Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"History of the Eternal Marwaris"

Marwaris are the people from the Marwar region of Rajasthan in India. Though Marwari as a genre originated from a place name, the Marwari people have spread to many regions of India, and even to neighboring countries, as they expanded their business and trade networks. In many locales, Marwari immigrants over time (and, usually involving many generations) have blended in with the regional cultures.
The Marwar region includes the central and western parts of Rajasthan. The word Marwar is considered to be derived from Sanskrit word Maruwat, the meaning of maru being 'desert'.
The development of the fresco paintings on Havelis is linked with the history of the Marwaris.


1 The community

2 "Rajasthani" and "Marwari"

3 Religion and Caste

4 Language

5 Diaspora

6 Demographics

7 Negotiating Modernity

8 History

9 Women in the Marwari Community

10 Famous and Influential Marwaris

11 Marwari houses

12 Early 20th century Literature and References

The Community

Marwar is the largest region of Rajasthan, located in central & western areas. The residents of Marwar region have been called Marwaris, irrespective of the caste. The term 'Marwari' has a a geographical connotation. So there can be a Marwari baniya and a Marwari rajput and so on.
Many people from Marwari vaishya/baniya/business caste went to distant states for trading and became successful & famous. Since the vaishya/baniya caste is present everywhere in India, for people in other states, the distinguishing factor of a "Marwari baniya" person was "Marwari". Hence, with human tendency to speak short, the term "Marwari" caught on across India's other states to refer to a businessman from Marwar. This usage is imprecise. Other castes from Rajasthan did not migrate to such extent, so awareness about them in other states is low.
Marwaris comprise the people who originally belonged to Rajasthan, particularly, areas in and around Jodhpur, Pali and Nagaur; and certain other adjoining areas.
Marwaris have close association with tradition & culture of Thar and Hinduism. They are soft-spoken, mild-mannered and peaceful. These love to live together in a Joint Family. They like variety of dishes in meals. They are mostly vegetarians.

"Rajasthani" and "Marwari"

Rajasthani is a word derived from the name of a state of independent India, Rajasthan. Any resident of Rajasthan is called Rajasthani (from a regional point of view), whereas Marwari is a word derived from the name of the Marwar region (which after independence became a part of Rajasthan state). So, residents of the Marwar region are basically Marwaris. Hence, all Marwaris are Rajasthanis but all Rajasthanis are not Marwaris.
Though Marwari as a genre originated from a place name, in more recent times the term Marwari is often used for the trading class from the Marwar region.

Religion and Caste

Marwaris are predominantly Hindu, and there are also a large number of Jains. However, regardless of their affiliation, whether Hindu or Jain, Marwaris mingle with each other socially. In some cases they share matrimonial relations and traditional rituals together. The taboos which existed almost a century ago have largely disappeared while still maintaining the proud Marwari tradition.
Vaishya, or trading and commerce, is the most famous caste among Marwaris. Marwari Baniyas are famous for their trading & business skill. These include
Agarwals Maheshwaris Oswals Khandelwals, (Sarawagi etc) Porwals, Seervi Rajputs of Marwar were famous for their valour, strength and fighting skill. There are also Marwari Brahmins like Pushkarnas.


Dark green indicates Marwari speaking home area in Rajasthan, light green indicates additional dialect areas where speakers identify their language as Marwari.Marwari is also a language belonging to the Sanskritic subgroup, of the Indo-Aryan branch, of the Indo-European language family. Marwari, or Marrubhasha, as it is referred to by Marwaris, is the traditional, historical, language of the Marwari ethnicity. Though many Marwaris today cannot speak Marwari, and have adopted other Indian languages, primarily Hindi, and English, many still speak a smattering of Marwari. Large numbers, especially in Rajasthan, still converse fluently in Marwari. Various dialects of the language are found, which vary with the speakers' areas of origin, communities etc.

