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Kshatriya (Hindi :क्षत्रिय, kṣatriya from Sanskrit :क्षत्र, kṣatra) is one of the four varnas (social orders) in Hinduism. It constitutes the military and ruling order of the traditional Vedic-Hindu social system as outlined by the Vedas and the Laws of Manu. Lord Rama belonged to this social order.
Initially in ancient Vedic society, this position was achieved on the merits of a person's aptitude (Sam), conduct (Sam), and nature (Sam). The earliest Vedic literature listed the Kshatriya (holders of kṣatra, or authority) as second in rank, after the Brahmins (priests and teachers of law), before the Vaisya (merchant-traders, farmers and some artisan castes), and the Sudra (labourers, some farming castes and other artisan castes). Movements of individuals and groups from one class to another, both upward and downward, were not uncommon; a rise in status even to the rank of Kshatriya was a recognized reward for outstanding service to the rulers of the day. Over the years it became hereditary. In modern times, the Kshatriya varna includes a broad class of caste groups, differing considerably in status and function but united by their claims to rulership, the pursuit of war, or the possession of land.
The legend that the Kshatriyas, with the exception of the Ikshvakus, were destroyed by Parasurama, the sixth reincarnation of Vishnu, as a punishment for their tyranny is thought by some scholars to reflect a long struggle for supremacy between priests and rulers that ended in victory for the former. By the end of the Vedic era, the Brahmins were supreme, and the Kshatriya had fallen to second place. Texts such as the Manusmṛti (a book of Hindu law) and most other dharmashastras (works of jurisprudence) report a Brahman victory, but epic texts often offer a different account, and it is likely that in social reality rulers have usually ranked first. The persistent representation of deities (especially Vishnu, Krishna, and Rama) as rulers underscores the point, as does the elaborate series of ritual roles and privileges pertaining to kings through most of Hindu history.. With the rise of Buddhism, Kshatriyas regained their position as first of the four varnas. The murder of the last Maurya emperor Brhadrata by his Brahmin general Pusyamitra Sunga, and the subsequent decline of Buddhism in India, marked Brahmin supremacy once more in Eastern India. Western India remained a stronghold of Kshatriya clans as epitomized by Rajputana and the powerful Kshatriya empire that ruled from Ujjain right up to the Islamic incursions led to a downfall of the Chauhan Kshatriyas in Delhi.
In Sanskrit, it is derived from kṣatra, meaning "dominion, power, government" from a root kṣī "to rule, govern, possess". Old Persian xšaθra ("realm, power"), xšaθrya ("royal"), and xšāyaθiya ("emperor") are related to it, as are the New Persian words šāh ("emperor") and šahr ("city", "realm"). The Thai word for "king", kasat, and the Malay word for "knight" or "warrior", kesatria or satria, are also derived from it. The term denotes aristocratic status.
In the early Vedic civilization, the warrior caste was called rājanya or kšatrīya. The former was an adjectival form of rājan "ruler, king" from a root rāj "to rule", cognate to the Latin rex "king", the German Reich "empire/realm", and the Thai racha "king". In Persia, the satraps, or "kshatrapa", were the governors, or "protectors", of the Persian Empire's provinces.
A Hindu ruler was bound by the holy scriptures to govern as a Dharma-Raja (Just Rule), with the main duties being protection of his subjects and livestock.
The Rig Veda states:
''praja arya jyotiragrah'. RV, VII. 33.17
People ruled by Aryans are led by the Divine light. King Rama of Ayodhya is considered the greatest of the Dharma-Rajas: ''arya sarva samascaiva sadaiva priyadarsanah''
An Aryan who worked for the equality of all, was dear to everyone. Rama is also considered an avatar of Vishnu.
The Ramayana states:
''Like the ancient monarch Manu, father of the human race
''Dasaratha ruled his people with a father's loving grace.''
Symbol of Kshatriya
In rituals, the Nyagrodha (Ficus Indica or India Fig/Banyan tree) danda, or staff, is assigned to the Kshatriya class.
'':''The Nyagrodha or Banyan tree, (not to be confused with the Pipul, Ficus Religiosus or Sacred Fig), with its hanging branch like roots which turn into trunks and can grow to cover acres, was regarded as resembling the Kshatriya. The Nyagrodha is the kshatra power of trees, and the Kshatriya is the kshatra power [among humans], for the Kshatriya dwells fastened to the kingdom, and is supported [by it]. The Nyyreoagrodha is fastened to the ground by its downward growths, and supported [by it]''.
