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Koli people

The Koli people are historically an ethnic group native to Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana states.

In Mumbai, Native Christians include Koli East Indian Catholics, who were converted by the Portuguese during the 16th century.[1]


  • History 1
    • Nineteenth century 1.1
    • Twentieth century 1.2
  • Classification 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


Nineteenth century

The Kolis of Gujarat intermixed with Rajputs due to the practice of hypergamous marriage,[2] which was commonly used to enhance or secure social status as, for example, with the Nairs and Nambudiri Brahmins of Kerala.[3] Some Kolis had also once held small princedoms before the British Raj period and some were still significant landholders and tenants in the twentieth century.[2] However, most Kolis had lost their once-equal standing with the Patidar[1] community due to the land reforms of the Raj period[4] and, for example, most Kolis in the Surashtra region of Gujarat were still occupied as agricultural labourers or tenant cultivators in the 1990s.[5]

Twentieth century

During the later period of the Raj, the Gujarati Kolis became involved in the process of what has subsequently been termed sanskritisation. At that time, in the 1930s, they represented around 20 per cent of the region's population and members of the local Rajput community were seeking to extend their own influence by co-opting other significant groups as claimants to the ritual title of kshatriya. The Rajputs were politically, economically and socially marginalised because their own numbers — around 4 - 5 per cent of the population — were inferior to the dominant Patidars, with whom the Kolis were also disenchanted. The Kolis were among those whom the Rajputs targeted because, although classified as a criminal tribe by the British administration, they were among the many communities of that period who had made genealogical claims of descent from the kshatriya. The Rajput leaders preferred to view the Kolis as being kshatriya by dint of military ethos rather than origin but, in whatever terminology, it was a marriage of political expedience.[2]

In 1947, around the time that Christophe Jaffrelot, a historian and political scientist, says that this body, which claimed to represent the Rajputs and Kolis, "... is a good example of the way castes, with very different ritual status, join hands to defend their common interests. ... The use of the word Kshatriya was largely tactical and the original caste identity was seriously diluted."[2]

The relevance of the kshatriya label in terms of ritual was diminished by the practical actions of the KKGKS which, among other things, saw demands for the constituent communities to be classified as Bhils, with the Kolis in the middle. He notes that its composition reflects "a common economic interest and a growing secular identity born partly out of folklore but more out of common resentment against the well-to-do castes".[6]

As of 2004, the Kolis of Gujarat were the largest caste cluster in the state, comprising around 24 per cent of the population, and were spread widely. They remained educationally and occupationally disadvantaged compared to communities such as the Brahmins and Patidars.[7] Their many Jātis include the Bareeya, Khant and Thakor, and they also use Koli as a suffix, giving rise to groups such as the Gulam Koli and Matia Koli. Some do not refer to themselves as Koli at all.[8]


As of 2012, various communities bearing the Koli name appear in the central lists of Other Backward Classes maintained by the National Commission for Backward Classes, although at least one is also in part recognised as a Scheduled Tribe. These classifications have been in force since at least 1993.[9]

As of 2001, the government of India has classified the Koli community as scheduled caste in its 2001 Census for the state of Gujrat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.[10][11][12]

See also



  1. ^ The Patidars were formerly known as Kanbi but by 1931 had gained official recognition as Patidar.[4]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e Jaffrelot 2003, pp. 180-182
  3. ^ Fuller 1975, pp. 293-295
  4. ^ a b Basu 2009, pp. 51-55
  5. ^ Singhji 1994, p. 14
  6. ^ Shah 2004, p. 178
  7. ^ Shah 2004, p. 302
  8. ^ Shah 2004, p. 221
  9. ^ "Central List of OBCs for the State of Gujarat". National Commission for Backward Classes. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^


  • Basu, Pratyusha (2009), Villages, Women, and the Success of Dairy Cooperatives in India: Making Place for Rural Development, Cambria Press,  
  • Fuller, Christopher John (Winter 1975), "The Internal Structure of the Nayar Caste", Journal of Anthropological Research 31 (4),   (subscription required)
  • Shah, Ghanshyam (2004), Caste and Democratic Politics In India (Reprinted ed.), Anthem Press,  
  • Singhji, Virbhadra (1994), The Rajputs Of Saurashtra, Popular Prakashan,  

Further reading

  • Bayly, Susan (2001). Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age. Cambridge University Press.  

External links

  • Koli people at DMOZ
  • Koli Samaj Organization
  • Akhil Bhartiya Yuva Koli/Kori Samar Organisation
  • Plants and animals important to the Koli-Agri community in Maharashtra on Biodiversity of India
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