ETHNONYMS: Gahra, Gaolan, Gaoli, Gerala, Goala, Golkar, Mahakul, Rawat

The Ahir are a caste of cowherds, milkers, and cattle breeders widely dispersed across the Gangetic Plain, especially in the more easternly part (Bihar, Bengal, and eastern Madhya Pradesh). The Ahir must number well over a million today: they numbered 750,000 in the Central Provinces and Berar in 1911, ranking as the sixth-largest caste in terms of numbers. In many castes there is a separate division of Ahirs, such as the Ahir Sunars, Sutars, Lohars, Shimpis, Salic, Guraos, and Kolis. The name "Ahir" is derived from "Abhira," a tribe mentioned several times in inscriptions and the Hindu sacred books. "Goala," meaning a cowherd or "a protector of cows," is the Bengali name for the caste, and the term "Gaoli" is now used in Madhya Pradesh State to signify a dairy worker.

Some dialects named after the Abhira or Ahirs are still spoken. One, known as Ahirwati, is spoken in the Rohtals and Gurgaon districts, the Punjab, and near Delhi. The Malwi dialect of Rajasthani is also known as Ahiri; there is a dialect of Gujarati called Khandeshi, also known as Ahirani. These linguistic survivals are an indication that the Ahirs were early settlers in the Delhi country of the Punjab, and in Malwa and Khandesh.

The Ahir were apparently one of the immigrant tribes from central Asia who entered India during the early Christian era. The Ahir have been for centuries a purely occupational caste, mainly recruited from the indigenous tribes. As cattle must graze in the forest during hot weather, there is a close relationship between Ahirs and many of the forest tribes. Many Ahir in Mandla, for example, are barely considered Hindus, because they live in Gond villages (a forest tribe).

Only about 30 percent of the Ahirs are still occupied in breeding cattle and dealing in milk and butter. About 4 percent are domestic servants, and nearly all the remainder were cultivators and laborers in 1931. Formerly the Ahirs had the exclusive right to milk cows, so that on all occasions an Ahir had to be hired for this purpose even by the lowest caste.

The caste has exogamous sections, which are of the usual low-caste type, with titular or totemistic names. The marriage of persons belonging to the same section and of first cousins is prohibited. A man may marry his wife's younger sister while his wife is living. The practice of exchanging girls between families is permissible.

The Ahir have a special relation to the Hindu religion, owing to their association with the sacred cow, which is itself revered as a goddess. Among the special deities of the Ahirs is Kharsk Deo, who is always located at the place of assembly of the cattle. Mater Deo is the god of the pen. A favorite saint is Haridas Baba. The main festival is the Diwali, falling about the beginning of November. All people observe this feast by illuminating their houses with many small saucer-lamps and with fireworks.


Blunt, E. A. H. (1931). The Caste System of Northern India. London: Oxford University Press. Reprint. 1969. Delhi: S. Chand.

Darling, Malcolm (1947). The Punjab Peasant in Prosperity and Debt. 4th Ed. Bombay: Oxford University Press. Reprint. 1977. New Delhi: Manohar.

Rose, H. A. (1911). A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Provinces. Vol. 1. Lahore: Superintendent, Government Printing. Reprint. 1970. Patiala: Languages Department, Punjab.

Russell, R. V., and Hira Lal (1916). "Ahir." In The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India, by R. V. Russell and Hira Lal. Vol. 2, 18-38. Nagpur: Government Printing Press. Reprint. 1969. Oosterhout: Anthropological Publications.

Siraj ul Hassan, Syed (1920). "Ahir." Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions. Vol. 1, 1-7. Bombay: Reprint. 1990. New Delhi: Vintage Books.


