From the Jacket
The migration of community to a specific region and its prosperous growth there, is dependent on a number of socio-economic factors that require in-depth research to understand the nuances of change and complexities of the community's interaction with the society, economy and polity of the region. This book attempts a study on these lines with respect to the settlement and growth of the Marwari community in the northern districts of West Bengal, throwing light on different aspects of their development as an important business community in the region.
Based on surveys and references to district gazetteers, government records as well as articles in newspapers and magazines, the work covers the early history of the Marwari community including its social, cultural, religious and caste identities. It goes into the nature of the Marwari people's commercial pursuits in the districts under study: their industrial activities, and cultural and political contributions. It deals with significant changes on their part, like their switch over from money-lending to money-investing business, in order to flourish in the settled region and studies the role of the Marwari merchants and entrepreneurs in trade and commerce activities in the region, particularly in important and export. It also highlights their philanthropic nature, power of adaptability, broad outlook and other aspects that have helped them mingle with the locals and achieve success in their pioneering efforts.
About the Author
Dr. Narayan Chandra Saha, at present Reader in History, Maulana Azad Collage, Kolkata, has contributed several research papers and articles to noted academic journals and magazines in English all well as Bengali. He has devoted years to the study of the emergence, growth and contribution of the Marwari community in Eastern India establishing himself as a specialist on the subject.
THE history of a particular region arises out of interactions among
the multifarious socio-economic factors and forces. Human
communities are instruments of constituting those factors and
forces. The Marwaris are such an Indian community whose
endurance and emergence in the region of Eastern India, and
particularly in the three districts of northern Bengal, Cooch
Behar, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling - had activated such factors
and forces. An effort has been made in this study to identify
those factors and forces and analyse their impact on the society,
economy and polity of the region.
In this respect, I am grateful to Dr. Ananda Gopal Ghosh,
Reader in history, University of North Bengal, West Bengal, for
his effective guidance and overall supervision of the entire work.
I also place on record my grateful gratitude and appreciation to
Prof. and Principal Prafulla Kr. Chakraborty, Dr. Dilip Kr.
Sarkar, Controller of Examination, North Bengal University.
Dr. Kamalesh Das, Dr. Biswadeb Chatterjee, Dr. Bimal Kr. Saha
for their valuable help and suggestions. I am also deeply grateful
to my late father-in-law, Dr. Paresh Chandra Saha, whose
profound affection and moral encouragement always inspired
me for pursuing and completion of my research study. Further
more, my gratitude to my elder brother, Gopinath Saha, Joint
Director, NATMO, knows no bound. Finally, I am very much
indebted to Pranita, my wife, Nandita, my sister-in-law and Partha
without whose love and inspiration, this publication would not
have been possible. Any rectification of errors by readers will be
gratefully acknowledged and appreciated.
THIS research work is perhaps the first ever attempt to make a
comprehensive study of the Marwaris who have settled in the
three northern districts of Darjeeling, Cooch Behar and
Jalpaiguri of West Bengal. Some studies have no doubt been
undertaken on the Marwari Community in general and some of
its sub-caste groups in particular. But no detailed and district-
wise or even region-wise study has so far been made of this
business community. Two fundamental works on the community,
which are available, are (1) Thomas A. Timberg's The Marwaris
- From Traders to Industrialists and (2) Dr. D.K. Taknet's
Industrial Entrepreneurship of Shekhwati Marwaris. But these
are macro-level research studies on the Marwaris living in the
important cities and towns of some Indian Provinces or states.
The two works do not go into the details of commercial pursuits,
industrial activities and achievements of the Marwari community
at the district level. Even the articles and papers on the migrant
Marwari community, published so far in academic journals and
magazines, focus on specified aspects of the business activities
of the Marwaris and are by no means micro-level studies
undertaken region or district-wise. Moreover, the districts of
Darjeeling, Cooch Behar, and Jalpaiguri are virtually virgin soil
in this respect from the researcher's point of view. Herein lies
the relevance and importance of the present study.
