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For the town in Sagar district, India, see Dhangar, Madhya Pradesh.

The Dhangar (Dhangad) are a herding caste of people primarily located in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Their original home is said to be Gokul, Vrindavan, near Mathura. From Gokul they are said to have moved into Mewar, and from Mewar, to have spread into Gujarat and Maharashtra.[1][2]


The word "Dhangar" may be associated with a term for "cattle wealth" or be derived from the hills in which they lived (Sanskrit "dhang").[3] Ul Hassan noted that some people of his time believed the term to come from the Sanskrit "dhenugar" ("cattle herder") but dismissed that etymology as being "fictitious".[4]

The Dhangar were described by British colonial researchers as industrious, honest and sincere. It was noted that, "truthful as a Dhangar" was a proverb among Indians.[5]

Current situation[edit]

Traditionally being shepherds, cowherds, buffalo keepers, blanket and wool weavers, butchers and farmers, the Dhangars were late to take up modern-day education. Though it has a notable population, not only in Maharashtra but also in India at large, had a rich history, today it is still a politically highly disorganized community and is socially, educationally, economically and politically backward. They lived a socially isolated life due to their occupation, wandering mainly in forests, hills and mountains.[6][full citation needed] In Maharashtra, the Dhangars are classified as a Vimukta Jati-Nomadic Tribe (VJNT) but in 2014 were seeking to be reclassified as a Scheduled Tribe in India's system of reservation.[7]


The Dhangar produce a type of poetry known as ovi, often inspired by the forests and pastures where they graze their flocks. The ovi are formed of couplets, and can include legendary tales such as those of their god Biruba. Also in honour of Biruba, they perform the Dhangari Gaja dance.[citation needed]


Dhangars worship various forms of gods, including Shiva, Vishnu, Parvati and Mahalaxmi as their kuldevta. These forms include Khandoba, Beeralingeswara (Biroba), Mhasoba, Dhuloba (Dhuleshwar), Vithoba,Siddhanath(Shidoba), Janai-Malai, Tulai, Yamai, Padubai, and Ambabai. They generally worship the temple of these gods that is nearest to their residence which becomes their kuladev and kuladevi. In Jejuri, the deity Khandoba is revered as the husband of Banai, in her incarnation as a Dhangar. He is, therefore, popular amongst the Dhangars, as they consider him their Kuldevta.[8] Khandoba (literally "father swordsman") is the god of the shepherd community and the guardian deity of the Deccan.[9]



Initially there were twelve tribes of Dhangar, and they had a division of labour amongst brothers of one family. This later formed three sub-divisions and one half-division. These three being Hatkar (shepherds), Ahir (cowherds) or Mhaskar (Gujjar buffalo keepers), and Khutekar (wool and blanket weavers)/Sangar. The half-division is called Khateek or Khatik (butchers). All sub-castes fall in either of these divisions. All sub-divisions emerge from one stock, and all sub-divisions claim to be a single group of Dhangars. Studies have revealed that they are genetically the closest.[10][11] The number three and a half is not a random selection but has a religious and cosmological significance.[12]

All Dhangars of Western Maharashtra and Konkan/Marhatta country, like Holkars, can be termed "Marathas", but all Marathas are not Dhangars.[13][14][15]

Clans in India[edit]

Reginald Edward Enthoven listed 22 endogamous groups (sub-castes) and 108 exogamous groups (clans) of Dhangars,[16] though other scholars state that this is not exhaustive.[17]

Dhangar rulers[edit]


  1. ^ R.V. Russell, Rosalind (1916). The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India II. Macmillan and Co., London. p. 118. 
  2. ^ Bombay (India : State) (1901). Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency 9. Govt. Central Press. pp. 267–285. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  3. ^ Shashi, Shyam Singh (2006). The World of Nomads. Lotus Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-81-8382-051-6. Retrieved 2011-11-15. 
  4. ^ Syed Siraj ul Hassan (1989). The castes and tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's dominions. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 978-81-206-0488-9. Retrieved 2011-07-25. 
  5. ^ Journal of the Ethnological Society of London, Volume 1, by Ethnological Society (London), p. 105.
  6. ^ Kaka Kalelkar Commission Report, B D Deshmukh report, Edate report
  7. ^ Kulkarni, Dhaval (10 February 2014). "Demands for quotas from new groups add to Maharashtra govt's woes". DNA. Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  8. ^ Mohamed Rahmatulla. Census of India Vol XXI, Hyderabad State, Part I Report. 1921, p. 244
  9. ^ Richard I. Cashman. The myth of the Lokamanya: Tilak and mass politics in Maharashtra.[when?][who?] pg 11
  10. ^ K.C. Malhotra et al., "Gene differentiation among the Dhangar caste cluster of Maharashtra, India", Human Heredity, Vol. 28, pp. 23-26.
  11. ^ Landscapes in Conflict: Flocks, Hero-stones, and Cult in Early Medieval Maharashtra. Ajay Dandekar. Centre For Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
  12. ^ G.D. Sontheimer, The Dhangars: a nomadic pastoral community in a developing agricultural environment; G.D. Sontheimer and L.S. Leshnik, eds., Pastoralists and Nomads in South Asia, Wiesbaden, 1975, p. 140.
  13. ^ "Maratha". Encyclopædia Britannica (Encyclopædia Britannica online). 2009. 
  14. ^ R.V. Russell, Rosalind (1916). The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India IV. Macmillan and Co., London. 
  15. ^ O'Hanlon, Rosalind (2002). Caste, Conflict and Ideology. Cambridge University Press. pp. 17–18. ISBN 978-0-521-52308-0. 
  16. ^ Reginald Edward Enthoven (1 January 1990). The tribes and castes of Bombay. Asian Educational Services. pp. 317–318. ISBN 978-81-206-0630-2. Retrieved 2011-07-22. 
  17. ^ Dandekar, Ajay. The Warlis and the Dhangars, The Context of the Commons. 

External links[edit]


  • Baviskar, B.S., "Cooperatves and caste in Maharashtra: A case study". Sociological Bulletin, XVIII:2:1969:148-166.
  • Chaubey Ganesh, "The Dhangar Songs", Folklore, Vol. I No 4, Calcutta, 1958, pp. 22–25.
  • G.D. Sontheimer, Pastoral Deities of Western India, London, 1989, p. 104.
  • Hutton J H, "Dhangar". Caste in India, Bombay 1951, p. 278.
  • Karve, Irawati, Maharashtra, Land and People. Bombay 1969.
  • Malhotra, K. and M. Gadgil, "The ecological basis of the geographical distribution", in People of South Asia.
  • Malhotra, K., 1980a, "Inbreeding among the four Dhangar castes of Maharashtra. India". Collegium anthropoloquium, 3.
  • Malhotra, K., 1980b, "Matrimonial distances among four Dhangar castes of Maharashtra", South Asian Anthropology, 1.
  • Malhotra, K., 1984, "Population structure among the Dhangar caste cluster of Maharashtra", in J.R. Lukacs (ed.), The People of South Asia.
  • Modi Jivanji Jemshedji, "On Dhangars and Dhavars of Mahabaleshwar". Journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay, Vol. 3, 1894, pp. 471–483.
  • Prasad Satyanarain. "Modern education among the tribals of Bihar in the second half of the 19th century". Man in India, LI:4:1971:365-393.
  • Saksena, R.N., and Chinchalkar, "Dhangars and Gadariyas: The Most backward divisions of Indian tribes and caste". Vanyajati, XXV:2: 1977:14-17.
  • Shashi, S.S. The Shephards of India. New Delhi, Sandeep Prakashan, 1978.