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What is a Kshatriya?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Under the Hindu caste system, a Kshatriya is a ruler or warrior. This caste has traditionally been ranked second among the four castes of the system, and members of the Kshatriya caste have held power for centuries in India. Although the caste system has been drastically modified through legislation and social reform in India, it is not uncommon to see Kshatriyas in public office in India, since they have been associated with power and ruling for so long.

The origins of the caste system can be found in the holy texts of Hinduism, known as the vedas. According to the vedas, every citizen has a different varna, or caste. Originally, someone's varna would have been based upon actions in life, but the varnas eventually became hereditary, solidifying a rigid stratified system which endured for centuries. The caste system may have provided everyone a place in Indian society, but it did not allow for social mobility and flexibility, and many 20th century Indians considered it to be very discriminatory.

The word “Kshatriya” is derived from the words for “power” and “ruler.” Members of this caste have traditionally ruled over communities and Indian society. Ideally, a Kshatriya ruler would have been just and merciful, governing the community with inherent ruling qualities granted by his varna. It was also common for children born into the Kshatriya caste to be extensively educated in statecraft and history, to ensure that they would make sound rulers.

In addition to holding power in the form of leadership, Kshatriyas were also warriors. Members of the caste were responsible for defending Indian society and upholding justice. The caste held an essential monopoly on military education and defense training for many generations. As members of a high ranking caste, Kshatriyas were expected to marry amongst themselves, in a practice known as endogamy. Marriages between castes were generally frowned upon.

Before the caste system was fully codified, the Kshatriyas were actually the highest caste. Allegedly, the Brahmins replaced them on the orders of Vishnu, who was punishing the Kshatriyas for their tyrannical rule. This may reflect a classic conflict between priests and soldiers, who have struggled for control of their societies for centuries. In modern India, other castes may hold office and join the military, as part of a series of general reforms which were meant to abolish discriminatory aspects of the caste system.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon994546 — On Feb 17, 2016

Kshatriyas are directly under the Brahmins.

By anon992267 — On Aug 26, 2015

@anon338138: Vanniyas or Pallis were never Kshatriyas. Vanniyar and Agnivanshi kshatriya were the names created by the Pallis to elevate themselves socially, escape discrimination and Kshatriya status.

Pallis are traditionally agricultural laborers belonging to the Shudra division. In fact, they form the bottom most position even within the Shudra division, just one step above the scheduled castes like Mallars or Pallars and Nadar or Shanars. In fact, it was stated clearly in the Rig Veda that there are only Brahmanas, Shudras and Panchamas in Dakshin India or South India. It is ridiculous to claim that Chera, Chozha and Pandiyans belonged to Vanniyar or Palli caste, given the fact that most Pallis traditionally live in North and Northwestern districts of Tamilnadu, like Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, and Thirvallur, where none of the three kingdoms were headquartered or based at.

Numerous castes from Mukkulathor/Thevars, Udaiyars to Shanar/Nadar, Mallar/Pallar claim that they were either one or all three of the Pandyas, Chozhans and Cherans. But none of their claims has been authenticated or validated. But it is widely believed that since the Pandyans had fish and bull insignia, they could be from the traditional fishermen community like Parathavars, Karaiyars or the traditional Tamil warrior community of Maravars, Chozhas could be Vellalars, Agamudaiyars and / or Kallars since these castes use Chozhan titles of Araiyan, Thevan, etc., and Cherans as Malaikoravans or Ambalams/Vallambars, as both these castes traditionally possess a bow and arrow insignia to represent their castes.

By anon991180 — On Jun 02, 2015

The earliest Vedic texts listed the Kshatriya (holders of kshatra, or authority) as first in rank, then the Brahmans (priests and teachers of law), next the Vaishya (merchant-traders), and finally the Sudra (artisans and labourers).

By anon989881 — On Mar 26, 2015

Agnikula kshatriyas are the most powerful kshatriyas. In North India, they are known as Rajputs, In South India they are known as Vanniyar or Vanniyakula kshatriyas, South India Agnikula kshatriyas(Vanniyar) built numerous temples.

By anon944336 — On Apr 07, 2014

What are the most common foods?

By anon357443 — On Dec 04, 2013

What do they do?

By anon338138 — On Jun 11, 2013

I belong to the proud vanniyakula kshatriya from tamilnadu, namely the pallavas, cholas, pandyas and cheras, the ruling community over years. After the Muslim invasion and foreigners, we lost our kingdom. We hold an undisturbed lineage through the centuries since we do not practice inter caste marriage, and even if we thought of doing so, our genes would not permit it. Our genes are preserved to save Hinduism and India. Even in modern India, we wanted to change ourselves and to excel in trading, but we can't achieve it. I think we don't have the genetic diversity, hence we are bold and genuine.

