Epilogue: The Tradition of Kshatra since 1857

This article is part 7 of 76 in the series The Tradition of Kshaatra in India

As the last vestige of India’s glorious heritage of Kshatra (or valour), we see the solid resistance of the native Indian army during the First War of Indian Independence in 1857. After this, we observe the same Kshatra spirit in Subash Chandra Bose’s army Azad Hind Fauj in 1944.

During the period of about ninety years from 1857—1944 the Kshatra of Indians was reflected largely through individual brilliance. Extraordinary warriors and fighters like Rani Chennamma, Sangolli Rayanna, Rani Abbakka, Velu Thambi, Kuvarasimha, Kattabomman fought in their own unique ways at different levels. Brilliant leading lights of 1857 like Nana Saheb, Tatya Tope, and Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai organized superb fighting forces and led from the front. Numerous other warriors like Baba Saheb from Naragunda, and Bhima Rao from Mundaragi took inspiration from these heroes and revolted and were eventually martyred.

The Chapekar Brothers, Sri Aurobindo, Bagha Jatin, Khudiram Bose, Udham Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Sukhdev, Ramprasad Bismil, Vasudev Balwant Phadke, Alluri Sitaramaraju, Madanlal Dhingra, Bhagat Singh and their inspiration and heroes, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Balagangadhar Tilak, and Lala Lajpat Rai fought as blazing revolutionaries. The Chitpavan Brahmin community produced numerous such revolutionaries. The Punjab, Bengal, and Maharashtra regions produced a host of such courageous freedom fighters. What’s more, even the lakhs of villages that dot the vast landscape of Bharatavarsha produced countless freedom fighters.

All these brave heroes would raise the slogan of Vande Matram and willingly offer themselves to the British noose holding the Bhagavad Gita in one hand, with a smile on their face. None of these heroes troubled children, old people, the innocent and the helpless. They did not target any specific religion but fought only against the colonial British Government. Luminaries like Shyamji Krishna Verma, Madam Cama, Rashbehari Bose, Dinesh Majumdar, Badal Gupta, Jatin Mukherjee, Vishnu Ganesh Pingale, Niren Dasgupta and Vinay Bose engaged in army action.

Opportunistic and craven Communist traitors like Yashpal were directly responsible for the death and agony of true patriots like Chandrashekhar Azad. After Independence, such people were rewarded by Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi and became famous and enormously wealthy. Indian Communists established an illicit relationship with the British and sabotaged the freedom struggle. Till date, they continue to remain the enemy of Bharatavarsha and the notion of freedom itself.

Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha who was the companion of Sri Aurobindo fought alongside him as a revolutionary and a brilliant thinker. He later went on to adorn the Shankaracharya Math at Puri and Dwaraka.

Scores of Indian youth established the India House in London and carried on the freedom struggle from there. The most prominent among them was Vinayak Damodar Savarkar who wrote the pathbreaking work, The Indian War of Independence 1857. In India, the foremost name that stands out is Balagangadhar Tilak. Hundreds of ordinary Indians became revolutionaries after being inspired by Swami Dayananda Saraswati and Swami Vivekananda. Foreigners like Annie Beasant and Sister Nivedita dedicated their lives to serve Bharatavarsha.

The Indian freedom movement, from being a mass movement transformed into struggles waged by an individual. After the brilliant successes of Tilak’s non-cooperation movement, Gandhi’s leadership completely ruined the freedom struggle by destroying the spirit of Kshatra. The Indian masses, in their childlike innocence, forgot their raw spirit of valour. It is only in Bose’s Indian National Army that we see the real spirit of Kshatra. It is our collective good fortune that we see this selfsame Kshatra even today in the Indian Army.  

However, this Kshatra spirit did not survive in the majority of our political class after Independence.

The Indian tradition of Kshatra has seen countless crests and troughs in its long history. Even those who had scaled extraordinary peaks of achievement faded away, their names forgotten: weak progeny of strong men and women, nondescript folks who sired extraordinary achievers; still others who took unwise decisions and destroyed the prosperity of their empires and fell down in their own lifetime—examples abound. In spite of all this, the obstacle-ridden path traversed by our tradition of Kshatra has a protracted history and the summits it has touched are equally magnificent.

