Feb 27, 2013

Aheer, Hindoo, Shahbad - c1860's


An Aheer, according to Menu, is of mixed origin, the offspring of a Brahmin father and of a woman of the Ambashtha, or medical, caste. The Abhiras, however, were a pastoral tribe, who settled, about the beginning of the Christian era, on or near the lower course of the Indus, on a tract known to classical geographers as the Abiria of Ptolemy, lying north of the Sahyadic mountain, and of Syrastrene. From the pastoral habits of the tribe, its name, in a more or less corrupted form, came to be generally applied to the shepherds and cowherds of Hindostan. They form a distinct caste, and are especially numerous in the north-western provinces, where they are distinguished as three races, acknowledging no other connection than the name of Ahir. which is common to all. The three races are the Nand-bansa (race), Jad- or Yadu-bansa, and Gwal- (Gowala, cowherd) bansa. The first are most numerous in the Central Doab, the second in the Upper Doab and west of the Jumna, the last in the Lower Doab and in the province of Benares. The two first are numerously subdivided, and bear distinctive appellations, taken generally from the place where they reside. Some of the Jad-bansis have embraced Islam, and, in common with certain other tribes, are known as Hangars. Tribes of Ahirs are also numerous in Rajpootana and the Punjab. In the Delhi territory the Ahirs eat, drink, and smoke with Jats and Goojurs, and in some cases with Rajpoots. The several subdivisions intermarry, avoiding only the four families nearest in affinity; and when they are much intermixed, as in the Delhi district, with Goojurs and Jats, they conform to the usage of those tribes in the marriage of the widow of an elder brother to the next in seniority. In some parts of the Bengal territories they are still called Abhirs.

The Ahir tribes extended to the centre and south of India. They are believed to have once possessed considerable power as independent princes, in the Deccan and Telingana, and the period of the “shepherd kings’’ is often referred to in local tradition, as that which preceded the establishment of regular monarchies by Hindu princes. Hill forts are frequently found to bear names traceable to these shepherd princes. Yemmee Gooda, the hill of the buffaloes, Yenna Gooda, the hill of butter, Gwalconda, or Golconda, the Shepherd’s hill. Gawilgurh, in Berar, Aseergurh, in Khandesh, Gwalior, and many others, no doubt belonged to them, and were, possibly, the capitals of princes of these tribes, originally perhaps, nomadic Scythians. The latest authentic record of princely power among the Ahirs, is probably that of Asa Ahir, of Aseergurh, in Khandesh, whose fort was taken by stratagem, by Nusseer Khan Farookhy, afterwards king of that province, about the year 1410 A.D., when Asa and the whole of his family were cruelly put to death. This “shepherd king” is related to have possessed the greater part of Khandesh, Berar, and Gondwana, with 5,000 buffaloes, 5,000 cows, and 20,000 sheep ; all of which, with his family jewels, and his territory, became the spoil of his Mahomedan conqueror, who rebuilt Asa’s fort, calling it Aseerghur, as contracted from Asa-Ahir-Ghur, or the fort of Asa Aheer, which was, no doubt, its original appellation. The tribes of Ahirs and Gwallas, of Berar and Khandesh, are still veiy numerous, and have stations in the Satpoora and other mountain ranges, where they pasture their large herds of cattle during the greater part of the year. Among these tribes, many curious traditions of ancient greatness still exist.

From the Book "The people of India : a series of photographic illustrations, with descriptive letterpress, of the races and tribes of Hindustan"