Rajput History


Rajput (from Sanskrit raja-putra, “son of a king”[1]) is a member of one of the patrilineal clans of western, central, northern India and some parts of Pakistan. They claim to be descendants of ruling Hindu warrior classes of North India.[2] Rajputs rose to prominence during the 6th to 12th centuries. Until the 20th century, Rajputs ruled in the “overwhelming majority” of the princely states of Rajasthan and Surashtra, where the largest number of princely states were found.[3]

The Rajput population and the former Rajput states are found spread through much of the subcontinent, particularly in north, west and central India. Populations are found in RajasthanGujaratUttar PradeshHimachal PradeshHaryanaJammu,PunjabSindhUttarakhandMadhya Pradesh andBihar.



  • 1 History2 Subdivisions
    • 1.1 Origins
    • 1.2 Rajput kingdoms (8th to 11th centuries)
    • 1.3 Maratha domination and British rule
    • 1.4 British colonial period
    • 1.5 Independent India
  • 3 Culture and ethos4 See also
    • 3.1 Rajput lifestyle
  • 5 References
  • 6 Further reading
  • 7 External links


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


The origin of 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 until 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.[4] 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 Kshatriyaritual rank in the Hindu varna system, while others who followed and supported them — such as the AhirsGurjarsand Jats – were ranked as Shudra. At the same time, some indigenous tribes were ranked as being of the “rajput” Kshatriya status, examples of which are the Bundela, Chandelas[5] and Rathors. The 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.[6] However, some scholars, such as C. V. Vaidya and Gauri Shankar Ojha do not accept these assimilation theories.[7][why?]

Rajput kingdoms (8th to 11th centuries)

From the beginning of the 9th century, Rajput dynasties dominated northern parts of India, and the many petty Rajput kingdoms became the primary obstacle to the complete Muslim conquest of Hindu India. Even after the Muslim conquest of the Punjab and the Ganga River valley, the Rajputs maintained their independence in Rajasthan and the forests of central India. Later, Sultan Alauddin Khilji of Khilji dynasty took the two Rajput forts of Chitor and Ranthambhor in eastern Rajasthan but could not hold them for long.[1]

Maratha domination and British rule

The internal conflicts which existed among the Rajput communities were significant in enabling the Mughal invaders to achieve control over them,[when?] while nonetheless recognising the role of the Rajputs as a ruling class.[8]

British colonial period

Mayo College was established by theBritish government in 1875 at Ajmer, Rajputana to educate Rajput princes and other nobles.

A water reservoir inside Chittorgarh Fortas seen in 2006

The Maratha Confederacy came into conflict with the British Raj, beginning in 1772. After the Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817–1818), all the states in the Rajputana region 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 There were about 13 main Rajput states and 2 Jat states namely Bharatpur & Dholpurin the Rajasthan region. During the British regime three more states were created in Rajputana. They were Tonk,Jhalawar and Dholpur. 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.[citation needed]

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

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 …

Tod was unusually enamoured of the Rajputs, is venerated by them to this day, and is viewed by many historians since the late nineteenth-century as being a not particularly reliable commentator.[9][10] Jason Freitag, his only significant biographer, has said that Tod is “manifestly biased”.[11]

The Rajput practice of female infanticide and sati (widow immolation) was another matter of concern to the British colonialists. It was believed that the Rajputs were the primary adherents to these practices, which the Raj considered to be savage and which was the initial impetus for British ethnographicstudies of the subcontinent that eventually manifested itself as a much wider exercise in social engineering.[12]

In reference to the role of the Rajput soldiers serving under the British banner, Captain A. H. Bingley 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 theNawab of Oudh. Under Lake they took part in the brilliant series of victories which destroyed the power of the Marathas.[13]

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 ofRajputana acceded to newly-independent India, amalgamated into the new state of Rajasthan in 1949-1950.[14] Initially the maharajas were granted 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.[15]

In 1951, the Rajput Rana dynasty of Nepal came to an end, having been the power behind the throne of the Shah monarchs figureheads since 1846.[16]


Main article: Rajput clans

There are several major subdivisions of Rajputs, known as vansh or vamsha, the step below the super-division jāti.[17] These vansh delineate claimed descent from various sources, and the Rajput are generally considered to be divided into three primary vansh:[18] Suryavanshi denotes descent from the solar deity SuryaChandravanshi from the lunar deity Chandra, and Agnivanshi from the fire deityAgni.[19] Lesser-noted vansh include UdayvanshiRajvanshi,[20] and Rishivanshi.[21] The histories of the various vanshs were later recorded in documents known as vamshāavalīis; André Wink counts these among the “status-legitimizing texts”.[22]