"The staff made of this wood is given to the Kshatriya initiate with a mantra imparting physical vitality or 'ojas'".'' In the Manu Smriti, or Laws of Manu, the Kshatriya caste is given the Varna (Color) red.
The universe in Hindu mythology came into being through the yawn of the Adi-Purusha, the one eternal being. He then felt it necessary to monitor the universe. So, he created Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, entrusting them with preservation and re-creation. These two were the two sides of the same coins, a replica of HIM. The primary job now was that of procreation.
Brahma, the procreator, then set about his task of creating the universe. He created the celestial bodies, earth, water, fire, air and ether - known in Hinduism as Panch Maha Bhuta. He then created the Sapta Rishis, (Seven wise sages who would take the task of infusing life on the earth). An eighth rishi Narad was born, who declared that he was not interested in procreation and renounced his life for the propagation of Knowledge and Bhakti (Worship). The seven sages started with what their Father had ordered them. They came to be known as Prajapatis (Propagators of the divine human race). Rishi Kashyap grew to be wiser than the rest and Brahma married him off to Daksh Prajapati's two daughters - Diti and Aditi. Diti turned out to be a scheming and jealous woman always trying to belittle and outdo virtuous Aditi. This quality in her gave rise to a human race with the same inherent qualities and they came to be known as Daityas. Virtuous Aditi gave birth to equally virtuous and illustrious sons and they came to be known as Adaityas. Surya (Sun) and Indra (Fire) were born of Aditi. Hence the Sun God is also known as Aditya.
When Brahma was involved in the job of procreation due to toil and perspiration, a negative energy emanated from him. This negative energy took form of Rakshasas (Devils) Madhu and Kaitabha, evil and inhuman souls. They started torturing Brahma. Brahma appealed to Lord Vishnu who readily appeared and killed both of them. He explained to Brahma that when a positive energy is utilized, negative energy also emanates, and that a special race of humans should be created to protect the entire human race. Brahma acting on this advice sat down for meditation. At the end of the day four different forms of energy for the human race were formed out of Brahma's body. Brahmins were created at dawn, Kshatriyas at Noon, Vaishyas at dusk and Shudras at night. Note that these were the Varnas i.e. wansha- caste' (Jati) as now thought of today. Usually this is told as Brahmins were born from Brahma’s head, ending with Shudras from the feet. In the Rig Veda the varnas were not rigid and were related to ones actions.
The Brahmin varna was reddish as the sky before dawn, Kshatriya varna as the Sun at noon, Vaishya as the evening sky and Shudra the color of night sky. Gradually, the Varna system caught hold of Indian Sub Continent and each varna did its job as per guidelines of Brahma. Brahmins and Kshatriyas,Vaishyas were the upper castes and Shudras the lower castes. Both, Brahmins and Kshatriyas were allowed to study the Vedas. Kshatriyas (pronounced as shatria) also studied the ancient martial arts which were eventually carried by Buddhist monks like Bodhidharma (a Kshatriya) to China and Japan. The Brahmans and Kshatriyas and later the Vaishyas had to perform a communion ceremony called the Upanayanam (thread ceremony) that would symbolize their entry into the Aryan social structure and would be considered reborn, i.e dvijas (twice born). This meant that you accepted the Vedas as the word of God and were willing to perform the rituals and duties outlined under the guidance of your spiritual guide, the Brahman priest.
The Rig Veda refers to the ways in which Gods four body parts make up the four classes, depending on the nature or values that the human holds. The Brahmans hold spiritual and intellectual values and are in charge of teaching the Vedic Sanskrit, thus are made up of his head. The Kshatryas are the warriors that protect the countries and thus are made up of his arms. The Vaishyas are the farmers and merchants in the production nature and thus are made up of his belly and the Shudras are the laborers who perform menial chores of farming, labor, artisans and all the jobs required of a society and thus are made up of his legs. This was interpreted as meaning that no one caste is more important than the other and that society cannot survive without all parts working together.
