, regular drinkers of alcohol, and also smoke and chew betel leaves.[61] These traits are also followed by Rajputs of Rajasthan with mutton, chicken and fish being consumed; and also pork (which historically dates back to the predilection for Rajput warriors and princes to hone their fighting skills by hunting and eating wild-pig).[62] In Pakistan, Muslim Rajputs are non-vegetarians, and prefer goat mutton and other forms of meat except pork.

Rajput Careers

Armed Forces

There is a significant population of Rajputs in Pakistan and Indian Armed forces. They thrive well in occupations that demand valor and bravery.

In India army there is a Rajput Regiment called Rajputana Rifles.

Rajput politics

A royal Rajput procession, mural at the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur.[63]

Rajput politics refers to the role played by the Rajput community in the electoral politics of India.[64][65] 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.[66][67][68]

Arts

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".[69]

Rajput painting varied geographically, corresponding to each of the various Rajput kingdoms and regions. The Delhi area, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Central India each had its own variant.[70]

See also

References

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Further reading

  • M K A Siddiqui (ed.), Marginal Muslim Communities in India, Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi (2004)
  • Dasharatha Sharma Rajasthan through the Ages a comprehensive and authentic history of Rajasthan, prepared under the orders of the Government of Rajasthan. First published 1966 by Rajasthan Archives.

External links