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Ranghar (Urdu: رانگھڑ‎) are a Muslim ethnic group, which is found in Sindh and Punjab provinces of Pakistan and Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh states of India. Ranghar were native to Indian state of Haryana and also found in the Doab region of Uttar Pradesh, as well as Delhi in India.[1] The term Ranghar is very rarely used by the community itself, who prefer the self-designation Muslim Rajput. The Ranghar use the titles of Rana, Rao, and Kunwar, prefixed to their given names, and use Khan as a surname. In Haryana, the Ranghar spoke a dialect of their own, called Ranghari, which is itself a dialect of Haryanvi, and many in Pakistan still use the language. Those of Uttar Pradesh speak Khari Boli among themselves, and Urdu with outsiders. After independence of Pakistan in 1947, many Uttar Pradesh Ranghars also migrated to Sindh in Pakistan and mostly settling in Karachi. They are entirely Sunni Hanafi Muslims and follow Deobandi and Barelvi schools of South Asia.

The term Ranghar has also been used for closely related Muslim communities, the Pachhada and the Muslim Tagas of Haryana and the Muley Jats. In addition, the Odh community in Pakistan are also often known as Ranghar.[2]

History and origin[edit]

The Ranghar were pastoralists, and as such came into conflict with the British imperial authorities, as the British colonial policy favoured settled agricultural communities such as the Ror and Jat, at the expense of these pastoralists.[citation needed] But they were also actively recruited by the British in the Indian army, and were classified by them as a Martial Race.[3][page needed]

The Ranghar can be roughly divided into sub-groups, conveniently divided by the Yamuna river. Those to the west of the river remained as pastoralists much longer than the Yamuna Ranghar, who were all settled agriculturist by the start of the 19th century. The partition of India further divided these two groups, with the trans Yamuna Ranghar emigrating to Pakistan, while those of the Doab region remaining in India. They comprise a large numbered of dispersed intermarrying clans. These exogamous groups are made up of myriad landholding patrilineages of varying genealogical depth, ritual, and social status called biradaries or brotherhoods scattered in the various districts of western Uttar Pradesh. The biradari, or lineage is one of the principal point of reference for the Ranghars, and all biradaris claim descent from a common ancestor. Often biradaris inhabit a cluster of villages called chaurasis (84 villages), chatisis (36 villages) and chabisis (26 villages).[4] [ An example of a chatisa is that of the Chauhan Ranghar of the Agauta pargana of Bulandshahr District.[5]

Distribution and present circumstances[edit]

In Pakistan[edit]

Ranghar communities are found in Mirpur Khas and Nawabshah Districts of Sindh. Recent studies of the Ranghar communities in Pakistan have confirmed that they maintain a distinct identity. They have maintained the system of exogamous marriages, the practice of not marrying within one's clan, which marks them out from neighbouring Punjabi Muslim communities, which prefer marriages with first cousins. In districts of Pakpattan, Okara, and Bahawalnagar which have the densest concentrations of Rangarh, they consist mostly of small peasants, with many serving in the army, police and Civil Services. They maintain an overarching tribal council (panchayat in the Rangharhi dialect), which deals with a number of issues, such as punishments for petty crime or co-operation over village projects.[6]

In India[edit]

Uttar Pradesh[edit]

The Ranghar of western Uttar Pradesh have by and large remained in India, with only a small trickle migrating to Pakistan.[1] This community is endogamous, and divided into three broad categories, the Agnivanshi, the Chandravanshi and Suryavanshi, which are again divided into several biradaris or gotras. The community is distinct from other neighbouring Muslim communities, in that follow the custom of gotra exogamy, the practice of not marrying among one's father's or mother's clan. The community's primary function has remained agriculture. Animal husbandry and poultry are also secondary occupations. Like their Pakistani counterparts, the Uttar Pradesh Rangarh also have a tribal council. Offences that are dealt by the tribal council include adultery, elopement, disputes over land, water and theft. They are entirely Sunni, and town of Deoband is in the centre of Rangarh territory, and many Rangarh are now Deobandi.[1]


