Khandeshi language

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Native to India
Region Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh
Native speakers
2.4 million  (1997)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
khn – Khandeshi
ahr – Ahirani
Glottolog khan1271[3]

Khandeshi (ख़ानदेशी (Devanagari), خاندیشی (Nastaleeq)) is an Indo-Aryan language, wedged between the territory of Bhili and that of Marathi. It consists of Khandeshi proper and the Dangri and Ahirani dialects, the last named for the Ahir (Yadav) caste.[4]


Ahirani (in Devanagari script: अहिरणी) is the most common language spoken language in the "Khandesh" region of the state of Maharashtra in India. It is believed that during the Moghul rule in India, the Khans ruled this region, thus the name 'Khan-Desh'. Ahirs, the natives of the region, are traditionally cattle-herders, and various Gavali (dairy-owning) kingdoms and forts in this region suggest the name Kanha-desh i.e. land of Krishna or land of the followers of Krishna. The connection of cattle herding and Krishna is well known. The goddess Kanbai is worshiped in Khandesh, a variant of 'Khanh Desh.' In the Rajasthani language, the word 'Khahan' means hay, or dried grass. The land of Khahan is Khandesh. The word 'Khan' is also used by some as a synonym for 'basin', and a metaphor for 'purity'. A detailed study of the various etymologies of the word Khandesh appears in the book Ahirani Boli[5] by Dr. Ramesh Suryawanshi.Also there is difference in nashik district ahirani and khandesh ahirani .In Nashik district ahirani only spoken in BAGLAN (KASAMADE PATTA: Kalvan,Satana,Malegaon,Deola).

The Khandesh region consists of the forests on the eastern basin of the river Waghur, surrounded by the mountain ranges Ajanta to the south, Satpuda to the north, and Chandwad to the west. The native inhabitants of the basin speak the Ahirani language. The Khandesh region consists of grassy land where the Ahiras grazed their cattle. Native speakers of the Ahirani language constitute roughly 95% of the population of the Khandesh region. A 2011 estimate of the population of the Dhulia, Jalgaon and Nandurbar districts, and the Ahirani speaker tehsils of Aurangabad and Nasik district was 10 million. Ahirani is spoken mainly in the districts of Dhule, Jalgaon, Nandurbar, and in parts of Nasik and Aurangabad.But Nashik district and Aurangabad district are not in khandesh . People in the tehsils of Amalner, Sakri, Dondaiche, Shirpur, Taloda, Shahada, Dhadgaon, Akkalkuwa, Parola, Erandol, Satana, Malegaon, Baglan also speak Ahirani. In the neighboring state if Gujarat, it is spoken in Surat and Vyara, and in Madhya Predesh, Ahirani is spoken in and around Amba-Varla.

Akhil Bharatiya Khandesh Academy, a registered NGO, is working to promote the Ahirani language.[citation needed]

Dilemma of Ahirani & Khandeshi[edit]

The views of Dr. Ramesh Sitaram Suryawanshi on Ahirani and Khandeshi are explained in detail in his linguistic study of Ahirani. Several of his books on the linguistic study of the Ahirani dialect have been published. Ahirani Bhasha Vaidnynik Abhyasa is a linguistic study of Ahirani. It explains the grammar formation of words and formation of sentences in Ahirani. Another book named Ahirani-shabdkosh is the first dictionary of the Ahirani dialect, with nearly 10000 words lexicographically arranged. Aharani Mhani Ani Wakprachar records one thousand sayings and four thousand proverbs in the Ahirani dialect, with the illustration of their meanings. All these books were published by Akshaya Prakashan, Pune in 1997. His fourth book, Khandeshatil Krishak Jivan Sachitra Kosha, is a pictorial dictionary of words used by the farmers in Khandesh. The book contains pictures of the tools used by farmers, with all tools and parts labeled with local names in Ahirani dialect. It was published by Maharashtra State Governments Sahitya Ani Sanskriti Mandal, Mumbai, in 2002. Dr. Ramesh Suryawanshi explains Ahirani and Khandeshi in detail. His explanation is elaborated in this article.

