(Last Updated on : 10/08/2010)
Ahir community mainly includes milkmen, cowherds and cattle breeders. Although the Ahirs and Yadavas form one group, the former are an important community of Haryana
. Numerically, however, they constitute less than 10 percent of the total population. Ahir community is also known as the Ahiras or Abhiras. The name of the community is derived from Abhira, a popular tribe that has several mentions in Hindu mythologies. The name of the community in Bengali language
is Goala, which means protector of cows. Most of them live in the region around Rewari and Narnaul. This place is therefore known as Ahirwal or 'the abode of Ahirs'.
Origin of Ahir Community
The Ahirs today claim descent from Lord Krishna
. Their origin, however, is controversial. Some historians hold that they were a powerful race of nomad cowherds from eastern or central Asia who entered India in large hordes about the same time as the Sakas and the Yuechis entered in the first or second century BC. They gradually spread over large parts of Northern, Eastern and Central India. Ramayana
also have a mention about the Ahir community. In these epics they are mentioned as robbers. During the time of Samudra Gupta
in the mid of the 4th century BC the Ahirs were settled in Eastern Rajputana and Malwa. In the eight century after the arrival of Kathis in Gujarat
, they found a greater part of the region under the control of the Ahirs. The name of the state of Haryana may have been derived from its ancient inhabitants: Abhirayana. The name 'Abhira' may stem from a-bhira meaning fearless. In the Mirzapur District
of the United Provinces a territory called as Ahraura is said to be named after the tribe; and near Jhansi another place is also called Ahirwar.
History of Ahir Community
At the beginning of the Christian era, the invading Scythians and Kushans forced most of them out of their land to lower Rajasthan
in the Arbuda (Aravali region). In Marubhumi (Marwar), Saurashtra and Maharashtra
they served the local rulers and established their own rule. Ishwarsena, a great Ahir general, became master of Western Deccan in place of the famous Satava-hanas. He took the title of Rajan and an era was named after him. His descendants continued to rule for nine generations. For centuries the Ahirs were eclipsed as a political power in Haryana until the time of the Pratihara Empire. In time they became independent rulers of southwest Haryana. In 1150, Vighararaja IV, a Chauhan from Rajasthan forced them to become his feudatories. In 1181 they were defeated by Prithviraj Chauhan
but only after they had put up a tough resistance.
Society of Ahir Community
The Ahirs preserve their associations with the country lying between the Sutlej River
and the Yamuna River
. In many districts like Badaun district, Etah district, Mainpuri district
, Hisar district
, Rohtak district
and Gurgaon district
, the Ahirs are still in a majority. In medieval times the Ahirs gave up their arms and took to agriculture. In early British settlement reports they are spoken of highly as farmers. They stand on an equal footing with the Jats, Rajputs
, Gujjars, Rors, Sainis, Sunnars and Barhis in the caste hierarchy and though they eat with them, they do not intermarry. In appearance, they proclaim their Aryan descent. They are tall and wiry, have dark eyes, long noses, black hair and their complexion varies from wheatish to dark brown. Though mostly agriculturists, they also make good soldiers. In the annals of Indian military history there is sufficient proof of Ahir bravery that is immortalized in the ballads of Alah and Udal of Bundelkhand
Some of the dialects named after the Ahirs still exist. Like for instance, Ahirwati is largely spoken in Rohtak and Gurgaon districts. This is quite similar to Mewati, a popular form of Rajasthani language
. Another dialect of Rajasthani language Malwi is also called as Ahiri. Ahir caste has purely been an occupational caste since centuries. They have Gond clan names and eat pork. The major sub castes of the Ahir community in northern India are the Jaduvansi, Nandvansi and Gowalvansi. The Jaduvansi claims to be the descendents of the Yadavas, who now constitute Yadu and Jadon-Bhatti clans of Rajputs. Nandvansi claimed their first ancestor to have been Nand; while the name of the Gowalvansi is a common synonym of the caste. The Kaonra Ahirs of Mandla and the Kamarias of Jabalpur
are said to belong to the Nandvansi group. There are some exogamous sections in Ahir community. The Chhattisgarhi Rawats are named after animals. Marriage within the same clan and among the cousins is prohibited in Ahir community. A girl gets married before she reaches the stage of adolescence. In their society, the proposal for marriage comes from the boy's family. Divorce is allowed in their community. These people follow certain birth and funeral rites. The dead is usually buried or burnt.
The Ahir community follows Hindu religion. They worship their deity Kharak Deo. The Ahirs observe several festivals and celebrate them with enthusiasm. The women of the Ahir community wear jewelleries. The main occupation of Ahir community is breeding cattle and dealing with milk and milk products.