By Swami Harshananda
Rathakāra literally means ‘one who builds a ratha chariot’.
A rathakāra is actually a carpenter who has specialized in the art of preparing rathas or chariots. He has been mentioned as taṣṭā or tvaṣṭā in the Ṛgveda. Since his services were essential in the performance of Vedic sacrifices, he was given the status almost equal to that of a dvija. Hence he could undergo the upanayāna rite and even establish the Vedic fires. Apart from the making of chariots, he could also live by taming horses, driving carts and building houses. Gradually his status declined to that of a śudra due to the rigidity of the caste system of later periods.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore