Introduction / History
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.
Where Are they Located?
Banias originated in the western Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, but now they live all over western and northern India. The Disaval subgroup is almost entirely in Gujarat.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Social interactions and personal relationships among the Banias revolve around extended families and caste connections. They are often resented by other communities because they are money lenders. The lessons such as "never give; always bargain and make money" are often learned at young ages by 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. 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 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.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Nearly all Disaval 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. These are the gods who drive their lives, gods that leave them with empty hearts.
What Are Their Needs?
Disaval 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 for workers to take Christ to the Disaval Banias. Pray for leaders among the Disaval Banias to seek and find Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life. Pray for a Disciple Making Movement among the Disaval Banias this decade.
Scripture Prayers for the Bania Disaval in India.