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The Hatkars were an ancient people who inhabited the land of Marhatta in South India (present-day Karnataka-Maharashtra) of India. The group was documented at least as early as the empire of Satavahana dynasty (c. 230 BC), And 8th c.The earliest mention of spoken Marathi and Marhatta people is found in a literary work (Kuvalaymala by Udyotansuri).[1] Hatkars are archaically transliterated as HattiKara or Barhatta, BaraHatti in Local languages.


The word Hatkar is popularly derived from the Marathi hat (हठ, "obstinacy") and kar (कर, "doer"), meaning "obstinate" or "stubborn"; In 1342, the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta referred to all the native inhabitants of Deogiri region as belonging collectively to the "tribe" of 'Marhatas'.[2][3] (Maratha (Singular) / Marathe (Plural)/ Bar-hatta, i.e. Hatkar) (Hatkars of Western Maharashtra and Konkan are also called Maratha Dhangar). [4][5][6][7][8]

In Arthashastra by Chanakya Kautilya Hatak means Spear/Bhala.[9] The Arthashastra (Sanskrit: अर्थशास्त्र; IAST: Arthaśāstra) is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, written in Sanskrit. It identifies its author by the names "Kauṭilya"[10] The Hatkar 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 or Bargi.[11][12] 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.[13]

Hatkars are called also Barahatti / Barhatta / Bargahi / Baragahi / Barahghar / Bande Revolutionary / Zende Brave or Telwar Lingayat[14] 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.[15]


S.B. Joshi writes that In the middle ages the Patti or Patti- Jana were established on the south of Narmada. Eeven, today in Berar, Hattikaras are not few in number. Ethowen writes, 'Hatkara-Dhangaras seem to have been of considerable importance in Berar.' The region known as Maharashtra in Sanskrit was originally called in the native language as Marhattas. In Marhata or Marhatta, the part hatta should be considerable careully. This region there, was quite naturally called Hatta desa. The Tryambakesvara near Nasik is called Hatakesvara. In वाचस्पत्यकोश it is written: 'दृष्टं त्रैलोक्यभर्तारं त्र्यंबकं हाटकेश्वरम | .' In Basava-Purana, sri sailesvara is called Hatakesvara. After the 12th century, however, the civil strife between the Yadavas of Devagiri and Halebidu split this land into two, into Marhata and Karnataka (Saint Ramadasa refers to the two parts in one of his Aratis (जयदेवी जयदेवी जयवेद माते | हाटक कर्नाटक करुणा कल्लोळी|) Hataka in sanskrit means gold. Hataka also means a product of Hatta desa. I think gold was signficant product of Hatta desa in ancient times and hence hataka has come to be a name for gold. In Karnataka (in Nizam's territory) there is an ancient gold mine. Sir John Marshal in his famous work on 'Mohen-Jo-Daro' refers to this and says, "In Hyderabad (Deccan), ancient working have been noticed at Hatti. The workings at contain Hatti the deepest ancient shats in India, one of them being 620 feet in depth". In kodagu (coorg in Karnataka) Province, there is a river with the name Haringi (Hiranyangi). This river in some parts is called Suvarnavati. There are many towns with the names implying the association with gold as Ponnugunada (Hunnagunda). The towns such as Sripuara, Shirol, Shirur which have a reference to Sri (wealth) are spread in every part of this region. Even in these times, it is this very region, Hataka or the region between Narmada and kaveri as suggested above, that produces most of our gold. The Kolara gold mines are situated in this very region. From the beginning of the Christian era, during the mighty and well-known regimes of Satvahana, Vakataka, Kadamba, Ganga, Chalukya, Rastrakuta,- Hatta desa attracted the attention of all the people in india. These rulers were dominant in the Indian politics of those days. Hattadesa must have been a centre of political gravity and consequently much wealth must have flown to this land. Hattadesa or the land of gold might also have, therefore, substantiated its name by the accumulation of this inflowing wealth. [16]

Siraj-ul-Hassan notes that, according to one Captain Fitzgerald, who had been Assistant Commissioner in Berar: They (the Hatkars) declare that they emigrated from the south to this part of India many years ago, supposed to be some time prior to the Nizam becoming Subedar of the Deccan on behalf of the kings of Delhi.[17]

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.[11][12][19]

Marhatta Empire[edit]

The noblemen of Maratha empire Shivaji era were HatkarRao Makaji deokate, Balwantrao Subhanji Deokate, BhavanRao Deokate, MalajiRaje Pandhare, TukojiRaje Pandhare, Nimbaji Patole, Venkoji Khandekar, Dhanaji Shingade, Yesaji Thorat, Heroji Shelke, Mankoji Dhangar, Amroji Pandhare, Godaji Pandhare, Indraji Gorad, NaikjiRaje Pandhare, Raiji Gadade, Bahirji Bandgar, Hande, fatehjangbahaddar Subhanji Maharanvar, Amir-Ul-Umrav Padaji Bandgar, Rustumrao Damaji Thorat, Nimbaji Waghmode