Ahirani or Khandeshi is spoken in Khandesh, the old name of an area which covers today's part of Jalgaon, Dhule, Nandurbar and part of Nasik and Aurangabad districts. Originally Ahirani was spoken by the Ahiras, shepherds who lived with their cows, sheep, goats and bedfellows in the grassy land of Khandesh (previously named Khandav Van). Khandesh was the old district of Bombay Presidency. Kahan means dry grass or grass land. Khan means pure. Khan means large ditch. Khandesh is an area surrounded by Satpuda, Ajanta and Chandwad ranges, and Waghur river. This big basin or ditch was grassland, useful for cattle. It is the basin of the Tapi and Narbada rivers. Ahirani is the caste-based name of the dialect, and Khandeshi is the region-based name of the dialect.

When a large number of Ahiras arrived in Khandesh with their cattle they settled in Khandesh. Meanwhile they indulged in various social roles. People around them tried to imitate their dialect while speaking with them. Lewa, Wani, Bhill and Pardeshi castes all have their own dialect, yet they started speaking mixed Ahirani (Ahirani affected by their dialect). This process took place in Khandesh territory. The dialect spoken by the people of Khandesh was known outside the region as Khandeshi. In Khandesh the dialect spoken by the Ahiras was known as Ahirani. Khandeshi is the larger dialect which incorporates Ahirani. Socially, Khandeshi is classified in Ahirani, Bhilli, Pardeshi, Lewa-Patidar, in such sub-dialects.

Chalisgaon, Dhule is the center of Ahirani dialects. Chandwadi is spoken around Chandwad hills, Nandubari is spoken around Nandurbar, Jamnerior Tawadi is spoken around Jamner tehsil, Taptangi is spoken by the side of Tapi, Tapti river. Dongarangi is spoken by the side of forest Ajanta hills. All these are region-based names for Khandeshi sub-dialects. All are regional categories. Ahirani, Gujari, Bhilau, Maharau, Lewa and Purbhi all are social (caste-based) categories of Khandeshi.

Ahirani is today spoken in the Jalgaon (except Bhusaval,Amalner,Jamner, Bodwad, Muktainagar), Nandurbar, Dhule and Nashik (Baglan, Malegaon and Kalwan tehsils) districts of Maharashtra, India. It is further divided into dialects such as Chalisgaon, Malegaon and Dhule group. Borrowing and bending the words from Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati, Ahirani has created its own words not found in any of these languages. Ahirani is basically in colloquial form and uses the Devanagari script for its writing. Bahinabai Chaudhari is a well-known poet of Khandesh, and the study of her literature is studied and included in Marathi language. But the language in her poems is different from Ahirani but affected by Ahirani. Some say the poet is not Ahirani, but Lewa. But Lewa and Ahirani are sub-dialects of Khandeshi. So Khandeshi is the term or concept that merges all disputes. It is a wide region-based concept.

New research of Dr. Ramesh Suryawashi say that ,"Same Ahirani Dialect is also spoken in Dharni tehsil, in Amravati district of Maharashtra in Melghat Tiger Reserve forest area. But it is not called as Ahirani there, they call it as Gavali Boli. lexicography,Syntax, phonology is same as of Ahirani. Near about 30 to 35 thousand people speak Gavai boli through 40 villages. Gavali people worship Asahdevi of Ashirgrah Fort. Their dialect, rituals, customs,are alike of Khandeshi people. Their surnames are like Khadke,Hekade, Shedke, Shanware, Savade, Gyan, Tote. They are cowherds and they call their group of cows as Heti They think Ashirghar fort, Gavilghar fort and Narnala fort as their ancienter s forts. They consider themselves as Nandvanshi, children of Lord Krishna. They live with Korku, Gond, Kolam but they had preserved their Gavali dialect which is totally similar with Ahirani of Khandesh reign of Maharashtra."

Derivation Of Substantives In Ahirani Dialect[edit]

This section is based on a research paper by Ramesh S. Suryawanshi. Ahirani a dialect as spoken in Jalgaon and Dhule districts of Khandesh. It is also spoken in kalvean’Malegaon and Satana Tahsil of Nasik district and in some villages of Kannad and Soegaon Tahsils of Aurangabad district. It is almost a uniformed dialect except as spoken in Baglan Tahsil. Ahirani is a term based on the name of the community of speakers called Ahirs (Yadavs). It is also referred as Khandeshi, the language of Khandesh. There are a few caste dialects spoken in this region by the people of various communities, such as Wanis, Pardeshis, Dhangars, Bhills, Thakuras, Gujars, Hatakara, Pardhis, Tadvis and Muslims. All these people speak their own dialect at home but use Khandeshi for their daily communication outside their communities. According to the 1971 census of India, the number of people who declared Ahirani as their mother tongue was 363,780. The Standard Marathi (SM) and Ahirani (Ah) show considerable difference at various levels of structures. This indicates that the source and development of these two dialects are independent. Some of the peculiarities of Ahirani show closeness to Rajashthani and Gujarati. The following is a modest attempt at explaining the derivation substantives in this dialect. The stem in Ahirani dialect can be divided into two classes on the basis of their Structural peculiarities such as :-