Beneath the vansh division are smaller and smaller subdivisions: kulshakh (“branch”), khamp orkhanp (“twig”), and nak (“twig tip”).[17] Marriages within a kul are generally disallowed (with some flexibility for kul-mates of different gotra lineages). The kul serves as 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, skakhs have become powerful enough to be functionally kuls in their own right.[23]

Culture and ethos

talwar sword, developed underRajputana Khanda in the Rana Pratap‘s period

The Rajputs were a Martial Race in the period of the British Raj.[24] 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,[25] whilst the remainder were those whom the British believed to be unfit for battle because of their sedentary lifestyles.[26]

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”.[27]

By the late 19th century, there was a shift of focus among Rajputs from politics to a concern with kinship.[28] 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.[29]

See also


  1. a b c “Rajput”. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 27 November 2010.
  2. ^ Balfour, Edward (1885). The Cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia 1. Bernard Quaritch. p. 473.
  3. ^ Singhji, Virbhadra (1994). The Rajputs of Saurashtra. Popular Prakashan. p. vi. ISBN 978-81-7154-546-9.
  4. ^ Naravane, M. S.; Malik, V. P. (1999). The Rajputs of Rajputana: a glimpse of medieval Rajasthan. APH Publishing. p. 20. ISBN 978-81-7648-118-2.
  5. ^ Dikshit, R. K. (1976). The Candellas of Jej̄akabhukti. Abhinav Publications. p. 6. ISBN 978-81-7017-046-4. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  6. ^ Kurbanov, Aydogdy. “The Hephthalites: Archaeological and Historical Analysis”. p. 243. Retrieved 30 April, 2013. “As a result of the merging of the Hephthalites and the Gujars with population from northwestern India, the Rajputs (from Sanskrit “rajputra” – “son of the rajah”) formed.”
  7. ^ Mahajan, Vidya Dhar (1968). Ancient India. S. Chand. p. 551. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  8. ^ Freitag, Jason (2009). Serving empire, serving nation: James Tod and the Rajputs of Rajasthan. BRILL. p. 25. ISBN 978-90-04-17594-5.
  9. ^ Srivastava, Vijai Shankar (1981). “The story of archaeological, historical and antiquarian researches in Rajasthan before independence”. In Prakash, Satya; Śrivastava, Vijai Shankar. Cultural contours of India: Dr. Satya Prakash felicitation volume. Abhinav Publications. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-391-02358-1. Retrieved 2011-07-09.
  10. ^ Meister, Michael W. (1981). “Forest and Cave: Temples at Candrabhāgā and Kansuāñ”Archives of Asian Art (Asia Society) 34: 56–73. Retrieved 2011-07-09.(subscription required)
  11. ^ Freitag, Jason (2009). Serving empire, serving nation: James Tod and the Rajputs of Rajasthan. BRILL. pp. 3–5. ISBN 978-90-04-17594-5.
  12. ^ Bates, Crispin (1995). “Race, Caste and Tribe in Central India: the early origins of Indian anthropometry”. In Robb, Peter. The Concept of Race in South Asia. Delhi: Oxford University Press. p. 227. ISBN 978-0-19-563767-0. Retrieved 2011-11-30.
  13. ^ Bingley, A. H. (1986) [1899]. Handbook on Rajputs. Asian Educational Services. p. 20. ISBN 978-81-206-0204-5.
  14. ^ A History of Modern India, 1480-1950 – Google Books
  15. ^ Religion and Personal Law in Secular India: A Call to Judgment – Gerald James Larson – Google Books
  16. ^ Management of Social and Natural Resource Conflict in Nepal – Bishnu Raj Upreti – Google Books
  17. a b Against History, Against State: Counterperspectives from the Margins – Shail Mayaram – Google Books
  18. ^ Desert people: caste and community-a Rajasthani village – Rolf Lunheim – Google Books
  19. ^ Identity, Gender, and Poverty: New Perspectives on Caste and Tribe in Rajasthan – Maya Unnithan-Kumar – Google Books
  20. ^ Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Prespective – Makhan Jha – Google Books
  21. ^ People Of India: Rajasthan – K. S. Singh – Google Books
  22. ^ Al-Hind: Early medieval India and the expansion of Islam, 7th-11th centuries – André Wink – Google Books
  23. ^ Religion and Rajput Women: The Ethic of Protection in Contemporary Narratives – Lindsey Harlan – Google Books
  24. ^ Mazumder, Rajit K. The Indian Army and the Making of Punjab. pp. 99, 105.
  25. ^ Rand, Gavin (March 2006). “Martial Races and Imperial Subjects: Violence and Governance in Colonial India 1857–1914”. European Review of History (Routledge) 13 (1): 1–20.doi:10.1080/13507480600586726.
  26. ^ Streets, Heather (2004). Martial Races: The military, race and masculinity in British Imperial Culture, 1857-1914. Manchester University Press. p. 241. ISBN 978-0-7190-6962-8. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
  27. ^ Narasimhan, Sakuntala (1992). Sati: widow burning in India (Reprinted ed.). Doubleday. p. 122.ISBN 978-0-385-42317-5.
  28. ^ Kasturi, Malavika (2002). Embattled Identities Rajput Lineages. Oxford University Press. p. 2.ISBN 0-19-565787-X.
  29. ^ Harlan, Lindsey (1992). Religion and Rajput Women: The Ethic of Protection in Contemporary Narratives. University of California Press. p. 27. ISBN 0-520-07339-8.

