Saturday, December 17, 2011

ओसवाल वैश्य


Oswals also called Oswal Marwaris, or Saraogi, who are mainly Jains, hail from the town of Osia(n), or Osnagar, near Jodhpur in Rajasthan.

According to one legend of their origin, the Raja of Osnagar had no son and obtained one through the promise of a Jain ascetic. Osadev, the guardian goddess of the palace told the ascetic to convert the Raja by a miracle. So she took a small hank of cotton and passed it along the back of the saint, when it immediately became a snake and bit Jaichand, the son of the Raja, in the toe. He died and as the corpse was about to be burnt, the ascetic sent one of his disciples and stopped the cremation. He ordered the body to be returned to the place where the prince had been bitten. At midnight the snake returned and licked the bite, when the prince was returned to lie. Then the Raja became a Jain and founded the gotra now known as Sri Srimal or most noble; his servants formed that known as Srimal or most noble, while the other people of the town became ordinary Oswals.

When the Brahmans of that place asked the saint how they were to live, as all their clients had become Jains, the saint directed that they should continue to be the family priests of the Oswals. Another version of the story is that the king of Srimali (now called Bhinmal) allowed no millionaire to live within the walls of the city. As a consequence, many Srimalis left and settled in Mandovad, calling it Osa, or the frontier. The large majority of Oswals are Jain, the remainder being Vasnava Hindus.

Like the Agarwals the Oswals are divided into the Bisas, Dasas and Pachas. The Oswals are divided into 48 gotras, a list of which is given by Mr. Crooke. Most of them cannot be recognised, but a few of them are titular, Lorha - a caste which grows hemp, Nunia - a salt-refiner, Seth - a banker, Daftari - an officeboy, Bhandari - a cook, and Kukura - a dog, Buntia or Bantia etc.

The Oswal Jains celebrate their festivals with great regularity, gaiety, colour and song. They are found scattered in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharastra. The men add chand (moon), das (slave), lal (favourite) and mal (warrior) to their names viz. Punamehand, Bhagvandas, Maniklal and Naharmal etc.

Babaji and Kakaji are terms of respect used to elders and caste leaders.

The names in common use among women are Chandkuvar, Jamni, Kesar, Kasturi, Moti, Rajkuvar, Rambha, Sankri and Suryakuvar.

Bai or lady is generally added to woman's name. Their surnames are Bahira, Bhalkat, Bhandari, Chandgire, Chopade, Gadhe, Gadhate, Gandhi, Gugale, Gulecha, Kothar, Loda, Lukadrap, Mini, Mutachopada, Paragh, Pothame, Punavate, Sand, Sangide, Shinge, Sigavi, Sukhadi, Suma, Surana, Surapani and Vagmar.

Persons bearing the same surnames cannot inter-marry. As a rule, like Gujaratis, relationship on the mother's side is held to bar marriage as much as relationship on the father's side. Their home-tongue is Marwari and their family-gods are Ajitnath and Parasnath of Banaras, and Rikhabnath of Dhuleva in Udhepur.

Oswals have two divisions, Bade Sajans or Big Good men who are of the Dases or Tens, and the Chhote Sajans or Little Good men, who are of the Vise or Score division of the caste. Of the cause of the split in the caste the story is told that, about 800 years ago, a caste-feast was given at a village in Marwar when all members were asked except an old widow and her son whose names were forgotten by mistake. The old lady took offence and she and her son separated from the rest of the caste and founded the Bade or senior branch of the community. The two classes eat together but do not inter-marry. The home-tongue is Marwari, but they write their account books in Gujarati and speak Marathi or Hindi with others. They are religious, worshipping their family-god Parasnath and visiting his shrine at Shatranja hill in Palitana, and the shrine of Balaji or Vyankatraman at Tirupati. Their priest is a Marwar Brahman whom they call padhanevala or teacher, and in his absence, they ask local Brahmans to officiate at their ceremonies. They respect Brahmans of all classes and often make them money-gifts or dakshina.

They belong to the Digambar or sky-clad, that is the naked-god worshipping Jains. Their leading doctrine is that the taking of life is a sin. They worship images of the Jain gods without the help of a Jain priest. The Marwari bridegroom carries a sword and is regally clad in a turban, jewellery and a coconut is tied to his side. He is mounted on a lavishly decorated mare and led in a procession to the bride's house. It is customary for him to touch a decoration fixed on the door with a 'neem' twig or perhaps his sword before entering. The marriage ceremonies that follow his arrival are elaborate and many of them are common to other Hindu communities. The light hearted ceremonies or 'games' that are played by the couple such as fishing for the ring in a bowl filled with milk or untying the knots on the bracelets are full of gaiety and laughter!

Some common surnames


Baid, Jain, Sethia, Surana, Bhandary, Bahira, Bhalkat, Bhandari, Chandgire, Chopade, Gadhe, Gadhate, Gandhi, Gugale, Gulecha, Kothar, Loda, Lukadrap, Mini, Mutachopada, Parakh, Pothame, Punavate, Sand, Sangide, Shinge, Shrishrimal, Sigavi, Sukhadi, Suma, Surana, Surapani and Vagmar.

Shrishrimal is one of the 18 original gotras of the Oswals. The list of 18 gotras is given in Upakesh-gachchha-charitra composed by Kakkasuri of Upakesh Gachchha in vikram 1393. Thus shrishrimals were the residents of Ukesh (Osia) when the Oswal nyat originated. Accounts mention that Osia was settled by former residents of Shrimal (Bhinmal) town. It seems that Shrishrimals originally lived in Shrimal before they moved to Osia. The residents of Osia eventually left and settled in various places. Osia was deserted. The main temple was restored in 18th century. There are several branches of Shrishrimals. Shrishrimals are related to Agarwal, Banddhmati, Jaiswal, Jati, Kharelwal, Lohiya, Sri Mal, Sri Sri Mal, Sri Mali Pattan, Palliwal, Purwal.

Srimali banya take their name from the Srimal, more than two-thirds were Hindus and the remainder Jains. Tod writes about Bhinmal and Sanchor: "These town are on the high road to Cutch and Gujarat, which has given them from the most remote times a commercial celebrity. Bhinmal is said to contain about 1500 houses and Sanchor half that number. Very wealthy mahajans or merchants used to reside here, but insecurity both within and without has much injured these cities".

From Bhinmal the Srimalis seem to have gone to Gujarat, where they are found in considerable numbers. Like the other banias they are divided into Bisa and Dasa. In Gujarat they also have a third territorial group known as Ladva, from Lad, the old name for Gujarat. All 3 sections take food together, but do not intermarry. The 2 highest sections of the Oswals are the Srimals and the SriSrimals and it is possible that further investigation might show that the Srimals and the Oswals to have been originally of one stock.

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