Also read article about Ahir from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Edward Bharath
I am an American citizen of Indo-Trinidadian descent. My father told me that his grandfather came from the Ahir caste and that he came from Bihar. Is there any documentation of the Indians that the British took to the West Indies in the 1800s, and how can they be located? I am very interested in finding my roots. Edward Yogi Bharath.
Vijay Vir Singh Yadav
The persons of caste AHIR write the surname as YADAV in india like Brahmins write Sharma etc,Kayasths write Srivastava,Saxena. Some prominent personalities like Mulayam Singh Yadav. Lalu Yadav, Sharad Yadav, Ashok Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav etc are AHIRS.
Is the Ahir caste the lowest caste in terms of classification? Is it now known as the Shudra caste? I did lots of research lately but cudn't get a clear idea abt it.
hello, as i am belong to ahir cast from gujarat (india). here is lot of ahir's population in jamanagar, junagadh, rajkot and kutch district.and also a am proud that i am born in ahir cast. thaks.
No Ahirs are not Shudra but they have a different category over the period of time, earlier they used to be the khatriyas (as reflectt by their real name i.e. abhir which means fearless). But due to the social and political supremacy of Pandits (brahmins) they are converted to ahirs which means people who dont cheat and then they become the vaishyas.

but they are not the shudras because then no one will take milk from them even the brahmins
I'm a British citizen of Indo-Guyanese origin. My brother Prof Clem Seecharan has reseached extensively in Indian immigration to the West Indies. He found out that our descendants were fron the Ahir caste of Azhamghar District of present day Uttar Pradesh. To underscore out close bond with cattle, my maternal grandfather was a cattle rancher in Guyana. My maternal grandmother was a dairy farmer. My father was a cattle farmer and my mother had a few heads of cows. When a child was born, his relatives gave him/her cattle as gifts. When I left to study Mining Engineering in the UK in 1974, I had 20 heads of cattle which I left in Guyana, obviously given to me at birth!
Hello Friends,

