History of Sainis

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The Sainis of Punjab, and those found in several contiguous region believe that their origin lies in the Surasena lineage of the Yaduvanshi Rajputs of Mathura.[citation needed]

Theories of origin and early history[edit]

Colonial theories[edit]

Denzil Ibbetson, a British colonial administrator, thought that the term Saini was probably of Mali origin, although he acknowledged that some Sainis claimed Rajput origins.[1] In his opinion, the word Saini was probably derived from Rasaini, and the latter in turn derived from Rasai, which he believed to mean skill. Since the Sainis in some areas during his time were engaged in horticultural farming in limited manner that did not replace ordinary farming, he probably thought the term 'Saini' was to related with the horticultural farming in some way.[1][2] However, Ibbetson himself admitted that many of his observations may have been flawed, as his service was confined to an area which did not lie in Punjab proper.[3]

Ibbetson also recorded that Sainis did not intermarry with Malis.[4] Census of 1881, in which Ibbetson played significant role, also records Sainis and Malis as distinct communities.[5]

However, a number of other writers of colonial era treated the two communities as separate. These include Baden-Powell (1868)[6] Balfour (1885),[7] Bhattachary (1896),[8] Lal (1907) [9] et al.

Post colonial evaluations[edit]

Sher Singh has noted that Ibbetson, Purser, Rose and others were civil servants of colonial era and were neither qualified anthropologists nor sociologists, and their ethnographical works, based strictly on crude census techniques of colonial era, lacking the academic rigour needed for peer-reviewed or equivalent academic journals.[10] Gahlot and Banshidhar (1989) indicate some commonality in origin with Rajput Malis of Rajputana who are also stated to be of Rajput descent but these scholars add that out of the two the Sainis continued to maintain their Rajput character despite adoption of agriculture in the era of Muslim ascendancy.[11] The former were also included as part of Rajputs in Marwar State Census of 1891[12] Dak (1994), writing for Anthropological Survey of India, also clarified the difference for the Sainis of Haryana [13]

Colonial period[edit]

Following the introduction of the Punjab Land Alienation Act in 1900, the authorities of the Raj classified the peasant-proprietor Sainis who inhabited the Punjab as an "agricultural tribe", a term that was administratively synonymous with the "martial race" classification that was used for the purposes of determining the suitability of a person as a recruit to the British Indian Army.[14]


The Saini migration to Punjab happened around the time of the earliest Turk invasions when the post-Kanishka Yadava or Surasena kingdoms of Mathura and Bayana were lost to Muslim invaders.[11] The Sainis of Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur districts claim to be the descendants of the Rajputs of the Yaduvanshi or Surasena lineage who ruled these kingdoms, who escaped to these areas to avoid forced conversion to Islam.[15]