The Ranghar of Delhi are said to have converted to Islam, during the reign of Aurangzeb. The conversion initially is said to have had little effect on the community. Their social customs remained unaltered, their rules of marriage and inheritance remained unaltered, save that they shaved their scalp lock and upper edge of their moustache. The community was historically connected with the Ranghar of Haryana, but their emigration to Pakistan has led to commencement of relations with the Ranghar of the Doab. A good many of the Delhi Ranghar have also emigrated to Pakistan, and are now found mainly in Mirpurkhas District, in Sindh. Their main clans are the Badpyar, Bhatti, Chauhan, Panwar and Tomar.[7]

The Ranghar in Delhi were found mainly in villages, around the city. Their most important settlement was Okhla, which now been incorporated into the city. The spread of Delhi has led to the incorporation of many other Ranghar villages into the city. There are still a small number of Ranghar villages in the west of Delhi, along the border with Rohtak District. They are remnants of the large communities of Panwar and Chauhan communities in region. Much of the Ranghar land was taken over by the Delhi Development Authority in the 1950s and 60s. This has led to landlessness, and many are now engaged as industrial labourers. There has thus been a marked decline in the fortunes of the Rajputs.[8]

The community is entirely Sunni Muslim, and many are now gravitating towards the orthodox Deobandi sect. They remain endogamous, only rarely marrying out, and then only with other Rajput communities in Meerut, and still maintain gotra exogamy. The traditional tribal council is no longer as effective, as the community has rapidly urbanized.[8]

Himachal Pradesh[edit]

In Himachal Pradesh, the Ranghar claim to have immigrated from Karnal, in what is now Haryana some five hundred years ago. The areas inhabited by the Ranghar were part of the historic British province of Punjab. They still speak Haryanvi among themselves, although most educated Ranghars can speak Urdu and Hindi. The community consists of four clans, the Pundir, the Chauhan, the Tonwar and Taoni, and the conversion of these Rajput clans had occurred prior to their immigration. In addition, there are several villages of Bhattis and Ghorewahas in Una district, who although technically distinct from the Ranghar now intermarry with them. These two communities still Punjabi, and are remnant of much larger Rajput found in the historic Hoshiarpur District. Like many other Himachal Pradesh Muslims, a majority of the Ranghar immigrated to Pakistan at the time of the Partition of India in 1947. All the Himchal Pradesh Ranghars belong to the Sunni sect.

Most Ranghar villages are found along the border with Haryana, along the slopes of the Shiwalik mountains, mainly in the districts of Bilaspur, Solan, Hamirpur, and Mandi. This country is hilly, and was historically was forested, and small groups of Ranghar immigrants cleared the jungle and built their settlements. This is seen by the presence of generally of just one gotra in a Ranghar village, with the inhabitants claiming descent from a common ancestor. These settlers were also accompanied by occupational castes such as Nai, Julahas and Telis. A patron client relationship, known as the jajmani system continues to exists with these groups.The Ranghar are still a community of farmers, with animal husbandry being an important secondary occupation. Historically, service in the army and police was important, but this has almost disappeared. Closely related to the Ranghar are the Sunhak community, who are Muslim converts from the Chandel Rajputs.[9]

In the past, the community practiced clan exogamy, but this practice has now declined, and inter gotra marriages do occur. Although living near a number of other communities such as the Bharai, Arain and Rawat, there is no intermarriage with these communities, and they are strictly endogamous. Like those in Uttar Pradesh, the Himachal Pradesh Ranghar have a biradari panchayat, that deals with intra-community disputes. The Ranghars have very effective biradari panchayat system and it exercises effective control over the community.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c People of India: Uttar Pradesh XLII Part III edited by K Singh page 1197
  2. ^ http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_norm/---declaration/documents/publication/wcms_082031.pdf
  3. ^ Stokes, Eric. The Peasant Armed: the Indian Revolt of 1857. 
  4. ^ Embattled Identities: Rajput Lineages and the Colonial State in Nineteenth Century North India by Malavika Kasturi
  5. ^ The Peasant and the Raj by Eric Stokes
  6. ^ Muslim Communities of South Asia Culture, Society and Power edited T N Madan pages 42–43
  7. ^ People of India Delhi Volume XX edited by T Ghosh & S Nath pages 496 to 501 Manohar Publications
  8. ^ a b People of India Delhi Volume XX edited by T Ghosh & S Nath page 500 Manohar Publications
  9. ^ a b People of India Himachal Pradesh Volume XXIV by B.R Sharma and A.B Sankhyan Manohar 1996 pages 499 to 504