The Maheshwaris number about three million and have played a notable role in the economic and industrial progress of the country. They are predominantly a business and mercantile community.
History Of The Maheshwari Community
There are several legends about the origin of the Maheshwari community but the one generally accepted places the date of their origin as about 4000 years prior to the Vikram Samvat. It is said that in a village known as Khandala (near Jaipur) ruled Raja Sujat Sen. Once his only son went on a hunt with 72 Kshatriya fellowmen. Some sages who were performing yajna were disturbed and cursed the royal party which turned to stone. On hearing the prayers of their wives, Mahesh (Shiva) turned them into human beings again on condition that they would give up fighting and take to business. It is these 72 Kshatriyas who are supposed to be the original ancestors of the seventy-two gotras of the Maheshwaris. Later, three more gotras were added and now there are 989 sub-gotras and nakhas. Marriage in the same gotra is strictly forbidden.
The chief language spoken by them is Marwari or Rajasthani but in other parts of India they have adopted the regional language and speak Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Hindi and Telugu depending on the state of residence. They are originally from Rajasthan but have settled down in different parts of India in search of employment and business. Because of their industry, intelligence and adaptability they have built large industrial businesses.
Society Of The Maheshwari Community
The Maheshwaris remained a business community till the end of the 19th century. They had acquired many anti-social customs: dowry, child marriage and purdah system. The first Maheshwari reformer, Raj Bahadur Shyam Sunderlal Loiwal, founded a Maheshwari Mahasabha which had its first session at Ajmer in 1892. He was deeply influenced by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj. It provided the impetus for the foundation of the All India Maheshwari Mahasabha in 1908. Since then the Mahasabha has been crusading for social reforms. Many eminent Maheshwaris went to jail and helped in the khadi and charkha movements and one Krishna Sarda was hanged for his role in the struggle for freedom.
The Maheshwaris are a very enterprising community. The Birlas and Shivkissen Bhatter were the first Maheshwaris who, in 1918, ventured to start a jute mill. They faced great difficulties created by the British but through sheer perseverance they succeeded. Up to 1939 their mills were not allowed to be represented on the Indian Jute Mills Association`s Committee. Similarly after independence, the Maheshwaris have started industries in different sectors of the economy.
The Maheshwaris are charitable in disposition. The Maheshwari Mahasabha has established the S.K. Jaju Memorial Trust for the purpose of distribution of scholarships, and other charitable activities. There are several other philanthropic trusts started by various individual Maheshwaris. The institutions at Pilani are a symbolic example of individual Maheshwaris` contribution to the cause of education.
When a member of the family dies, the sons, the grandsons and great grandsons on both the paternal and maternal sides, have their heads shaved. In other Marwari communities only the sons are required to do this.
Two special customs are different from other marriage rites of the Hindus. One is the Mamapheras. According to this the maternal uncle takes the bride round the bridegroom four times. The remaining three circles are completed around the sacred fire. The Maheshwari bride must wear ivory bangles for a couple of years or at least for forty days after her marriage.
Religion Of The Maheshwari Community
As far as religion is concerned the Maheshwaris are worship Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Certain special rituals and festivals are observed by them too. A rite which has great significance for the women is called Baditeej. It is celebrated on the third (Krishnapaksha) of Bhadrapada of the Vikram. Samvat year is the time when women fast and pray for the longevity of their husbands and unmarried girls pray for good husbands. Only the men cut peenda after which the women perform puja and break their fast.
Gorja or Gavraja is celebrated on the third day of Chaitra (Sudi) when Shiva and Parvati are worshipped. Unmarried girls worship the goddess Gorja with gulla (the inside of green grass) for sixteen days and married women for eight with doob.
Raksha Bandhan in this community is celebrated twenty days after the usual date of its celebration on the fifth of the second half of Bhadrapadand. It is known as Bhai Panchami or Rishi Panchami.
Jaystha Sukla of the Samvat year is celebrated as Mahesh Navami to commemorate the birth of the Maheshwari community when Mahesh is worshipped.