Agriculture had been the major profession of Sainis since the Turko-Islamic conquest of North India. However, after militarization of Sikhs Sainis once again joined armed insurrection against Turko-Islamic rule as part of Khalsa armies. Even among Hindu Saini families it was customary to raise at least one son as a Sikh and dedicate him to military service in Sikh militant bands spread all over Punjab, engaged first in armed insurgency and later in a full-scale war against the oppressive Turko-Pathan rule. Agriculture and military service were the main professions of Sainis since the Sikh rebellion and conquest of Punjab.[citation needed] The British Raj Land Settlement Report for Jalandhar division in 1892 reported the Sainis in increasing numbers in their original profession i.e. army, especially in cavalry, in addition to being in agriculture.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Denzil Ibbetson, Edward MacLagan, H.A. Rose A Glossary of The Tribes & Castes of The Punjab & North-West Frontier Province, 1990, page 58 & 346 Note(s)
  2. ^ Rao, M. S. A. (1974). Urban sociology in India: reader and source book. Orient Blackswan. p. 493. ISBN 978-0-86125-296-1. 
  3. ^ "In one respect I was singularly ill-fitted for the task entrusted to me; for practically speaking my whole Indian service had been confined to a single district (Karnal), which does not even lie in the Punjab proper. Thus I have been throughout in the greatest danger of wrongly extending to the province, as a whole, knowledge acquired in a small and very special portion of it." Original Preface, pp vii, Punjab Castes, Sir Denzil Ibbetson, Lahore : Printed by the Superintendent, Government Printing, Punjab, 1916
  4. ^ "...that some of the higher tribes of the same class (Sainis) will not marry with them (Malis)." W.Chichele Plowden, (1883), Census of British India taken on the 17th of February 1881, Volume III, London, Eyre and Spottiswoode, p. 256
  5. ^ 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, pp 233 & 294, Edward Balfour, published by B. Quaritch, 1885
  6. ^ B H Baden-Powell, Roorkee, printed at the Thomason Civil Engineering College Press, 1868–72
  7. ^ "The most industrious are the Rain, Mali, Saini, Lubana, and Jat...The Mali are chiefly gardeners. The Saini occupy sub-mountain tracts, and grow sugar-cane largely. Their village lands are always in a high state of tillage." 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, Item notes: v.3, Original from Oxford University
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ The Punjab Alienation of Land Act of 1900 AD, XIII of 1907, pp 22-29, Sir Shadi Lal
  10. ^ "...this view was held by some English writers who were neither sociologists nor anthropologists. They were simply administrators..." The Sansis of Punjab; a Gypsy and De-notified Tribe of Rajput Origin, Author's Preface, p xvi, by Sher Singh, 1926–, published by, 1965, Original from the University of Michigan
  11. ^ a b Gahlot, Sukhvir Singh; Dhar, Banshi (1989). Castes and Tribes of Rajasthan. Jain Brothers. p. 108. In the Punjab in the sub-mountainous region the community came to be known as 'Saini'. It maintained its Rajput character despite migration. In other parts, it came to be called by the name of "Kshatriya-Mali" (Rajput Mail) 
  12. ^ "One sub-category recognized among Rajputs is that of the minor agricultural castes which comprises among others, Sirvis, Mali and Kallu or Patel." The Castes of Marwar, Being Census Report of 1891, p vi, Hardyal Singh, Edition: 2, published by Books Treasure, Original from the University of Michigan
  13. ^ "Many of them are large landowners. Besides during the past, the Malis had served the royal courts and were mainly working as gardners; but the Sainis did not serve others; rather they were independent agriculturists. Arain, Rain, Baghban, the Mali and the Maliar constitute a mixed body of men denoting occupation rather than caste...1) The Malis are not as rigid as the Sainis in accepting food from members of other castes; 2) Mali women were found working as agricultural labourers which is not the case with Saini women; 3) Educationally, occupationally, and economically, the Sainis are far better placed than are the Malis, and 4) Sainis are landownders and own large lands as compared to the Malis." People of India: Haryana, pp 432, 433, Author: T.M. Dak, Editors: Kumar Suresh Singh, Madan Lal Sharma, A. K. Bhatia, Anthropological Survey of India, published on behalf of Anthropological Survey of India by Manohar Publishers,1994
  14. ^ Mazumder, Rajit K. (2003). The Indian Army and the Making of Punjab. Orient Blackswan. pp. 99, 104–105. ISBN 9788178240596. 
  15. ^ "Surasena refers to an ancient region named after a Jadu raja who is believed to have lived before Krishna. Bayana (near Mathura) from where the Jadus ruled ..." Against History, Against State: Counterperspectives from the Margins, p 54, Shail Mayaram, published by Permanent Black, 2004
  16. ^ "Men of this tribe not seldom take service especially in cavalry." Final report of the revised settlement of the Jullundur District in the Punjab, p 84, W.E. Purser, BCS, THE "CIVIL AND MILITARY GAZETTE" PRESS, Contractors to the Punjab Government, Lahore, 1892