Marwari Baniyas spread to many regions of India, and even to neighboring countries, as they expanded their business and trade networks. In many locales, Marwari immigrants over time (and, usually involving many generations) adopted, or blended into, the regional culture. For example, in Punjab, Marwaris adopted Punjabi, and in Gujarat, Gujarati, and so forth. Significant concentrations of Marwari vaish live in Kolkata in the Burrabazar area and are leading lights in business there. A large number of Marwaris are also in Mumbai. Marwaris have founded businesses in neighboring Nepal, especially in Beerganj, Viratnagar and Kathmandu.
Marwari baniyas, with their business acumen, have migrated across many different parts of the country, and to other countries of the world. In the eastern part of India, they are found in Kolkata, Siliguri, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, etc., where Marwaris are among the prominent businessmen.
The socioeconomic and sociocultural functions and interactions of the Marwari community bear a striking resemblance to those of the Jewish trading communities of the Mediterranean and Europe.[citation needed]
Marwaris extended the reach and influence of their Indian financial and commercial networks from the 17th century through the early 19th century to Persia and Central Asia.

The Marwaris now constitute several social groups dispersed throughout India and Pakistan and across the globe, including many remote areas. The total population worldwide is difficult to measure and subject to secular, linguistic, cultural and other parameters of defining who is a Marwari. Although useful estimates about their numbers are not available, some regional estimates have been made. For example, an estimate indicates that their number “never reached above 200,000 at any stage of their presence in Bengal.”

Negotiating Modernity
Marwaris have conventionally been very traditional, averse to modern education. They preferred practical knowledge in business. The urban Marwaris value education and seek to provide it to all irrespective of gender. Consequently, over the past four decades, Marwaris have become moderately diversified in various professions. Although the primary focus is still centered on commerce and finance, Marwaris have ventured into industry, operations, social services, politics, diplomacy, hard sciences and arts.
With this diversification, and with India's rapid socio-economic transformations, the Marwaris are negotiating modernity in a unique manner. On one hand, it has brought them into contact with a wider range of ideologies, leading them to contend and comprehend anew their traditional moorings. On the other hand, it has caused undercurrents of social tensions in what was largely a patriarchal, feudal and monolithic social structure.
Nevertheless, whether radically progressive or conservative traditionalists, the Marwaris pride themselves in their ability to adapt to changing circumstances. A characteristic which they ascribe to be instrumental in the success of their enterprises and also in maintaining their social identity while accommodating the host culture they migrate to. This is visible in Marwaris everywhere. An educated Marwari does not have to contest the labels of either/or. He or she is more likely to qualify their Marwari identity with a reference to the state, country or cultural demographic they were raised in or residing in. To substantiate, they are more likely to offer an amalgamation rather than a label.
This composite identity places the Marwari response to modernity in a unique class. Because the Marwari has been treated (largely due to the politically biased reporting and hagiography by the British surveyors during the East India Company and British Raj days) as the "outsider", they have developed an ability to negotiate and compromise with the perspectives of the native-born "insiders". The migration of Marwaris was, as for most migrants, for economic betterment -- coming as they originally do from a desert region. However, their continuance has been due to a self felt need for cultural furtherance. Curiously, Marwaris do not perceive culture as an artifact that can be fashioned externally. Rather, it has become a process by which the family and community can inhabit both the "outsider" and "insider" status.
With these motivations and circumstances, the Marwaris have chosen to arrange a debate based culture within the community and a service based culture in their interaction with others. Business and commerce fall within the service based culture, as do hospitals, schools, animal shelters, charitable institutions and places of religious worship.
Whereas the initial response to modernity was one of survival, the modern Marwari's response to modernity is that of participation and co-ownership in the communities they live in.

