The Red Rajputs
By Charles Johnston, M.R.A.S., B.C.S. (RETIRED)
The Imperial and Asiatic Quarterly Review, October, 1893
“It is well known that, from the point of view of the colouring, human races can be divided into four principal groups: white, yellow, black, and red races.”—De Quatrefages.
“The colour of the Brahmans is white; of the Kshatriyas red; of the Vaishyas yellow; of the Shudras black.”—Mahâbhârata.
It is strange but true, that, though we have been in contact with Rajputana for over a hundred years, absolutely no material yet exists for the exact study of its ethnology. Much has been put on record for the historian, the student of literature, of myths and traditions; much has been written that is exceedingly picturesque and valuable, beginning with Colonel Tod’s incomparable Annals, and ending with the latest gazetteer; but the scientific student of ethnology has been unaccountably left out in the cold.
Nor can we quite wonder at this; for even in Europe exact ethnology is a young science, not long past its nonage. and we know that India is, in all matters of advanced scientific investigation, nearly a generation behind us. This is not in any way a reproach, for considering the tremendous difficulties arising from diversity of tongues, natural impediments, and climatic conditions; and taking into account also the vastness of the field of research, and the almost total absence of trained observers whose whole attention can be given up to ethnical investigations, it could hardly be otherwise. But the fact remains that Rajputana’s page in the history of ethnology is still a blank, though the Rajputs are one of the most notable races in the whole of history, and can look back to a splendid past extending over not centuries only but millenniums.
Unfortunately, the perception of a want does not always carry with it the power to supply it; and though it is easy enough to show what is needed as a foundation for the ethnology of Rajputana, I cannot here claim to do more than supply a few essentials, and point to the direction in which ample material may be sought by future observers in Rajputana itself.
And yet, as far as exact investigation is concerned, one might almost say that Rajputana had been opened up too soon; for as the earliest workers entered it before scientific ethnology had been more than dreamed of, even in Europe, it was only to be expected that, in the absence of a sound method, a crop of fanciful notions should spring up, and myths be engendered, and endowed with that tough vitality which myths are well known to possess.
For the Rajputs, the crowning myth has unquestionably been the idea of their Scythian origin, first suggested, I believe, by Colonel Tod. This matchless chronicler of deeds of old renown, and kindliest observer of human character, filled as he was with admiration for the manliness, chivalry, and sturdy patriotism of the tribes of Rajputana, was irresistibly drawn to connect his beloved Rajputs with nearly every noble and warlike tribe in the ancient world, from the Manchus to Scandinavia. He supported his opinion by quaint illustrations drawn from customs, traditions, and beliefs; and, what has done more injury to ethnology than any other cause whatever, by real or fancied similarities of names.
To this very vague, and therefore very innocent belief of Colonel Tod’s, succeeded another, much more formidable to the cause of scientific truth. The holders of this view maintained that the Rajputs could be connected with definite Scythian tribes, who entered India at a definite time, and by a definite route, all stated with minutest care. Now the danger of this later edition of the Scythian myth lay in its appearance of scientific exactness, to which, in reality, it had not the slightest claim.
In the first place, we know nothing,—and this cannot be too often repeated,—we know nothing whatever about the Scythians beyond a few rambling tales in Herodotus and his successors, which are absolutely worthless from the standpoint of ethnology. The very word “Scythian” has no definite meaning to the ethnologist, and hardly any definite meaning to the geographer. If, however, we give it a definiteness which it never really possessed; and apply it to the group of Tribes between the Caspian and China, of whom the Kirghiz are the most characteristic, the matter becomes still worse; for the Kirghiz have hardly a point in common with the Rajputs beyond their common humanity.
Let me try to describe these “neo-Scythian” Kirghiz, and let anyone who has seen the Rajputs, say whether the likeness is exact.
