Marwari people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Marwadi Husband and Wife in Traditional Attire Rajasthan India.jpg
Marwari husband and wife in traditional attire
Regions with significant populations
 India spread across parts of India and mainly in Rajasthan
   Nepal Terai region and Kathmandu Valley [1]
Marwari language, Nepali language and Hindi language.
Hinduism and Jainism[citation needed]
Related ethnic groups
Rajasthani people
Birla Mandir, New Delhi built by the Birla family in 1939

The Marwari or Marwadi are a South Asian ethno-linguistic group in Nepal and India that originate from the Marwar region of Rajasthan, 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 are a highly successful business community, first as inland traders during the Rajput Kingdoms and the era of the British Raj, and then as investors in industrial production and other sectors following Indian independence. Today they account for one quarter of India's billionaires[2], and control many of the country's largest media groups[3]. Although spread throughout India, historically they have been most concentrated in Calcutta and the hinterlands of central and eastern India[2].


The term Marwadi once referred to the area encompassed by the former princely state of Marwar, also called the Jodhpur region of southwest Rajasthan in India. There are a couple of theories about the origin of the name. One is that Marwar is derived from the Sanskrit word Maruwat, the meaning of maru being 'desert'. Another is that the word Marwar is made up of Mar from alternate name of Jaisalmer and last part war of Mewar. 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 ethnic category. Those communities, whose traditional occupation has been as traders, comprise the Barnwals, Agarwals, Khandelwals, Maheshwaris and Oswals.[4]

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.[5]


Marwari, or Marrubhasha, as it is referred to by Marwaris, is the traditional, historical, language of the Marwari ethnicity.[6] 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.[7] 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[8].

Marwari shares 50%-65% lexical similarity with Hindi and Marwari individuals have featured prominently as patrons of Hindi literature over the course of the last 150 years[2].


Business history

Medha 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.[9]

Early Origins

Kedia Family Haveli (Fatehpur, Shekhawati, Rajasthan)

Marwari traders have historically been migratory in habit, and are reportedly more widely dispersed across the country then India's other business communities such as the Parsis and the Jains[10]. The possible causes of this trait include the proximity of their homeland to the major Ganges-Yamuna trade route; movement to escape famine; and the encouragement given to them by the successful rulers of northern India who saw advantages in having their skills in banking and finance.

For centuries waves of famine drove many Marwaris out of Rajathan leading many to establish themselves of moneylenders in the surrounding regions, and to build up trading networks in grains, rice and oilseeds. The fiscal policy of the Rajput kingdoms is also believed to have created ideal conditions for the emergence of a merchant capital. Marwaris acted as financiers to the Rajput kingdoms in their wars against other Rajputs and for their conspicuous consumption in their royal courts.[4] In fact it was the decline in the wars between the Rajputs that led to an exodus of Marwari moneylenders searching for new ventures to finance[11].

They also served as bankers to the Mughals, with the name Jagat Seth actually being a title meaning "banker of the world".

The British Raj

After the decline of the Mughal authority in Bengal, traders migrated to the growing British power in Calcutta[12] and throughout the nineteenth century, continued to spread into areas of British control, becoming established as sahukars (moneylenders) and inland trade-brokers in Central India and Mahashtra[13]. The migration of these traders accelerated in the second half of the nineteenth century[14] which led to growing unpopularity, and acts of communal violence against them[15]

The Marwari family businesses are considered to have been dependent on collaboration with the British until at least the First World War.

  • 1901 - Marwari first used as an ethnographic classification in the 1901 Census.
  • 1911 - Marwaris reportedly own 60% of the shares in the foreign-managed Jute mills.
  • A considerable number of Marwari business groups made their fortune on speculative markets in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.[2]
  • Prominant Marwari community members where both early donors to the Indian National Congress and public loyalists to the British regime.
  • 1927 - Birla purchases Hindustan Times to disseminate Congress policies[16].

Independent India

  • After the World Wars Marwaris such as Birlas, Dalmias and Keshoram Poddar invested accumulated capital into new industries.
  • 1956 - All-Indian Marwari Federation opposed linguistic organisation of the states whilst buying up regional language newspapers in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra.[17][18]
  • 1971 - Marwari no longer classified as a dialect of Rajasthani and instead treated as a grouped mother tongue of Hindi.

