|Populated states||Punjab, India, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Chandigarh and Delhi|
Saini (pronunciation (help·info)) is a caste of North India who were traditionally landowners (zamindars) and farmers. 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. The Saini community is given representation in government jobs and educational institutes under Other Backward Class (OBC) category in states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. 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. Mali Rajputs also claim themselves to be Sainis.
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. They have a national organisation called Saini Rajput Mahasabha located in Delhi, established in 1920.
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 came to these areas to avoid forced conversion to Islam.
Gahlot and Banshidhar (1989) indicate some commonality in origin with Rajput Malis of Rajputana, who are also stated to be of Rajput descent. However, scholars add that of the two, the Sainis continue to maintain their Rajput character despite adoption of agriculture in the era of Muslim ascendancy. The former were also included as part of Rajputs in the Marwar State Census of 1891.
During the British period Sainis were classified as both a statutory agricultural tribe and, later, 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. The community was also one of several peasant peoples who benefitted from the development of the Punjab Canal Colonies, through which they obtained land grants from the British authorities, especially in the Chenab Colony following the introduction of the Punjab Land Alienation Act, 1900.
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.
- "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
- "CENTRAL LIST OF OTHER BACKWARD CLASSES" (PDF). CHANDIGARH ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT.
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- "Saini, Swarnkar/Sunar communities to be backward classes in Punjab". The Indian Express. 10 September 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
- "Haryana government adds Kushwaha, Keori, Maurya castes to BC list". The Economic Times. 5 November 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
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- 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 Mali)
- "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
- 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
- "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
- "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
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- 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.
- Ali, Imran (2014) . The Punjab Under Imperialism, 1885-1947. Princeton University Press. pp. 51, 56, 64, 73. ISBN 978-1-40085-958-0.
- History of Hisar: From Inception to Independence, 1935–1947, p 312, M. M. Juneja, Published by Modern Book Co., 1989
- Singh, IP. "UP MLA Aditi Singh to marry Punjab Congress lawmaker Angad Singh Saini". The Times of India. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
- People of India, National Series Volume VI, India's Communities N-Z, p 3090, KS Singh, Anthropological Survey of India, Oxford University Press, 1998