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The Ābhīras were a people mentioned in ancient Indian epics and scriptures as early as the Vedas. Maharshi Patanjali in Mahabhasya describes Abhiras as an enemy of the Aryans. A historical people of the same name are mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.
Sunil Kumar Bhattacharya states that the Abhiras are mentioned in the first-century work of classical antiquity, the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Bhattacharya considers the Abhiras of old to be a race rather than a tribe. Scholars such as Ramaprasad Chanda state that the Abhiras were Indo-Aryan peoples. The Puranic Abhiras occupied the territories of Herat; they are invariably juxtaposed with the Kalatoyakas and Haritas, the peoples of Afghanistan.
There is no certainty regarding the occupational status of the Abhiras, with ancient texts sometimes referring to them as pastoral and cowherders but at other times as robber tribes.
Rule of the Konkan
From 203 to 270 the Abhiras ruled over the whole of the Deccan Plateau as a paramount power. The Abhiras were the immediate successors of the Satavahanas. Abhira rule started about 203 CE following the end of Yajnasri Satakarni's reign and Abhira Isvarasena's accession took place in Saka 151 or 229 CE. Sakasena was the first Abhira king. His inscriptions from Konkan and coins from Andhra Pradesh suggest that he ruled over the major part of the Satavahana empire.
Abhiras of Rajputana
In Samudragupta's time (c. 350), the Abhiras lived in Rajputana and Malava on the western frontier of the Gupta empire. Historian Dineshchandra Sircar thinks of Abhiravan between Herat and Kandahar. Their occupation of Rajasthan also at later date is evident from the Jodhpur inscription of Samvat 918 that the Abhira people of the area were a terror to their neighbours, because of their violent demeanour. Abhiras of Rajputana were sturdy and regarded as Mlecchas, and carried on anti Brahmancial activities. As a result, life and property became unsafe. Pargiter points to the Pauranic tradition that the Yadavas, while retreating northwards after the Kurukshetra War from their western home in Dwarka and Gujarat, were attacked and broken up by the rude Abhiras of Rajasthan.
The Abhiras did not stop in Rajasthan; some of their clans moved south and west reaching Saurastra and Maharashtra and taking service under the Satavahana dynasty and the Western Satraps. Also founded a kingdom in the northern part of the Maratha country, and an inscription of the ninth year of the Abhira king Ishwarsena.
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- Bhattacharya, Sunil Kumar (1996). Krishna — Cult In Indian Art. M.D. Publications. p. 126. ISBN 9788175330016. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
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- A political history of the imperial Guptas: from Gupta to Skandagupta By Tej Ram Sharma
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- This article incorporates text from The cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia: commercial, industrial and scientific, products of the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms, useful arts and manufactures, Volume 2, by Edward Balfour, a publication from 1885 now in the public domain in the United States.