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.[20][21] Chiefs from Panipat battle Dhaigude, Pandhare, Lokhande, Bhise, Hatkar, Shelke, Kale, Misal and many more.[22]

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.[23] 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."[24]

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.[25][26]

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-gun 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.[27]

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.[28]

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,[29] 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).[30]



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.[31]

Physical characteristics[edit]

The Hatkar are fine able-bodied men, independent and arrogant, many of them never shave 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.[32] 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.[33]

Varna status[edit]

The Hatkar identify themselves as falling within the Kshatriya (warrior) varna in Hindu society.[34] Deshastha Brahmin are employed as priests and serve the caste in their religious and ceremonial observances.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maharashtra Sanskruti by P G Sahastrabuddhe
  2. ^ Ibn Batutta, Travels in Asia and Africa, 1325–1354, trans. H. A. R. Gibbs (1929; reprint Delhi, 1986)227–228)
  3. ^ A social history of the Deccan, 1300–1761: eight Indian lives, Volume 1 By Richard Maxwell Eaton, pg 191
  4. ^ The Castes and Tribes of H. E. H. The Nizam’s Dominions, Bombay. 1920, pp. 248–66.
  5. ^ S.B. Joshi. ’Etymology of place-names’, Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol. 13, 1952, 5066;
  6. ^ also see Sontheimer. Pastoral Deities of Western India. London, 1989, p. 127.
  7. ^ Landscapes in Conflict: Flocks, Hero-stones, and Cult in early medieval Maharashtra. Ajay Dandekar. Centre For Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  8. ^ see also modern day Marathwada(Bar/ Mara-tha-wada) i.e. area around Hingoli
  9. ^ Kautilya's Arthshastra By B. K. Chaturvedi,Page 60
  10. ^ Mabbett, I. W. (April 1964). "The Date of the Arthaśāstra". Journal of the American Oriental Society (Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 84, No. 2) 84 (2): 162–169. doi:10.2307/597102. ISSN 0003-0279. JSTOR 597102. 
    Trautmann, Thomas R. (1971). Kauṭilya and the Arthaśāstra: A Statistical Investigation of the Authorship and Evolution of the Text. Leiden: E.J. Brill. p. 10. while in his character as author of an arthaśāstra he is generally referred to by his gotra name, Kauṭilya. 
  11. ^ a b The Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions, by Syed Siraj ul Hassan
  12. ^ a b The Tribes and Castes of Bombay by Reginald Edward Enthoven
  13. ^ Sengupta, Nitish, History of the Bengali-speaking People, 2001/2002, pp.132-137, UBS Publishers' Distributors Pvt. Ltd., ISBN 81-7476-355-4
  14. ^ People of India: Maharashtra, Volume 2 edited by B. V. Bhanu
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ Joshi, S.B. (1951). "Etymology of Place-Names Patti-Hatti, Some Observations on the History of Maharashtra and Kamataka".(Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute),Pages 41-56
  17. ^ Castes and Tribes pg 248
  18. ^ Ain-i-Akbari
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ Maharashtra State Gazetteers and District Gazetteers of Maharashtra, 1977
  21. ^ A History of the Mahrattas by James Grant Duff, Vol II, pg. 173. London, 1826.
  22. ^ Creative Pasts: Historical Memory And Identity in Western India, 1700-1960 Creative Pasts: Historical Memory And Identity in Western India, 1700-1960
  23. ^ Nanded District Gazeetter[full citation needed]
  24. ^ The Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions, Volume 1 Pg 248[full citation needed]
  25. ^ The tribes and castes of the central provinces of India By R.V. Russell, R.B.H. Lai,pg 205
  26. ^ Colonel Meadows Taylor, Tara, pg 404
  27. ^ Imperial gazetteer of India: provincial series. Supt. of Govt. Print. 1908. pp. ?. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  28. ^ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/269280/Holkar-dynasty?anchor=ref4604
  29. ^ A History of the Hyderabad Contingent (pp. 76-78) by Major R. G. Burton
  30. ^ Extract from Maharashtra Gazetteer Scroll down to Hatkar Rebellion
  31. ^ Parbhani Gazetteer
  32. ^ The Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions, Volume 1 By Syed Siraj Ul Hassan
  33. ^ 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. 
  34. ^ a b People of India: Maharashtra, Volume 2[full citation needed]

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