Saturday, September 09, 2006

Origins !

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Oswal A social / caste group from Rajasthan and Punjab. Primarily Jain, their rituals with respect to birth, marriage, death etc. are strongly influenced by Sanatana Hindu culture.

The origin myth of the Oswals states that c.2500 years ago, members of the warrior caste within the traditional Hindu hierarchy, the Kshatriyas in the town of Upkeshpattan adopted Jainism as their faith. Upkeshpattan is said to be analogous to a town situated about 32 miles northwest of Jodhpur in the state of Rajasthan called Osiya or Ossia. Nevertheless, no Oswal-families are said to be inhabiting the present day Osiya.

The Oswal ranks swelled with Jainism's antagonism to the caste structure as the Kshatriyas were joined by people from other castes, which with Jainism's austere adherence to the philosophy of extreme non-violence and respect for all things, animate and inanimate; resulted in the development of trade as the primary occupation amongst the Oswal. Thus Oswal, became one amongst the thousands of sub-castes within the large Indian caste panoply. The Kshatriyas in Rajasthan, viz. Rajput, and Oswal consequently do share common social etiquettes which serve as distinguishing social indicators and identifiers. Eg. Both the Rajasthani Rajput and Oswal prefer the use of the honorofic suffix "-SA" instead of the more common honorific suffix "-JI" used in the rest of Hindi-speaking regions.

The Oswals are primarily adherents of the Shvetambar (The White Clad) school of Jainism and in contrast to the other Rajasthani diaspora are distinguished by their singular subscription to a protestant faith viz. Jainism whereas the Agarwals, Porwals, Maheswari are primarily Vaishnavite. Additionally, a strong Oswal identity can be found amongst certain Punjabi and Kutch groups as well.

Within the ambit of the Indian sub-continent, the Rajputs and Rajasthani presence within the Mughal administrative apparatus gained the Oswals patronage from various emperors especially due to their strong presence in commercial activities and consequent influence in revenue generation. An Oswal immigrant who is said to have exercised decisive role in a series of events which culminated in the Battle of Plassey was the Indian Rothschild, Jagat Seth, a title bestowed upon him by the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb and who in revenge of a personal outrage financed and sided with the East India Company to bring about the downfall of Siraj-Ud-Daulah leading the East India Company's primacy in Bengal.

Within the caste hierarchy of the Oswals is the sub-groupings of Panca, Dasa and Visa, which mean five (5), ten (10) and twenty (20) respectively. These sub-groupings refer to various caste endogamic structures within the Oswals

Another sub-group of Oswals within the Kutch and Halar areas of present day Gujarat complete the non-marwari speaking group. These primariliy speak Kutchi or Gujarati as their mother tongue. Over the preceding centuries, many Halar based Oswal families migrated first to East Africa and then to the West and have founded distinct close-knit societies in these countries.

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