2. Dvitīyaṃ kāṇḍam

15. vaiśyavargaḥ

(Über Vaiśyas)

10. Vers 78c - 83c
Handel I: Handel, Kauf, Verkauf


Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya [যোগেন্দ্রনাথ ভট্টাচার্য্য] über Händlerkasten (1896)

Herausgegeben von Alois Payer 

Zitierweise | cite as: Amarasiṃha <6./8. Jhdt. n. Chr.>: Nāmaliṅgānuśāsana (Amarakośa) / übersetzt von Alois Payer <1944 - >. -- 2. Dvitīyaṃ kāṇḍam. -- 15. vaiśyavargaḥ  (Über Vaiśyas). -- 10. Vers 78c - 83c: Handel I: Handel, Kauf, Verkauf.  -- Anhang: Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya [যোগেন্দ্রনাথ ভট্টাচার্য্য] über Händlerkasten (1896). -- Fassung vom 2017-05-03. --  URL:                                                 

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Bhattacharya, Jogendra Nath [ভট্টাচার্য্য, যোগেন্দ্রনাথ]: Hindu castes and sects : an exposition of the origin of the Hindu caste system and the bearing of the sects towards each other and toward other religious systems. -- Calcutta : Thacker, Spink,  1896. -- 623 S. -- S. 198 - 223


  1. CHAP. I. —THE BANIYAS [বনিয়া] OF BENGAL [বঙ্গ].
    1. § 1. — Suvarna Baniks [সুবর্ণ বণিক] of Bengal.
    2. § 2. — The Gandha Baniks [গন্ধ বণিক] of Bengal.
  2. CHAP. II. —THE BANIYAS [बनिया / બનિયા] OF NORTHERN INDIA.
    1. § 1. — The Agarwals [अग्रवाल].
    2. § 2. — The Ossawals [ओसवाल], Srimals [श्रीमाल] and Sri Srimals  [श्री श्रीमाल].
    3. § 3. — The Khandelwal [खंडेलवाल] Baniyas.
    4. § 4. — The Srimali [श्रीमाली] Baniyas.
    5. § 5. — The Palliwal [पल्लीवाल] Baniyas.
    6. § 6. — The Porawal [पोरवाल] Baniyas.
    7. § 7. — The Bhatiyas [भाटिया].
    8. § 8. — The Mahesri [महेसरी] Baniyas.
    9. § 9. — The Agrahari [अग्रहरि] Baniyas.
    10. § 10. — The Dhunsar [धूसर] Baniyas.
    11. § 11. — The Umar [उमर] Baniyas.
    12. § 12. — The Rastogi [रस्तोगी] Baniyas.
    13. §§ 13, 14. — The Kasarwani [केसरवानी] and the Kasanadhan Baniyas.
    14. § 15. — The Lohiya [लोहिया] Baniyas.
    15. § 16. — The Soniyas.
    16. § 17. — The Sura Seni [शूरसेनी] Baniyas.
    17. § 18. — The Bara Seni [बरसेनी] Baniyas.
    18. § 19. — The Baranwal [बरनवाल] Baniyas.
    19. § 20. — The Ayodhya Basi [अयोध्यावंशी / अयोध्यावासी] Baniyas.
    20. § 21. — The Jaiswar [जैसवार] Baniyas.
    21. § 22. — The Mahobiya [महोबीया] Baniyas.
    22. § 23. — The Mahuria Baniyas.
    23. § 24. — The Bais Baniyas.
    24. § 25. — The Kath Baniyas.
    25. § 26. — The Raoniyar Baniyas.
    26. § 27. — The Jameya Baniyas.
    27. § 28. — The Lohana [लोहान] Baniyas.
    28. § 29.—The Rewari [रेवाड़ी] Baniyas.
    29. § 30. — The Kanu Baniyas.
  3. CHAP. III. — THE BANIYAS [બનિયા] OF GUJRAT [ગુજરાત].


CHAP. I. —THE BANIYAS [বনিয়া] OF BENGAL [বঙ্গ].

The word Baniya [বনিয়া] is a corruption of the Sanskrit word banik [vaṇij] which means “merchant.” The Baniyas are certainly entitled to be regarded as Vaishyas [ৱৈশ্য]. But the Baniyas of Bengal [বঙ্গ9 do not wear the sacred thread, and the best of them are looked upon as inferior Sudras. The Baniyas proper of Bengal are divided into two classes, namely, —

  1. Suvarna Banika [সুবর্ণ বণিক] — gold merchants.
  2. Gandha Banika [গন্ধ বণিক] —spice merchants.

Besides these there are two other classes, namely,

whose profession and caste names entitle them to some extent to be regarded as Baniyas, but who are not popularly taken to come under the category. From the point of view of caste, the Gandha Baniks, Kansa Baniks, and Sankha Baniks have all a higher position than Suvarna Baniks; but in respect of wealth, intelligence and culture, the latter stand on a far higher footing.

There are among the Sonar Baniyas [স্বর্ণ বনিয়া]  a great many who are big capitalists. These have very little enterprise, and generally seek the safest investments. The middle classes among them have generally poddari shops [পোদ্দারঈ - Wechselstuben]  in the large towns where they sell and buy gold and silver in the form of ingots, as well as in the shape of plate and jewellery.

The Gandha Baniyas form the majority of the grocery shopkeepers of Bengal.

The Kansa Baniks and Sankha Baniks also pursue the occupations assigned to their castes. There are many well-to-do people among the Gandha Baniyas and the Kansa Baniyas, but the Sankha Baniyas are, as a class, very poor.

§ 1. —Suvarna Baniks [সুবর্ণ বণিক] of Bengal.

The Suvarna Baniks [সুবর্ণ বণিক] are popularly called Sonar Baniyas [স্বর্ণ বনিয়া]. They are a very intelligent and well-to-do class, but they are treated as a degraded caste. The good Brahmans do not take even a drink of water from their hands. Their spiritual guides are the Chaitanite [চৈতন্য, 1486 -1533] Gossains [গোসাই], and their religious services are performed by a class of degraded Brahmans called Sonar Baniya Brahmans.

