Rajputs (literally, “children of kings”) are members of a Hindu aristocratic caste (kshatriya, or warrior) settled mainly in northwestern India, who may have Central Asian origins.
The Rajputs have been influential in the political history of India since the eighth century. By late 15th century, they were engaged in battles against the Turko-Afghans of the Delhi Sultanate, and by the mid- 16th century they came under control of the Mughals (Moguls, Moghuls). In 1527, Babur won the Battle of Kanua over a confederacy of Rajputs led by Rana Sanga, ruler of Mewar in Rajastan, despite having a much smaller army. With the death of Rana Sanga and many other leaders in this battle, there was little hope for Rajput resurgence.
The Battle of Kanua inaugurated a long relationship between Rajputs and Mughals. Babur ruled for four years and died in 1530. His son Humayun was not as powerful a leader and was forced into exile in Persia. However, Humayun’s son Akbar extended power and geographical dominance of the Mughal Empire. Akbar began the custom of taking Rajput Hindu wives, without expecting them to convert to Islam. The diverse Mughal dynasty would employ Persians, Arabs, locally born Muslims, Rajputs, Brahmans, and later Marathas in its administration. Akbar and subsequent leaders’ marriages to Rajput women positioned some Rajputs as members of the ruling Mughal elite and they were integrated into the Mughal Empire in northern India. Many regional Rajput leaders maintained their autonomy but had to pay taxes to the Mughal government.
The reciprocal relationship between the Mughal emperors and the Rajputs was threatened in the mid-17th century, as a result of Shah Jahan’s four sons’ wars of succession of their father. The Rajputs remained loyal to Shah Jahan and fought against his rebel sons. When Aurangzeb won, they would suffer the consequences.
Aurangzeb was an ardent Muslim and he recast the previously diverse administration to favor Muslims exclusively. As a result, the Hindu Rajputs were ostracized politically, economically, and socially.
A later ruler, Jahandar Shah, attempted to repair relations with the Rajputs after 1715. The once strong relationship between the Rajputs and Mughals was never revived to the same level as during the early years of the Mughal dynasty.