Origin of Rajputs has been a question which has puzzled almost all European historians and even Indian antiquarians over the centuries. There has been constant effort at establishing the identity and origins of the Rajputs. Medieval history after the fall of Harsha to the dominance of Islamic invaders has been characterised by the rise of Rajputs in the region now called Rajputana comprising territories of Rajasthan, North Gujarat and Malwa. The term Rajput has been in vogue since ancient times but its usage as denoting a class of people acquired currency in medieval India. The clans which rose in the intervening period chose to call themselves Rajputs and many ruling families in India claim their descent from these Kings. Incidentally, almost all scholars and researchers who laboured to collect historical evidence to this period and of the origins of Rajputs were misled by that romantic balladeer of Rajputs, Col James Tod, a British military officer who is credited with writing the First History of Rajputs in early 19 Century. Tod was handicapped by lack of historical research and epigraphical evidence which since then has been amply collected, collated and interpreted by trained historians and scholars. Tod is blind sighted by his own biases when he concludes that Rajputs belonged to the foreign tribes which invaded India in period of Later Guptas, the Gettes, Hun and other foreigners.
Interestingly, this line of thought was adopted by likes of Keilhorn, Smith, Buhler, Fleet, Johnson and DR Bhandarkar who assiduously worked on the supposition that Rajputs were Foreigners. CV Vaidya in his Medieval Hindu History, vol ii says, history of India is nothing but religious and the rise of Rajputs can’t be delinked from this. In 7 Century India, Buddhism was comprehensively supplanted by philosophy of reinforcing and reforming Hinduism while the storm of Islam had reached Sind which sent shock waves in India. It aroused opposition which came in form of Rajputs who rose from the ranks of ancient Kshatriyas in the region now synonymous with Rajputana. The region had strong Hindu resurgence and had remained predominantly Hindu even during the heydays of Buddhism, it was natural that resistance would have its genesis in the region. Leaders of this resistance and opposition to Islam called themselves Rajputs. Bappa Rawal, whose legendary arms extended his sway over regions upto north west, Pratihar Nagbhatt who stopped the advance of Arabs to east bank of Indus and Chahamanas who are credited with many a victories over the Islamic Invaders.
Despite overwhelming evidence of ethnology, of traditions and probability, the Europeans and many Indian antiquarians have maintained and believed that Rajputs were foreigners. Tod was the originator, he can be excused for the lack of evidence available to him but Vincent Smith and DR Bhandarkar carried on the same set of conclusions drawn so erroneously by Tod despite an abundance of epigraphical evidence in the subsequent times. They believed in the assimilation powers of Hinduism and asserted that the foreign races which invaded were gradually taken into the fold of Hinduism, the ruling classes were made Kshatriyas or Rajputs, the rank and file became Gujjars. Astonishing simplistic conclusion drawn by so called eminent historians. Mr William Crooke, editor of Tod’s Annals came up with another surprising conclusion, “ most Rajputs rose in the intervening period of invasions by foreigners amongst them, the Huns who were accompanied by Gujjars who were Hinduised and became Rajput
DR Bhandarkar’s argument ran thus, first, Rajputs are descendants of Gujjars, second, Gujjars are foreigners, therefore, third, Rajputs are descendants of foreigners. He based his premise on similar sounding tribe called Khizars who according to him accompanied the Huns in 5 Century. This is most preposterous proposition. There exists no evidence of Khizars having ever left their homelands or adopting a nomadic preoccupation like Gujjars, they were traders, diametrically opposites of the pastoral and nomadic Gujjars found in India. Gujjars are found in India from Kashmir to Karnataka and from Rajasthan to UP. Note the extension of a tribe which came to north west India and spread upto Karnataka in south to Kashmir in north. The geographical displacement is surprising, considering that Rajputs who were supposedly the ruling class restricted themselves to Rajputana during those centuries. Gujjars are indigenous to India, have nothing to do with Hunas.
Gorjaradesha and Gujjars.