The Kirghiz are a short, squat race, with yellow, “moon-like” faces, high cheek-bones, hardly visible noses, and a deep-rooted, insatiable appetite for tallow. They live in curious, plum-pudding shaped tents, in a stifling atmosphere of smoke and grease, with hardly any possessions but a wooden box or two, and scarcely any property but their flocks and herds. They are incurable nomads, and never, under any circumstances, till the soil.
Could anything more unlike the Rajputs be imagined? Or shall we take as our Scythian type, the old race of southern Russia, the “Scythia” of Herodotus; and compare the most notable type there, the original Kazaks, with the Rajputs? The true Kazak is, in general, tall, but rather flat-chested; with high cheek-bones, grey eyes, red hair and beard. His glory is now diminished, but in the days of the old Reefers (Zaparojtsi) of the Dnieper, he was a marauder and land-pirate pure and simple. This is a very different type from the yellow, stunted Kirgbiz, but I am afraid it brings us no nearer to a solution of the origin of the Rajputs. Then again, the words Shaka and Shâkya are brought forward in defence of the Scythian myth, and “Shâkya” Muni Buddha is even spoken of as the “Scythian” reformer of Brahmanical abuses. But this is hopeless; for the initial letter of Shaka is represented in Greek by a surd guttural and not by a dental sibilant, so that whatever the derivation of this word may be, it is impossible to connect it with “Scythian.”
It comes to this, therefore, that we have no clear idea at all as to who or what, ethnically, the Scythians were; that of the two types which correspond geographically to the Scythia of the Greeks, neither has the smallest resemblance to the Rajput; and, lastly, that if the ethnological evidence of identity were as complete,—as it is the reverse,—the identity of the names Scythian and Shaka is philologically untenable.
Then another theory is put forward, and to this most philologists have given in their allegiance, that the Rajputs are Aryans,—representatives of the famous “Aryan Invasion” of India. Unluckily we are here on no surer ground; the word “Aryan” is as debateable as “Scythian”; even more so perhaps; for while it may be understood, in a dim way, to mean men of “noble” race, that is, men of the same race as we ourselves, the Europeans, yet this is quite useless for ethnical purposes; as Europe has been shown to contain at least four quite distinct races, as distinct three thousand years ago as they are to-day; and the name “Aryan” cannot be assigned to any one of these race types rather than to another. The term is, further, of doubtful expediency in ethnology, as it takes us back to the old pre-scientific days, when race was thought conterminous with language, the days which generated such terms as Japhetic, Semitic, Hamitic, with their more plausible though not less illusory kinsman Turanian.
The truth is that there is the strongest reason for doubting whether Arya was ever a race-term at all. We find it used in Vedic and post-Vedic literature to distinguish the “noble” races of northern India from the black Dasyus of the south; the Dekhan peoples, that is, who speak Dravidian tongues. Now this fact was found to harmonise with another, namely, that the peoples of northern India are closely related by language to the peoples of Europe; and this discovery being made before ethnology had been developed into an exact science, it was, not unnaturally, concluded that the north Indians and Europeans were sprung from a common origin and had formerly migrated from a common home. This was simple enough; but, with the distinction of four race types in Europe, the matter becomes much more complicated; nor is it made easier by the fact which I hope to prove, that there are also four distinct race types in northern India, all speaking “Aryan” tongues, as do the four European race types also, I think, therefore, that it will be wiser to hold over the discussion of the Aryan race of the Rajputs until we have decided to which race type the word belongs in Europe and in India.
