Acknowledgements: This article has been inspired by the writings of Airavat Singhji. I am also thankful to Yogendra Singhji for his several valuable suggestions.
From a social standpoint one thing about Hinduism that most observers fail to take stock of is that the essential nature of the Hindu society has always been tribal.
The first political structures that came up in India were not monarchies or large empires, which appeared only later, but small republics ruled by the warrior clans. These political structures must be called the clan – states. These clans are often wrongly presented in the historiographies as tribes, and these clan states as tribal states.
In a tribal society, the members of the society follow varied professions. A tribe in many ways is somehow a self sufficient conglomerate entity consisting various clans that are tasked with different functions. After the arrival of agriculture and begining of trade and commerce, when populations rose and became stable the division of labour in any tribal setting became indispensable. This led to the emergence of large villages and even cities, and these tribes expanded into what may be called the “People”, the Vedic term (Visah). And these people were protected by warrior clans (Jana). The leader of the Jana was called the (Rajana). Various of these fighting clans would fight with other similar clans for power and precedence. This led to the natural graduation of these clan-states into first monarchies.
We learn from epic Mahabharata that monarchies and clan- states existed side by side. Minor principalities operating in the isolation of remote hilly terrain or forested areas were generally clan – states, while the larger cities situated on large fertile tracts were ruled over by monarchs. (Read about the Mahajanapadas of the late Vedic period)
While referring to these warrior clans and clan-states, the celebrated grammarian Panini has employed the Sanskrit expression ‘Ayudha-jivin’, or clans living by the profession of war. It is clear that the expression speaks of only the fighting clans and not the whole population of a clan-state. The great political mind of the Mauryan age, Chanakya has also employed the term ‘Sastropajivin’ for these fighting clans that carried out the fighting and administrative function. While we are at it, it is interesting to note the case of the Mauryan empire itself. The Marxist historians claim that Chandragupta, the protege of Chanakya, who was later invested with sovereignty, was from some depressed community; some historians even speculate that he had Greek origins. Who was he really?
The fact is that Chandragupta belonged to the kshatriya clan called Moriya of pipphalivana, which in turn was a branch of the Suryavamsi Sakya clan in which Buddha had incarnated, which lost its patrimony to the expanding Magadha empire under Dhanananda. The rise of Chandragupta to power is another interesting story. Not only was he able to posit himself as a rallying point to motivate his own clan to fight, but also inspired the Kshatriya clans of far off Punjab and Kashmir to fight and die for his cause. Mori Rajputs are still found in Malwa, Ujjain, Khandesh and Agra where they served in the capacity of governors during the Mauryan times. In fact the Paramars are the direct descendants of the Moriya clan of antiquity. The word Paramara can be broken up into ‘para- mori’, i.e. the Moris living far off from their native regions.
Some of the old kshatriya clans, which maintained their independence and produced coins and recorded inscriptions to mark this independence even when North, North-West, West, and parts of Central India were under foreign occupation of invaders such as Greeks , Kushans, and Sakas are as following:
Madra (Jammu-Punjab), Udumbara (Himachal Pradesh), Kuluta (Himachal Pradesh), Trigarta (Himachal Punjab), Kuninda ( Himachal Pradesh), Yaudheya (Punjab – Haryana- Rajasthan), Rajanya (Rajasthan), Arjunayan (Rajasthan), Uddehika (Rajasthan), Malav (Rajasthan – Madhya Pradesh), Bharasiva (Madhya Pradesh).
These clans never submitted completly and kept resisting the foreign clans. Whenever a strong ruler rose among the foreigners such as Menander or Kanishka these clans may offer tribute or migrate to distant lands and as soon as the foreign rule would grow weak they would reclaim their territory and proclaim their independence.
We learn from the inscriptions of the Sakas at Junagarh and Nasik that they had to face stiff resistance from Malavas and Yaudheyas. Kanishka must be credited for humbling the might of the Trigartas and Udumbaras, and also for taming the belligerent Kunindas and Yaudheyas.
Most of these ancient clans are so named either after the name of the regions or tribes from where they sprang or after some illustrious ancestor from which they descended. The names of these clans have changed with time for various reasons. For example in the earliest inscriptions of the Kalachuris, the primitive name of the Haihaya clan from which they descended can be found, which in turn was a branch of the Yadava clan of Kshatriyas of the Vedic age. We have already mentioned the rise of the Paramara clan from the earlier Mori clan that was an offshoot of the Suryavamsi Sakyas. The Katochs of Himachal Pradesh descend from the Trigartas clan. The Bhattis and Jadons are the two branches of the Sursainis. The Tomaras have descended from the Bharatas or Arjunayan. The Kunindas are same as the Katyuri clan of the Rajputs found in regions of eastern UP such as Awadh and basti.
It must be noted that inscriptions of the Kshatriya rulers can sometimes lead to confusion as regards the true origins of their clans. The Chauhans in their earliest inscriptions have clearly mentioned the fact of their Suryavamsi descent but their later inscriptions style them as Agnivamsi i.e. one who descended from the sacrificial fire. This is the direct result of preference for myth and legend that was very common among the kshatriyas. The Rajanyas invariably wanted their clan to be held in high estimate by other ruling clans and this fascination often led them to legend creation. The Mount Abu legend that even today is a favourite manipulation tool for the Marxist historians to claim a foreign descent for the Rajputs was in fact created by the ruling clans of the Paramaras to establish their superiority over others. At a later date the legend was revised to incorporate the new glory seekers such as the Chauhans and others. It must be noted that this preference for legend creation among the Rajputs has in various instances shrouded the real histories of their own clans under the cover of obscurity.
The Rajput community even to this day is strongly tied to clan loyalty. This can be easily understood. This deep sense of clan loyalty has been a result of a long tradition spanning across millenias. The baggage of history has shaped all that is good and bad within the Rajput clans. As we will see in future articles in this series, it was this clan loyalty that led to defeat of Rajput coalitions on the battlefield on numerous occasions on one hand, and on the other hand it served as a stumbling block in the way of building new large empires once the clan wielding the paramount authority over others had weakened and faded away.