The Rai Dynasty, who ruled Sindh in the 6th and 7th centuries and were displaced by an Arab army led by Bin Qasim, is sometimes held to have been Rajputs. According to some sources, Bin Qasim, an Arab who invaded Sindh in the 8th century, also attacked Chittorgarh, and was defeated by Bappa Rawal. Certain other invasions by marauding "Yavvanas" are also recorded in this era. By this time, the appellation "Yavvana" (literally: "Ionian/Greek") was used in connection to any tribe that emerged from the west and north-west of present-day Pakistan. These invasions may therefore have been a continuation of the usual invasions into India by warlike but less civilized tribes from the north-west, and not a reference to the Greeks or Indo-Greeks. Lalitaditya of Kashmir defeated one such Yavvana invasion in the 8th century and the Pratiharas rebuffed another in the 9th century.
The first Rajput kingdoms are atested to in the 7th century and it was during the 9th to 11th centuries that the Rajputs rose to prominence in the Indian history. The four Agnivanshi clans, namely the Pratiharas (Pariharas), Solankis (Chaulukyas), Paramaras (Parmars), and Chauhans (Chahamanas), rose to prominence first. But there were other Rajputs also who rose to prominence.
The Guhilote or Gehlot dynasty of Chittor established their rule in 8th century CE. Bappa Rawal of this dynasty established his rule in 734 CE at Chittor. Chittor, ( Sanskrit name Chitrakuta) was then ruled by the Mori clan of Rajputs. Maan Mori was their last king at Chittor. It is believed the word Mori is a corruption of Maurya, the famous dynasty. Rajput is believed to be a corruption of Rajputra."
The Kachwaha or Kacchapghata dynasty established their rule in Narwar and Gwalior in 8th century.One of their descendant Dulah Rai (Grand son of Raja Isha Singh and son of prince Sodh Dev of Narwar) established his rule in Dhundhar in 11th century.
The Imperial Pratiharas established their rule over Malwa and ruled from Bhinmal and afterwords Ujjaini in the 8th & 9th century. One branch of the clan established a state in Mandore, Marwar in 6th and 7th century, where they held sway until they were supplanted by the Rathores in the 14th century. Around 816 AD, the Pratiharas of Ujjaini conquered Kannauj, from this city they ruled much of northern India for a century. They went into decline after Rashtrakuta invasions in the early 10th century. The Kachwahas were originally from Bihar; they founded Gwalior and Narwar in the 8th century. The Chandela clan ruled Bundelkhand after the 10th century, occupying the fortress of Kalinjar; they later built the famous temples at Khajuraho.
The organization of Rajput clan finally crystallized in this period. Intermarriage among the Rajput clans interlinked the various regions of India and Pakistan, facilitating the flow of trade and scholarship. Archaeological evidence and contemporary texts suggest that Indian society achieved significant prosperity during this era.
The literature composed in this period, both in Sanskrit and in the Apabhramshas, constitutes a substantial segment of classical Indian literature. The early 11th century saw the reign of the polymath King Bhoja, Paramara ruler of Malwa. He was not only a patron of literature and the arts but was himself a distinguished writer. His Samarangana-sutradhara deals with architecture and his Raja-Martanda is a famous commentary on the Yoga-sutras. Many major monuments of northern and central India, including those at Khajuraho, date from this period.
The fertile and prosperous plains of northern India had always been the destination of choice for streams of invaders coming from the north-west. The last of these waves of invasions were of tribes who had previously converted to Islam. Due to geographic reasons, Rajput-ruled states suffered the brunt of aggression from various Mongol-Turkic-Afghan warlords who repeatedly invaded the subcontinent. In his New History of India',' Stanley Wolpert wrote, "The Rajputs were the vanguard of Hindu India in the face of the Islamic onslaught."
Within 15 years of the death of the Muhammad, the caliph Usman sent a sea expedition to raid Thana and Broach on the Bombay coast. Other unsuccessful raiding expeditions to Sindh took place in 662 and 664 CE. Indeed, within a hundred years after Muhammad's death, Muslim armies had overrun much of Asia as far as the Hindu Kush; however, it was not until c.1000 CE that they could establish any foothold in India.