Having thus cleared the ground of past myths and ambiguities, we may now proceed to summarise the existing ethnical evidence as to the real race character of the Rajput tribes. To classify them completely, we should require definite and precise information on the following points: average height, build, facial type, cephalic and orbital index, texture of hair, and colour of skin and eyes. Let us begin by indicating the points on which a mass of evidence is still required. These are, the average height and cephalic and orbital index, to complete which several thousand measurements rigorously carried out are necessary. If it were not dangerous to speculate in the absence of precise data, I should be inclined to say that I expect the average height among the pure Rajputs will be found to be unusually high,—much higher than among the pure Brahmans. Then, I expect that the pure Rajputs will be found to be long-skulled, as much so, perhaps, as the true Scandinavians; while the Brahman skulls are much shorter, perhaps orthocephalous. Then again, I should think the Rajput orbital index will give the same result as the cephalic; will show a long, oval orbit, but not at all inclined. These, however, are points for the future investigator. As to the build of the Rajputs, all authorities are, I think, agreed that they are splendidly proportioned; while the true Brahmans are rather narrow-shouldered, and flat-chested. As far as my observations go, the Rajputs are equally differentiated from the Brahmans by facial type; the Rajput face being longer, the nose straighter and the mouth firmer and more symmetrical; but here again more precise investigation is needed. Among the Rajputs, hair and beard are black, as among the Brahmans, but, I think, without the waved texture or ripple generally found in the hair of pure Brahmans. And, while blue or grey eyes are not uncommon among the Brahmans, especially in the Mahratta country, I have never heard of them among the Rajputs. There remains only the colour of the skin,—and it is on this point that I have collected the most remarkable evidence. Before putting it forward, one or two general remarks may be useful. In the early days of ethnology, the colour of the skin was looked on as a matter of very minor importance; this was partly due to the Rabbinical traditions which derived all races of men from a single family, at a period only four thousand years ago. As it was known that many types, the negro, for instance, have been practically permanent for the last three thousand years, it was believed that, under extraordinary circumstances, changes in skin-colour must take place with great rapidity; and colour could not, therefore, be looked on as a reliable index of race difference. Since then, changes that can only be described as revolutionary have taken place in every department of research.
It has been perceived that the thousands of years of the old computation of man’s antiquity must probably be expanded into myriads; and fixity of type has been shown to be far greater than had been thought possible, so that the identity of living types with inter-glacial or pre-glacial races is more than a hypothesis; and, lastly, it has been seen that colour is a phenomenon of the first importance in every realm of natural history. The meaning and utility of skin-colour in man is still full of mystery, but its importance as a race index is no longer questioned. The first general result of investigations in colour is summed up in the words of De Quatrefages, that “from the point of view of the colouring, human races can be divided into four principal groups; white, yellow, black, and red races.” The relation of colour to other race characteristics is not yet quite clear; though it is generally true that yellow races have round skulls, and round orbital form; white races, oval skulls and oval orbital form, while black races have long skulls and long orbits. The facts as to the red races are not so certain; but it is probable that a red skin goes with a longish skull and a rather long orbit. There is, further, some evidence to show that each great race-type has a minor gamut of colour within itself. For instance, we have, within the white race, races distinguished by black hair, red hair, and yellow hair, as though this were a repetition in a minor scale of the differences between the black, red, and yellow primary races. The same thing may be true, in a different degree, within the black, red, and yellow primary races; so that we may have to divide these into sub-races, in their turn. And it is noteworthy, as supporting this idea, that the yellow-haired sub-races of the white race have round skulls like the yellow race; while the black haired and red haired sub-races of the white race have long skulls like the black and red primary races. But before we can establish this classification in detail, a mass of further evidence must be obtained.
Enough has been said, however, to show that colour is a phenomenon of prime importance in the classification of race, and one, moreover, which is far more easily ascertained than such points as cephalic and orbital index, which always require a skilled observer, and present special difficulties in the case of races who bum their dead, as most Indian races do. The question of colour, however, presents two difficulties, though neither of them is at all insuperable. The first is the difficulty of terminology. The skin colours are not adequately described in terms of ordinary colouring, such as red, yellow, and so on: that is, the red races are not red as roses are; nor the yellow races yellow like buttercups or daffodils. Nor are words like copper-coloured and coffee-coloured any better, for it is never clear whether native copper, dull copper, or burnished copper is meant; nor whether the coffee is cafe-noir, cafe-au-lait, or coffee-beans roasted or raw. In fact, we need some more permanent standard of colour-measurement, and a useful one might, perhaps, be the colour of iron at various temperatures, such as black, incipient red, dull red, bright red, dull orange, yellow, yellow-white and white; corresponding roughly to differences of two hundred degrees on the Centigrade scale. But this is merely a suggestion, offered rather in illustration of the deficiency of our present standards, than as a practical method. It has, at least, the merit that the gamut of colours run through seems similar to the skin-colours of various races. In the mean time, we may retain the old terminology of black, red, yellow, and white, as exhibited in typical races; but even here it must be remembered that M. Broca’s colour discs are quite unreliable, as the lithographic results vary, and are further subject to fading and climatic influences, such as the damp heat of the Indian rains.
