Thakur is a historical feudal title of the Indian subcontinent. It is also used as a surname in the present day. The female variant of the title is Thakurani or Thakurain, and is also used to describe the wife of a Thakur.
There are varying opinions among scholars about its origin. Some scholars suggest that it is not mentioned in the Sanskrit texts preceding 500 BCE, but speculates that it might have been a part of the vocabulary of the dialects spoken in northern India before the Gupta Empire. It is viewed to have been derived from word Thakkura which, according to several scholars, was not an original word of the Sanskrit language but a borrowed word in the Indian lexis from the Tukhara regions of Inner Asia. Another view-point is that Thakkura is a loan word from the Prakrit language.
Scholars have suggested differing meanings for the word, i.e. "god", "lord", and "master of the estate". Academics have suggested that it was only a title, and in itself, did not grant any authority to its users "to wield some power in the state".
In India, the social groups which use this title include the Brahmins, Rajput, Charans, Ahirs, Kolis, and Jats.
In Northern and Southern Region of India, Thakur represents Rajput Forward caste.
Sisir Kumar Das stated that the word Thakur is derived from the "late Sanskrit" word Thakkura.: 28
Harka Bahadur Gurung noted that the Nepalese version of the word Thakur is Thakuri.
The meaning of the word Thakur was suggested to be "god" by S. K. Das;: 31 "lord" by Blair B. Kling; and "master of the estate" by H. B. Gurung.
Nirmal Chandra Sinha stated that the word Thakura is "unknown" to the Vedic and Classical Sanskrit and finds no mention in the Sanskrit literature preceding 500 BCE. He suggests, however, that "the word was possibly current in many north Indian dialects before the Imperial Guptas". Sinha notes that many scholars, such as Buddha Prakash, Frederick Thomas, Harold Bailey, Prabodh Bagchi, Suniti Chatterji, and Sylvain Lévi, have suggested that Thakura is a borrowed word in the Indian lexis from the Tukhara regions of Inner Asia. Sinha observed:
"It may be noted that in South India among orthodox Brahmins, Thakura or Thakur is not a popular term obviously because of its Tukhara or Turuska background."
Byomkes Chakrabarti noted that the Sanskrit word Thakkura finds mention in "late Sanskrit". He doubted, however, that Thakkura is "an original Sanskrit word" and was of the opinion that Thakkura is probably a loan word from the Prakrit language.
Susan Snow Wadley noted that the title Thakur was used to refer to "a man of indeterminate but mid-level caste, usually implying a landowning caste". Wadley further notes that Thakur was viewed as a "more modest" title in comparison to "Rājā" (King).
S. K. Das noted that while the word thakur means "god", it is also used to refer to the father-in-law of a woman. It is also used for a Brahmin, Rajput, Ahir, Charan, Koli and Jat.
Some academics have suggested that "Thakur was merely a title and not an office whereby a holder was entitled to wield some power in the state". However, some other academics have noted that this title had been used by "petty chiefs" in the western areas of Himachal Pradesh.
The title was used by rulers of several princely states, including Ambliara, Vala, Morbi, Barsoda, and Rajkot State. Sons of thakurs were given the Sanskrit title of Kumara ('prince'), popular usage being Kunwar in the North and Kumar in Bengal and South India.
The territory of land under the control of a Thakur was called thikana.
...Thakur (title of respect for Rajput aristocrats whose father is deceased; usually a landowner)...
The celebrated Barhat family (Charan by birth) had a glorious role in the freedom movement, whose three generations viz. Thakur Kishan Singh, his sons Keshari Singh and Jorawar Singh and grandson Pratap Singh(son of Keshari Singh) took active part and staked their lives and belongings. Kunwar Pratap Singh sacrificed even himself for the cause of the mother-land.
Thakur Kesari Singh was born on 21 November 1872 at Devpura, a small village near Shahpura in Udaipur state (Rajasthan) in a patriotic Charan family. His father, Thakur Kishan Singh a follower of Swami Dayananda was one of the chief counsellors of the ruler of Udaipur.
Sharma (ibid) argues that the ex-Zamindars (or landlords) who own big landholdings even today are influential but those who do not retain it are not only less influential but have also slid down the scale of status hierarchy. The families most affected by this belong to the Rajputs, Jats, Charans and Brahmins (all traditionally powerful caste groups).
Born 1839 ; succeeded to the gadi on the death of her late husband, the Kunwar Jagat Singh, 28th October 1867. Belongs to a Dawa Ahir family. Lachman Singh, father of the late Thakur, was originally a Sardar of Jaitpur; but having possessed himself of the territory of Naigaon Ribai, he received a sanad from the British Government in 1807, confirming him in the possession. He died in 1808, and was succeeded by his son, the late Kunwar Jagat Singh.
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Eventually he was awarded the title of rājā (king), although he preferred the more modest "Thakur" (a man of indeterminate but mid-level caste, usually implying a landowning caste, often Rajput).
The term Thakuri is a Nepali variation of the Hindi word thakur, which means 'master of the estate'. Indeed, Thakuris of Nepal are associated with some territory inherited from the days of Baisi and Chaubisi principalities; the term thakurai actually refers to 'fiefdom'. It is said that among those Rajputs fleeing to the hills after the Muslim invasion in India, successful adventurers among them were given the name and status of Thakuri by their Brahman followers.
Mr. Risley has also drawn attention to the fact that the supreme God "Thakur" of the Santali traditions bears a Hindi name derived from the Sanskrit origin "thakkura". But there is much doubt whether "thakkura" itself is an original Sanskrit word. The word occurs in late Sanskrit possibly being borrowed from Prakrit. But if we make a careful analysis of the different languages of the western regions of Asia from Turkish to Bengali we would surely find out traces of similarities of most of these languages with Santali and this will go to show that the tribes had their historical wanderings from the Western part of Asia to the Eastern part of India.
Bose agrees with Dr. Kane (History of the Dharmasastras, iii, 984) that thakur was merely a title and not an office whereby a holder was entitled to wield some power in the state.
...in the hills refer to a time when petty chiefs bearing the title of Rana or Thakur exercised authority over their iminutive domains...
Rights to land within any particular Thakur domain, the thikana, became complicated by the 1600s.