Ahir

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The Ahir or Abhir (also transliterated as Aheer and Abhira) also called Yaduvanshi is an Yadav caste found in India and Nepal, They consider themselves descendants of Krishna of the Yaduvamsha and traditionally call themselves Yaduvanshi and use their surname Yadav. The Ahir word is derived from the Sanskrit word Abhira which means Fearless or Cowherd (Gopa), who were once found in different parts of India and Nepal, and who wielded political power in several places. The Abhiras are equated with Ahirs, Gopas and Gollas, and all of them are considered Yadavas.[1] It appears, Ahir caste believes that their dynasty is derived from Yadu dynasty, meanwhile Day (12) points out that 'Bishwaparwa' mythology of Mahabharata (it is a section of sacred text 'Mahabharata') reveals that the second name of 'Yadu' was Ahir because he killed 'Ahi' (snake). Madhu say all the territory of Mathura belongs to Abhira (Ahir and the Abhira often used synonymously).

The Abhira (Ahir) were named Gope when they protected the cows, and Gopal when they tended and grazed the cows. 23 In the period (from 500 B.C. to 1 B.C.) when the Pali language was prevalent in India, the word 'Gopal was modified to 'Goal' and by further modification it took the form of Gwal. This has been aptly described by an unknown poet 24 in a verse that" due to rearing cattle, the Yadav are called ' Gope', and after being called' Gopal', they are called' Gwal.[2]

Origin[change | change source]

There are many theories regarding their origin. Most of them link the Ahirs to a people known to the ancients as the Abhiras, the term Ahir being a Prakrit form of the Sanskrit word Abhira, meaning (fearless or cowherd Gopa). The Greek writers Peripleus and Ptolemy have mentioned Aberia (considered by some scholars to be a settlement of the Abhiras) as part of IndoScythia, which included practically the whole region along the lower course of the Indus. By the middle of the second century before Christ, the Abhira country was overrun by Bactrian Greeks from the north. Thus driven, the Abhiras moved south and established many centres of influence. Some authorities are of the view that the Abhiras were a dynamic race of nomadic cowherds from central or East Asia who swarmed into India through the Punjab around the same time as the Sakas, the Parthians and the Kushans in the second or first century before Christ. There are others who believe that the Ahirs are of Dravidian origin and were well established in the country before the Aryan invasion. While the origin of the Abhiras or Ahirs is thus immersed in controversy, there is no doubt that their assimilation with the Yadavas was complete by the twelfth century. It is likely that the name 'Haryana' is itself derived from the word Ahir. The Yadavas dominated the plains between the Sutlej and the Jamuna when the epic battle of Mahabharata was fought at Kurukshetra, north-west of Kama. Their hold over the region must have lasted many centuries after that battle till most of them were pushed out of their homelands by waves of invaders from the north-west during the early years of the Christian era. This was, however, only a temporary set-back. In course of time we find the Yadavas coming into their own, under different names, in the lands they moved into. The Yadava clans that set up their own kingdoms in Southern India include such famous names as the Mauryas, Shalivahanas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, the Yadavas of Devagiri, Hoysalas and Halebidis of Karnataka.

According to Historian P.N. Chopra, The Ahirs today claim descent from 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 from the Punjab in large hordes about the same time as the Sakas and the Yuechis in the first or second century BC and gradually spread over large parts of Northern, Eastern and Central India. Other views are that they came from Syria or Asia Minor about the beginning of the Christian era; were Dravidians; sprang from the Aayars of Tamil Nadu; lived in India long before the Aryan invasion; were descendants of the Yadavas of the Lunar family of Pururavas Aila; and that their original habitat was the region between the Sutlej and the Yamuna from where they migrated beyond Mathura in the East and beyond Gujarat and Maharashtra in the South.[3]

Ahirs as Yadavs[change | change source]

The term Ahir is derived from Abhira, a clan mentioned several times in inscriptions and Hindu revered books. The term Ahir is often seen as synonymous with Yadav.[4][5] The Mahabharata and other authori-tative works use the three terms-Ahir, Yadav and Gopa synonymous.[6][7]

However, most books publiced as recently as 2001, 2005, propogates the dubious theories generated based on old new paper articles and court records, that present day Yadav caste is merely renamed Ahirs who switched their identity in 1922 to Yadav as part of Sanskritization movement of certain Hindu castes. The facts mentioned in the Ahir taken a false identitiy of Yadav is incorrect. And these false informations are propogated in recently publised books, which no authority in subject. The book contents are based on news paper articles and courts records, whose validities are as genuine as a lawyer's statement.

The British census in 1881, half century before any Sanskritization movement, the census mentions Yadavs as Ahirs. It says "The Yadavs, who in their turn are identified with the Ahirs and Gaolis, were the dominant race at that time.[8]

Hemachandra, in the Dyashraya-Kavya, describe the Ahir King Graharipu, ruling at Vanthali near Junagadh, as an Ahir and a Yadav. Again, many remains of Khandesh (historical stronghold of Ahirs) are popularly believed to be of Gawli Raj, which archaeologically belongs to the Yadvas of Devgiri. Hence, it is concluded that Yadavs of Devagiri were actually Ahirs. This receives some support from the fact that Yaduvanshis even now are one of the most important sub-divisions of the Ahirs.[9]

According to Historian T Padmaja, the Ahirs migrated to Tamil Nadu and established their kingdoms and in inscriptions these Ahirs mention they are from Yadav lineage.[10]

Ahirs tradition[change | change source]

Ahir/Yadavs are traditionally warriors-cowherders and farmers. Formerly the Ahir/Yadavs had the exclusive right to milk cows. Their role with the sacred cows gave them special status. They are found not only in the Kaatch (Kutch) area of western Gujarat, but also in Eastern Rajasthan, Southern Haryana, Northern Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Central Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and also in Nepal and Pakistan. The Ahir (Yadav) community are present in large numbers in Terai, the plains that lie in the southern part of Nepal.

