- The Kshatriyas are the warrior/kingly class in the ancient fourfold class system of India. They are second in the hierarchy beneath the BRAHMINS. Their duty was to protect and rule. They were always allied with Brahmins in their role as kings and overlords, but they vied for control of the top of the social hierarchy. In the sixth century B.C.E. the heterodox movements of Buddhism and JAIN-ISM, which opposed Brahminical orthodoxy, were founded by men of Kshatriya lineage, respectively, Siddhartha Gautama (later, BUDDHA) and Vardha-mana (later, MAHAVIRA).As do Brahmins, Kshatriyas receive the SACRED THREAD, making them “twice-born.” Up to the GUPTA era (c. 600 C.E.) they learned SANSKRIT and to some degree the scriptures. The UPANISHADS give examples of Kshatriya kings who teach Brah-mins the highest wisdom.Kshatriyas play a significant role in Indian lit-erature, along with the Brahmins. Both the RAMA-YANA and MAHABHARATA are essentially Kshatriya epics dealing with issues of kingly succession. They also, of course, highlight the two Kshatriya heroes RAMA and KRISHNA, both recognized as ava-tars of Lord VISHNU.Further reading: Shanta Anand, Ksatriyas in Ancient India: A Socio-Economic and Religious Study (Delhi: Atma Ram, 1985); Bimla C. Law, Ancient Mid-Indian Ksatriya Tribes (Varanasi: Bharatiy Publishing House, 1975); C. T. Metcalfe, The Rajpoot Tribes (New Delhi: Cosmo, 1982).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.