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This article is about the Saini community of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Chandigarh and Delhi. For the Mali community who were not recorded as Saini prior to 1937, see Mali caste and Rajput Mali. For the Bhagrathi or Gola community of Western Uttar Pradesh, see Bhagirathi Mali.
Languages Mainly Punjabi and its dialects such as Dogri and Pahari, Haryanvi and Hindi
Country Primarily India
Populated States Punjab (India), Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Chandigarh and Delhi
Subdivisions Punjabi, Dogri, Haryanvi

Saini (About this sound pronunciation ) is a caste of North India who were traditionally landowners. Sainis claim to be descendants of a king, Shurasena, as well as of Krishna and Porus, and to be related to the ancient Shoorsaini clan,[1] noted in Puranic literature. This is disputed and the 1901 census noted that people using the Shoorsaini name were by then found only in Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. Sainis also claim themselves to be Rajputs[2] [3]of Yaduvanshi descent.

As both a statutory agricultural tribe and a designated martial race during the British Raj era that followed the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Sainis had been chiefly engaged in both agriculture and military service since then until recent times. However, since the independence of India, Sainis have diversified into different trades and professions other than military and agriculture. Sainis are now also seen in increasing numbers as businessmen, lawyers, professors, civil servants, engineers, doctors and research scientists, etc.[4]

Sainis profess in both Hinduism and Sikhism.

They also have a national level organization called Saini Rajput Mahasabha located in Delhi, established in 1920.[5]


Main article: History of Sainis

British era[edit]

During the British period Sainis were classified as both a statutory agricultural tribe and a martial race.[6] The latter was an administrative device based on the now-discredited theories of scientific racism: ethnic communities were categorised as being either martial or non-martial, with the latter being those who were thought to be unfit to serve in armies due to their sedentary lifestyles.[7][8]

Some Saini landlords were also appointed as zaildars, or revenue-collectors, in various districts.[9]

Sanskritization movement: Malis claiming Saini identity since 1937[edit]

1937 Jodhpur State Order in respect of renaming of Mali caste to "Saini" or "Sainik Kshatriya". Source: Jodhpur State Archives.

In 1937, the ruler of the princely state of Jodhpur granted the request of the Mali community of Rajputana to be recorded as "Saini" or "Sainik Kshatriya" in official records.[10] as part of the Sanskritization movement of British India.

It is noteworthy that people from the original pre-1937 Saini community of undivided Punjab do not accept these Sanskritized groups as part of their fold and do not approve of any association of the term Mali with Saini. [11] Administrative records and commentaries of colonial scholars also record both groups as separate in British India [12]


The census of 1881 reported 10% of Sainis as being Sikh and this proportion rose to over 57% by the time of the 1931 census. A similar demographic shift was also recorded among other rural communities of Punjab, such as the Jats, Mahtons and Kambohs.[13] The reason generally attributed for the post-1901 demographic shift towards Sikhism are explained as follows:[14][page needed]

  • Sikhs were preferred over Hindus and Muslims for army recruitment by the British. All of these rural communities heavily depended on army jobs in addition to agriculture for subsistence. Consequently, a large number of Punjabi Hindus from these communities started returning themselves as Sikh for preferential treatment in army recruitment. Since most of Sikh and rural Punjabi Hindu customs, beliefs and historical perspectives were identical or closely related, this transformation did not pose any social challenge.
  • Early 20th century reform movements within Sikhism simplified marriage rituals which eliminated a major factor in rural indebtedness in addition to failed crops. This also attracted many rural Hindus of farming background to identify themselves with Sikhism as a cultural response to this widespread problem. The Punjab Alienation of Land Act of 1900 was also instituted by colonial government for the same purpose to prevent appropriation of agricultural land belonging to these rural communities, who formed the back bone of Indian army, by money-lenders who were generally of Khatri and Baniya castes.[15][16]
  • General polarization of Hindu and Sikh identities after 1881 census due to polemical debates between extremist factions of Singh Sabha and Arya Samaj movements. Prior to 1881, the separatist consciousness among Sikhs was not very strong or well-pronounced. According to 1881 census only 13% of Punjab's population was returned as Sikh and many groups with Sikh background had returned themselves as Hindu.


Traditionally, Sainis have been married through Vedic ceremonies performed by Brahmins of Sanatani tradition. However, in the 20th century some Hindu families started opting for Arya Samaj based vedic ceremonies and Saini Sikhs started opting for Anand Karaj ritual.[citation needed]

According to the Anthropological Survey of India, "The Saini are endogamous community and observe exogamy at village and gotra level." Remarriage after the death of a spouse is permitted nowadays, as is divorce.[17]

Fictional treatment[edit]

In the anthropological thriller The Krishna Key, the lead character of the novel, history professor Ravi Saini, belongs to Saini community of Punjab. A key component of the novel is Ravi Saini's research into the origin of the Saini community.[18]

Notable people[edit]

Main article: List of Saini people

See also[edit]


  •  This article incorporates text from The cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia: commercial, industrial and scientific, products of the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms, useful arts and manufactures, by Edward Balfour, a publication from 1885 now in the public domain in the United States.
  1. ^ "The Sainis believe that their ancestors were Yadavas and that it was the same lineage in which Krishna was born. In the 43rd generation of the Yadavas there was a king known as Shoor or Sur, the son of King Vidaratha....It was in the name of these, father and son, that the community was known as Shoorsaini or Sursaini." People of India: Haryana, p 430, Kumar Suresh Singh, Madan Lal Sharma, A. K. Bhatia, Anthropological Survey of India, Published by Published on behalf of Anthropological Survey of India by Manohar Publishers, 1994
  2. ^ "In the Punjab in the sub- mountainous region the community came to be known as 'Saini'. It maintained its Rajput character despite migration." Castes and Tribes of Rajasthan, p 108, Sukhvir Singh Gahlot, Banshi Dhar, Jain Brothers, 1989
  3. ^ " The Muhammadan invasions drove a wedge through the Rajput principalities of the eastern Punjab. Some of the Rajput clans fled to the deserts of Rajputana in the south, others overcame the petty chiefs of Himalayan districts and established themselves there. A few adventurers came to terms with the invaders and obtained from them grants of land. The Sainis trace their origin to a Rajput clan who came from their original home near Muttra [sic] on Jumna, south of Delhi, in defence of the Hindus against the first Muhammadan invasions." The land of the five rivers; an economic history of the Punjab from the earliest times to the year of grace 1890, p 100, Hugh Kennedy Trevaskis, [London] Oxford University press, 1928
  4. ^ "The members of Saini community are employed in business and white-collar jobs and as teachers, administrators, lawyers, doctors and defence personnel." People of India, National Series Volume VI, India's Communities N-Z, p 3091, KS Singh, Anthropological Survey of India, Oxford University Press, 1998
  5. ^ People of India: Haryana, p 437, Kumar Suresh Singh, Madan Lal Sharma, A. K. Bhatia, Anthropological Survey of India, Published by Published on behalf of Anthropological Survey of India by Manohar Publishers, 1994
  6. ^ Rajit K. Mazumder (2003). The Indian army and the making of Punjab. Orient Blackswan. pp. 99, 105, 205. ISBN 978-81-7824-059-6. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Rand, Gavin (March 2006). "Martial Races and Imperial Subjects: Violence and Governance in Colonial India 1857–1914". European Review of History (Routledge) 13 (1): 1–20. doi:10.1080/13507480600586726. 
  8. ^ Streets, Heather (2004). Martial Races: The military, race and masculinity in British Imperial Culture, 1857-1914. Manchester University Press. p. 241. ISBN 978-0-7190-6962-8. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  9. ^ History of Hisar: From Inception to Independence, 1935–1947, p 312, M. M. Juneja, Published by Modern Book Co., 1989
  10. ^ Order No. 2240, Jodhpur, 6 February 1937, D.M.Field, Chief Minister, Government of Jodhpur, Jodhpur State Archives
  11. ^ Dainik Jagran, March 24, 2012
  12. ^ The Cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia, Commercial Industrial, and Scientific: Products of the Mineral, Vegetable, and Animal Kingdoms, Useful Arts and Manufactures, Edward Balfour, p 118, published by Bernard Quaritch, 1885 / The Punjab Alienation of Land Act of 1900 AD, XIII of 1907, pp 22-29, Sir Shadi Lal/ Hindu castes and sects : an exposition of the origin of the Hindu caste system and the bearing of the sects towards each other and towards other religious systems, pp285, Jogendra Nath Bhattachary, Publisher: Calcutta : Thacker, Spink, 1896
  13. ^ History and ideology: the Khalsa over 300 years,Contributed papers on Sikh history; previously presented at the various sessions of Indian History Congress, pp 124, J. S. Grewal, Indu Banga, Tulika, 1999
  14. ^ "Thus the Hindu Jats decreased from 15,39574 in 1901 to 9,92309 in 1931, while the Sikh Jats increased from 13,88877 to 21,33152 during the same period.", The social & economic history of the Punjab, 1901–1939, including Haryana & Himachal Pradesh, B. S. Saini, Ess Ess Publications, 1975
  15. ^ Punjab Peasant in Freedom Struggle, Volume 2, Master Hari Singh, People's Publishing House, New Delhi
  16. ^ Changes in agrarian scene of Punjab since independence, Hari Singh (Master), pp 9, People's Pub. House, 1990
  17. ^ People of India, National Series Volume VI, India's Communities N-Z, p 3090, KS Singh, Anthropological Survey of India, Oxford University Press, 1998
  18. ^ "How so?' asked Priya. 'Krishna's grandfather was Shurasena, and some of his tribe came to be known as the Shainyas. Over several generations, the Shainyas eventually settled in the Punjab and came to be known as Sainis." The Krishna Key, Chapters 46-47 ,The Krishna Key , Sanghi, Ashwin, Westland Publishers 2012

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