The second difficulty is, that the true colour of a race is often hidden by sun-burn, which affects all races nearly equally; so that races very different in colour may be blended by sun-burn into hardly distinguishable uniformity. But as sun-burn is an acquired characteristic, we may expect it not to be hereditary; so that the root-colour would show through much more clearly in children; and also in the higher classes, who are less exposed to the sun. This observation, which first occurred to me when I had to describe the Santals as “dusky with a distinct sub-shade of yellow,” is fully confirmed by M. De Quatrefages.
In classifying a race according to colour, we must, therefore, try to eliminate the effects of sun-burn; and we must remember that words like red, yellow, and white are rather approximations than precise descriptions.
And now to summarise the evidence I have obtained from various specially qualified authorities as to the skin-colour of the Rajputs of pure race.
As far as I could ascertain, absolutely no facts bearing on this point had been put on record; so that I was compelled to have recourse to observers who had been brought into contact with the Rajputs, and who had had special opportunities of forming an opinion on this little noted point; and I may take this opportunity of acknowledging my obligations and the obligations of ethnical science to these eminent observers, whose opinion is the more valuable that it was formed unconsciously, and without any preconceptions as to race classification.
The first answer I received to my enquiries was from Sir George Birdwood, with special reference to a passage in the Mahâbhârata, which I shall presently refer to. His answer was: “lohita, red, ruddy, is a proper epithet to apply to a pure Rajput.”
I then received a reply from Sir William Moore, who said that “red, ruddy, rust-coloured would describe the appearance of the best class of Rajputs, but there are many who would come under the heading brown.”
Sir Richard Meade added important details to this general conclusion: “I have had much intercourse with Rajputs of all classes,” he wrote, “and should say that the colour of the true Rajput is fairer than that of the people of the North Western Provinces, i.e. that the skin is clearer under the colour, if I may so describe it, while the colour itself is somewhat less pronounced. Of course, as a rule, Chiefs and Thakurs are fairer than the lower orders of Rajputs, who are themselves more exposed, and who are the descendants of those who for many generations have been so.”
It was not quite clear from this first letter what share sun-burn had in producing the special colour of the Rajputs, and what the colour of the skin might be after sun-burn had been eliminated. In answer to further enquiries on this point, Sir Richard Meade wrote: “The sub-shade of colour in many of the Rajputs I have seen was of a light ruddy character, in others it was rather sallow, and in others again of a dusky reddish tinge.”
Sir Richard Temple, to whom I showed these conclusions, endorses them: “I should concur in the view that the colour of the true Rajputs is a reddish brown, and that it is possible or likely that the brownish element is only the result of sun-action.”
One additional point I received from Dr. Fitzedward Hall, namely, that the skin colour of the true Rajputs is extremely close to that of the Red-skins of America.
With such a concurrence of testimony, the question of the colour of the Rajputs is practically solved. They are a red or ruddy race, varying from light red,—almost orange, according to Dr. Hall,—to dusky reddish, or reddish brown.
These Rajputs of pure race are not very numerous, when compared with the whole population of India. They certainly do not number more than a million or two, and may be considerably less. Though they are, I believe, the only red tribe in India,—unless we make a separate class of the Jainas, many of whom are ruddy, and who are closely connected by race with the Rajputs,—there are many other instances of red races in the Old World. Thus the Coreans, many of the Siamese, the Karens of Burma, and, I think, the Egyptians and certain equatorial African tribes, are also red; though this is not sufficient to establish their race-relationship with the Rajputs; who have, by the way, a better claim than the Red-skins of America to the title of Red Indians.
