Who are Rajputs?Rajputs are a subsect of Hindi speaking Kshatriyas. In olden times the term was applied only to the kinsmen of ruling dynasties. However after the disintegration of the feudal system the term has lost its implied connection to royalty.
Significance of rajput rulers in Indian historyThe northwestern part of Indian subcontinent circa 700 consisted of multiple small kingdoms administered by rajput rulers. These rajput kings frequently fought amongst themselves and their kingdoms were weakened by internecine wars and subdivisions. Although renowned for their bravery and chivalry, they could never unite under one head. Thus when the Muslim rulers from the West invaded, they faced only small armies which were already weakened by ravages of incessant wars. Rajput rulers due to their disunity and incompetence thus opened the doors of the Indian subcontinent to Muslim rule.
Extent of Rajput kingdomsRajput kings ruled that part of Indian subcontinent that now consists of Pakistan and Northern India comprising the states between the Western border and the state of Bihar in the East, and southwards extending upto the state of Madhya Pradesh.
Rajputs in post-independence IndiaAfter independence of India in 1947, the union of the kingdoms to form the democratic republic dealt a deathblow to all aristocracy and feudalism. Some of the Rajput princes enjoyed the privy purse for several decades until the Government finally did away with system of privy purse. Most people have always associated Rajputs with kings, however it might surprise many to hear that the great majority of rajputs were employed chiefly in the armies of different rulers irrespective of race and religion before the independence of India. Thus, they served as soldiers in the armies of Moghuls, British, French, Muslim rulers of the south India like Nizam of Hyderabad, Nawab of Arcot, etc. Thus, by the time of independence of India, Rajputs were dispersed throughout India. During the immediate post-independence period and during the days when zamindari system was in vogue, the affluent rajputs owned vast farmlands and were known as thakurs. The thakurs have been maligned in many a Hindi film as being ruthless, womanizing tyrants. After the abolishing of the zamindari system and with the rationalization of military recruitment more and more rajputs found themselves looking at jobs which they had hitherto never considered. Thus, in the present day set up rajputs are no longer exclusively seen in military or as landlords but have equitable distribution in other professions as well.
SatiSati was a form of suicide practised by rajput queens when their husbands were killed in the battle particularly when fighting the invading Muslim kings of the West. This was an attempt by the queens to prevent themselves from being captured and raped by the invading kings. The practice of sati had nothing to do with either love for the husband or Hindu traditions. However, with time the practice of sati degenerated from suicide to homicide. What initially started as voluntary burning of self to escape humiliation became a mandatory tradition imposed by the society on these queens. The family and society thus came to expect the queens to burn themselves up whenever their husbands died of whatever cause. Therefore, after some point in history sati became synonymous with approved murder of the widowed queens. However, in late ninteenth century various reformers including Raja Ram Mohan Roy and others fought to deglamorize this practice and expose its barbaric nature. After independence, the Indian law treated this practice as an offence at par with homicide.