Gurjara, Gurjardesha, Gurjar is a geographical connotation, it has nothing to do with Gujjars, the nomadic community. KM Munshi in his Glory That Was Gorjaradesha, Harshcharita by Bana first mentions Gurjara, describing Prabhakarvardhan as, “ Lion to the deer of Huna…. kept the Gurjara awake…”. This passage has been cited as evidence of Gujjars being inhabitants of Gujarat and their relationship with Huna. However, it must be noted that the author has denoted geographical entities while using proper noun only for Huns who had no geographical identity. Rest are regions of Lata, south Gujarat, Malava. Aihole inscription of Pulkeshi II shortly after Harshcharita records defeat of “ Lata, Malava and Gurjara” none are tribes or community but geographical regions. An inscription of 739 AD describes the defeat of “ Saindhava, Saurashtra, Kaacha, Gurjara, Chapotakas…” by the Arabs colloquially called Tajikas however other than Chapotakas rest are regions whose kings were defeated. Sanjan Plates of Amoghvarsha speaks of Dantidurga’ Hiranyagrabha ceremony at Ujjain where among others, Gurjeresadirajakam to act as his chamberlain, Pratihari. In 867 AD, Mihirbhoja army is called Gurjara-bala, Shankaravarman in 896 AD speaks of defeating the King of Gurjara, Gurjara-bhubhujah. Kalhan here definitely meant the country not a race or tribe. The name Gurjara denotes a Country not a Race or a Tribe. Modern state of Gujarat has no bearing on the medieval Gurjaradesha which encompassed areas stretching from North Gujarat to North of Jodhpur.
When Tod came up with the Foreign Origins theory, his worldview of history was restricted to the bardic annals and chronicles with very little of the epigraphic evidence available or interpretations of the inscriptions. He relied upon fables along with gossipy annals. Besides, he was clouded by his inherent biases of White Supremacy and the English design to declare Rajputs as foreigners to legitimise the rule of British as continuation of foreigners ruling over India since times immemorial, starting from Rajputs to Islamic invaders to Mughals and consequently to British who took over from Mughals. Tod found in Prithviraj Raso a convenient source to formulate his theory of foreign origin. Raso has had many additions over the centuries, the original text itself has a question over its antiquity. Most scholars have given it a much later date than what Tod or other Europeans thought of when they first came to know of this ballad. Chand Bardai speaks of the great yagna at Arbuda under Rishi Vashisth whence came the four Kshatriya clans of Pratihars, Chaulukyas, Paramara and the Chahamana or Chauhan. CV Vaidya has blamed Tod and later antiquarians to have misunderstood the Raso or perhaps Chand did not mean to assign new Kula to these clans at all but for a distorted reading and subsequent interpretation by these scholars which led to these assumptions. However, it must be noted that the Yagna story is first narrated in the Navasahansaka-charita by Padmagupt on very similar lines but it speaks of only Parmara as the Agnikula. Padmagupt was Court port of Vakpati Munja and Sindhuraja.
Further oral traditions followed the script and since all four clans ruled over the same region called Gurjaradesha they were clubbed together by the early scholars as Gurjaras. These scholars also agreed that Pratihars were Gurjars , therefore foreigners and since the other three clans were related to them, they too were Gurjaras, nothing could be more simplistic than this absurdity of conclusion based on mere assumptions. It is believed by many scholars in light of new evidence that Chand did not want to project these four clans as New Kshatriyas but a misconception of what Chand meant in his work. There were epigraphic evidence to the contrary belonging to 9 Century which established at least three of the four clans belonging to ancient Solar or Lunar Kshatriya dynasties. DR Bhandarkar in his paper in Indian Antiquary vol XL (1911) has tried hard to prove that the four clans were Gujjars and the Yagna at Mt Abu was a purificatory rites of foreigners being assimilated into the Hindu fold. Interestingly, by the period to which Raso is accredited to, intercaste marriage and stratification of Varna had become inflexible. In fact by 3rd Century BC Megasthenese speaks of people in India marrying into their own Varna and by the time Raso was written assimilation of foreigners into Hindu fold was a taboo. Bhandarkar however in his zeal to declare them Agnikula came up with most frivolous claims including that Haihayas too were foreigners as they were clubbed with Sakas, Yavanas and Kambojas in Puranas and thereby Mlechas. ignoring an abundance of evidence available to the contrary.
Foremost of the Four Clans which presumably had a Gujjar ancestry according to the likes of Bhandarkar were the Imperial Pratihars who ruled over north west and central India, in fact were the inheritors of the Northern Empire after the fall of Harsha. The tripartite struggle for dominance notwithstanding, Pratihars were the supreme power. Having multiple evidence on the issue on Gurjara or Gurjardesha being a geographical entity and conclusively proving that the region extending from North Gujarat to Marwar in medieval India was called Gurjara we move to the issue of Pratihars being Gujjars, emphasis on Gujjars not Gurjara having settled the issue. Surprisingly not one of the Pratihar inscriptions or their poets or their panegyrists ever speak of Imperial Pratihars as Gurjara, the exception being the inscription of Mathandeva at Rajor where Gurjar-Pratihar is used.