Liberalisation Era (Post 1991 Reforms)

  • Despite fears that established Marwari industrial families would struggle following the 1991 economic reforms, they have generally survived and prospered. Overall however, the community's control of the Indian economy has declined from a peak of 24% in 1990, to 2% by the year 2000[19].
  • Modernisation in the community has accelerated. Today there are many Marwaris entering government service and the professions and marrying outside the community.


Marawaris are known for a tightly-knit social solidarity, "indissoluble under the impact of the strongest regional solvents"[17] They are known for maintaining an identity distinct from the people they live amongst despite usually speaking the local languages fluently. They also maintain strong connections to their place of origin.

Many Marwari's consider the name 'marwari' a pejorative and identify themselves by their sub-caste[20].

One of the reasons given for the business success of the community is their ability to keep a sharp eye on the cashflow of their companies.

See also


  1. ^ "Marwari peoples starts fleeing Nepal". 
  2. ^ a b c d Timberg, Thomas A. (2014). The Marwaris : from Jagat Seth to the Birlas. New Delhi: Portfolio Penguin. p. 82. ISBN 9780143424055. OCLC 889316289. 
  3. ^ Ajwani, Deepak (March 18, 2014). "Indian Media: Marwaris Write the Script | Forbes India". Forbes India. Retrieved 2017-11-25. 
  4. ^ a b Kudaisya, Medha M. (2009). "Marwari and Chettiar Merchants. 1850s-1950s: Comparative Trajectories". In Kudaisya, Medha M.; Ng, Chin-Keong. Chinese and Indian Business: Historical Antecedents. Leiden: BRILL. p. 87. ISBN 978-90-04-17279-1. Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  5. ^ Tripathi, Dwijendra (1996). "From Community to Class: The Marwaris in a Historical Perspective". In Bhandani, B. L.; Tripathi, Dwijendra. Facets of a Marwar Historian. Jaipur: Publication Scheme. pp. 189–196. ISBN 978-81-86782-18-7. 
  6. ^ "about Marwaris". Retrieved 2014-03-23. 
  7. ^ Ajay Mitra Shastri; R. K. Sharma; Devendra Handa (2005). Revealing India's past: recent trends in art and archaeology. Aryan Books International. p. 227. ISBN 978-81-7305-287-3. It is an established fact that during 10th-11th century ... Interestingly the language was known as the Gujjar Bhakha. 
  8. ^ Mukherjee, Kakali (2011). "Marwari" (PDF). Census India. p. 35. 
  9. ^ Kudaisya, Medha M. (2009). "Marwari and Chettiar Merchants. 1850s-1950s: Comparative Trajectories". In Kudaisya, Medha M.; Ng, Chin-Keong. Chinese and Indian Business: Historical Antecedents. Leiden: BRILL. p. 86. ISBN 978-90-04-17279-1. Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  10. ^ Gadgil, D. R. (1945). "Notes on the Rise of Business Communities in India". Federating India. 
  11. ^ Timberg, Thomas A., (1978). The Marwaris, from traders to industrialists. New Delhi: Vikas. ISBN 9780706905281. OCLC 5829355. 
  12. ^ Strasser, Susan (2013). Commodifying Everything : Relationships of the Market. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. p. 197. ISBN 9781136706851. OCLC 869092219. 
  13. ^ Parliament of Great Britain, Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons Vol 58, 1878, p. 12
  14. ^ Sarkar, Sumit. Modern India 1886-1947. Pearson Education India. p. 35. 
  15. ^ Government of Bombay, Report of the Committee on the Riots, 1875. Government Central Press, Bombay, 1876, p. 23
  16. ^ Taknet, D. K. "Role of the Marwaris in the Freedom Struggle". The Marwari Heritage. p. 169. 
  17. ^ a b Harrison, Selig, S. (1960). India: the most dangerous decades. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. p. 116. ISBN 9781400877805. OCLC 927443550. 
  18. ^ The Times of India, February 11, 1956, p. 3.
  19. ^ Niyogi, Subhro (May 6, 2002). "'Marwaris losing business acumen' - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-11-27. 
  20. ^ Sinha, Satyabrat (18 November 2017). "Things You Wanted to Know About Marwaris and Didn't Know Whom to Ask - The Wire". The Wire. Retrieved 2017-11-25. 
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