Then there is reason to believe that many Polynesian tribes are red or ruddy; and that the majority of South Americans of pure blood belong to the same class. It must be remembered, however, that, among this great group of red races, there are probably as many distinct sub-races, as among the white race or the yellow.
However this may be, it will have become clear I think, that we can no longer consider the Rajputs as closely connected with the white Brahmans. Other ethnic characteristics, which I have already pointed out, fully support this view. The Rajputs are a taller, sturdier race than the Brahmans, and differ from them in texture of hair, facial type, eyes, and skin colour; and also, I think it will be found, in cephalic and orbital index. The red Rajput differs, in fact, from the white Brahman in every point which, according to ethnical canons, constitutes race difference.
And this brings me at last to a point of transcendent interest to the student of Ancient India, the fact that this difference in race between Rajput and Brahman has been recognised in Sanskrit literature for ages back.
Whether the Solar races, children of the ruddy sun, and the Lunar races, children of the pale moon, really refer to these two race stocks, the red and the white, is a point that I cannot fully enter into here; but, happily, we are not reduced to doubtful analogies like this, for there are passages in which the difference is put with a clearness that not even the most accurate pupil of Broca or De Quatrefages could surpass.
The most remarkable of these, that I have yet met with occurs in the Shântiparvan of the Mahâbhârata; 1 the sage Bhrgu is the speaker. “Brahma,” he says, “formed men, Brâhmans, Kshattriyas, Vaisyas, and Shudras. The colour of the Brahmans was white; of the Kshattriyas red; of the Vaishyas yellow; of the Shudras black.” In reply to an objection from Bharadvâja, Bhrgu continues: “This world, originally formed all Brahmic by Brahmâ, was afterwards coloured by deeds; the twice-born, who were fond of love and feasts, who were fiery, prone to anger, and violence, who has forsaken their duty, and were red-limbed, became warrior Kshattriyas.” 2
I have been obliged to translate this passage more loosely than I should wish, as it is impossible in English to preserve the double meaning of the Sanskrit word varna, which means colour as well as class. In this passage, two different words are used to describe the colour of the Kshattriyas. In the first verse, “of the Brahmans, white is the colour, and of the Kshattriyas red,” the word used is lohita, which, it will be remembered, is referred to by Sir George Birdwood. Let me illustrate this word by a few further examples: lohitamrttikâ is red chalk; lohita used alone means the planet Mars, and blood, as well as red; lohitaka is a ruby; and lohitâyas, copper; so that we have the Kshattriya described as “copper-coloured , in the Mahâbhârata,—the very term used to describe the Red-skins of America, thus furnishing an interesting confirmation of Dr. Hall’s comparison. Then, as if to put beyond all doubt what lohita meant, we have, in the verse that follows, the adjective raktânga, that is, ruddy-limbed or red-limbed; the word rakta being used to describe the colour of red chalk, blood, copper, vermilion, red-lead, the red lotus, and red coral.
Now, from this passage, a most interesting deduction can be drawn, and not from this only, but from a dozen similar passages; and that is, that the Kshattriyas of ancient India are identical in ethnic characteristics with the Rajputs of to-day. “Fond of love and feasts, fiery, prone to anger and violence, and red-limbed,” says the old Sanskrit epic, in which Professor Goldstücker rightly saw an echo and epitome of bardic songs; “Fond of love and feasts, fiery, prone to anger and violence, and red-limbed,” say the authorities best acquainted with the Rajputs to-day; and, in face of this remarkable evidence, I do not think that the identity of the Rajput with the Kshattriya can any longer be questioned; the more so when it is remembered that the Rajputs have preserved unbroken genealogies, snowing their descent from the Kshattriyas of old; genealogies which have been accepted as genuine and authentic by the Government of India; and which go back more millenniums than one cares to mention.