The earliest recorded account begins from the time of Mughal empire. Since the time of the Mughal period (16th century-19th centuries), particularly from the time of Akbar (1542-1605), Marwari entrepreneurs have been moving out of their homeland of Marwar and Rajasthan, and adjoining regions, to different parts of Undivided India. The first waves migration took place during the Mughal period, and a number of Marwari baniyas moved to the eastern parts of India, currently comprising the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, and Jharkhand; and Bangladesh.
During the period of the Nawabs of Bengal, Marwari vaishyas exhibited their acumen, and controlled the mint and banking. Jagath Seth who controlled the finances of Murshidabad Darbar was an Oswal, one of several sub-groups of Marwaris. The business houses of Gopal Das and Banarasi Das, also Oswal Marwaris, undertook large scale commercial and banking activities.
Several Marwari baniyas, after permanenet settlement was introduced by the British Raj, acquired large estates, in eastern part of India, particularly in Bengal. They included Dulalachand Singh, (alias Dulsing), a Porwal Marwari, who had acquired several Zamindaris around Dhaka, currently the capital of Bangladesh, as also in Bakarganj, Patuakhali, and Comilla, all places currently part of Bangladesh. These Zamindaris were managed and co-owned with khwajas of Dhaka. Dulalchand Singh family also emerged as a business tycoon controlling jute trade.
After India’s First War of Independence (1857-58), when social and political disturbances subsided, another wave of large scale migration of Marwaris took place, and during the remaining period of 19th century, a number of Marwari business houses, small and big, had emerged. The Marwari community controlled all the major business activities of a large geographical areas of the eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent. With a sizeable presence in present day Myanmar and Bangladesh, they controlled major trading and commercial activities in the regions currently comprising the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand. They also had almost complete control of indigenous banking, finance and hundi. They took the hundi business to areas where the system was unknown, which included Chittagong, Khulna, Naogaon, Mymensingh, and Arakan. They competed successfully in these areas with Chettiars who were located in the region for long.

Women in the Marwari Community
Marwaris are known for their orthodox nature. However, their women are usually where most of their orthodoxy is displayed. They tend to marry their daughters as early as possible. Usually, between the age of 18-21 years. After marriage, the girl is wholly responsible to her in-laws. Women are generally not educated and if they are, they don't work after their wedding. They are very pampered by being given a lot of jewelry and clothes. They are, however, not allowed to have or display any independent behavior. Daughters are not taught business and not told family business secrets lest they reveal them when they get married. As Daughters-in-law, their contribution to the family business is limited to basic organizational work. Finances are usually never given to women.

Famous and Influential Marwaris
Agarwal Families Anu Aggrawal, Bollywood Actress Bhageria Family Bharat Bhushan, Bollywood actor, famously known as Tragedy King Bijoy Singh Nahar, Member of Parliament Bimal Jalan, Economist and ex-Governor of the Reserve Bank of India Bhutoria Families Chandanmal Baid, philanthropher and Diamond Merchant Dwarika Prasad Maheshwari, Renowned poet, Former Director of Education in Uttar Pradesh Dalmia, Billionaire industrialists Deep Singh Nahar, photographer Ganeriwala Family Gaurav Lila, Billionaire Industrialist Gautam Singhania Billionaire industrialist Ghanshyam Das Birla, Billionaire industrialist Goenka Family Billionaire industrialists Harsh Goenka, of famous RPG group. Inder Kumar Saraf, Bollywood Actor Jagmohan Dalmiya, Former Chairman of International Cricket Council, the world's highest governing body for Cricket Jatia Family Jhunjunwala Family Billionaire industrialists Kailash Sankhala Kanoria Family Khemka Family Ketan Family Kumar Mangalam Birla, Billionaire industrialist Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, Billionaire industrialist of Arcelor-Mittal Lodha Family Makharia Family Mandelia Family Manoj Sonthalia Moda Family Neotia Family Nevatia Family Piramal Family Billionaire industrialists Poddar Family Billionaire industrialists Prakhar Birla, CEO and founder of Dinit Softwares Billionaire industrialist Puranmal Lahoti, Member of first Rajya Sabha & Freedom Fighter Rahul Bajaj Billionaire industrialist Raj Dugar, venture capitalist Rajan Vora, Member of Parliament (MP), Lok Sabha Raju Kothari, CEO, Ram Manohar Lohia Ramesh Chandra Lahoti, Former Chief Justice of India Rev. Kiran Sankhla Ramkrishna Dalmia, Pioneering industrialist of Modern India Ritu Dalmia, famous chef, billionaire industrialist Ruia Family Billionaire industrialists Rungta Family Saharia Family Sarla Maheshwari, Former Vice-Chairperson, Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) Seksharia Family Shivang Kagzi, Forbes top 50 Billionaire, youngest entreupeneur to be featured on The Economist, FT & Time Magazine Covers Sohanlal Dugar, philanthropist, silver trader, speculator Subhash Sethi, of Subhash Projects. Sunil Mittal Billionaire industrialist Tarachand Ghanshyam Das Family Thirani Family,Industrialists,Business Houses. Tarun Agarwal, Richest Textile Industrialist Vaid Family Venugopal N Dhoot, Billionaire Industrialist, Chairman Videocon Vijaypat Singhania, Aviation Pioneer, world record holder for maximum altitude, billionaire industrialist Yash Birla Billionaire industrialist

