Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 42


The Kachwaha Fort at Amber, Rajasthan
watercolor by William Simpson, c. 1860

Jun 13, 2015 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.

The Kachwaha

The Kachwaha originated as tributaries of the preceding powers of the region. Some scholars point out that it was only following the downfall, in the 8th-10th century, of Kannauj (the regional seat-of-power, following the break-up of Harsha's empire), that the Kacchapaghata state emerged as a principal power in the Chambal valley of present-day Madhya Pradesh.[56]

In an earlier segment on the Rajputs, we made this mention of the Kachwaha:

"The first Rajput house to accept Mughal sovereignty was the Kachhwahas, who built the great fort at Amber. Not surprisingly, the Kachwaha court artists immediately demonstrated the Rajputs' deference to their new rulers by incorporating Mughal elements in their paintings. The Mughal themes were carried through all the subsequent schools under the broad class of Rajput Schools of painting, including the Bikaner, Bundi-Kota Kalam, Jaipur, Kishengarh, Marwar, and Mewar Schools."

Sometimes referred to as Kushwaha, the Kachwaha dynasty claims descent from the Suryavansh (Solar) dynasty via Kusha, who was one of the twin sons of Lord Rama and Sita. Previously, the Kachwaha had worshipped Shiva and Shakta. Ganga Prasad Gupta claimed in the 1920s that Kushwah families worshiped Hanuman.

Although the Kachwaha were a princely lineage at the time of building the Amber fort, they later became known as a community of sudras, albeit skilled agriculturists. [56a] At one time they ruled a number of kingdoms and princely states, such as Alwar, Amber (modern Jaipur) and Maihar.

The Kachwaha were chiefs at Amber in the mid-16th Century. In 1561 they sought support from Akbar, the Mughal emperor. The then chief, Bharamail Kachwaha, was formally recognised as a Raja and was invested into the Mughal nobility in return for him giving his daughter to Akbar's harem. A governor was then appointed to oversee Bharamail's territory and a tribute arrangement saw Bharamail given a salaried rank, paid for from a share of the area's revenue.

The Rajput practice of giving daughters to the Mughal emperors in return for recognition as nobility and the honour of fighting on behalf of the Empire originated in this arrangement with the Kachwaha chief, and it became a model practice by which the Mughals were often able to assert their dominance over Rajput chiefs in north India without needing to physically intimidate them. This was especially true after the Mughals' rout of the rulers in Gondwana.

The Kachwaha's rise from a sudra designation to that of a kshatriya classification is the subject of much debate.

From around 1910, the Kachhis and the Koeris, both of whom for much of the preceding century had close links with the British as a consequence of their favoured role in the cultivation of the opium poppy, began to identify themselves as Kushwaha Kshatriya. [56a] An organisation claiming to represent those two groups and the Muraos petitioned for official recognition as being of the Kshatriya varna in 1928. This action by the All India Kushwaha Kshatriya Mahasabha (AIKKM) reflected the general trend for social upliftment by communities that had traditionally been classified as being Shudra. The process, which M. N. Srinivas called sanskritisation,[ [56b] was a feature of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century caste politics.[56c-d]

The position of the AIKKM was loosely based on a concept of Vaishnavism, which was employed to promote the worship and claims of descent from Rama or Krishna as a means to assume the trappings of Kshatriya symbolism and thus permit the wearing of the sacred thread, even though the physical labour inherent in their cultivator occupations intrinsically defined them as Shudra. The movement caused them to abandon their claims to be descended from Shiva in favour of the alternate claim of descent from Rama.[56e]

In 1921, Ganga Prasad Gupta, a proponent of Kushwaha reform, had published a book offering a proof of the Kshatriya status of the Koeri, Kachhi, Murao and Kachwaha. [56a] [56f] His reconstructed history argued that the Kushwaha were Hindu descendants of Kush and that in the 12th Century they had served Raja Jaichand in a military capacity during the period of Muslim consolidation of the Delhi Sultanate. Subsequent persecution by the victorious Muslims caused the Kushwaha kshatryia to disperse and disguise their identity, foregoing the sacred thread and thereby becoming degraded and taking on various localised community names.

Some Kushwaha reformers have argued that since Brahmans and also Kshatriya Rajputs and Bhumihars worked the fields in some areas, there was no rational basis for assertions that such labour marked a community as being of the Shudra varna.[56a]


[56] Stella Snead - Guardian Lion

[56a] Pinch, William R. (1996). Peasants and monks in British India. University of California Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-520-20061-6. Retrieved 22 February 2012.

[56b] Charsley, S. (1998). "Sanskritization: The Career of an Anthropological Theory". Contributions to Indian Sociology 32 (2): 527. doi:10.1177/006996679803200216.

[56c] Jaffrelot, Christophe (2003). India's silent revolution: the rise of the lower castes in North India (Reprinted ed.). C. Hurst & Co. p. 199. ISBN 978-1-85065-670-8. Retrieved 6 February 2012.

[56d] Upadhyay, Vijay S.; Pandey, Gaya (1993). History of anthropological thought. Concept Publishing Company. p. 436. ISBN 978-81-7022-492-1. Retrieved 6 February 2012.

[56e] Jassal, Smita Tewari (2001). Daughters of the earth: women and land in Uttar Pradesh. Technical Publications. pp. 51–53. ISBN 978-81-7304-375-8. Retrieved 6 February 2012.

[56f] Narayan, Badri (2009). Fascinating Hindutva: saffron politics and Dalit mobilisation. SAGE. p. 25. ISBN 978-81-7829-906-8. Retrieved 6 February 2012.

[56g] Gupta, Dipankar (2004). Caste in question: identity or hierarchy?. SAGE. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-7619-3324-3. Retrieved 22 February 2012.


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