Ahirani has been in vogue for twelve centuries. It is believed that the last Hindu ruler of the region, King Ahir, is their ancestor. All the subjects of his kingdom formed the first Ahirani community. King Hiran was dethroned by Muslim invaders, the ‘Khans’, hence the northeast part of Maharashtra is known as Khandesh. Ahirani people live in houses constructed of baked mud, with clay tile roofs, but these are slowly being replaced by permanent cement and concrete constructions. The men wear the traditional attire of dhtoi-kurta and cap. Women wear the traditionally wrapped sari with blouse. Agriculture forms the basis of their livelihood. Customs still popular today include worship of Hindu gods and goddesses, climbing on foot to temples and forts on mountain tops and annual fairs to celebrate, where people dance dressed up as various mythological characters.
The Ahirani people have a very positive attitude towards their language, which has been widely developed. They speak Ahirani in the home, at work, in government offices, schools, colleges and in the market. They are sincerely interested to see the development of literature in their mother tongue. Around 60% of the community are literate in Ahirani, however agricultural activities keep most of the young people away from school. Materials for use in the literacy programme were developed by Ahirani speakers who received extensive linguistic training. Following a pre-designed layout and methodology, the materials include: a pre-reader, books systematically teaching the alphabet with an accompanying story book, a basic mathematics book as well as teacher’s guides, a spelling guide and alphabet chart, all in the Ahirani language. Further literature development is planned.
As of January 2020
Written and illustrated by Ahirani speakers, the literacy materials are based on everyday life in an Ahirani village. The programme is expected to provide those with limited access to education the opportunity to become literate in their heritage language through relevant and engaging materials. This will help to provide a secure foundation for further education. Through this programme, it is expected that there will be multitudinous cognitive, social and economic benefits. Ahirani community members were recently orientated in the next steps of initiating a mother tongue literacy project themselves. With a literacy committee in place comprising members of the community, they will receive training in how to perform their job of implementing and overseeing a successful project. They will also be trained in how to recruit and train mother tongue teachers to teach using emerging best practices.