The word Rajput is believed to be of very murky origin. Although there are references of the term Rajputra and Rajanya in ancient Indian literature, generally used to denote a prince or a ruling member of the Kshatriya (Warrior) class, the actual usage of the term 'Rajput', is not observed until much later in the history of India. The term seems to have been widely accepted and used after the 8th and 9th century, becoming more prevalent in the North-Western and Northern states, to denote not only members of the ruling families, but the war-like tribes believed to have migrated and settled in some of these areas.
Although the terms 'Kshatriya' and 'Rajput' are used interchangeably, and many Rajput races claim descendency from ancient ruling lines of India, modern historians seem to differ in their opinions. Different theories about the origins of the Rajputs and their prominence in Indian history have been researched or else propounded. Out of these the following are significant:
The Rajputs are the remnants of sevaral foreign tribes that entered India at different times, and due to their warlike characteristics, were generally absorbed into the Kshatriya caste of the Hindu social fabric. This theory finds credibility in the fact that, the term Rajput gains prominence in the general period of time in Indian history, when foreign invaders like the Sakas and Huns are getting significant foothold in India and are starting to accept Hinduism. Also, the commonalities found in certain rituals, beliefs and social structure of the Rajputs with the branches of the invading tribes that settled in other regions seems to provide further support to this theory.
The Rajputs are the actual linear descendents of prominent Kshatriya lines who have been settled in India since ancient times, and are believed to be well mixed with different foreign and native Indian tribes, over time. Due to the modern day, widespread usage of the term Rajput, it is difficult to decipher for a historian, whether the usage is erroneous or if the term actually was meant to include all Kshatriyas of North and Central India.
Other theories about the 36 clans or Rajputs, having spread out from Rajputana are also prevelant. However, it seems historically accurate to conclude that most early references of Rajputs, and the earliest records of most of the present lines, seems to point to an origin, in and around the north and north western parts of India.
Different sub clans of Rajputs have migrated into and settled in Kathiawar over time. Most of the native princely states of significance, that ruled over Kathiawar under the Bombay Presidency, were ruled by Rajput rulers, with an exception of some areas which were at different times governed by Muslim, Maratha or Kathi rulers.
Ironically, the Kathis, after whom Kathiawar is named, have little to do with the early history of the peninsula. The earliest references to this province from the times of Alexander, and thereafter, the Mauryan empire, are in the form of Surashtra, Saurashtra or Sorath. The term Kathiawar was not actually used until much recent times, when the Marathas, under the Gaekwars of Baroda started their depradations in this area. Here, due to the presence of the Kathi community and their wide-spread predatory activities, the term Kathiawar was first coined, which the British later accepted and has been used to this day.
The Kathis did not actually make inroads into Kathiawar until the 16th century. Believed to be from the areas of Sindh and the western desert plains, three main lines moved into and settled in Kathiawar, i.e. Khachar, Khuman and Vala. They intially settled certain central areas, but overtime took their depredations further west and south in the region. They were in constant conflict with neigboring rulers and frequently had to move settlements. Local history is rife with references to Kathi outlaws, who when driven from their settlements, had turned into petty brigands.
The peninsula is surrounded on the north by the desert plains of Kachchh and in the south by the Arabian sea. It was historically the area that included Gohilwar, Jhalawar, and Halar. The present day districts of Bhavnagar, Junagadh, Jamnagar, Amreli, Rajkot and Surendranagar may roughly be believed to constitute the area of Kathiawar.