Marwari houses
Some of the famous and prominent Marwaris trading, commercial, and industrial houses are as under: Aggarwal, Agarwalla, Agarwal, Agrawal, Ajmera, Bagla, Bagri, Bagaria, Bagrecha, Bahety, Baid, Bajaj, Bajla, Bajoria, Balodia, Bamb, Bangad, Bansal, Banthia, Bawalia, Bhadoria, Bhageria, Bhartiya, Bhagat, Bhalotia, Bhandari, Bhangadia, Bharatia, Bedmutha, Bhattad, Bhut, Bhutoria, Bhuwalka, Bindal, Birla, Biyani, Buchasia, Chamaria, Chandak, Choraria, Dave, Daga, Dhoot, Dalmia, Dalamia, Deopura, Deorah, Dhanuka, Dhokharia, Didwania, Dingliwal, Dudavewala, Dujari, Dhoot, dugar, Gadia, Gangh, Gandhi, Ganeriwal, Gadodia, Garg, Garodia, Goal, Goenka, Goyal, Goyanaka, Gupta, Gyanaka, Heda, Jaipuria, Jajodia, Jaju, Jalan, Jangra, Jhajharia, Jhanwar, Jhunjhunwala, Jhunjhunuwala, Kabra, Kankaria, Kanodia, Kansal, Karwa, Kauntia, Kedia, Kejriwal, Khaitan Khandelwal, Khemka, Khetan, Killa, Kothari, Kathotia, Ladda, Lahoti, Lahoty, Lakhotia, Lohia, Loyalka, Maloo, Malani, Malpani, Malu, Mandelia, Maskara, Mistri, Mittal, Majaria, Modi, Moondra, Moda, Mohanka, Mohatta, Mokati, Mour, Murarka, Nevatia, Oswal, Parasrampuria, Patodia, Patwa, Poddar, Prahladka, Puranmalka, Rajpurohit, Rathee, Rathi, Rathod, Ruia, Rungta, Rupramka, Saboo, Saharia, Sanghi, Saraf, Saraogi, Saravagi, Sarda, Seksaria, Sekhsaria, Sethi, Shah, Sharma, Singhal, Singhania, Singhi, Singhvi, Sisodiya, Sodhani, Somani, Sonthalia, Suhasaria Sultania, Surana, Sureka, Tantia, Taparia, Tayal, Tekriwal Thirani, Todi, Toshniwal, Totla, Trivedi, Vaid, Vyas, Bangur, Bholusaria, joshi, Sonkhia's

