Kshatriya literally means “protector of gentle people”. Second, in the social hierarchy of the caste system, the Kshatriyas were kings and warriors. They were said to have evolved from the arms of Brahma, signifying that their role in society was the protection of people and livestock. The Hindus maintain that only a Kshatriya had the right to rule, though Brahmin rulers are not unknown. They were supposed to be brave and fearless and to live and die by a code of honor and loyalty. Their most exalted death was to die in battle.
The Puranas say that Parashurama in his time destroyed all the men of the Kshatriya race. Since there was no one left to rule, anarchy prevailed. The Brahmins realized that a class of rulers was required. They held a sacrifice near Mt. Abu (Rajasthan), and from the fire pit emerged four clans: the Parmars, Chauhans, Parihars, and Solankis. These fire-born clans (Agnikula) were called Rajputs. There are also leading Rajput clans that claim descent from the sun and the moon and accordingly labeled themselves as Suryavanshi and Chandravanshi.
Kshatriyas dominated Indian political life down the centuries. Even under the British, there were approximately 600 Indian states. These states had not been annexed by the British and were responsible for their internal administration. Some accepted the suzerainty of the Crown and allowed the British to administer their defense and external relations. When the India Independence Act, 1947 was passed, it decreed the lapse of suzerainty of the British Crown. The Indian states regained the position they had held prior to the assumption of suzerainty by the Crown. However, in their own interest, most states merged with either the Dominion of India or Pakistan. All 552 states located within the geographical boundary of the Dominion of India acceded to it by August 15, 1947, except Hyderabad, Kashmir, and seven other states. Subsequently, these states also joined the Indian Union. Almost all the rulers voluntarily ceded all powers of governance to the Dominion government, retaining only certain personal rights and privileges.
Special provisions were made only for Kashmir. All rulers, including those of Jammu and Kashmir and Hyderabad, adopted the Constitution of India by special proclamations. With the Constitution 7th Amendment Act, 1956, the special provisions relating to these former princely states were also omitted. The Indian states lost their separate identity and became a uniform part of India. In 1971, the Privy Purses guaranteed by the Government of India were abolished by Parliament and modern India bid a formal farewell to the princely order.
Many scions of former ruling houses are still well-regarded by the people of the area. Many have joined the modern political system and contest elections to the state assemblies and Parliament. People who identify themselves as Rajputs are found across northwestern India, the Ganges plains, Madhya Pradesh, and Himalayan valleys. Following Indian independence, the twenty-three Rajput states that formed what was called Rajputana were consolidated into the modern state of Rajasthan. In the past, Rajputs formed the fighting, landowning, and ruling castes. They claim to be the descendants of the Kshatriyas of ancient tradition, and from this association, they derive their identity as a distinct group, superior to other groups in their traditional territory.
The chief feature of Rajput social organization is its division into hierarchically ranked clans and lineages. One hundred and three Rajput clans are well known. Additionally, rankings based on regional location, the degree of centralized political control within regions or Rajput states, and hypergamy were all important elements of the traditional Rajput social order. Still, the Rajput tradition and identity permit even poor Rajput farmers to consider themselves the equal of powerful landholders of their clan and superior to any high official of the professional classes. No people in India can boast of finer feats of arms or brighter deeds of chivalry, and Rajputs still form one of the main recruiting fields for the Indian army of today.
The Rajput courts were centers of culture; Sanskrit Literature and drama flourished and the modern vernacular Languages began to appear. The Rajput bards sang the praises of their overlords in Hindi; the earliest of these material ballads is the Prithviraj Raso, which tells how Prince Prithviraj carried off his bride. Rajput princes were great builders and constructed magnificent palaces, fortresses, and stately shrines, of which the Saivite temples at Khajuraho in Bundelkhand and the Dilwara Jain temples at Mount Abu are outstanding examples in contrasting styles. Rajput men and women are still much involved with elaborate ceremonies, especially weddings, for these are the rituals of Rajput identity.
