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Examine the emergence of Rajputs in early medieval India as a historical process.

The early medieval times was an era marked by agrarian expansion, regional kingdoms, and state formation. It is within this context that one views the emergence of Rajput state and various theories about the origin of Rajputs. The history of Rajasthan has been so closely linked to the Rajputs that often preRajput days are not given much inputs whereas to study the origin of Rajputs it is important to know about these pre Rajput tribes were often subjugated during the formation of Rajput clan polity. This was not a drastic change but gradual process from tribalism to clan polity. The period between the 9th and 11th century saw the emergence of warrior castes military ruling clans which ultimately united into a single caste, that of the Rajputs, the term being derived, from the Sanskrit word rajaputra. The four Rajput clans that claimed a special status during this time were the: Pratiharas Chalukyas Chauhans Solankis The political authority of the Rajput clans was confined to northern and western India; eastern India as well as the south remained outside their political jurisdiction. Several theories have been propounded by scholars regarding the origin of Rajputs. The problem of the origin of Rajput dynasties is highly complex and controversial. Some consider them to be of foreign stock while others think that they belong to the Kshatriya Varna. At the level of narrative political history, the reconstruction of the early history of the Rajputs followed the pattern of dynastic which is evident from the genealogies found in epigraphs. Rajput is known to have been assimilative in space and time and has, until recent times, been a recognizable channel of transition from tribal to state polity. The criterion for inclusion in the list of Rajput clans was provided by the contemporary status of a clan at least in the early stages of the crystallisation of Rajput power.

According to James Tod, he propounded the theory that the Rajputs were descendants of foreigners namely Sakas, Hunas, Kushana, Gurjaras and also from Sythic (Central Asia). The Rajput tribes could scarcely acquire some of their still existing Sythic habits and war like superstition. They had settled in India and are assimilated into Indian society. The upper ranks of these foreigners formed a separate war like class and began to call themselves as Rajputs. The lower classes came to be known as Jats, Ahirs, etc. Tod brings in certain similarities in support of his theory between the Rajputs and the foreign settlers. The resemblances are horse worship, Asvamedha sacrifice, bards, war chariots, position of women, omens and auguries, etc. D. R. Bhandarkar agrees that most of them belong to priestly class of foreigners. The foreign origin view is also testified by the existence of epigraphic evidence.

The practice of new social groups claiming Kshatriya status became widespread in the early medieval period. Kshatriya status was one of the various symbols that the emergent social groups sought for the legitimating of their newly acquired power. The Rajputs rose to prominence in the process of resisting foreign invasions and that they shouldered willingly to the Kshatriyas duty of fighting for the land as well as for its people and culture. Rajputs gotrochhara makes them Kshatriyas of the Lunar family (somavamshi) while on the basis of old kavyas some maintain that they were of the solar race. The myths of solar origin regard them as Kshatriya created in kaliyuga to wipe-out the mlecchas (foreigners).

According to the Agnikula myth recorded by a court poet, the founder of the house of the Paramaras originated from the firepit of sage Vasistha on Mount Abu. The man, who thus sprang out of the fire, forcibly wrested the wishgranting cow of Sage Vasishtha from Sage Vishwamitra and restored it to the former. Sage Vasistha gave him the fitting name of paramaraslayer of the enemy. From him sprang a race, which was regarded with high esteem by virtuous kings. Inscriptions of this period also suggest that the Paramaras originated from the fire of Sage Vasishtha on Mount Abu. The Rajasthani bards went a step further and described the fire origin not only to the Paramaras but also to the Pratiharas, the Chalukyas, and the Chauhans.


The early medieval and medieval Rajput clans, representing a mixed caste and constituting a fairly large section of petty chiefs holding estates, achieved political eminence gradually. There was a direct relationship between the achievements of political eminence by the Pratiharas, Guhilas, Chauhans and other clans and their movement towards a respectable social status, viz. acquiring a Kshatriya lineage.

From about the beginning of the 8th century, there emerged a political set up in western and central India in which new social groups acquired political power by various means such as settlement of new areas. The pattern of the emergence of the Rajputs, which was partly a clan-based organization of political authority, shows some deviations from developments outside western India. However, the mobility of new powers towards Kshatriya status for legitimating was not specific to western India as a similar process was in operation elsewhere in early medieval India. After seeking legitimacy for their new Kshatriya role, the ruling clans of western and central India formulated detailed genealogies in the period of their transition from feudatory to independent status. They consolidated their political position by means of specific patterns of land distribution and territorial system. The early phase of Rajput ascendancy also coincided with the construction of fortresses, numerically on a large scale a feature which appears to have been absent in the earlier kingdoms of Rajasthan, but which came to be very much a part of the Rajput territorial system later on. The fortress was used for defence purposes as well as they represented the numerous foci of power of the ascending ruling families and appear to have close links with landholdings in the neighbouring areas. The construction of fortified settlements in large numbers could be seen as a part of process of the consolidation of their position by the ruling clans. There are two important pointers to the process of the emergence of the Rajputs in the early medieval records. The process may have to be juxtaposed with the spate of colonization of new areas. The evidence of such colonisation has to be traced not only in the significant expansion of the number of settlements but also in some epigraphic references, suggesting an expansion of an agrarian economy. In certain areas, the expansion of territories of Rajput power was at the expense of tribal settlements.

The mobility to the Kshatriya status was in operation elsewhere in the same period prompts one to look for its incidence also in Rajasthan. The eases of two groups who are included in the list of Rajput clans arc significant in this context: Medas and Hunas. The inclusion of these two groups in the Rajput clan structure is sufficient to believe that the structure could be composed only of such groups as were initially closely linked by descent, foreign or indigenous. B. D. Chattopadhyaya shows that the growth of an agricultural economy resulted in a growth in agricultural settlements. Inscriptional evidence from Western and central India refers to the subjugation of Sabaras, the Bhillas, and the Pulindas by the Rajput clans. At the level of social relations the obvious pointer to the process of consolidation would be the marriage network among the clans. Interclan marriages provided social legitimacy to such groups as the Hunas who had acquired sufficient political power leading finally to their inclusion in the Rajput clan list. Further, it may have led to collaboration in wider areas of social and political activity. Thus, interclan relationships offer a key to an understanding of the processes through which Rajput polity evolved in the early medieval period. The proliferation of Rajputs in the early medieval period, both among the established clans as well as those outside them, is a key indicator for an analysis of the structure of Rajput political dominance. The proliferation of Rajputs contributed towards an undermining of the political status of the early ksatriya groups which were taking to less potent occupations and also that the preferred term for the ruling section was now not so much ksatriya as Rajput. The substitution of the traditional ksatriya groups by the Rajputs and the consolidation of the Rajput structure may be viewed as a result of collaboration between the emerging clans, not only in terms of interclan marriage relationships but also in terms of participation at various levels of the polity and the circulation of clan members in different kingdoms and courts.