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Kshatriya (Devanagari: क्षत्रिय; from Sanskrit
kṣatra, "rule, authority") is one of the four varna (social orders)
Hindu society. The
Sanskrit term kṣatriyaḥ is used in the
Vedic society wherein members organised themselves into
four classes: kshatriya, brahmin, vaishya and shudra.
Traditionally, the kshatriya constituted the ruling and military
elite. Their role was to protect society by fighting in wartime and
governing in peacetime.
1.1 Early Rigvedic tribal chiefdom
4 See also
6 Further reading
Early Rigvedic tribal chiefdom
The administrative machinery in the Rig
Vedic period functioned with a
tribal chief called Rajan whose position was not hereditary. The king
was elected in a tribal assembly, which included women, called Samiti.
The Rajan protected the tribe and cattle; was assisted by a priest;
and did not maintain a standing army, though in the later period the
rulership appears to have risen as a class. The concept of fourfold
varna system was non-existent.
Purusha Sukta to the
Rigveda describes the mythical history
of the four varna. Some scholars consider the
Purusha Sukta to be a
late interpolation into the
Rigveda based on the neological character
of the composition, as compared to the more archaic style of the vedic
literature. Since not all Indians were fully
regulated under the varna in the vedic society, the Purusha Sukta
was supposedly composed in order to secure vedic sanction for the
heredity caste scheme. An alternate explanation is
that the word 'Shudra' does not occur anywhere else in the Rig-veda
except the Purusha Sukta, leading some scholars to believe the Purusha
Sukta was a composition of the later Rig-vedic period itself to
denote, legitimise and sanctify an oppressive and exploitative class
structure that had already come into existence then.
Purusha Sukta uses the term rajanya, not kshatriya, it is
considered the first instance in the
Vedic texts that now remained
where four social classes are mentioned for the first time
together. Usage of the term Rajanya possibly indicates the 'kinsmen
of the rajan' (i.e., kinsmen of the ruler) had emerged as a distinct
social group then, such that by the end of the vedic period, the
term rajanya was replaced by kshatriya; where rajanya stresses kinship
with the rajan and kshatriya denotes power over a specific domain.
The term rajanya unlike the word kshatriya essentially denoted the
status within a lineage. Whereas kshatra, means "ruling; one of the
Gautama Buddha was born into a kshatriya family.
Jaiswal points out the term
Brahman rarely occurs in the Rig-veda with
the exception of the
Purusha Sukta and may not have been used for the
priestly class. Based on the authority of Panini, Patanjali,
Katyayana and the Mahabharata, Jayaswal believes that Rajanya was the
name of a political people and that the Rajanyas were, therefore, a
democracy (with an elected ruler). Some examples were the Andhaka
and Vrsni Rajanyas who followed the system of elected rulers. Ram
Sharan Sharma details how the central chief was elected by various
clan chiefs or lineage chiefs with increasing polarisation between the
rajanya (aristocracy helping the ruler) and the vis (peasants) leading
to a distinction between the chiefs as a separate class (raja,
rajanya, kshatra, kshatriya) on one hand and vis (clan peasantry) on
the other hand.
The term kshatriya comes from kshatra and implies temporal authority
and power which was based less on being a successful leader in battle
and more on the tangible power of laying claim to sovereignty over a
territory, and symbolising ownership over clan lands. This later gave
rise to the idea of kingship.
In the period of the Brahmanas (800 BCE to 700 BCE) there was
ambiguity in the position of the varna. In the Panchavimsha Brahmana
(13,4,7), the Rajanya are placed first, followed by
Vaishya. In Shatapatha
Brahmana 126.96.36.199, the
Kshatriya are placed
second. In Shatapatha
Brahmana 188.8.131.52 the order is—Brahmana,
Vaishya, Rajanya, Shudra. The order of the brahmanical
tradition—Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra—became fixed from
the time of dharmasutras (450 BCE to 100 BCE). The kshatriya were
often considered pre-eminent in Buddhist circles. Even among Hindu
societies they were sometimes at rivalry with the Brahmins, but they
generally acknowledged the superiority of the priestly class.
In rituals, the nyagrodha (
Ficus indica or India fig or banyan tree)
danda, or staff, is assigned to the kshatriya class, along with a
mantra, intended to impart physical vitality or 'ojas'.
Vedas do not mention kshatriya (or varma) of any vansha (lineage).
The lineages of the Itihasa-
Purana tradition are: Suryavanshi
(solar line); and
Somavanshi (lunar line).
There are other lineages, such as the Agnivanshi, in which an
eponymous ancestor rises out of
Agni (fire), and Nagavanshi
(snake-born), claiming descent from the Nāgas. The Nagavanshi, not
attested in the Itihasa-
Purana tradition, were Naga tribes whose
origin can be found in scriptures.
Kshatriyas by Francois Balthasar Solvyns
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kshatriya.
Indian caste system
^ Bujor Avari (2007). India: The Ancient Past: A History of the Indian
Sub-Continent from c. 7000 BC to AD 1200, p. 74
^ Sharma, Ram Sharan (2005). India's ancient past. the University of
Michigan: Oxford University Press. pp. 110–112.
^ David Kean (2007). Caste-based Discrimination in International Human
Rights Law, p. 26. Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
^ Jayantanuja Bandyopadhyaya (2007). Class and Religion in Ancient
India, pp. 37–47. Anthem Press.
^ a b c d e Kumkum Roy (2011). Insights and Interventions: Essays in
Honour of Uma Chakravarti, p. 148. Primus Books.
^ Turner, Sir Ralph Lilley; Dorothy Rivers Turner (January 2006)
. A Comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan Languages
(Accompanied by three supplementary volumes: indexes, compiled by
Dorothy Rivers Turner: 1969. – Phonetic analysis:
1971. – Addenda et corrigenda: 1985. ed.). London: Oxford
University Press,. pp. 189–190. Retrieved 23 October
^ Radhakrishna Choudhary (1964). The Vrātyas in Ancient India, Volume
38 of Chowkhamba
Sanskrit studies, p. 125.
Sanskrit Series Office.
^ Ram Sharan Sharma (1991). Aspects of Political Ideas and
Institutions in Ancient India, p. 172. Motilal Banarsidass
^ Reddy (2005). General Studies History 4 Upsc. Tata McGraw-Hill
Education,. pp. 78,79,33,80,27,123.
^ Upinder Singh (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India:
From the Stone Age to the 12th Century, p. 202. Pearson Education
^ a b Jeanne Auboyer (1965). Daily Life in Ancient India. Phoenix
Press. pp. 26–27. ISBN 1-84212-591-5.
^ Brian K. Smith. Reflections on Resemblance, Ritual, and Religion,
Motilal Banarsidass Publishe, 1998
^ a b c d Indian History: Ancient and medieval, p. 22. Volume 1 of
Indian History, Encyclopædia Britannica (India) Pvt. Ltd, 2003.
^ Omacanda Hāṇḍā. Naga Cults and Traditions in the Western
Himalaya, p. 251. 
Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. History and Culture
of Indian People, The
Vedic Age. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1996.
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