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Ksatriyas in the Kali Age?

Gāgābhatta & His Opponents

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This paper deals with the history of the disputes regarding the Ksatriya status of the local ruler Shivaji and the Cāndrasenīya Kāyastha Prabhu (CKP) community of Maharashtra. The origin of these disputes lies in the wider dispute concerning whether there are any true Ksatriyas in the Kali age. The CKPs of Maharashtra claimed to be Ksatriyas and thus entitled for the rite of Upanayana, while the dominant regional Brahmin opinion was that they were Śūdras and not entitled for the Upanayana. The dispute broke out a few years before Shivaji's coronation, and to the discomfort of the local Brahmins, Gāgābhatta of Banaras settled it in favor of the Kāyasthas in his work, the Kāyasthadharmadīpa. In decades after Shivaji's death, the dispute broke out again, and within Maharashtra, gradually the Dharmaśāstric opinion shifted against the views of Gāgābhatta, and toward the end of the rule of the last Peshwa, this dispute was raised again by Nīlakantha Śāstri Thatte in Pune against the Kāyasthas. I have traced the lineage of Nīlakantha Thatte, through his teacher Vaidyanātha Pāyagunde, to his teacher, the great Nāgeśabhatta of Banaras. Nāgeśsabhatta produced his Vrātyatāprāyaścittanirnaya at a śāastrasabhā in Jaipur, where he argued that there were no pure Ksatriyas surviving in the Kali age, and that the impure ones do not have the eligibility for Upanayana through some expiation. So the Kāyasthas could not claim to be genuine Ksatriyas either. It was this opinion of Nāgesabhatta, counter to the opinion of Gāgābhatta, that steadily gained popularity among the Pune Brahmins during the rule of the Peshwas, finally reflected in the activities of Nīlakantha Thatte.


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