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Contents

Castes of India
Rajput
Classification Kshatriyas (Warriors)
Religions Hinduism, Muslim, Sikh
Language Indo-Aryan languages
Populated States The Indian subcontinent, particularly North India
 An 1876 engraving of Khokhar Rajputs of Punjab, from the Illustrated London News Mayo College was opened by the British Government in 1875 at Ajmer, Rajputana to educate Rajput princes and other nobles. On the left are four Rajput princes, and on their right is a Muslim classmate.

 

A Rajput is a member of one of the major Kshatriya (warrior) groups of India and a ruling class of the Indian subcontinent. They enjoy a reputation as soldiers; many of them serve in the Indian Armed Forces and Pakistani Armed Forces. During the British Raj, the Government accepted them and recruited them heavily into their armies. Current-day Rajasthan is home to most of the Rajputs, although demographically the Rajput population and the former Rajput states are found spread through much the subcontinent, particularly in North India and central India. Populations are found in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh.

Rajputs rose to prominence during the 6th to 12th centuries and Rajputs ruled until the 20th century in most of the princely states. They are divided into three major lineages. The four Agnivanshi clans, namely the Pratiharas (Pariharas), Solankis (Chaulukyas), Paramaras (Parmars) and Chauhans (Chahamanas), rose to prominence first. Rajputs ruled more than 400 of the estimated 600 princely states and 81 of the 121 Salute states extant at the time of India's independence in 1947.

History

During their centuries-long rule of northern India, the Rajputs constructed several palaces. Shown here is the Chandramahal in Jaipur, Rajasthan, which was built by Kachwaha Rajputs

Early history (6th to 8th centuries)

The Rai Dynasty, who ruled Sindh in the 6th and 7th centuries and were displaced by an Arab invasion led by Muhammad bin Qasim, is sometimes held to have been Rajput. According to some sources, Bin Qasim] also attacked Chittorgarh, and was defeated by Bappa Rawal. Certain other invasions by marauding Yavvanas (literally: "Ionian/Greek") are recorded in this era. The appellation Yavvana was used to describe any tribe that emerged from the west or northwest of present-day Pakistan. These invasions may therefore have been a continuation of the usual invasions into India by warlike but less civilized tribes from the northwest, and not a reference specifically to Greeks or Indo-Greeks. Lalitaditya Muktapida of Kashmir defeated one such Yavvana invasion in the 8th century and the Gurjara-Pratihara empire rebuffed another in the 9th century.

Rajput kingdoms (8th to 11th centuries)

The first Rajput kingdoms date back to the 7th century, and it was during the 9th to 11th centuries that the Rajputs rose to prominence. The four Agnivanshi clans, namely the Pariharas (of the Pratihara), Solankis (of the Chalukya dynasty), Paramaras, and Chahamanas of the Chauhans rose to prominence first, establishing territories and creating kingdoms.

A water reservoir inside Chittorgarh Fort as seen in 2006

Bappa Rawal of the Gahlot dynasty established his rule in 734 CE at Chittor. Chittor was until that time ruled by the Mori clan of Rajputs. Maan Mori was their last king at Chittor. It is believed the word Mori is a corruption of Maurya, the dynasty of Ashoka (ruled 269 to 232 BCE).

The Kachwahas or Kacchapghata dynasty were originally from Bihar; they founded Gwalior and Narwar in the 8th century. One of their descendants, Dulah Rai (grandson of Raja Isha Singh and son of Prince Sodh Dev of Narwar) established his rule in Dhundhar in the 11th century.

The imperial Pratiharas established their rule over Malwa and ruled from the cities of Bhinmal and Ujjaini in the 8th and 9th centuries. One branch of the clan established a state in Mandore in the Marwar region in 6th and 7th centuries where they held sway until they were supplanted by the Rathores in the 14th century. Around 816 CE, the Pratiharas of Ujjain conquered Kannauj, and from this city they ruled much of northern India for a century. They went into decline after Rashtrakuta invasions in the early 10th century.

