Saini (Hindi: सैनी pronunciation (help·info)) (Punjabi:ਸੈਣੀ) is a Rajput descent warrior caste of India. Sainis, also known as Shoorsaini in Puranic literature, are now found by their original name only in Punjab and in the neighboring states of Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. They trace their descent from Rajputs of the Yaduvanshi Surasena lineage, originating from Yadava King Shurasena, who was the grandfather of both Krishna and the legendary Pandava warriors. Sainis relocated to Punjab from Mathura and surrounding areas over different periods of time.
Ancient Greek traveller and ambassdor to India, Megasthenes, also came across this clan in its glory days as the ruling tribe with its capital in Mathura. There is also an academic opinion that the ancient king Porus, the celebrated opponent of Alexander the Great, belonged to this once most dominant Yadava sept. Megasthenes described this tribe as Sourasenoi.
Like most other Rajput origin tribes of Punjab, Sainis also took up farming during medieval period due to the Turko-Islamic political domination, and have been chiefly engaged in both agriculture and military service since then until the recent times. During British period Sainis were enlisted as a statutory agricultural tribe as well as a martial class.
Sainis have a distinguished record as soldiers in the armies of pre-British princely states, British India and independent India. Sainis fought in both the World Wars and won some of the highest gallantry awards for 'conspicuous bravery'. Subedar Joginder Singh, who won Param Vir Chakra, Indian Army's highest war time gallantry award, in 1962 India-China War was also a Saini of Sahnan sub clan.
During the British era, several influential Saini landlords were also appointed as Zaildars, or revenue-collectors, in many districts of Punjab and modern Haryana.
Sainis also took active part in the freedom movement of India and many insurgents from Saini community were imprisoned, hanged or killed in encounters with colonial police during the days of British Raj.
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. Well known computer scientist, Avtar Saini, who co-led the design and development of Intel's flagship Pentium microprocessor, belongs to this community. The current CEO of global banking giant Master Card, Ajay Banga, is also a Saini. Popular newspaper daily Ajit, which is the world's largest Punjabi language news daily, is also owned by Sainis.
A significant section of Punjabi Sainis now lives in Western countries such as USA, Canada and UK, etc and forms an important component of the global Punjabi diaspora.
Sainis profess in both Hinduism and Sikhism. Several Saini families profess in both the faiths simultaneuosly and inter-marry freely in keeping with the age-old composite Bhakti and Sikh spiritual traditions of Punjab.
Until recent times Sainis were strictly an endogamous kshatriya group and inter-married only within select clans. They also have a national level organization called Saini Rajput Mahasabha located in Delhi which was established in 1920.