In the early 11th century, Mahmud of Ghazni conquered the Hindu Shahi kingdom in the Punjab. His raids into northern India weakened the Pratihara kingdom, which was drastically reduced in size and came under the control of the Chandelas. In 1018 CE, Mahmud sacked the city of Kannauj, seat of the Pratihara kingdom, but withdrew immediately to Ghazni, being interested in booty rather than empire. In the ensuing chaos, the Gahadvala dynasty established a modest state centered around Kannauj, ruling for about a hundred years. They were defeated by Muhammad of Ghor in 1194 CE, when the city was sacked by the latter.
Meanwhile, a nearby state centered around present-day Delhi was ruled successively by the Tomara and Chauhan clans. Prithiviraj III, ruler of Delhi, defeated Muhammad of Ghor at the First Battle of Tarain (1191 CE). Muhammad returned the following year and defeated Prithviraj at the Second Battle of Tarain (1192 AD). In this battle, as in many others of this era, rampant internecine conflict among Rajput kingdoms facilitated the victory of the invaders.
Prithviraj Chauhan proved to be the last Rajput ruler of Delhi. The Chauhans, led by Govinda, grandson of Prithviraj, later established a small state centered around Ranthambore in present-day Rajasthan. The Songara sect of the Chauhan clan later ruled Jalore, while and Hada sect of the same clan established their rule over the Hadoti region in the mid-13th century. The Rever Maharaja Ranavghansinh ruled Taranga, in the 11th century. The Tomaras later established themselves at Gwalior, and the ruler Man Singh built the fortress which still stands there. Muhammad's armies brought down the Gahadvala kingdom of Kannauj in 1194 CE. Some surviving members of the Gahadvala dynasty are said to have refugeed to the western desert, formed the Rathore clan, and later founded the state of Marwar. The Kachwaha clan came to rule Dhundhar (later Jaipur) with their capital at Amber.
Other relocations surmised to have occurred in this period include the emigration of Rajput clans to the Himalayas. The Katoch clan, the Chauhans of Chamba and certain clans of Uttarakhand and Nepal are counted among this number.
The Delhi Sultanate was founded by Qutb ud din Aybak, Muhammad of Ghor's successor, in the early 13th century. Sultan Alauddin Khilji) conquered Gujarat (1297), Malwa (1305), Ranthambore (1301), Chittorgarh (1303) Jalore, and Bhinmal (1311). All were conquered after long sieges and fierce resistance from their Rajput defenders.
The "First Jauhar," in particular the siege of Chittor (1303), its brave defence by the Guhilas, the saga of Rani Padmini, and the Jauhar, are the stuff of immortal legend. This incident has had a defining impact upon the Rajput character and is detailed in a succeeding section.
Ala-ud-din Khilji delegated the administration of the newly conquered areas to his principal Rajput collaborator, Maldeo Songara, ruler of Jalore. Maldeo Songara was soon displaced by his son-in-law Hammir, a scion of the lately displaced Guhila clan, who re-established the state of Mewar c.1326 CE. Mewar was to emerge as a leading Rajput state, after Rana Kumbha expanded his kingdom at the expense of the sultanates of Malwa and Gujarat.
The Delhi sultanate was extinguished when Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi at the First Battle of Panipat in 1526. Rana Sanga, ruler of Mewar, rallied an army to challenge Babur.Rana Sanga used traditional war tactics and weapons and Babur used modern tatics and cannons.In northern India cannons were first introduced by Babur.There was no match between arrows and swords used by Sanga and cannons used by Babur.Ultimately Sanga was defeated by Babur at the Battle of Khanua on March 16, 1527; however, it was not until the reign of Akbar that the structure of relations between the Mughal imperium and the Rajput states took definitive shape.
During the Second Jauhar Rana Sanga died soon after the battle of Khanua. Shortly afterwards, Mewar came under the regency of his widow, Rani Karmavati. The kingdom was menaced by Bahadur Shah, ruler of Gujarat. According to one romantic legend of dubious veracity, Karmavati importuned the assistance of Humayun, son of her late husband's foe. The help arrived, but too late; Chittor was reduced by Bahadur Shah. This is the occasion for the second of the three Jauhars performed at Chittor. Karmavati led the ladies of the citadel into death by fire, while the menfolk sallied out to meet the besieging Muslim army in a hopeless fight to the death.
