I know that in the area now known as India, there was a rigid caste system as a part of traditional Hindu beliefs. I also know that there are a number of Indian martial arts going back centuries. I have a vague idea that a spear was considered to be more noble than a sword, and that the sword was considered more noble than unarmed fighting, which was seen as barbaric. People in lower castes were forbidden to use any sort of weapon that was considered above them.

My question is: What, if any, was the relationship between caste and martial skill? As in, what castes were allowed to use what weapons/styles?

  • 4
    "Was once"?? Really? There still is a caste system, and those who say "was once" should tell that to the Dalits. Oct 28, 2015 at 3:19
  • 2
    wikipedia has the beginning of the answer, but the notion of a warrior class is not unique to India, nor is the prohibition against peasants using weapons.
    – MCW
    Oct 28, 2015 at 8:23
  • 2
    @DeerHunter - Changed to "was" (w/o "once"), which doesn't necessarily imply it isn't true now. However, this is the History stack, and discussions of to what extent that is still true today are off-topic.
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 28, 2015 at 13:14
  • Suggest you read Wikipedia on the caste system, especially the kshatriya.
    – MCW
    May 23, 2018 at 13:51

1 Answer 1


The Arthashastra by L.N Rangarajan chapter XI.i. I quote

In recruiting ,Kautilya prefers an army of trained Kshatriyas or a large force composed of Sudras & Vaishyas;

In the preceding paragraph to the above quoted

The military forces described in the Arthashastra conform to thje classical Indian pattern of four wings-elephants,chariots,horses and infantry. However, in battle, each warrior on horseback was surrounded by six foot soldiers and elephants and chariots by five horse units. Infantry had archers as well as soldiers equipped with swords, spears and lances for hand-to-hand combat.

So the caste or the sociological background dictated the rank of the warrior whether infantry or cavalry etc and not the weapon of choice.

Also the question of how caste or social structures affected the battle or warfare in pre-medieval times or medieval times is well documented.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.