Early 20th century Literature and References
In R.V. Russell's 1916 published "Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India" Marwari is desribed as following:
A resident of Mārwār or the desert tract of Rājputāna; Mārwār is also used as a name for Jodhpur State. See subordinate article Rājpūt-Rāthor. The name Mārwāri is commonly applied to Banias coming from Mārwār. See article Bania. A subcaste of Bahna, Gurao, Kumhār, Nai, Sunār and Teli.
However, in his glossary Russell gives reference to another related community:
Marori: A small caste of degraded Rājpūts from Marwār found in the Bhandāra and Chhindwāra Districts and also in Berār. The name is a local corruption of Mārwāri, and is applied to them by their neighbours, though many of the caste do not accept it and call themselves Rājpūts. In Chhindwāra they go by the name of Chhatri, and in the Tirora Tahsīl they are known as Alkari, because they formerly grew the al or Indian madder for a dye, though it has now been driven out of the market. They have been in the Central Provinces for some generations, and though retaining certain peculiarities of dress, which show their northern origin, have abandoned in many respects the caste usages of Rājpūts. Their women wear the Hindustāni angia tied with string behind in place of the Marātha choli or breast-cloth, and drape their sāris after the northern fashion. They wear ornaments of the Rājpūtans shape on their arms, and at their weddings they sing Mārwāri songs. They have Rājpūt sept names, as Parihār, Rāthor, Solanki, Sesodia and others, which constitute exogamous groups and are called kulis. Some of these have split up into two or three subdivisions, as, for instance, the Pathar (stone) Panwārs, the Pāndhre or white Panwārs and the Dhatūra or thorn-apple Panwārs; and members of these different groups may intermarry. The reason seems to be that it was recognised that people belonged to the same Panwār sept who were not blood kin to each other, and the prohibition of marriage between them was a serious inconvenience in a small community. They also have eponymous gotras, as Vasishtha, Batsa and others of the Brāhmanical type, but these do not influence exogamy. The paucity of their numbers and the influence of local usage have caused them to relax the marriage rules adhered to by Rājpūts. Women are very scarce, and a price varying from forty to a hundred rupees is commonly paid for a bride, though they feel keenly the degradation attaching to the acceptance of a bride-price. Widow-marriage is permitted, no doubt for the same reasons, and a girl going wrong with a man of another caste may be readmitted to the community. Divorce is not permitted, and an unfaithful wife may be abandoned; she cannot then marry again in the caste. Formerly, on the arrival of the marriage procession, the bride’s and bridegroom’s parties let off fireworks, aiming them against each other, but this practice is now discontinued. When the bridegroom approaches the marriage-shed the bride comes out and strikes him on the breast or forehead with a ball of dough, a sheet being held between them; the bridegroom throws a handful of rice over her and strikes the festoons of the shed with a naked sword. A bachelor espousing a widow must first be married to a ring, which he thereafter carries in his ear, and if it is lost funeral ceremonies must be performed as for a real wife. Women are tattooed on the arms only. Children have as many as five names, one for ordinary use, and the others for ceremonial purposes and the arrangement of marriages. If a man kills a cow or a cat he must have a miniature figure of the animal made of gold and give it to a Brāhman in expiation of his sin.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