The Chandela clan ruled Bundelkhand after the 10th century, occupying the fortress of Kalinjar; they later built the temples at Khajuraho.

The organization of Rajput clans crystallized in this period. Intermarriage among the Rajput clans interlinked the various regions of India and Pakistan, facilitating the flow of trade and scholarship. Archaeological evidence and contemporary texts suggest that Indian society achieved significant prosperity during this era.

The literature composed in this period, both in Sanskrit and in the Apabhramshas, constitutes a substantial segment of classical Indian literature. The early 11th century saw the reign of the polymath King Bhoja, Paramara ruler of Malwa. He was not only a patron of literature and the arts but was a distinguished writer. His Samarangana-sutradhara deals with architecture and his Raja-Martanda is a commentary on the Yoga–sutras. Many major monuments of northern and central India, including those at Khajuraho, date from this period.

Islamic invasions (11th to 12th centuries)

Mehrangarh Fort, the ancient home of the Rathore rulers of Marwar in Rajasthan

The fertile and prosperous plains of northern India had always been a destination of choice for streams of invaders coming from the northwest. The last of these waves of invasions were of tribes who had previously converted to Islam. For geographic reasons, Rajput-ruled states suffered the brunt of aggression from various Mongol–Turkic–Afghan warlords who repeatedly invaded the subcontinent. In his New History of India Stanley Wolpert wrote, "The Rajputs were the vanguard of Hindu India in the face of the Islamic onslaught."

Within 15 years of the death of the Muhammad in 632, the caliph Uthman sent a sea expedition to raid Thana and Broach on the Bombay coast. Other unsuccessful raiding expeditions to Sindh took place in 662 and 664 CE. Within a hundred years after Muhammad's death, Muslim armies had overrun much of Asia as far as the Hindu Kush; however, it was not until c. 1000 CE that they established any foothold in India.

In the early 11th century, Mahmud of Ghazni conquered the Hindu Shahi kingdom in the Punjab. His raids into northern India weakened the Pratihara kingdom, which was drastically reduced in size and came under the control of the Chandelas. In 1018 CE, Mahmud sacked the city of Kannauj, seat of the Pratihara kingdom, but withdrew immediately to Ghazni, being interested in booty rather than empire. In the ensuing chaos, the Gahadvala dynasty established a modest state centered around Kannauj, ruling for about a hundred years. They were defeated by Muhammad of Ghor, who sacked the city in 1194 CE.

Meanwhile, a nearby state centered around present-day Delhi was ruled successively by the Tomara and Chauhan clans. Prithiviraj III, ruler of Delhi, defeated Muhammad of Ghor at the First Battle of Tarain (1191 CE). Muhammad returned the following year and defeated Prithviraj at the Second Battle of Tarain (1192 CE). In this battle, as in many others of this era, rampant internecine conflict among Rajput kingdoms facilitated the victory of the invaders.

In the late 11th century a battle between Parmal and Prithviraj III took place in Mahoba, a small town in Uttar Pradesh. Alha and Udal were the generals of Parmal's army, who fought bravely but lost the battle. The descendants of Alha are Ahirwar Rajput.

Medieval Rajput states (12th to 16th centuries)

Prithviraj Chauhan proved to be the last Rajput ruler of Delhi. The Chauhans, led by Govinda, grandson of Prithviraj, later established a small state centered around Ranthambore in present-day Rajasthan. The Songara branch of the Chauhan clan later ruled Jalore, while the Hada branch established their rule over the Hadoti region in the mid-13th century. The Rever Maharaja Ranavghansinh ruled Taranga in the 11th century. The Tomaras later established themselves at Gwalior, and the ruler Man Singh built the fortress which still stands there. Muhammad's armies brought down the Gahadvala kingdom in 1194 CE. Some surviving members of the Gahadvala dynasty are said to have refugeed to the western desert, formed the Rathore clan, and later founded the state of Marwar. The Kachwaha clan came to rule Dhundhar (later Jaipur) with their capital at Amber.

