Khandayat is a local synonym of Kshatriya Caste   a martial caste found in the state of Odisha in India . The term Khandayat is a citation from the Sanskrit term khandâ-âyata, which means " the master of the sword" . It is one of the largest caste of Odisha throughout its medieval history except for the last century where Brahmins dominated caste in Orissa, constituting around 18% of the state's population. Khandayats were mainly involved in ruling and operating the body of society in the ancient to the medieval era. After the Turkic-Mongol invasion of Northern India, when warrior clans and societies had almost lost their power and dominance,  They are equal to the caste of the warrior caste such as Rajputs and are mainly concentrated in Odisha.
The name Khandayat is the medieval era poetic depiction of a Kshatriya originated from the term "Khanda" with its origin in Sanskrit which means the sword  as well land and "âyata" means control in specific discipline.. Another prevalent translation relates 'Khanda' to 'Bhu-khanda' which means a piece of land in the local terminology which can be linked to the vast amout of lands Khandayats used to receive as 'Jagirs' from the King in return for their military services.
Traditionally they are martial caste or people belonging to the warrior class also known as "Kshatriyas". The Khandayats have a recorded history of over 2500 years, and have been noted in historical events such as the famous Kalinga War and the Paik Rebellion, where, along with the East Indian Company Khonds regiment, they fought strenuously against British Rule. The Khandayats are supposed to have ruled Odisha and several adjoining parts in 16th century with the death of last Gajapati emperor Mukunda Dev, who was killed by Govinda Vidyadhara in 1541. Govinda Vidyadhara was the founder of Bhoi (Bhoumyokar) dynasty in Orissa. The much famous Gajapati Routaray Dynasty had a Khandayat lineage with the prominent rulers being Kapilendra Routaray . Since then, the ruling families such as Singh Deo, Bhanj Deo, Singha Deb are limited to their rule in Odisha. The advent of land holding came as a central issue for Khandayats in the medieval ages, as feudalism became an important factor in the common Indian society. Hence, after each battle or war, Khandayats who had fought were given lands or "jagirs" according to their rank and success in the battlefield. Because of this, by the end of 19th century, most landholdings became part and parcel of people from the Khandayat community. However, with all of Odisha and India coming under East India Company's rule, land was minutely distributed among people of other castes such as Brahmin and Karana, so as to not make Khandayat the only dominant force, politically, in Odisha.
Apart from that , the Khandayats had always been a driving force against the British Raj and their contribution to the Indian Freedom has already been acknowledged worldwide. The Paika Vidroha , India's first revolt against the British Raj was led by the then Military Chief of Khordha Garh, Buxi Jagabandhu Vidyadhar Bramhabara Ray Mohapatra , who was a Paikali Khandayat by caste. The revolt was also orchestrated by other contemporary Freedom fighters, such as, Pindiki Bahubalendra, Dalabehera, who were also Khandayat by caste. Thus , it can be assumed that Khandayat administrators and warlords played a pivotal role in Odisha politics.
Khandayats being the landed gentry of the said had exclusive zamindari privileges which was the reason for their influence in the society.
By the mid 20th century Khandayats (particularly the Zamindari class) were at a complete loss when Zamindari system was removed forcibly by the Indian Republican Constitution and government took the possession of their extra lands in Independent India. Though this action irrevocably destroyed feudalism and the land backbone for Khandayat community, however, secular education became a greater issue for the upper castes. Khandayats, like Brahmins of Odisha, asserted their power of civil education by producing educators, civil officers, and astute politicians not just after Indian independence, but also prior in British era.
Due to removal of feudalism and end of royalty in Republic India, Khandayats had to divert their interests in secular fields. With the assist of secular education passed through the British Education system in India, Khandayats could easily strive in areas of higher education, civil service, industries, and politics. Earlier, they were concentrated in the coastal districts like Cuttack, Kendrapara, Khurda, Puri, Ganjam, Jagatsinghpur, Jajpur, Nayagarh, Bhadrak, Baleswar, Dhenkanal,Sambalpur with some pockets in central Orissa. However, this has changed over the years due to increased movement of people within the state as a result of greater industrialization and focus on cities.
Khandayats are divided into various clans under the common division of the Khandayat jāti. The 3 are listed as Suryanvanshi, Nagavanshi and Chandravanshi based on their lineage (Gotra) and Kuldev. On the other hand Khandayats are further classified into three subgroups based on the nature of their occupation i.e Shreshta Kshetriya Khandayat (kings, High ranking military officers, generals, commanders) , Samanta/Paikali Khandayats (Zamindars and warlords, jagirdaars, troop leaders) and finally Chasa Khandayat (they are not full-time soldiers but provide military services as and when required, they practice agriculture rest of the time). But these divisions are of a social nature and has no effect on religious customs or rituals..
Prevalent surnames are :
Swain,Samal,Baliarsingh,Biswal, Samantasinghar, Samantaray, Paikaray, Rautaray, Chhotraj, Champatiray, Ray Mohapatra, Mohapatra, Samanta, DhirSamanta, Paltasingh, Dalasinghray, Ranasingh, Dalabehera, Bhanja, Bhanjadeo, Singhdeo ,Mahabhoi , Bhoi, Palei, Dalei, Rout, Nayak, Singh, Paika, Ray, Bal, Baral, Bisoyi, Khuntia, Lenka, Jena, Badajena, Gadanayak/Garnaik, Mahanta, Pradhan, Senapati, Mahatab, Maharathi, Bahubalendra, Patasani, Mahanayak, Mangaraj, Maradraj, Khandayatray, Hati, Indrasingh, Praharaj, Parida, etc.
They strictly adhere to North Indian Brahminical customs and rituals and used to be very caste conscious in regards to marriage. However, as social reforms are being brought about, intercaste marriage not just amongst the community but also the various communities in Odisha are taking place. Also, marriage is followed according to determination of one's Gotra/lineage and Kundali/horoscope. Common Gotras are Bhardawaj, Gautama, Kashyap, Vasistha, Bhargava, Shukrasya, Bachasya, Olakashya, Ballabhadra or Nageshya. The Khandayat families also have rituals and customs that are usually seen in other Kshetriyas, such as the Upanayan ceremony during marriage and the elite classes of the Khandayat retain the sacred thAread henceforth . Another interesting ritualistic festival in the Khandayat community is the Astra puja during Kali puja, where the family heirloom like swords and spears are worshipped, which is a mark of their kshetriya heritage . Though marriage within the caste was the norm, however sa-gotra (trans. within's one clan/li.neage) is strictly forbidden.
Paika means fighter or warrior in Odia language. During medieval times, infantry units, also called padatika (infantry), would be recruited from various communities in Odisha. These units would be trained into various military skillsets by an officer/leader given the title of Paik, who lead them to engage in various expeditions for the protection of their kingdom. The Paikas were Khandayats, who had tremendous control over swords.
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