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History of the Mair Rajputs

History of the Mair Rajputs

The greatest difficulty in confirming historical facts about the Mairs has been the many different ways in which this word can be spelled. Cross-references were necessary in order to establish any facts. Because no Mair nowadays even knows the meaning of the word "Mair," the difficulty in tracing its origins has been compounded.

After speaking to many Mairs and gleaning tidbits of information here and there, I reached a set of basic hypotheses which my research sought to prove or disprove. These hypotheses were the starting point from which I proceeded:

1. The Mair Rajputs at one time were warriors. Otherwise, the Rajput name would not be attached so adamantly to the tribe's name today.
2. The Mair Rajputs had origins somewhere in Rajasthan, around Ajmer.
3. The Mair Rajputs have some kind of connection to the Chauhan Rajput tribe. This is the reason why many Mair Rajput families write their last name as Chauhan, even though their gothra may be something else.
4. Mair Rajputs eventually adopted the goldsmith profession after centuries of being warriors.

The word "Mair" (Mér), is derived from the Sanskrit word for a mountain or hill, "mera" (Tod 9). The word "Mairs" therefore signifies those who reside in the mountains, or hills.

The name of the city Ajmer can be easily traced. It is derived from "ajya" meaning "invincible" and "mer" meaning "hill." Therefore, Ajmer literally is the "invincible hill." It was founded by the great Chauhan king Ajipal in the tenth century. The region in which Ajmer is located was called Mairwarra by the local people. Its name was derived from its Mair inhabitants. This region contains the Aravulli Hills and is also known as Mewat. Already, there is a correlation between the Mairs, Ajmer, and the Chauhans.

At this point, there are a few possibilities regarding to which tribe the Mair Rajputs belong. The most likely possibility places the origins of the Mair Rajputs around Ajmer in Rajasthan. The Mairs of Rajasthan most commonly spelled the name of their tribe as Mairs, Mers, Meds, or Medas.

The Mairs of Rajasthan and the Mair Rajputs of Punjab have the same spelling, but there may be a slight difference in the pronunciations. Mair Rajput is pronounced like "Mad" but the Mairs of Rajasthan may have pronounced their name around 1830 so that it rhymed with "hair." This variation in pronunciation could be a natural result of one branch's migration to Punjab where it lost contact with the original tribe. Names also tended to evolve over time.

There is another Mair Rajput tribe that is not related at all to the Mair Rajputs of Punjab. Ibbetson mentioned the Mair Rajputs of the Salt-Range, which is now in Pakistan (153). They are all Muslims. They trace their ancestry back to the Jammu hills and claim to be an offshoot of the Hindu Dogra Rajputs. The Minhas are those of them who took to agriculture (Rose 54). It is reasonable that this tribe also calls itself "Mairs" because they came from a hilly area just as the Mairs mentioned earlier who resided in the hills of Rajasthan.

Relating the Mairs of Rajasthan to the Mairs of Punjab coincides well with the beginning hypotheses. Therefore, the Mair Rajputs of Punjab are related to the Mairs (Mers, Meds, Medas) of Rajasthan that Tod described. I will proceed from this point.

Ibbetson wrote of General Cunningham's speculation that the Meds followed the Jats south to the Indus valley of Sind. As early as the 7th century, Ibbetson wrote, the Jats and Meds of Sind were ruled over by a Brahman dynasty (97).

Another reference to the ancient Mairs occurred in the late seventh century A.D. The Arabs were trying to spread Islam by conquering India but sent many unsuccessful expeditions against the nation's defenders. Under the guidance of Caliph Muawiyah, who ruled between 661-680 A.D., there were more failed army expeditions to India. Oak mentioned one of the Caliph's generals, Ziyad, who came to India but was "slain fighting against the brave Meds and Jats" (20).

Chand, who was the bard of Prithvi Raj Chauhan, wrote of a battle between Nahur Rao Purihar and Prithvi Raj, who was attacking Nahur Rao. "Where hill joins hill, the Mair and Maina thronged. The Mundore chief [Nahur Rao] commanded that the pass should be defended--four thousand [Mairs] heard and obeyed, each in form as the angel of death--men who never move without the omen, whose arrow never flies in vain--with frames like Indra's bolt--faithful to their word..." (Tod 540). This event took place well before 1192 A.D., the year in which Mohammed Ghori's army killed Prithvi Raj Chauhan.

Another reference commonly occurs when the Turks had conquered a portion of northwest India and in 1196, the Mairs attempted to reconquer Ajmer. Srivastava wrote that "the initiative [for battle] was taken by the Mers who, together with the Chauhans, invited the Chalukya ruler of Anhilwara [Bhim II] to make a concerted effort to expel the Turks" (38). During the siege of Ajmer, the Turkish army's leader Kutubbudin Aibak rushed from Delhi to Ajmer to help "but was defeated by the Rajputs and compelled to take shelter inside the walls of Ajmer..." (38). An emergency contingent was sent by Mohammed Ghori to Ajmer and the Rajputs were eventually forced to lift the siege.

The above reference is significant because we find that the Mairs were playing a crucial part in India's defense long ago. The interaction between the Mairs and Chauhans lends weight to one of my original hypotheses and the Mair defense of Ajmer confirms the hypothesis of the Mairs originating from Ajmer. In addition, Srivastava mentioned the Mairs as a Rajput tribe. Other historians tend to do the same when they refer to the Mair/Chauhan siege of Ajmer.

After that, Tod mentions a Lakha Rana who mounted the throne of Chittor in 1373 A.D. He was the one who subdued the Mairs and their region of Mairwarra (Mewat). He destroyed their chief stronghold Beratgarh and erected the city of Bednore in its place. After this event, the Mairs may have been driven to other occupations and regions. Another possibility mentioned by Ibbetson is that during the reign of Allaudin Ghori, many Rajput families emigrated from the lower provinces of India to Punjab (147).

Although Tod and other Western authors may have spent time in India before writing their books, they were foreigners in a foreign land trying to make sense of a culture and people completely different from them. In addition, due to their limited 19th and early 20th century resources, some of their information may not be wholly accurate. For example, Tod claimed that the Mairs of Rajasthan were a branch of the aboriginal Mina tribe. Other sources usually list the ancient Mairs and Minas as distinctly separate tribes. The general consensus is that the Mina was an aboriginal tribe of Rajasthan and may have intermarried with the Mairs, but that the Mairs and Minas are two separate tribes.

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