The Sonar Baniyas are believed to be very hard-fisted, and perhaps they are actually so in certain concerns of life; but they never deny themselves any personal comfort consistent with their ideas of economy. Some of them live in palatial mansions, and keep splendid equipages. They do not invest much of their money for the benefit of their souls in the next world, and with the exception of a few of their wealthy members, they very seldom incur any expenditure by way of charity to the poor. As a class the Sonar Baniyas are, by nature, endowed with very strong common sense and sound judgment, and so they seldom fail to prosper in any line of business which they take up. Though traders by caste, they do not take any considerable share in either the internal or the foreign trade of the country. As already stated, there is very little enterprise among them, and a Sonar Baniya who has a long purse generally seeks more to conserve his patrimony than to improve it by risky speculations.

The free admission of all the castes into the English schools and colleges set up in the country, since the commencement of British rule, has enabled many of the Sonar Baniyas to distinguish themselves, more or less, as English scholars. The greatest among these was the late Mr. Lal Behari Dey [লাল বিহারী দে,  1824 – 1892], the well-known author of the Govinda Samanta [গোবিন্দ সামন্ত] and the Folk Tales of Bengal. Babu Bhola Nath Chandra [ভোলানাথ চন্দ্র, 1822 - 1910], the author of Travels in India, is also of the Sonar Baniya caste. I do not know any Sonar Baniya who has yet attained much eminence in the Bar; but in the Judicial Service, there are many who hold very high positions. The most notable among them is Babu Brajendra Kumar Seal [ব্রজেন্দ্রকুমার শীল], who has now the rank of a District Court Judge, and who may one day prove an ornament of the Bengal High Court. In the Medical Service also there are some Sonar Baniyas holding very high positions.

The total Sonar Baniya population of Bengal is according to the last Census 97,540 souls in all. They are divided into two classes called

The usual surnames of the Saptagramis [সপ্তগ্রামী] are 

Very few of these titles are peculiar to the class. But the leading Mallicks [মল্লিক], Seals [শীল] and Lahas [লহ] of Calcutta [কলকাতা] are of the Saptagrami division of the Sonar Baniya caste. Abandoned by the higher classes of Brahmans, the Sonar Baniyas have naturally fallen into the hands of the Chaitanite [চৈতন্য, 1486 -1533] Gossains [গোসাই]. The teachings of their spiritual guides have made them strict abstainers from animal food and intoxicating drinks. To that extent their religion has had a very wholesome influence on them. The inevitable result of Vishnuvite [ৱৈষ্ণৱ] teachings is, however, to cause a relaxation of the fetters by which the noble religion of the primitive Hindu Rishis [ঋষি] sought to enforce sexual fidelity, and it is said that by leading their followers to pander to them in imitating the alleged flirtations of Krishna [কৠষ্ণ], the Chaitanite Gossains, and the Ballavachari [శ్రీ పాద వల్లభాచార్యులూ,  1479 - 1531] Maharajas are sometimes able to make them wallow very deep in the mire of the most abominable practices. But, though the religion of the Gossains may be calculated to corrupt the morality of their followers, it must he almost impossible for the teachers to take advantage of their cult for the gratification of their lust, without losing the esteem of their disciples which is their only source of income. Many of the Gossains, whom I know, are themselves very good men, and the chellas [চেলা] being also very shrewd men of the world, the stories that are usually retailed about their religious practices must to a great extent be quite without foundation. It is only when the chella is a young widow without any near relation to protect her, that the spiritual teacher may find it possible or safe to corrupt her. But even in such cases the Gossain is boycotted by his disciples in a manner which makes him very miserable indeed. Even apart from such checks, no class of men can possibly be so bad as some of their religions tend to make them.

The Sonar Baniyas are very neat and clean in their habits. They dress very decently, and their style of conversation very seldom betrays their low status in caste. Their ladies are generally very handsome.

§ 2. — The Gandha Baniks [গন্ধ বণিক] of Bengal,

The Gandha Baniks, though entitled to be regarded as Vaishyas [ৱৈশ্য], are treated in Bengal as middle class Sudras [শূদ্র], from whom a good Brahman may take a drink of water without any hesitation. A Brahman may even condescend so far as to accept their gifts and officiate at their religious ceremonies, without losing altogether his connection with his caste.

The Gandha Baniks usually live by keeping shops, where they sell spices, sugar, ghi [ঘি], salt, medicines and food-grains. They retail opium and charas [চরস - handgerolltes Haschisch]. But they very seldom sell ganja [গাঁজা], except through a Mahomedan servant. The majority of the shopkeepers of Bengal are either Gandha Baniks or Telis [তেী - Ölhändler]. There are not, among the Gandha Baniks, such big capitalists as are to be found among the Sonar Baniyas; nor such big traders as among the Telis. But, generally speaking, the Gandha Baniyas are a well-to-do class. They stick to the profession of their caste, and I do not know any member of the class who has obtained any University distinction, or has held any high office in the service of Government. The Gandha Baniyas are all, however, possessed of sufficient education to be able to keep accounts. Their usual surnames are

Their total numerical strength is, according to the last Census, 123,765.

The Gandha Baniyas live in good houses. But they very seldom spend much of their wealth in any other kind of personal comfort. It is very unusual for them to be dressed decently, and even the wealthiest among them generally live in a very shabby style. The Gandha Baniyas spend very considerable amounts in Pujas [পূজা] and marriages. But in other respects, the priestly class have very little influence on them either for good or evil. Their women have a very high character for conjugal fidelity.


To give an exhaustive list of the several Baniya [बनिया / બનિયા] tribes and of their sub-tribes is quite as impossible as the enumeration of the several clans of the Rajputs  [राज्पुत्] and the Brahmans. In the Annals of Rajasthan [राजस्थान] it is stated that the author’s Jaina [जैन] teacher, who had for a series of years been engaged in compiling a catalogue of the Baniya tribes, and had at one time included in it the names of not lएss than 1,800 different clans, was obliged to abandon the pursuit, on obtaining from a brother priest, from a distant province, one hundred and fifty new names. * 

* Tod’s Annals of Rajasthan, Vol. II., p. 182.

