(1) BANYAN, s. a. A Hindu trader, and especially of the Province of Guzerat, many of which class
have for ages been settled in Arabian ports and known by this name; but the term is often applied by
early travellers in Western India to persons of the Hindu religion generally. b. In Calcutta also it is
(or perhaps rather was) specifically applied to the native brokers attached to houses of business, or to
persons in the employment of a private gentleman doing analogous duties (now usually called sircar).
word was adopted from Vaniya, a man of the trading caste (in Gujarati vaniyo), and that comes from
Skt. vanij, a merchant. The terminal nasal may be a Portuguese addition (as in palanquin, mandarin,
Bassein), or it may be taken from the plural form vaniyan. It is probable, however, that the Portuguese
found the word already in use by the Arab traders. SidiAli, the Turkish Admiral, uses it in precisely the
same form, applying it to the Hindus generally; and in the poem of Sassui and Panhu, the Sindian Romeo
and Juliet, as given by Burton in his Sindh (p. 101), we have the form Waniyan. P. F. Vincenzo Maria,
who is quoted below absurdly alleges that the Portuguese called these Hindus of Guzerat Bagnani,
because they were always washing themselves .
chiamati da Portughesi Bagnani, per la frequenza
e superstitione, con quale si lauano piu volte il giorno (251). See also Luillier below. The men of this
class profess an extravagant respect for animal life; but after Stanley brought home Dr. Livingstones
letters they became notorious as chief promoters of slave-trade in Eastern Africa. A. K. Forbes speaks
of the mediæval Wanias at the Court of Anhilwara as equally gallant in the field (with Rajputs), and wiser
already in profession puritans of peace, but not yet drained enough of their fiery Kshatri blood.(Ras
Mala, i. 240; [ed. 1878, 184].)
Bunya is the form in which Vaiya appears in the Anglo-Indian use of
Bengal, with a different shade of meaning, and generally indicating a grain-dealer.
1516.There are three qualíties of these Gentiles, that is to say, some are called Razbuts
called Banians, and are merchants and traders.Barbosa, 51.
Among whom came certain
men who are called Baneanes of the same heathen of the Kingdom of Cambaia
coming on board the
ship of Vasco da Gama, and seeing in his cabin a pictorial image of Our Lady, to which our people did
reverence, they also made adoration with much more fervency.
Barros, Dec., I. liv. iv. cap. 6.
may mention that the inhabitants of Guzerat call the unbelievers Banyans, whilst the inhabitants
of Hindustan call them HindaSidiAli Kapudan, in J. As., 1ère S. ix. 1978.
1563.R. If the fruits were
all as good as this (mango) it would be no such great matter in the Baneanes, as you tell me, not to
eat flesh. And since I touch on this matter, tell me, prithee, who are these Baneanes
who do not eat
Garcia, f. 136.
1608.The Gouernour of the Towne of Gandeuee is a Bannyan, and one of
those kind of people that obserue the Law of Pythagoras.Jones, in Purchas, i. 231.
See quotation under BANKSHALL, a.]
1623.One of these races of Indians is that of those which
call themselves Vanià, but who are called, somewhat corruptly by the Portuguese, and by all our other
Franks, Banians; they are all, for the most part, traders and brokers.P. della Valle, i. 4867; [and see
i. 78 Hak. Soc.].
1630.A people presented themselves to mine eyes, cloathed in linnen garments,
somewhat low descending, of a gesture and garbe, as I may say, maidenly and well nigh effeminate; of a
countenance shy, and somewhat estranged; yet smiling out a glosed and bashful familiarity.
I asked what
manner of people these were, so strangely notable, and notably strange. Reply was made that they
were Banians.Lord, Preface.
1665.In trade these Banians are a thousand times worse than the
Jews; more expert in all sorts of cunning tricks, and more maliciously mischievous in their revenge.Tavernier,
E. T. ii. 58; [ed. Ball, i. 136, and see i. 91].
c. 1666.Aussi chacun a son Banian dans
les Indes, et il y a des personnes de qualité qui leur confient tout ce quils ont.
Thevenot, v. 166. This
passage shows in anticipation the transition to the Calcutta use (b., below).
1672.The inhabitants are
called Guizeratts and Benyans.Baldueus, 2.
It is the custom to say that to make one Bagnan (so
they call the Gentile Merchants) you need three Chinese, and to make one Chinese three Hebrews.P.
F. Vincenzo di Maria, 114.
1673.The Banyan follows the Soldier, though as contrary in Humour
as the Antipodes in the same Meridian are opposite to one another.
In Cases of Trade they are not
so hide-bound, giving their Consciences more Scope, and boggle at no Villainy for an Emolument.Fryer,
1677.In their letter to Ft. St. George, 15th March, the Court offer £20 reward to any of our
servants or soldiers as shall be able to speak, write, and translate the Banian language, and to learn
their arithmetic.In Madras Notes and Exts., No. I. p. 18.
ceux des premieres castes, comme
les Baignans.Luillier, 106.
it will, I believe, be generally allowed by those who have dealt