The Origin of Sainis

Sainis Descend from Tomara-Yaduvanshi Rajputs of Mathura and Delhi

 " 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'... The above group of Yadavas 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

Sainis of Punjab and contiguous region trace their origin to the famous Surasena lineage of the Yaduvanshi Rajputs of Mathura  who came to Punjab in defence of the Hindus during the era of  Ghaznavide invasions   ( Trevaskis, 1928; Baden-Powell, 1896 ) .  Some scholars have linked their ancestry with the Rajput warriors who fought along with  Prithvi Raj  Chauhan in response  to Ghorid invasions . The descendants of these soldiers , according to this view,  continued to maintain their Rajput character in Punjab  despite  adoption of a parallel agricultural identity   to  avoid  forced conversion and ritual pollution which was specifically targeted at the refractory Rajput tribes during the Muslim rule of North India (Gahlot et al, 1989).
 
The native accounts of Sainis of Punjab and around, however,  always  link them back to the rulers of the historical Shoorsaini kingdom  (Dak, 1994)  which was ruled by Tomara-Yaduvanshi lineage of Rajput  kings on the eve of earliest Turk invasions of North Western India.  These Rajput rulers, who claimed descent from Lord Krishna's grandfather  Maharaja Shoorsen,  were also called "Shoorsainis" (Cunningham, 1885), or sometimes, as  just "Sainis" (Sashi, 1996).  Sainis of Punjab region accordingly regard themselves as Yadavas and direct descendants of Krishna, Balarama and other allied Shoorsaini chiefs mentioned as "Surasenas"  in the  Puranas.

Tomara Rajputs as Sainis or Yaduvanshis

It is to be noted that a number of Saini Rajput clans are  also found among Tomara Rajputs. Some of these clans are Dhamrait (Dhamrial/Dhamial),  Mangar (Mangaria/Mangral),  Indoria, Badwal, Bilauria,  Dolay (Dolariye/Dulot) , Tirotia,  Jangliya,  Dheri (Dheria), Ughre (Oghre/Oghial), Kohar,  Salaria,  Satrola, etc which are also found among the Tomara origin  tribes on the Hills of Himachal Pradesh, in Mewat,  and some  even among 96 Kuli Marathas. In addition "Tambar" is a major Saini clan in Punjab whiich is also found  among 96 Kuli Marathas as  " Tombar"  both as  a sub clan of Yaduvanshi or Jadhav line of Marathas and  as an independent  Maratha sept.
 
It is well established fact, needing no further attestation , that a large number of Maratha clans are of Rajput descent with a large contribution from Rajputs of Yaduvanshi stock from historical Shoorsaini kingdom.  Some of these clans had originated in Eastern Rajputana, Bundelkhand and Malwa, i.e the historical and essential  Shoorsaini kingdom, and had gradually migrated into Maharashtra.  They have common ancestry with a number of North Indian Kshatriya groups including Sainis.  Some of the other Saini clans found among Marathas  are Pablay as Pawlay, Bhondi as Bhond,  Attar as Attarde,  Partole as Patole, Pingalia as  Pingle, Ughre or Oghre  as Ughadhe, Chandel as Chandle,  Khobe as Khobre, Dolle as Dhole, Khargal as Kharale or Kharag, Badwal or Badhwal as Wadhale, Dulku as Dalu,  Dhak as Dhake, Buteral as Bute, Bhauray as Bhoware,  Toggar or Taggar as Tigharkar, Nawe as Nawre, etc.  This list is by no means exhaustive.

 Raja Dhampal: Tomara-Yaduvanshi King

Another significant Jadhav sept found among Marathas is Dhampal.  The reviver of Shoorsaini kingdom in  around 6-7 AD is also described as Dhampal (Skt. Dharampal) in the genaologies of Karauli royals (Cunningham, 1883) .  Saini clan of Dhamrait and Pathania clan of Dhamrial or Dhamial are  in all  probability  linked with this eponymous Yaduvanshi Rajput patriarch. The town of Dhameri (earlier name of Nurpur) in Gurdaspur district  was the captial of common ancestors of Saini and Pathania Rajputs who had moved to Punjab from near Delhi and Mathura under Raja Jeth Pal ( Charles Francis Massy, 1890)  , a  Tomara-Yaduvanshi monarch described in the line of Dhampal as Jaitapal .   