Colonel [James] Tod’s [1782 – 1835] teacher was evidently contemplating the enumeration, not only of the main tribes, but of their sub-divisions in every part of India, including Gujrat [ગુજરાત], where the sub-divisions among the Baniyas [બનિયા] are as numerous as those among the local Brahmans. The main divisions of the Baniyas are not quite so numerous as the statement cited above from the Annals of Rajasthan might suggest. The commercial tribes best known and most usually found in Upper India are the following 

  1. Agarwala [अग्रवाल].
  2. Osswal [ओसवाल] (including the Srimals [श्रीमाल] and Sri Srimals [श्री श्रीमाल]).
  3. Khandelwal [खंडेलवाल].
  4. Srimali [श्रीमाली].
  5. Palliwal [पल्लीवाल].
  6. Porawal [पोरवाल].
  7. Bhatiya [भाटिया].
  8. Mahesri [महेसरी].
  9. Agrahari [अग्रहरि].
  10. Dhusar [धूसर].
  11. Umar [उमर].
  12. Rastogi [रस्तोगी].
  13. Kesarwani [केसरवानी].
  14. Kesandhan.
  15. Lohiya [लोहिया].
  16. Soniya.
  17. Sura Seni [शूरसेनी].
  18. Bara Seni [बरसेनी] .
  19. Baranwal [बरनवाल].
  20. Ayodhya Bansi [अयोध्यावंशी / अयोध्यावासी].
  21. Jaiswar [जैसवार].
  22. Mahobiya [महोबीया].
  23. Mahuria.
  24. The Bais Baniyas.
  25. The Kath Baniyas.
  26. The Raoniyas.
  27. The Janarya.
  28. The Lohana [लोहान].
  29. The Rewari [रेवाड़ी] Baniyas.
  30. The Kanu.

Of these the first ten are the richest and most enterprising. They claim Rajputana [राजपूताना] and the adjoining tracts as their original home, but are to be found in every part of Upper India, from the Sutlej [ਸਤਲੁਜ] to the Brahmaputra [ব্ৰহ্মপুত্ৰ]. They are, generally speaking, very intelligent, and, although not possessing much of literary culture, their aristocratic appearance, cleanly habits, courteous manners, and capacity for every kind of business, mark them out as men of a superior stamp. They are all strict vegetarians and abstainers from strong drinks.

The above are the chief tribes of Upper India that usually profess to be, and are recognized as, branches of the Baniya [बनिया / બનિયા] or mercantile caste.

Among the persons actually connected with the trading business of Hindustan proper, a very large number are of the Kshetri [क्षेत्री] caste, who, as already stated in a previous chapter, claim to be of the military group, but who, as a matter of fact, are mainly cloth merchants. In the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ], United Provinces, Behar [बिहार], and Calcutta [কলকাতা], the Kshetris have almost the monopoly for the sale of all kinds of textile fabrics, from Cashmere shawls and Benares brocades to those cheap Manchester dhotis which are now hawked in the streets of towns by the shrill and familiar cry of “three pieces to the rupee; four pieces to the rupee, &c.” The majority of the several classes of brokers in Northern India are also of the Kshetri caste.

Among the sellers of food-grains, oil-seeds, salt, spices, &c., the several tribes of the Baniyas mentioned above may collectively form the majority. But the number of Telis [तेली] and Kallwars [कलवार] among them is also very considerable. In fact, the Telis, whose proper avocation is the manufacture of oil, and the Kallwars who are brewers, claim to he Baniyas, though that claim is not admitted by any one outside their own spheres.

§ 1. — The Agarwals [अग्रवाल].

The Agarwalas [अग्रवाल], Khandelwals  [खंडेलवाल] and Ossawals [ओसवाल] are the most important classes of Baniyas in Upper India, and are to he found in every part of it from the Sutlej [ਸਤਲੁਜ] to the Brahmaputra [ব্ৰহ্মপুত্ৰ], and even outside these limits. The Agarwals trace their descent from a Ksatriya [क्सात्रिय] king, Agra Sen [अग्रसेन / ਅਗਰਸੈਨ], who reigned in Sirhind [ਸਰਹਿੰਦ], and whose capital was at Agraha [अग्रोहा], now a small town in the Fatehbad [ਫਤਿਹਾਬਾਦ] Tahsil of the Hissar [ਹਿਸਾਰ] District, Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ]. The exact date of Agra Sen is unknown, but some conjecture about it may be made from the tradition that his descendants took an important part in the struggles between Hinduism and Jainism, and that many of them were led to embrace the Jaina [जैन] religion at the time. After the capture of Agraha by Sahabuddin Ghori [1149 - 1206] [معز الدین محمد غوری] in 1194, and the dispersal of the tribe in consequence of that disaster, they renounced the military profession, and took to trade.

There are a few Jains [जैन] among the Agarwals. The majority of the caste are Vishnuvites [वैष्णव]. Some of them offer worship to the shrines of Siva [शिव] and Kali [काली]. But there are none among them who can be called Sivites [शैव] or Saktas [शाक्त]. They all profess great reverence for the field of Kurukshetra [कुरुक्षेत्र] and the river Ganges [गाङ्गा]. They worship very particularly the goddess Laksmi [लक्ष्मी], and celebrate with great pomp the Diwali [दिवाली], or general illumination of their houses, in the night of the new moon in October. The Jain Agarwalas are chiefly of the Digambari [दिगम्बर] order. The Hindu Agarwals profess great reverence towards snakes, in accordance with their traditional belief that one of their remote female ancestors was a Nag kanya [नागकन्या], i. e., the daughter of a serpent king. In Delhi the Vaishnava Agarwals paint pictures of the snake on either side of the outside doors of their houses, and make offering of fruits and flowers before them. A great many of the Agarwals take the sacred thread; but, they consider the practice as optional, and not desirable for those whose pursuits or habits of life render it impossible to observe the rules and ceremonies prescribed to the twice-born by the Shastras [शास्त्र].

