The centuries that intervened between the death of Harsha and the Muhammadan conquest of India were marked by the ascendancy of the Rajputs and establishment of numerous powerful kingdoms by them in Northern India. This period has conveniently been termed as the `Rajput period’ of Indian history. The Rajputs filled the political canvas of India during this period.
Origin of the Rajputs
There is a keen controversy among scholars regarding the origin of the Rajputs. There is difference in the views of various scholars.
In the absence of any definite theory on the origin of the Rajputs, we can merely discuss the salient views about it.
Legends ascribe lofty origin to the Rajputs
The Rajputs trace their origin to the legendary Solar and Lunar dynasties. Some of them claim to be lineal descendants of the Kshatriyas of Vedic fame. The word Rajaputra is mentioned in the Puranas. The term `Rajput’ seems to have been derived from the Sanskrit word Rajaputra. Bana uses the term to denote a high-born Kshatriya. These points lead to the conclusion that the term Rajaputra or Rajput was known in early times.
The poet Chand Bardai in his poetical work `Prithviraj Raso’ has recorded a legend that the Rajputs of Parmar, Chauhan, Pratihara and Chalukya clans sprang from Vasishta’s sacrificial fire pit at Mount Abu. This is known as the theory of Agnikula origin. Some Rajputs firmly advocate even now their `Agnikula origin’.
Theory of Kshatriya origin of the Rajputs
Ethnology and tradition point to Aryan origin of the Rajputs. Although there are some similarities in the manners and customs of the Rajputs with that of the Sakas and other foreigners, these are not conclusive proofs of their foreign origin. The Asvamedha sacrifice, the practice of Sati, and the worship of Sun practice by the Rajputs are not clear marks of foreign heritage. These practices were ingrained in Hindu society. The theory of Kshatriya origin of Rajput clan has more acceptability.
Theory of foreign origin of the Rajputs
Some historians have suggested that the Rajputs were descendants of the Sakas, Huns, Kushanas and the Gurjaras, who became hinduized. Smith has further suggested that the invasion of the Huns and other associate foreign tribes in the fifth and sixth centuries shook the Indian society in the North to its foundation. It brought about a rearrangement of castes and ruling families. When the equilibrium was reached it was found that people belonging to many diverse races were lumped together and were called Rajputs. However, the theory of foreign origin of the Rajputs has less acceptability.