Babur's son Humayun was a ruler who was forced to spend long periods in exile. His son Akbar; however, was made of a different mettle. Akbar consolidated his inheritance and expanded what had been the "Delhi sultanate" into a wide empire. A main factor in this success was indubitably his co-option of native Rajput chiefs into his empire-building project. His reign countenanced, for the first time, the involvement of Hindus in the affairs of the empire. The Rajput chiefs collaborated with alacrity, an alliance cemented by marriage, with numerous Rajput noblewomen being wed to Mughal grandees. The Kachwahas were the first to extend matrimonial alliances with Akbar; they pioneered a trend that soon turned pervasive and played no small role in extending Rajput influence across the Indian sub-continent, from Bengal to Afghanistan, to the Deccan. Indeed, two successive Mughal emperors, Jehangir and Shah Jehan, were born to Rajput mothers.
Rajput chiefs served as Mughal officers and administrators across the Mughal Empire and enjoyed much influence in the government. In this period, the aristocratic image of the Rajputs can be said to have finally crystallized; consequently, caste-divisions became rigid. The trend of political relations between Rajput states and the central power was the precursor for similar relations between them and the British.
During the "Third Jauhar" these relations were not universally approbated. Mewar, which justly enjoys a unique position in the Rajput mind, held out and valiantly gave battle to Akbar. After a brave struggle, Mewar's chief citadel of Chittor finally fell to Akbar in 1568. The third (and last) Jauhar of Chittor transpired on this occasion. vWhen the fall of the citadel became imminent, the ladies of the fort committed collective self-immolation and the men sallied out of the fort to meet the invading Muslim army in a hopeless fight to an honorable death.
Prior to this event, Mewar's ruler, Rana Udai Singh II, had retired to the nearby hills, where he founded a new town Udaipur named it after himself. He was succeeded while in exile by his son Rana Pratap as head of the Sisodia clan. Even in exile, the Sisodias did not rest; under the able leadership of Rana Pratap Singh, they harassed the Mughal administrators of the land enough to cause them to make accommodatory overtures. Rana Pratap, a present-day Rajput icon, rebuffed every such overtures of friendship from Akbar and rallied an army to meet the Mughal forces. Some historians say that he was defeated at the battle of Haldighati but Mughals never invaded in Udaipur on June 21, 1576 but were forced to withdraw to the Aravalli ranges; however, he carried out a relentless guerilla struggle from his hideout in those hills, and never gave in to the Mughal power. By the time of his death, Rana Pratap Singh had reconquered nearly all of his kingdom from the Mughals, except for the fortress of Chittor and Mandal Garh. He died in 1597 CE. After Pratap's death, his son Rana Amar Singh continued the struggle for 18 years, and faced constant attacks from Mughals. He faced 18 wars during this period. Finally he entered into a peace treaty with the Mughals but with certain exemptions. The exemptions granted to him and the rulers of Mewar were: 1. Rana of Mewar shall not attend the Mughal court personally but the crown prince shall attend the court. 2. It was not necessary for Rana and Sisodias to enter into a marriage alliance with Mughals. The treaty was signed by Rana Amar Singh and prince "Khurram" (later Shah Jahan) in 1615 CE at Gogunda. He thus regained control of his state as a vassal of the Mughals.
The Sisodias, rulers of Mewar, were famously the last Rajput dynasty to enter into an alliance with the Mughals. The Rajput states, thereafter, remained loyal to the Mughal Empire for over two centuries, until it was supplanted by the British Raj. Indeed, even as late as the early 19th century, Rajput courts rarely failed to formally affirm their loyalty to the (by now entirely powerless) Mughal Emperor in all their official communiques and documents.
Shivaji was formally crowned Chhatrapati ("Chhatrapati= Chief, head or King of Kshatriyas", representing the protection he bestowed on his people) on June 6, 1674 at the Raigad fort, and given the title Kshatriya Kulavantas Sinhasanadheeshwar Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Pandit Ganga Bhatt, a renown Brahmin from Varanasi, officially presided over the ceremony declaring that Shivaji's ancestor's were truly Kshatriyas who descended from the solar line of the Ranas of Mewar. The actual date of Shivaji's birth was under controversy but now settled on date as 19 February 1627. Shivaji's grandfather Maloji Bhonsle claimed descent from the Sisodia clan of Rajputs.
The Marathas rose to power during 17th century under Shivaji. Peshwa Bajirao and Balaji Bajirao further strengthened their power in India but their strength declined after their defeat in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 AD. However, 10 years later, Maratha prominence in North India was restored by Madhavrao Peshwa. After the battle, Maratha Confederacy split up into five prominent factions which were 1: Peshwas of Pune 2:Scindias of Gwalior 3:Gaikwads of Baroda 4:Holkars of Indore and 5:Bhonsles of Nagpur.