Significance of ''Dhameri": No Random Name

Dhameri is said to have been  founded by Jeth Pal  in 1095 AD (Cunningham, 1889). It is noteworthy that the name "Dhameri" is far from a random name picked by migrant Rajputs from Delhi and Mathura. It is in all  probability  derived from the name of Saini patriarch Dhampal, who was ancestor of Raja Jeth or Jait Pal.  Some other variations of  Dhameri in diferrent historical epigraphs are as follows: Dahmal, Damal, Dahmari, Damehri, Dhamari,  Dhammeri, etc.  In Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri it is metioned as "Dhameri"  only and Alberuni, a  source  closer to the date of the said  Rajput migration from Mathura and Delhi,  actually describes it as "Dahmala", which looks certain to be a distortion of  the  name of Dhampal, the ancestor of Jait Pal.
 
The fort of Dhameri fell to Ibrahim Ghaznavi after a long siege according to Tarikh-i-Alfi.  Since the dates of this Ghaznavide raider are  stated to be between 1058 AD and 1089 AD, we can be certain that Dhameri was founded atleast  as early as this period. Incidentally, the account of Sainis i.e that their Rajput ancestors moved to Punjab to fight Ghazni's army, an account which was duly recorded by English ethnographers in late 19th century, fully tallies with these historical facts gathered from independent sources of which the 19th century informants giving these accounts had no knowledge. They were merely repeating a folklore which had passed down to them from generation after generation from the time when battles between Saini Rajputs  or Shoorsainis and Ghaznavides had taken place in roughly around 1100 AD. As already pointed out, Dhamrait , which could mean both a resident  of Dhameri or a descendant of  the eponymous Shoorsaini patriarch  Dhampal, is a major clan of Sainis in Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur and Ropar districts , all within 20  miles  to  100  miles proximity to the historical fort of Dhameri near Pathankot. 
 
It is interesting to note that here is another "Dhameri"  in North  Rajputana (about 100 miles west of Delhi)  which fell in areas traditionally ruled by  Saini rulers of Delhi and Mathura.  There  still exists a large population of Tomara-Yaduvanshi clans in this area.  Meos, a  Rajput origin Muslim group,  who derive their ancestry from the same lineage also have a similar sounding  "Demrot"  sept (Cunningham, 1885) .

Conflicting Traditions : Are Tomaras Panduvanshis or Yaduvanshis?

Tomara Rajputs have been described by some historians as Panduvanshis, i.e., the descedants of Pandavas. However, there are a number of historical traditions and epigraphs which would indicate that Tomaras are infact Yadavas  or Shoorsainis of  Krishna's tribe. Cunningham considered Tomaras to be a Yadava lineage only. Colonel Tod considered them Yaduvanshis as well but reluctantly conceded  that they could be of Pandava descent based solely on a tradition given in  "Prithviraj Raso" of Chand Bardai.  But bardic traditions such as "Prithvi Raj Raso" are no longer regarded as reliable sources of history. It is now believed that this text contains a number of interpolations and it kept evolving till 16th or 17th century A.D. based on  ahistorical speculations and embellishments of a number of bards (Ahmad, 1963 ; Gahlot et al , 1989) 
 
It could be that since Tomaras ruled Delhi as well, the later bards linked them on this basis with Pandavas because Indraprashtha (an ancient town in Delhi region) was associated with Pandavas in popular mind.  It is also a likelihood that descendants of Pandavas got completely assimilated with the Shoorsainis, and the  two celebrated kshatriya lineages became identical as there are no inscriptions or works dating back to Tomara rule of Delhi which link them to Pandavas. As noted before  a closer examination  of Tomara genealogies,  which contradict not only each other but also the inscriptions associated with the Tomara rulers (Henige,1975) , reveals  certian names which are also found in the  Shoorsaini genealogies of Mookji and Bayana Bhat.   All of these observations would  indicate them only as a branch of the famed Yadavas or  Shoorsainis who ruled  neighboring cities of Mathura, Bayana, Kaman, etc  and other Maha Vanas, or groves,   which were  located  close to Delhi.
 

