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Kshatriya

Kshatriya

ETHNONYMS: none


The Kshatriyas are a large block of Hindu castes, mainly located in the northern half of India. The Sanskrit term Kshatrā means "warrior, ruler," and identifies the second varna, ranking immediately below the Brahmans. No doubt, most of the many castes that claim to be Kshatriya are somehow descended from warriors who were in the service of princes and rulers or who were of royal families. Conversely, numerous rulers have legitimized their status, especially if usurpers, by claiming that their lineage was indeed Kshatriya. Most typical and best known of these groups are the Rajputs, who once formed the many princely houses of Rajasthan (former Rajputana) and neighboring areas. Of course, today most Kshatriyas are landowners or follow urban professions.

Although they rank high in the varna system, Kshatriyas may and commonly do eat meat (though never beef), and many also take alcoholic drinks; both of these characteristics set them apart from the Brahmans.

It is perhaps no mere coincidence that Mahavira and Gautama, the founders of Jainism and Buddhism respectively, were of this social category. It can be argued that their spiritual voyages in the sixth century b.c. were both prompted by reaction to the excessive ritualism that marked the Vedic sacrifice of the purohita (priests). Some centuries later there was a general understanding that Kshatriyas would abstain from wordly pleasures while they fought to protect the polity and the Brahmans' place in it. But in factif Rajput history can be taken as a guideKshatriya warriors when not actually on the battlefield surrounded themselves with luxurious palaces, multiple wives and concubines, fine horses and falcons, and all the pleasures of eating cooked meats.

See also Rajput

Bibliography

Fox, Richard G. (1971). Kin, Clan, Raja, and Rule: State-Hinterland Relations in Preindustriai India. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Tod, James (1829-32). Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, or the Central and Western Rajpoot States of India. Rev. ed., edited by William Crooke. 1920. London: Oxford University Press. Numerous reprints.

PAUL HOCKINGS

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Kshatriya

Kshatriya a member of the second of the four great Hindu castes, the military caste. The traditional function of the Kshatriyas is to protect society by fighting in wartime and governing in peacetime.

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Kshatriya

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