Who are they?

The Gaddi are a Muslim community of cow herders. They can be found throughout the northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Bihar and Rajasthan.


William Crooke describes them as a “community of cow-herders” in his Tribes and Castes of North-Western India (1896). They are said to have migrated from the hills of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir or possibly from the plains of the Punjab. The Gaddi of Bihar migrated from Uttar Pradesh along with the British soldiers when they were fighting the Muslim rulers in the 18th century.
Crooke, along with Denzil Ibbetson (1916), mentions them as a subgroup of the larger Ghosi Muslim community, and suggests that they are converts to Islam from the large Ahir community of shepherds who are spread throughout India. In fact, the Gaddi of the Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh claim that they originally belonged to the Gwalbansi (milkman lineage) subgroup of the Ahir, and that they embraced the Muslim faith during the reign of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (1658-1707).

In Bihar, where they are also known as Goala (milkmen), they claim that they are the descendants of the first elderly learned person called Gaddi Salauddin Rahmatulla Alam. In Rajasthan, the Gaddi claim that their forefathers looked after Emperor Akbar’s throne or gaddi and were named the same.

This community has good relationships with other communities and also accepts food and water from them, both Hindu and Muslim. The exceptions are certain lower caste groups like the Chamar (tanner), Bhangi or Churha (sweepers and scavengers), and Lohar (ironsmith).


Urdu is their first language but they are also fluent in Hindi. In Rajasthan, however, they speak a blend of Urdu and Hindi, while in Bihar they speak a local Indo-Aryan language, called Sadri. They use the Persian – Arabic script to write Urdu and the Devanagari script for Hindi.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Although many do not own land, their traditional and primary occupations are cultivation and animal husbandry. The more prosperous among them use equipment like tractors and grain threshers, and employ newer methods to farm. They work on other people’s farms, as contracted laborers in the construction industry and sell dried cow dung cakes for fuel. There are a few who own small businesses or work in offices. In Bihar, some are domestic servants.

The Gaddi eat all meat, including beef and buffalo, but do not eat pork for religious reasons. The Biharis do not eat beef. They eat wheat, rice, lentils, vegetables, fruit and dairy products. Only men drink alcohol occasionally. Paan (flavored betel leaf) is chewed by women and men. A sweet known as bakarkhani made of milk, semolina, flour, sugar and eggs is a special treat at marriage feasts.

Education is important to them and it is common for their sons to be allowed to study to secondary or college levels, and their daughters to secondary level. An average family has three to four children as not all favor family planning. They help themselves to the facilities provided for them like self-employment schemes, electricity, irrigation, chemical fertilisers, insecticides, bank loans and the government-subsidized Public Distribution System for essential groceries.


The Gaddi marry within their community. Marriages are arranged for them by family members. Marriages between closely related persons are permitted and it is common for cousins to marry. They believe in monogamy and polygamy, though sanctioned by Islam, is rare. There are no obvious symbols to show that they are married except for jewelry. Widows do not wear red glass bangles unless they have remarried. Dowry is given to the bridegroom’s family in cash and household goods. Divorce is allowed as is remarriage of the divorced and widowed of both sexes.

The average Gaddi family is restricted to a smaller unit of parents with their children, with only a few choosing to stay as extended families. After the father’s death, the eldest son succeeds as the head of the family and the parental property is divided equally among sons only. Daughters do not inherit a share, except in Delhi where they are given a lesser amount.

Women of this community are almost equal to men. They do housework, work to earn a living by preparing dairy products for sale as ghee (clarified butter), paneer (cottage cheese) and yoghurt. A few of the women work as laborers for a daily wage. They participate in social and ritual activities but do not go to mosques, praying at home instead. The Gaddi have an oral tradition of folk songs and folk tales and are fond of music and dance.

The Gaddi have a council made of a selected leader and five members. The council or Panchayat is not very active in states like Delhi. In Rajasthan they meet four times a year and exists to initiate social reform and resolve internal disputes.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Gaddi are Muslim by faith and belong to the Sunni sect of Islam. Like other Muslims, they adhere to the Five Pillars of their faith – recital of the creed, prayer five times a day, fasting, almsgiving and pilgrimage. The all-important creed is there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah. Fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset for forty consecutive days during the holy month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar when the archangel Gabriel is believed to have recited the Koran to Prophet Muhammad.

They observe festivals like Id-ul-Zuha or Bakr Id (feast commemorating Abraham’s sacrifice during which a goat is slaughtered), Bara Wafat (Prophet Muhammad’s birthday), and Id-ul-Fitr (Feast of Alms). The main places of pilgrimage are Mecca which has the Ka’aba mosque, considered the holiest Islamic shrine, and Medina (City of the Prophet, where his tomb lies) in Saudi Arabia.

The Gaddi have great respect for Sufi saints and are devout visitors to the mausoleum shrines of these saints. Sufi was a popular Muslim mystic and ascetic. Commonly, offerings of money, ornate satin and silk sheets and flowers are brought to such tombs with a firm belief that whatever they will be granted their wishes by the saint. The shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin in Delhi and that of Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti in Ajmer, Rajasthan, are two of the most prominent shrines visited by them.

