For the town in Sagar district, India, see Dhangar, Madhya Pradesh.

The Dhangar (Dhangad) are a herding caste of people primarily located in the Indian state of Maharashtra.


The word "Dhangar" may be associated with a term for "cattle wealth" or be derived from the hills in which they lived (Sanskrit "dhang").[1] Ul Hassan noted that some people of his time believed the term to come from the Sanskrit "dhenugar" ("cattle herder") but dismissed that etymology as being "fictitious".[2]

Current situation

Traditionally being shepherds, cowherds, buffalo keepers, blanket and wool weavers, butchers and farmers, the Dhangars were late to take up modern-day education. Though it has a notable population, not only in Maharashtra but also in India at large, had a rich history, today it is still a politically highly disorganized community and is socially, educationally, economically and politically backward. They lived a socially isolated life due to their occupation, wandering mainly in forests, hills and mountains.[3] In Maharashtra, the Dhangars are classified as a Nomadic Tribe but in 2014 were seeking to be reclassified as a Scheduled Tribe in India's system of reservation.[4]


Dhangars worship various forms of gods, including Shiva, Vishnu, Parvati and Mahalaxmi as their kuldevta or kuldevi. These forms include Khandoba, Beeralingeswara (Biroba), Mhasoba, Dhuloba (Dhuleshwar), Vithoba, Siddhanath (Shidoba), Janai-Malai, Tulai, Yamai, Padubai, and Ambabai. They generally worship the temple of these gods that is nearest to their residence which becomes their kuladev and kuladevi. In Jejuri, the deity Khandoba is revered as the husband of Banai, in her incarnation as a Dhangar. He is, therefore, popular amongst the Dhangars, as they consider him their kuldevta.[5] Khandoba (literally "father swordsman") is the guardian deity of the Deccan.[6]



Initially there were twelve tribes of Dhangar, and they had a division of labour amongst brothers of one family. This later formed three sub-divisions and one half-division. These three being Hatkar (shepherds), Ahir (cowherds) or Mhaskar (Gujjar buffalo keepers), and Khutekar (wool and blanket weavers)/Sangar. The half-division is called Khateek or Khatik (butchers). All sub-castes fall in either of these divisions. All sub-divisions emerge from one stock, and all sub-divisions claim to be a single group of Dhangars. Studies have revealed that they are genetically the closest.[7][8] The number three and a half is not a random selection but has a religious and cosmological significance.[9]

All Dhangars of Western Maharashtra and Konkan/Marhatta country, like Holkars, can be termed "Marathas", but all Marathas are not Dhangars.[10][11]

Clans in India

Reginald Edward Enthoven listed 22 endogamous groups (sub-castes) and 108 exogamous groups (clans) of Dhangars,[12] though other scholars state that this is not exhaustive.[13]


  1. Shashi, Shyam Singh (2006). The World of Nomads. Lotus Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-81-8382-051-6. Retrieved 2011-11-15.
  2. Syed Siraj ul Hassan (1989). The castes and tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's dominions. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 978-81-206-0488-9. Retrieved 2011-07-25.
  3. Kaka Kalelkar Commission Report, B D Deshmukh report, Edate report
  4. Kulkarni, Dhaval (10 February 2014). "Demands for quotas from new groups add to Maharashtra govt's woes". DNA. Retrieved 2014-06-17.
  5. Mohamed Rahmatulla. Census of India Vol XXI, Hyderabad State, Part I Report. 1921, p. 244
  6. Cashman, Richard I. (1975). The Myth of the Lokamanya: Tilak and Mass Politics in Maharashtra. University of California Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-52002-407-6.
  7. Malhotra, K. C.; Chakraborty, R.; Chakravarti, A. K. C. (1978). "Gene differentiation among the Dhangar caste-cluster of Maharashtra, India". Human Heredity. 28 (1): 26–36. PMID 618815. (subscription required (help)).
  8. Dandekar, Ajay (August 1991). "Landscapes in Conflict: Flocks, Hero-stones, and Cult in Early Medieval Maharashtra". Studies in History. 7 (2): 301–324. doi:10.1177/025764309100700207. (subscription required (help)).
  9. G.D. Sontheimer, The Dhangars: a nomadic pastoral community in a developing agricultural environment; G.D. Sontheimer and L.S. Leshnik, eds., Pastoralists and Nomads in South Asia, Wiesbaden, 1975, p. 140.
  10. "Maratha". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica online. 2009.
  11. O'Hanlon, Rosalind (2002). Caste, Conflict and Ideology. Cambridge University Press. pp. 16–18. ISBN 978-0-521-52308-0.
  12. Reginald Edward Enthoven (1 January 1990). The tribes and castes of Bombay. Asian Educational Services. pp. 317–318. ISBN 978-81-206-0630-2. Retrieved 2011-07-22.
  13. Dandekar, Ajay. The Warlis and the Dhangars, The Context of the Commons.

Further reading

External links

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