  • Simple Stems
  • Complex Stems

The simple stems are un-analyzable roots; while complex stems are analyzable and involve one of the processes of derivation composition and reduplication.

The derivation of complex stems in this dialect involves three processes such as :

  • Prefixation
  • Suffixation
  • Change in the shape of the base morpheme

Accordingly the structure of a derivative stem may be represented as :-

       Prefix  +  base
       base  +  suffix
       base  +  internal change

Both prefixes and suffixes are particles which have no independent existence as stem, even though they possess some semantic value. Thus, the prefixes are a class of bound morphemes occurring only as stem –initial; while the suffixes are a class of bound morphemes occurring as stem-final. Ina suffixial derivative, the suffix is the grammatically dominant part; while in a prefixial derivative the root is grammatically dominant. In Ahirani, the occurrence of prefixial derivatives is very limited and confined to borrowed words from standard Marathi. The suffixial derivatives are numerous and display a variety of structural peculiarities. The occurrence of derivatives obtained through internal change in the shape of base morpheme is extremely limited.

The following examples illustrate in detail the various patterns of derivative constructions of substantives:


1) Pref. + Subst.m. -----à Subst.m.

       aap    +   ghat      --------     aapghaat       “accident”
       par     +    des     -------      pardes            “foreign country.       
       app    +    maan   -------- aapmaan          “ insult”

2) Pre. + Subst.f. -------à Subst.f.

       aaD    +    kaaThii  -------- aaDkaathii          “Hinderance”
       paD     + Saayaa   -------- paDsaayaa      “shadow”

3) Pre. + Subst.n. ---à Subst.n.

       aap      +  yas      ------   aapyas       “failure”
       par       +  ghar    ------- parghar        “ other’s home”
       bad      +   nasiib ------ badnnsib      “ misfortune”


1) Verb + Suffix---à Subst.m.

       dekh   +  aavaa --- dekhaavaa   “scene”
       per     +  aa     ---- peraa            “sowing”
       ziir     +  aa     ---- ziraa             “stream”
       puj      +  aarii   ---  pujaarii        “priest”

2) Verb + Suf. -à Subst.f.

       ban    +  aavat   --- banaavat         “structure”
       khod   +  aai    --- khodaai            “work of dgging”
       uuD    +  ii       ---- uuDii            “ Jump”
       vaaDh  +  ii     ---- vaaDhii          “ small pot for ghee”

3) Verb + Suf. ---à Subst.n.

       aathar  +  un  ----- aathrun    “bed”
       haas   + uu  ------ haasuu       “smile”
       kuuT   + aar   ---- kuTaar        “cattle food”

4) Subst.m. + Suf. ---à Subst.m.

       sejaar    +   ii   ---- sejaarii      “  neighbour”
       daanD   +  uu  ---  daanDuu     “short stick”
       Dhiig      +  aaraa ---Dhigaaraa     “heap”

5) Subst.f. + Suf. --à Subst.m.

       jaadu    +  gaar  --- jaadugaar  “magician”
       phauj    +  daar  --  phaujdaar  “Police Sub Inspector”
       bhiik     +  aari—bhikaari      “beggar”
       aakkal  +  vaan  --- aakkalvaan   “ wise”

6) Subs.n. + Suf. --à Subst.m.

       uun   +  haayaa ---uunhaayaa   “Summar”
       pakh  + oTi    ----- pakhoTi       “Young hen”
       saaL  +  daar ----- saaLdaar      “servent who is appointed as yearly basis.”