Tomara Kings Anangpal and Jaitapal in Yaduvanshi or Shoorsaini Geneaologies

Continuing with  the  close scrutiny of Shoorsaini genealogies recovered by Cunningham one notes that  both Anangpal and Jait Pal are described  as part of Yaduvanshi Raja Dharam Pal's lineage who revived the ancient Shoorsaini kingdom from oblivion in around  7 A.D. Pathania Rajputs of Hills in Himachal Pradesh, who,  like Sainis,   not only have a very similar story of origin from the  rulers of Delhi and Mathura in an identical timeframe but also have a number of clans common with Sainis, also trace their origin to Raja Jeth Pal or Jaita Pal who is actually  found  in the  Shoorsaini genealogies  of Mookji Bhat and Bayana Bhat. The former was a noted bard of Khichi Chauhans.  
 
Whatever may be the claim of any other Tomara extraction tribe, Sainis invariably always regard themselves to have descended from  Yaduvanshi Kshatriya rulers of Mathura and Delhi who were historically called "Shoorsainis", or,  more commonly , as cited before,  just "Sainis".
 
Sainis of Punjab have managed to retain their classical and ancient tribal name while many other Yaduvanshi or Shoorsaini  groups assumed new names such as Bhati, Banaphar, Pathania, Samejas, Jadejas, Kelachuris, etc.  Many of the Maratha warrior clans, as already noted,  are  also of Yaduvanshi origin.
 

Saini  Rajputs: Serological and Genetic Studies

"In the Punjab in the sub-mountainous region the community came to be known as 'Saini' . It maintained Rajput character despite migration." 

-Castes and Tribes of Rajasthan, p 107, Sukhvir Singh Gahlot, Banshi Dhar, Jain Brothers, 1989

Tomara-Yaduvanshi  descent of Sainis  can not only be confirmed by verifying a large number of their clan names which are also found among Hill Rajputs, Mewatis and ruling clans of Malwa and Maharashtra, but also from ABO blood group and gene frequency distribution studies.
 
One such serological study published in American Journal of Physical Anthropology in 1961 concluded that there is almost complete overlap between  ABO blood strains as well as  p, q, and r gene frequencies of Sainis and broader Rajput groups of neighbouring hill regions (SIngh IP, SIngh D., 1961) many of whom also have  identical narratives of origin from kingdoms of Delhi and Mathura and  migration to Punjab as part of extended warfare with Ghaznvide and Ghorid invaders ( Charles Francis Massy, 1890) . Thus these serological studies  in a way corroborate  of the narratives of royal origin available from within the community.
 
English administrator and an eminent scholar on the history of colonial Punjab, Hugh Kennedy Trevaskis, had also implicitly treated Sainis as a displaced Rajput group which co-opted a parallel agricultural identity to evade persecution specifically targetted at  Rajputs in the era of Turko-Pathan ascendacy .  Post-colonial scholars (Gahlot et al, 1989)  have corroborated this view , although they  have linked Sainis of Punjab with the Rajput army of Prithviraj Chauhan which fought Muhammad Ghauri .  This association is also not without basis because Chauhans were strongly allied with Tomara-Yaduvanshis, with Prithviraj Chauhan himself being the grandson of the last Tomara king of Delhi.

Pre-Medieval Saini Kings  : Chaunsat-Khamba Inscription

"They had their kingdom in Karauli in Rajasthan. They were called Shoorsainis. Sri Krishna's grandfather was Shoorsen because of which the region around Mathura was known as Shoorsen and Yadavas of this region were called Shoorsainis."

 -Mangi Lal Mahecha, Rājasthāna ke Rājapūta (The Rajputs of Rajasthan) , Rajasthan, 1965
In addition to  Shoorsaini genealogies   received through the  bards of Rajasthan,  a  Sanskrit inscription was discovered on a pillar by one Pandit Bhagvan Lal Indraji in 19th century  on one of the pillars of  the well-known Chaonsat-khamba  epigraph  in Kaman.  This inscription was dated by Cunningham to be of around 8th CE.

