The Rajput race is the noblest and proudest in India, they are of highest antiquity and purest descent, they have a military autocracy of a feudal type, and “brave and chivalrous, keenly sensitive to an affront, and especially jealous of the honour of their women”.
Let us take the Rajput character from the royal historians themselves, from Akbar, Jahangir, Aurangzeb. The most brilliant conquests of these monarchs were by the Rajputs only.
The Rajput welcomes his guest with the munawwar piyala, or ‘cup of request,’ in which they drown ancient enmities.
The devotion of the Rajput is still paid to his arms, as to his horse. He swears ‘by the steel,’ and prostrates himself before his defensive buckler, his lance, his sword, or his dagger.
If we compare the antiquity and illustrious descent of the dynasties which have ruled, and some which continue to rule, the small sovereignties of Rajasthan, with many of celebrity in Europe, superiority will often attach to the Rajput.
The poorest Rajput of this day retains all the pride of ancestry, often his sole inheritance; he scorns to hold the plough, or to use his lance but on horseback.
The Rajput of character is a being of the most acute sensibility; where honour is concerned, the most trivial omission is often ignorantly construed into an affront.
The noble Rajput, with a spirit of constancy and enduring courage, seized every opportunity to turn upon his oppressor. By his perseverance and valour he wore out entire dynasties of foes, alternately yielding ‘to his fate,’ or restricting the circle of conquest.
If devotion to the fair sex be admitted as a criterion of civilization, the Rajpoot must rank high. His susceptibility is extreme, and fires at the slightest offense to female delicacy, which he never forgives.
Indeed it is amongst the Rajputs of our Army that we find the best specimen of Hindu character, and is no part of the world has the devotion of the soldiers to their immediate Chiefs been more remarkable than among the Rajputs.
The intense pride in their origin and ancestry, intense loyalty to the clan, and intense belief in righteousness of their cause, made the Rajputs the bravest of the brave.
The immense pride in ones class was formidable and intrinsic feature of the social ethos of the Rajputs, a feature that is generally not found in any other part of India.
The duality in the Rajput character was really astonishing. On the one hand he was a grim warrior, forever ready to draw his sword taking the cruelty, horror and pain of war in his stride. On the other hand he was gentle, warm in his hospitality, a lover of music and dance, and kind to the womenfolk, even those of his enemy.
Intense loyalty to her husband and the clan was another sterling quality of a Rajput woman.
In the ancient days the Rajput principalities were India's stoutest bulwarks against foreign invasion. Khshatriya armies fought not only Alexander and his Greeks, but also the hordes of Scythians and Bactrians which poured into India up to the end of the 1st century.
The Rajputs, true to their descent, are born warriors, and no family of the human race ever possessed so liberal a portion of that essence of reckless daring, called chivalry by poets and romancers, as the Rajputs.
Chivalry and heroism are as much a part of their blood as honour and pride.
To write at any length about the Rajputs is to relate the deeds and vicissitudes of one of the noblest and most ancient of known races, and to enliven many pages of the world's history with startling episodes of romance. Their fame is recorded on every page of the stirring annals of the Rajput States of India.
The Rajput code of honour calls for a very high standard of character, and that this high standard has been uninterruptedly maintained is shown by their present ready response to the call to arms.
The Rajputs, both in their lives and aspirations, remain true to the traditions of their race, and are characterized in all their ways, as their ancestors before them, by the pride and dignity that betoken men of destiny.
From the beginning of their history they have been noted for intense devotion to their chiefs, and in times of adversity as well as prosperity the clans have stood as one man by their hereditary and accredited heads.
On the advent first of the Pathans and then of the Moghuls the loyal and martial spirit of the Rajput clans was not subdued even in defeat. Year after year they fought for supremacy and independence with a valour that surprised their Muhammadan enemies.
The Maharajas of India were undoubtedly one of the great anachronisms of the twentieth century. Among them were enlightened rulers and profligate princes, saints and scoundrels, heroes and cowards, sadists and boors, charmers and eccentrics. Yet whatever they were, in the eyes of the people they ruled they had the divine right to do so.
The princely states of undivided India comprised little under half of the subcontinent, covering an area of over 700,000 square miles. Their territories extended 2,000 miles from the border of Afghanistan to Cape Comorin, the southern extremity of India. The 565 Indian States enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy depending on their size and importance.
If other princes were born with silver spoons in their mouth, Indian princes were born with gold ones. It is difficult in these proletarian times to imagine the sheer grandeur and scale of opulence in which the princes were reared.
In scale and grandeur, the palaces and strongholds of the erstwhile princely states must surely rank among the most impressive in the world.
The classic Indian palaces, with some that go back nearly four hundred years, range from dainty pavilions in white marble that float lightly on lakes (Udaipur) to dramatic fortified retreats on bleak mountain tops (Gwalior), and desert fortress (Jaisalmer). One suggests poetry and music, the other projects power and majesty.