"Rajput" identifies numerous ksatriya or warrior castes in northern and western India. The term
"Rajput" comes from rajaputra, which means "son of kings." Rajputs are famed for their fighting
abilities and once ruled numerous Indian princely states. The British grouped many of these states
into the Rajputana Province. Today, it is the Indian state of Rajasthan.
Most believe Rajputs come from tribes in central Asia such as the Parthians, Kushans, Shakas, and
Huns. These groups entered India as conquerors and became kings or rulers. They often married
high-caste Hindu women or converted to Hinduism. By the ninth century, Rajputs controlled an
empire that extended from Sind to the lower Ganges Valley, and from the Himalayan foothills to the
In 1192, Prithviraj Chauhan led the Rajputs against the Muslim Mughal ruler Muhammad Ghuri (d.
1206) who defeated them at the second battle of Tarain, near Delhi. This firmly established Muslim
power and ended Rajput dominance. The only Rajput kingdoms that could challenge Mughal rule
were those in the great Thar Desert.
10. RITES OF PASSAGE
Rajputs celebrate major stages in life with twelve
ceremonies called karams.
When a boy is born, a family Brahman (member of the
highest social class) records details for the infant's horoscope.
A family barber informs relatives and friends of the birth,
and there is much celebration. The Brahman chooses a
favorable day to name the infant. When the child is about
two years old, a head-shaving ritual takes place. Many
Rajputs regard the birth of a daughter as a misfortune and
observe the day with little ceremony.
12. LIVING CONDITIONS
Rajputs traditionally formed landowning classes. In the past, Rajput rulers of princely states
such as Kashmir, Jaipur, and Jodhpur were known for their splendid courts. Rajput Maharajas
(kings) often lived luxuriously in ornate palaces. After India's independence, however, the
princes lost their titles and privileges.
In Rajput homes, men's quarters consist of a courtyard containing a platform about four to six
feet (about one to two meters) high, reached by a series of steps and often shaded by trees. Men
often gather on these platforms to chat and perhaps smoke the hukka (a pipe). At one end of
the platform is a roofed porch. Men usually sleep behind this porch. Smaller side rooms are
used for storage.
Women's quarters are enclosed by walls, with rooms facing an inner courtyard. A fireplace is
built against one wall for cooking. Stairs provide access to the roof. The interconnecting roofs
of the houses let Rajput women visit each other without being seen by men.
Rajput men wear the dhoti (loincloth consisting of a long piece of
white cotton wrapped around the waist and then drawn between
the legs and tucked into the waist), often with a cotton tunic. Rajput
men may also wear a short jacket, or angarhkha,that fastens on the
right side. Rajput men wear turbans that are tied to represent their
particular clan. Rajput women wear either the sari (a length of
fabric wrapped around the waist, with one end thrown over the
right shoulder) or loose, baggy pants with a tunic. The lengha (long,
flowing skirt) is also associated with the traditional dress of
Rajputs' dietary patterns vary by region.
In drier parts of India, their staple diet
consists of various unleavened
breads (roti) , pulses (legumes), and
vegetables. Rice (chawal) and milk
products are also important. Rajputs are
fond of hunting and enjoy eating venison
and game birds such as goose, duck,
partridge, and grouse.
Rajputs used to hunt tiger, panther, deer, and game
birds. Also popular was pig-sticking, the dangerous
sport of riding on horseback to hunt wild boar by
sticking them with a lance. Polo sharpened riding
Historically Rajputs have taken great pleasure
in the elaborate rituals and ceremonies
associated with their religion and community.
Weddings and other festive occasions are
observed with much enthusiasm and are often
celebrated with feasting, and sometimes
with nautch (dancing) girls.
17. CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
Rajput folk traditions include string puppet shows and
ballads told by traveling storytellers known as bhopas. In
one such ballad, Pabuji, a thirteenth-century chieftain,
borrows a horse from a woman to ride to his wedding.
Before he does so, he promises the woman he will protect
her cows. Soon after the wedding ceremony has begun,
Pabuji learns that the thieves are making off with the
cows. He leaves his wedding to keep his word and
recovers all but one calf. He risks another battle for the
calf and is killed by the enemy. His bride then leaves
her handprint on the gate of Pabuji's residence and
commits sati (burns herself to death, a saintly act in
18. SOCIAL PROBLEMS
As landowners, Rajputs do not face the social discrimination and
problems of poverty that confront many others in India. While
some may have fallen on hard times, Rajputs as a community are
prosperous. One of the biggest challenges they face is adjusting to
India's democratic environment. As former kings and members of
the former ruling class, their power and prestige today is of less
importance than in the past. Their economic resources have been
threatened by government attempts to redistribute wealth. They
have faced challenges from castes seeking economic and political
independence from Rajput control. Rajputs lack the unity that
would give them a powerful voice in modern Indian politics.