The Kshatriya Rajus
Raju is a Telugu variation of the Sanskrit word Raj and Raja meaning King, Prince or Lord. Raju is used to referring to the Telugu Kshatriya Caste in Andhra Pradesh. Kshatriya Rajus are said to be descendants of ancient Royal dynasties like Eastern Chalukyas, Chalukya-Cholas, Vishnukundina, Gajapati, Chagi, Paricheda and Kota Vamsa. Over the centuries they have been called by various alternative names that signified their military status. During the British Raj, they were known as Ratsas and Rajavars, which means of or belonging to the caste of Ratsawars (Raja Caste), using the title of Raju. They are around 1.0 percent of the Telugu population, concentrated mainly in the Coastal Andhra region with pockets in the Rayalaseema, North Arcot and Rajapalayam of Tamil Nadu, Bellary of Karnataka and Ganjam of Orissa. In the last few decades, a significant population of Rajus has migrated and settled in the US and UK. Rajus use Raju or Varma in the Andhra regions and Deo in the Orissa regions as an agnomen for their last name. Varma in Sanskrit means Armor, Protection, and Deo in Sanskrit mean God or Lord. In Telugu tradition, the family name is written first followed by the given name and then the caste title. For example, Alluri Sita Rama Raju, a prominent freedom fighter in the mid 19th century, is interpreted as Sita Rama of the Alluri family and Raju for Kshatriya caste. Similarly, name of Penmatsa Ram Gopal Varma, a prominent Bollywood and Tollywood movie director-producer, is interpreted as Ram Gopal of the Penmatsa family and Varma for Kshatriya caste.
There have been varying accounts about the origins of the Raju community. Some include them among the military tribes of Rajput descent. Regarding this community, Edgar Thurston in his seven-volume Castes and Tribes of Southern India writes…The Maharajas of Vizianagaram claim to be Kshatriyas from the Rajputana and the leaders of the people of grams said to have come to the Northern Circars centuries ago. It is noted in connection with the battle of Padmanabham (in present Visakhapatnam district) in 1794 AD that Rajputs formed a rampart round the corpse of Vijay Rama Raju. Padmanabham will long be remembered as the Flodden of the Rajputs of Vizianagaram…as a class they are the most handsome and best-developed men in the country and differ so much in feature and build from other Hindus that they may usually be distinguished at a glance…they are mostly Vaishnavites, and their priests are Brahmans…Rajus, of course, assume the sacred thread and are very proud and particular in their conduct. Brahmanical rites of Punya Havachanam (Purification), Jata Karma (Birth ceremony), Nama Karanam (Naming ceremony), Chaulam (Tonsure), and Upanayanam (Thread ceremony) are performed…at weddings the Kasi Yatra (Mock flight to Benares) is performed…at their wedding they worship a sword, which is a ceremony usually denoting a soldier caste…they use a wrist string made of cotton and wool, the combination peculiar to Kshatriyas, to tie the wrists of the happy couple…in some villages. Historically South Indian royal families of Kshatriyas (Rajus) had marital relationships with Central and North Indian royal families, like Rajas of Vizianagaram, Salur and Kurupam had marital relationships with the Rajputana royal families.
The history of South India and the Puranas reveal that the Andhra Kshatriyas descended from the Aryavarta (northern India) to the south due to internal conflicts, foreign invasions, famine, etc. Vayu Purana, Buddhist, and Jain literature mention the migration of Ikshvaku Kshatriyas to southern India. Raju’s traditional accounts claim descent from Ikshvaku, Vishnukundina, Chalukya, Paricchedi and Kota Vamsa.
Some historians and traditional accounts link Rajus to ancient Andhra Ikshvakus, which was the first Kshatriya kingdom in Andhra which ruled during the 2nd and 3rd Centuries CE and are purportedly linked to ancient Ikshvakus of Kosala. According to most historians and by the inscriptional evidences of Paricchedi and Chagi ruling clans, during 4th – 5th century AD few Kshatriyas of four clans travelled from northern India to the south, where they initially worked as feudatories of Vakatakas before establishing the Vishnukundina Kingdom, while some Kshatriyas of Andhra are said to be descendants of Eastern Chalukyas and few other Kshatriya dynasties. Basing on ancient inscriptions, traditional accounts, and historical evidence, the Rajus of Andhra are descendants of the following ancient clans:
1. Vishnukundina: A folktale claims Madhav Varma of the Vishnukundina dynasty led the original members of their gotras to Andhra.
2. Chalukyas: Chandravanshi Rajus are said to be descendants of Eastern Chalukyas.
3. Parichedis: The forefathers of the Pusapatis.
4. Kota Vamsa: Dharanikota Kings of Dhanunjaya gotra.
5. Chagi: Forefathers of the Sagis and Vatsavais
6. Chedi (Haiheya-Kalachuri-Kona Chodas): Chodarajus
7. Gajapati and Eastern Ganga: Kurupam and Salur zamindars claim descent from them.
8. Matsya of Oddadi (Orissa), which is linked to the ancient Matsya Kingdom: The zamindars of Madgole claim descent from them.
