Abhira tribe

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The Abhira tribe were a people mentioned in ancient Indian epics and scriptures as early as the Vedas.[1] A historical people of the same name are mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.


Sunil Kumar Bhattacharya says that the Abhiras are mentioned in the first-century work of classical antiquity, the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. He considers them to be a race rather than a tribe.[2] Scholars such as Ramaprasad Chanda believe that they were Indo-Aryan peoples.[3] but others, such as Romila Thapar, believe them to have been indigenous.[4] The Puranic Abhiras occupied the territories of Herat; they are invariably juxtaposed with the Kalatoyakas and Haritas, the peoples of Afghanistan.[5]

There is no certainty regarding the occupational status of the Abhiras, with ancient texts sometimes referring to them as warriors, pastoral and cowherders but at other times as plundering tribes.[6]

In the Padma-puranas and certain literary works, the Abhiras are referred to as belonging to the race of Krishna.[7]

Along with the Vrishnis, the Satvatas and the Yadavas, the Abhiras were followers of the Vedas, who worshipped Krishna, the head and preceptor of these tribes.[8][9]

Connection to Ahir[edit]

According to Ganga Ram Garg, the modern-day Ahir caste are descendants of Abhira people and the term Ahir is the Prakrit form of the Sanskrit term Abhira.[9] Bhattacharya says that the terms Ahir, Ahar and Gaoli are current forms of the word Abhira.[2] This view gets support in many writings. However, it is also said that the Ahirs do not appear to be fully representative of the ancient Abhiras.[10]

M. S. A. Rao and historians such as P. M. Chandorkar and T. Padmaja have explained that epigraphical and historical evidence exists for equating the Ahirs with the ancient Abhiras and Yadava tribe.[11][12][13]

Rule of the Konkan[edit]

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.[14]

Abhiras of Rajputana[edit]

During the reign of Samudragupta (c. 350), the Abhiras lived in Rajputana and Malava on the western frontier of the Gupta empire. Historian Dineshchandra Sircar thinks of their original abode was the area of Abhiravan, between Herat and Kandahar, although this is disputed.[15] 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.[15] Abhiras of Rajputana were sturdy and regarded as Mlecchas, and carried on anti-Brahmanical activities. As a result, life and property became unsafe. Pargiter[who?] points to the Pauranic tradition that the Vrishnis and Andhakas, 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.[16]

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.[17] Also founded a kingdom in the northern part of the Maratha country, and an inscription of the ninth year of the Abhira king Ishwarsena.[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dhume, Anant Ramkrishna Sinai (1986). The Cultural History of Goa from 10000 B.C.-1352 A.D. Ramesh Anant S. Dhume. p. 158.
  2. ^ a b Bhattacharya, Sunil Kumar (1996). Krishna — Cult In Indian Art. M.D. Publications. p. 126. ISBN 9788175330016.
  3. ^ Chanda, Ramaprasad (1969). The Indo-Aryan races: a study of the origin of Indo-Aryan people and institutions. Indian Studies: Past & Present. p. 55.
  4. ^ Thapar, Romila (1978). Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations. Orient Blackswan. p. 149. ISBN 978-81-250-0808-8.
  5. ^ Miśra, Sudāmā (1973). Janapada state in ancient India. Bhāratīya Vidyā Prakāśana.
  6. ^ Malik, Aditya (1990). "The Puskara Mahatmya: A Short Report". In Bakker, Hans (ed.). The History of Sacred Places in India As Reflected in Traditional Literature. Leiden: BRILL and the International Association of Sanskrit Studies. p. 200. ISBN 9789004093188.
  7. ^ Garg, Dr Ganga Ram. Encyclopaedia of Hindu world. Concept Publishing. p. 113.
  8. ^ Radhakrishnan, S. (2007). Identity And Ethos. Orient Paperbacks. pp. 31–32. ISBN 978-8-12220-455-1.
  9. ^ a b Garg, Dr Ganga Ram. Encyclopaedia of Hindu world. Concept Publishing. p. 113.
  10. ^ Bhowmick, P. K.; Pramanick, Swapan Kumar (2007). Explorations in Anthropology: P. K. Bhowmick and His Collaborative Research Works. Serials Publications. p. 188. ISBN 978-8-18387-100-6. Quote:"Though the Ahir, as said by many ethnographers, take their name from 'Abhira', they do not appear to be the fully representative descendants of Abhira."
  11. ^ Guha, Sumit (2006). Environment and Ethnicity in India, 1200-1991. University of Cambridge. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-521-02870-7.
  12. ^ Rao, M. S. A. (1978). Social Movements in India. 1. Manohar. pp. 124, 197, 210.
  13. ^ T., Padmaja (2001). Temples of Kr̥ṣṇa in South India: History, Art, and Traditions in Tamilnāḍu. Archaeology Dept., University of Mysore. pp. 25, 34. ISBN 978-8-170-17398-4.
  14. ^ Numismatic Society of India (1991). The Journal of the Numismatic Society of India. 53. the University of Michigan. pp. 91–95. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  15. ^ a b Sharma, Tej Ram (1989). A political history of the imperial Guptas: from Gupta to Skandagupta. Concept Publishing Company. p. 87. ISBN 978-81-7022-251-4.
  16. ^ Jain, Kailash Chand (1972). Ancient cities and towns of Rajasthan: a study of culture and civilization. Motilal Banarsidass.
  17. ^ Haryana: studies in history and culture. Kurukshetra University. 1968. p. 44.
  18. ^ Bhattacharya, Sunil Kumar (1996). Krishna-cult in Indian art. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p. 10. ISBN 978-81-7533-001-6.
  19. ^ Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra; Altekar, Anant Sadashiv (1967). Vakataka – Gupta Age Circa 200–550 AD. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 143. ISBN 978-81-208-0026-7.