During the post-Harsha period and the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate extremely wide ranging source material comprising epigraphic and literary is available to reconstruct the society of the period in general and that of the Rajputs in particular.
Among the literary works, Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, Prahandhachintamani of Merutunga, Soudhala’s Udayasundarikatha and Adipurana of jinasena, the ‘Dohas’ of Siddhas and many more are useful for reconstructing the social matrix of India.
Though it is generally agreed that this society was based on Vamasrama model, the social relations underwent changes due to the changing material base and the emergence of new social groups, vying for space in hierarchical order.
We have to take cognizance of the fact that no Varna seemed to have remained homogenous but underwent fragmentation on account of territorial affiliation, purity of ‘Gotras’ and pursuance of specific crafts, professions and vocations.
In Gujarat and Rajasthan, the Brahmins were identified in terms of their Mula or original place of habitation and divided into Madha, Udichya, Nagara, etc., while intermediary Varnas of the Kshatriyas and the Vaisyas were absent in Bengal and in South India.
The ranks of Kshatriyas multiplied during this period in North India. Many literary works and bardic recitations provide varying lists of 36 clans of Rajputs in North India and it is agreed upon that they arose out of different strata of population of tribal’s, foreign invaders, Kshatriyas and Brahmans.
It appears that some among the captured respectable men were enrolled as the Shekhawat and the Wadhela tribes of Rajputs, while the lower categories were constituted to the castes of Kolis, Khantas and Mers. The political annals of the Rajput dynasties such as the Chahamanas of Rajasthan and the Paramaras of Southern Rajasthan, Gujarat and Malwa offer examples of the clan-based distribution of political authority.
The bardic chronicles of Marwar testify to the fact that Dharanivaraha of the Paramara dynasty of Abu first made himself the master of the Navakot Marwar which he afterwards divided between his nine brothers. We have besides the Paramaras of Malwa, the Paramaras of Abu, Bhinmal, Jalor and Vagoda.
We have Chahamanas of Bhroach as well that of Pratapgarh. Further Chahamanas of Shakambhari were divided into Chahamanas of Nadol, Jalor, Satyapura and Abu. Likewise, the Chapas ruled over small areas like Bhillamala, Vadhiyar in Kathiawad and Anhilapataka in Gujarat. Thus, the new clans and subdivision of earlier clans were drawn into the Rajput political network in a variety of ways.
We also notice the process of caste proliferation among the Vaishyas and the Sudras. The Vaishyas were also identified with regional variations and they are called Shrimals, Palliwals, Nagars and Disawats among others. We also witness the crystallization of the professions of artisans into castes.
During this period more and more land was brought under cultivation and relations in society revolved around land grants. It also means the use of advanced agricultural techniques of plough cultivation and irrigation. Institutional management of agricultural process sometime, led to social tensions in rural set-up.
However, regional variations and ecological factors are to be taken into consideration before we assess the impact of expansion of agriculture. Land grant system began in western Indian regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan between the 5th and the 7th centuries AD. In Rajasthan water-lifting devices such as Araghatta and big ploughs were in use. As Rajasthan and Gujarat were having less rainfall, the agriculturists must have depended on age-old practice of depending on wells.
Trade and commerce also flourished. Nagarams or markets in those days were located on trade routes at points of exchange. In Rajasthan, where the exchange centres were located on the basis of agrarian production, the rural settlements clustered. These also acted as centres of traffic of varying origins.
We also witness a certain measure of hierarchy among merchant families of the 11th and the 12th centuries. The important merchant families based on the origin of place are Osawal (Osia) Shrimalis (Bhinmal), Palliwalas and Khandelwalas.
These merchant families integrated the resource bases or rural production centres, the main routes for the flow or resources or urban centres and centres of exchange; or Nagarams. Rajasthan provided the necessary commercial links between Gujarat, Central India and the valley of Ganges. The traders maintained links through towns like Pali between the coast and towns like Dwaraka and Brigukachcha or Broach with central and north India. Bayana in Rajasthan was such a crucial market junction.
The Rajput rulers patronized arts and literature. Paramara rulers Munja and Bhoja are well-known scholars of great repute. The following are the works of Bhoja – Ayurvedasarvasva, Rajamriganka, Vyavaharasamuchchaya, Sabdanusasana and Yuktikalpataru. Bhoja patronized literary giants such as Padmagupta, Dhanika, Halayudha, Dhananjaya and Amitragati. Rajasekhara, the author of the drama of Karpuramanjari in Prakrit was patronized by Mahendrapala of Kanauj.
Jayadeva, the author of Gita Govinda was patronized by King Lakshmana Sena of Bengal. Kalhana, the author of Rajtarangini, Somadevasuri, the author of Kathasaritsagara, Chand Bardai, the author Prithiviraj Raso and Brihatkathamanjari, belonged to this period. Vernacular literature also made a beginning in this period. Hemachanda Suri, a great Jain poet deserves to be remembered for his services.
The Rajputs were also great builders. Art historians divide their period into two halves, the first part from AD 600-900 and the second part from AD 900-1200. We notice more of ornamentation in the second period. Their important specimens of secular art are the fortresses located at Chittorgarh, Ranathanbhor and Kumbalgarh in Rajasthan along with Mandu, Gwalior, Chandai and Asirgarh in Madhya Pradesh.
The palaces in Rajasthan are also beautiful examples of art and architecture they fostered. The Rajputs also constructed a number of temples. The Khajuraho group of temples numbering 80, built by the Chandella rulers stand in good testimony to the artistic excellence of the Rajput artists and craftsmen, where each temple exhibits individual architectural character. These temples are famous for elegant proportions, graceful contours and rich surface treatment. The Sikharas of these temples are most refined and elegant. We have both Brahmanical and Jaina temples.
The Jaina complex at Mount Abu is very remarkable for its marble halls, a central dome of 11 concentric rings and richly carved vaulted ceiling and pillars. They also built Siva temples at Nemavar and Udaipur. It is said that Rudramala temple is one of the largest and most decorated religious monuments in India.
The Rajputs by their individual courage, valour and spirit of liberty played the role of defenders of Indian culture from the inroads of ruthless invaders like Ghajni and Ghori, leading to the postponement for the establishment of Muslim power in India. But, the Rajputs failed in preventing the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate by their narrow and clannish outlook, lack of foresight and failure to realize the impending danger knocking at their gates and importance of burying mutual jealousies for a common good.