Banian / Baniya / Banyan 

An Indian (usually Hindu) merchant and broker. Mutty Lall Seal served as the banian of several European exchange houses (see below). Click here to learn more. For Seal’s career as a banian, see the biography section.

Banks in East India Company India

Banks were usually connected with mercantile houses.  Read more.

Baboo / Babu

Title used by upper-class Hindu gentlemen (especially landed gentry and those in government service) in Bengal during Company rule. Originally an honorific, the word later took on pejorative connotations but after Mutty Lall Seal’s lifetime. In fact, both Mutty Lall Seal and his son Hera Lall Seal chose to be called Baboo despite being offered the title of Rajah by the East India Company. Read more.

Dharma Sabha

This was a gathering of orthodox Hindus in 19th c. Bengal where the practice of Hindu tenets were discussed. Often their orthodoxy made them resistant to reform.

Exchange Houses

Exchange houses, the trade-hubs and banks of the EIC, served to facilitate the trade between the Indian merchants and their counterparts in Europe. Read more (Harvard Business School article).


Sections of the river-bank designated for bathing and rituals. Read more.


Indigo became a major cash-crop in East India Company India that gained its importance in the dyeing industry. Click here for photos of Indigo farming (external web resource).


An Indian peasant. Read more.


The practice of Hindu widows immolating themselves on their husbands’ pyres. Outlawed in India in 1829. Read more.

Steam technology in India

Steam-pumps, steam-tugs and later the railway engines played an important part in industrialisation. For a detailed account, click here.


Subarnabaniks are a mercantile caste from Bengal. There are many theories about their origins but they have for centuries formed the base of Bengali mercantile activity. Many of them, such as Motilal Seal, have been associated with sponsoring public welfare. For a detailed account, click here.


Literally, “God’s House”, the thakurbari was a shrine dedicated to the family deity of (usually wealthy) Hindu households. There were also communal thakurbaris. Find out more about the Seal Thakurbari here.


The Indian landlord was called zemindar or zamindar. In Bengali, due to the Permanent Settlement laws of Lord Cornwallis, the lands came under the hereditary control of a few families. For a detailed note, click here.