Constant exposure of the living ecosystems to heavy metals, like cadmium (Cd), induces a detectable change at the biochemical and genetic level. Repeated application of phosphate fertilizers in paddy fields, leads to increase in Cd content of soil. Cd being highly mobile is transported to shoot and grain, thereby entering into the food chain of animal system. In the present study, treatment of 7-day old rice seedlings with 10 μM cadmium chloride resulted in Cd toxicity across the seven non-aromatic and six aromatic rice cultivars and landraces used for the study. Free proline and malondialdehyde content of treated samples were higher in comparison to the untreated samples, which indicated Cd induced tissue damage in plants. Photosynthetic pigment content of treated samples was also found to be much lower in comparison to the untreated samples, which is probably due to peroxidation of membrane, leading to compromised and lower photosynthetic efficiency of treated plants. At the genetic level, Randomly Amplified Polymorphic DNA assay was found to efficiently detect the genetic polymorphisms (caused by alterations in DNA bases) induced by Cd. Production of unique polymorphic bands in Cd-treated plants helps in assessment of the degree of damage Cd imparts on the plant system. Cluster analysis was performed and the rice genotypes were grouped into five distinct clusters, with IR64 and Tulsibhog in two distinct groups. Based on the variability in responses, the 13 rice genotypes were grouped into sensitive and tolerant ones. © 2018, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.