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Kulhaiya • کلحیا
Total population
3,000,000 to 3,500,000
Regions with significant populations
Bihar, IndiaNepal
Kulhaiya boli
Islam 100%
Related ethnic groups
Shaikh of Bihar

The Kulhaiya (Urdu: کلحیا‎) is Muslim community found in the northern part of state of Bihar in India and southern part in Nepal.[1] A person belonging to this community is also called by the same name (pl. kulhaiyas). Some people say kulhaiya is a particular ethnicity but in fact it is mixture of races, ethnicity and different castes like Sayyed, Harijan, Sheikh[disputed ], Pathan etc.


'Kulhaiya' is said to mean 'cap wearer' as the word 'kulah' means 'cap' in Persian. This makes the kulhaiyas modest. According to some other school of thought, the modesty of Kulhaiyas is defined as- 'kul (کل)' means 'total' and 'haya (حیا)' means 'decency'.[disputed ] 'Kul' means tribe or family, in Hindi language. This word 'Kulhaiya' may be related to 'kul' of Hindi language. Since, most of the customs and practices followed by Kulhaiyas are of Hindu origin. They don't follow Persian customs. Their customs are indigenous, mostly related to other Hindu communities living alongside.



Actually Kulahiyas served as soldiers in the Mughal Empire, the Faujdars of Purnia at the time of a Mughal nawab Saif Ali Khan on the advice of Delhi Sultanate appointed kulahiyas to protect Indian border on the side of Nepal.[2] Those who started this Muslim community in seemanchal area were basically Arabs and have inhabited India for more than 1000 years. Few members of the community are said to be the descendants of Abu Baqar Siddiq, a companion of Muhammad.[3] As Arabs and other Muslims were reaching all the parts of the world to spread Islam, some of them reached to the seemanchal region of Bihar and settled, and they tried to spread Islam. Some of them even married local woman. During Mughal period, some of them became landlords (reliably) of different regions, and under their landlordship, local populations started converting into Islam seeing the principle of equality of the religion. It's not surprising that like other part of India, backward Hindu classes of the region accepted Islam, most of them were Harijan. Also some herders and farmer from other parts of India like Gujarat, UP and many others migrated to the seemanchal region with their families in search of pasture and agricultural land and settled finding the region to be the place of their quest. All the people settled there either converted into Muslims or were Muslims, and the local populations converted into Muslims in earlier part of Islamic history of seemanchal area, i.e., Araria, Purnea, Kishanganj and Katihar. The whole amalgamated population converted into Islam or the Islamic followers coming from different places totally came to known as the Kulhaiyas forming the community Kulhaiya. Even some upper castes converted into Islam as they found Islam to be the true way of life and some of them converted into Islam to evade from Jizya, though they had to pay Zakat in the same way Jizya was paid.[citation needed]

Prof Rauf Anwer studied the genes of the people of Kulhaiya,for which he got his PhD degree. During his research he did confirm that the genes of the Kulhaiyas are much nearer to the lower Hindu castes including some mixed races of India.

Cause of illiteracy and poverty[edit]

Before the strong steps taken by the Government of India against landlordship, many areas across the country were being exploited by the landlords treating people badly and they never wanted anyone to be literate so they could successfully play their landlordship. Education was seriously prohibited till the late 1990s in many areas of India including the Seemanchal region. Landlords were treating themselves to be special in every aspect and used to suggest negatively on asking to affect the generation. A big group persons in the community still now could be cited as examples as they have names as some 'rotten fruits'.

After its final overthrow, people have got a new sun to see in after the 2000s.[4]

Education in the community[edit]

Kulhaiya community is working as labourers since a long time and now too the majority in the population are of the labourers. After emergence of the 21st century, the community started flourishing with its education members. The periods of illiteracy couldn't be overthrown easily because of the landlordship of some cruel landlords who always wanted the people to be illiterate, so that they could administrate their brains.

Kulhaiya is now developing in the field of education as it's the basic need to pair up with the modern world. Many prominent educated figures are also in the community working in different fields. Since the financial condition of the majority is not good, so a good number of the children from rural background are moving to the states like UP for getting Islamic graduation. And some of the children do study in local madarsas also. Number of madras as in the North Eastern part of the state is large. The number of aided and un-aided madrasas in Purnea of all levels is 132 and 431 respectively. The numbers of madrasas are also high in districts such as Araria, Kishanganj and Katihar. In fact these four districts (purnea, Katihar, Araria, Kishanganj) together account for about 54% of all aided madrasas as in Bihar. Since the number of un-aided madrasas in Araria and Kishanganj is not provided, one cannot compute the number of these madrasas, but it can be safely stated that these districts account for a substantial share of madrasas in Bihar.[5]

Female education[edit]

Education in girls has started gaining a little prominence in the community these days, it has not touched a good level yet. Actually the condition is because of the illiteracy among the people and the persons educated are not able ground a way to make any start for championing the education in females. The population mostly belong to the stereotypical group believing a woman should be bounded for the households citing the examples in the print or different media of daily woman incidents. Education in females also worked nice in health of new mothers and newborn babies; in increasing the sex ratio; decrease for the female victims of dowry and many more.

According to the 2001 Census, male literacy among Muslims in Purnea is about 26% while only 15.6% Muslim females are literatell. For the same census, literacy rates for Baisi and Amaur are 19.9% and 26.39% respectively which can hardly be called a substantial increase from 12.7% and 13. 4% recorded in 1981.[6] Araria has about 27% and 16% Kulhaiya and Kulhaiya women literacy rate respectively. Same data goes for Kishanganj and Katihar with little inflation. The Kulhaiyas in Nepal have the least literacy with the worst female literacy.