According to the last Census, the numerical strength of the Agarwals is as shown in the following table: —

N. -W. Provinces 311,517
Bengal [বঙ্গ] 19,297
Central Provinces 14,726
Total, including the figures of other Provinces where they are found     354,177

There are about 18 Gotras [गोत्र] among the Agarwals, and they observe the rule of the Shastras [शास्त्र] forbidding marriage within the Gotra. Intermarriage is allowed between the Jainas [जैन] and Hindus in their caste. Their widows are not allowed to re-marry. The Gauda [गैड] Brahmans usually minister to them as priests. They are all strict vegetarians and teetotalers. The illegitimate offspring of the Agarwals are not altogether without a caste status. They are called Dasa [दस], while those of legitimate birth are called Bisa [वीस].

The Agarwals claim to be the only true representatives of the Aryan Vaishyas, and their occupations have throughout been in keeping with the tradition.

“After the dispersion of the tribe by Sahabuddin Ghori [1149 - 1206] [معز الدین محمد غوری] their talent for business brought individual members to the front under the Mahomedan Emperors of Delhi. Two of Akbar’s Ministers—Madhu Sah and Todar Mal—are said to have been Agarwals. ”*

* Tod’s Annals of Rajasthan, Vol. I, p. 548.

But the majority of the caste have from remote times been, and still are, employed in banking, trade, petty money-lending, and similar pursuits. A few are zemindars and holders of large tenures; but in most cases their connection with the land may be traced to a profitable mortgage on the estate of an hereditary landholder, so that landholding cannot properly be reckoned among the characteristic pursuits of the caste. The poorer members of the caste find employment as brokers, book-keepers, touts, workers in gold and silver embroidery, and take to any respectable pursuit except cultivation. *

* Risley’s Tribes and Castes of Bengal, Vol. I, p. 7.

§ 2. — The Ossawals [ओसवाल], Srimals [श्रीमाल] and Sri Srimals  [श्री श्रीमाल].

Though bearing different designations according to the names of their original abodes, the Ossawals [ओसवाल], Srimals [श्रीमाल] and Sri Srimals  [श्री श्रीमाल] are all members of the same caste. They are, however, not to be confounded with the Srimalis [श्रीमाली] who form a distinct caste, and with whom they cannot intermarry.

A very considerable number of the great Indian bankers and jewellers are Ossawals [ओसवाल], and Colonel Tod cannot be very far from the mark in observing that half the mercantile wealth of India passes through their hands. In Rajputana [राजपूताना] they hold also very high offices in the service of the local chiefs. But in British India, where only the subordinate appointments are open to the natives of the country, there are scarcely half-a-dozen Ossawals connected with the public service. The late Raja Siva Prasad [शिवप्रसाद], who was an Ossawal, held the post of Inspector of Schools in the North-Western Provinces.

Among the living officials of the Ossawal caste, the only name generally known is that of Mr. Bishen Chand, who is a Deputy Collector in the United Provinces.

In Rajputana  [राजपूताना] the services of the Ossawals are better appreciated. From time immemorial they have held there the highest offices connected with finance and the administration of civil justice; and even at present many of the leading officials there are of the Ossawali clan. The present Dewan of Udaipore, Babu Panna Lal [पन्नालाल], is of that tribe: so is also Mr. Nath Malji [नथमलजी], the chief fiscal officer of Jaipore [जयपुर].

It is said that there are a few Vishnuvites [वैष्णव] among the Ossawals. But the majority of them are Jains [जैन], and they spend vast sums of money in building and furnishing temples dedicated to their saints. The best and most ancient of these shrines are at Palitana [પાલીતાણા] and Girnar [ગિરનાર]. There are also a few recently-built Jain temples in Calcutta [কলকাতা] which are well worth visiting. 

The Ossawals are to be found in almost all the great towns of Northern India. The Jagat Setts [জগৎ শেঠ] of Moorshedabad [মুর্শিদাবাদ], whose political support mainly paved the way of the English to the acquisition of the sovereignty of Bengal, were Ossawals. That family is well-nigh ruined now, but there is a large colony of Ossawals at Azimgunge [আজিমগঞ্জ] near Moorshedabad, who are all very wealthy bankers and landholders. The greatest of these are Ray Dhanpat Sing [ধনপতি সিংহ] and his nephew Ray Chatrapat Sing [ছত্রপতি সিংহ]. The members of this family have all been very remarkable men as bankers and zemindars. Ray Latchmipat [লক্ষ্মীপতি], the father of Chatrapat, was at one time involved in difficulties which threatened his ruin; but his reputation for strict honesty, and his skill in the management of his business, enabled him to tide over the crisis with success, and to pay his creditors in full with interest. His creditors themselves offered to forego the interest, but he declined to avail himself of the concession even in the darkest hours of his peril, and now the credit of the family is established all the more. There was lately a run on the bank of Ray Dhanpat also. Some of his creditors tried to have him declared an insolvent. But he contested their proceedings, and instead of taking advantage of the law for the relief of insolvent debtors, ho is, like his brother, about to pay the last farthing that he owed to his creditors. Such integrity in actual practice has certainly far greater value than the olla podrida [Eintopf] of copy-book ethics and Machiavelism for which the priestly class claim to be worshipped by their followers.

The great defect in the Baniyas [बनिया / બનિયા] of Northern India is, as already observed, their incapacity to march in advance of, or even with, the times. With all their wealth and capacity for business they have done nothing whatever to introduce those new industries which the country now sadly needs, and which, after the experimental stage is over, are sure to be profitable. They work in the old grooves, or in lines presented to them ready-made, and they have not yet given any evidence of an aptitude for organising new spheres of commercial activity. In this respect they are far surpassed by the Parsis [पारशी] and the Nagar Baniyas of Gujrat [ગુજરાત]. Among our Ossawals, Agarwals, Khandelwals, Mahesris or Sonar Baniyas there is not a single name that, in respect of enterprise, can be compared with that of Sir Mangal Das Nathu Bhai [मंगलदास नाथू भाई] or Sir Dinshaw Manikjee Petit [1823 – 1901].

