Etymology of kSatriya

Tue Oct 10 21:40:44 UTC 1995

Etymology of kSatriya

I found an interesting lexeme in MarAThI.

kSetrI fr. kSatriya Skt. = the second of the four great classes of the 
Hindu people or an individual of it; a peasant, cultivator, farmer.

This suggests re-visiting the traditional morpheme: kSatr = military 
prowess (attested early in RV applied to the power of VaruNa-Mitra and 
Indra). ViSNurAm Apte adds 
a question mark as to the root: kSi? and remarks: "members of military in 
the earliest times as represented by the Vedic hymns were generally called 
rAjanya, not kSatriya;
afterwards, when the difference between brahman and 
kSatra or the priestly and civil authorities became more distinct, 
applied to the second or reigning or 
military caste in VS, AV, TS etc... " Raghuvamsa (ii,53) adds another root: 
trai, fancifully: kshatAt tra i.e., a preserver from injury.

But, see the root: kSi = to abide, reside (a secret residence) (RV); this 
root explains: kSetra = landed property (RV, AV ii,8,5, VS xvi,18)

The possible semantic conflicts: field X power, could be resolved by the 
PrAkr: khet, khelar (PunjAbI) = kSetra = agricultural field and assigning 
the early meaning of peasant to kSetrI. cf.
khettaM (Pali) = landed property, a cultivated field (Dhammapadam. 64); 
but, moriya khattiya = maurya princes (MahAwanso. 21).

The cognate semantics in Kannada and Tamil/MalayALam are: kesaRu and cERu
respectively meaning: mud, mire sluch, loam (cf. katirmUkkAral kIZHccER 
RoLippa: puRanA, 249); cERATu-tal = to make a field slushy for sowing paddy 

It is, therefore, reasonable to propose that the early meaning of kSatr 
was linked, not to power but to agriculture.

Dr. S. Kalyanaraman
mdsaaa48 at
Indus Sarasvati Research Centre,
20/7 Warren Road, Mylapore, Madras 600004
tel.44-4936288; fax. 44-4996380

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