7) Cl(clitic form of) Subst. + Suf.-----Subst.m.

       navar   +  aa  ---- navaraa      “bridegroom”
       senD    +  aa  ----  senDaa      “head of tree”
       peT      +  araa –  petaraa      “big box”

8) Stem bd.(bound) base + Suf. --à Subst.m.

       saav   +  kaar   ----- saavkaar    “landlord”
       kaar    +  bhaarii  ----kaabhaarii  “ manager”
       kaar    + khaanaa ----kaarkhaanaa    “ factory”

9) + Suf. --àSubst.m.

       caT     +  kaa—caTkaa         “glow”
       phat    +  kaa—phaTkaa    “stroke”
       phan   +  kaaraa—phankaaraa  “with anger.”

10) Adj. + Suf. ----à Subst.m. gaar + Thaa ---- gaarThaa “cold” Yaahir + naamaa—Jaahirnaamaa “ notification”

11) Subst.m. + Suf. à Subst. f. majur + ii --- majurii “wages” naag + in --- naagin “female cobra” dhol + kii --- DhoLkii “small drum”

12) Subst.f. + Suf. ----à Subst.f. sep + Tii ------ sepTii “tail”

   aag     +  tii  ------  aagtii      “fire”

thaap + Di ----- thapDi “slap”

13) Subst.n. + Suf. ---à Subst.f. nisaan + ii ----- nisaanii “ mark” piiTh + orii --- piThorii “a festival”

       biij         +     vaai  ----  bijvaai     “seeds”

14) Clitic form of Subst. + Suf. --à Subst.f.

       senD   +   ii    ------  senDii    “pigtail”

porag + ii ----- poragii “girl” kuttra + ii ------ kuttrii “femal dog”

15) Stem bound root + Suf. ---à subst.f.

       Tic   +   kii    ---  Ticakii     “ click”
        Piic  +  kii  -----  pickii        “ spitting”

16) Adj. + Suf. ---à Subst.f.

       band       +  ii—bandii       “ prevention”
       LabaaD  +  ii  ----  LabaaDi    “falshood”
       Khus      +  ii  ---  khusii    “concient”

17) Nu. + Suf. ---à Subst.f.

       paac    +  ii  ----paacii  “ ceremony performed on the fifth day after birth.”
       dahaa  +  vva  ---- dahaavva   “a ceremony performed on the tenth day after death”

paac + otri --- paacotri “a group of five things.”

18) Cl. Form of Nu. + Suf. ----à Subst.f.

       Ter    +   vii    ----- Tervii     “a ceremony performed on the 13th day after death”

19) Adjunct. + Suf. -à Subst.f.

       saabaas  +  kii saabaaskii       “praise”

20) Subst.m. + Suf. -à Subst.n.

       jiiv    +  an—jiivan   “life”
       dev   +  ui  ---devui   “temple”

21) Subst.f. + Suf. -à Subst.n.

       raanD   +  ov   --- raanDov   “widow’’

22) Subst.n. + Suf. -à Subst.n.

       HaaD     +  uuk   ---- haaDuuk   “  bone”
       khaanD  +  uuk   ---  khaanDuuk  “ piece”
       maap     +  aD  ---  maapaD    “measure”
       sen        +  faDa  ---- senfaDa  “dung carrier”

23) Adj + Suf. -à Subst.n.

       Tanak  +  panaa—Tanakpanaa  “ hardness”
       Var       +   Lyaang~ ----- varLyaang~  ‘ West”
       Khal     +  Lyaang~  ----KhaLLyaang~  “East”

24) Cl.form of Adj. + Suf.-à Subst.n.

       thoT  +  uuk—thoTuuk       “short bit.”

25) Adj + Suf. -à Subst.n.

       Dhaa  +  kala  -------dhakala  "younger"
       De     + dor ---------Dedor    "Frog"
       ye   +  daa -------- yedaa     "mad"
       gad   + ay ---------- Gaday     "watch"


1) Verb:- à internal change.

       ukar  ------ukir     “dust or earth near mouse hole”
       utar -------utaaru  “ passenger”

It will be seen from the above, the patterns of derivations in Khandeshi are not very different from the patterns observed in Standard Marathi. Since both the dialects belong to the same family of language i.e. Indo-Aryan. Derivational patterns show much identity. This study can extended to the other dialects of Marathi, that might produce extensive material for comparison of derivational process.

2) Abbreviations:-

       Adj. = Adjective bd. = bound. Cl.= clitic form.
       m. = masculine. Nu. = numerals. n.=neuter
       pre. = Prefix .. Subst. = Substantives suf. = suffix

Educated Khandeshis speak standard Marathi as well as Ahirani. Ahirani is losing its popularity among such people to standard Marathi but in rural areas, Ahirani dominates. 90 percent of the people staying in rural areas speak Ahirani.