The Bhojak [भोजक] Brahmans minister to the Ossawals as priests in the performance of those Brahmanical ceremonies that are not eschewed by the Jains [जैन]. The social rank of the Ossawals is the same as that of the Agarwals [अग्रवाल], and their gifts would be accepted without hesitation by Brahmans of all classes.

Like the Agarwals, the Ossawals give a recognised status to their illegitimate progeny calling them Dasa [दस], while those of legitimate birth are called Bisa [वीस].

The usual surnames of the Ossawals are

§ 3. — The Khandelwal [खंडेलवाल] Baniyas.

The Khandelwal Baniyas are not inferior to any of the other divisions of the caste, either in wealth or in respect of refinement. They derive their name from the town of Khandela [खण्डेला] in the Jaipore [जयपुर] State, which at one time was the chief city of the Shekhawati [शेखावाटी] Confederation. *

* See Tod’s Annals of Rajasthan, Vol. II, p. 434.

There are both Vishnuvites [वैष्ण्व] and Jains [जैन] among them. The Vishnuvite Khandelwals take the sacred thread. The millionaire Setts [शेठ] of Mathura [मथुरा] are Khandelwals and of the Jain persuasion, with the exception of one branch only that has lately adopted the Vishnuvite faith, through the influence of an Achari [आचर्य] monk of the Ramanuja [இராமானுசர், 11. Jhdt.] sect, named Rangachari Swami [ரங்காச்சாரி சுவாமி]. Mulchand Soni [मूलचंद सोनी] of Ajmere [अजमेर] is a Jain Khandelwal.

§ 4. — The Srimali [श्रीमाली] Baniyas.

Like the Srimali  Brahmans, the Srimali [श्रीमाली] Baniyas trace their name to the town of Srimal [श्रीमाल] now called Bhinal [भिनाल], near Jhalore [जालोर] in Marwar [मारवाड़]. With regard to Bhinal and Sanchore [साँचौर], Colonel Tod says: —

These towns are on the high road to Cutch [કચ્છ] and Gujrat [ગુજરાત], which has given them from the most remote times a commercial celebrity. Bhinal [भिनाल] is said to contain fifteen hundred houses, and Sanchore [साँचौर] about half that number. Very wealthy mohajans [महाजन] or ‘merchants' used to reside here, but insecurity both within and without has much injured these cities, the first of which has its name mál, from its wealth as a mart. —Tod’s Annals of Rajasthan, Vol. II, p. 332.

Like the Agarwals [अग्रवाल], the Srimalis give a recognised status to their illegitimate offspring, and call them Dasa Srimalis [दस श्रीमाली], while those of legitimate birth are called Bisa [वीस]. The latter are all Jains [जैन]. But among the Dasa Srimalis there are both Jains and Vishnuvites [वैष्णव]. There are many rich men among the Srimali Baniyas, as, for instance, Panna Lal Johori [पन्नालाल जोहरी], the leading jeweller of Bombay [मुंबई], and Makhan Lal Karam Chand [माखनलाल करमचंद], the leading banker of Ahmedabad [અમદાવાદ]. Like the Ossawals [ओसवाल] and the Khandelwals [खंडेलवाल], the Srimali Baniyas generally stick to their caste profession, and keep aloof from the public services, and the practice of the liberal professions. There are, however, some exceptions. Dr. Tri Bhuvan Das [त्रिभुवन दास], of Junagar [જુનાગઢ], is a Srimali.

§ 5. — The Palliwal [पल्लीवाल] Baniyas.

The Palliwal Baniyas derive their name from the ancient commercial mart of Marwar [मारवाड़], about which an account has been already given in connection with the Palliwal Bramhans. *

* See page 68, ante.

Among the Palliwal Baniyas there are both Jains [जैन] and Vishnuvites [वैष्णव]. They are very numerous in Agra [आगरा] and Jaunpur [जौनपुर].

§ 6. — The Porawal [पोरवाल] Baniyas.

The Porawal [पोरवाल] Baniyas seem to derive their name from Pore Bunder [પોરબંદર] in Gujrat [ગુજરાત], and, if so then, they are Gujrati Baniyas. They are strong in Lalitpur [ललितपुर], Jhansi [झाँसी], Cawnpur [कानपुर], Agra [आगरा], Hamirpur [हमीरपुर], and Banda [बांदा]. They do not take the sacred thread. The Srimali Brahmans minister to them as priests. Mr. Bhagu Bhai [भगु भाई], one of the wealthiest bankers of Ahmedabad [અમદાવાદ], is a Porawal.

§ 7. — The Bhatiyas [भाटिया].

Like most of the other Baniya castes of Rajputana [राजपुताना], the Bhatiyas [भाटिया] claim to be Rajputs [राज्पुत्]. But whatever ground there may be for such pretension, this much is certain, that they have no connection whatever with the Bhatti [भाटी] clan of the Rajput tribe. The Bhatiyas deal very largely in the cotton piece-goods imported into this country from Manchester. The last Census gives the following figures regarding their numerical strength: —

Bombay [मुंबई] 22,663
Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ 23,649
Scinde [سندھ ] 8,491

There is a large colony of Bhatiyas at Karachi in Scinde.

§ 8. — The Mahesri [महेसरी] Baniyas.

The Mahesris [महेसरी] are a numerous tribe found in almost every part of the N. -W. Provinces, Rajputana  [राजपुताना] and Behar [बिहार]. They are to be found in large numbers in Nagpore [नागपूर] also. The majority of them are Vishnuvites [वैष्णव], and take the sacred thread. The number of Jains [जैन] among them is not very considerable. Their name is probably derived from that of the ancient town of Maheshwar [महेश्वार] near Indore [इंदौर]. But some say that their original home is Bikanir [बीकानेर], while the Mahesris of Mozufferpore [मुज़फ्फरपुर] trace their name from the town of Mahesha [महेश] near Bhurtpore [भरतपुर].

 The well-known banker, Bansi Lal Abirchand, of Bikanir [बीकानेर], who has agencies in almost every part of India, is a Mahesri. So is Sheva Ram Khosal Chand, of Jubbulpore [जबलपुर].

§ 9. — The Agrahari [अग्रहरि] Baniyas.

