The Banias originated over 5,000 years ago, and they are also called Vania or Mahajan. Their name is derived from 'Vaniji', which means 'trader' in Sanskrit, an ancient South Asian language.
Of the four major varnas (caste clusters), Banias are in the third one, the Vaishyas. This caste cluster has always been about trade, business, and money lending. They were usually traders of grain and spices throughout history. Today Bania is a rather loose term, sometimes meaning caste and other times just business people.
Despite their high incomes, the Banias have only modest status in the Hindu caste pyramid. They resent the higher two varnas, the Brahmans and the Kshatryas, and thus Banias have often been leaders in caste reform movements. Mahatma Gandhi is one example, but there have been many others throughout India's long history.
Banias originated in the western Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, but today they live in just about all of India's northern states. Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have the highest number of Banias. A smaller number live in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Some are migrating to the wealthy southern city of Bangalore, nicknamed the "Silicon Valley" of India because of its strong computer industry. Some Banias are re-locating to Western cities where they can be reached much more easily than they can in India. A small number live in Sri Lanka.
Members of the Bania caste are among the wealthiest people in Sri Lanka and even the world. Today they are still involved with businesses and money lending. A Mahesri Bania might be the proud owner of a giant business, a small one, or he might be working in a bank. He might even own the bank. Others work in government ministries or as lawyers, judges, teachers, scholars, stockbrokers, or engineers.
They are often resented by other castes, because they lend much needed money at high interest rates. A pre-literate farmer might take a loan from a Bania only to find that a high percentage of his harvest will be taken away as interest. Customers often must put their farms or their gold up for collateral in case they cannot pay back their loans.
The lessons such as "never give; always bargain and make money" are often learned at young ages by Mahesri Bania children. Business skills are passed down from father to son, and from an early age children are drilled in math and detailed calculations with the end purpose of winning in money transactions.
Nearly all Bania peoples claim the Hindu religion, but as merchants they have chosen gods that reflect their profession. They worship the god of wealth, the god of good fortune and the god of money. These are the gods who drive their lives, gods that leave them with empty hearts. Some Banias are Jains, a Hindu offshoot religion.
Mahesri Banias need a spiritual transformation that will bring them to the point where they want to follow the ways of Jesus, and abandon the old ways that have left them spiritually empty and other castes economically devastated and resentful.
* Pray that the veil of deception will be lifted from the eyes of the Mahesri Banias and that they will see that the only true wealth is the spiritual riches gained through a loving relationship with Jesus Christ.
* Pray that Christ's disciples will be called to work among them and share Christ in a culturally relevant way.
* Pray for a disciple making movement to emerge among every Bania community.
|Profile Source: Keith Carey|
|People Name General||Bania Mahesri|
|People Name in Country||Bania Mahesri|
|Population in Sri Lanka||1,900|
|Pioneer Workers Needed||1 to 2|
|Progress Scale||1 ●|
|Alternate Names||Maheshwari, Mahesri, Maheswari, Marwadi, बनिया, महेसरी|
|National Bible Society||Website|
|Persecution Rank||45 (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)|
|Specialized Website||South Asia Peoples|
|Primary Language||Marwari (1,900 speakers)|
|Language Code||rwr Ethnologue Listing|
|Language Written||Yes ScriptSource Listing|
|People Groups||Speaking Marwari|
Primary Language: Marwari
|Bible Translation ▲||Status (Years)|
|Bible-New Testament||Yes (1820-1821)|
|Possible Print Bibles|
|Amazon||National Bible Societies|
|Forum of Bible Agencies||World Bible Finder|
|Gospel Go||World Bibles|
|Resource Type ▲||Resource Name|
|Audio Recordings||Audio Bible teaching (GRN)|
|Audio Recordings||Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project)|
|Film / Video||A Beautiful Hope (Indigitube.tv)|
|Film / Video||Coconuts (Indigitube.tv)|
|Film / Video||God's Story Video|
|Film / Video||Jesus Film: view in Marwari|
|Film / Video||Ravi's Way (Indigitube.tv)|
|Film / Video||Story of Jesus for Children (JF Project)|
|Film / Video||Welcome Jesus (Indigitube.tv)|
|Text / Printed Matter||EasyBibles|
|Text / Printed Matter||World Missionary Press Booklets|