Other relocations surmised to have occurred in this period include the emigration of Rajput clans to the Himalayas. The Katoch clan, the Chauhans of Chamba and certain clans of Uttarakhand and Nepal are counted among this number.

Conflict with the Sultanate

The Delhi Sultanate was founded by Qutb ud din Aybak, Muhammad of Ghor's successor, in the early 13th century. Sultan Ala ud din Khilji conquered Gujarat (1297), Malwa (1305), Ranthambore (1301), Chittorgarh (1303), Jalore, and Bhinmal (1311). All were conquered after long sieges and fierce resistance from their Rajput defenders.

The "First Jauhar" occurred during the siege of Chittor (1303). Jauhar is the mass self-immolation of the female population to avoid capture in time of war. Concurrently, the male population would perform Saka: a fight to the death against impossible odds. The defence of Chittor by the Guhilas, the sagas of Rani Padmini, and the memory of the Jauhar have had a defining impact upon the Rajput character.

Ala ud din Khilji delegated the administration of the newly conquered areas to his principal Rajput collaborator, Maldeo Songara, ruler of Jalore. Maldeo Songara was soon displaced by his son-in-law Hammir, a scion of the lately displaced Guhila clan, who re-established the state of Mewar c. 1326 CE. Mewar was to emerge as a leading Rajput state, after Rana Kumbha expanded his kingdom at the expense of the sultanates of Malwa and Gujarat.

Mughal era (16th-18th century)

Jaipur is one of several major cities founded by Rajput rulers during the Mughal Era. This photo was taken in 2002.

The Jharokha arches, now regarded as typical of Rajput architecture, were actually brought to Rajasthan from Bengal by Rajput rulers who had served there as Mughal officers.

The Delhi sultanate was extinguished when Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi at the First Battle of Panipat in 1526. Rana Sanga, ruler of Mewar, rallied an army to challenge Babur. Rana Sanga used traditional war tactics and weapons and Babur used modern tactics and cannons, the first example of their use in northern India. Overmatched, Sanga was defeated by Babur at the Battle of Khanua on March 16, 1527. However, it was not until the reign of Akbar fifteen years later that the structure of relations between the Mughal imperium and the Rajput states began to take definitive shape.

Rana Sanga died soon after the battle of Khanua. Mewar came under the regency of his widow, Rani Karmavati. The kingdom was menaced by Bahadur Shah, ruler of Gujarat. According to one romantic legend of dubious veracity, Karmavati importuned the assistance of Humayun, son of her late husband's foe. The help arrived, but too late; Chittor was overrun by Bahadur Shah. This is the occasion for the second of the three Jauhars performed at Chittor. Karmavati led the ladies of the citadel into death by fire, while the menfolk sallied out to meet the besieging Muslim army in a hopeless fight to the death.

Mughal–Rajput alliance

Babur's son Humayun was a ruler who was forced to spend long periods in exile. His son Akbar, however, consolidated his inheritance and expanded what had been the Delhi sultanate into a wide empire. Part of the reason for his success was his inclusion of native Rajput chiefs into the ruling class of his empire. The Rajput chiefs cemented the alliance with marriages, with numerous Rajput noblewomen being wed to Mughal grandees. The Kachwahas were the first to extend matrimonial alliances with Akbar; they pioneered a trend that soon turned pervasive and played no small role in extending Rajput influence across the Indian sub-continent. Indeed, two successive Mughal emperors, Jehangir and Shah Jehan, were born to Rajput mothers.

Rajput chiefs served as Mughal officers and administrators across the Mughal Empire and enjoyed much influence in the government. In this period, the aristocratic image of the Rajputs can be said to have crystallized; consequently, caste divisions became rigid. The trend of political relations between Rajput states and the central power of the Mughal emperors was the precursor for similar relations between them and the British.

