Koli people

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Jawhar flag.svg
Chamber of Princes 17-03-1941.png
Maharaja Yashwantrao Martandrao Mukne (fourth in second row (left)) in the meeting of the Chamber of Princes 1941
Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Koli language and Kannada
Hindu and Christian
Related ethnic groups
Mahadev Koli, Thakor, Koli Christians, Mahawar Koli, Maratha Koli, Mangela Kolis, Khant Koli, Baria Koli, Talpada, Patel

The Koli are an ethnic Indian group in Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Karnataka and Jammu and Kashmir states.[1][2][3]


Janjira fort built by Koli king Ram Patil


Sinhagad fort built by koli king Nag Naik who was defeated by Muhammad bin Tughluq[6][7]

The koli/Koliyas were Kshatriya of the Adicca (Iksvaku) clan of the Solar Dynasty from the Indian subcontinent, during the time of Gautama Buddha.

koli princess Mayadevi giving birth Gautama Buddha

The family members of the two royal families, that is the Koliyas and Sakyas married only among themselves. Both clans were very proud of the purity of their royal blood and had practised this tradition of inter-marriage since ancient times. For example, Suddhodana's paternal aunt was married to the Koliyan ruler Añjana. Their daughters, Mahamaya and Mahapajapati Gotami, were married to Śuddhodana, the chief of the Sakyans. Similarly, Yashodhara, daughter of Suppabuddha, who was Añjana’s son, was married to the Sakyan prince, Gautama Buddha. Thus, the two royal families were related by marriage bonds between maternal and paternal cousins since ancient times. In spite of such close blood-ties, there would be occasional rifts between the two royal families, which sometimes turned into open hostility.


Records of Koli people exist from at least the 15th century, when rulers in the present-day Gujarat region noted their chieftains as being marauding robbers and dacoits. Over a period of several centuries, some of them were able to establish petty chiefdoms throughout the region, mostly comprising just a single village. Although not Rajputs, this relatively small subset of the Kolis claimed the status of the higher-ranked Rajput community, adopting their customs and intermixing with less significant Rajput families through the practice of hypergamous marriage,[8][9] which was commonly used to enhance or secure social status.[10] There were significant differences in status throughout the Koli community, however, and little cohesion either geographically or in terms of communal norms, such as the establishment of endogamous marriage groups.[11]

Through the colonial British Raj period and into the 20th century, some Kolis remained significant landholders and tenants,[9] although most had never been more than minor landowners and labourers.[11] By this time, however, most Kolis had lost their once-equal standing with the Patidar[a] community due to the land reforms of the Raj period.[12]

Twentieth century[edit]

During the later period of the Raj, the Gujarati Kolis became involved in the process of what has subsequently been termed sanskritisation. At that time, in the 1930s, they represented around 20 percent of the region's population and members of the local Rajput community were seeking to extend their own influence by co-opting other significant groups as claimants to the ritual title of Kshatriya. The Rajputs were politically, economically and socially marginalised because their own numbers — around 4 - 5 per cent of the population — were inferior to the dominant Patidars, with whom the Kolis were also disenchanted. The Kolis were among those whom the Rajputs targeted because, although classified as a criminal tribe by the British administration, they were among the many communities of that period who had made genealogical claims of descent from the Kshatriya. The Rajput leaders preferred to view the Kolis as being Kshatriya by dint of military ethos rather than origin but, in whatever terminology, it was a marriage of political expedience.[9]

In 1947, around the time that India gained independence, the Kutch, Kathiawar, Gujarat Kshatriya Sabha (KKGKS) caste association emerged as an umbrella organisation to continue the work begun during the Raj. Christophe Jaffrelot, a French political scientist, says that this body, which claimed to represent the Rajputs and Kolis, "... is a good example of the way castes, with very different ritual status, join hands to defend their common interests. ... The use of the word Kshatriya was largely tactical and the original caste identity was seriously diluted."[9]