Rajus are classified into two sects (as per ancient Kshatriya tradition based on Vansh):
1. Suryavanshi (Sun Dynasty) include Vishnukundina, Paricheda, Kota Vamsa, Chola-Chalukyas (Cholas claimed Suryavanshi and Chalukyas were Chandravanshi, the two families merged) Eastern Ganga and Gajapati.
2. Chandravanshi (Moon Dynasty) includes Eastern Chalukyas, , Kalachuris (Chedi-Haihaya), Saluva and Aravidu dynasties of Vijayanagar.
They are further subdivided into Four Gotras.
A poem called Sri Krishna-Vijaya dated 1540 A.D. tells of a migration of these four clans to Telingana led by Madhav Varma. While Rajus of Coastal Andhra and Rajapalayam have above four gotras, the Rajus of Karnataka have three additional gotras:
Each Gotra is again sub-divided into hundreds of endogamous sects based on surnames that are named after villages of origin, a famous member of the clan, personality, etc. Sage Kaundinya (Kundin) was the son of Vasishtha and nephew of Agastya. Dhanunjaya is a branch of Vishwamitra. Pasupati is a branch of Kashyapa. A book entitled Sri Andhra Kshatriya Vamsha Ratnakaram elaborates on the traditional accounts and genealogy of the Kshatriya Raju community of Coastal Andhra and was written by Varahala Raju Buddharaju in Telugu. This book gives genealogy details of the 109 surnames of Andhra Kshatriya Rajus and their Four gotras.
Vishnukundinas, one of the ancient clans that ruled in Andhra Pradesh from the 5th to 7th centuries. It is believed that Vishnukundina Madhava Varma along with members of the other three gotras conquered the Salankayanas and established their rule. Some of the feudal kingdoms of this time were the Kotas, Chagas, and Paricchedi. The Paricchedis Kings were ancestors of the Pusapati royal family who built Bezawada (Modern Vijayawada) off the river Krishna by 626 AD and another capital in Kollipaka establishing themselves for nine centuries there. They are considered to be descendants of one of the earliest Maharana’s of Mewar, who migrated to south during 7th century. They were staunch patrons of Hindu Dharma in contrast to the Chalukyas, who initially were patrons of Jainism. The family name was changed to Pusapati after moving to the coastal region. The name is derived from the Sanskrit Pushavat (Pushan), the meaning of the sun, to highlight their Suryavanshi lineage. They founded the city of Vizianagaram, named after Vijay Rama Raju. They obtained the title of Gajapathi, after the battle of Nandapur, in the northern circars in the 16th century. The Raju families of Rajapalayam are descendents of migrated families led by the brother of the Vizianagaram Maharaja, Pusapati Chinna Raju.
Chalukyas were a royal dynasty that succeeded the Vishnukundinas and ruled large parts of southern and central India between 550 and 750, and again between 973 and 1190. Chalukyas originated from Karnataka, were led into Andhra by Pulakesi II, who appointed his brother Kubja Vishnuvardhana as his Viceroy. On death of Pulakesi II, Kubja Vishnuvardhana declared himself king of the Eastern deccan and his dynasty came to be known as the Eastern Chalukyas (Vengi Chalukyas). The Eastern Chalukyas ruled from Vengi. The collateral branches of Eastern Chalukyas ruled over small principalities like Elamanchili, Pithapuram and Mudigonda. The Eastern Chalukyas, who were Chandravanshi Kshatriyas, were closely connected by marriage ties with other Kshatriya families in Andhra (Kalachuris, Chagis, Parichedas and Kota Vamsas). The Eastern Chalukyas through marital alliances merged into the Cholas and ruled from 1076 C.E to 1019 C.E as Chalukya-Cholas The other important Kshatriya dynasties during this period were Perrichedi, Kota Vamsa, Chagi and Haiheyas. Kota Vamsa (Dharanikota- Fort Dynasty)
The Kota kings, Kshatriyas of Dhanunjya gotra ruled from Dharanikota during the 11th and 12th century AD. Last King of this dynasty was Kota Betaraja. The Jampana, Datla, Dandu, Dantuluri, Uppalapati, Pakalapati and Nallaparaju royal families of Dhanunjaya Gotra, who were Zamindars of Ramachandrapuram, Mogalthur, Kotapalli, Ghandavaram, Kuppili, Moida and Mutta Talaga Chiralaall claim descent from this ancient dynasty.
