|Languages||Mainly Punjabi and its dialects such as Dogri and Pahari, Haryanvi and Hindi|
|Populated States||Punjab (India), Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Chandigarh and Delhi|
|Subdivisions||Haryanvi and Punjabi|
Saini ( pronunciation (help·info)) 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, 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, Chandigarh and Delhi. Sainis also claim themselves to be Rajputs 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.
Sainis profess in both Hinduism and Sikhism. Several Saini families profess in both the faiths simultaneously and inter-marry freely in keeping with the age-old composite Bhakti and Sikh spiritual traditions of Punjab. Until recent times Sainis were strictly an endogamous group and inter-married only within select clans. They also have a national level organization called Saini Rajput Mahasabha located in Delhi, established in 1920.
During the British period Sainis were classified as both a statutory agricultural tribe and a martial race. 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.
Present day cross-reference of divisions of British Punjab
The British Punjab, the Jalandhar division comprised the following districts: Kangra, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Ferozepur. Lahore division comprised the following districts: Lahore, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Sialkot, Gujranwala and Sheikhupura. The present day Ropar district fell in Ambala district before partition. Hence Ropar Sainis were included in that district in the colonial accounts.
Mali caste identifying as Saini since 1931
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. The reason generally attributed for the post-1901 demographic shift towards Sikhism are explained as follows:
- 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 Saini Sikhs.
- 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 20th century some Hindu families started opting for Arya Samaj based vedic ceremonies and Saini Sikhs started opting for Anand Karaj ritual.
Sainis are strictly endogamous and the marriage could not take place if:
- Even if one of the four gotras from boy's side is common with one of the four gotras from girl's side, needless to say marriage is impossible. Both boy and girl will be treated as brother and sister respectively. These four gotras from each side is the gotra of: (1) Paternal Grandfather (2) Paternal Grandmother (3) Maternal Grandfather and (4) Maternal Grandmother. Marriage between cousins is an impossibllity.
- Despite none of the above gotras being common between both sides, if both the families are from same village. In this case as per the ancient honour system, the boy and girl in question were to treat each other mutually as brother and sister respectively.
Prior to The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, it was not legal for Hindu men to divorce their wife. Divorce was non-existent and there was very strong community taboo and stigma against it. Other than the reason of infidelity, it was not possible for a Saini man to desert his wife without facing ostracism and inviting stigma for his whole family. But if a Saini man repudiated his wife on the basis of infidelity or elopement, reconciliation was not possible again under any circumstances. The consequences were often grave under this condition. The woman thus accused most certainly faced ostracism for the rest of her life. No other man from the community would marry a woman thus repudiated. In great many cases a certain prospect of honor killing loomed over the 'offenders'.
Among present day Sainis the taboo against widow remarriage, especially if they are widowed at young age, has now dissolved or almost disappeared even in Punjab.
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.
- 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.
- "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
- "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
- " Before the formation of Bharatpur state the capital of Sinsinwars was at Sinsini. Sinsini earlier was known as 'Shoor Saini' and its inhabitants were known as Saur Sen. The influence of Saur Sen people can be judged from the fact that the dialect of the entire north India at one time was known as 'Saursaini'. Shoor Sain people were Chandra Vanshi kshatriyas. Lord Krishna was also born in vrishni branch of Chandravansh. A group of Yadavas was follower of Shiv and Vedic God in Sindh. Some inscriptions and coins of these people have been found in 'Mohenjo Daro'. ' Shiv Shani Sevi' words have been found engraved on one inscription. Yajur Veda mentions 'Shinay Swah'. 'Sini Isar' was found on one gold coin. Atharva Veda mentions 'Sinwali' for Sini God. The above group of Yadavs came back from Sindh to Brij area and occupied Bayana in Bharatpur district. After some struggle the 'Balai' inhabitants were forced by Shodeo and Saini rulers to move out of Brij land and thus they occupied large areas.", Encyclopaedia Indica: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Volume 100, pp 119–120, SS Sashi, Anmol Publications, 1996/
- "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
- Endogamy and village/gotra level exogamy: "The Saini are endogamous community and observe exogamy at village and gotra level." Present day widow marriage & divorce liberalization: "Nowadays, the Saini community allows remarriage of widows and widowers and divorces of both sexes. Reportedly there has been a liberalization of the marriage rules within the community." People of India, National Series Volume VI, India's Communities N-Z, p 3090, KS Singh, Anthropological Survey of India, Oxford University Press, 1998
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- History of Hisar: From Inception to Independence, 1935–1947, p 312, M. M. Juneja, Published by Modern Book Co., 1989
- The Social & Economic History of Punjab, 1901–1939 (including Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh, Administrative Divisions of the Punjab), p 367, B. S. Saini MA Ph.D, Ess Ess Publications, Delhi, 1975
- Order No. 2240, Jodhpur, the 6th February, 1937, D.M.Field, Chief Minister, Government of Jodhpur, Jodhpur State Archives
- 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
- "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 http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=zPkEAAAAMAAJ
- " "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