The Agraharis [अग्रहरि] are found chiefly in the districts round Benares [वाराणसी]. Their numerical strength is slightly in excess of one hundred thousand. There are not many wealthy men among them. They take the sacred thread, and, like the other leading Baniya clans, are strict vegetarians and teetotalers. There are many Agraharis who have embraced the Sikh faith [ਸਿੱਖੀ]. There is a large colony of such Agraharis in the district of Arrah [आरा].

§ 10. —The Dhunsar [धूसर] Baniyas.

The Dhunsars are found chiefly in the Gangetic Doab [दोआब], between Delhi [दिल्ली] on the west and Mirzapore [मिर्ज़ापुर] on the east. There are many big landholders among them. They take their name from Dhusi [धूसी], a flat-topped hill, near Rewari [रेवाड़ी], in Gurgaon [गुड़गांव]. They are all Vishnuvites [वैष्णव], and there are no Jains among them. They do not devote themselves entirely to trade. In fact their chief profession is penmanship, and they combine in themselves the office-aptitude of the Kāyasth [कायस्थ], with the Baniya’s capacity for mercantile business. Under Mahomedan rule, they occasionally filled many high offices of State. Under the present régime a good many of them hold such appointments in the public service as are open to the natives of this country now.

§ 11. — The Umar [उमर] Baniyas.

The Umars [उमर] are very numerous in the tract of country between Agra [आगरा] on the west and Gorakhpur [गोरखपुर] on the east. The Baniyas of the districts adjoining Cawnpur [कानपुर] are chiefly Umars. The tribe has very few representatives in Behar [बिहार] They are usually recognised as good Vaishyas [वैश्य], and their caste status is not regarded as inferior to that of any other Baniya tribe. They take the sacred thread after the death of their fathers, but not before.

§ 12. —The Rastogi [रस्तोगी] Baniyas.

The Rastogis [रस्तोगी] are very numerous in the Upper Doab [दोआब], and in almost all the chief towns of the United Provinces, as, for instance, Lucknow [लखनऊ], Fatehpur [फ़तेहपुर], Farakkabad [फ़र्रूख़ाबाद], Meerut [मेरठ], and Azamgarh [आज़ामगढ़]. The tribe has a few representatives also in Patna [पटना] and Calcutta [কলকাতা]. All the Rastogis are Vaishnavas [वैष्णव] of the Ballava [శ్రీ పాద వల్లభాచార్యులూ, 1479 - 1531] sect. Like the Umars [उमर] they take the sacred thread after the death of their fathers, and not. before. There are some wealthy bankers among them. Even the poorest among them are generally found well clad. They have the following sub-divisions: --

  1. Amethi [अमेठी] — probably from the Pergunnah of that name, in the Sultanpore [सुल्तानपुर] District, Oudh [अवध].
  2. Indrapati [इन्द्रपति] —from Indrapat [इन्द्रप्रस्थ], the ancient name of Delhi.
  3. Manhariya—probably from Maihar [मैहर] in Baghelkhand [बघेलखंड].

§§ 13, 14. — The Kasarwani [केसरवानी] and the Kasanadhan Baniyas.

These two tribes seem to derive their names from the Sanskrit word kansa, which means “bell-metal. ” If that be the correct derivation of their caste designation, then their original occupation was the keeping of shops for the sale of those brass and bell-metal utensils which are a necessity in every Hindu household. But as, in practice, they generally keep shops for the sale of food-grains and oil-seeds, it does not seem impossible that their names are corrupted forms of Krishana Vanik and Krishana Dhani, both meaning the “husbandman’s banker.” They are pretty numerous in every part of the United Provinces and Behar. The last Census gives the following figures relating to their numerical strength: —

Kasandhan, 97,741—most numerous in the districts of Banda [बांदा] and Basti [बस्ती].

Kasarwani, 65,625—most numerous in Benares [वाराणसी].

The majority of these two tribes are petty shopkeepers, and the number of wealthy men among them is not very considerable. Most of them are quite illiterate. A few have education enough to serve as book-keepers and clerks in the offices of the Hindu bankers.

The Kasarwanis allow their widows to re-marry, but do not recognise the possibility of divorce. Shopkeeping is their regular occupation. But there are a few among them who practise agriculture. The Kasarwanis of the districts round Benares are chiefly Ram [राम] worshippers, and are generally strict vegetarians and teetotalers. They, however, offer worship to the Sakti [शक्ति] goddess Bindhya Basini [विंध्यवासिनी], of Mirzapore [मिर्ज़ापुर], releasing the animal which they offer, without slaughtering it. They do not take the sacred thread.

§ 15. — The Lohiya [लोहिया] Baniyas.

As their name indicates, the caste occupation of the Lohiyas is the sale of ironware. The numerical strength of the class is not very considerable. The majority of them are Vishnuvites [वैष्णव]; but there are among them some Jains [जैन] also. The taking of the sacred thread is very rare among them.

§ 16. —The Soniyas.

The Soniyas are dealers in gold. But the Soniyas of Upper India are not a very wealthy class like the Sonar Baniyas [স্বর্ণ বনিয়া] of Bengal. There are many Sonis in Allahabad [इलाहाबाद]. Those of Benares [वाराणसी] profess to have migrated there from Gujrat [ગુજરાત].

§ 17. — The Sura Seni [शूरसेनी] Baniyas.

The Sura Seni [शूरसेनी] Baniyas evidently derive their designation from the ancient name of the Mathura [मथुरा] District.

§ 18. — The Bara Seni [बरसेनी] Baniyas.

The Bara Senis [बरसेनी]  are an important community. There are many rich bankers among them. They seem to derive their name from Barshana [बरसाना] in the suburbs of Mathura [मथुरा] . At any rate, the clan is very strong in Mathura and the adjoining districts.

§ 19. —The Baranwal [बरनवाल] Baniyas.

The Baranwals are a numerous hut not a very wealthy class. They take their name from Baran [बरन], the old name* of Bulandshahar [बुलन्दशहर].

* See Hunter’s Imperial Gazetteer, Vol. III, p. 133.