According to Vedic theology, Manu is considered the law-giver and progenitor of humanity. He had over 50 sons. Manu was both king and priest and his children (and thus all of humanity) are considered highborn. Due to the eventual differences in occupations, people ended up in different jātis and caste. Those who studied the Vedas became known as Brahmins, those who practiced trade became Vaishya, those who labored became Sudra, and those who took up martial arts became Kshatriyas. The word Arya means "noble" and was initially only used for kings and Kshatriyas as it is related to the word "Aristocracy".
Rajputs/Thakurs came into being in 6th century AD through a yagya done by brahmins. As Jats, assimilated many Surya, Chandra, Nag and Yaduvanshis into their being, same way Rajputs increased their vansh by assimilating same clans of kshatriyas. Most Yaduvanshis became part of Jat and Rajput clans. For example, Bharatpur's Jat kingdom belong to Sri Krishna's Vrishni clan. Many Gurjar clans like Bhati got divided between Rajput, Jat and Muslims.
There is confusion between Varna, Jati and Caste. While the term varna refers to the four broad different classes in society, the term jati refers to the different specific endogamous sections of the Hindu Society which is known as castes. Varna means "color" as well as "veil". It shows the four different ways in which the Divine Self is hidden in human beings. In the context of color people have confused it to mean race but it actually represents the distinct qualities (guna) that the four functional classes possess in their hearts and minds. The four different qualities of human beings:
If a person possessed the qualities of purity, love, faith and detachment, seek true knowledge and have a spiritual temperament, they would be represented by the color White (sattva = truthful). Those that belong to this color, belong to the Brahman class.
If a person possessed the qualities of action, will, aggression, and energy, seek honor, power, status and have a martial and political temperament, they would be represented by the color Red (rajas = energetic). Those that belong to this color belong to the Kshatriya class.
If a person tried to seek communication, interchange, trade, business and possessed a commercial temperament they were represented by the color Yellow. They make up the Vaishya class.
For those individual in society who love of growing crops (nature) the love of arts(shudra)(farmers and artisans) they were represented by the color Black (tamas = inert, solid). Those belonging to this color are shudras
One hymn of the Rig Veda states:
कारुरहं ततो भिषगुपलप्रक्षिणी नना । (RV 9.112.3)
"I am a bard, my father is a physician, my mother's job is to grind the corn......"
The use of 'color' in this sense is metaphorical, however over time racialist interpretations, most notably the 'martial races' theory of the British Raj, gave way to the concept of 'heritable dharma', family castes, and the present divisions in Indian society.
Panchjanya, meaning five people, is the common name given to the five most ancient Vedic kshatriya tribes. It is supposed they are all descendants of the Turvasu. They are Yadu, Sini, Puru, Anu and Druhyu. For example, Yadav is descended from the Yadu; Saini is descended from Shini and Shoorsen both of whom were Yaduvanshi kings, Paurav is descended from the Puru; etc.
Theories of origin
The caste system was very fluid early on and an individual rose or fell depending on his own merit. Historians generally agree that caste became hereditary around the time of the rise of Buddhism and Jainism based on archaeological, literary, and artistic evidence of the communities that existed in India. Gautama Buddha and Mahavira are two Kshatriya sages who made a lasting impression on the world. They did not believe in the preeminence of the Vedas and taught to the masses, not keeping spirituality to an elite few. Many of the ancient rulers such as Ashoka Maurya were ardent followers of this faith and promoted it throughout the Mauryan empire. This resulted in the decline in status of the Brahman order. Priests in all three faiths were the record keeper and as you will see in the coming examples there was a definite trend towards placing rulers in the Sudra varna if they did not follow Vedic teachings and maintain the prominence of the priestly order, losing their Kshatriya status. Puranic origins for Kshatriyas goes to Brahma. They were originated from the chest and arms of Lord Brahma, except for Jats, who originated from the Jata (locks) of Lord Shiva. Two camps exist about the importance of these texts. One camp is similar to the literalists of the Christian faith who believe that their holy texts are verbatim documentation of real people, events and dates and that modern society is descended from them. The other camp believes that the holy texts are not meant to be taken literally and should be used symbolically as examples of the proper way to live.