Ancient Martial race[change | change source]

The Narayani Army which the Krishna organised and which made him so powerful that his friendship was eagerly sought by the greatest kings of his time, is described in the Mahabharata as being all of the Ahir caste.[11][12][13][14]

The British Rulers of India classified the Ahirs amongst the "martial races"[15] It was a designation created by officials of British India to describe "races" that were thought to be naturally warlike and aggressive in battle, and to possess qualities like courage, physical strength, fighting tenacity and military strategy. The Ahirs may be seen to have continued their warrior tradition by their extensive participation in the Indian Army and police forces. Since ancient time, as per Mahabharata, Ahirs have been warriors; some were agriculturists and farmers. Ahir’s have been serving the Indian military right from the British period and won the highest of gallantry awards like Victoria Cross and the Param Veer Chakra. In the annals of Indian military history there is sufficient proof of Ahir bravery that is immortalized in the ballads of Alha and Udal of Bundelkhand. In 1962, a company of 120 Ahir men laid down their lives fighting against the Chinese - the Commander, (Major) Shaitan Singh was posthu-mously awarded the Param Vir Chakra. Equally meritorious was the Ahirs' record in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965 and the heroes of Chusol (Ladakh) are famous.[16]

References[change | change source]

  1. Rao, M. S. A. (1987). Social Movements and Social Transformation: A Study of Two Backward Classes Movements in India. Manohar. ISBN 978-0-8364-2133-0.
  2. Soni, Lok Nath (2000). The Cattle and the Stick: An Ethnographic Profile of the Raut of Chhattisgarh. Anthropological Survey of India, Government of India, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Department of Culture. ISBN 978-81-85579-57-3.
  3. P.N. Chopra (1998-01-01). Religions and Communities of India. Internet Archive. Orient Paperbacks,India. ISBN 978-81-7094-296-2.
  4. Kumar, Ravinder (1984). Philosophical Theory and Social Reality. Allied. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-8364-1171-3.
  5. Soni, Lok Nath (2000). The Cattle and the Stick: An Ethnographic Profile of the Raut of Chhattisgarh. Anthropological Survey of India, Government of India, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Department of Culture. p. 11. ISBN 978-81-85579-57-3.
  6. Chopra, Pran Nath (1982). Religions and Communities of India. Vision Books. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-391-02748-0. The Mahabharata and other authori-tative works use the three terms-Gopa, Yadava and Ahir synonymously.
  7. Rao, M. S. A. (1987). Social Movements and Social Transformation: A Study of Two Backward Classes Movements in India. Manohar. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-8364-2133-0.
  8. Report on the Census of British India taken on the 17th of February 1881: Vols. I-III. 1881-02-17. The Yadavas, who in their turn are identified with the Gaolis and Ahirs, were the dominant race at that time.
  9. Enthoven, Reginald Edward (1990). The Tribes and Castes of Bombay. Asian Educational Services. p. 25. ISBN 978-81-206-0630-2. Chudásama prince styled Graharipu and ruling at Vanthali near Junagadh is described in the Dyáshraya-Kávya of Hemachandra as an Abhira and a Yádava. In their bardic traditions as well as in popular stories, the Chudásamas are still called Aheraránás. ... Again, many ancient remains in the Khándesh district are popularly believed to belong to the period of the Gauli Ráj. From the Archæological point of view, they are to be ascribed to the time of the Yádavas of Devagiri. It is, therefore, not unlikely that, according to popular belief, these Yádavas were Abhiras. This receives some support from the fact that Yaduvanshis even now are one of the most important sub-divisions of the Ahirs.
  10. Padmaja, T. (2002). Temples of Kr̥ṣṇa in South India: History, Art, and Traditions in Tamilnāḍu. Abhinav Publications. p. 34. ISBN 978-81-7017-398-4.
  11. Bhattacharya, Jogendra Nath (1896). Hindu Castes and Sects: An Exposition of the Origin of the Hindu Caste System and the Bearing of the Sects Towards Each Other and Towards Other Religious Systems. Thacker, Spink. The Narayni army which he organised, and which made him so powerful that his friendship was eagerly sought by the greatest kings of his time, is described in the Mahābhārat as being all of the Abhira caste.
  12. commission, Great Britain Indian statutory (1930). Report of the Indian Statutory Commission ... H. M. Stationery Office. The Narayani Army which the Krishna organised and which made him so powerful that his friendship was eagerly sought by the greatest kings of his time, is described in the Mahabharata as being all of the Ahir caste.
  13. Rajputana Classes: 1921. Government Monotype Press. 1922. In the Mahabharat it is mentioned that the Narayani army which Sri Krishna organised was composed of Ahirs.
  14. Pandey, Braj Kumar (1996). Sociology and Economics of Casteism in India: A Study of Bihar. Pragati Publications, 1996. p. 78. ISBN 9788173070365. The Narayani Army which he organized, and which made him so powerful that his friendship was eagerly sought by the greatest kings of his time, is described in the Mahabharat as being all of the Abhira caste.
  15. Mazumder, Rajit K. (2003). The Indian Army and the Making of Punjab. Orient Blackswan. ISBN 978-81-7824-059-6.
  16. Chopra, Pran Nath (1982). Religions and Communities of India. Vision Books. ISBN 978-0-391-02748-0.