The Subarnabaniks

The  Subarna Baniks were also identified as Sonar Baniyas. ( Bhattacharya: 158)  The name has been derived from sonar or gold and baniya, bene were used simultaneously as merchants. H.H.Risley had asserted that the Sabarna was,’’ a gotra or section of Baidyas, Brahmanas , Gandhabaniks, Kayasthas, Tantis and Subarna Baniks in Bengal ; a Brahamanical section of the Babhans in Behar’’. ( Risley: 212) The Subarnabaniks were primarily a money lending and merchant caste residing in Bengal. They are divided into two classes namely- the Saptagramis and the Bangaja. The Mallicks, Seals, Dhars, Laha, Baral, Adhya and Sens generally belonged to the Saptagrami class. (Bhattacharya: 160)

Sonar Bunniya by Solvyns

The Seals belong to the Sonar bania or Suvarnabanik caste.

Subarnabaniks had been assigned a relatively lower position and even barred from the Nabasakhs or the nine clean Sudras. ( Risley: 261) The Subarnabaniks mostly conformed to the Vaishnavite faith and the Chaitanite Gosains acted as their spiritual guides. They proved to be illustrious merchant families and elevated their status within the existing social hierarchy. The Laha, Mallick and Seal merchant families proved their merit by establishing networks with agency houses in erstwhile Calcutta, helping out the trading firms financially etc. ( Solvyns : 38)   They wanted to acquire control over the social sphere at Calcutta. In this context Pradip Sinha in his, ‘ Calcutta in Urban History’ stated that ,’’ their position in the caste hierarchy stood in the way and they lost out to the Kayasthas’’. ( Sinha : 392 cited in Solvyns : 38)

Risley states that the latter generations gained distinctions in other professions, to cite some examples- a District Judge, an Inspector of Schools, Subordinate Judges, Deputy Magistrates, Munsiffs, Authors. Baboo Bholanath Chunder’s ‘’ Travels of a Hindu’’ has to be mentioned due to its notable contributions in terms of literary merits.

The prominent merchant bankers of Calcutta namely Rajendra Mohan Mallick and Motilal Seal belonged to the Shudra caste, hailing from Bankura. They were absorbed into the elevated social hierarchy owing to their economic and philanthropic activities. The other illustrious Subarnabaniks was Ramdulal Dey, Kalidas Datta, Rajindra Datta and others who were involved in the trading connections with the Americans. The Shipping enterprises were quite profitable as leading merchants like Akrur Chandra Datta and Krishnakanta Nandy employed Europeans and Amercians in the Eighteenth century. ( Ghose: 6)