Ahir

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Ahir/Aheer
Religions Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism
Languages Hindi, Bhojpuri, Maithili, Ahirwati, Haryanvi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kutch, Sindhi, Punjabi
Populated states India, Pakistan,[1][2][3] Nepal, Bangladesh
Subdivisions Yaduvanshi, Nandvanshi and Gwalvanshi Ahir

Ahir or Aheer is an Indian ethnic group, some members of which identify as being of the Yadav community because they consider the two terms to be synonymous.[4] The Ahirs are variously described as a caste, a clan, a community, a race and a tribe. They ruled over different parts of India and Nepal.[5]

The traditional occupation of Ahirs is cow-herding and agriculture. They are found throughout India but are particularly concentrated in the northern areas. They are known by numerous other names, including Gaoli,[6] Ghosi in the north[7] and Gaddi[8] if converted to Islam. Some in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh are known as Dauwa.[9]

Etymology[edit]

Gaṅga Ram Garg considers the Ahir to be a tribe descended from the ancient Abhira community, whose precise location in India is the subject of various theories based mostly on interpretations of old texts such as the Mahabharata and the writings of Ptolemy. He believes the word Ahir to be the Prakrit form of the Sanskrit word, Abhira, and he notes that the present term in the Bengali and Marathi languages is Abhir.[4]

Garg distinguishes a Brahmin community who use the Abhira name and are found in the present-day states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. That usage, he says, is because that division of Brahmins were priests to the Abhira tribe.[4]

History[edit]

Asirgarh Fort, built by King Asa Ahir in Madhya Pradesh

Early history[edit]

Theories regarding the origins of the ancient Abhira — the putative ancestors of the Ahirs — are varied for the same reasons as are the theories regarding their location; that is, there is a reliance on interpretation of linguistic and factual analysis of old texts that are known to be unreliable and ambiguous.[10] S. D. S. Yadava describes how this situation impacts on theories of origin for the modern Ahir community because

Their origin is shrouded in mystery and is immersed in controversy, with many theories, most of which link the Ahirs to a people known to the ancients as the Abhiras.[11]

Some, such as A. P. Karmakar, consider the Abhira to be a Proto-Dravidian tribe who migrated to India and point to the Puranas as evidence. Others, such as Sunil Kumar Bhattacharya, dismiss this theory as anachronistic and say that the Abhira are recorded as being in India in the 1st-century CE work, the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Bhattacharya considers the Abhira of old to be a race rather than a tribe.[10]

Whether they were a race or a tribe, nomadic in tendency or displaced or part of a conquering wave, with origins in Indo-Scythia or Central Asia, Aryan or Dravidian — there is no academic consensus, and much in the differences of opinion relate to fundamental aspects of historiography, such as controversies regarding dating the writing of the Mahabharata and acceptance or otherwise of the Aryan invasion theory.[11] Similarly, there is no certainty regarding the occupational status of the Abhira, with ancient texts sometimes referring to them as pastoral and cowherders but at other times as robber tribes.[12]

Ahir chieftains[edit]

Some princely states were ruled by Ahir dynasties, notably :

Military involvements[edit]

The British rulers of India classified the Ahirs as an "agricultural tribe" in the 1920s, which was at that time synonymous with being a "martial race"[18] or Kshatriya, literally "warriors."[19] They had been recruited into the army from 1898.[20] In that year, the British raised four Ahir companies, two of which were in the 95th Russell's Infantry.[21] The involvement of a company of Ahirs from 13 Kumaon Regiment in a last stand at Rezang La in 1962 during the Sino-Indian War has been celebrated by Indian Army & Govt. and in remembrance of their bravery the war point memorial has been named as Ahir Dham.[22][23]

Militant Hinduism[edit]

The Ahirs have been one of the more militant Hindu groups, including in the modern era. For example, in 1930, about 200 Ahirs marched towards the shrine of Trilochan and performed puja in response to Islamic tanzeem processions.[24] It was from the 1920s that some Ahirs began to adopt the name of Yadav and various mahasabhas were founded by ideologues such as Rajit Singh. Several caste histories and periodicals to trace a Kshatriya origin were written at the time, notably by Mannanlal Abhimanyu. These were part of the jostling among various castes for socio-economic status and ritual under the Raj and they invoked support for a zealous, martial Hindu ethos.[25]

Subdivisions[edit]

Traditionally Ahirs are divided into subdivisions such as Yaduvanshi, Nandvanshi and Goalvanshi.[26] They have more than 20 sub-castes.[27]

Distribution[edit]

North India[edit]

