|Languages||Hindi, Bhojpuri, Maithili, Ahirwati, Haryanvi, Marathi, Gujarati|
|Populated States||India, Pakistan,123 Nepal|
|Subdivisions||Yaduvanshi, Nandvanshi, and Gwalvanshi Ahirs|
Ahir 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. The major groups in the Ahir social structure are the Yaduvanshi, Nandvanshi, and Gwalvanshi. These various divisions represent different myths of origin.
The main and traditional occupation of Ahirs is cow-herding. They are found throughout India but are particularly concentrated in the northern areas. They are known by numerous other names, including Gavli5 (in the Deccan) and Ghosi or Gaddi6 (if converted to Islam).
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
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.7 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.8
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.7 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.8 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.9
The British rulers of India classified the Ahirs amongst the "martial races",13 and they were recruited into the army from 1898.14 In that year, the British raised four Ahir companies, two of which were in the 95th Russell's Infantry.15
For centuries the Ahirs were eclipsed as a political power in Haryana until the time of the Pratihara dynasty. In time they became independent rulers of Southwest Haryana. They are majority in the region around Behror, Alwar, Rewari, Narnaul, Mahendragarh, Gurgaon17 and Jhajjar1819 which is therefore known as Ahirwal or the abode of Ahirs.
Ahir dominated areas in National Capital Region(NCR) includes Gurgaon, Noida, Manesar, Behror,20 Neemrana,21page needed Bawal, Dharuhera, Pataudi, Bhiwadi, Badshahpur, Kosli, Alwar and Rewari. This belt is also called Ahirwal. Delhi has 40 villages.22 neighbouring Gurgaon has 106 villages 23page needed and Noida has around 30 villages.2425
There are five main castes of Ahirs in Kutch: Prantharia, Mochhaya, 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 of Bharwads those of Saurashtra use Ahir26 as a surname,27 Bharwad consider themselves as Nandvanshi Ahirs.2628 Their mother tongue is Gujrati.
The Ahirs are also found in Gujrat, where inscriptions and grants mention their princes. Traditionally, they appear in frequent connection with the Yadava – in the Krishan legend. Some historianswho? say they may be Turanian.30full citation needed
Ahirs from Ahirwada and Bundelkhand also known as Dau sahab (Dau saab). Dau sahab means the powerful and mighty of all. Up to 1800 AD, ruling class among Ahirs in Bundelkhand use Rao as their title name which was replaced by the title Maate. Maate means Mother Goddess or Supreme authority of that region. zamindar having control over multiple villages known as Maate. In Bundelkhand both Chandravanshi Rajputs/Thakurs (Ahirs, Chandela, Bundela) and suryavanshi Rajputs/Thakurs has equal status. Ahirs of Jhansi and Bundelkhand either came from Rewari or Gurgaon. A town 22 km from Jhansi known as Niwari which is named analogous to the name Rewari of Haryana, since Niwari is in jhansi zone it is also an Ahir dominant region.,31
The anthropologist K. S. Singh noted that the Rajasthan 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.32 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.33 Noor Mohammad noted in Uttar Pradesh that most Ahirs there were vegetarian, with some exceptions who engaged in fishing and poultry raising.34 In Gujarat, Rash Bihari Lal states that local Ahirs were largely vegetarian, ate Bajra and Jowar wheat with the occasional rice, and that few drank alcohol, some smoked bidi, and some of the older generation smoked hookahs.35 S. D. S. Yadava writes that Ahirs in Madhya Pradesh and some other areas eat meat, while those of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are mostly vegetarian.36
Ahirwati is an Indo-Aryan language, classified as a Rajasthani language,37 and is spoken in the Mahendragarh and Rewari districts of Haryana. According to historian Robert Vane Russell Ahirwati is language of Yaduvanshi Ahirs and spoken in Rohtak and Gurgaon districts of Punjab (now Haryana) and Delhi. This is akin to Mewati, one of the forms of Rajasthani or the language of Rajputana.38
The Ahirs were 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.39
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