The Chagis have been around since the Chalukyas at least and possibly the 6th or 7th century. They were mentioned as subordinate Chiefs of the Chalukyas and Kakatiyas. Bezawada inscription mentions in honor of Tulukam Velnadu Sagi Doraya Raju dated 1215 A.D. In 1246 inscriptions describe the reign of Chagi Manma Raju and in 1230 grants by Chagi Pota Raju. An inscription in Gudimetla on a fort dated around 1268 A.D. during the reign of Kakatiya Rudrama Devi states that Sagi Pota Raju was her commander-in-chief. Sagi Gannama was a governor under Vira Pratapa Purushottama Gajapati (AD 1462-1496). He built a hill fort in Vinukonda. The Kota Uratla and Thangedu royal families are descendents of the Chagis, with their name changing over time to Sagi. The founder of Peddapuram line of kings was Sagi Potha Raju who participated in the battle of Palnadu in 1178-1182. The family attained the title of Jagapati in the 16th century and changed their surname to Vatsavayi in honor of a fort during the times of Vatsavayi Timma Raju (1555-1607).
The Matsyas, Chedis, Haihayas and Kalachuris seem to share a common mythylogical and historical background with possible ancestry links to ancient Matsya Desa. The Chedis (A.K.A. Haihaya, Kalachuri) eventually became the Chodarajus of Kona. Historians such as Dr. P.B. Desai are emphatic about the central Indian origin of the Karnataka Kalachuris who are also referred to as Katachuris (shape of a sharp knife), Kalanjara-pura-vara-dhis-vara (Lord of Kalanjara) and Haihaya (Heheya). Several Kalachuri kings were related to Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas by matrimonial alliances and had ruled from places like Tripuri, Gorakhpur, Ratnapur, Rajpur. By the time they are mentioned in the Telugu epic Battle of Palnadu, they are referred to as the Haihaya family of the Kona region (Amalapuram and Razole of the present East Godavari District), and the Haihaya family of Palanadu, feudatories of the Chalukyas. The Kona Chiefs later took the title of Chodas, loyal governors for the newly formed Chola-Chalukya empire. They were Chandravanshi Kshatriyas of Kashyapa gotra. Kalachuris, Chalukya, Chagis and Kota Vamsa clans were important participants in the battle of Palnadu. It was a battle between two factions of the Kalachuris (Haihaya).
In Kakatiya period there were inscriptions mentioning about Kshatriyas in the Kakatiya army. There were 2000 Kshatriyas who lived in the Kakatiya capital. There were also few Kshatriya kingdoms in Andhra during Kakatiya period. There are 9 inscriptions mentioning the Sagi rulers, 6 inscriptions mentioning Pericheda Bhimaraju ruling in the Guntur region. The Chagis, Kota Kings and Paricchedis continued to hold onto their regions as subordinate rulers of Kakatiyas. the Chodarajus were ruling in Narasaraopeta, the Chagis (Sagis) were described as Kshatriyas ruling with Gudimetla as their capital and a Rudraraju was the General of Nathavadi region allied to the Kakatiyas. Kakatiya King Ganapatideva’s sister Melambika and his two daughters were given in marriage to the three Kshatriya family clans Chagis, Chalukyas and Kotas respectively. After this marital alliance with the three Kshatriya family clans, Kakatiyas started claiming Kshatriya status as evidenced by an inscription found in Guntur District. Ganapati Deva’s sister Melambika was married to the second son of Chagi Buddaraju, who was ruling Natavadi region. Ganapatideva’s first daughter Rudramadevi was married to Veerabhadra, Eastern Chalukyan prince of Nidadavolu and his second daughter Ganapamba was married to Kota Betaraja. Kakatiya King Ganapati Deva had no sons so he made his daughter Rudramadevi as his legitimate heir. As Rudramadevi was married to an Eastern Chalukyan prince of Kshatriya clan, Kakatiya rulers from Rani Rudramadevi regime used to mention themselves as Kshatriyas of Kashyapa gotra as seen in Guntur inscriptions. Kakatiya King Pratap Rudra’s brother, Annam Deo, who left Warangal and established his kingdom at Bastar in Chhattisgarh around the late 14th century also mentioned Kakatiyas as Kshatriyas.