We do not convert to other religions since we know by birth we are superior to brahmin. I can definitely say kshatriyas in India protect Hinduism. All the rest will easily convert to imported religions.

By anon331038 — On Apr 20, 2013

The entire Hindu culture has now been hijacked by grass eating Brahmins and the Vaishyas who have declared eating meat as a sin in order to morally blackmail the Kshatriya and Shudra castes of India.

By anon325863 — On Mar 18, 2013

What do they do today?

By anon316648 — On Jan 29, 2013

What do Kshatriyas wear daily? Specifically?

By anon315432 — On Jan 24, 2013

Beef was a common food and all were eating beef until recently (by force) people were asked to stop eating beef and described beef as a food of the low castes.

By anon283919 — On Aug 07, 2012

I am South Indian Agnivanshi kshatriya, called Vannia kula Kshatriya. We hid our arms after the war in the Vanni /Shami tree.

We eat meat except beef. Some offer sacrificial goats to Gods/Goddesses. But we use priests or brahmins for all ceremonies from birth. We are to wear the golden thread /Golden Poonal at age 13 or one hour before marriage.

We worship war Gods/Goddesses as Kula deivam/Kula devata.

Some become vegetarian if so instructed by their guru.

Women are called Vannniaatchis. They hold power. Some are women priests for their Goddesses.

Last names are Padayachi, Naicker, Nayak, Nayakan, Vanniyar Gounder, Phalli, etc. Most streets in North Madras end with Naicker.

The reason we are Hindus but allowed to eat meat is we have to fight wars and we do not work as ordained priests or say vedas. We hire vedic priests to do the pooojas.

By anon260526 — On Apr 11, 2012

What do the women and men in the kshatriya caste wear?

By anon252168 — On Mar 04, 2012

Who are the verma by caste? Are they punjabi, thakur, kshatriya? Can anyone tell me, please?

By anon246181 — On Feb 08, 2012

Being a (Khadka) Kshatriya from Nepal, my grandfather was in the British Army. He had a sword 'khadga' which was passed by forefathers he being the elder son of our blood/clan.

I researched into our past and it looks like our ancestors were Rajputs from Ujjain. My relatives who are Kshatriya/chettris are very straightforward and kind-hearted people who despise people who play mind games or bully others. They are mostly non-vegetarian, say what they mean and avoid quarrels. But, when it comes to injustice or real trouble, they do not hesitate to cut the enemy's head or make him taste the dirt from ground.

It's not a privilege to be a kshatriya, it's a responsibility and duty to fulfill what is expected of us.

By anon189365 — On Jun 23, 2011

kshatriyas are far above from the modern leaders.

By anon164952 — On Apr 03, 2011

The word kshatriya is known for justice and ferocious. Normally now a days this is not found because of changed political rulings and number of other reasons. Therefore a kshatriya is also a common man in this changed world. They eaten both veg and non-veg from Veda time.

By anon163790 — On Mar 29, 2011

kshatriyas are born to lead and rule the people. they always stood against injustice, and they protected the nation from invaders. They sacrificed their lives for the motherland. They never give up, no matter what the situation is. I am proud to be a Kshatriya and an Indian.

By anon147339 — On Jan 29, 2011

Kshatriyas are very gentle people in the world, but when the see injustice, no one is as dangerous as them in removing the unjust powers.

By anon86018 — On May 23, 2010

they eat rice, all types of vegetables and non vegetables.

By anon84820 — On May 17, 2010

i thought that it was quite informational for a website based on giving information only meant to help start research.

By anon84658 — On May 17, 2010

Kshatriyas are the same people as others. We eat the same food a normal human eats, but we are thought from childhood not to surrender at any point of life, no matter whatever it takes.

If you want to check the power of Kshatriya's blood even tease a small boy and see the anger in his eyes. This is what Kshatriya's blood has!

By anon65995 — On Feb 17, 2010

Are marathi people of Betul kshatriyas?

By anon65894 — On Feb 16, 2010

this was a good web site but it needs more things about the Kshatriyas and not your guys' little comments. please, we need this for school not to talk.

By anon62726 — On Jan 28, 2010

The Kshatriyas were landowners and they were supposed to get food for their family.

By anon62722 — On Jan 28, 2010

how did the kshatriyas behave towards others?

By anon62452 — On Jan 26, 2010

How were the Kshatriyas treated?

By anon60375 — On Jan 13, 2010

They eat traditional indian food; Chapati made up of wheat flour,dishes made up of vegetables, meat(mostly chicken, no beef though), etc.

By anon43017 — On Aug 25, 2009

they eat grass for breakfast and chicken curry for tea.

By anon32059 — On May 15, 2009

I was about to ask that very question myself.

By anon28241 — On Mar 13, 2009

What are some of the foods Kshatriyas eat in India?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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