Etymology of Bania Community
The name of Bania community has been derived from Sanskrit term ‘Vanij’, meaning a merchant. Bania caste is also known as ‘Chettiar’ in Tamil language, ‘Sud’ in Punjabi language and ‘Komati’ in Telugu language. The term ‘Mahajan’ is used to signify a banker or moneylender; ‘Seth’ indicates a great merchant or capitalist, and these two terms are applied to Banias as a prefix.
Society and Religion of Bania Community
Bania community have a distinctive social status. They have several endogamous groups and minor sub-castes that are formed by migration, differ greatly in different provinces. The Banias have forty sub-castes almost all being further divided into the Visa (twenty), Dasa (ten) and Pancha (five). Amongst these the first is said to be the highest in the Vania social order. Though the members of the Visa and Dasa eat together, they do not intermarry and neither has the type of association with the Pancha. Most of these sub-castes comprise an intricate system of exogamy.
The Bania community claims to be Vaishya because they still have Mahajans and trade guilds, which are referred to in Sanskrit literature. There are 38 endogamous divisions of the caste and 5 have Jain sections known as ‘Shravaks’, the others being the ‘Meshris’.
Profession of Bania Community
The Bania community has a well defined traditional occupation, which is followed by most members of every sub-caste. They are engaged largely in the traditional Bania’s profession and deal in grain and money. Around 60 per cent of the Banias are engaged in this trade.
Culture of Bania Community
Culture of Bania community is rich and very colourful. Banias are staunch adherents of the Vallabhacharya sect. It is believed they were converted to this faith some 450 years ago. In almost every Bania home, there is a puja room or a corner where the images and idols of worship are placed. They are very religious people.
Costumes of Bania Community
They dress in colourful clothes which vary in different regions, the main variations being in north Gujarat, Kathiawar and Surat. When going out men usually wear a dhoti, a jacket called ‘Badan’ or a cotton coat called ‘Angrakha’ and a shoulder cloth called ‘Pichodi’. In Kutch District and Kathiawar, some wear a large Rajputana type turban. Those in north and central Gujarat wear the tightly folded cylindrical turban with numerous folds in front and several coils at the back. The men and women of Bania community are very fond of jewellery. Men from affluent families wear a silver girdle and a gold armlet above the elbow and the richer they get, the more they add to their personal adornment. The women wear gold jewellery often set with pearls. They also wear earrings, nose-rings, necklaces, armlet above the left elbow, bangles of glass and ivory, silver anklets and silver toe-rings.