Sunar (alternately Suniar(eh), Sonar or Swarnkar) is a Hindu caste in India and Nepal referring to the community of people who work as goldsmiths. Though the community is primarily Hindu, some members in the states of Haryana and Punjab are Sikh.
Though they are the traditional goldsmiths of North India, now many are also landowners, involved in cultivation, as well as selling grocery. However, their main occupation remains the manufacture and selling of jewellery. Members of the community are also involved in pawnbroking and moneylending.
Status in society
In Haryana, Sunars are divided into two segments, the Hindu Sunar and the Sikh Sunar. These two groupings are further divided into the Baari Sunar and the Shudre Sunar. Some Khatris also adopted this occupation and were called Khatri Sunars. All these groups are strictly endogamous, and practice clan exogamy. These divisions are further divided into clans, known as gotras. There are said to be 52 gotras within the Sunar community. Some of them are the Gund, Bhole, Kuhal, Vaid, Mai, Bhulan, Odhera, Naali, Deo, Masoun, Vatash, Kaushal, Kashyap, Dhir, Turar, etc. The Sunar are still involved in their traditional occupation, that is being goldsmiths. There is however a steady process in taking up other occupations, and the community in Haryana and Punjab as whole is fairly successful, having produced several professionals.
The Sunars are divided into a large number of territorial and non-territorial groupings called alla. Some of the major alla are the Santanpuriya, Dekhalantiya, Mundaha, Bhigahiya, Samuhiya, Chilliya, Katiliya Kalidarwa, Naubastwal, Berehele, Gedehiya, Shahpuriya, Mathureke Paliya and Nimkheriya. Each lineage is associated with a particular area. To which its ancestors belonged to. The Sunar use Soni, Seth, Swarnkar, Shah, Bhutani, Sonik, Bagga, Babbar, Verma etc. as their surnames. In Gujarat and Rajasthan, the community is also known as Soni. In Harayana, the Sunars are often known as Swarnakar, Soni, Suri and Verma, are their common surname.
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- People of India: Haryana (Volume XXIII) edited by M.L Sharma and A.K Bhatia pages 475 to 479 Manohar Books
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