|Languages||Hindi, Bhojpuri, Maithili, Ahirwati, Haryanvi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kutch, Sindhi|
|Populated States||India, Pakistan,123 Nepal|
|Subdivisions||Yaduvanshi, Nandvanshi, and Gwalvanshi Ahir|
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. They ruled over different parts of India and Nepal.5
The traditional occupation of Ahirs is cow-herding and agriculture. They are found throughout India but are particularly concentrated in the northern areas. They are known by numerous other names, including Gavli6 (in the Deccan) and Ghosi or Gaddi7 if converted to Islam. Some in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh are known as Dauwa.8
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.9 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.10
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.9 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.10 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.11
As a martial race
The British rulers of India classified the Ahirs as an "agricultural tribe" in the 1920s, which was at that time synonymous with being a "martial race",15 They had been recruited into the army from 1898.16 In that year, the British raised four Ahir companies, two of which were in the 95th Russell's Infantry.17 The involvement of a company of Ahirs from 13 Kumaon Regiment in a last stand at Rezang La in 1962 during the Sino-Indian War has been celebrated by Indian media.1819
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, Gurgaon22 and Jhajjar2324 which is therefore known as Ahirwal or the abode of Ahirs.
Ahir dominated areas in National Capital Region(NCR) includes Gurgaon, Noida, Manesar, Behror,25 Neemrana,26 Bawal, Dharuhera, Pataudi, Bhiwadi, Badshahpur, Kosli, Alwar and Rewari. This belt is also called Ahirwal. Delhi has 40 villages.27 neighbouring Gurgaon has 106 villages 28 and Noida has around 12 villages.2930
Rajasthan and Gujarat
There are five main castes of Ahirs in Kutch: Pancholi, Paratharia, Machhoya, 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 the Bharwads, some of whom in Saurashtra use Ahir as a surname and consider themselves to be Nandvanshi Ahirs.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
Ahirwati is an Indo-Aryan language, classified as a Rajasthani language,36 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.37
The oral epic of Veer Lorik, a mythical hero, had been sung by folk singers in North India for generations. Mulla Daud, a Sufi Muslim retold the romantic story in writing in the 14th century.38 Other Ahir folk traditions include those related to Kajri and Biraha.39
The Ahirs have been 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.40
- Adris Banerji (1970). Archaeological history of south-eastern Rajasthan. Prithvi Prakashan. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
- J. Hussain (1997). A history of the peoples of Pakistan: towards independence. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-577819-9. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
- Census Organization (Pakistan); Abdul Latif (1975). Population census of Pakistan, 1972: district census report. Manager of Publications. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
- Garg, Gaṅga Ram, ed. (1992). Encyclopaedia of the Hindu world 1. Concept Publishing Company. pp. 113–114. ISBN 978-81-7022-374-0. Retrieved 2012-12-03.
- Majupuria, Trilok Chandra; Majupuria, Indra (1979). Peerless Nepal: Covering Broad Spectrum of the Nepalese Life in Its Right Perspective. M. Devi. p. 20.
- Nijjar, B. S. (2008). Origins and History of Jats and Other Allied Nomadic Tribes of India: 900 B.C.-1947 A.D. Atlantic Publishers & Dist,. p. 188. ISBN 9788126909087. Retrieved 2012-12-03.
- Nijjar, B. S. (2008). Origins and History of Jats and Other Allied Nomadic Tribes of India: 900 B.C.-1947 A.D. Atlantic Publishers & Dist,. p. 189. ISBN 9788126909087. Retrieved 2012-12-03.
- Ravindra K. Jain (2002). Between History and Legend: Status and Power in Bundelkhand. Orient Blackswan. p. 30. ISBN 9788125021940.
- Bhattacharya, Sunil Kumar (1996). Krishna — Cult In Indian Art. M.D. Publications. p. 126. ISBN 9788175330016. Retrieved 2012-12-03.
- Yadava, S. D. S. (2006). Followers of Krishna: Yadavas of India. Lancer Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 9788170622161. Retrieved 2012-12-03.
- Malik, Aditya (1990). "The Puskara Mahatmya: A Short Report". In Bakker, Hans. The History of Sacred Places in India As Reflected in Traditional Literature. Leiden: BRILL and the International Association of Sanskrit Studies. p. 200. ISBN 9789004093188. Retrieved 2012-12-03.
- Śrīrāma Goyala (1986). A Religious History of Ancient India, Upto C. 1200 A.D.: Smarta, epic-Pauranika and Tantrika Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Kusumanjali Prakashan. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- Haripriya Rangarajan; G. Kamalakar; A. K. V. S. Reddy; K. Venkatachalam (1 January 2001). Jainism: art, architecture, literature & philosophy. Sharada Pub. House. ISBN 978-81-85616-77-3. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- University of Calcutta. Dept. of Ancient Indian History and Culture (1986). Journal of ancient Indian history. D.C. Sircar. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- Rajit K. Mazumder (2003). The Indian army and the making of Punjab. Orient Blackswan. p. 105. ISBN 978-81-7824-059-6. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
- Pinch, William R. (1996). Peasants and monks in British India. University of California Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-520-20061-6. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- M. S. A. Rao (1 May 1979). Social movements and social transformation: a study of two backward classes movements in India. Macmillan. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
- Guruswamy, Mohan (20 November 2012). "Don’t forget the heroes of Rezang La". The Hindu. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
- "‘Nobody believed we had killed so many Chinese at Rezang La. Our commander called me crazy and warned that I could be court-martialled’". The Indian Express. 30 October 2012. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
- People of India: Rajasthan. p. 44.
- Mahendra Lal Patel (1997). Awareness in Weaker Section: Perspective Development and Prospects. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p. 33. ISBN 9788175330290.
- Guru Nanak Dev University. Sociology Dept (2003). Guru Nanak journal of sociology. Sociology Dept., Guru Nanak Dev University. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
- Dip Chand Verma (1975). Haryana. National Book Trust, India. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
- Suresh K Sharma (2006). Haryana: Past and Present. Mittal Publications. p. 40. ISBN 978-81-8324-046-8. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
- Bhoopal Chandra Mehta (1 January 1994). Fertility behaviour of tribals in Rajasthan. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. pp. 4–. ISBN 978-81-85880-41-9. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
- Sukhvir Singh Gahlot; Banshi Dhar (1989). Castes and tribes of Rajasthan. Jain Brothers. p. 117. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
- M. S. A. Rao (1973). "Urbanization and Social Change: A Study of a Rural Community on a Metropolitan Fringe". Economic Development and Cultural Change 22 (1): 170–172. JSTOR 1152898.
- M. H. Qureshi, Ashok Mathur (1985). A geo-economic evaluation for micro level planning: a case study of Gurgaon District. Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Concept Pub. Co. Original from the University of Michigan. pp. 38, 45, 48.
- No moral compass for village between two worlds – Times Of India. Timesofindia.indiatimes.com (2009-01-08). Retrieved on 2011-03-28.
- The People's Paper. Tehelka (2006-12-16). Retrieved on 2011-03-28.
- Sudipta Mitra (2005). Gir Forest and the saga of the Asiatic lion. Indus Publishing. p. 84. ISBN 978-81-7387-183-2. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
- People of India: Rajasthan - Google Books
- People of India: Maharashtra - Google Books
- New Dimensions in Agricultural ... - Google Books
- Gujarat - Google Books
- District History at gurgaon.gov.in
- Robert Vane Russell (1916). The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India: pt. II. Descriptive articles on the principal castes and tribes of the Central Provinces. Macmillan and Co., limited. pp. 19–. Retrieved 2011-01-03.
- "Spectrum". The Sunday Tribune. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
- Koskoff, Ellen, ed. (2008). The Concise Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: The Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia. Routledge. p. 1026. ISBN 9780415972932.
- Nandini Gooptu, The Politics of the Urban Poor in Early Twentieth-Century India, p. 307
- Maharastra History at Maharashtra.gov.in