Online Encyclopedia

KSHATTRIYA

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V15, Page 934 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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KSHATTRIYA, one of the four original Indian castes, the other three being the Brahman, the Vaisya and the Sudra. The Kshattriya was the warrior caste, and their function was to protect the people and abstain from sensual pleasures. On the rise of Brahmin ascendancy the Kshattriyas were repressed, and their consequent revolt gave rise to Buddhism and Jainism, the founders of both these religions belonging to the Kshattriya caste. Though, according to tradition, the Kshattriyas were all exterminated by Parasurama, the rank is now conceded to the modern Rajputs, and also to the ruling families of native states. (See CASTE.)
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Kshattriyas were clearly the warring Aryan tribes who swept across the Indo Gangetic plains and established the Vedic civilisation. They settled down after subjugating other indigenous people and in order to survive and maintain their racial identity divided society into social groups, which the Europeans call castes, but in Sanskrit these are varnas. Varna sankar or inter caste consummation was forbidden as the Gita proscribes such marriages. The kshattriya developed some very advanced codes of conduct and warfare and was required to distance him self from commerce, priesthood and pleasures. It was from this class that some emerged as thinkers and philosophers who gave rise to the Brahmins to whom the kshattriyas then assigned a dedicated role with a high position in society. Originally the Kshattriya was at the top of the Hindu caste hierarchy till the Brahmin assigned this position to himself. The Brahmin grew and became strong in status finally challenging the kshattriya .The kshattriya who was the all powerful and the ruler, for all Hindu Gods are kshattriyas soon became feeble due to internecine struggle and decline in kshattriya virtues. This saw Brahmin ascendancy and his domination of Hindu society. Brahmins did not fight the kshattriyas but made kshattriyas fight kshattriyas for them, which decimated this race. The successive invasions of the subcontinent brought new hordes some absorbed as kshattriyas by Brahmins by fire purification at Mount Abu. For original kshattriyas belonged only to two lineages the Suryavanshi and Chandravanshi, the line of Sun and moon, the Agnivanshi or the fire lineage was added only later and divided into four subclans the Chauhans, Parihars, Parmars and Solankis. The first of these produced very powerful kings and the only Empire after the Kshattriya Ashok the Great. The struggle between Kshattriyas and Brahmins saw the creation of Parshuram who is said to have destroyed all the kshattriyas and was introduced as a non-kshattriya deity in the Hindu pantheon by Brahmins more likely as propaganda ploy. But at one stage the Brahmins seemed to be under great pressure, which is why the Agnivansha was created. Most evidence indicates that it was the Scythian invaders from north Iran who were lured to remain back taking Brahmin wives, at which stage the kshattriyas had vanished and new royal groups emerged as Rajputras or Rajputs, who came to dominate the sub continent for over eight centuries. The remnants of the original kshattrityas were naturally absorbed in this group and so also those of indigenous descent who were petty rulers and found favors of Brahmins. It is for this reason that the present day Rajput is not a racially homogenous group but may change from very fair Greek featured in the northwest to dark in the lower plains. Rajputs have been the dominant ingredient of the subcontinents socio-historical realities. They also have a dominant presence in Pakistan with its Islamised descendants of the great Chauhans and Tunwar groups which founded dynasties at Delhi at the end of first millennium. Much more numerous but highly localized in Punjab are the Bhatti and Punwar, the royal Bhatti or Rawals once ruling right up to Afghanistan leaving their fame embedded in several towns and cities such as Rawalpindi and Rawalakot.
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