Maharana Pratap Singh of Mewar

Pratap Singh of Mewar, a 16th century Rajput ruler and great warrior. The Mughal emperor Akbar sent many missions against him. He survived to ultimately gain control of all of Mewar, excluding Chittorgarh Fort.

Udaipur City Palace Udaipur remained the capital of Mewar after the fall of Chittor until its accession in independent India.

The region of Mewar held out against the Mughal empire and gave battle to all invaders. Rana Sanga, the grand father of Rana Pratap, fought against Babur. Later, Babur's grandson Akbar attacked Chittor in 1567 CE. After a struggle, Mewar's chief citadel of Chittor finally fell to Akbar in 1568. The third (and last) Jauhar of Chittor transpired on this occasion. When the fall of the citadel became imminent, the ladies of the fort committed collective self-immolation and the men sallied out of the fort to meet the invading Muslim army in a fight to the death.

Prior to this event, Mewar's ruler, Rana Udai Singh II, had retired to the nearby hills, where he founded the new town of Udaipur. He was succeeded while in exile by his son Pratap Singh of Mewar as head of the Sisodia clan. Under the able leadership of Pratap Singh, they harassed the Mughals enough to cause them to make accommodatory overtures. Pratap Singh, a present-day Rajput icon, rebuffed these overtures of friendship from Akbar and rallied an army to meet the Mughal forces. He was defeated by the Mughal forces at the battle of Haldighati in June 1576. He escaped, and carried out a relentless guerilla struggle from his hideout in the hills, and by the time of his death, he had reconquered nearly all of his kingdom from the Mughals, except for the fortress of Chittor and Mandal Garh. He died in 1597 CE.

After Pratap's death, his son Rana Amar Singh continued the struggle for 18 years, and faced constant attacks from Mughals. He fought eighteen wars during this period. Finally he entered into a peace treaty with the Mughals but with certain exemptions: the Rana of Mewar did not have attend the Mughal court personally but the crown prince would attend the court, and it was not necessary for the Rana and the Sisodias to enter into marriage alliances with the Mughals. The treaty was signed by Rana Amar Singh and Prince Khurram Shihab-ud-din Muhammad (later Shah Jahan) in 1615 CE at Gogunda. Singh thus regained control of his state as a vassal of the Mughals. The Sisodias, rulers of Mewar, were the last Rajput dynasty to enter into an alliance with the Mughals.

Maratha empire

As the central authority of the Mughal empire disintegrated following the death of Aurangzeb, the power of the Marathas was being consolidated under the leadership of Shivaji (his grandfather, Maloji Bhonsle, claimed descent from the Sisodia clan of Rajputs). The only major defeat in Shivaji's rise to power came against the Kachwaha ruler, Mirza Raja Jai Singh I of Amber, who was commanded by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (ruled 1658-1707). When in Agra, on a visit to Aurangzeb, Shivaji was deceitfully kept under house arrest. With the assistance of Mirza Raja Jai Singh I and his son Ram Singh I, Shivaji managed to escape to the Maratha Empire.

Having been able to cross the Narmada River by 1728, Peshwa Bajirao and his successor Balaji Bajirao were able to organise military expeditions initially into Malwa and then into other parts of Hindustan. By 1760, with defeat of the Nizam in the Deccan, Maratha power had reached its zenith with a territory of over 250 million acres (1 million kmĀ²) or one-third of the Indian sub-continent. The Maratha expansion was temporarily halted after their defeat in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761. For the Rajput states of the former empire in the north of the Indian subcontinent it was a period of constantly shifting alliances and military conflicts with the various forces competing for power.