From the times of Peshwa Bajirao, the Marathas had steadily made huge territorial gains in Rajputana. They interfered in the internal disputes of Rajput Kings. Rajput kings used to approach Maratha sardars (chiefs) for help in case of a dispute. Maratha generals would take their sides and received money from both i.e. the looser and the gainer. Marathas had gained and had influence over such an area of Rajputana that they demanded taxes to avoid attacks and interference in disputes between brothers and kinsmen. The taxes were named 'Chauth' and 'Sardesmukhi' and was hated by general public. The name 'Chauth' became so infamous that today in Hindi it means unjustified demand.
The Marathas attacked the states of Rajputana in 18th century as well. During one such attempts, one of the Maratha generals Jayappa Scindia was murdered at Nagaur. Maharaja Bakhat Singh of Jodhpur sent six nobles to talk with him, soon the talks heated up. The general started abusing the Maharaja and the delegation upon which he was beheaded by one of the six persons and his head was presented to Maharaja of Jodhpur. Soon his brother was appointed the general and he recovered the taxes from Jodhpur state. Marathas interfered in the dispute of Jaipur state and tried to resolve the dispute between Sawai Ishwari Singh and his younger brother Madhosingh I. Sawai Ishwari Singh of Jaipur could not pay the taxes demanded by the Marathas (in return for their help in defeating Madho Singh and helping Ishwari Singh in gaining the Jaipur throne) and committed suicide. The public of Jaipur was very much infuriated with this incident as also Madhosingh, who didn't like Maratha interference in the internal matters of Rajputana and wanted to totally drive them out of Rajputana. On January 20, 1751, when 4,000 Maratha soldiers had come to see Jaipur, all the gates of Jaipur were closed, almost the whole city along with the Rajput army attacked the Marathas and killed them inside the city. Almost 3,000 Marathas died and 1,000 were injured.
After the failure of Lalsot campaign of July 1787, Scindia had evacuated the Jaipur territory. But then, the Battle of Patan was fought on June 20, 1790 between the Maratha Confederacy and the Rajputs of Jaipur and their Mughal allies, in which the Rajputs suffered a severe blow. Marathas recovered taxes and damages. The Rana of Mewar could not pay such taxes and instead mortgaged some of his areas to Scindia for their due recovery.
The Maharaja of Bharatpur, Surajmal did not pay the taxes and faced an attack on Deeg and Kumher fort on 20 January 1754 AD. The Marathas besieged the Kumher Fort till 18 May 1754. The war continued for about four months. During the war Khanderao Holkar, son of Malharrao Holkar, was one day inspecting his army in an open palanquin, when he was fired from inside the fort and a cannonball hit him and he was killed on 17 March 1754. Malhar Rao vouched to avenge his son's death. Marathas increased the pressure. At a time, when the Marathas were just going to take over the fort, Maharaja Suraj Mal counseled Maharani Kishori, who started the diplomatic efforts. She contacted Diwan Roop Ram Katara. She knew that there were some differences between Malharrao Holkar and Jayappa Sindhia and that Jayappa Sindhia was very firm in determinations. She advised Maharaja Suraj Mal to take advantage of mutual differences within Marathas. Diwan Roop Ram Katara was a friend of Jayappa Sindhia. She requested Diwan Roop Ram Katara to take the letter of Maharaja Suraj Mal with a proposal of a treaty. Jayappa Sindhia assured to assist and contacted Raghunathrao. Raghunathrao in turn advised Holkar for treaty with Suraj Mal. Malhar Rao Holkar assessed the situation and consented for treaty due to possibility of isolation. This led to a treaty between Surajmal and the Marathas on 18 May 1754. This treaty proved very beneficial for Maharaja Suraj Mal. However, this increased the differences between Holkars and Shindes. But later, Marathas recovered Rupees 4.5 million from his grandsons.
Ajmer Merwara province was directly under the control of Sultans of Delhi after defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan in 1192 CE, then it passed to Mughals and then to British East India Company and British Government. But from time to time it passed to Mewar or Jodhpur and Scindia for shorter periods.
After decline of Mughal empire and Maratha power and rise of British East India Company as major power in India, it was considered proper by Rajput states to enter treaties with British Company and later British Government.
