Wednesday, 7 August 2013

SHEKHAVATI - Relevance to Marwari Identity

Relevance to Marwari Identity

MYTH - 01
The real Marwari’s are in Rajasthan 

There are no resident marwaris in rajasthan that can be identified in the way this business community is identified across India. There was no pre-existing “Marwari” community in Rajasthan before the migrations. It was the fact of the trader’s departure itself and their disporic location outside of Rajasthan-that transforms this migrant community into Marwaris

MYTH - 02
Marwari’s hail from Marwar region of Rajasthan which was ernstwhile Marwar Kingdom and modern day’s Marwar & Jodhpur district.

The subjective region of “Marwar” as an imaginary homeland of the Marwari’s can hardly be found on a map. The very name “Marwari”, of course suggests an origin in “Marwar” but he historical importance of the Marwar kingdom and its continuing presence as an enduring place name may partially account for that fact that this diasporic and expatriate business group has been called Marwari instead of Shekhawati, the name of the region in Rajasthan that most Marwaris have come from. The Marwari process of mapping themselves into landmarks in a so-called ancestral homeland has been a crucial element of their identity formation. Tracking their ancestry to Marwar, Rajasthan is itself a form of mapping, in the essence of mapping their identity in relation to other communities in India.  Returning to Rajasthan to celebrate various rites of life passage such as marriage, tonsure (first haricut) of boys, building “ancestral” haveli (mansions), pursuing philanthropic ventures and constructing temples in home villages has creates a geographical orientation in Marwari identity that connects the kul (lineage) with Rajasthan

MYTH - 03
Origin of the word "Marwari"
The general stereotype of the Marwari businessman is a Hindu or Jain (Vaishya trader or moneylender), carrying nothing but Iota (water pot) and kambal (blanket), who has migrated thousands of miles from poor villages in the dry deserts of Rajasthan to cities and towns all over South Asia. The more general term baniya is interchangeable with Marwari, and includes all traders, regardless of regional origin.

The majority of Marwari migrant traders settled in colonial trading centers  first in Bombay and later especially in Calcutta and eastern India, where many of them became fabulously rich through business and speculation. During the nineteenth century, these group were also referred to in Bengal as “upcountrymen”. 

The name "Marwari" for the last century, Marwaris and Bengalis alike have been able to ascribe an identity to a group of people in order to make distinctions between various upcountry men and so-called non-Bengalis in Calcutta. For reasons that will become apparent, Marwari became that designated name. It did not matter that the term "Marwar" has no exact territorial referent in the modern Indian nation-state. This is contrary to the objectifying logic of colonial, nationalist, and anthropological thought.

To an extent the appellation Marwari seems to have been born in contempt and jealousy. Contempt for the immigrant’s frugality which was interpreted as stinginess, for his commercial preoccupation which seemed to symbolize lack of interest in socio-cultural concerns, for his dress and food habits which evoked nothing but amusement, and for his clannish interdependence which made him appear as an incorrigible outsider,  and jealousy because more often than not the immigrant seemed to leave his Bengali counterpart far behind in the race for business success. 

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