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The Hatkar (archaically transliterated as HattiKara or Barhatta, BaraHatti ) are a shepherding warrior tribe, found predominantly in the state of Maharashtra, as well as Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.



The word Hatkar is popularly derived from the Marathi hat (हठ, "obstinacy") and kar (कर, "doer"), meaning "obstinate" or "stubborn"; A Musalman story gives the following origin of the word Hatkar:

A Dhangar, one of the Moghul Viceroy’s guard was in the habit of saluting his master every day, but of never waiting after he had made his bow. The courtiers told him that he ought to treat the Viceroy with great respect. But he kept to his usual practice. His conduct was at last brought to the notice of the Viceroy.

As a punishment, the Viceroy ordered the door by which the dhangar came to be closed with swords. The dhangar regardless of the wounds passed through the swords, made his bow and at once came out. The Viceroy pleased with his spirit favoured him and gave him the name of Hatkar or Stubborn.[1]

Hatkars are called also Barahatti / Barhatta / Bargahi / Baragahi / Barahghar / Bande Revolutionary / Zende Brave or Telwar Lingayat.[2] Bargi is corruption of a Marathi word Bargir which meant Horsemen who were provided with horses and arms by the Maratha Empire who were exclusively Hatkar in contrast to the Shiledar, who had their own horses and arms.[3] Dhangars of Karnataka and Goa are also called as Gavali. In old Kannada lexicon Hattikara means Govali or cowherd. Today Hattikara or Hatkar and Dhangar are exclusively used for the shepherd caste of Maharashtra. Holkars are also Hatkar-Dhangar.[4]


Siraj-ul-Hassan notes that, according to one Captain Fitzgerald, who had been Assistant Commissioner in Berar:

The 1920 social study The Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions by Syed Siraj-ul-Hassan notes:

The "Ain-i-Akbari" describes-

A British commentator, Captain Fitzgerald, once an assistant commissioner in Berar Division, made the following observation:

The Hatkars declare that they came prior to the Nizam becoming subhedar of Deccan on behalf of the King of Delhi. The Hatkars are all Dhangars, or the Shepherds with the Spears. The Hatkars say that they formerly, when going on any expedition, took only a blanket seven hands long and a bear-spear (Barcha/Barchi in Marathi), and that on this account they were called Bargir, or Barga Dhangars. The temper of Hatkars is said to be obstinate and quarrelsome.[8][9][10]

Shivaji era[edit]

The associates of Maratha ruler Shivaji were Balwantrao Devkate, Nimbaji Patole, Dadaji Kakade, Venkoji Khandekar, Dhanaji Shingade, Banaji Birje, Yesaji Thorat, Heroji Shelke, Mankoji Dhangar, Amdoji Pandhare, Godaji Pandhare, Indraji Gorad, Naikji Pandhare, Raiji Gadade, Bahirji Bandgar, Hande, Mahanavar.

Raghuji Karande was the General of the Army of the Nagpur kingdom of Bhosales i.e. of Raghoji I Bhonsle and Janoji Bhonsle. He had the entire army of Nagpur Bhosales under his command and was directly responsible only to them. He was considered to be one of the most capable and trustworthy persons of the Bhosales.[11][12] Chiefs from Panipat battle Dhaigude, Pandhare, Lokhande, Bhise, Hatkar, Shelke, Kale, Misal and many more.[13]

This warrior community, in the districts of Nanded, Parbhani and Berar, across the Painganga River, were in open rebellion[who?] from 1798 A. D. till 1820 A. D. under the leadership of Novsaji Naik and had taken possession of a number of strongholds.[14] Shivaji heavily recruited from the Hatkar for his armies; Siraj-ul-Hassan cited an earlier description: "The most trusted of Shivaji's foot-men and many of the bravest Maratha generals, among whom the Holkars were the most distinguished, belonged to this tribe."[15]

These people of Maval or mountain valley above the Ghats were called Mavalas and below the Ghats towards the sea were called Hetkaris. Dhangars were thus the first people who became the soldiers of Shivaji.[16][17]

Holkar rule[edit]

Flag of the Princely State of Indore

The Holkar dynasty started with Malhar Rao, who joined the service of the Peshwa in 1721, and quickly rose to the ranks of Subedar. He and his descendants ruled as Maratha Rajas and later Maharajas of Indaur (better known as Indore) in Central India as an independent member of the Maratha Confederacy until 1818, and afterwards as a princely state -under protectorate- of British India with a 19-guns salute (21 guns locally; a rare high rank) until India's independence, when the state acceded to the Indian government.[citation needed] They are one of the prestigious dynasties whose name became associated with the very title of the ruler, which was generally known as Maharaja Holkar or Holkar Maharaja, while the official full title was Maharajadhiraj Raj Rajeshwar Sawai Shri (personal name) Holkar Bahadur, Maharaja of Indore, with the colonial style of His Highness.[citation needed]

Malharrao Holkar (born 1694, died 1766) established the family's rule over Indore. He commanded Maratha armies in Malwa region in the 1720s, and in 1733 was granted 9 parghanas in the vicinity of Indore by the Peshwa. The township of Indore had already existed as an independent principality established by Nandlal Mandloi of Kampel, sanctioned by the Mughal Imperial order, dated 3 March 1716. It was Nandlal Mandloi who granted the Marathas access through the region and allowed them to camp across the Khan(Kanh:Original Name) River. Malhar Rao established a camp, later called Malharganj, only in 1734. In 1747, he started the construction of his royal palace, the Rajwada. By the time of his death, he ruled much of Malwa, and was acknowledged as one of the five virtually independent rulers of the Maratha Confederacy.[18]

He was succeeded by Ahilyabai Holkar (reigned 1767–1795), his daughter-in-law. She was born in the village 'Chaundi' in Maharashtra. She moved the capital to Maheshwar, south of Indore on the Narmada River. Rani Ahilyabai was a great builder and patron of many Hindu temples, who embellished Maheshwar and Indore. She also built temples at sacred sites outside her kingdom, from Dwarka in Gujarat east to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple at Varanasi on the Ganges.

The adopted son of Malhar Rao Haolkar, Tukojirao Holkar (ruled 1795-1797) briefly succeeded Rani Ahilyabai upon her death. Although Tukoji Rao, as Ahilyabai's commander started operating from Indore in March 1767 - half-a-century after its establishment by the senior Mandloi. And, Holkars did not settle in Indore until 1818 - a century after the Indore settlement was formally established by the Mandlois.[19]

Hatkar Rebellion of 1819 and Siege of Nowah[edit]

The Naiks of Hingoli and Berar were principally Hatkars. The duty of a Naik was to keep the peace and prevent robbery, but in time they became the breakers of law and the dakaits of the country. Some of them, about the year 1818, were very powerful. Nowsajee Naik Muski's army gave battle to the Nizam of Ahmadnagar's regular troops, under Major Pitman,[who?] before Umerkhed.[citation needed]

The Naik was beaten and he was besieged in his stronghold of Nowa, with a garrison of five hundred Arabs. The place was carried by assault after a very stout resistance in 1819. Nowsajee Naik was sent to Hyderabad, where he died.[citation needed]

The power of the Naiks was broken by Brigadier Sutherland. He hanged so many, that the Naiks pronounce his name to this day with awe. To some of the Naiks he have money, and told them to settle down in certain villages. Others, who also came expecting money, were at once hanged.[citation needed]

Brigadier Sutherland would appear to have hanged only the leaders that did not come in before a certain date. In this way died Lachman Naik, gardi of Hatah, who was next to, if not equal in power to, Nowsajee Naik; also the Naik of Jamb whose clan name is Poli.

Based upon the account from The Freedom Struggle in Hyderabad, Vol. I, (1800-1857)

The community of the Hatkars were a nightmare in the districts of Nanded, Parbhani and in the country across the river Painganga for more than 20 years led by their leader Novsaji Naik. They had taken possession of a number of strongholds, in the district of Nanded and in Berar.

After the conclusion of the Maratha War, the Government of Hyderabad took action to deal with their rebellions. The Contingent Forces marched against the stronghold of the Hatkars at Nowah, situated in the Hadganv Taluk of the Nanded district. Novsaji Naik put up a stiff resistance. He was also assisted by a number of Arabs,[which?] who had recently left Nagpur and were on their way to Hyderabad. The siege of Nowah was a prolonged one. It was started at the end of January with a bloody conflict. The garrison consisted of more than 500 Arabs, of whom more than 80 were wounded and nearly 400 were killed. The besiegers' loss was 24 killed and 180 wounded. There were 6 European[where?] officers among the wounded. So important was siege of Nowah that the word Nowah was displayed upon colours and the badges of the regiments,[which?] which took part in siege, lasting from 8 January 1819 to 31 January 1819.

With the capture of Nowah the rebellion of the Hatkar Naiks, which had lasted for 20 years, was brought to an end. The following is a detailed account of the siege of Nowah as given in Major R. G. Burton's book: A History of the Hyderabad Contingent,[20] and the official papers extracted from A Memoir of the Operations of the British Army in India during the Mahratta War of 1817, 1818 and 1819 by Lieut. Colonel Valentine Blacker, published in 1821 (pp. 480–483).[21]



This image of flag is created based on the information from Parabhani Gazetteer

Hatkars are present in large numbers in Parbhani district. Although a census estimate is unavailable, it can be reasonably assumed that they number around 100,000 people in the district. Yadavas of Deogiri, Muslim dynasties of South, Mughals, Marathas as well as Nizam had recruited Hatkar soldiers in large numbers.