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.
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Rajput people


A short Rajput history by Sardar Ali Ahmed Khan, Lahore, February 2002

When the old Kshatriyas of the Vedas were completely disarmed under the influence of Buddhism, in the 5th and later centuries B.C., they were merged into commercial tribes. The only other tribe in the indo-pak sub-continent which stubbornly resisted the influence of Buddhism and eventually succeeded in expelling it to other neighboring countries, were the Brahmins. After the political castration of the fighting Kshatryas and passing of the rulership of the country to other inferior (non-Kshatriya) tribes, the socio-political order passed through a period of chaos; yet some of the new ruling dynasties contributed to Brahmanism but majority of them like the Mauriyas and the Guptas professed Buddhism.

This state of affairs did not suit the Brahmanical idea of both religion and politics. Just as luck would have it, a fresh wave of migration of tribes started from central Asia via Afghanistan into India, spearheaded by the famous Yadu tribe. This started sometime in the 2nd Century B.C., and lasted till the third or fourth Century A.D. The new migrants were animistic and idolators as far as religion was concerned, but they were free from any influence of Buddhism. They were physically strong people, barbaric in their disposition, and great fighters. These tribes suited the Brahmins to replace the old Kshatriyas with, as rulers in India.

According to old traditions the number of these great tribes was 36 (hence the 36 royal races). It was difficult for the Brahmins to absorb these tribes into the then existing Indian society, just as Kshatriyas of the old order, simply because they were not part and parcel of the Vedic Aryans. The Brahmins, however, invented a new ceremony of purifying them by means of ‘sacred fire’ or Hawan. After the ceremonial ‘purification’, the Brahmins gave them the sacred thread and called them the Rajputs – the soverigns of India and with their spiritual blessings they set up kingdoms and states just like the old Kshatriyas.

The very famous of the tribes out of these (besides the Yadus) were Bhattis, Chauhans, Kchhwaha, Jhalas, Parmars, Rathors, and Sisodhias. These tribes spread all over the north west, central, and southern parts of the sub-continent. In eastern India they had set up their states in Orissa and Bihar as well as West Bengal, while east Bengal and Assam were lightly touched by their migrations as these zones had their own ancient tribes, and were ruling small kingdoms. There is no doubt that in the extreme southern India, like Travancore and Madras, there were some ancient states ruled by the indegenous rulers. But side by side with them, the Rajputs also carved out large principalities, for instance the Rashtrakutas (which after a lapse of centuries became the Nizam’s territories) comprising of Telangara, etc. Part of these very tribes when they came to inhabit northern India and settled in Rajputana, they changed their tribal name to Rathors. The princely states of Jodhpur and Bikanir were the renowned remnants of these tribes.

It is to be noted that quite a number of the aforementioned tribes had stayed in the border countries between India and Afghanistan as well as the present day Baluchistan. These tribes ruled in these territories for a very long time till the advent of Islam. The Kchhwahas of Jaipur are actually the Kachtries of Baluchistan; and the Jhalas migrated from Jhalawan; and the Jams of Kathiawar are also a branch of the family of Lasbela.

The Bhitanis of the North West Frontier Province are in fact the parents of the Bhattis of the Punjab and Rajputana, who were eventually divided into quite a number of sub-tribes. One of the proof given by historians of note about the origin from Turkestan of the Rajputs lies in their extra chivalerous behavior, their mode of dressing and ornament, like the chak-phools, etc.



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