The Bania (also spelled as Baniya, Banija, Banya, Vaniya, Vani, Vania and Vanya) is an occupational community of merchants, bankers, money-lenders, and (in modern times) owners of commercial enterprises. The community is composed of several sub-castes including the Agarwal Banias, Oswal Banias, Porwal Banias and Wani Banias, among others. The term is used in a wider sense in Bengal than it is elsewhere in India, where it is applied to all money-lenders and indigenously developed bankers, irrespective of caste. Most Banias follow Hinduism and Jainism but a few have converted to Sikhism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism.
Irfan Habib believes the etymological origin to lie in the Sanskrit word vanik, and deems them to be India's "pre-eminent" trading community, historically. They are classified as Upper Backward Caste in Bihar.
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The Banias were again predominantly Hindu, but there were many Jain Banias and also Sikh and Muslim Banias in lesser numbers, and very few Buddhist Banias. Such was the picture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
- Tyler, Stephen A. (1986). India: An Anthropological Perspective. Waveland Press. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-88133-245-2.
Some, like the Khojah caste, are Bania groups converted to Islam by Muslim pirs (saints).
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- Habib, Irfan (1990). "Merchant Communities in Precolonial India". In Tracy, James D. (ed.). The Rise of Merchant Empires: Long-Distance Trade in the Early Modern World, 1350-1750. Cambridge University Press. pp. 371–99. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511563089. ISBN 978-0-52145-735-4.
- Ishwari Prasad (1986). Reservation, Action for Social Equality. Criterion Publications. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
Here we are concerned only with upper backwards which have four castes ; Yadav ( 11.0 per cent ) , Koeri ( 4.0 per cent ) , Kurmi ( 3.5 per cent ) and Bania ( 0.6 per cent ) .
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- Metcalf, Thomas R. (December 1962). "The British and the Moneylender in Nineteenth-Century India". The Journal of Modern History. 34 (4): 390–397. doi:10.1086/239182. JSTOR 1880056. S2CID 145246030.