The family deities of Hatkars and Dhangars appear to be one and the same. Hatkars have three sub-communities, namely Bandgar or Barge Hatkar, Telwar Hatkar and Dhangar Hatkar. Bandgar Hatkar and Telwar Hatkar are found prominently in Parbhani district.

Hatkar community have their own flag. The flag has traditional and ritualistic importance during social and religious occasions, especially during the procession of Dariba, patron deity of the village. They may have adopted this flag as it mirrors their martial spirit and profession.

There is an expression, "Dhangar's ram and Hatkar's flag". Meaning, the one who tends to ram and sheep is Dhangar, while one with a flag is Hatkar. The flag is sparrowtailed and is bi-coloured. The upper-half is yellow, and the second half is red.[22]

Physical characteristics[edit]

The Hatkar are fine able-bodied men, independent and arrogant, many of them never a have or cut the hair of their face. Most of the Hatkars do not permit the removal of the hair on the face. They greatly resemble each other, which may be accounted for by the constant exclusive intermarriage of their three great families. They inhabit, generally speaking, the hills on the northern banks of the Painganga. Their villages are placed like a line of outposts along the frontier with the Hyderabad territory.[23] The Hatkar are distinguished from other Dhangar by wearing a red turban, earring and a coarse blanket and carrying staff. Their women wear a considerable number of rings, necklaces, nose rings and ankle bangles.[24]

Varna status[edit]

The Hatkar identify themselves as falling within the Kshatriya (warrior) varna in Hindu society.[25] Deshastha Brahmin are employed as priests and serve the caste in their religious and ceremonial observances.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Government of Maharashtra of Nasik District.
  2. ^ People of India: Maharashtra, Volume 2 edited by B. V. Bhanu
  3. ^ Sengupta, Nitish, History of the Bengali-speaking People, 2001/2002, pp.132-137, UBS Publishers' Distributors Pvt. Ltd., ISBN 81-7476-355-4
  4. ^ See R. C. Dhere, Shikar Shingnapurcha ShriShambhu Mahadeo, 2001, Pune, (Marathi), Pg. 276, 277, 288, 297, 307, 312, 338, 384, 221, 143, 127, 78, 67, 45, 2
  5. ^ Castes and Tribes pg 248[full citation needed]
  6. ^ Rajputs,+living+in+the+Basim+Sircar&hl=en&sa=X&ei=qW3IUfiXN-K_0gGOxYDQDg&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=as%20being%20a%20proud%2C%20refractory%20and%20domineering%20race%20of%20Rajputs%2C%20living%20in%20the%20Basim%20Sircar&f=false The Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions pg. 248[full citation needed]
  7. ^ Ain-i-Akbari
  8. ^ Syed Siraj ul Hassan (1989). The castes and tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's dominions. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 978-81-206-0488-9. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  9. ^ The Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions, by Syed Siraj ul Hassan
  10. ^ The Tribes and Castes of Bombay by Reginald Edward Enthoven
  11. ^ Maharashtra State Gazetteers and District Gazetteers of Maharashtra, 1977
  12. ^ A History of the Mahrattas by James Grant Duff, Vol II, pg. 173. London, 1826.
  13. ^ Creative Pasts: Historical Memory And Identity in Western India, 1700-1960 Creative Pasts: Historical Memory And Identity in Western India, 1700-1960
  14. ^ Nanded District Gazeetter[full citation needed]
  15. ^ The Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions, Volume 1 Pg 248[full citation needed]
  16. ^ The tribes and castes of the central provinces of India By R.V. Russell, R.B.H. Lai,pg 205
  17. ^ Colonel Meadows Taylor, Tara, pg 404
  18. ^ Imperial gazetteer of India: provincial series. Supt. of Govt. Print. 1908. pp. ?. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  19. ^ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/269280/Holkar-dynasty?anchor=ref4604
  20. ^ A History of the Hyderabad Contingent (pp. 76-78) by Major R. G. Burton
  21. ^ Extract from Maharashtra Gazetteer Scroll down to Hatkar Rebellion
  22. ^ Parbhani Gazetteer
  23. ^ The Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions, Volume 1 By Syed Siraj Ul Hassan
  24. ^ David J. Phillips (1 January 2001). Peoples on the Move: Introducing the Nomads of the World. William Carey Library. pp. 369–. ISBN 978-0-87808-352-7. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  25. ^ a b People of India: Maharashtra, Volume 2[full citation needed]

External links[edit]