When we realized that the barbaric force called Islam had reached our borders, when the Arabs occupied Sindh, when the Surya Temple at Multan was destroyed, when our trading caravans were forcibly stopped and extortionate trading conditions were imposed…even as all these were happening, we were in deep slumber instead of repelling them. The Bharatavarsha of that period did not grasp the nature of the calamity that would befall it two hundred years later. Sure enough, it arrived in the form of Mahmud Ghazni.

The revolt of 1857 is known as the First War of Indian Independence. In reality, that war has been ongoing over several centuries. From the time Mohammed Bin Qasim set foot in Sindh (beginning of the ninth century), this war of independence progressed as a continuous stream on numerous planes, at different levels for about 1100 years.

Indians have never crossed their borders and invaded any other country. However, in the 1100 year-long struggle to halt unprovoked aggression against them, they have lost vast swathes of their own land, they have lost their culture, art, and wealth. This aggression was motivated primarily by a greed for India’s fabulous wealth, its women, and fueled by religious bigotry. We have lost numerous sacred and beautiful places, shrines, and rivers. More importantly, we have sacrificed crores of our own relatives and well-wishers and children. Despite these enormous losses, what we have still managed to retain still significant and extraordinary. Also, it is a colossal feat that we are still living with a deep and proud attachment to our roots. All this is the great fruit of our twin ideals of Brahma and Kshatra.

Indeed, it is to preserve these ideals that eminences like Ram Swarup, Sita Ram Goel and David Frawley have coined and popularized the term, “Intellectual Kshatriya” or “Intellectual Warrior.” Other scholars like Michel Danino and Koenraad Elst are engaged in the same pursuit.

One must perform one’s Swakarma through Swadharma and increase all-round productivity. This is one of the qualities of engaging in the activity of Vaishya or business. The effort and daily activity towards achieving this productivity constitutes what is known as the quality of Shudra. Kshatra is that ideal, temperament, and practice of a person firmly standing by and protecting the ideals and life-values of those near and dear to him using a combination of physical strength and intellectual vigour and shrewdness. The philosophical, intellectual, ethical, and moral framework required to sustain and defend all of these is known as Brahma.

Every human being everywhere is innately endowed with these traits within him or her. As the celebrated Rg Vedic verse of Purushasukta says, all human beings are embodiments of these four varnas.

brāhmaṇo'sya mukhamāsīd bāhū rājanyaḥ kṛtaḥ ।
ūrū tadasya yadvaiśyaḥ padbhyāṃ śūdro ajāyata ॥

The Brahmanas were the Mouth of the Cosmic Purusha, the Kshatriyas became His Arms |
The Vaishyas His Thighs, The Shudras His Feet ||

Our downfall began the day we lost sight of this.

It is our experience that we give work to our hands majority of the time. The role of the Kalpa Sutras become indispensable if we need to understand the Vedas through the Vedangas. The number of Kalpa Sutras is large. Our tradition has a symbolic system of denoting the Kalpa Sutras as the hands of the Veda-Purusha. As the very definition of the word Kalpa says (kalpyante vedA yetairiti), the application and expression of the Vedas is contained in the Kalpa Sutras.

In this manner, we can draw an equation between the Kshatra represented as the arms of the Cosmic Purusha and the Kalpa Sutras represented as the arms of the Veda-Purusha. Thus, the role and responsibility of Kshatra in society is paramount. The spirit and ideal of Kshatra, which nourishes and protects the ideals of Vaishya and Shudra is in turn, nourished by and under the guidance of the Darshana of Brahma. It is for this reason that the light of Kshatra should never be extinguished. The life of the world is lit by its resplendence.

Most importantly, the life of Sanatana Dharma must blossom. Let us keep it always lit by constantly supplying it with the oil of active friendship and ceaseless labour. Let us take inspiration from the lives and accomplishments of our Rajarshis and Chakravartins, and ensure that the wick of the lamp of Kshatra is not sullied with the soot of cowardice. Let us constantly strum the strings of this Vina of Mahadeva-Rudra that emanates the music of valour. And, simultaneously, let us also beat the drum of peace and harmony and immerse ourselves in the honeyed silence of this joy.

To be continued



Dr. Ganesh is a 'shatavadhani' and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language.



Hari is an author, translator, editor, designer, and violinist with a deep interest in philosophy, education pedagogy, literature, and films. He has (co-)written/translated and (co-)edited some forty books, mostly related to Indian culture.


Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

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