Recents in Beach

Who were the Rajputs? Describe the debates about their origin.

The term rajput is derived from Sanskrit root rajputra (son of the king). Prakrit forms of the term rajputra are variously known as rawat, rauta, raul and rawal. A transformation in connotation of the term is noticeable from 7th century CE onwards as it began to be used in literary texts in the sense of a landowner rather than “son of the king”. In the Harshacharita of Banabhatta (7th century CE) the term has been used in the sense of a noble or landowning chief. In Kadambari also it is used for persons of noble descent who were appointed by the king as local rulers. In the capacity of local rulers they might have naturally governed a large portion of land under them and, thus, played an active role in political and administrative system of the state. In Rajatarangini the term rajputra is used in the sense of a mere landowner, acclaiming birth from 36 clans of the Rajputs. The reference of 36 clans clearly denotes their existence by 12th century CE.


The term began to be more commonly used from 12th century onwards. The 12th century Aparajitprachha of Bhatta Bhuvanadeva, which describes the composition of a typical feudal order, refers to rajaputras as constituting a fairly large section of petty chiefs holding estates, each one of them constituting one or more villages. Among the ruling elites, rajputra covered a wide range: from actual son of a king to the lowest ranking landholders.


The origin of Rajputs is shrouded under mystery. Scholars are hardly in unison over their origin and a number of views are in currency pertaining to their origin.


i)        Agnikula Origin of the Rajputs : A Myth

Chand Bardai in his Prithvirajaraso (12th century) refers that the Chalukyas, Pratiharas, Paramaras and Chahamanas have their origin from the fire pit of Vashistha. According to Raso, Vishvamitra, Agastya, Vashistha and other sages began a great sacrifice at Mt. Abu. Daityas (demons) interrupted it and then Vashistha created from the sacrificial pit three warriors in succession: the Padihara (Pratihara), the Solanki, and the Paramara. The bardic text also mentions that none of the created warriors, however, succeeded in completely removing the demons.


The modern scholars who believe in the Agnikula origin of the Rajputs are:

·         Watson,

·         Forbes,

·         Camphel,

·         D. R. Bhandarkar etc.


They believe that all the so-called agnikula Rajputs are of Gurjara stock. The Gurjara origin of the Rajputs is being criticised by Pratipal Bhatia. She argues that the Gurjara is not only the name of a people but also a country and of all the people who inhabited it, to whichever caste or clan they might have belonged (Bhatia 1970: 14).

We only knew about the solar and lunar Kshatriyas in the ancient texts. The solar and lunar origin of the Rajputs is mentioned in the Mahabharata and the Puranas. The earliest tradition of the Chandella family found mentioned in their inscriptions traces the origin of the Chandellas from Moon, identifying them as the lunar race of the Kshatriyas. It appears that the concept of the solar and lunar Kshatriyas of the Sanskrit literary texts was replaced in the bardic account of Raso and inscriptions during the early medieval period by that of agnikula origin.


ii)      Other Views

B. N. S. Yadav has traced the emergence of the early Rajput clans in Rajasthan and Gujarat during the period of political and social confusion and chaos which may be characterised by a declining economy following the invasions and settlements of the foreigners and collapse of the Gupta empire. The rising feudal tendencies, according to him, created favourable circumstances for the emergence of ruling landed aristocracy connected intimately with land. Attached to this background, he traced out the rise of the military clans of the Gurjaras, Guhilots, Chahamanas, Chapas etc. in northern India during 650-750 CE. However, their rise as independent ruling clans may be traced back to the 8th century, when Gurjara-Pratiharas as the first Rajput ruling clan established their hold over Kanauj and other regions in the northern India.


D. C. Sircar puts forth that in Kalhana’s Rajatarangini the term rajputra is used in the sense of a mere landowner. They claimed birth from 36 clans of the Rajputs. It indicates that by the beginning of the 12th century CE, these clans had already come into existence. During this period rajputras had become a class by themselves.


iii)    Recent View: Processual Theory

B. D. Chattopadhyaya examines the emergence of the Rajputs as a process, which in different periods and different regions was not almost alike but differed in context of time and place. According to him, their emergence should not be looked in terms of ancestry. The term rajputra in early medieval literary texts and inscriptions, in reality, represented a mixed caste constituting a fairly large section of petty land holding chiefs. The status of the clan was generally counted a lot during the early medieval period, which was known for hereditary offices and a stereotype system of administration. The contemporary status of the clan was , thus, the criterion for the inclusion in the Rajput clans mentioned in Rajatarangini, Kumarapalcharita and Varnaratnakara. It is to be noted that the list of 36 clans mentioned in all the literary texts is dissimilar. Political dominance may altogether be the prominent criterion which might have added to the status of a clan. Thus, it was perhaps owing to the political dominance of the Pratiharas and Chahamanas that their name was retained regularly in the lists. He suggests that the process of the emergence of Rajputs in early medieval records is found linked with political, economic and social developments. Chattopadhyaya, on the basis of the study of the sources, has traced the following developments which were directly linked to the process of the emergence of Rajputs.


