Rajput History: Rajputs and Jainism
There is a close relation between Rajputs and Jainism. Many Rajput dynasties were followers and supporters this faith. That is why Jainism get flourished In Rajput era. Moreover, most of the present day Jains from Rajputana are of Rajput origin.
Who are Rajputs?
Before starting to discuss this subject, it would be interesting to know about the Rajputs.
Rajputs are a warrior class of people in North India, especially in Rajasthan, Western Uttar Pradesh, Western Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Northern Maharashtra. They are also found in adjoining region of Pakistan, where they are converted to Islam.
There are many theories of the origin of Rajputs. Linguistically, The word Raj means Monarch, and Put means son. So the English translation of the word Rajput is son of monarch.
According to religious literature, Rajputs are descendents of ancient Indian warrior people known as Kshatriya (Original word Khattiya). According to anthropologists, Rajputs are descendents the Scythian tribes who came to India from Central Asia in ancient times. But when we study the clans of Rajputs, we find that these clans are related to the warrior classes of different parts of India, so most of the Rajputs are aboriginal people of India, and not of the Scythian origin. Further, the origin of Rajput clans tells us that the Rajputs are a confederation of warrior peoples from different parts of India, who finally concentrated in western parts of Northern India. Here is an interesting article about Rajput origis which you may like to read: Rajput History: Southern origin of some Rajput clans
Rajputs: Great Patrons of Jainism
The history of Jainism in Western India goes back to 5th century B.C., but it is a fact that Jainism flourished in this region in the era of Rajput kings. The great Jain ascetics of Rajput period influenced the kings. As a result, the Rajput kings of various dynasties not just patronized Jainism, but they also adopted Jainism as their family religion. If you visit the forts in Rajaputana, you will find that there are Jain temples on almost all the forts.
Although most of the Rajput dynasties were influenced by Jainism, the most famous dynasties who patronized this religion were: Solankies of Patan, Sisodias of Mewar, Rathores, Parmars and Chouhans. Sisodiya's of Mewar were Shaivites by faith, but they too had influenced by Jains and Jainism. Rana Kumbh, a15th Century King of Mewar was patron of the famous Jain Temple at Ranakapur. Another Mewar King Rana Udaisingh and his son Maharana Pratap also were influenced by Jainism. There is a letter by Maharana Pratap which throws some light on his respect for Jain ascetics. He wrote a letter from battlefield, to the famous Jain Acharya Hir Vijay Suri. In this letter, Maharana Pratap invites the Acharya to Mewar preach.
Jain Ascetics of Rajput Origin
The Rajput connection with Jainism was not limited to patronizing and following it, but many Rajput Kings adopted Jain ascetic life. The most famous were Acharya Ratna Prabha Suri and Acharya Kalak.
King Mahedra Chud had a son Ratna Chud Vidyadhar. He became a a famous Jain Acharya and was known as Acharya Ratna Prabha Suri. He addressed the King and people of Upakeshpur Pattan and converted them to Jainism. He converted about 140000 people, most of them were Rajputs.
Acharya Kalak was another great Jain Acharya of Rajput origin.
Jain ascetics, whether they were of Rajput origin or not, were always respected by Rajput Kings and Rajput people. This tradition is continued till date, that is why Rajputs of Rajasthan and Gujarat are influence by Jainism and even today there are many Jain monks and great Jain Acharyas who are of Rajput origin.
Transformation of Rajputs to Jainism
When a King adopts a religion, his subjects also do the same thing. Acharya Ratna Prabha Suri Converted the King of Upkeshpur Pattan, which is presently known as Osiya, to Jainism. With the king hundreds of thousands of people also adopted Jainism. Most of them were Rajputs. They belonged to following clans: Panwar, Chauhan, Parmar, Rathore, Khinchi, Solanki etc. These Osiya Jains are now known as Oswals, and outnumber all other Jain castes (Endogamous Groups). This process of converting Kings and people to Jainism continued for hundreds of year.
Like Oswals, many other Jain castes of that region are mainly of Rajput origin. Such castes include Khandelwal, Porwal, Humad, Shrimal etc. There are 84 Clans in Khandelwals, 82 of them have Rajput origin. A large part of Khandelwal belongs to Chauhan Rajputs. Shrimals were originally Rajputs of Shrimal city, Achary Svayamprabha Suri converted them to Jainism.
These transformed Rajput-Jains always got importance in Rajput Kingdoms. They enjoyed higher posts like Prime Ministers, Ministers, Generals, Administrators etc. The main reason for this was that the Jains were of Rajput origin.
Even today we see common Clan names and surnames amongst Jains and Rajputs of Rajasthan.
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