Khetriya/Kshatriya Castes and Sub-castes in Odisha
After the British rule that started in the 18th Century, the caste-based consensus was implemented in India, resulting in the Khetriyas or the Kshatriyas in Odisha being further divided into the following sub-castes on the basis of Honour & Position in the Utkal and Kalinga Army:
The term Khandayat came from the Sanskrit term – which means “The Master of Sword” as well as the “land”. The general Khetriya(Kshatriya) natives in Odisha were poetically termed as “Khandayats” in the medieval era, as a local synonym for “Ksatriya” varna.
In the ancient Utkal/Kalinga military, Prabhu Jagannath of the Puri is reffered as the “Prathama Khandayat”(First commander of the Army) followed by the Gajapati King as “Dwitya Khandayat”(Second in-Commander of the Army).
During the first caste-based Consensus in the 18th century, it became a prominent Kshatriya Caste.
2) Mahalayak(Mahalaik) Caste:
Mahalayak were the priestly Khetriyas(Kshatriyas) who had the authoritative functions for one Major district or Dwar(Sub-Kingdom). When a war is declared by the Gajapati, the Mahalyak will receive the first announcement letter – “Ghosna Patra” from the Royal Palace. From there, the Mahalayak/Mahalaiks will organize a yajna(spiritual worship), mobilize the Army and plan for further strategies. Besides Military functions, they were responsible for Disaster Management as well. Mahalayaks were reporting directly to the Royal Court.
3) Mahanayak(Mahanaik) Caste:
Mahanayak was a senior position in the Kalinga army. Troop/Platoon commanders and their family members were given the caste as Mahanayak. During wartime, They were mainly responsible for engaging troops/paikas on the ground (Much like today’s army Major and Captain). In peacetime, they were given a designated area to collect Taxes from Sarpanch and consulting the panchayats and rural communities, and responding to natural calamities(Much like district magistrate). They were reporting to the royal court directly.
4) Dalapatis :
Same as Khetriyas Mahanayak except the Khetriya Dalapati were purely the Troop commanders in Army, and never required in Administration or Governance. They monitored the maintenance of the Army, security of the forts, and initiated any military or security operation if any action was required. During the Final period of the Ganga Dynasty, the Dalapatis of Kapilendra Deva took over all the existing Mahalayak and Mahanayaks to counter internal rebellions, much like a presidential rule to overwhelm or suppress any armed rebellion. They were not supposed to interfere in public administration, however, during any security crisis, they either replace or assisted Mahanayaks to stabilize the situation.
The term “Paika/Paik” came from the Sanskrit term “Padatika” – The foot soldiers. They were the regular infantrymen. During the consensus, only chunks of Khurda Khetriya natives were given the Paika Caste. But originally, Paika means “Infantrymen”. The Horse Cavalry, Archers, Elephants regiment, etc were the paikas. They were the battle-hardened frontline fighters who were required to take direct action under their “Nayaks”. Paikas involved Archers with sharpshooters, the expert front line of fighters, and well known for both ambush and direct confrontation.