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The Mair are a Sunar community traditionally found in northern India, which identify themselves as Mair Rajputs.[1] Herbert Hope Risley and Horace Arthur Rose, both of whom were colonial administrators in India during the British Raj period, noted the community's presence as a Sunar subcaste in Bengal and in Punjab, respectively.[2][3]

Though they are the traditional goldsmiths of North India, now many are also landowners, involved in cultivation, as well as selling grocery. But their main occupation remains the manufacture and selling of jewellery. Members of the community are also involved in pawnbroking and moneylending.[citation needed]


Russell and Lal recorded in 1916 that "The [Sunar] caste appears to be a functional one of comparatively recent formation, and there is nothing on record as to its origin, except a collection of Brahmanical legends of the usual type."[4]

Caste identity[edit]

The Mair community was among those that challenged their official classification by the British Raj administration, which was based in large part upon the theories of Risley. Under this system, the various communities of India were assigned a position on the social ladder in order to assist in categorisation for the 1901 census. In 1911, a caste association - the Hindu Mair and Tank Kshatriya Rajput Sabha of Lahore - petitioned the authorities in an attempt to overturn the classification that had been designated for both the Mair and the Tank communities, stating that

In early times we occupied the same high position in society as our brother-Rajputs. But under pressure of many vicissitudes we were driven to making our living by some handicraft. We generally preferred working in precious metals. Hence we came to be called Sonars (or jewelmakers) by the populace - Today, by the grace of the Almighty and the help of the British Officers, we have regained what we had almost lost, our Rajput prestige and title.[5]

E. A. H. Blunt noted in 1931 that the Mair and Tank claims to Kshatriya status had never been "satisfactorily proved", but allowed that some Sonar sub-castes "may well be of Kshatriya descent", taking as evidence the high social status of goldsmiths.[6]


  1. ^ Census of India. 1901. p. 309. 
  2. ^ Risley, Herbert Hope (1892). The Tribes and Castes of Bengal 2. p. 45. Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  3. ^ Rose, Horace Arthur. A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North West Frontier 3. p. 440. Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  4. ^ Russell, Robert Vane; Lal, Rai Bahadur Hira. The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India 1. p. 517. Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  5. ^ Rowe, William L. (2007) [1968]. "Mobility in the nineteenth-century caste system". In Singer, Milton; Cohn, Bernard S. Structure and Change in India Society (Reprinted ed.). Transaction Publishers. pp. 202–203. ISBN 9780202361383. Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  6. ^ Blunt, Edward Arthur Henry (1931). The caste system of northern India: with special reference to the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. London: Oxford University Press. p. 211. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Chattopadhyaya, Brajadulal. The Making of Early Medieval India. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994.
  • Ibbetson, Sir Denzil. Panjab Castes. Lahore: Superintendent, Gov't. Printing, Reprint 1916 (from 1883 original of 1881 census).
  • Jain, Kailash Chand. Ancient Cities and Towns of Rajasthan. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1972.
  • Saggar, Balraj. Who's Who in the History of Punjab: 1800-1849. New Delhi: National Book Organisation, 1993.
  • Singh, K.S. National Series Volume VIII: Communities, Segments, Synonyms, Surnames, & Titles. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Srivastava, Ashirbadi Lal. The History of India: 1000 A.D.-1707 A.D. Jaipur, Shiva Lal Agarwala & Co., 1964.
  • Walker, Benjamin. The Hindu World: An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism. New York: Frederick Praeger, 1968.
  • Talib, Gurbachan (1950). Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947. India: Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee. 

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