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An Ode to Shiva

An Ode to Shiva
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India is known all over the world for its diverse culture. There are different types of communities and religions in the country and these religions have their own festivals and customs. One such community is the Maheshwari community, which is a sub group of the Marwari’s and the Mewari communities. This community is quite small in population but the people who belong to this community are found throughout the country and Maheshwari jayanti is the festival that is celebrated by the Maheshwari community especially in the northern part of the country.

This festival is celebrated on Navami in the Shukla Paksh in the month of June or the Jyestha month. This year the Mahesh Navmi will fall on the 7th day of June.

This festival is celebrated by the devotees of Lord Shiva. God Shiva is known by various other names and one of his names in Mahesh, and the Maheshwari community got its name from Lord Mahesh. This was due to their extreme devotion towards the Lord Mahesha. It is said that Lord Shiva appeared on this day for the first time. The Maheshwrai community was formed in Rajasthan on the eve of Mahesh Navmi. According to the beliefs of the Maheshwari’s, this day is associated with a great history that is related with Lord Shiva.  The legend has it that a king named Raja Khandelsen did not had a child. The reason for this was explained as his past life’s cruel activities by Maharishi Yagyavalk, who was a spiritual adviser. As asked by Maharishi Yagyavalk, he worshipped Lord Shiva with complete devotion and even built a temple in his name. The Lord became happy and he blessed the king with a son who was later named as Sujansen.

There is a mood of joy and festivity all around the country; however this festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and jest in mainly in north India in states like Rajasthan. The temples of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati are decorated everywhere and people worship the Lord on this day. The newly wedded couples are specifically asked to worship mother Parvati and lord Shiva, so that the Lord can shower happiness and prosperity in their lives. Those women who wish for a child especially pray to the lord on this day as it is believed that lord Shiva blesses the people with a child on this day. Many people perform prayers and yagnas at their residence.

The Maheshwari are a clan that originates from Khandela, Rajasthan. They are a sub-group within the Marwari and Mewari community. The community is relatively small in population but found throughout India. Many of its members now have migrated abroad for jobs and business as well. The clan is divided into 154 subcastes. Apart from others, some of the subcastes which are very common in the business world of the recent times are Modi, Birla, Binani, Biyani, Dhoot, Bajaj, Bhandari, Singhania, etc.

Maheshwaris are known as prominent members of the Marwari business community [Marwari Bania (caste)]. The Marwaris are renowned all over India for having emerged in the 19th century as the most prominent group of migrant baniya (intermediary traders, or middlemen) for the British. The growth of this capitalist trader class in late 19th century India was facilitated by the changing nature of the Indian colonial economy.

British economic expansion penetrated existing trading networks and changing land settlement policies necessitated the payment of taxes in cash rather than in kind, resulting in greater commercialisation of agriculture. Since there were no formal banks to provide credit at the time, Marwari traders were drawn to the countryside as moneylenders. There was an extensive system of hundi bills of exchange, which worked somewhat like our modern checking accounts. A hundi was a written order made by one person for payment to another for a certain sum. The exchange, honoring, and discounting of hundis rested on networks of trust, which created important transregional linkages as well as opportunities for the accumulation of wealth. As traders, many Marwaris amassed enough surplus capital to also become moneylenders, and as such facilitated British commercial expansion.

Though the community has traditionally been mostly traders, since the 1930s some Marwari families have emerged as industrial giants. At present it is estimated that Marwaris control as much as 60 percent of country’s industry, forming an industrial presence easily exceeding that of the Parsis and Gujaratis, groups perceived as ‘more modern’ than the Marwaris. The Monopolies Inquiry Commission of 1964 reported that ten of the largest thirty-seven industrial houses were held by Marwaris, and only two by Parsis. The wealth and assets of the Marwari Birla family may be on par with or even exceed that of the JRD Tata family, who are leading Parsi industrialists. As of 1986, the Birlas, the Singhanias, the Modis, and the Bangurs (all Marwari business houses) accounted for a third of the total assets of the top ten business houses in the country.
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