The Maulvi who leads prayers at the mosque and Imam are priests from other communities who perform birth, marriage, death and other ceremonies such as aqiqa (tonsure), khatna (male circumcision) and whispering of the azan (summons to prayer) in the newborn’s ear. The Gaddi observe birth pollution for a total period of forty days, which includes a period when the mother is not allowed to cook and another when she is not allowed to offer ritual prayer. Both the mother and the child remain confined inside the house for forty days. The dead are buried and a forty-day period of mourning is observed at the end of which relatives and the poor are fed and the Koran is read.



  1. my father write a book on rajistani gaddi.he live in hyderabad pakistian.required litrature on rajistani gaddi nation

    • Please provide me copy of this book thanks

    • bhai plzz book ki ek copy mujhe bhi chahiye

    • can i get it?

  2. ” All India Federation of Shepherds Association ” this is 1st time ever in India where all shepherds are joining or coming under a single roof. This is done basically to make development in Social, Economical, Educational, Political growth of Shepherds. There are around 10% of Shepherds in Indian population but sad part is we dont have a Chief ministers , Central Ministers, Governors and many top posts..There union will bring a great change in the shepherds growth and development ..
    India is Democratic country. Majority should rule India. Parliament is the supreme power centre in India and Assemblies are supreme power centers in states. Dhangar/ Shepherd is one of the big communities of India. More ever, Dhangar Community may be one of the single largest communities of India. Population of Dhangar (Shepherd) community is around 11 percent. Although scattered, Dhangars are found in large numbers in UP, MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, AP, J&K, Karnataka, and Himachal Pradesh apart from Maharashtra. Though culturally/ socially/ professionally one community, Shepherds of India are known by different names across the country as Dhangar in Maharashtra, Kuruba in Karnataka, Rabari, Maldhari and Bharwad in Rajasthan and Gujarat, Gaddi, Bakkarwal in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, Meshshavak in Bengal, Kurumban/Kurumba/Kuruma/ in Tamilnadu, and Kerala, Gowala in Tripura and Pal, Gadaria, Dhangar in UP and MP; Kuruma in Andhra Paradesh; Gaderia, Pal in Haryana and Punjab respectively. Thus, Dhangars have fragmented social identity due to different names in different parts of India.
    In addition to fragmented social identity Dhangars throughout India have Broken Political Identity due to different Political Nomenclature. Dhangars in majority part of India are in OBC Schedule. Dhangars of extreme north India and in some parts of India are in ST Schedule. Dhangars of central-north India are in SC Schedule. As a result Dhangars are kept away from socio-economic power as well as from political power. Political participation of this community which has got a legacy of rulers and is mainly a pastoral community is grossly and dangerously negligible. Looking at population percentage, Dhangars should have at least 54 MPs in Parliament. But there were only 3 MPs from largest Dhangar community in the last Parliament of 543+2 (and now only 2 MPs) throughout India. In Loksabha Election 2009 population of 11 crore plus Dhangars got only 36 candidatures from all over India. 124 years old Indian National Congress had given only 2 seats to Dhangars, the largest Hindu/Indian community of 11 crore plus population. Like wise BJP and BSP had given 2 each seats to Dhangar community. Established political parties so far have not groomed a single leader at national level from the population of 11 crore plus Dhangars or have not allowed growing any leader in India. State level leaders are also few and cornered by so called Dominant leaders and parties.

    Posted by Bharath kuruba at 10:06 No comments:
    Email This
    Share to Twitter
    Share to Facebook

    Subscribe to: Posts (Ato

    • mil gayi tumhe? mujhe bhi chahiye.

  3. Nice documentation of the Gaddi Muslims. Did you know Gaddi groups in Hindu communities, Garwal and Brokpa tribes are those who also followed the prestigious upkeep of the Throne of Kashmiri Kings and Queens. Many are today cow herding families in North West India and in Hinduism and Animism this is a considerable wealthy dialog within Gaddis. There are also various spelling of the Gaddi groups. There are Gade, Gadde, Gatti and they all can be traced vary close to the other Gaddi regions associated with them.

  4. Very informative, well detailed and helped me a lot for my project

  5. what are the musical instuments used by them

  6. what are the musical instruments used by them?????

  7. im a gaddi from himachal distt. chamba and im not muslim probably u r talking about gujjar. this whole artical is crap

    • That’s not true. Other then in Kangra, HP, all other Gaddi are Muslim. They are found throughout UP, Bihar, and Rajasthan, about 90% of the total Gaddi population.

  8. In a family album, there is a post card from the 1920s labeled “group of Gaddis”. There are 22 people of various ages posing for an outdoor photographer a temple. Four of the men have elaborate hats.

    • I suspect they would be Hindu Gaddi from the Kangra area. They are a nomadic community of shepherds, who wear very distinctive clothing. This article is about a large Muslim community in North India, who are mainly farmers, and do not wear any distinctive clothing. I suspect the Himachal Gaddi remained Hindu because the region was under the control of Hindu Rajahs.

  9. Totally wrong information of gaddis, who live himachalpradesh, please correct it.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *