Friday, 14 November 2014

The Indian Commission Agents ( Banyans),colonial British India

The term BANYAN (from caste term Baneah) implies a Hindu merchant, shopkeeper, or confidential cashier and broker. The term was used in Bengal to designate the native who manages the money concerns of the European, and sometimes served him as an interpreter. In plain term, he was a commission agents for the Europeans who arrived in India to engage in mercantile trade and business and acted as an intermediary between Europeans and Indian goods manufacturer or business people.
 
 Banyan (agent) - a native of Surat.- Brtish India. credit:diwancybermuseum.com

At Madras the person of same description was called a Dubashi, one who could speak, besides English, two local languages - Tamil or Telugu. Subsequently these Dubashis at Madras became influential and well-known merchants. They were very close to their British sahibs and wielded enormous powers. It was inconceivable what property was in their hands. They were the ostensible agents in every line of business, placing their dependents in the several departments over which they themselves had obtained dominion. If a contract was to be made with Government by any gentlemen not in the Company's service, the banyans became the securities, under the condition of receiving a percentage. When a person in the service of the Company was an indirect beneficiary which he was unable to enjoy for some reason, then the banyan became the principal agent , and the donor either received a share or derived advantage from loans. The same person frequently was banyan/intermediary to several European gentlemen, all of whose concerns were, of course, accurately known to him, and thus became the subject of conversation.

Possessing large property with most extensive credit and influence they were absolute monarchs in their respective fields of operations. So vast was their influence that Calcutta was once under the control of about 20 or 30 banyans, who managed every concern in which they could lay their hands on and find means to make a profit. They very well knew the horoscope of every English sahibs and their planet positions!! They knew their weakness as well as strength.This was also true of Dubashis of Madras
It was impossible for British men to carry on his daily activities, particularly trading without support from Banyans. Obviously these people enjoyed political clout, pelf and power.