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Marwar - - Book Excerpt -

From 1860 on­wards, mas­sive Mar­wari mi­gra­tions took place to­wards east In­dia. By 1911, there were 15,000 Mar­waris in Cal­cutta and 75,000 in Bi­har, Orissa, Ben­gal and As­sam. They es­tab­lished their dom­i­nance in the field of in­dige­nous banking soon there­after. The ba­nias be­came in­dis­pen­si­ble to Bri­tish cot­ton cloth-im­port­ing firms from 1870 to 1900. The Mar­wari mer­chants con­trolled the opium mar­ket even be­fore 1860. Mar­wari mer­chants en­tered the jute trade in 1870, and by 1914 trade was con­trolled pre­dom­i­nantly by them. Dur­ing the First World War, the con­trol of key spec­u­la­tive mar­kets, import of cot­ton cloth and the jute trade re­sulted in war prof­its, which en­abled some Mar­waris to en­ter the in­dus­trial sec­tor.

In cen­tral and west­ern In­dia, apart from the in­ci­den­tal in­vest­ments of a few ma­jor banking firms, most of the avail­able profit from trade and mon­eylend­ing was in­vested in land. The Bombay com­mu­nity’s Shekhawati com­po­nent gained a re­spectable po­si­tion in spec­u­la­tive mar­kets, es­pe­cially stocks and cot­ton, along with trade in opium, cloth and cot­ton. How­ever, vig­or­ous com­pe­ti­tion, es­pe­cially from var­i­ous Gu­jarati com­mer­cial groups, did not al­low them to achieve as dom­i­nant a po­si­tion as in Cal­cutta. Be­fore the First World War, a few Mar­wari mer­chants had been in­stru­men­tal in set­ting up mills for oth­ers in Bombay. Af­ter the War, how­ever, sev­eral started mills of their own. Sim­i­larly, in Hy­der­abad and Indore, war prof­its en­abled the mer­chants to freely construct cot­ton tex­tile and car­pet mills.

Within a short span of time be­tween 1857 and the end of the First World War in 1918, a small group of Mar­waris in Cal­cutta, num­ber­ing fewer than 15,000, started trad­ing from the port. They grad­u­ally made fur­ther in­roads and even­tu­ally launched some of the first ma­jor In­dian-owned firms that man­u­fac­tured in­dige­nous goods in eastern In­dia and traded in those goods.

Above: This 1878 an­tique en­grav­ing de­picts the Raja of Bunera vis­it­ing Bri­tish trav­ellers who came to pro­pose an al­liance in busi­ness. By 1818, all the princely states of Ra­jputana had en­tered into treaties with the Bri­tish, who as­sumed re­spon­si­bil­ity...

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