But Kshattriya is not really a race name, any more: than Aryan; Kshattriya really means Warrior, or Armiger, from Kshattra, a weapon. The real name of this famous race is Râjanya, akin, on the one hand, to reign, regal, and royal; and, on the other, probably, to ranga and rakta, red. Amongst the famous Râjanya sages or Râjarshis of Vedic India are mentioned Arshtishena, Vitahavya, Prthu, Mândhâtri, Ambarisha, Manu, Ida, and Vishvâmitra, the Rshi of the third section of the Rg-Veda hymns, in which occurs the thrice-holy Gâyatri, the “Mother of the Vedas.”
The fact that this hymn, repeated every morning by thousands of Brahmans bathing in the sacred Ganges, owns as its author a Râjanya, and not a Brahman, gives us a vision of those ancient days when the spiritual pre-eminence of India was in other hands; when “the Brahman sat at the foot of the Kshattriya,” in the words of the greatest Upanishad. A notable survival of that early time is found in a custom of the Ranas of Mewar, who unite spiritual with royal authority, and officiate as high priests in the temple of the guardian deity of their race.
But I cannot do more than touch on this question of the ancient spiritual dignity of the Râjanyas, who are the Kshattriyas and the Rajputs. A question like this could only find full elucidation in a history of Ancient India, where the qualities of each race were fully recorded; and their due share assigned to each in the splendid epic of India’s history, an epic, not written perhaps in the dry annals and summaries of the chronicler, but rather blazoned abroad on the face of India’s hills and valleys in the figure of town and temple, and the deeper and more lasting monuments of poetry and philosophy and religion.
In this splendid epic of India, can be discerned, I think, four different elements, like the four voices in a perfect harmony, and of these four, the red Râjanya and the white Brahman have ever borne the weightier parts.
Rajput and Brahman, perpetual rivals in India’s past, since the days of Vasishta and Vishvamitra. When our work in India is done, they may again, perhaps, stand at the head of the Indian hegemony; the Rajput as the ruler, and the Brahman the spiritual teacher of a rejuvenescent India.
But questions like these cannot be treated rightly in an article on ethnology. Before concluding, I may gather up the threads of my argument, and state concisely the conclusions which I have supported by such evidence as was available.
In the first place, I think the shade of the Scythian can no more haunt, unchallenged, the burning deserts of Rajputana. Neither the Scythian of Herodotus, nor the Scythian of later historians bears any resemblance in ethnical character, race-type, customs, or traditions to the pure Rajputs, the Râjanyas of India. What relation they might bear, in language, one cannot tell; for even the writers who handle the name of Scythian most freely, cannot but admit that, amongst our other ignorances, we are totally ignorant of their language.
Nor can we connect the Rajputs more closely with the Brahmans; for from the Brahmans they are divided by as many differences of race as from the Kirghiz or the Kazak; and they have been perpetual rivals, ever since their traditions began to be handed from father to son.
But whether the Rajputs be Aryans, cannot at present be decided; the title of Arya is certainly given to them, not once but many times in the ancient Sanskrit epics and hymns. Perhaps this fact may lead us some day to a wider use of “Aryan” to designate some great race, which shall include the Râjanya, and perhaps the Egyptian, though excluding races like the Chinamen and the flat-headed aborigines of Australia.
We are yet on the threshold of Ethnology, yet on the threshold of a true history of the races of men, with their illimitable past stretching back not millenniums but millions of years; and every year that come gives us new insight into the mighty record of the past, and a new realisation of the great races that have vanished, and the great races that still remain. But as new knowledge comes, we may have to widen the vistas of the races. We may have to break down the barriers we have set up as limits to the life-span of this race or that; and India is likely to be one of the first to which this expansion and enlargement will be applied. We are already beginning to feel a sense of cramped restriction in dealing with dates in India which were accepted as axiomatic only a generation ago; and the process which has begun may go much further before the impulse of expansion is spent.
