The Mair are a Sunar community traditionally found in northern India, which identify themselves as Mair Rajputs. 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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
- Census of India. 1901. p. 309.
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