They were driven away from their original home by the oppressions of Mahomed Toglak [gest. 1351] [محمد بن تغلق], and are now to be found chiefly in Etawah [इटावा], Azamgarh [आज़ामगढ़], Gorakhpur [गोरखपुर], Moradabad [मुरादाबाद], Jaunpore [जौनपुर], Gazipur [গাজীপুর], Behar [बिहार] and Tirhoot [तिरहुत ]. They are orthodox Hindus, and allow neither divorce nor the re-marriage of widows. Wherever possible they employ Gaur [गौड] Brahmans as their priests, in Tirhoot they employ Maithili [मैथिली] Brahmans also. They are mostly shopkeepers. A few have taken to agriculture. There are a few big landholders and bankers among them; as, for instance, Babu Bolaki Lal [बुलाकी लाल], of Monghyr [मुंगेर]. Some of the Baranwals take the sacred thread.

§ 20. — The Ayodhya Basi [अयोध्यावंशी / अयोध्यावासी] Baniyas.

Like many other castes the Baniyas have a clan deriving their name from the ancient kingdom of Oudh [अवध]. The Ayodhya Basi Baniyas are to be found in every part of the United Provinces and Behar [बिहार्].

§ 21. — The Jaiswar [जैसवार] Baniyas.

The Jaiswar [जैसवार] Baniyas seem to derive their name from Perganah Jais [जैस] in the Salon Division of the Rae Bareilly [रायबरेली] District, Oudh [अवध]. They are very numerous in the eastern districts of the United Provinces. They do not take the sacred thread.

There is a branch of the tribe of brewers called Kallwars in Northern India who pretend to be Jaiswar Baniyas. The Jaiswars are usually to be found among the petty shopkeepers and pedlars.

§ 22. — The Mahobiya [महोबीया] Baniyas.

The Mahobiya [महोबीया] Baniyas derive their name from the town of Mahob [महोबा] in the Hamirpur [हमीरपुर] District.

§ 23. — The Mahuria Baniyas.

A clan very strong in Behar [बिहार] and in the Doab [दोआब्]. In Behar they are the richest of all the local Baniya tribes. There are many big landholders and rural bankers among them, they finance the cultivators of sugarcane, and have almost the monopoly of the local trade in sugar. They do not take the sacred thread, but are regarded as good Hindus of the Vaishya [वैश्य] class. Tika Sahu [टिका सहु], of Hansua Noagong, in Gaya [गया], who was one of the biggest zemindars of the district, was a Mahuria. Like the Sikhs the Mahuris are strictly forbidden the use of tobacco, and a man detected smoking would be expelled from the community. In all probability the Mahurias are a section of the Rastogis [रस्तोगी].

§ 24. — The Bais Baniyas.

These Baniyas are found chiefly in Behar [बिहार]. Like the other high caste Baniyas, they allow neither divorce nor the re-marriage of widows. A great many of them keep shops for the sale of brass and bell-metal vessels. Some of them practise agriculture. The Bais of Kumaon [कुमाऊँ] are a different clan, having the same status.

§ 25. — The Kath Baniyas.

The Kath Baniyas are found in Behar [बिहार]. The majority of them are shopkeepers and money-lenders; but many have taken to agriculture, and work even as landless day labourers. Some members of the caste have of late become zemindars. The Maithila [मैथिली] Brahmans minister to them as priests. They allow the re-marriage of widows, hut not of divorced wives. They burn their dead, and perform sradh [श्रद्धा] on the thirty-first day.

§ 26. —The Raoniyar Baniyas.

The Raoniyars are found in Gorakhpur [गोरखपुर], Tirhoot [तिरहुत] and Behar [बिहार]. The local Brahmans minister to them as priests. They allow the re-marriage of their widows; but not of divorced wives, except with the permission of the Panchait [पंचायत]. The Raoniyars are not Vishnuvites [वैष्णव] like most of the other Baniya tribes. They regard Siva [शिव] as their tutelary deity, and like the Agarwals [अग्रवाल] pay special reverence to Laksmi [लक्ष्मी], the goddess of Fortune. The majority of them are petty traders and money-lenders. They are called also Noma.

§ 27. — The Jameya Baniyas.

These are found chiefly in the Etawa [इटावा] District. They claim to be descendants of Pralhad [प्रह्लाद], who, according to the Vishnuvite [वैष्णव] legends, was the son of the monster Hiranya Kasyapa [हिरण्यकशिपु], and was saved by Krishna [क्र्ष्ण]९ himself from the persecutions to which he was subjected by his father.

§ 28. — The Lohana [लोहान] Baniyas.

The Lohanas [लोहान]. seem to be allied to the Bhatya. They are found chiefly in Scind [سنڌ]. The total Lohana population of India exceeds half a million.

§ 29.—The Rewari [रेवाड़ी] Baniyas.

The Rewari [रेवाड़ी] Baniyas are a very small clan. They evidently derive their name from Rewari [रेवाड़ी] in Gurgaon [गुड़गांव]. Their usual occupation is the keeping of cloth shops. There is a small colony of Rewari Baniyas in Gaya [गया].

§ 30. — The Kanu Baniyas.

The Kanus are petty shopkeepers dealing chiefly in food-grains and supplying travellers with the requisites for cooking their meals.

CHAP. III. —THE BANIYAS [બનિયા] OF GUJRAT [ગુજરાત].

The barren deserts of Rajputana [राजपुताना] are the principal home of the Baniyas. In the contiguous province of Gujrat [ગુજરાત] also the Baniyas are very numerous, wealthy and enterprising. The Srimalis [श्रीमाली], Ossawals [ओसवाल] and Khandelwals [खंडेलवाल], who are to be found in large numbers in Gujrat, as in almost every other part of Northern India, are, properly speaking, Baniyas of Rajpntana, and have been described already. The main divisions among the Baniyas of Gujrat proper are the following

  1. Nagar [નાગર]
    1. Dasa [દાસ]
    2. Bisa [વિશ]
  2. Disawal
  3. Porawal [પોરવાલ]
    1. Dasa [દાસ]
    2. Bisa [વિશ]
  4. Gujar.
  5. Modh [મોધ ].
  6. Lad.
  7. Jharola [ઝારોલા].
  8. Sorathiya.
  9. Khadaita.
  10. Harsora.
  11. Kapola.
  12. Urvala. 
  13. Patolia. 
  14. Vayada [વાયડા].