The inscription gives following genealogy of the Surasena or Shoorsaini dynasty extending over seven kings :

1. — Phakka, married Deyika.
2. — Kulabhata (son), married Drangeni.
3. — Ajita (son), married Apsarapriya.
4. — Durgabhata (son), married Vachchhalika.
5. — Durgadaman (son), married Vachchhika.
6. — Devaraja (son), married Yajnika.
7. — Vatsadaman (son).

The old fort of Kaman lies between two low ranges of hills on the high road from Delhi to Bayana. Owing to its position it is conjectured by historians that it must have fallen an early prey to the Muhammadan conquerors. This account in way explains well the native account of Sainis of Punjab that their forefathers were the rulers of Mathura and migrated to Punjab in response to  Muslim invasions of Mathura region (Trevaskis, 1928) .

Kaman is situated in the Bharatpur territory, 39 miles (63 km) to the north-west of Mathura, and 14 miles (23 km) to the north of Dig.

Estimating the probable dates of this Surasena or Saini dynasty kings, writes Cunningham :

"If we place Vatsadaman in A.D. 750 to 775, the head of the family, Phakka, will date from A.D. 600, reckoning twenty five years to each generation. As none of the names agree with those of the Yadava princes of Bayana, as recorded by the bards, it seems probable that these chiefs of Kaman, or Kadamba-vana, were only a branch of the famous Surasenas of Mathura."

 
It is also believed by the archaeologists that the Visnu temple of Kaman was built by  Vachchhika ,  a Shoorsaini queen.

 

References


  • The land of the five rivers; an economic history of the Punjab from the earliest times to the year of grace 1890, p 100, Hugh Kennedy Trevaskis, [London] Oxford University press, 1928
  •  "Another numerous tribe, the Saini (14000), also trace their origin to a few ancestors who came from their home in Mathura (North-West Provinces) in defence of the Hindus against the first Moslem invasions",  The Indian village community, p 274, Baden Henry Baden-Powell, Adegi Graphics LLC, 1957 (Originally published in 1896)
  • REPORT OF A TOUR IN EASTERN RAJPUTANA IN 1882-83 , VOLUME XX, A. Cunningham, Archaeological Survey of India, pp 2,  7, 57-59, Published by Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, 1885 ,Item notes: v.20 1882-1883, Original from the University of Michigan
  • REPORT. VOLUME XIV, A. Cunningham, Archaeological Survey of India, pp 115-119, Published by Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, 1878-89
  • Encyclopaedia Indica: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Volume 100, pp 119 - 120, SS Sashi, Anmol Publications, 1996
  • Chiefs and families of note in the Delhi, Jalandhar, Peshawar and Derajat, Charles Francis Massy, pp382,  Allahabad, 1890
  • History of the Panjab hill states, Volume 1, pp 217, John Hutchison, Jean Philippe Vogel, Asian Educational Services, 1994
  • Epic and Counter-Epic in Medieval India, Author(s): Aziz Ahmad, Source: Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 83, No. 4 (Sep. - Dec., 1963), pp. 470-476
  • Some Phantom Dynasties of Early and Medieval India: Epigraphic Evidence and the Abhorrence of a Vacuum , David P. Henige, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 38,No. 3 (1975), pp. 525-549,  Cambridge University Press
  • "Sainis show significant differences from only Jats, Chamars and Khatris of Punjab. They show non-significant difference with Rajputs of Punjab and Peshawaris. They also show non-significant differences with Punjab (Boyd) , Kayasthas, Khatri and Brahmin of UP(Majumdar) " American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 1961 Sep;19:223-5.The study of ABO blood groups of Sainis of Punjab, SINGH IP, SINGH D.,PMID: 13913332
  • Castes and Tribes of Rajasthan, p 107, Sukhvir Singh Gahlot, Banshi Dhar, Jain Brothers, 1989
  • Mangi Lal Mahecha, Rājasthāna ke Rājapūta (The Rajputs of Rajasthan) , Rajasthan, 1965
  • 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 by Published on behalf of Anthropological Survey of India by Manohar Publishers, 1994