Notable People[edit]

Population statistics and distribution[edit]

The Kulhaiyas are confined to the Purnia division of Bihar.[3] Bihar and Nepal together have over 3 to 3.5 million Kulhaiyas.[9] The population of Kulhaiya is confined to Araria, Purnia, Katihar, Kishanganj and Morang (Nepal). More than 90 percent of the population lives in rural areas[10]

It is important to realize that along with Purnea, these districts have a high Muslim population (kulahiyas). According to 2001 census, Muslims constitute 67.6% in Kishanganj, 42.5% in Katihar and 41.1% in Araria.[11] Similar to the situation in Purnea, overwhelming number of Muslims of these three districts are primarily rural, non-literate and poor. In Kishanganj, Muslim literacy is only 27%. Only 6.5% Muslims live in urban areas and among the rural Muslims, more than 60% are agricultural labourers. In Katihar, Muslim literacy rate is 26.8%. Only 4.3% Muslims live in urban areas and among the rural Muslims, 62.6% are agricultural labourers. In Araria, Muslim literacy is 27.6%. Only 5.5% Muslims live in urban areas and among the rural Muslims, about 70% are agricultural labourers.[12]

Kulhaiya boli[edit]

Kulhaiyas speak a special dialect which is also called by the same name. It is also one of the most spoken dialects in Northern Bihar. The dialect is actually[citation needed] the simpler and more attractive form of Maithili. The words that used are generally of Arabic and Parsian origins which distinguishes it from the Maithili speakers as the Hindus speak Maithili and Muslims (Kulhaiyas) speak Kulhaiya boli in the eastern Bihar.

Haroon Rasheed 'Ghafil', could successfully develop a free style poetry in Kulhaiya which is very popular among the people. Ghafil's poems in Kulhaiya reflect the culture, and custom of Seemanchal zone especially Kulhaiya. In different functions, Kulhaiyas sing these as their cultural songs which include the rural problems of floods, obsessions by the politicians and many more genre. The most famous poems of Ghafil include 'Hamar Beta Chha BA Pass' , 'Ee Saal Iranko Jhari Aliye' , 'Suna suna hau Fatkan Bhaye' , 'Sune Sune ga Bahin Humar'.

Practice of Islam[edit]

The community is attached to the Deobandi school of thought of sunni sect. Believing in the Deobandi, the people engaged itself with Tablighi Jamaat(TJ). Tablighi Jamaat is working very nicely in the betterment of the community and because of this, many people take 'Jama'at-e-Tarteeb' (a three days Jamaat) moving in the local to spread the message of Islam. This establishes strong relation bonds between the people of different areas. The three days 'Jama'at-e-Tarteeb' is believed to be a must move in a month, 'Jama'at-e-Chilla' (Jamaat of 40 days which moves through states) in a year and 'Jama'at-e-Chahar-maah' (Jamaat of four months which also moves to foreign) in the whole life of a Muslim individual.[13]

Muslim areas of Kulhaiyas have central mosques (Jama-Masjids) with at least on Jamaat group for dawah coming from some specific part according to the provided direction from the Tablighi Jamaat office. The system works very smoothly and simply. In mosques after dua the Jama'at announces people to have a sit close to them and then they deliver their motives of coming to the mosque and request the listeners to think of going to somewhere making a Jama'at. Kulahiyas take keen interest in hospitality of the Jama'ats in their local mosques and after the namaaz offered, the host talks to the Ameer (the leader of a Jama'at) for hospitality in advance.

Present circumstances[edit]

There're no determined titles for the Kulhaiyas, though there are some groups which call themselves as "Sheikh", "Baniya" etc. . This supports the fact that this community is the result of amalgamation of many people with different ethnicity.

Studies are now being promoted among the people. A large number of migration is seen because of this motive to the towns and cities. Most of the youngsters are now migrating to other cities for their higher education. Bangalore, Delhi, and Hyderabad are their favourite places for pursuing higher education. But a large portion of the population are labourers and they are currently working in different parts of the country.

The cabinet approved the inclusion of a Muslim caste so far among OBCs, Kulhaiya, in the EBC list.[14]

These days, the community is scattered to all parts of globe from San francisco to London, middle east countries, different part of India, Nepal etc.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ People of India Bihar Volume XVI Part-II edited by Surendra Gopal and Hetukar Jha, pages 587-589
  2. ^ Aina-e-Purnea by Akmal Yazdani
  3. ^ a b Kulhaiya Bridari by Kabiruddin Fauzan
  4. ^ No Landlordship- Stated by Bombay High Court, 1999
  5. ^ Report according to Appendix of Purnia district Census of 2001
  6. ^ Shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in pdf Purnia statistics
  7. ^ Taslimuddin, Seemanchal Gandhi
  8. ^ Araria#Notable people
  9. ^ [http://indianexpress.com/article/india/politics/in-bihar-caste-rejig-the-backward-list-grows-longer Bihar has over Population according to 1990s data
  10. ^ Purnia division
  11. ^ SCR, Appendix Table 3.5
  12. ^ Shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in 10 chapter 5.pdf of Purnia district Census Statistics]
  13. ^ Tablighi Jamaat
  14. ^ The centre has approved after a long time demand, the kulhaiyas, to take in the EBCs list