We have seen, within the last few months, a whole series of brilliant poets, a whole epoch of Indian history, moved back from the middle ages where the conjectures of some had placed it, to the point fixed by immemorial tradition, outside the threshold of our era. And this not by rhetorical flourishes, not by vague conjecture and airy hypothesis; but by the hard, irresistible logic of fact. And the Vikrama controversy has hardly found a settlement, for practically settled it certainly is, though a few timid scholars may still question it, in the name of caution which was singularly absent from the conjectural methods of the last generation; no sooner is the Enemy of the Shakas with the Nine Jewels of his Court, re-instated, than the same impulse breaks out in another direction, and India’s greatest epic, as a completed work, begins to move backwards through the centuries. The retrogression has begun; when it has moved a few years longer, we shall see—what we shall see.
But putting aside these tempting dreams of the future, let us conclude the summary of evidence touching the Rajputs. Besides what has been already noted, I think the most important result I have reached is the demonstration of the ethnical identity of Rajput and Kshattriya; the identity of Kshattriya and Râjanya was too well known to require any further proof. The only alternative, it seems to me, now left for those who doubt that Kshattriya and Rajput are identical, is to suppose that a red race of warriors claiming descent from the sun, was suddenly annihilated; and that another red race of warriors; also claiming descent from the sun, as suddenly made their appearance in India to take the vacant place; and lastly that all this took place so imperceptibly that the second race are convinced of their identity with the first, and that the Indian traditions preserve no memory of the change.
To this evidence of race identity, quite conclusive in itself, we may add the additional corroboration of identity of name between the Kshattriyas of Ancient India and the Rajputs of to-day.
The name Rajput, it is well known, is nothing but an abbreviated or colloquial form of the Sanskrit Râja-putra, or King’s Son; a son, that is, of the ruling or royal race.
Now, this same name, of Rajput or Râjaputra, for the royal race of Ancient India, as a synonym of Kshattriya or Râjanya, can be traced back, past the period of the Mahâbhârata war, and the wanderings of Râma to the dim, remote days of Vedic India.
The earliest occurrence of the name Râjaputra which I have yet met with, is in the Aitareya Brahmâna of the Rg-Veda, in the legend of Shunahshepa, where Vishvâmitra is said to be the hotr-priest of King Harishchandra. In this legend, Shunahshepa addresses Vishvâmitra thus:
“Declare, O King’s son (Râjaputra) whatever thou hast to tell us!”
This Vishvâmitra, son of Gâdhi, King of Kanyâkubja, or Kanauj, is one of the most famous of Vedic heroes, and Seer of the Third Mandala of the Rg-Veda. 3
In a magnificent hymn, Vishvâmitra addresses Indra the Thunderer:
“Wilt thou make me a ruler of the people?
Wilt thou make me a king, oh Lord of Riches?
Wilt thou make me a Rshi, a drinker of soma?
Wilt thou endow me with undying wealth?” 4
And the whole tenor of Vedic tradition ascribes to Vishvâmitra, the Râjput of ancient India, as the Aitareya Brâhmana calls him, a special pre-eminence in the mystical knowledge preserved in the Upanishads, which Professor Max Müller would call the theosophy, as opposed to the sacrificial ritual, of the religion of Old India.
There are several very remarkable passages in the Upanishads themselves, pointing to the pre-eminent mystical, theosophic knowledge of the Kshattriyas, or ancient Râjputs.
In the Upanishad of the Questions, Hiranyanâbha the Râjput, is shown as the superior, in mystical knowledge, of Bhâradvâja. 5
In the Chhândogya Upanishad, 6 the Râjanya Pravâhana Jaivali is shown instructing learned Brahmans; and there are other passages of the same tenor in this Upanishad.
By far the most remarkable, is the speech of the same Râjanya, Pravâhana Jaivali, to the Brâhman Gâutama, who sought instruction in mystical knowledge:
“As thou hast declared to me, Gâutama, that this knowledge has not formerly reached the Brâhmans, it has therefore been among all peoples a discipline taught by the Kshattriya alone.” 7
Compare with this the Brhadâranyaka Upanishad (vi. 2, 11): “This knowledge has never before dwelt in any Brahman;” and add the stories of the Râjanyas, Janaka, Ashvapati, and Ajâtashatru teaching the Brahmans, in the Shatapatha Brahmana and elsewhere; and we have a distinct and clear tradition that, in Vedic times, the Râjanya or Râjput, and not the Brahman was the possessor and teacher of the secret mystic knowledge; a tradition, moreover, which the subsequent ages of Brahmanical supremacy have never been able to efface.