Those who believe the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Puranas were verbatim documents feel that modern Kshatriyas are descended from the Vedic Kshatriyas. The reason for the controversy is that we do not have any physical evidence of their existence. There are no bones, forts, weapons, coins, monuments, pictures etc. discovered to state unequivocally that they existed. However the clans as mentioned in Mahabharat for certain castes has existed as it is since time unknown, and provides the basis for belief in these texts. For example, Lord Krishna created a sangh called Gyat, which became known as Jat over time. The clans which got merged with this sangh are exactly the same as mentioned in Mahabharat. Jats are found in abundance in southern Russia and Baltic region. Serbs, Croats and hippies are all part of world Jat federation. The literalists believe that most of the Kshatriya communities descend from Surya, Chandra, or Agni. The Surya descendants claim descent from the Sun Dynasty (Suryavanshi). Rama also belonged to this dynasty, and the Suryavansh Rajputs (such as the Bargujar, who trace this lineage via Rama's son, Luv) trace their linage back to him. Maharaja Agrasen also belonged from the same descent. The Chandra descendants claim descent from the Lunar Dynasty (Chandravansh). Krishna also was born in this dynasty. Yaduvanshi Kshtriyas consider him as an ancestor. This is based on the writings of the Rig Veda and other Puranas. Great epics, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Raghuvamsa, also support it.
According to Jainism, Rishabh, the first Tirthankar founded three varnas namely Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. Later, Bharat, eldest son of Rishabh, and the first Chakravarti founded the Brahmin varna in the absence of Rishabh. “They will promote inequality in people.”
Thus four varnas came into existence: namely, the Kshatriyas, Brahmins, Vaishyas and Shudras. According to Jain and Buddhist literature, Kshatriyas are nothing but those who own a farm, i.e. farmers. And Kshatriyas are descendants of Rishabh, the first Jain Tirthankar. This fact is clearly stated in many Hindu puranic texts like the Bhagwat Purana, Brahma Purana, Vishnu Purana, etc.. Varna means color of skin also in Sanskrit. Some historians say that color of difference between Arya (light) and dravidians (dark) created all varna system.
The clan of Rishabh was called Ikshwaku and is thus the clan of all Kshatiyas ,he was decendet from Rama's son Lava. Later two branches of this clan came into existence. The first was Suryavanshi which was named after Adityayash (Ark kirti), the elder son of Bharat and the Grand Son of Rishabh and second Somvansh named after Somyash, the elder son of Bahubali. (Bahubali was younger brother of Bharat and son of Rishabh). Rajputs and Marathas believe that Suryavansh was divided, later, into 36 clans and Somvansh was divided into 60 clans. Thus the total number of Kshatriya clans became 96. , due to assimilations of all Mahabharat clans, all Hun, Kushan, Parthian invaders, part of Khatri,, Rajput, etc. along with portions of Surya, Chandra, Nag and yaduvash. Clans of Pandavas, Kauravas, Lord Krishna, Gandhara, Konteya etc are exclusively found in Jats. Most great Jat kings were Buddhist in ancient times. As per many historians, Rajputs were generated by brahmins to re-establish hinduism as most society were either Boddh or Jain. They did Yagya in Mount Abu and created some initial clans. They later kept increasing as their influence and increased and kshatriyas started converting back to hinduism, they were given new kshatriya identity (Rajput). Marathas lost their kshatriya status, as only newly formed Rajputs were supposed to be the Kshatriyas. Newly convert kshatriyas to Rajputs stopped their marriage relations with Marathas. Chhatrapati Shivaji visited Varanasi to get himself into main Kshatriya stream, by paying heavy donations to priests.
Establishments and assimilation
In ancient times there was mobility between varnas, as people learned new skills and changed their actions and occupations. The nomadic tribes of ancient India did not have a fixed caste system. They initially assigned roles based on an individual’s aptitude and ability. This was necessary in order to ensure the tribe's survival. The stronger members of the tribe became the warriors and were given higher status in society, as they were more important to the survival of the tribe at the time. As the tribes became more familiar with farming they built up surpluses and settled. This more sedentary and leisurely lifestyle shifted the people's focus to accumulating wealth and finding a meaning to life. Priests began to take the preeminent role in society as they ensured spiritual salvation. This led to society forming a more rigid social system, where one's position was determined by birth rather than merit. Thereafter, those in the more powerful classes enforced this caste system to remain in power, a pattern also exhibited by the nobles of Europe. During the Epic Age people began to question these institutions.