Rajshekhar calls Pratihars Raghukula-Tilak, their inscriptions call them Suryavamshis but Bhandarkar extolls the virtues of the assimilating powers of Hinduism which not only absorbed the foreign tribe of Gujjars or Khizars as he says and then even made them the top most Kshatriyas in a span of less than 200 years. He turned every evidence on the contrary to his claim on its head to suit his narrative.
Chahamana or Chauhans
If Bhandarkar’s description of Pratihar origins do not shock your sensibilities, his expostulation on the Chauhan ancestry and his attempt to prove them foreigners definitely will. It reads like a fictional tale based on conjectures and possibilities. He is at worst pains and starts his conjecturing with discovery of some old Sassanian coins in the North West and end up in the Siwaliks in Himalayas. Had it not been for his blind insistence on proving Rajputs as Foreigners and thereby Gujjars, he most probably would have realised his folly. Certain coins with legend, “ Sri Vasudeva Vahman “ in Nagari and Takkan, Zabulistan and Saparadalaksha in Pehlevi were found in North India. Bhandarkar starts with presuming that Vahman is Chahman as V and Ch in old days were so close that we maybe mistaken, and Chahman was naturally Chahamana what else it could be ?
The coins belonged to Chahamana as Prithviraj Vijaya speaks of one Vasudeva as founder of Chauhans of Sakambari, that Vasudeva wasn’t the same as the one in the Sassanian coins. Rajshekhar’s Prabandh- kosa too names Vasudeva and gives the date as 608 VS, this date is a serious difficulty in establishing the identity of two Vasudevas but not Bhandarkar, he calmly takes the date to 627 AD claiming Rajshekhar was wrong. This isn’t all, while Cunningham says that this Vasudeva was a Hun while Prof Rapson thinks Vasudeva was a Sassanian as the coins show but Bhandarkar claims that he was a Khazar and consequently a Gujjar. His knowledge of coinage was frugal but his assessment of geographical displacement is amazingly lame. He puts Ahichchhatra and Saparadalaksha in Siwaliks. As a matter of fact he has turned the history on its head when he speaks of Rajputs descending from the Hills of Himalayas to populate the North West and Rajputana. Two factual inaccuracies, first, all migrations of Rajputs and Brahmins to hills have been from the plains not vice a versa. Second, why would Gujjars who accompanied the Huns move to the hills when they ruled the extensive plains of North West ?
Sapadalaksha according to Bhandarkar was a specific geographical region, not realising that it was a connotation employed for a quantitative term of 1.25 lakh as mentioned in Skanda Purana Many Sapadalakshas were extant in ancient times including ones in Karnataka, Mewad, Delhi, the first one is however the country of Sakambara. Har Bilas Sarda has rightly pointed out Achichhatrapur and Sapadalaksha are Nagaur and Sambar in Rajasthan. One thing is absolutely clear that Chahamana or Chauhan has nothing to do with foreigners or Gujjars nor have any connection with the Agnikula myth.
Chaulukyas have no connection with Agnikula or Gujjars despite Bhandarkar and western scholars trying hard to prove it so. Bhandarkar even after admitting that no “ epigraphic “ evidence is available to link Chaulukyas to either Gujjars or Agnikula but insists that since Gujarat came to be called such during their time, the Chaulukyas were definitely of Gujjar ancestry. He conveniently ignored the fact that South Rajasthan and North Gujarat in combination was the region called Gurjara, while south Gujarat was called and known as Lata in those times, Central Gujarat was often called Anarta and Northern part as Sarasvata Mandala.
And in case of Parmara, Bhandarkar is at great pains to point out one evidence which makes them foreigners but declares Parmaras as Agnikula for their relationship with the Chaulukyas and the others.
Bhandarkar was relied upon by Smith in his articulations on foreign origins of the Rajputs in his paper on coins of Chapa or Chapotakas in 1907. Dr Buhler was one of the top proponents of this theory propounded in 1888 following up on Col Tod whose over reliance on bardic tales and his inherent biases led to such simplistic beliefs. It was Bhandarkar who became the leader of this pack with Jackson, Smith and others following him in declaring Rajputs as Foreigners. Even RSS in its publication पाथेय-कण has called legendary Bappa Rawal, a Gujjar. Sangh in its quest for power has embarked upon the project of Subalternism where misappropriation of Kshatriya icons and identity abuse is the New Normal !
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