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a feudal warrior caste in medieval India and a group of high-status castes in modern India. The Rajputs claim descent from the ancient Kshatriya varna, and the name “Rajput” derives from the Sanskrit rajaputra, meaning “raja’s son.” However, most of the 36 Rajput clans are descended not from the Kshatriya but from the elite of the Saka, Huns, Gurjaras, and other tribes that invaded India in the fifth and sixth centuries and assumed a dominant position in various regions of North India in the eighth century. Later, members of the Gonds, Bhar, Kol, and other local feudalized tribes attained Rajput status.
Between the eighth and 12th centuries, states headed by Rajput dynasties spread throughout North India and Nepal. Ordinary clan members, who represented the states’ military strength, were given conditional possession of villages and became small-scale, and often collective, landowners. During the Muslim conquests of the 12th and 13th centuries, Rajput princes lost most of their holdings, retaining chiefly those holdings in the Himalayan foothills and Rajasthan. The smaller-scale feudal Rajput lords became zamindars under Muslim rule. To this day, Rajputs constitute a populous stratum among the landowners of North India.
L. B. ALAEV