This tradition, in the light of our present knowledge that the red Rajanyas are really distinct in race from the white Brahmans, sheds a new and remarkable light on he history of Vedic India.
In the later, though still remote, ages of the Mahâbhârata war, the tradition of the Râjanya’s supremacy in mystic knowledge burns with undiminished brightness. For we find Krshna, the brightest star in the firmament of late Brahmanism, himself no Brahman but a Kshattriya, tracing his doctrine from the Kshattriya Manu, through a line of Râjarshis or Râjanya sages. 8
Once more, in the history of India, the star of the Râjanya Kshattriyas was in the ascendant.
Gautama the Buddha was a Râjanya, a Kshattriya 9 of the royal race of Iksvâku. To this identity of race-genius and race tradition I would in part ascribe the resemblances between Buddhism and the doctrines of the Upanishads, which have often been pointed out, but never fully explained. I would ascribe the spirit both of the Upanishads and of Buddhism to the mystical genius of the Râjanya race, who were since the days of Vishvâmitra and the Rg-Veda hymns, the rivals and opposers of the ritualistic Brahmans, with their system of sacrifices and external religion.
It is interesting to note that, after Buddhism in India had fallen beneath the power of the ritualistic Brahmans, the Râjanya tradition, with its mystical knowledge seems to have crossed over the Himalayas to Tibet. In his recent writings on Tibetan Buddhism, Sharat Chandra Das has more than once made mention of famous Râjput sages who carried the doctrines of Gâutama northward, and founded on them the Lamaic Hierarchy.
But the subject of the spiritual mission of the Rajanyas, and their contribution to the religious treasure of India is too great to be more than touched upon in a brief study of their ethnic character.
The Râjputs, therefore, are a red race, neither Scythian nor Brahman; and are the direct descendants and successors of the Râjanya Kshattriyas, or Warriors of Ancient India.
1. Shântiparvan, line 6,933 et seq.
2. Sarvam brâmam idam jagat Brahmanâ pûrva srshtam hi, karmabhir varnatâm gatam; Kâma-bhoga-priyâs tîkshnâh, krodhanâh priyasâhasâh, Tyakta-svadharmâ raktângâs, te dvijâh kshattratâm gatâh.—M. Bh. Shântiparvan, 6939, 6940.
3. “Sa ho’vâcha Shunahsbepah: sa vai yathâ no jnapaya Râjaputra tathâ vada.”—Aitareya Brâhmana, vii., 13, 17.
4. “Asya mandala-drashtâ Vishvamitrah Rshih.”—Annkramanikâ.
“Kuvid mâ gopam Karase janasya,
Kuvid Râjânam Maghavan rjishin,
Kuvid mâ rshim papivâmsam sutasya,
Kuvid me vasvo amrtasya shiksâh.”—Rg-Veda iii, 43-4.
5. “Atha hainam Qukeshâ Bhâradvâjah paprachchha: Bhaqavan, Hiranyanâbhah Kânsalyo Râjaputro mâm upetya etamprashnam aprchchhata . . ! na aham imam veda.”—Prashna Up. vi. 1.
6. Chh. Up. I. i. 8 and 9.
7. “Yathâ mâ tvam Gâutamâ’vado yathe’yam no prâk tvattah purâ vidyâ Brâhmanân gachchhati, tasmâd u sarveshu lokeshu kshattrasya eva prashâsanam abût.”—Chh. Up. v. 3, 7.
8. Bhagavad Gitâ iv. 1.
9. Vide Kumarila Bhatta’s Mimâmsa—Vârttika on Jaiminita Sutra I, 3, 3.