Many historical rulers came from other castes, or were descended from non-Hindu foreign conquerors, and were either granted de facto Kshatriya status by virtue of the power they held, or they created fictionalized family histories to connect themselves to past Kshatriya rulers. For instance, the Sakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Pahlavas, Paradas, etc., were foreign invaders from the northwest, but were assimilated into the Indian community as Kshatriyas. Kushans are considered as foreign origins by many historians, but at the same time another group of historiuan identify them as Krishna vanshi.
The original Arya and non-Arya Kshatriya clans took identity of several castes over course of time. A portion of each Arya clan of Surya, Chandra, Nag and Yaduvansh got assimilated with castes like Jat, Rajput, Maratha and Gurjars. Hence the similarity in their clans and surnames. Due to domination at varying times and geograpy they enjoy slightly varying social status. Jats have highest social status in Punjab/Haryana and consider any other caste below themselves, same way Rajputs enjoy best social status in Rajasthan. Majority of Punjabi/Haryanavi folk songs are written around Jat people.
The major branches of Kshatriya varna are Chandravanshi (lunar line), claiming descent from Chandra, Suryavanshi (solar line), claiming direct descent from Ramachandra and descent from Surya, Agnivanshi, claiming descent from Agni, and the Nagavanshi, claiming descent from the Nāgas.
The Suryavanshi or Solar dynasty lineage claims descent from Surya. Suryavanshis also claim descent from Rama, who was himself born into a Suryavanshi dynasty.
Rana [jat ruler of Dhaulpur]
Rajus of Coastal Andhra Pradesh
The Chandravanshi or Lunar dynasty lineage claims descent from Chandra.
Chandravansh was formed by Yaduvanshi Lord Sri Krishna.Several Indian castes such as Yadav,Sainis of Punjab and contiguous region, Rajputs of Bhati Clan, Jadaun Rajputs (Madhya Pradesh) and Rajputs of Mathura and Bharatpur, claim descent from the Chandravanshi lineage. Yadav
Pal-Pali (Pal Kshatriya / Dhangar / Pali Rajput / Neekhar)
Sinsinwar[Jat ruler of Bharatpur]
Kukhran - Kukhrans are a sub-group of Khatris.
Sainis of Punjab
Siddhu[Jat sikh ruler of Patiyala,Nabha,Jind]
Shome/Some/Som (Hindi: शोम) - This surname actually literally means चन्द्र (moon) and is mostly used by Bengali Kshatriyas from Bengal and Tripura belonging to the Lunar Dynasty (चन्द्र वंशी)
The Agnivanshi lineage claims descent from Agni. Gurjar
The Nagavanshi or Serpent dynasty lineage claims descent from Nāga. Nagavanshis include Nair and Jat castes. The Nagavanshi (or Nagabanshi) are known for ruling Chhotanagpur.
Gotras such as:
Sengar' are a clan of Rajputs belonging to UP, Bihar and Madhya pradesh. The exact vansh of Sengar is Rishivansh. According to an ancient story father of Lord Rama, Raja Dashrath had given his daughter 'SHANTA' to Shringi rishi. The vansh created from that marriage is Sengar rajput. Possible derivation of the 'sengar' name is (apart from 'Sringi' rishi) from 'Chattis-kul-Singar' (the ornament or grand focal point of 36 kshtriya kul), a term often used by bards in praising the ruler. On his visit to the royal court or to a feudal lord, he recited the family's genealogy and also the deeds of the ruler's forefathers. In Mewar, along with other forms of glorification, a bard used terms such as Hindua Suraj (Sun amongst the Hindus), Gau Brahman Pratipal (Protector of Cows and Brahmans), and Chattis-kul-Singar (Ornament Amongst the 36 Rulers). Not only was this visit meant to keep the ruler informed about the good deeds of his ancestors but also a message that he should also follow suit. After reciting all these exaltations, he would bless the ruler, then take his seat in the Durbar. The locations in which Sengar rajputs dominate are in western UP, eastern UP, western Bihar and adjoining districts of MP.
(Saiva, Kongu) Vellalars, Tamil gentry, ancient feudal landlords
Dhangars, the Kshatriyas in distress who became Shepherds to subsist.
Kodavas, like the Nāgas, they didn't wear the sacred thread, but they owned land, carried arms, and had other such warrior customs, they originated from the Coorg (Kodagu) region of Karnataka.
Ahom kings of Assam claimed descent from Indra (identified with Khunlung) and Syama (a low-caste woman), and called themselves Indravanshi (or Indravamsa) Kshatriyas.