 

     

 

The Muhammadan invasions drove a wedge through the Rajput principalities of the eastern Punjab. Some of the Rajput clans fled to the deserts of Rajputana in the south, others overcame the petty chiefs of Himalayan districts and established themselves there. A few adventurers came to terms with the invaders and obtained from them grants of land. The Sainis trace their origin to a Rajput clan who came from their original home near Muttra [sic] on Jumna, south of Delhi, in defence of the Hindus against the first Muhammadan invasions."

-The land of the five rivers; an economic history of the Punjab from the earliest times to the year of grace 1890, pp 100, Hugh Kennedy Trevaskis, [London] Oxford University press, 1928


Krishna Consueling P:andavas,  a 19th Century Painting from  Brooklyn Museum


" 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 .... The above group of Yadavas 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


A Classical Painting of Visnu who is personified by warrior-duo Balaram and  Krishna in  Hindu sacred literature. Noteworthy is the "Tomara" or "Iron club" as one of the  weapons of the deity. "Tomara-Dhara"  is another scriptural reference to both Balaram and Krishna who are both incarnations of the identical deity. This symbolism is undoubtedly  the origin of Yaduvanshi clan  name of Tomaras. 

When Megesthenes passed through Mathura in around 300 B.C. , he noted that Shoorsainis , identified by him as "Sourasenoi" , worshipped Herakles , a Greek deity corresponding with Balarama, or the " Lord of Strength".

Megesthenes'  Herakles also carried  a  ""Tomara" .


Along with Sainis of Punjab , many other Kshatriya and farming tribes claim origin from Shoorsenas. These include Bhati Rajputs of Jaiselmer, Jaduan Rajputs of Karauli, Jadeja Rajputs of Kathiawar, Sinsinwar Jats of Bharatpur, Brar Jats of Patiala and Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri.

Among these only Sainis have preserved their ancient Sanskrit name closest to its original Mahabharata and Puranic source.

Saini is the abbreviated form of Shoorsaini which is Prakrit apabhransha for Sanskrit Surasena or Shoorsena, implying the descendants of King Shoorsen, the grandfather of both Arjuna and Lord Krishna.

Gurdan Saini, a Rajput general, described in Amir Khusro's account  also  belonged to this Shoorsena or Surasena lineage of Yaduvanshi Rajputs who recaptured and ruled Mathura more than once in history.


"If we place Vatsadaman in A.D. 750 to 775, the head of the family, Phakka, will date from A.D. 600, reckoning twenty five years to each generation. As none of the names agree with those of the Yadava princes of Bayana, as recorded by the bards, it seems probable that these chiefs of Kaman, or Kadamba-vana, were only a branch of the famous Surasenas of Mathura."


-REPORT OF A TOUR IN EASTERN RAJPUTANA IN 1882-83 , VOLUME XX, A. Cunningham, Archaeological Survey of India, pp 59, Published by Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, 1885

 


It is worth mentioning here that  serological and genetic studies conducted on Sainis of Punjab have confirmed hat their ABO blood strain and gene distribution patterns are  identical with the  Rajputs of  Shivaliks  (SIngh IP, SIngh D., 1961) many of whom also have  identical narratives of origin from kingdoms of Delhi and Mathura and  migration to Punjab as part of extended warfare with Ghaznvide and Ghorid invaders ( Charles Francis Massy, 1890) . Thus these serological studies  in a way validate the veracity of the narratives of origin available from within the community.

-Editorial Note

 


"They had their kingdom in Karauli in Rajasthan. They were called Shoorsainis. Sri Krishna's grandfather was Shoorsen because of which the region around Mathura was known as Shoorsen and Yadavas of this region were called Shoorsainis."


 -Mangi Lal Mahecha, Rājasthāna ke Rājapūta (The Rajputs of Rajasthan) , Rajasthan, 1965