Each of these sections has a corresponding Brahmanical caste who usually minister to them, and to them only, as priests. For instance, the Nagar Brahmans minister to the Nagar Baniyas; the Modh Brahmans minister to the Modh Baniyas; and the case is the same with the others.

The majority of the Gujrati Baniyas are Vishnuvites [વૈષ્ણવ] and followers of Ballabhachari [శ్రీ పాద వల్లభాచార్యులూ, 1479-1531]. The number of Jains [જૈન] among them is also very considerable. The Vishnuvite Baniyas take the sacred thread.


The chief trading castes of the Madras Presidency are the

The word Chetti [செட்டியார்] is probably allied to the Sanskrit word Sreshthi [śreṣṭhin], which means a banker or a big merchant. The Chettis of the Madras Presidency correspond to the Baniyas [बनिया] of Northern India. The Chettis are divided into numerous clans between whom intermarriage is impossible. Like the Baniyas of Northern India, some of the clans of Chettis take the sacred thread. A few of the Chettis are vegetarians; but the majority of them eat fish as well as such flesh as is not forbidden by the Shastras [śāstra].

The Chettis claim to be of the Vaishya [வைசியர்] caste, and those of them who take the sacred thread are certainly entitled to be regarded as such. But the Brahmans of their Province look upon them as Sudras [சூத்திரர்], and an orthodox Draviri Vaidika will neither accept their gifts nor officiate as a priest for them.

The original home of the Natkutai Chettis [நாட்டுக்கோட்டைச் செட்டியார்], who form one of the most important clans in the caste, is Madura [மதுரை]. They do not care for English education or for service under Government.

The majority of the Chettis practise trade. They have all a knowledge of the three R's, and some of their clans stand next to only the Brahmans and the Vellalars in respect of literary culture. Some members of these Chetti clans hold very high positions in the service of Government, and in the liberal professions. The total Chetti population is as stated below: —

Madras [மதராஸ்] 693,552
Burma [မြန်မာ] 5,723
Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು] 2,702

The Chettis are very numerous in the town of Madras [மதராஸ்], and in the Districts of Krishna [కృష్ణా], Nellore [నెల్లూరు], Cuddapah [కడప], Kornool [కర్నూలు], Madura [மதுரை] and Coimbatore [கோயம்புத்தூர]. There are very few members of the clan in Malabar [മലബാര്‍] or South Kanara. The trade of the Malabar coast is carried on chiefly by the local Brahmans and Mussulmans. The usual profession of the few Chettis there is agricultural banking. 

“They advance money on growing crops of pepper, ginger, turmeric and other produce, superintend the cultivation themselves, and ultimately obtain possession of the land. ”*

* Madras Census Report for 1871, Vol. I, p. 143.

In Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು] the Lingait [లింగాయతి]  Banijigas preponderate over all the other trading castes. The Komatis [కోమటిర్] and Nagartas are usually found only in the towns and practising trade. But of the Lingait Banijigas and Telegu Banijigas a considerable number practise agriculture, and are residents of rural villages.


The mercantile castes of the Telugu [తెలుగు] country are called Komatis. They claim to be Vaishyas [వైశ్యులు], and take the sacred thread. They are an educated class, and count among their number many who have obtained high University distinctions, and hold respectable positions in the liberal professions or in the service of Government. Upon the whole, the Komatis have almost exactly the same position in Telingana [తెలంగాణ], that the Baniyas have in Upper India. The Komatis have many divisions among them, of which the following are the most important: —

  1. Gavuri.    
  2. Kalinga [କଳିଙ୍ଗ] Komati.  
  3. Beri Komati.  
  4. Balji Komati.
  5. Nagar Komati.

The Gavuri Komatis have the highest position. They are strict vegetarians and teetotalers. The other Komatis are said to be in the habit of eating flesh meat.

In matters relating to religion, the majority of the Gavuri and Kalinga Komatis are Sankarites [ശങ്കരാചാര്യർ, 8./9. Jhdt], and only a small fraction are either Lingaits [ಲಿಂಗಾಯತ] or followers of Ramanuja [இராமானுசர், 11./12. Jhdt.]. 

Among the Beri Komatis the majority are Lingaits. In matters relating to social discipline, the Komatis acknowledge the authority of the spiritual successors of Bhaskarachari [భాస్కరాచార్య], who have their chief monastery at Gooti [గుత్తి] in the Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ] District. The Brahmans minister to the Komatis as priests without reciting the Vedic mantras. The Komatis now claim that they are entitled to such recitation. The practice of marrying the maternal uncle’s daughter not only prevails among the Komatis as among the other castes of Southern India; but where there is a maternal uncle’s daughter, a Komati has no option, and it is obligatory on him to take her in marriage. The Komatis sell confectioneries, and there is no separate caste in Telingana corresponding to the Mayara or the Halwai. The total Komati population of India is as stated below: —

Madras [மதராஸ்] 287,983
Hydrabad  [حیدر آباد 212,865
Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು 29,053
Total 545,206


As in Bengal so in Orissa [ଓଡ଼ିଶା] there are only two classes of Baniyas, namely,

The Putli or packet Baniyas correspond to the Gandha Baniya [গন্ধ বণিক] of Bengal. The Sonar Baniyas and the Putli Baniyas of Orissa have the very same position there that the corresponding castes have in Bengal—the Putli Baniyas being regarded as a clean caste, and the Sonar Baniyas an unclean caste. As in Bengal, so in Orissa also, the Sonar Baniyas are richer than the spice-selling caste. Like all the other castes of the province the Baniyas of Orissa are generally in a far more backward condition than the corresponding classes of the Hindu community in other parts of India. The Baniyas of Orissa are sadly wanting in both capital and enterprise, and what little wholesale trade there is in the province is almost entirely in the hands of foreigners.

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