After the Third Anglo-Maratha War, (1817-1818), 18 states in the Rajputana region, of which 15 were ruled by Rajputs, entered into subsidiary alliance with the HEIC and became princely states under the British Raj. The British took direct control of Ajmer, which became the province of Ajmer-Merwara. A vast number of other Rajput states in central and western India made a similar transition. Most of them were placed under the authority of the Central India Agency and the various states' agencies of Kathiawar.
The British colonial officials in general were very impressed by the military qualities of the Rajputs. In his Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan James Tod writes:
In further reference to the role of the Rajput soldiers serving under the British banner, Captain A.H. Bigley goes on to state; “Rajputs have served in our ranks from Plassey to the present day(1899). They have taken part in almost every campaign undertaken by the Indian armies. Under Forde they defeated the French at Condore. Under Monro at Buxar they routed the forces of the Nawab of Oudh. Under Lake they took part in the brilliant series of victories which destroyed the power of the Marathas.’ Bingley then went on to describe the role of the Rajput infantries in the war of the Nepal campaigns (Nepal was conquered by a Rajput family in 1768, but never by the British), the Afghan war, as well as the fact that the Rajput troops were instrumental in the victory of the Sikh wars in Punjab. He also went on to elucidate the role the Rajput troopers in the Egyptian campaign of 1882 as well as their victorious action in the Burmese war of 1885. The Rajputs thus retained their principal role in Indian society and armies wherever it saw action throughout this period, until Indian independence in 1947.
When India gained its independence in 1947, the Rajput states acceded unto the dominion of India and dominion of Pakistan. They were all merged into the union of India before 1950. Rajput soldiers remained an integral part in the armies of India and Pakistan.
The Rajputs were designated by the British as a "Martial Race." They also were the first group in India who originally used the surname Singh. The martial race was a designation created by officials of British India to describe "races" (peoples) that were thought to be naturally warlike and aggressive in battle and to possess qualities like courage, loyalty, self sufficiency, physical strength, resilience, orderliness, a hard working nature, a fighting tenacity, and military strategy. The British recruited heavily from these "martial races" for service in the colonial army.
The Rajput ethos is martial, in spirit, and fiercely proud and independent, and emphasizes lineage and tradition. Rajput patriotism is legendary, an ideal they embodied with a sometimes fanatical zeal, often choosing death before dishonour. Rajput warriors were often known to fight until the last man.
All recorded instances of Jauhar and "Saka" have featured Rajput defenders of a fort, resisting the invasion of a Muslim force. On several occasions when defeat in such an engagement became certain. The Rajput defenders of the fort scripted a final act of heroism that rendered the incident an immortal inspiration and afforded the invaders only an exceedingly hollow, inglorious victory. In such incidents, the ladies of the fort would commit collective self-immolation. Wearing their wedding dresses, and holding their young children by the hand, the ladies would commit their chastity to the flames of a massive, collective pyre, thereby escaping molestation and dishonour at the hands of the invading army. As the memorial of their heroic act, the ladies would leave only the imprint of the palm of their right hands on wet clay, which have become objects of veneration. This immolation would occur during the night, to the accompaniment of Vedic chants. Early the next morning, after taking a bath, the men would wear saffron-colored garments, apply the ash from the pyres of their wives and children on their foreheads and put a tulsi leaf in their mouth. Then the gates would be opened and men would ride out for one final, heroic, hopeless battle, dying gloriously on the field of honor. This fight until death of men is called "Saka." The historic fort of Chittor, the seat of the Sisodia kingdom of Mewar, was the site of the three most famous Jauhars recorded in history.
The Rajput lifestyle was designed to foster a martial spirit. Tod (1829) describes at length the bond between the Rajputs and their swords. The double-edged scimitar known as the khanda was a popular weapon among the Rajputs of that era. On special occasions, a primary chief would break up a meeting of his vassal chiefs with khanda nariyal, the distribution of daggers and coconuts. The Karga Shapna ritual, performed during the annual Navaratri festival, was another affirmation of the Rajput's reverence for his sword.
By the late 19th century, there was a shift from on questions regarding the political relations amongst the Rajputs to a concern with kinship (Kasturi 2002:2). According to Harlan (1992:27), many Rajputs of Rajasthan are nostalgic about their past and keenly conscious of their genealogy, emphasizing a Rajput ethos that is martial in spirit, with a fierce pride in lineage and tradition. These are indeed the timeless values of the Rajput community, as the Encyclopedia Britannica (1911 edition) affirms in its resume of the contemporary social values of the community in India.