·         Agrarian and Territorial Settlements: The colonization of new areas resulted in the expansion of a number of settlements and also of agrarian economy. The comparison of the list of early historic sites with those of early medieval period and appearance of new place names in the contemporary inscriptions clearly suggest an increase in the number of settlements. The inscriptions of the western and central India also refer to the territorial expansion of the Rajput power by suppressing the tribal settlements of the Bhils, Pulindas and Sabaras. The Guhila kingdom was founded in the 7th century on the Bhil settlements, according to tradition. Similar movements of expansion are found in case of the Chahamanas of Nadol. Shakambhari – the capital of the main line of the Chahamaans – also came out of the colonization, which was earlier a forest land (jangaladesha). The present region of Rajasthan, according to Chattopadhyaya, in the period when Rajput polity was beginning to emerge was in its various areas undergoing a process of change from tribalism.


·         Mobility to Kshatriya Status: All the Rajput clans did not emerge out of the process of colonization. The Meds reached to the Rajput status from a tribal background and the other group, namely Hunas, were assimilated in Indian society and acquired the status of Kshatriyas. Thus, a criterion for the inclusion of the Meds and Hunas was mobility to Kshatriya status which was more commonly practiced. For the majority of other newly emerging royal lines Brahma-Kshatra was a transitional status. Chattopadhyaya opines that brahma-kshtra might have been an open status during the early medieval period.


·         Political Eminence: The Gurjara-Pratiharas emerged out of different stocks of the Gurjaras acquiring political eminence in western India. However, in their inscriptions they have variously claimed their origin either from Brahman, Sun, Indra etc. in order to maintain the ancestral respectability. The sovereign or ruling families of a clan had a general tendency to frame the genealogies with respectable ancestry. It seems that a definite co-relation did exist between the political eminence and a movement towards corresponding social status.


·         Mobility from Feudatory to Independent Status: Some of the Rajput clans emerged out from the feudatory to the independent status, as is clear from the genealogical claims. The case of Gurjaras of Gujarat, Guhilas of Kiskindha and Dhavagarta, Guhilas of Mewar, Chahamanas of Gujarat and Rajasthan was a case of transition from feudatory to independent status. This transition and upward mobility was a result of the growth of the military strength. The emergence of the Rajputs, thus, in the existing hierarchical political structure was not sudden but a gradual process.


·         The System of Land Distribution: The process of the emergence of early Rajputs is associated at the level of economy, with certain new features of land distribution and territorial system. One feature of land distribution, the trend of which appears to have been higher in Rajasthan, was the distribution of land among royal kinsmen. This practice was common among the Pratihara, Chahamana, and Guhila clans. Such land assignments were also hereditary in nature. The specific thing was that while the other assignees were not authoritative to grant land independently out of their holdings and depended on the approval of the king, the kinsmen needed no such sanction and could make grant independently without king’s approval.


·         Fortifications: The Rajput clans strengthened themselves by maintaining military power, one of the chief features of which was the construction and maintenance of forts. The inscriptions of the early medieval period mentions about a number of fortresses in Rajasthan. Besides serving the defence purpose, the forts played wider functions such as maintaining linkage with big landholdings and existing composition of population. Rajasthan was a cradle land of such fortresses. Forts, thus, represented a process of consolidation of ruling clans


·         Inter-clan Relations: At the level of social relations, the consolidation of the Rajput clans and the acceleration of the process of “Rajputization” were through the marriage network among the clans (inter-clan relationships). The inter-clan relations maintained through marriage network provided social legitimacy. These marriages may have led to collaboration in wider areas of social and political activity. The new clans and the recognized sub-divisions of earlier clans were brought into the Rajput network by a few cases of marriage of which records are available. The consolidation of Rajput ascendency was also due to the circulation of clan members in different kingdoms and courts and their participations at various levels of polity.

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