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 and Mahabharata 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.