About Marwaris

$$$ About Marwaris $$$

The term Marwari literally refers to someone who hails from or is an inhabitant of Marwar - the erstwhile Jodhpur state. This term gained currency initially in Bengal, where the traders from Shekhawati and other parts of Rajasthan established their business empires. Distinct in their dress, customs and language, the traders and merchants of Rajasthan came to be known as Marwaris.
Thomas A Timberg states, 'In colloquial usage, outside of Rajasthan, Marwari is used to refer to emigrant businessmen from the vicinity of Rajasthan." The earliest link of the Marwaris with Bengal can be traced back to 1564, when Rajput soldiers under Akbar's flag came to camp there during the reign of Suleman Kirani. The contract of supplying the essentials for the soldiers was awarded to the merchants of Marwar. On their arrival in Bengal, they are supposed to have introduced themselves as Marwaris and since they wore pugris (turbans), they were also referred to as pugridhari Marwaris (Marwaris who wore turbans). These seths commanded a great deal of respect back at home in Shekhawati. Rulers of different states would vie with each other to offer the best possible terms to entice the seths to set up business in their towns. The Thakur would provide them with fertile land which they were allowed to till without paying the obligatory tax. They were also given armed protection for their convoys, charters for the construction of schools, wells, temples and other charitable enterprises, and offered immunity from customs, search and seizure, as well as criminal prosecution! Royal letters of recognition and admiration, and the permission to wear the tazim - the anklet of honor, were some of the other privileges bestowed on them. Their opinion was given due weightage and often, they were consulted on the matters of the state as well. The rulers were wise enough to realize it was better to get the cooperation, if not the approval of the merchant community, as they were dependent on them for economic support. For instance, at an estimate, the merchant class met half of the 15,00,000 rupees budget of the state of Sikar.
The rich and prosperous trader community in turn, would offer extended loans to the rulers and also invest in other public related projects. Seth Mirzamal was known to have loaned a sum of four lakhs of rupee to Maharaja Surat Singh. of Bikaner. The Poddars of Ramgarh provided financial assistance to the Raoraja of Sikar, and gained implicit Powers through unwritten rules and regulations. On several other occasions, the Marwari community succeeded in framing ordinances and decrees to suit their interest. When income tax was imposed on them, the merchants of Churu, Sardar Shahr, Sujangarh and Nohar protested, and got the Proposal postponed. In 1868, the ,Surana family protesting against the imposition of heavy taxation, left Churu to settle in Mehansar. Sir Ganga Singh, the Maharaja of Bikaner (Churu was a part of Bikaner) had no option but to accede to their demands and get them back to Churu. But some rulers were more stubborn and paid the price. Thakur Sheo Singh levied heavy taxes on the Poddars of Churn in the early part of the 19th century. The Poddars asked him to reconsider his decision. He refused. The Poddars migrated en masse, and founded a new town, Ramgarh, 15 kms. south of Sikar. Churu's loss was Sikar's gain as the Poddars were perhaps the biggest traders of the region and Ramgarh stands testimony to their entrepreneurial abilities.

