According to the Hindu code of Manu, a Kshatriya is a member of the military or reigning order, the second ranking caste of the Indian varna system of four castes, the first being the Brahmin or priestly caste, the third the Vaishya or mercantile caste and the lowest the Shudra. In Nepal the Kshatriyas are known as Chhetris.

Sanskrit kṣatriya is derived from kṣatra "dominion, power, government" and ultimately from a root kṣi "to rule, govern, possess".

In early Vedic civilization, the warrior caste was called rājanya rather than kṣatriya, an adjective to rājan "ruler, king" from a root rāj "to rule", cognate to Latin rex "king" and German Reich "empire".

In India, the period after the Epic Age or the Later Vedic Age (roughly 1000 BC to 600 BC) was marked by the rise of numerous small kingdoms. The rising popularity and aspirations of the Brahmin priests began to collide with the authority of the Kshatriyas, who formed the ruling class of each kingdom. The struggle involved the Kshatriya nobility and the Brahman clergy in all the Indo-Aryan regions from Iran to northern India.

Some Khatris of the Punjab believe that they are descended from the original Kshatriya families of ancient times. In the Punjab, the name khatri is the Punjabi dialect for the Sanskrit word Kshatriya. The modern Khatri is less in the role of a farmer, and more often a businessman, government worker, landlord, military officer or soldier.

In modern India, caste is determined by familial inheritance, but not all present members of Kshatriya castes are necessarily descended from the Vedic Kshatriyas. Many historical rulers came from other castes, or were descended from non-Hindu foreign conquerors, and were either granted de facto Kshatriya status by virtue of the power they held, or they created fictionalized family histories to connect themselves to past Kshatriya rulers. The Maratha ruler Shivaji was from Kshatriya origins: his mother was a Yadava and father was a minister general, a Kunbi kshatriya. The caste system spread, along with Hinduism, throughout India and into southeast Asia, but not necessarily by immigration; peoples with non-Vedic origins may have adopted the vedic castes as they acculturated into Hinduism. For instance, the Sakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Pahlavas, Paradas etc were the foreign invaders from north-west but were finally assimilated into the Indian community as Kshatriyas (Ref: History and Culture of Indian People, The Vedic Age, pp 286-87, 313-14). See also: [1] (http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/mag/2002/07/07/stories/2002070700310400.htm). The modern representatives of the ancient Kambojas still live as Kamboj/Kamboh in greater Panjab, and the Kamoz/Camoje/Kam in Nurestan province of Afghanistan. The Kamboj are noted for their contribution in agriculture and military fields.

The Rajputs of Rajasthan and northern India also claim to be the bona fide descendants of the Vedic Kshatriyas. The history of the Rajputs before c. 1000 CE is obscure, and historians have speculated on Rajput origins; some understand them to be relatively direct descendants of the Kshatriyas, while others favor a hybrid origin, wherein Kshatriyas mixed with the descendants of invading warrior tribes from the northwest. This is supported by the Agni Purana which contends that the Rajputs were born from the fire which resides in Mt. Abu in Northwestern India after the supposed "destruction of ancient Kshatriyas".

The Rajputs themselves usually do not take kindly to the hybrid theory: traditionally, they view themselves as the only surviving pure Kshatriyas, claiming also that originally, this was the highest caste in the Hindu caste system, going back to an Indo-Aryan patriarchal system where the king or dominant warrior was at the apex of the social framework. However, the Rajputs distinctly belong and are located only in the northwest, betraying their origins as being one of the mixed clans of foreign invaders such as the Huns.

In addition to the Marathas, there are other Kshatriya communities in India, such as the Kunbis, Kurmis, Yadavs, Janjuas etc. that were likely members of other agrarian clans which were the original source of all martial traditions and the original source of kings of Bharat. The word "earth" in Sanskrit (Prithvi) itself is named after King Prithu, who tamed the earth to make it fertile. King Janaka and Buddha's father both had to perform ceremonies dealing with farming. These agrarian clans are probably the original Vedic kshatriyas. Due to conversion during Buddhism, many had given up their caste identities allowing Brahmin priests to convert neo-kshatriyas like the Rajputs as the new warrior clans.

See also: Hinduism, Varnas, Caste, Brahmin, Vaishya, Shudra,Untouchability, Aryan invasion theoryde:Kshatriya nl:Kshatriya zh:刹帝利 sv:Kshatriya


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