The Brahmavansha lineage descends from the Brahmavanshi king Chulki.
The Vayuvanshi are another Kshatriya clan although not much is known about the clan.
The Rexulvanshis are popular for being the kings of Surguja.
The alien hordes that didn't follow priestly customs or traditions (Shakas, Kushans, Indo-Greeks, Hunas and Parthians) were stated as Vratya Kshatriyas in Manusmriti.
Roman Catholic Kshatriyas are known as Chardos.
The Meitei of Manipur were recognized as Kshatriyas by the Bengali and Assamese Brahmins as they are thought to be the descendants of Lord Arjuna.
Though the Ashtadhyayi of Panini (sutra 4.1.168-175) attests that the Kamboja and Gandhara were very important Kshatriya kingdoms of Uttarapatha during or prior to Paninian times (500 BC), they came to be regarded as Sudras for not following the teachings of the Vedas. See more on ancient Kamboja Kshatriyas.
The Manusmriti, written about 200 AD states that the Sakas (Scythians), Yavanas (Ionian, Indo-Greeks), Kambojas (Central Asians), Paradas (Sinkiang), Pahlavas (Persians), Kiratas (Nepal, Assam), and Daradas (Dards) were originally noble Kshatriyas but were relegated to the Barbaric (Vrishala) status due to their neglect of the Brahmanas as well as due to their non-observance of the sacred Brahmanical codes (X/43-44).
Anushasanaparava of the Mahabharata also views the Sakas, Kambojas and the Yavanas etc. in the same light. Patanjali in his Mahabhasya regards the Sakas and Yavanas as pure Sudras (II.4.10).
The Vartika of the Katyayana informs us that the kings of the Sakas and the Yavanas, like those of the Kambojas, may also be addressed by their respective tribal names.
The Mahabharata also associates the Sakas, Yavanas, Gandharas (Northwest India), Kambojas (Pamir-Badakshan), Pallar, Tusharas, Sabaras, Barbaras, Dravidas, Boyars etc.. and addresses them all as the Barbaric tribes of Uttarapatha.
In another verse the epic groups the Shakas, Kambojas and Khashas together and state them as the tribes from Udichya, i.e. north division (5/169/20).
The Kishkindha Kanda of the Ramayana locates the Sakas, Kambojas, Yavanas and the Paradas in the extreme north-west beyond the Himavat (i.e. Hindukush) (43/12) in the Shakadvipa, adjoining the land of Uttarakurus.
The Udyogaparava of the Mahabharata (5/19/21-23) tells us that the composite army of the Kambojas, Yavanas and Sakas had participated in the Mahabharata war under the supreme command of Sudakshina Kamboja. The epic repeatedly applauds this composite army as being very fierce and wrathful. Some verses of Mahabharata also attest that the Tusharas or Tukharas were also included in the Kamboja division (e.g.: MBH 6.66.17-21; MBH 8.88.17). Tocharians
Puranic accounts attest that the Dravidas are Kshatriyas and are said to be descendants of the sons of Vishwamitra. Like the Kambojas, Sakas, Yavanas, Daradas, Khashas etc , the Dravidas were recorded as originally a noble Kshatriya people who no longer were initiated into the sacred thread due to their neglect of the Brahmanas as well as due to their non-observance of the sacred Brahmanical codes.
Outside the Indian subcontinent
About 40 percent of the total population of Bali is Balinese Kshatriyas. Balinese Hinduism has a caste system and is heavily influenced by the Vedas.
The Balamon Hindu Cham people of Vietnam consist of 70% Kshatriyas (pronounced in Vietnamese as "Satrias"). Although Balamon make up only 25% of the over all Cham population (the other 75% are Muslims or Cham Bani). These Balamon Kshatriyas claim to be the descendants of the Champa Empire.
