Kshatriya (Hindi: क्षत्रिय, kṣatriya from Sanskrit: क्षत्र, kṣatra) or Kashtriya meaning warrior is one of the four varnas (social orders) in Hinduism. शर्म ब्राहमणस्य वर्म क्षत्रियस्य गुप्तेती वैश्यस्य Prasar grhaysutras). It traditionally constituted the military and ruling elite of the Vedic-Hindu social system outlined by the Vedas and the Laws of Manu.
The term Kshatriya is found in Indo-Iranian languages. In Sanskrit, it is derived from kṣatra, meaning "roof, umbrella, 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). Rājanya 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. (were the Persian Satraps vedic?)
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 first in rank , second 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 ruler-ship, 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.. 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.
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.
People ruled by Aryans are led by the Divine light.
An Aryan who worked for the equality of all, was dear to everyone. Rama is also considered an avatar of Vishnu.
The word Arya (Aryan) means "Noble" (Noble/Lord/Perfect/Pure/Excellent...) and was initially only used for Kshatriyas (Kings & Nobles) as it is related to the word "Aristocracy".
In the Rig Veda the varnas are not rigid and were related to ones actions. 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 were to signify spiritual and intellectual values and were to be in charge of teaching the Vedic Sanskrit, thus are made up of his head. The Kshatryas were the warriors who protected the countries and thus are made up of his arms. The Vaishyas were the farmers and merchants in the production nature and thus are made up of his belly and the Shudras were 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 castes. 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.
Rajputs/Thakurs came into being in 6th century AD through a myth of so called 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:
One hymn of the Rig Veda states:
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.
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 begins from 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. 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 Suryavanshis, 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. Chandravanshi Kshtriyas consider him as an ancestor. This is mentioned in the Rig Veda and other Puranas as well as in Great epics, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Raghuvamsa.
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 land. 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..
The clan of Rishabh was called Ikshwaku and is thus the clan of all Kshatiyas. He was descended 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.
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.
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.
The situation has changed in these modern times and Kshatriyas do not have much to gain or lose in status by their Kshatriya lineage. Only grown or old men take actual pride and speak about a Kshatriya lineage. But one area where the Kshatriya heritage reigns supreme is the Indian Army. Even now, the majority of the Indian army is composed of Kshatriyas. And many of the high ranking officers state openly that they are proud to be born as Kshatriya. For example, Major General KP Candeth once told reporters who were interviewing him during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971:"I am a Nair from Kerala. I am a Kshatriya"
Kshatriya regiments make up a huge portion of the Indian and Nepali Armed forces. Notable among them are Punjab Regiment (Mostly Punjabi Rajput), 9th, 16th and 17th Battalions of Madras Regiment (Nair), Maratha Light Infantry (Maratha), Rajputana Rifles (Marwari Rajput), Rajput Regiment (Marwari Rajput), Jat Regiment (Jat), Dogra Regiment (Dogra Rajput), Jammu & Kashmir Rifles (Mostly Dogra Rajput), Garhwal Rifles (Pahari Rajput), Kumaon Regiment (Pahari Rajput), Gorkha Regiments (Chhetri).etc. (See Also: Martial Races in Indian Army)
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 who were decimated during the Islamic Invasion of 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. To know more about the Rajputs of Maharashtra : http://jaypalg.blogspot.com/
The women in the past were mainly confined to their houses and did not play a significant role. 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 also supposed to maintain a certain decorum as a Kshatriyans wife. At times 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 woman's life 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)
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. The rajputs are considered to be most revered and persistent Kshatriyas. Legendary Rajputs like Rana kumbha,Rana sanga,Raja Bhoja,Rana Mokal,Prithiviraj Chauhan,Rana Hamir,Hadi ke rani,
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 Aurangzeb 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.
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. Charans in the medieval times ensured that code of war is complied with by the Rajput.Charans constantly reminded them the deeds of their ancestors in the times of peace and War apart from motivating them to wage war for the cause. In the battlefield also Charans fought along with the Rajputs and simultaneously encouraged them to fight with courage and dignity.Later Charan would make the folklore of his fallen brave friend and these are sung till date by the Dholis ( the singer community ) specially in marriages and other ceremonies which are performed in Charans and Rajputs.
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.
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!"
The Nyagrodha or Banyan tree, (not to be confused with the Pipul, Ficus Religiosus or Sacred Fig), with its hanging, branch-like root-trunks which can grow to several acres, is considered symbolically equivalent to the Kshtariya. Where the Nyragrodha is fastened to the ground and supported by its downward growths, the Kshatriya is thought of as supported by the larger society 'beneath' it.
In the Manu Smriti, or Laws of Manu, the Kshatriya caste is given the Varna (Color) red.
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The major branches of Kshatriya varna are Suryavanshi (solar line), claiming direct descent from Ramachandra and descent from Surya, Chandravanshi (lunar line), claiming descent from Chandra, 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. Out of the 36 major clans of Rajastani Rajputs, 10 belongs to the Suryavanshi lineage (Rathore, Sisodia, Kachwaha. Gurjar etc)
The Chandravanshi or Lunar dynasty lineage claims descent from Chandra.
Chandravansh encompass descendants of Som.
The Nāgvanshi or Serpent dynasty lineage claims descent from Nāga. Nāgvanshis include most of the Nair and Bunt clans as well as some Rajput and Jat clans. The Nāgvanshi (or Nāgbanshi) are known for ruling Chhotanagpur. Most important among the Jat clans which are of Nāga origin includes Bachak, Kaliramna, Karkotaka and Takshak. Outside India, the Balinese Kshatriyas claim descent from Nāgvanshis. Notable Nāgvanshi clans are as follows: