Rai (Sanskrit: राय; Urdu: رائے, rāi) Rai is a historical title of nobility in the Indian subcontinent. It is derived from Raja (king, prince or chief). The Marathi/Telugu variant is Rao. One of the oldest reference one can find in ancient historical scriptures of Jainism and Hinduism is that of King Nabhi who is also referred to as Nabhi Rai. Nabhi Rai was the father of Rishabhanatha, the first Tirthankara. Rai was used as a substitute to King.
When Babur conquered Hindustan, he found many principalities which had been subordinated by the Emperor of Hindustan and innumerable others which never have been effectively subdued. When Akbar ascended to the throne, Hindustan had numerous autonomous and semiautonomous rulers. These hereditary rulers were known by various names such as Rais, Rajas, Ranas, and Rawals.
During Mughal rule, while conferring a title on a Hindu Chief the word Raja or Rai was added to the name of person. The Mughals seems to have inherited the practice of bestowing titles from the Sultans of Delhi.
During British Rule, Rai Sahib and Rai Bahadur were titles of honour given for service of visionary leadership to the nation. Other equivalent titles were Roy and Rao.
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