<imagemap> Image:Rajpoots_small.jpg|thumb|right|350px|An 1876 engraving of rajputs, from the Illustrated London News. rect 0 0 1000 751 desc bottom-left </imagemap> In the past people looked upon Kshatriyans to protect them from all dangers. Kshatriyans were kings and warriors in the army, all soldiers knew basics of Kshatriyan martial arts. The Kshatriyans were held in respect by everybody. The Kshatriyans were always members of some Royal - Families or Raja-kudumba's. They were also known as Kshatriya-kul's. The folklore talks of some great Kshatriyans and legends. The status of Kshatriyans was clearly exalted. Legends tell that Kshatriyan could be told by sight because of his tall, strong and muscular male look. They were supposedly able to fight blindfolded and archers could hit a target by just sound in the dead of the night. Stories of exemplary courage still circulate by word of mouth and are recorded as folk-tales. Some stories reveal a darker side. Non-Kshatriyans were rejected in the Kshatriyan society even if they did a Kshatriyan's job better than a Kshatriyan. Teachers of Kshatriyans never accepted non-kshatriyans, for example see the story of Ekalavya.
While some Kshatriya-families survive from the past, many claim to be descendants of particular Kshatriyans or Kshatriya-kula's. Raja-kudumba's also exist but the number has fairly decreased. Kshatriyan martial arts have survived and are being revived. Families consider it as a status symbol or a decoration to have the famous two crossed swords in a shield symbol of a Kshatriyan hung in their house. The Kshatriyan is still a great name and older generation of rural India still attach a great value to it. South Indian Kalarippayattu gurukal teach the old martial art still. The Kalarippayattu is seriously being revived but the old tradition of accepting only Kshatriyans to learn Kalarippayattu has been dropped. The Marathas in Maharashtra and central India attach great pride and command a sense of respect among common people by their lineage while Rajput in Rajasthan and Jat in North-Western parts of India still have their palaces from the past, and enjoy the highest social status. Majority of folk songs are composed around the life of Jat people in Punjab/Haryana.
According to the 1891 Census of India, Martial Races made up more than 10% of the population of British India. This percentage might have decreased over the years, as Kshatriyas traditionally had the highest death rate and lowest birth rate for any community in India. A striking example is that of the Nairs in Kerala. Nairs constituted more than 30% of the population of Kerala during the 1854 census, but decreased to 14.41% in 1968 and further decreased to 12.88% in 2000. Frequent warfare was the main cause for demographic decline during early years, but low fertility is the main problem nowadays. (In Kerala, the Malayala Kshatriyas are having a fertility of 1.47 children per women, while the Muslims are having 2.97 children per women). Demographic studies for Kshatriya communities in other Indian states are not available, but almost all of them seem to have low birth rates compared to the general population.
Kshatriya Women and children
The women in the past were mainly confined to their houses and did not play a significant role. In the past when polygamy was common beautiful women would be married several times to different persons; and each with many other wives. Once the girl marries a man the husbands home becomes hers and her main job was to do puja to the family deity. Each Kshatriya family had its own God which may or may not have been similar to Gods of other Kshatriya families. They were required to live in a kind of harem made for wives with their companions and enjoy whenever possible in whichever manner they would prefer. They were also supposed to maintain a certain decorum as a Kshatriyans wife. The most influential wife's son would become the next king or head of the family. If there were many sons for that particular wife then the mothers favorite would get the throne or family heirloom.
A boy child was taught by a Kshatriya guru or even a Brahmin teacher who knew about the Kshatriya ways. A male child was the symbol of masculinity of a Kshatriya father and was the future of the family. While the family was always the foremost in a Kshatriyans mind the country's honor was also to be cared for by a Kshatriyan. All these and many other finer aspects of Kshatriyan life were taught to a male child and he was introduced to the society of Kshatriyans before being taught the weapons and martial arts.
The girl child was supposed to be docile and gentle. She was supposed to be spiritual and devoted. The girl child was usually well-educated in the social subjects of that time and was usually prepared to become the woman she was expected to become. In contrast to the male child the female child was never let out of the women circles in a Kshatriya society. She was considered to be a weakling in general and to be served by servants and protected by husbands. Manu Smriti a sacred Hindu scripture describes a women'slife as:
In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent. (Manu Smrithi 5:148)Exceptions, as always existed even in this case like the Rani of Jhansi.
The situation has changed in these modern times and kshatriyans do not have much to gain or loose in status by their Kshatriya lineage. Only grown or old men take actual pride and speak about a Kshatriya lineage.
