Habiru or Apiru was the name given by various Sumerian, Egyptian, Akkadian, Hittite, Mitanni, and Ugaritic sources (dated roughly, between 1800 BC and 1100 BC) to a group of people living as nomadic invaders in areas of the Fertile Crescent from Northeastern Mesopotamia and Iran to the borders of Egypt in Canaan. Depending on the source and epoch, these Habiru are variously described as nomadic or semi-nomadic, rebels, outlaws, raiders, mercenaries, and bowmen, servants, slaves, migrant laborers, etc.

Apiru head dated between 1800 BC and 1100 BC.

The name Habiru also appears in the Amarna letters – the diplomatic correspondence between the Cannanite administrators to their Egyptian pharaohs. Ancient Canaan was a vassal territory of Egypt and the region entailed present day Israel and Jordon, Lebanon and Palestine. These letters complain about attacks by the armed Habiru groups who were willing to fight and plunder on any side of the local wars in exchange for equipment, provisions, and quarters.

Carol Redmount, who wrote ‘Bitter Lives: Israel in and out of Egypt’ in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, concluded that the term ‘Habiru’ had no common ethnic affiliations, that they spoke no common language, and that they normally led a marginal and sometimes lawless existence on the fringes of settled society.

But who really were the Habiru or the Apiru and were did they come from? In the ancient Indian scriptures such as the Mahabharata and Purana an equally intriguing tribe or race by the name ‘Abhira‘ is mentioned. Not only is there a linguistic resemblance between the names Apiru and Abhira, the description of the Apiru and Abhira as a people and their vocation is the same. As is the description of the Apiru in the annals of West Asia, so is the description in the scriptures of India. The Abhiras have also been variously described as warriors, mercenaries, robbers, low caste and uncivilized yet skilled.The word Abhira (अभीर) means ‘fearless’.

Abhiras are mentioned as warriors in support of Duryodhana in the  Mahabharta war. Ramayana refers to Abhiras as ‘Ugradarshana’ (उग्रदर्शन), Mlecchas (म्लेच्छ) and dasyus (दस्यु). ‘Ugradarshan’ means ‘terrible to look at’, ‘Mleccha’ means  ‘outcaste’, ‘foreigner’ or ‘barbarian’, and ‘dasyu’ means  ‘robber’, ‘bandit’ or ‘barbarian’.

The Abhiras also have been described as Vratas. Grammarian Panini mentions these Vratas as robbers. The Abhiras are said to have looted the train of Arjuna, the Pandava, when he was returning from Dwaraka being accompanied by some of the members of Sri Krishna’s family after the death of the latter. 

It is not only the similarity between the names Apiru and Abhira that points at the association between the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Indus Valley, it is also the obvious association of the names of other Mesopotamian civilizations to Sanskrit that points at what may well be a fact – that the links between these civilizations and the Indian culture and language was more close than we choose to believe. Some of the names of Mesopotamian civilizations include Subarata, Sumer, Akkad, Uratu and Kush, Mittani and Cannan. 

Subarata  is a cognate of Su-Bharat meaning ‘good or great Bharat’, Sumer is of course a reminder of Su-Meru (excellent Meru) , the name ‘Akkad‘ was associated by Edward Pocock the author of ‘India in Greece’ to the ‘Akkad’ region of the Afghanistan one of the ancient Vedic centres of the world, Uratu, probably derived from Sanskrit ‘Uru’ (उरु) meaning ‘excellent’ – also a reminder of the great ‘Uru’ civilization of ancient Australia. 

Kush is of course linked to Sri Rama’s son’s name ‘Kush’ who is known to have expanded the territory of his kingdom westward of India. Canaan located in ancient Israel,  of course had rivers by the name of Kishon and towns by the name of Ramah. Hence, it is said that Canaan was named after Sri Krishna.

Mittani kingdom was Indic who followed the Vedic Gods Indra, Mitra and Varuna and that is accepted by a growing number of scholars. 

Mainstream historians discard these examples as coincidence. But sometimes the truth is far more obvious and simple  than the convoluted statements made to hide the truth.

The Abhiras or Ahir as they are called today
photographed in early 20th century.

The Abhiras today  are known as Ahir. They are described as wild- looking people scattered about in the most thickly forested tracts of the Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and West Bengal, where they graze and tend cattle. English historian R.V. Russell wrote about them in great detail in early 20th century in his book ‘The Tribes And Castes Of The Central Provinces Of India’.

Suggested Reading:

1.The Ahiras of India


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