Kachwaha of Amber

Kachwaha of Amber

The Kachwaha are a caste group with origins in India. Traditionally they were peasants involved in agriculture but in the 20th century they began to make claims of being a Rajput clan. Some families within the caste did rule a number of kingdoms and princely states, such as Alwar, Amber (later called Jaipur) and Maihar.

The Kachwaha are sometimes referred to as Kushwaha. This umbrella term is used to represent at least four communities with similar occupational backgrounds, all of whom claim descent from the mythological Suryavansh (Solar) dynasty via Kusha, who was one of the twin sons of Rama and Sita. Previously, they had worshipped Shiva and Shakti.

The modern-day Kushwaha community, of which the Kachwaha form a part, generally claim descent from Kusha, a son of the mythological avatar of Vishnu, Rama. This enables their claim to be of the Suryavansh dynasty but it is a myth of origin developed in the twentieth century. Prior to that time, the various branches that form the Kushwaha community – the Kachwahas, Kachhis, Koeris, and Muraos – favoured a connection with Shiva and Shakti.  Ganga Prasad Gupta claimed in the 1920s that Kushwah families worshiped Hanuman – described by Pinch as “the embodiment of true devotion to Ram and Sita” – during Kartika, a month in the Hindu lunar calendar.

A Kachwaha family ruled at Amber, which later became known as the Jaipur State, and this branch is sometimes referred to as being Rajput. They were chiefs at Amber and in 1561 sought support from Akbar, the Mughal emperor. The then chief, Bharamail Kachwaha, was formally recognised as a Raja and was invested into the Mughal nobility in return for him giving his daughter to Akbar’s harem. A governor was appointed to oversee Bharamail’s territory and a tribute arrangement saw Bharamail given a salaried rank, paid for from a share of the area’s revenue. The Rajput practice of giving daughters to the Mughal emperors in return for recognition as nobility and the honour of fighting on behalf of the Empire originated in this arrangement and thus the Mughals were often able to assert their dominance over Rajput chiefs in north India without needing to physically intimidate them, especially after their rout of rulers in Gondwana.

The Kushwaha were traditionally a peasant community and considered to be of the stigmatised Shudra varna. Pinch describes them as “skilled agriculturalists”. The traditional perception of Shudra status was increasingly challenged during the later decades of British Raj rule, although various castes had made claims of a higher status well before the British administration instituted its first census. Pinch describes that “The concern with personal dignity, community identity, and caste status reached a peak among Kurmi, Yadav, and Kushvaha peasants in the first four decades of the twentieth century.

From around 1910, the Kachhis and the Koeris, both of whom for much of the preceding century had close links with the British as a consequence of their favoured role in the cultivation of the opium poppy, began to identify themselves as Kushwaha Kshatriya. An organisation claiming to represent those two groups and the Muraos petitioned for official recognition as being of the Kshatriya varna in 1928. This action by the All India Kushwaha Kshatriya Mahasabha (AIKKM) reflected the general trend for social upliftment by communities that had traditionally been classified as being Shudra. The process, which M. N. Srinivas called sanskritisation, was a feature of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century caste politics.

The position of the AIKKM was based on the concept of Vaishnavism, which promoted the worship and claims of descent from Rama or Krishna as a means to assume the trappings of Kshatriya symbolism and thus permit the wearing of the sacred thread even though the physical labour inherent in their cultivator occupations intrinsically defined them as Shudra. The movement caused them to abandon their claims to be descended from Shiva in favour of the alternate myth that claimed descent from Rama. In 1921, Ganga Prasad Gupta, a proponent of Kushwaha reform, had published a book offering a proof of the Kshatriya status of the Koeri, Kachhi, Murao and Kachwaha. His reconstructed history argued that the Kushwaha were Hindu descendants of Kush and that in the twelfth century they had served Raja Jaichand in a military capacity during the period of Muslim consolidation of the Delhi Sultanate. Subsequent persecution by the victorious Muslims caused the Kushwaha kshatryia to disperse and disguise their identity, foregoing the sacred thread and thereby becoming degraded and taking on various localised community names. Gupta’s attempt to prove Kshatriya status, in common with similar attempts by others to establish histories of various castes, was spread via the caste associations, which Dipankar Gupta describes as providing a link between the “urban, politically literate elite” and the “less literate villagers”. Some communities also constructed temples in support of these claims as, for example, did the Muraos in Ayodhya.

Chauhan rulers

The Rajput kings of Chauhan dynasty are believed to belong to Agnivanshi Clan (descendants of the Fire God). The Chauhan Dyansty played a prominent part on the Indian political stage.

Ajayaraja: In the eleventh century the Chauhan dynasty ruled as a local power in the Shakambari region. In the early part of the twelfth century they made a bid for expansion under Ajayaraja who defeated the Paramaras and captured their capital Ujjaini. He also founded the city of Ajmer.

Arnoraja: Arnoraja, the son of Ajayaraja ascended the Chauhan throne in or about 1133 A.D. He defeated an army invaded his kingdom. He had a bitter conflict with the Chalukyas and in the end he acknowledges the suzerainty of Chalukya Jayasimha and married his daughter. But the hostility with the Chalukyas broke out again. Chalukya Kumarapala twice defeated Arnoraja.

Vigraharaja (1158-1163 A.D.): The next important ruler of Chauhan dynasty was Vigraharaja IV who raised the Chauhan Empire to the status of an imperial power by his vast conquests. He probably ruled between 1153 and 1163 A.D. He started his victorious career by conquering from the Chalukyas and the Paramaras a number of small states in Southern Rajputana. But his Northern conquest has given him an undying fame. He conquered Delhi from the Tomaras and took possession of Eastern Punjab. He inflicted defeat on the Muslim ruler of Punjab. The records of his reign give a fair idea of the extent of his kingdom which extended in the north up to the Siwalik Hills and in the south up to Udaipur.

Prithviraj Chauhan III (1168-1192 A.D.): Prithviraj Chauhan is one of the most celebrated Hindu King of Ajmer and Delhi. His birth took place in 1149.  The Chauhan dynasty had long history of rivalry with the Chalukyas of Gujarat. However, Prithviraj decided to adopt the policy of neutrality in the War between King of Gujarat and Mohammed Ghori. He neither supported the Gujarat Kingdom nor Mohammed Ghori. The King of Gujarat inflicted a defeat on Mohammed Ghori.

The real fame of Prithviraj rests upon his struggle with Muhammad of Ghur. Mohammed Ghori followed up his victory by the conquest of Ajmer and Delhi. He placed the young son of Prithviraj as his vassal in Ajmer. But Hariraja, the brother of Prithviraj captured the throne of Ajmer and followed a policy of hostility. Qutubuddin Aibek invaded Ajmer and overthrew Hariraja and took the country. The Chauhan dynasty then retired to Ranthambhor and ruled there in diminishing glory. But in 1301, Ala-ud-din Khilji captured Ranthambhor and uprooted the last stronghold of Chauhan power.

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