The Maratha's constant attempt to extract tribute and conduct raids greatly antagonised the people of the Rajput states and Jat community and was one of the reasons for the emergence of military alliances between the Rajput states and the East India Company by the early 19th century. In a notable incident of this period, Jayappa Scindia, one of the Maratha generals, was murdered at Nagaur while trying to collect taxes. In another incident, Ishwari Singh, ruler of Jaipur, committed suicide. The public of Jaipur was very much infuriated by this incident. On January 20, 1751, when 4,000 Maratha soldiers came on an informal visit to Jaipur, all the gates of the city were closed, and the Rajput army along with the civilian population attacked the Marathas and killed them. Almost 3,000 Marathas died. 1,000 were injured and managed to escape.

In May 1787 the Marathas suffered a defeat in the Battle of Lalsot. On June 20, 1790, the Battle of Patan was fought between the Maratha Confederacy and the Rajputs of Jaipur and their Mughal allies, in which the Rajputs suffered a severe blow. The Marathas demanded taxes and damages. The Rana of Mewar could not pay these taxes and had to mortgage some of his properties to the Scindia family to raise the funds.

The Rajput states remained loyal to the Mughals. But the Mughals changed their liberal policy towards Rajputs and other Hindus, resulting in a major Hindu revolt by the Sikhs, Jats, Marathas, Satnamis and Rajputs. The outrage ultimately weakened the Mughal empire irreparably. At the last the emperor became merely a nominal head. Mughals fought among themselves and Rajputs were unjustifiably held responsible for the fighting. In this uncertainty and chaos the Rajputs chose to begin to withdraw their support from the Mughals. Whether they physically supported the Mughals with troops depended upon their own interests and the status quo of the respective states. This became the main concern of the rulers of Delhi and other Rajput states, rather than the reemergence of a powerful Mughal regime. The English East India Company established control in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey, where they defeated the Nawab of Bengal. After a period of chaos and unrest culminating in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Queen Victoria was declared Empress of India on 1 May 1876, officially supplanting the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah II and the rule of the East India Company. This ushered in a new age of British empire in India which would last until Indian Independence in 1947.

The British Raj

The Maratha Confederacy began to be in conflict with the British Raj beginning in 1772. After the Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817–1818), 18 states in the Rajputana region, of which 15 were ruled by Rajputs, entered into subsidiary alliance with the East India Company and became princely states under the British Raj. The British took direct control of Ajmer, which became the province of Ajmer-Merwara. A large number of other Rajput states in central and western India made a similar transition. Most of them were placed under the authority of the Central India Agency and the various states' agencies of Kathiawar.

The British colonial officials in general were impressed by the military qualities of the Rajputs. In his Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan James Tod writes:

Rajput army officers with British army officers in 1936

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? ... Rajast'han exhibits the sole example in the history of mankind, of a people withstanding every outrage barbarity could inflict, or human nature sustain, from a foe whose religion commands annihilation; and bent to the earth, yet rising buoyant from the pressure, and making calamity a whetstone to courage .... Not an iota of their religion or customs have they lost ...

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In reference to the role of the Rajput soldiers serving under the British banner, Captain A. H. Bigley states:

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.

Bingley went on to describe the role of the Rajput infantries in the Gurkha War (1814 to 1816) and the Anglo-Afghan Wars, and stated that the Rajput troops were instrumental in the victory of the Anglo-Sikh wars in Punjab. He detailed the role the Rajput troopers in the Egyptian campaign of 1882 as well as their victorious action in the Third Anglo-Burmese War of 1885. The Rajputs retained their principal role in Indian society, serving in armies wherever necessary throughout this period, as they do to this day. Rajput soldiers remain an integral part in the armies of India and Pakistan.

When India gained its independence in 1947, the Rajput states acceded unto the Dominion of India and Pakistan.

Identity and major clans

The Sanskrit word Rajputra is found in ancient texts, including the Vedas, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. It was used by the ancient Sanskrit grammarian Pāį¹‡ini in the 4th century BCE. The word Kshatriya ("warrior") was used for the Vedic community of warriors and rulers. To differentiate royal warriors from other Kshatriyas the word Rajputra was used, which literally means "son of a king." Rajputra eventually was shortened to Rajput; gradually it became a caste.

