Introduction / History
The Banias originated over 5,000 years ago in Gujarat and Rajasthan, and they are also called Vania or Mahajan. Their name is derived from Vaniji, which means "trader" in Sanskrit, an ancient South Asian language.
What Are Their Lives Like?
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. Throughout history they were traders of grain and spices.
Despite their high incomes, the Banias have only modest status in the Hindu caste pyramid. They resent the higher two varnas, the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas, 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.
To most people, work and business holds a high priority in life. To the Marwadi Banias, business is the top priority. Through the centuries, the Marwadi Banias have managed to run successful businesses all over India. More recently they have begun to run international businesses. In 2005, Forbes magazine listed Marwadi individuals as making up two percent of the billionaires in the world! Along with business the Marwadis see family and unity as high priorities.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Marwadi people know how to build bridges of trust within their local business relationships. Because of this trust, they can successfully market their business ventures through word of mouth to people from all kinds of communities throughout India.
Imagine what would happen if Marwadi communities made the decision to follow Christ! This would not only impact and change the Marwadis, but as the Holy Spirit transforms them, they can be a blessing to all of India.
Nearly all Marwadi Banias 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. The rupee (Indian currency) is sacred with the Bania, and they use old coins for religious ceremonies. Ganesh (the god who helps overcome obstacles) and Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) are among their favorites. Many are devoted to Vishnu and Shrinathji. Some are Jains, a reform movement of Hinduism.
What Are Their Needs?
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 leave them spiritually empty.
Pray that the Marwadi Banias will see that the only true wealth are 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, blessing them for eternity.
Pray for the Lord to give Marwadi Bania leaders dreams and visions that will draw them to the King of kings.
Scripture Prayers for the Bania Marwadi in India.
India Missions Association, Edited by Philipose Vaidyar, Copyrighted © Used with permission