Gajapatis of Kalinga/Orissa
The Suryavanshi Gajapatis of Orissa, on the height of their power in the 15th century, ruled over a kingdom extending from the Ganges river in the north to the Kaveri in the south under Gajapati Kapilendra Deva. But by the early 16th century, the Gajapatis lost great portions of their southern dominion to Vijayanagar and Golconda. During the Gajapathi reign an inscription mentions a Bhupathiraju Vallabha Raju Mahapatra in Chodavaram. It was common for the Zamindari families of the border region of Orissa and Andhra to have alliances. Early on, they actually sided with the Gajapatis against the Vijayanagar Empire. There was a notable exception with inscriptional confirmation of two Kshatriya generals fighting on the side of Krishna Deva Raya. Of the modern clans, the Vyricharla royals of Kurupam and the Satrucharla clan of Salur have more in common with the Orissa royals, who claim descent from the Gajapati and Ganga Dynasties, than they do with the Godavari clans. The Rajas of Kurupam are related through marriage to Jeypore Royal family, Bhanj dynasty of Daspalla princely state, Parmar dynasty of Gangpur princely state of Orissa and Kacchawa dynasty of Talcher princely state of Orissa founded in the 12th century.
Out of the four clans that ruled the Vijayanagara empire, two clans Saluva Dynasty and Aravidu Dynasty claimed to be of the Kshatriya Varna. Raja Achutya Deva Raya, Zamindar of Anegundi and head of the Hindu Kshatriya Community mentioned that they are of the Kshatriya Raju caste and marry among Telugu speaking Kshatriya Rajus settled in Hampi area. Raju families such as the Chodarajus, Tirumalarajus, Madirajus, Nandyalas, Gobburis, Saluvas (Bommarajus) of Karvetinagar, the Rajas of Owk and Matla Chiefs were all relatives of the Aravidu dynasty. The founding brothers of the Aravidu dynasty were the sons-in-law of Krishna Deva Raya of the Tuluva Dynasty and were also related previously through marriage with the Saluva Dynasty. Gobburi Narasaraju was the nephew of Aliya Ramaraju and After the death of King Venkatapathi Raju, from 1614 to 1616 there was a great war of succession. Amongst the claimants to the throne was Gobburi Jaga Deva Raju, the brother-in-law of the emperor and also a relative of the Raja of Karvetinagar, Saluva Makaraju. The Chodaraju’s gotra was given as Kasyapa and the Nandyala’s gotra was given as Atreya and were described as belonging to Chandravanshi, both were related through marriage and both were appointed Mahamandaleswars during the start of the 16th century. The Madiraju’s gotra was given as Kasyapa and Suryavanshi and related to the Thirumalarajus, both appointed Mahamandeleswars of Guntur area and happened to be the grandchildren of Aravidu Rama Raya. Madhava Varma Bejawada was mentioned in 1509 AD as of the Vasishtha gotra and Suryavansi. Krishna Deva Raya defeated among others Rachi Raju Pusapati, Srinatha Raju and Lakshmipati Raju on his way to defeating Pratapa Rudra Gajapati Raju of the Gajapathi Dynasty. He immediately reinstated these rulers as his vassals and married the daughter of Pratapa Rudra as a truce offering. All this occurred between 1514-1517 AD. Ganapathirajus were described as of the Suryavanshi and Kasyapa gotra and were Mahamandaleswars in 1555 AD.
Karvetinagar: The current Bommaraju family of Karvetinagar are of Kshatriya Raju caste and trace their origins back to an ancestor who migrated from the Pithapuram area of the Godavari Delta about the 8th or 9th century. One ancestor obtained the favor of the Eastern Chalukya King, Vimala Aditya and Saluva Narasa was appointed the Chief of the region around Tirupati, where he founded a town called Narasapuram. The family later became feudatories of Vijayanagar, and had marriage alliances with the Saluva and loyalties to the Aravidu dynasties over the next two hundred years. Around the 16th century the family changed their name to the current Bommaraju, retaining Saluva as a title.
The Sultans, Nizams and British all employed Rajus as the governors of estates with the responsibility of collecting taxes. In 1857 the British broke up the estates and realigned the bigger brigands into Princely states and the lesser ones as Zamindars or Jagirdars. These Zamindars were abolished after the formation of the Indian Union in 1947.