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.
Members of the Bania caste are among the wealthiest people in India and even the world. Today they are still involved with businesses and money lending. A Bania might be the proud owner of a giant business, a small one, or he might be working in a bank. He often owns the bank. Others work in government ministries or as lawyers, judges, teachers, scholars, stockbrokers or engineers.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Bhatia Bania fathers teach their children business skills. From an early age children are drilled in math and detailed calculations with the end purpose of winning in money transactions. Bania parents often teach their children to "never give; always bargain and make money." This attitude does not make them popular with other communities. Other castes often resent them 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.
Floor painting and folk songs are a major part of the Bania's art and culture.
Nearly all Bhatia 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 this is an instance of the preservation of old coins for religious ceremonies. Ganesh (the god who helps overcome obstacles) and Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) are among their favorites. They are many Vaishnavite and devotees of Shrinathji among the Hindu Banias. 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 Bhatia 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 Bhatia Bania leaders dreams and visions that will draw them to the King of kings.
Scripture Prayers for the Bania Bhatia in India.
India Missions Association, Edited by Philipose Vaidyar, Copyrighted © Used with permission