The Kshatriyans were specialized in guerrilla warfare. History has it that the Maratha warrior and emperor Shivaji Bhonsale, born April, 1627 (also Shrimant Rajaram Shivaji Raje Bhonsle - Chhatrapati Maharaj) had his own army specialized in guerrilla warfare and a particular tale of valor is also a historical fact. It is the tale of Sinhagad Fort. Jats themselves employed guerila warfare in Bharatpur, which is very near to the stronghold of Mughals, once. They were fighting successfully with strongest Mughal ruler (Aurangjeb) just 30 kms from Agra. Marathas were lucky to have advantage of distant geography.
South India, particularly Kerala also has its own share of Kshatriyans who are better known as members of Raja-Kudumba's or royal families. They practice the worlds oldest martial art known as Kalarippayattu. The Kalarippayattu has something commonly known as Marma Kalai or Varma Kalai where the Marmam is attacked which instantly disables or kills the enemy without making any externally visible injury.
The Rajputs were known to make deft political maneuvers to consolidate their kingdom or to defeat an enemy. They are also known to follow certain codes of war to fight a battle. They are recorded in history as a kind of fierce warrior clan who make brave attempts within their war codes to retrieve a lost kingdom or defeat a dangerous enemy. they are also legendarily said to have untiring persistence to attain their goal as in the case of Maharana Pratap. Many of Rajput kingdoms however later accepted Muslim dominance and started marrying their girls to Muslims, against the social norms of the time. In 1870s when Maratha and Jats were fighting Ahmed Shah Abdali, Rajputs were so terrified of living under Muslim rule ('Needs source/proof'), that they did not support them at all.
Codes of war
Codes of war were very important to a Kshatriyan and his lineage. They are still talked about for their innate decency and respect of the enemy and women. There exist old palm-leaf inscriptions on these topics. They are known to many a Kshatriyan families which still believe in the old ways of virtuous Kshatriya living. A trained Kshatriyan -it is said- is never trained till he knows and follows the codes of war.
The Kshatriyan codes of war are stuff of legends and folklore in India. Mahabharatha a Hindu epic also talks about war codes. Conclusive archaeological evidence has not yet been obtained but more or less all sources agree that such codes of war existed and they were followed. Some of the more important codes are listed below.
War should not affect the unarmed - meaning that the civilian population should not be attacked for any reason nor should the disarmed and seriously wounded soldiers or warriors unless it is for killing them as an act of mercy.
Rest should be provided for both sides - meaning that the war should not continue after sunset unless or otherwise it is a guerrilla war.
All foes should be defeated - meaning that even if your kinsman fought against you, you should not hesitate to defeat him.
Raids should not be undertaken unless completely necessary - meaning that a raid should not be undertaken unless the motive is to compensate for past losses or to humiliate the enemy.
Women should not be looked at unless she challenges you - meaning that unless a woman is in your enemy's army as a soldier or warrior you should not attack her. If the woman is the ruler then she can be attacked or asked to surrender only after the whole army is defeated.
A guerrilla war should not be waged unless the objective is victory - meaning that the warriors chosen for a guerrilla war should be the best, able to defeat any large army in the given situation and such an attack should be done only to attain a political goal and not to raid the enemy's supplies.
A traitor should never escape death - meaning that a traitor or defector of ones own army should be guaranteed death.
Kshatriya Dharma is the rules to be followed by a Kshatriyan to do justice to his caste and status. it still exists in more logical and evolved forms.
It used to be unthinkable for a Kshatriya to marry outside his class. It would be breaking the biggest tradition of his family and would cause disgrace to his whole family and community;it has still not changed for most families even today. There is a very strong emphasis on following the customs and traditions of the class which have evolved over centuries. In addition to these, there are also further traditions which will be specific only to particular prominent Kshatryia families which has been handed down from generations. Following these traditions are a matter of great honour and importance that breaking them has resulted in families splitting up or being excluded permanently from the caste (jati) even in the present times. The Joint family system is still widely practised among the Kshatriya families and the family elders have the final say on all important decisions. It was believed that the Kshatriyas were assigned to be protectors of Dharma (duty/justice) and their people.They were sanctioned by the Gods to serve humanity. The noble king is regarded as a Dharma Raja (Just Ruler). People ruled by aryas (honourable men) are led by the Divine light.
Kshtariya Dharma is specifically described in the Mahabharata: "Have you never heard the Kshatriya Dharma: Stand straight and never bow down, for this alone is manliness. Rather break at the knots than bend!" (Mahabharata, as retold by William Buck, University of California Press Berkeley Los Angeles London 1973)1
Sources and References