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 Hindu 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. Today Bania is a rather loose term, sometimes meaning caste and other times just business people.
Where are they located?
Banias originated in the western Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. In today's world, many Banias are locating to other parts of the world like the West where they can be reached much more easily than they can in India. There is a small number of them residing in Bhutan, where there is a Tibetan Buddhist majority.
What are their lives like?
Members of the Bania caste are among the wealthiest people in the world. Today 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. Others work in government ministries or as lawyers, judges, teachers, scholars, stockbrokers, or engineers.
They are often resented by other communities. As children, they are taught to never give; always bargain and make money. 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.
What are their beliefs?
Nearly all 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 full wallets and empty hearts.
What are their needs?
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 that the veil of deception will be lifted from the eyes of the Banias in Bhutan and that they will see that the only true wealth is the spiritual riches gained through a loving relationship with Jesus Christ.
* Pray that Christ's disciples will be called to work among them and share Christ in a culturally relevant way.
* Pray for a disciple making movement to emerge among every Bania community.
Text source: Keith Carey