Bania (caste)

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Bania women in British India. Image taken before 1860

The Bania (also spelled as Baniya, Banija, Banya, Vaniya, Vani, Vania and Vanya) is an occupational community of merchants, bankers, money-lenders, and (in modern times) owners of commercial enterprises.[1][2] The community is composed of several sub-castes including the Agarwal Banias, Oswal Banias, Porwal Banias and Wani Banias, among others.[3] The term is used in a wider sense in Bengal than it is elsewhere in India, where it is applied to all money-lenders and indigenously developed bankers, irrespective of caste.[4] Most Banias follow Hinduism, but a few have converted to Sikhism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism.[5][6][7]

Irfan Habib believes the etymological origin to lie in the Sanskrit word vanik, and deems them to be India's "pre-eminent" trading community, historically.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hardiman, David (1996). "Usury, Dearth and Famine in Western India". Past & Present (152): 113–156. ISSN 0031-2746.
  2. ^ Cheesman, David (1982). "'The Omnipresent Bania:' Rural Moneylenders in Nineteenth-Century Sind". Modern Asian Studies. 16 (3): 445–462. ISSN 0026-749X.
  3. ^ Hanks, Patrick (8 May 2003). Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press. p. xcvi. ISBN 978-0-19-977169-1.
  4. ^ Schrader, Heiko (1997). Changing financial landscapes in India and Indonesia: sociological aspects of monetization and market integration. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 68. ISBN 978-3-8258-2641-3.
  5. ^ Marenco, Ethne K. (1974). The Transformation of Sikh Society. HaPi Press. p. 151. The Banias were again predominantly Hindu, but there were many Jain Banias and also Sikh and Muslim Banias in lesser numbers, and very few Buddhist Banias. Such was the picture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  6. ^ Tyler, Stephen A. (1986). India: An Anthropological Perspective. Waveland Press. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-88133-245-2. Some, like the Khojah caste, are Bania groups converted to Islam by Muslim pirs (saints).
  7. ^ John, Jose Kalapura (2000). "KING, FORT, ZAMINDARIS AND MISSIONARIES: THE FOUNDING OF BIHAR'S OLDEST CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY, 1745". Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. 61: 1011–1028. ISSN 2249-1937.
  8. ^ Habib, Irfan (1990). "Merchant Communities in Precolonial India". In Tracy, James D. (ed.). The Rise of Merchant Empires: Long-Distance Trade in the Early Modern World, 1350-1750. Cambridge University Press. pp. 371–99. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511563089. ISBN 978-0-52145-735-4.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cheesman, David (1982). "'The Omnipresent Bania:' Rural Moneylenders in Nineteenth-Century Sind". Modern Asian Studies. 16 (3): 445–462. JSTOR 312116.
  • Metcalf, Thomas R. (December 1962). "The British and the Moneylender in Nineteenth-Century India". The Journal of Modern History. 34 (4): 390–397. JSTOR 1880056.

External links[edit]