For centuries the Ahirs were eclipsed as a political power in Haryana until the time of the Pratihara dynasty.[citation needed] In time, they became independent rulers of southwest Haryana.[citation needed] They are majority in the region around Behror, Alwar, Rewari, Narnaul, Mahendragarh, Gurgaon[28] and Jhajjar[29][30] which is therefore known as Ahirwal or the abode of Ahirs.[31]

Delhi has 40 villages.[32] neighbouring Gurgaon has 106 villages [33] and Noida has around 12 villages.[34][35]

Rajasthan and Gujarat[edit]

Kachchh (Kutch) District, State of Gujarat

There are five main castes of Ahirs in Kutch: Pancholi, Paratharia, Machhoya, Boricha, and Sorathia and Vagadia. These communities are mainly of farmers who once sold milk and ghee but who now have diversified their businesses because of the irregularity of rain. The other community is the Bharwads, some of whom in Saurashtra use Ahir as a surname and consider themselves to be Nandvanshi Ahirs.[36]

Culture[edit]

Diet[edit]

The anthropologist Kumar Suresh Singh noted that the Rajasthani Ahir are non-vegetarian, though cooking their vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods on separate hearths. Though they eat mutton, chicken, and fish, they do not eat beef or pork. Their staple is wheat, they eat millet in the winters, and rice on festive occasions. They drink alcohol, smoke biri and cigarettes, and chew betel.[37] In Maharashtra, however, Singh states that the Ahir there are largely vegetarian, also eating wheat as a staple along with pulses and tubers, and eschewed liquor.[38] Noor Mohammad noted in Uttar Pradesh that most Ahirs there were vegetarian, with some exceptions who engaged in fishing and raising poultry.[39] In Gujarat, Rash Bihari Lal states that the Ahirs were largely vegetarian, ate Bajra and Jowar wheat with occasional rice, and that few drank alcohol, some smoked bidi, and some of the older generation smoked hookahs.[40]

Folklore[edit]