The relevance of the Kshatriya label in terms of ritual was diminished by the practical actions of the KKGKS which, among other things, saw demands for the constituent communities to be classified as Backward Classes in the Indian scheme for positive discrimination. Kshatriyas would not usually wish to be associated with such a category and indeed it runs counter to the theory of Sanskritisation, but in this instance, it suited the socio-economic and political desires. By the 1950s, the KKGKS had established schools, loan systems and other mechanisms of communal self-help and it was demanding reforms to laws relating to land. It was also seeking alliances with political parties at the state level; initially, with the Indian National Congress and then, by the early 1960s, with the Swatantra Party. By 1967, the KKGKS was once again working with Congress because, despite being a haven for Patidars, the party leadership needed the votes of the KKGKS membership. The Kolis gained more from the actions of the KKGKS in these two decades than did the Rajputs, and Jaffrelot believes that it was around this time that a Koli intelligentsia emerged.[9] Ghanshyam Shah, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, describes the organisation today as covering a broad group of communities, from disadvantaged Rajputs of high prestige to the semi-tribal Bhils, with the Kolis in the middle. He notes that its composition reflects "a common economic interest and a growing secular identity born partly out of folklore but more out of common resentment against the well-to-do castes".[13]

The Kolis of Gujarat remained educationally and occupationally disadvantaged compared to communities such as the Brahmins and Patidars.[14] Their many Jātis include the Bareeya, Khant and Thakor, and they also use Koli as a suffix, giving rise to groups such as the Gulam Koli and Matia Koli. Some do not refer to themselves as Koli at all.[15]


Statue of Maharaja Yashwantrao Martandrao Mukne of Jawhar State

Koli kingdoms included

Precisely in parts of present Gujarat, several Koli non-salute princely states (generally Hindu) were maintained, enjoying indirect rule under the British raj, notably under these colonial Agencies of British India :

Uprisings and Revolts[edit]

The Kolis of the Maharashtra and the Gujarat uprised severally during British rule in the India and kingdoms.[44] here are some of rebellions including;


Here are some of the clans adopted by kolis. according to Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency Captain Macintosh Mentioned the Mahadev Kolis of maharashtra belong to twenty four clan some of them are

36 royal clans by James Tod


The Koli community of the Maharashtra and the Gujarat have their traditional dances. Here are some of dances including;

The US President, Mr. Barack Obama enjoying with the school children, at a folk dance on Koli geet, at the celebration of Diwali Festival in Mumbai on November 07, 2010
Pandit Jawhar Lal Nehru Doing Koli Dance with Koli Women 1961
'Koli dance' performance at 'Golden jubilee celebrations' of 'Sacred Heart Parish' in worli.(Sunday 16-1-2011)
  • Koli Dance, The Koli Dance of Maharashtra is one of the traditional folk dances of the India. The dance is performed by both men and women in two groups.[62] The dancers move in unison, portraying the movement of rowing a boat.[63] in November 2010, United States's president Barack Obama enjoyed the Koli Dance in Mumbai.[64][65] at 20 January 1961, The first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru enjoyed and celebrated the koli dance in Republic Day parade with kolis of Bandra.[66]
  • Tippani Dance, The Tippani dance is a traditionally folk dance of the Gujarat founded by koli women of Chorwad in Saurashtra region of Gujarat. Gujaratis perform this dance form as their wedding dance.[67][68][69]
  • Bohada Dance, the Bohada dance is a tribal dance of the Maharashtra. It is perforned by the Malhar Kolis and Mahadeo Kolis. In this dance, kolis use the Wooden Masks so it called as 'Dance of Masks'.[70][71]


As of 2012, various communities bearing the Koli name appear in the central lists of Other Backward Classes maintained by the National Commission for Backward Classes, although at least one is also in part recognised as a Scheduled Tribe. These classifications have been in force since at least 1993.[72]

The Government of India classified the Koli community as Scheduled Caste in the 2001 census for the states of Delhi,[73] Madhya Pradesh[74] and Rajasthan.[75]

Koli Christian[edit]

While the Koli are mostly Hindu, in Mumbai, Converted Native Christians include autochthonous Koli East Indian Catholics, who were converted by the Portuguese during the 16th century.[citation needed]

Notable people[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ The Patidars were formerly known as Kanbi, but by 1931 had gained official recognition as Patidar.[12]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Bayly, Susan (2001). Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521798426.
  • James, V. (1977). "Marriage Customs of Christian Son Kolis". Asian Folklore Studies. 36 (2): 131–148. doi:10.2307/1177821. JSTOR 1177821.

External links[edit]