The Vedic Age has always had the mention of “4 Varna’s” in which the Hindu society has been divided and the occupational order that was categorized based on these Varna’s. The Kshatriya order was the second in this line, the Sanskrit meaning of the word is ‘rule’ or ‘authority’.
Traditionally, the Kshatriya constituted the ‘Ruling’ or ‘Military’ elite, there work was to protect the society by fighting in wartime and governing it during the time of peace. Originally in the Rig Vedic period the Kshatriyas were a tribe with a chief called Rajan whose position was not hereditary and he was elected in a tribal assembly called ‘Samiti’ which also included women. Rajan protected the tribe and cattle and he was assisted by a priest, he did not maintain any standing army, though in the later period rulership appears to have been risen as a class.
The Puranas mentioned a classification in the Kshatriya Varna which were the ‘Suryavansh’ or the ‘Solar line’, the ‘Chandravansh’ or the Lunar line, the ‘Agnivansh’ in which an eponymous ancestor rises out of ‘Agni’ or fire and the ‘Nagvansh’ claiming their descent from the ‘Nagas’ (Snake-born).
The Suryavansh is the dynasty claiming its descent from ‘Surya’ or the Sun God; Lord Surya was the son of Sage Kashyap and his wife, Aditi. He was also known as ‘Vivasvana’ or ‘Martanda’.
Surya was married to Samjna, the daughter of Vishwakarma and together they had three children, Manu and the twins Yama and Yamuna.
Manu also known as Vaivasvata Manu was the founder of the Suryavansh, he had 10 children and he made his oldest son ‘Ikshvaku’ the heir to his dynasty. The Suryavansh is also known as the ‘Ikshvaku’ clan since he is regarded as one of the most prominent kings of this dynasty. This dynasty saw a lot of famous and prominent monarch. Lord Ram of the Ramayana also belonged to this dynasty.
Ikshvaku who was the son of Manu and the grandson of Surya ruled from the ‘Kosala Kingdom’ along the banks of river Sarayu with Ayodhya as his capital, which presently is known as Awadh in Uttar Pradesh, Ikshvaku ruled as a monarch at the beginning of the Sat Yuga or the first Yuga and he made Sage Vashistha as the supreme preceptor of his clan.
The Ikshvaku clan was later renamed as ‘Raghuvansh’ after Emperor Raghu who was the great grandson of Ikshvaku and one of the most powerful kings of this dynasty; he had defeated Lord Indra and it was during his reign the Kingdom of Kosala had prospered, he was also the Great-Grandfather of Lord Rama who was the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu and the hero of the epic Ramayana.
Also, Gautama Buddha the founder of Buddhism is a descendant of Suryavansh or the Ikshvaku Dynasty, his father King Suddhodhana was the ruler of Kapilavastu which was a vassal state of the Kosala kingdom.
Thus the Suryavansh or the solar dynasty as we know today was prominently the Ikshvaku or the Raghuvansh with the famous kings being Harishchandra, Bhaghirath, Raghu, Dashrath and Rama to name a few.
Apart from Suddhodhana history also has a mention of other famous kings who were the part of the Suryavanshi clan Ambhi Kumar who has a mention in the history the King of Taxila which is the present day city of Attock in Pakistan; he was the arch rival of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya the founder of the Maurya Dynasty, he is also regarded as a descendant of the solar line. King Sumitra has been regarded as the last King of Ayodhya from the Solar Dynasty as in the 4th century BC ‘Mahapadma Nanda’ the founder of the Nanda Dynasty defeated him and forced him to leave Ayodhya thus ending the rule of the Solar Dynasty or ‘The Suryavansh’.
Edited by Diya Mathew