Rajputs belong to one of three great patrilineages, which are Suryavanshi, Chandravanshi and Agnivanshi.

Suryavanshi lineage: the sun

The Suryavanshi, which means Sun Dynasty, claim descent from Surya, the solar deity. The Sun Dynasty is oldest among Kshatriyas. The first person of this dynasty was Vivasvan, which means the Fire Bird. Ikshvaku was the first important king of this dynasty. Other important kings were Kakutsth Harishchandra, Sagar, Dileepa, Bhagiratha, Raghu, Dashratha, and Rama. The poet Kalidasa wrote the great epic Raghuvaį¹ƒÅ›a about the dynasty of Raghu. Rajput Suryavanshi clans that claim descent from Rama are the Raghav (Raghuvanshi)s, Jamwals, Sisodias, Rathores, Bargujars, Minhass and the Kachwahas.

Chandravanshi lineage: the moon

The Chandravanshi, which means Moon Dynasty, claim descent from Chandra, the lunar deity. This Lunar Dynasty is very ancient, but is younger than the Sun Dynasty. Som was the first king of this dynasty. Other important kings were Pururawa, Nahush, Yayati, Dushyant, Bharata, Kuru, Shantanu, and Yudhishthir. The ancient text Harivamsa gives details of this dynasty and the Suryavanshi.

The Yaduvanshi lineage, claiming descent from the Hindu god Krishna and from Yadu, eldest son of Yayati, are a major sect of the Chandravanshi. Rajput Chandravanshi clans that claim descent from Krishna and Yadu are the Bhati, Doad, Jadaun, Jadeja, and Yadu.

Agnivanshi lineage: fire

The Agnivanshi lineage claims descent from Agni, the Vedic God of Fire. They were the earliest lineage to rise to political prominence. The legend which addresses the origin of the Agnivanshi Rajputs is disputed. According to Puranic legend, as found in Bhavishya Purana (an ancient religious text), many but not all of the traditional kshatriyas of the land were exterminated by Parashurama, an avatara of Vishnu. The sage Vasishta performed a great a yagna (ritual of sacrifice) at Mount Abu, at the time of emperor Ashoka's sons (Ashoka died around 232 BCE). From the influence of mantras of the four Vedas, four kshatriyas were born. They were the founders of the four Agnivanshi clans:

  1. Parmar (Paramara)

  2. Chamahanas (Chauhan)

  3. Solanki (Chalukya)

  4. Parihara (Pratihara)

Only these four clans out of the many Rajput clans are considered to be Agnivanshi.

Some scholars also count Nagavanshi and Rishivanshi to be Agnivanshi.[citation needed]

Consciousness of clan and lineage

The aforementioned three patrilineages (vanshas) sub-divide into 36 main clans (kulas), which in turn divide into numerous branches (shakhas), to create the intricate clan system of the Rajputs. The principle of patrilineage is staunchly adhered to in determining one's place in the system and a strong consciousness of clan and lineage is an essential part of the Rajput character. Authoritative listings of the 36 Rajput clans are to be found in the Kumārpāla Charita of Jayasimha and the epic poem Prithvirāj Rāso of Chandbardai.

Demographics

1931 census

The 1931 census reported a total of 10.7 million people self-describing as Rajput. Of this population, about 8.6 million people also self-described as being Hindu, about 2.1 million as being Muslim Rajput and about 50,000 as being Sikh Rajput.

The United Provinces (being approximately present-day Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand combined) reported the largest population of Rajputs, at 3,756,936. The (then united) province of Bihar and Orissa, corresponding to the present-day states of Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand, reported a Rajput population of 1,412,440. Rajputana, which was almost co-terminus with the present-day state of Rajasthan, reported a figure of 669,516. The Central Provinces and Berar reported a figure of 506,087, the princely state of Gwalior of 393,076, the Central India Agency of 388,942, the Bombay Presidency of 352,016, the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir of 256,020, and the Western India States Agency of 227,137 Rajputs. The undivided province of Bengal (including present-day Bangladesh) reported a figure of 156,978 Rajputs. The princely states of Baroda and Hyderabad reported figures of 94,893 and 88,434 respectively.

