Introduction / History
The name “Bania” is derived from Vaniji, which means "trader" in Sanskrit, an ancient South Asian language. The Srimali Bania are a sub-group of the large Bania peoples who live across India. A much smaller Bania population lives in Pakistan. Many Hindus in Pakistan moved to India during the 1947 Partition of India. Many Muslims migrated to Pakistan at the same time.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Of the four major varnas (caste clusters of Hinduism), 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. Since Pakistan is primarily a Muslim nation, the Hindu caste system is not as influential as it is in India.
Despite their high incomes, the Banias have only modest status in the Hindu caste pyramid. The Bania often resent the higher two varnas, the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas. 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.
Most Bania in Pakistan speak Sindhi as their first language. Bania are generally well-educated and also speak English and Urdu.
Members of the Bania caste today are among the wealthiest people in India and Pakistan. 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 might even own the bank. Other Banias work in government ministries or as lawyers, judges, teachers, scholars, stockbrokers or engineers.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Bania are often resented by other people because they lend much needed money at higher 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 up their land and farms for collateral in case they cannot pay back their loans.
Bania children learn early to "never give; always bargain and make money.” From an early age children are drilled in math and detailed calculations with the end purpose of winning in money transactions. Fathers pass business skills to their sons. Srimali Mahur Bania parents strongly encourage their children, especially the boys, to obtain graduate degrees related to business.
Monogamy or marriage to one spouse is the norm among Bania communities.
Most Bania people in Pakistan practice Hinduism, the ancient religion of India. Hinduism is a catch-all phrase for the local religions of South Asia, so it is very diverse. At the popular level, Hindus worship and serve the gods of the Hindu pantheon. They visit Hindu temples and offer prayers, food, flowers, and incense to their gods in hopes of gaining protection and benefits. They do not have a personal or familial relationship with their gods like Christians. There are other Hindus who are much more philosophical, especially among the Brahmins.
What Are Their Needs?
Almost all Hindus participate in yearly celebrations like Holi, the festival of colors and the start of spring / Diwali, the festival of lights / Navratri, the celebration of autumn / and Rama Navami, Rama’s birthday.
There are few if any believers among the Bania community of Pakistan.
The Bania need to understand that material wealth will not bring the peace of mind and purpose for living. These things can only come from Jesus Christ. Bania need to see that they are sinners before the holy God of the Bible and that they need a Savior.
Pray that the veil of deception will be lifted from the eyes of the Srimali Banias.
Pray that Christ's disciples will be called to work among the Bania of Pakistan and share Christ in a culturally relevant way.
Pray that the leaders and elders of the Bania in Pakistan would be led to read the Bible and investigate the claims of Jesus Christ.
Pray for a disciple making movement to emerge among every Bania community in Pakistan in this decade.
Scripture Prayers for the Bania Srimali in Pakistan.