The language is widely used among the farmers and villagers. It is also known for its secret words used by goldsmiths, cattle sellers, fruit-purchasers, known only to the members of that community.

Example sentences in Ahirani[edit]

> Does Yogeshrao purchased house? > Mother lives in Shindad village. > Where is your daughter Ranu? > What does Sheetal do? > Where does the mother live? > Crow perched on branch.

Ahirani Sentence bar she ka? Its Meaning
Tu Katha jai rhaina? means -> Where are you going?
Tu kay kari rhaina? means -> What are you doing?
Tuni kay randhel she? -> What you have cooked today?
Tun naav kay she? -> What is your name?
Tu Kay khad? -> What did you eat?
Kas kay chalu she? -> What's going on?
Tuna baap kay karas? -> What does your father do?
Kay mhani rhaina tu? -> What are you saying?
Tuna gavna naav kay she? -> What's your village's name?
Tu kothe jai rhaina? -> Where are you going?
Ghar ma kon kon she? -> Who's at home? or who are all in your family?
Tuna ghar kothe she? -> Where is your home?
Jevan zaaya ka? -> Had your dinner?
Tule yed lagel she ka? -> Are you mad?
Chagi gaya ka tu? -> Have you gone mad?
Tu kasa she? -> How are you?
Tule sang na -> I told you
Hai mani Aander she -> She is my daughter
Hau mana Aandor she -> He is my son
Tu Kavay Yeshi? -> When you will be coming?
Tule ek kam sangas -> I suggest a work to you
Tuna Lagin vayel ye ka -> Are you married?
Kitla vajnat ate -> What's time now?
Konta gaonle jahi rhaina tu -> Which city you are going to?
Aatha ye -> Come here
Tatha jay -> Go there

Some Ahirani words: Hadya means – Crow, kawad means door, Kushtay means – Lock, Chidi means – Sparrow. dhalla_bappa- an old man


More linguistic study of Ahirani or Khandeshi is available in Dr. R.S. Suryawasnhi's Seven books on Ahirani-

  • 1) Ahirani – Bhasha Vidnyanic Abhyas
  • 2) Ahirani Shabdkosha
  • 3) Ahirani Mhani ani Wakprachar Kosha – all three published by Akashya PrakashanPune in 1997
  • 4) Khandeshatil Krushak Jivan Sachitra Kosha is published by Marathi Sahitya Sanskruti Mandal in 2002
  • 5) Khandeshatil Mhani (Vargikarnatmak)ISBN 987-81-920256-2-9, Abhyasika, Kannad. Dist Aurangabad June -2010 Pages 224
  • 6)Boli Aani Praman Bhasha(Khandeshi)ISBN-978-81-920256-0-5,, Kannad. Dist Aurangabad June -2010
  • 7)Loksahitya Aani Abhyas Vishay(Khandeshi)ISBN-978-81-920256-1-2, Kannad. Dist Aurangabad June -2010

Introduction clarifies the concept of Ahirani and Khandeshi.
It removes the confusion whether the poem or matter is Ahirani or Khandeshi

All the ahirani peoples who live in metro cities in India or foreign countries always prefer Ahirani as communication language for family and friend while talking on telephone.

"Some call BAHINABAI CHAUDHARI WAS NOT AHIRANI POET, SHE WAS FROM LEVA SOCIETY. AND THE PEOPLES LANGUAGE IS DIFFERENT FROM AHIRANI", But Bhinabai is also Khandeshi. Everything which is in Khandeshi is called Khandeshi, all dialects in are merged in Khandeshi term. Region based term is Khandeshi and Ahirani is caste based term. Ahirani is language of Ahir caste. They lived in Khandesh and all dialects of the people of various castes who live with them are affected by Ahirani language so mixed, affected dialect is Khandeshi. So poet Bhahinabai's poems are from Leva-patidar dialect which is also affected by Ahirnai. She may be called as Khandeshi poet.


  1. ^ Khandeshi reference at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
    Ahirani reference at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  2. ^ Ernst Kausen, 2006. Die Klassifikation der indogermanischen Sprachen (Microsoft Word, 133 KB)
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Khandeshi". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Ahirani Boli Shabdkhsh by Dr. Ramesh Suryawanshi Akshya Prakashan, Pune June 1997