Current population

As a forward class, Rajputs have not been counted as a caste in the official census in the Republic of India. There are some estimates by private organizations. The Joshua Project as of 2009 estimates 41 million Hindu Rajputs, 18 million Muslim Rajputs and 0.8 million Sikh Rajputs, or some 60 million in total.

Rajputs typically speak whatever languages are spoken by the general population of the areas in which they live. Hindi and Rajasthani are the primary languages, as most are situated in Hindi-speaking states, but Gujarati is also spoken among Rajputs residing in Gujarat.

Culture and ethos

A talwar sword, developed under Persian influence in the Mughal period, replaced the khanda sword characteristic of the medieval period.

The Rajputs were designated by the British as a "Martial Race." The martial race was a designation created by officials of British India to describe "races" (ethnic groups) that were thought to be naturally warlike and aggressive in battle and to possess qualities like courage, loyalty, self sufficiency, physical strength, resilience, orderliness, a hard working nature, a fighting tenacity, and military strategy. The British recruited heavily from these "martial races" for service in the colonial army.[1][2]

Jauhar and Saka

All recorded instances of jauhar and saka have featured Rajput defenders of a fort resisting the invasion of an enemy force. When defeat in a siege became certain, the ladies of the fort would commit collective self-immolation (Jauhar). Wearing their wedding dresses, and holding their young children by the hand, the women would commit themselves to the flames of a massive, collective pyre, thereby escaping molestation and dishonour at the hands of the invading army. As a memorial of their act, the women would leave the imprint of the palm of their right hands on wet clay. These imprints have become objects of veneration. This immolation would occur during the night, to the accompaniment of Vedic chants. Early the next morning, after taking a bath, the men would wear saffron-colored garments, apply the ash from the pyres of their wives and children on their foreheads, and put a tulsi leaf in their mouth. Then the gates would be opened and men would ride out for one final, hopeless battle (performing Saka), in which death was certain. The historic fort of Chittor, the seat of the Sisodia kingdom of Mewar, was the site of the three most famous jauhars recorded in history.

Rajput lifestyle

The Rajput lifestyle was designed to foster a martial spirit, with men even forging a bond with their sword.[3] 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. The Karga Shapna ritual,[clarification needed] performed during the annual Navaratri festival, was another affirmation of the Rajput's reverence for his sword.

By the late 19th century, there was a shift of focus among Rajputs from politics to a concern with kinship.[4] Many Rajputs of Rajasthan are nostalgic about their past and keenly conscious of their genealogy, emphasizing a Rajput ethos that is martial in spirit, with a fierce pride in lineage and tradition.[5]

The tradition of common ancestry permits a poor Rajput yeoman to consider himself as well born as any powerful landholder of his clan, and superior to any high official of the professional classes. No race in India can boast of finer feats of arms or brighter deeds of chivalry, and they form one of the main recruiting fields for the Indian army of the day. They consider any occupation other than that of arms or government derogatory to their dignity, and consequently during the long period of peace which has followed the establishment of the British rule in India, they have been content to stay idle at home instead of taking up any of the other professions in which they might have come to the front.[6]

Jal Mahal in Jaipur, an example of Rajput architecture.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Glossary of the tribes and castes of the Punjab and NWFP, H. A. Rose

  2. ^ Luscombe, Stephen. "Land Forces of the British Empire". britishempire.co.uk. https://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armyunits/indianinfantry/indianinfantry1903.htm. Retrieved 2010-07-28.

  3. ^ Tod (1829)

  4. ^ Kasturi 2002:2

  5. ^ Harlan (1992:27)

  6. ^ EncyclopƦdia Britannica (1911 edition)

Sources

Further reading

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