Shekhawati provided an interesting Picture of the domination of the combined forces of feudalism and capitalism. However, while capitalism continued to dominate for a little longer, the feudal system was on the decline. Constant infighting amongst the Rajputs had weakened them and the East India Company forces were only too willing to move in and take control.
As the impoverished thakurs took to looting and plundering the caravans of the traders, the killings and robberies on the trade routes increased. Besides the fear and insecurity this caused them, the merchants had additional cause for worry as British patronage of Mumbai, Calcutta and Madras ports was severely affecting the existing caravan routes so essential to their trade. When the political scenario started deteriorating, the Marwaris needed little encouragement to migrate to garrison towns. Luckily, here too, they received protection from the British, who were wise enough to recognise their importance.
The progress in transportation and communication made migration easier and soon there was a veritable Marwari exodus to the states of Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Hyderabad and Mysore. Some enterprising Marwaris (like Bhagwandas Bagla, who is considered to be the first Marwari millionaire) even proceeded abroad to Burma and settled in Rangoon. The opening of the Delhi-Calcutta rail link gave a fillip to the migration and the new migrants started lining up for jobs in their newly adopted places of work. They were helped immensely by the early Marwari migrants whose operations had expanded by this time, and who needed all the help they could get. Foreign companies wanting to sell finished British goods in India required agents to represent them and offered good brokerage. The resourceful Marwaris recognising the potential of colonial trade, moved into the ports as brokers and amassed a great deal of wealth.
Since British traders had developed an interest in opium, tea, jute, silver and gold, the migrant traders soon specialised in these commodities and became the mainstay of foreign firms. Naturally, in the process they reaped tremendous benefits for themselves! While Nathuram Saraf served as a bania to the firm of Miller Kinsell and Ghose, Ramkumar Chokhani of Nawalgarh was the bania for Ludwig Duke. Hariram Goenka was guarantee broker to the Ralli Brothers, Onkarmal Jatia to Andrewe Yule and Anandiial Poddar to Toyoto Menka Kesha. The Poddars and Ruias of Ramgarh had set up firms in Mumbai and Ramnarain Ruia and Govindram Ghanshyamdas were so firmly entrenched in the cotton trade that they came to be known as 'cotton kings'.
Bilasirai Kedia, Gulraj Singhania and Ramdayal Nevatia, from Fatehpur, and Nathuram Poddar and Jokhiram Ruia of Ramgarh, hit the big times in the opium trade and were referred to as the magnate of the opium markets. The Birlas , too, were raking it in during the First World War, through the supply of cotton and textiles. While Surajmull Jhunjhunwala and Nathuram Saraf were pioneers in the cloth market in Calcutta, Ganeriwala of Lachhmangarh made such a name in Hyderabad that he was employed as the treasurer to the State.
By early 20th century, control over most of the inland trade routes was in Marwari hands. Most of the business of banking, selling of cloth and trading in opium was with them. They had also started replacing the Khatris and Bengalis as brokers. Then, after 1910, they started setting up industries. Surajmull Nagarmull established the first jute factory in 1911, the second three years later, and the third in 1916. Following this development, the Birlas opened the first Indian jute export office in London in 1917. They also set up a cotton mill in Calcutta in 1920 and the famous Gwalior Cotton Mill in Gwalior, in the following year. While the Sekserias set up textile mills, Ramkrishan Daimia established cement factories. Sir Sarupchand Hukumchand was an opium speculator, and when he opened his Calcutta office in 1915, he conducted business to the tune of rupees five million on the first day! He was worth Rs. 10,000,000 at the end of that financial year.
Gradually, the Shekhawati Marwaris migrated to the coastal towns of undivided India, under the protection of the British. The latter needed agents to, handle the vast imports they were thrusting upon the local economy, as well as suppliers to produce cotton, muslin, opium and spices for export to Europe. The Marwari traders in turn, weary of the looting thakurs in their home towns, readily moved out to set up shop in Mumbai, Calcutta and Indore, while some even moved as far as Rangoon. The rest is, as they say, is history.
Marwari businesses flourished, their net worth rose beyond limits that even they had set for themselves. A lot of this was reinvested in their home towns, in an interesting manner. Firstly, they constructed huge palatial havelis for their loved ones who had been left behind. These handsome homes were adorned with some of the finest most memorable frescoes in the world, by bringing in painters from the neighboring towns of Jaipur and Bikaner.
Their next act of benevolence was toward their towns, where they had spent their childhood. Schools, temples, wells, hospitals, even colleges were built in memory of their forefathers and donated to the town, for the development of its people. Birla Institute of Technical Training, the IlTs, Ruia College, Poddar School, are all results of these acts of charity and benevolence. Well-established Marwaris invited nephews, uncles, cousins and well wishers to come to the cities to lend a helping hand in the expansion, diversification and the consolidation of their business there. Other trustworthy persons were appointed back at home to ensure regular procurement and supply of goods from the hinterland to the ports and other processing units. Lakhs of rupees of business was conducted daily, and the influence and the fortunes of these enterprising men rose tremendously. After the Maharajas and the thakurs back home, it was now the Britishers' turn to acknowledge Marwari contributions and bestow various honours upon the community. They were elevated to city councils, and their advice sought on the smooth running of their adopted cities. The onset of the Second World War might have disrupted the seafaring routes that the Marwaris were so heavily dependent on, but then the large Allied forces could not obviously march on empty stomachs. The forces needed food, uniforms, shoes and ammunition. The more successful Marwaris quickly diversified, and mills and factories in Mumbai, Indore and Calcutta were soon spinning out newer requirements. So by the time the freedom fighters managed to get the Britishers out of the country, India already had its first crop of self-made millionaire industrialists, and above all, a reasonably good industrialised sector. Pandit Nehru, despite his other short-sighted decisions, realized the immense potential of this nascent, fast growing sector, and set about encouraging the Birlas, Goenkas, Dalmias, Ruias, Poddars and Singhanias amongst others, to expand, diversify, and get into core sectors. Today, these very names figure in the who's who of Indian industry and economy. Corporations and groups now bear the names of those industrious few, whose scions still hold controlling shares in large companies run by board of directors, company secretaries, and other technocrats, armed with MBAs, IIT degrees and what not. The old order changes for the better, one hopes. As a modern economy striving towards liberalisation, we obviously need modern methods to run these companies, which started with meager beginnings from towns and villages that today are but a tourist destination for the art lovers from Europe.