The process of migration of the Marwaris to the region under
study has to be understood in the context of the socio-economic
as well as socio-political conditions prevailing in the area before
and also at the time of their migration. The Marwari business
community was attracted to the area because of some factors
that were in operation in the three districts under study during
a certain period of time. The historical method of research has
been found useful to analyse these factors. The approach is of
the micro-level type which is consistent with the present move
towards historical empirical research. The remote village has at
times been used as the lowest socio-economic unit, thereby going
down to the grass-roots level. Further, as various groups and
communities have come within the orbit of the study, the group
approach to social science research has also been of use.
However, micro-level research often suffers from lack of data
or primary source material and the present study is no exception.
To obviate this difficulty, a pilot survey was conducted by handing
out questionnaires to the old resident Marwari families of the
districts of Darjeeling, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri. The
information furnished by those who responded constitutes the
primary source material for this study. The district gazetters,
government records, and administrative reports have also been
used extensively in this research study. And local journals,
magazines, little magazines, souvenirs, newspapers and above
all, secondary source materials collected from books published
on the subject, have provided valuable supplementary
information for the study.
The first chapter of this dissertation deals with the early
history and socio-economic background of the three districts of
Darjeeling, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri, prior to the arrival of
Marwari businessmen in the area. How things changed after
the eastablishment of British rule has also been covered in this
chapter. After the British came, the subsistence agriculture of
the area was gradually commercialised, which opened up
opportunities for business ventures and induced various
merchant groups to migrate here.
The second chapter briefly covers the early history of the
Marwari community and its social, economic, religious, caste,
and cultural identities. The role of religion as a factor in the
choice of a business career by the Marwaris has also been touched
In the third chapter are given some definitions and general
theories of human migration, both internal and external or
transcontinental. The factors and forces behind migration and
the causes of the Marwari migration to the region under study
have also been dwelt upon.
Chapter fourth highlights the development of transport and
communication that provided a fillip to business and industrial
activity in the area. The gradual development of a
communications network and a transport system increased
labour mobility and the viability of business units. The
development of transport and communications was also conducive
to the commercialisation of agriculture. So as the profitability of
investment increased, migrant merchant groups were attracted
to the area and the Marwaris with their business acumen were
quick to seize the new opportunities.
The fifth chapter deals elaborately with the emergence of
the Marwaris as a distinct business community in the three
districts of North Bengal and their settlement at the important
centres of trade and commerce in the area.
In the sixth chapter, the switch-over by the Marwaris from
the money-lending to the money-investing business has been
discussed in some detail. Initially, the principal occupation of
the Marwaris was to lend money and earn interest. However, as
new avenues of commercial enterprise opened up, they began to
deviate from their traditional occupation and started investing
money in land and various businesses. Ownership of land was a
status symbol and it also diluted, to some extent, the 'outsider'
identity of migrants. Besides, ownership of land was a necessity
for commercialising a backward agriculture. So many Marwaris
who earned interest at exorbitant rates by lending money and
thus amassed vast sums of money had actually started
purchasing 'jotes' to become 'jotedars'.
The seventh chapter throws light on all aspects of the
commercial ventures of Marwari businessmen in the three
districts under study. The transition of a subsistence agrarian
economy to a market-oriented and surplus-generating economy,
the commodities and cash crops like paddy, sugarcane, tobacco,
cinchona, coffee and tea which began to be marketed on an
increasing scale and the important role of Marwari merchants
and entrepreneurs in the trade and commerce of the region,
have all been discussed at considerable length. The predominance
of the Marwaris in the export and import trade of the area has
also come under close study.
The next chapter notes the cultural activities of the Marwaris
in the region and also their participation in political activity.
Some Marwari had actually joined the freedom movement of
In the ninth chapter is given a detailed account of how their
philanthropic nature, power of adaptability to local conditions
and amiable temperament helped the Marwaris setup their
business in areas far away from their homes in Rajasthan. Indeed,
their remarkable ability to mingle with local people and their
broad outlook went a long way towards achieving success in
their pioneering efforts in the world of trade and commerce in
the area under study.
The concluding chapter sums up the research findings and
analysis. And it includes some candid observations of this
researcher on the success of the Marwari community in the
business domain in the area.
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