Bania Agarwal in Pakistan

Bania Agarwal
Photo Source:  Anonymous 
Map Source:  People Group Location: Omid. Other geography / data: GMI. Map Design: Joshua Project
People Name: Bania Agarwal
Country: Pakistan
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 1,500
World Population: 5,867,900
Primary Language: Sindhi
Primary Religion: Hinduism
Christian Adherents: 0.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: South Asia Forward Caste - Bania
Affinity Bloc: South Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The name "Bania" is derived from Vaniji, which means "trader" in Sanskrit, an ancient South Asian language. The Agarwal are a sub-group of the Bania peoples who live across India. A much smaller population lives in Pakistan. Most Hindus in Pakistan moved to India during the 1947 Partition of India.
Of the four major varnas (caste clusters of Hinduism), Banias are in the third one, the Vaishyas. They were usually traders of grain and spices throughout history. Since Pakistan is primarily a Muslim nation, the Hindu caste system is not as influential as it is in India.
Despite their high incomes, the Banias have only modest status in the Hindu caste pyramid. The Bania tend to resent the higher two varnas, the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas. Thus, Banias have often been leaders in caste reform movements. Mahatma Gandhi is one example, but there have been many others throughout India's long history.
Most Agarwal Bania in Pakistan speak Sindhi as their first language. Bania are generally well-educated and frequently also speak English and Urdu.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Members of the Bania caste today are among the wealthiest people in India and Pakistan. 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. Other Banias work in government ministries or as lawyers, judges, teachers, scholars, stockbrokers or engineers.
Bania are often resented by other people because they lend much needed money at higher interest rates. A pre-literate farmer might take a loan from a Bania only to find that a high percentage of his harvest will be taken away as interest. Customers often must put up their land and farms for collateral in case they cannot pay back their loans.
Bania children learn early to "never give; always bargain and make money." From an early age, children are drilled in math and detailed calculations with the purpose of “winning” in money transactions. Fathers pass business skills to their sons. Agarwal Bania parents strongly encourage their children, especially the boys, to obtain graduate degrees related to business.
Monogamy or marriage to one spouse is the norm among Bania subgroups.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Agarwal Bania people in Pakistan practice Hinduism, the ancient religion of India. Hinduism is a catch-all phrase for the local religions of South Asia, so it is very diverse. At the popular level, Hindus worship and serve the gods of the Hindu pantheon. They visit Hindu temples and offer prayers, food, flowers, and incense to their gods in hopes of gaining protection and benefits. They do not have a personal or familial relationship with their gods as Christians do. There are other Hindus who are much more philosophical, especially among the Brahmins.
Almost all Hindus participate in yearly celebrations like Holi, the festival of colors and the start of spring / Diwali, the festival of lights / Navratri, the celebration of autumn / and Rama Navami, Rama's birthday.
There are few if any Christian believers among the Agarwal Bania community of Pakistan.

What Are Their Needs?

Sometimes wealthy people feel no need for God. Those who feel a need for God in a Hindu community are likely to try to fill it with rituals. The Agarwal Bania need to understand that material wealth will not bring the peace of mind and purpose for living that can only come from Jesus Christ. Agarwal Bania need to see that they are sinners before the holy God of the Bible and that they need a Savior.

Prayer Points

Pray that the veil of deception will be lifted from the eyes of the Agarwal Bania and that they will see they need to seek spiritual riches in Jesus Christ.
Pray that Christ's disciples will be called to work among the Bania Agarwal of Pakistan and share Christ in a culturally relevant way.
Pray that the leaders and elders of the Bania in Pakistan would be led to read the Bible and investigate the claims of Jesus Christ.
Pray for a Disciple Making Movement to emerge among every Bania community of Pakistan.

Text Source:   Joshua Project