ⓘ Marwari people


ⓘ Business history of the Marwari people

The Marwari or Marwadi are an Indian ethnic group that originate from the Rajasthan region of India. Their language, also called Marwari, comes under the umbrella of Rajasthani languages, which is part of the Western Zone of Indo-Aryan languages.

They have been a highly successful business community, first as inland traders during the era of Rajput kingdoms, and later also as investors in industrial production and other sectors. Today, they control many of the countrys largest media groups. Although spread throughout India, historically they have been most concentrated in Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Nagpur and the hinterlands of central and eastern India.


1. Etymology

The term Marwari once referred to the area encompassed by the former princely state of Marwar, also called the Jodhpur region of southwest Rajasthan in India. It has evolved to be a designation for the Rajasthani people in general but it is used particularly with reference to certain jātis that fall within the Bania community. The most prominent among these communities, are the Agrawals, Khandelwals, Maheshwaris and Oswals. That said, most people now considered to be of the Marwari community actually have their origins in the districts of Jhunjhunu, Churu and Shekhawati rather than Jodhpur; it is possible that the association of the Marwari term with Jodhpur owes more to the high status of that place in pre-independence India.

Dwijendra Tripathi believes that the term Marwari was probably used by the traders only when they were outside their home region; that is, by the diaspora. Anne Hardgrove also supports this argument, saying that the Marwari identity could only exist in the context of a diaspora who came from somewhere and that until they migrated they had no such designation.


2.1. History Early origins

Marwari traders have historically been migratory in habit. The possible causes of this trait include the proximity of their homeland to the major trade route; movement to escape famine; and the encouragement given to them by various rulers of northern India who saw advantages in having their skills in banking and finance.

The pattern of Marwari migration became increasingly divergent following the decline in wars between Rajput kingdoms, which the Marwaris had helped to finance, and the decreasing influence of the community over the North Indian caravan trading routes that resulted from the British establishing themselves in the region. The changed focus of migration was also encouraged by the British establishment of new trading routes and centres, as well as by the declining political significance of the Rajput courts whose famed conspicuous consumption had been supported by Marwari money. The community welcomed the relative safety that the British presence offered, as well as the commercial and legal frameworks that they provided and which were more favourable to Marwari activities than the systems prevalent during the earlier period of Mughal and Rajput rule.

The Marwari Jagat Seth family served as bankers to the Mughals.


2.2. History British era

After the decline of Mughal authority in Bengal, Marwari traders, bankers and financiers migrated to the growing British power in Calcutta. There were particularly significant population shifts to Bombay between 1835-1850 and Kolkata from the 1870s, as well as to Madras. They continued to spread into areas of British control throughout the nineteenth century, becoming established as sahukars moneylenders and inland trade-brokers in central India and Maharashtra. The migration of these traders accelerated in the second half of the nineteenth century which led to growing unpopularity, and acts of communal violence against them.

Historian Medha M. Kudaisya has said that the Marwaris:

made the transition from being niche players in trading to becoming industrial conglomerates. From being brokers and bankers, the Marwaris went on to break the British monopoly over the jute industry after World War I; they then moved into other industrial sectors, such as cotton and sugar, and set up diversified conglomerates. By the 1950s, the Marwaris dominated the India private industry scenario, emerging as the establishers of its most prominent business houses.

A considerable number of Marwari business groups made their fortune on speculative markets in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Although maintaining close and public ties with the British authorities, members of the Marwari business community where early financial supporters of the Indian National Congress, often in secret.


2.3. History Independent India

In 1956, the All-India Marwari Federation opposed a linguistic organisation of states whilst buying up regional language newspapers in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Today, they control many of the countrys largest media groups.

The communitys control of the Indian economy declined following the countrys 1991 economic reforms. From a peak of controlling 24 per cent in 1990, it had fallen to less than 2 per cent in 2000, apparently because of an unwillingness to adapt. The 2000 figure is considered to be lower than the position in 1939, when the community first began its resurgence.


3. Language

Marwari, or Marrubhasha, as it is referred to by Marwaris, is the traditional, historical, language of the Marwari ethnicity. The Marwari language is closely related to the Rajasthani language. The latter evolved from the Old Gujarati also called Old Western Rajasthani, Gujjar Bhakha or Maru-Gurjar, language spoken by the people in Gujarat and Rajasthan. It has been noted that throughout the state of Rajasthan, people avoid identifying their language by name, preferring to identify themselves as speaking "Rajasthani" with Marwari literature and taught as Rajasthani until secondary level.


4. Culture

Marwaris have been known for a tightly-knit social solidarity, described by Selig Harrison in 1960 as "indissoluble under the impact of the strongest regional solvents". The perception held of their culture by other communities is ambivalent at best. Hardgrove notes that they are "known across India for their success in business and industry, and often despised and severely criticised by other Indians for their alleged corruption and social conservatism". The latter aspect is particularly evident in the status of women within the Marwari community: it is probably correct that, generally speaking, they are less educated than those of even other wealthy communities and if they have any form of further education it tends not to be with the aim of pursuing a career but rather of enhancing domestic life. She says that "The main duty for Marwari women, it would seem, is to provide a stable household life for their husbands, sons and brothers-in-law", although she acknowledges that some such women have in recent years been attempting to carve out roles in the wider world through engagement in charitable ventures and even running their own businesses.


5. Notable people

  • Shobhana Bhartia
  • Laxmi Mall Singhvi
  • Rohit Khandelwal
  • Jagmohan Dalmiya
  • Abhishek Jain
  • Kumar Mangalam Birla
  • Janaki Devi Bajaj
  • Ritu Dalmia
  • Nidhhi Agerwal
  • Rajeev Khandelwal
  • Shyamanand Jalan
  • Liaquat Soldier
  • Rahul Bajaj
  • S. N. Goenka
  • Abhishek Singhvi