The oral epic of Veer Lorik, a mythical Ahir hero, had been sung by folk singers in North India for generations. Mulla Daud, a Sufi Muslim retold the romantic story in writing in the 14th century.[41] Other Ahir folk traditions include those related to Kajri and Biraha.[42]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Banerji, Adris (1970). Archaeological history of south-eastern Rajasthan. Prithvi Prakashan. 
  2. ^ Hussain, J. (1997). A history of the peoples of Pakistan: towards independence. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-577819-9. 
  3. ^ Latif, Abdul (1975). Population census of Pakistan, 1972: district census report. Manager of Publications, Census of Pakistan. 
  4. ^ a b c Garg, Gaṅga Ram, ed. (1992). Encyclopaedia of the Hindu world. 1. Concept Publishing Company. pp. 113–114. ISBN 978-81-7022-374-0. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  5. ^ Majupuria, Trilok Chandra; Majupuria, Indra (1979). Peerless Nepal: Covering Broad Spectrum of the Nepalese Life in Its Right Perspective. M. Devi. p. 20. 
  6. ^ Mehta, B. H. (1994). Gonds of the Central Indian Highlands. II. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. pp. 568–569. 
  7. ^ Michelutti, Lucia (2002). Sons of Krishna: the politics of Yadav community formation in a North Indian town (PDF). London School of Economics and Political Science University of London. pp. 94, 95. Retrieved 15 March 2016. 
  8. ^ Singh, N.K.; Khan, Abdul Mabud (2002). Encyclopaedia of the world Muslims : tribes, castes and communities (1. ed., reprint. ed.). Delhi: Global Vision Publ. House. pp. 433–434. ISBN 978-8-18-774607-2. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  9. ^ Jain, Ravindra K. (2002). Between History and Legend: Status and Power in Bundelkhand. Orient Blackswan. p. 30. ISBN 978-8-12502-194-0. 
  10. ^ a b Bhattacharya, Sunil Kumar (1996). Krishna — Cult In Indian Art. M.D. Publications. p. 126. ISBN 9788175330016. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  11. ^ a b Yadava, S. D. S. (2006). Followers of Krishna: Yadavas of India. Lancer Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 9788170622161. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  12. ^ Malik, Aditya (1990). "The Puskara Mahatmya: A Short Report". In Bakker, Hans. 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. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  13. ^ Lucia Michelutti (2002). "Sons of Krishna: the politics of Yadav community formation in a North Indian town" (PDF). PhD Thesis Social Anthropology. London School of Economics and Political Science University of London. p. 83. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  14. ^ Georg Pfeffer, Deepak Kumar Behera Contributor S. N. Ratha (2002). Contemporary Society: Concept of tribal society. Concept Publishing Company, 2002 ISBN 8170229839, 9788170229834. p. 190. ISBN 9788170229834. 
  15. ^ "Encyclopaedia of folklore and folktales of South Asia". google.co.in. p. 2771. 
  16. ^ Jalgaon distt. "JALGAON HISTORY". Jalgaon distt Aministration Official Website. Jalgaon distt Aministration. Retrieved 7 February 2015. 
  17. ^ Milind Gunaji. Mystical, Magical Maharashtra. Popular Prakashan. p. 110. ISBN 9788179914458. 
  18. ^ Mazumder, Rajit K. (2003). The Indian army and the making of Punjab. Orient Blackswan. p. 105. ISBN 978-81-7824-059-6. 
  19. ^ Elleke Boehmer; Rosinka Chaudhuri (2010). "The Indian Postcolonial: A Critical Reader". Literary Collections › Asian › General. Routledge. p. 301. ISBN 9781136819575. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  20. ^ Pinch, William R. (1996). Peasants and monks in British India. University of California Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-520-20061-6. 
  21. ^ Rao, M. S. A. (1979). Social movements and social transformation: a study of two backward classes movements in India. Macmillan. 
  22. ^ Guruswamy, Mohan (20 November 2012). "Don't forget the heroes of Rezang La". The Hindu. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  23. ^ "'Nobody believed we had killed so many Chinese at Rezang La. Our commander called me crazy and warned that I could be court-martialled'". The Indian Express. 30 October 2012. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  24. ^ Gooptu, Nandini (2001). The Politics of the Urban Poor in Early Twentieth-Century India. Cambridge University Press. p. 307. quote: The Ahirs in particular who played an important role in militant Hinduism, retaliated strongly against the Tanzeem movement. In July,1930, about 200 Ahirs marched in procession to Trilochan, a sacred Hindu site and performed a religious ceremony in response to Tanzeem processions.
  25. ^ Gooptu, Nandini (2001). The Politics of the Urban Poor in Early Twentieth-Century India. Cambridge University Press. pp. 205–210. 
  26. ^ Gupta, Dipankar (2004). Caste in question identity or hierarchy?. New Delhi: Sage Publications. pp. 49, 58. ISBN 978-8-13210-345-5. 
  27. ^ Patel, Mahendra Lal (1997). Awareness in Weaker Section: Perspective Development and Prospects. M. D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p. 33. ISBN 978-8-17533-029-0. 
  28. ^ Guru Nanak Dev University, Sociology Dept (2003). Guru Nanak Journal of Sociology. Sociology Department, Guru Nanak Dev University. pp. 5,6. Retrieved 25 January 2017. 
  29. ^ Verma, Dip Chand (1975). Haryana. National Book Trust, India. 
  30. ^ Sharma, Suresh K. (2006). Haryana: Past and Present. Mittal Publications. p. 40. ISBN 978-81-8324-046-8. 
  31. ^ The Vernacularisation of Democracy: Politics, Caste, and Religion in India. Routledge. 2008. pp. 41, 42. ISBN 978-0-41546-732-2. 
  32. ^ Rao, M. S. A. (1973). "Urbanization and Social Change: A Study of a Rural Community on a Metropolitan Fringe". Economic Development and Cultural Change. 22 (1): 170–172. JSTOR 1152898. 
  33. ^ Qureshi, M. H.; Mathur, Ashok (1985). A geo-economic evaluation for micro level planning: a case study of Gurgaon District. Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Concept Pub. Co. pp. 38, 45, 48. 
  34. ^ "No moral compass for village between two worlds". The Times of India. 8 January 2009. Retrieved 2011-03-28. 
  35. ^ "I am CS". Tehelka. 16 December 2006. Retrieved 2011-03-28. 
  36. ^ Mitra, Sudipta (2005). Gir Forest and the saga of the Asiatic lion. Indus Publishing. p. 84. ISBN 978-81-7387-183-2. 
  37. ^ Singh, Kumar Suresh (ed.). The People of India: Rajasthan. p. 44. 
  38. ^ Singh, Kumar Suresh (ed.). The People of India: Maharashtra. p. 58. 
  39. ^ Mohammad, Noor. New Dimensions in Agricultural ... p. 60. 
  40. ^ Lal, Rash Bihari. Gujarat. p. 46. 
  41. ^ "Spectrum". The Sunday Tribune. 2010-08-01. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  42. ^ Koskoff, Ellen, ed. (2008). The Concise Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: The Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia. Routledge. p. 1026. ISBN 978-0-41597-293-2. 

External links and Sources[edit]