I am shyam from Mumbai, i am a Ahir.. Let me put some light on Ahir caste...
Yadavs are direct Decendent on Lord Krishna..Main occoupation in old India was Cattle Breed and selling milk products ..Ahir now days are considered in Other backward caste put in latest listso that they can come up with education and different business as many as 60% of Ahirs still breed catle and along with other things like farming or other business..Ahirs are very Godfearing.. and are know to be fearless and hence were called Abhir in ancient india.If i can be of any help to any of you please write to me on my email account.
Hi ,i am an Indo Trinidadian girl...i would like to know if the Ahir caste is a low caste or is it a high caste...i was told that Ahirs were once or are considered brahmins...anyone plz shed the light on this for me plz
all of us know the THe great Shivaji and his mother "Jijibai"
she is also a yadav's daughter
ahir are also known as yadav and abhir.oldest name of community is abhir which means fearless.ahir means destroyer of proud(aham or ahankar).
Shantz, I cannot think of a worse question. What is 'low caste'? It's time we got rid of such silly notions. We are all human beings proud of our diversity.
im barai(chaurasia) from caste and my girlfriend is (ahir)yadav from rajastan,, i wanted to know that whether she can marry me?? my family does not have any caste problem but hers might have some. what are the complications that we can face in terms of caste system.. help me
Ramprakash B Yadav
Indian history tells that the most of the ancient rulers were Yadavas. There was an era when they ruled South Asia even beyond Gandhar-Pragjyotishpur-Madurai. They followed strict marriage rules, diets. They were cow-worshippers. They were great warriors. They can be varnized under Kshatriyas.
HELLO, I manoj from gujarat state and living in bhavnagar city.i am proud to be AHIR as i am born in this caste.. my parents share many ideas about our caste.
Mahendra P Singh
Plz note about origin of Ydavas. Its glory of Indian history. Their everlasting Bravery is due on the indian Fighters (martial castes). poverty shall not be the criteria to judge somebody's caste origin. Yadavas are a large indian community so people from all categories are members of yadavas group. The dev giri, Asir garh, juna garh, narbar garh, Deogarh, jaisalmer, Ludrava etc. a long list of ancient yadavas kingdoms. it is the caste of our Hindu God Lord Krishna. Thanx.
Mr Ahir
I am Ahir originally from Navsari, Gujarat now living in UK almost from birth. Yes, links are frequently mentioned in social conversations and compliments given from other caste members to the relation we have with Krishna. So we must feel honoured about this yet never be lured in arrogance . Ahir is merely an occupational caste and the widespread diaspora all cannot have a claim to Krishna. We were at one time a mighty class, but this eventually disintegrated into a now lower band of caste. The special privileges afforded to us, like for example milking and herding rights, only eventually led to our downfall, as complacency only bred backwardness due to a lack of education of our forefathers in what was becoming a new global world of information and education. You only have to look at some of those idiots who have stood still in time and the rough, uncultured etiquette still bearing the hallmarks from ancient era.
Nice information.
but still i don't understand this discrimination of cast. what is 'high' and what is 'low'?
I am Ahir. i belong from junagadh,gujarat,India. In recent era Young guns of this cast are one of the most upcoming and anticipating players in the field of education and business as well as farming. these people are really straight and helpful. I think in this global ground everyone is growing, So we stay united as human as Ahir. Jay shree Krishna.
Mr Ahir
The royalty of the Ahir caste over periods of centuries has truly been lost by the extraneous recruitments from all sects who jumped on the bandwagon of milk and honey. Compelled by the security, the dream for a better future, it seems bureacacy and public previlidges were a spoil then as it is today in the modern affluent world. Ahir is simply an occupation - any Tom, Dick or Harry can join.
A better study of Ahir caste is needed, not just a study at the point of source, and its face value, but a renumeration of the past history. A lot of water has flown under the bridge since, to bring the Ahir caste at the low ebb.
Ramkumar bhurewal
There are over 86 million Ahir people living in 126 contry. we have changed with time and situation Their ancestors were shepherds and farmers who once sold milk and ghee (clarified butter) for their livelihood, but their line of business changed because of the uncertainty of needed rainfall. Some people still associate the Ahirs with the dairy industry.
kishor pithiya
i am also from ahir community. I have proud that i am from this community, lord krishna is our forfather,
Mr Ahir
We must feel proud to be part of the Ahir community, despite circumstances reclining our status in our wider world. This is the caste of our Hindu god Krishna, and we all have personal responsibility to be part of a group that measures and contain that honour. Ahirs have a long rich, distinguished history that is mentioned in the Hindu holy scriptures many times over, and roles that are synomous with royalty. There are many historic Ahir kingdoms as a proof of their legacy. The so-called many upper castes of today, has zero history when you try and search their history.
Mr Ahir
Yes it's true we Ahirs are now classified as low caste in Asunder, Navsari and Gujarat, by the government of India. But let me remind you all that we have a long rich unsurpassed history, and this history no one can take away from us; a history that is entwined in the constanguinity with no other than our master and creator. We do not require any reassurance from anyone as to who we are or what we are, or to question the paradigms of our apparently mired demeanor; we merely politely request them to challenge their own perspective of being, as to who they are and where they belong? We are Ahirs. Sometimes semi-nomadic, sometimes constrained in our narrow fixated world of shepherding, and other times emancipated in the gaze of the open nights, the vast universe and millions of nomadic stars whose configurations foretold the birth of our master and creator. Jai Shree Krishna.
Ashok Yadav
Going through the comments and querries, I wonder why we need to ascertain our identity based on Varna system as profounded by "Manu smriti". Its one of the most dubious and malicious set of documents professed by the overzelous and cunning "pandas" to serve thier own cause and to run thier business. I am a proud Ahir from azamgarh dist of UP .To tell you the fact, Ahirs of this region were never been tamed, subjugated or exploited. We r fiercely independent, brave and straight. The community is known for its bravery, straight forwardness and r born fighters. Testemony to it can be find in the recent incidents like akshardham attack, parliament attack, mumbai terror attack, Kargil etc. In every operations Yadav's lead from front and laid down their lives for others and the country.
Gyan Gareeb Kushyal
Does anbody know of the suname Kushyal coming to South Africa as a dairy farmer
Karna Singh Yadav
In NorthEast India there are more than 20,000 yadav's. I am One of them.
parbat ahir
i am also from ahir community. I have proud that i am from this community, lord krishna is our forfather,
Me also ahir living in Mauritius. Since my ancestors came here I come in the 5th generation.
Jai Shri Krishna, I am an Indian Ahir and I am proud of my history. Prior to independence or we can say upto 1970 ahirs were with pace with the time. They had good social and financial status. After seventies their was a rapid down fall in their social and economic status. Because of hardship in their work, they lag behind in education and slowly political parties tried to put them in back ward caste (it was educationally backword not socially). Soon, Ahirs realised the fact and now many ahirs are getting educated and shifting from their main business to other businesses. Once again time will come for the AHIRS
Viraj ahir
Ahir or Aheer 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. 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.
My name is Datti Gopal Yadav from berhampur odisha I'm very happy because I am belong to yadav ( golla/gola/gwala) community My mother tongue Telugu & odia
Mr Ahir
Hi it's Mr Ahir again. Ahirs are so widespread across India, basically anyone who does cow or sheep herding is a Ahir? Give up all this nonsense of trying to trace your 'greatness' in the vastness of the past heritage and haploids. It's like looking for needle in a haystack when the clan is so vast and diverse located throughout India. No doubt, the greatness you are looking for might just be within you?

