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.

Portrait of Thakur Raja Bakhtawar Singh made by Fateh Muhammad around 1880 in western Rajasthan, probably Bikaner.

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 (Bengali,[1][2] Maithil,[3][4] and Rajpurohit[5][6]), Charans,[7] Kolis[8][9][10][11] and Rajputs.[12][13]

Etymology and meaning

Sisir Kumar Das stated that the word Thakur is derived from the "late Sanskrit" word Thakkura.[1]: 28 

Harka Bahadur Gurung noted that the Nepalese version of the word Thakur is Thakuri.[14]

The meaning of the word Thakur was suggested to be "god" by S. K. Das;[1]: 31  "lord" by Blair B. Kling;[15] and "master of the estate" by H. B. Gurung.[14]


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.[16] 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."[16]

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.[17]


Thakur Lakhajirajsinhji II Bavajirajsinhji of Rajkot

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).[18]

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.[1] It is also used for a Brahmin,[1] Rajput,[13] Charan,[19] and Koli.[20]

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".[21] However, some other academics have noted that this title had been used by "petty chiefs" in the western areas of Himachal Pradesh.[22]

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.[23]

The territory of land under the control of a Thakur was called thikana.[24]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Das, Sisir Kumar (April 1968). "Forms of Address and Terms of Reference in Bengali". Anthropological Linguistics. Trustees of Indiana University. 10 (4): 19–31. JSTOR 30029176.
  2. ^ Syed Ashraf Ali (4 May 2013). "From Thakur to Tagore". The Daily Star. Archived from the original on 6 July 2019. Retrieved 22 January 2023.
  3. ^ Sudeshna Basak (1991). Socio-cultural Study of a Minority Linguistic Group: Bengalees in Bihar, 1858-1912. B.R. Publishing Corporation. p. 91. ISBN 9788170186274. Archived from the original on 19 March 2023. Retrieved 9 April 2023. Woogramohan Thakur, a Maithili Brahmin zamindar...
  4. ^ Ram Dayal Rakesh (2007). Vidyapati, the Greatest Poet of Mithila. Greater Janakpur Area Development Council. p. 17. ISBN 9789937201483. Archived from the original on 19 March 2023. Retrieved 9 April 2023. Vidyapati : As a Devotional Poet " His main works were complicated treatises in Sanskrit and although he did not totally abandon songs writing in Maithili , his Maithili poetry after 1406 comprised hymns to Siva , Vishnu , Durga and ... He was born in the Maithil Brahmin's family which belongs to Kashyapa Gotra. His family was very renowned in scholarship and statesmanship in Mithila for culture and literature. His family is closely associated with the court of the Karnata kings. His surname was Thakur.
  5. ^ Singh, Prahalad (1978). Rajpurohit Jaati ka Itihaas. Rajasthani Granthagar, Jodhpur. ISBN 978-93-90179-06-0.
  6. ^ Hooja, Reema (2006). A History of Rajasthan. Rupa & Company. ISBN 8129108909.
  7. ^ Saksena, B. S. (1965). "The Phenomenon Of Feudal Loyalty : A Case Study In Sirohi State". The Indian Journal of Political Science. 26 (4): 121–128. ISSN 0019-5510. JSTOR 41854129. Among jagirdars, all were not Rajputs. Jagirs were also granted to Charans and Brahmins. They were also known as thakurs.
  8. ^ Haveli: Wooden Houses and Mansions of Gujarat. New Delhi, India, Asia: Mapin Publications. 1989. pp. 32: Accounts by Muslim historians are full of incidents of turbulent Kolis plundering towns upto the 18th century, and Alexander Forbes in his Ras Mala gives a list of important Koli thakurs still owning territory in 1856. ISBN 978-0-944142-15-8. Archived from the original on 18 February 2023. Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  9. ^ Apte, Usha Mukund (1982). Vedic, Hindu, and Tribal Marriage: A Study in Culture Change. New Delhi, India, Asia: AWARE. pp. 222: According to locals, Ka - Thakur stands for Koli Thakur and Ma - Thakur for Maratha. Archived from the original on 18 February 2023. Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  10. ^ Nath, Y. V. S. (1960). Bhils of Ratanmal: An Analysis of the Social Structure of a Western Indian Community. New Delhi, India, Asia: Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. pp. 62: Quite a few Bhilala land holders have Naika woman as their concubines and in Baria, such relations are said to exist between the Koli Thakurs and Bhil women. Archived from the original on 20 September 2022. Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  11. ^ Misra, Bankey Bihari (1970). The Administrative History of India, 1834-1947: General Administration. New Delhi, India, Asia: Oxford University Press. pp. 468: Similar to these were certain estates held on payment of rentals settled in the lump with their heads called Koli thakurs. They remained free from the influence of the Government of the Peshwas, a circumstance which prevented the. ISBN 978-0-19-560134-3. Archived from the original on 18 February 2023. Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  12. ^ Frankel, Francine R.; Rao, M. S. A.; Madhugiri, Shamarao; Rao, Ananthapadmanabha (1989). Dominance and State Power in Modern India. Oxford University Press. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-19-562098-6. Archived from the original on 10 April 2023. Retrieved 22 January 2023. Thakur and rajput have been used interchangeably to refer to castes of Kshatriya rank/
  13. ^ a b Ellinwood, DeWitt C. (January 2002). "A Perspective on the Western Front by an Indian Army Office on the Western Front". Western Front Association. Archived from the original on 10 November 2020. Retrieved 9 November 2020. ...Thakur (title of respect for Rajput aristocrats whose father is deceased; usually a landowner)...
  14. ^ a b Gurung, Harka Bahadur (1996). Faces of Nepal. illustrated by Jan Salter. Himal. p. 29. ISBN 978-9993343509. 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.
  15. ^ Kling, Blair B. (1976). "The Home and the World". Partner in Empire: Dwarkanath Tagore and the Age of Enterprise in Eastern India. University of California Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0520029279. Archived from the original on 10 April 2023. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  16. ^ a b Sinha, Nirmal Chandra (1987). "Inner Asia and India Through the Ages" (PDF). Bulletin of Tibetology. New. Gangtok, India: Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology. 23 (1): 18. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 November 2021. Retrieved 26 September 2020 – via University of Cambridge.
  17. ^ Chakrabarti, Byomkes (1992). A Comparative Study of Santali and Bengali. K. P. Bagchi & Company. p. 14. ISBN 978-8170741282. 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.
  18. ^ Wadley, Susan S. (2004). Raja Nal and the Goddess: The North Indian Epic Dhola in Performance (illustrated ed.). Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0253217240. LCCN 2004009434. Archived from the original on 10 April 2023. Retrieved 26 September 2020. 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).
  19. ^ Yadav, Kripal Chandra; Arya, Krishan Singh (1988). Arya Samaj and the Freedom Movement: 1875-1918. Manohar Publications. ISBN 978-81-85054-41-4. Archived from the original on 10 April 2023. Retrieved 28 April 2022. 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.
  20. ^ Mishra, Kuldeep (18 December 2017). "गुजरात और उत्तर प्रदेश की राजनीति कैसे अलग है?". BBC News हिंदी (in Hindi). Archived from the original on 14 December 2021. Retrieved 19 December 2021.
  21. ^ Sharma, Ghanshyam Datt (1977). Rajput Polity: A Study of Politics and Administration of the State of Marwar, 1638–1749. Manohar. p. 18. ISBN 978-0883868874. Archived from the original on 10 April 2023. Retrieved 26 October 2020. 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.
  22. ^ Ohri, Vishwa Chander; Khanna, Amar Nath (1989). "Influence of Rajasthani on Pahari". History and Culture of the Chamba State, a Western Himalayan Kingdom: Collected Papers of the Seminar Held at Chamba in 1983. Books & Books. p. 131. ISBN 9788185016252. the hills refer to a time when petty chiefs bearing the title of Rana or Thakur exercised authority over their iminutive domains...
  23. ^ Vadivelu, A. (24 August 2016). The Aristocracy of Southern India, Volume 2. Archived from the original on 10 April 2023. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  24. ^ Doornbos, Martin; Kaviraj, Sudipta (1997). Dynamics of State Formation: India and Europe Compared. SAGE. p. 81. ISBN 978-8170365747. Rights to land within any particular Thakur domain, the thikana, became complicated by the 1600s.