Ahir have thousands of gotras - this is basically the y-chromosome-name of male ancestors, a common line in male ancestry. We have DNA mapping now that can trace your 'gotra' y-chromosome back to Africa? And you'll probably find your real gotra is Muamba (from Mumbassa).
Margaret Kawal
Interesting comments here. I am from Trinidad and Tobago where indentured labourers were brought from India to work as early as the 19th century on the sugar plantations. My father maintained his heritage of the Ahir caste in India to identify his ancestry as regards physical origins especially. His marriage was arranged to my mother as she was of the same Ahir caste and I grew up knowing that our peoples should rear a few cows. I remember clearly how he often reminded me that we were Ahirs with a great sense of pride of his roots even though the British Colonial government had ruthlessly tried to denigrate children of Indian ancestry roots. Each person ought to be proud of his origins regardless of what society claims or defames. I am proud to be who I am as a person but also happy of my Ahir ancestry and my love for Krishna. Om Namo Bhagwatay Vasudevaya.
Ashok kumar
My great grand pa went with Britishers around 1900 - 1910 who's name was Beharry/Behari.
He was from Ahir Caste and from Khizar Pur Ahir Mazra village .Earlier the area was in Punjab state/provinance in Delhi.
How I can find out .
Abhishek Singh
Ahir term has been derived from the Abhira tribe abhira means fearless. Haryana is generally referred to as Ahirwal the abode of ahirs. Rewari Alwar basically south haryana and northern rajasthan is Ahirwal. Ahirs there are often are titled as Rao Sahb in Delhi Gurgaon Haryana and Rajasthan areas. Ahirs were a farming and pastoral community decendants of lord krishna and are called Yaduvanshis or Yadavs. AH Bingley has written a manual for recruiting soldiers in the Indian army it is titled as Manual of Ahirs Jats and Gujjars. Rao Tula Ram ahir played a major role in Indian rebellion of 1857. However when the Lalu prasad and Charan singh movement got pace most of the scheduled caste people started using this surname which benefitted them and gave a bad name to Yadavs now also kurmis and lodhis use thakur surname. The famous rezang la batallion(13th kumaon regiment) is called as veer ahirs because 114 yadavs from haryana laid down their lives and killed 3000 chinese soldiers with automatic weapons in 1962 battle. Around 120 Yadavs died in Kargil, you can refer to all this online aswell.
Vinod K Yadav
The Ahir are hard working people in the world. They are obsessed with the religious and socio economic practices but progressive
Rudra singh Atri

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