The Oswal are a social group (and caste) of people from the Indian States of Rajasthan and Punjab. Oswals are primarily adherents of Svetambara Jainism, but a few are Digambaras and some are Hindu adherents of Vaishnavism.

According to a tradition recounted in several texts,[citation needed] the Oswal community was established by Acharya Ratnaprabha of the Upakesha Gachcha, the seventh successor Acharya of Tirthankara Parshva, on the 14th day of the Shravana Month of the Indian calendar. According to tradition and bardic accounts, many Marwaris converted and were called Oswals after the place where the conversion took place. Several smaller Jain communities have merged into the Oswal community.

Although Oswals are a very small minority (population estimated at approximately 4–5 million people worldwide) they play an important part in the economic life of India[citation needed]. Their diaspora and communities can be found in all the major populations centers of India as well as North America, Europe, Africa, Australia, South-East Asia and the Middle East. The Oswals have significantly influenced other Jain and Vaishnava communities of the region, who are also strict vegetarian.


Origin of Oswal

According to one legend, the Oswal caste was created approximately c.2500 years ago from a group of Vaishyas in the town of Upkeshpattan (Osian) who adopted Jainism as their faith. But other Kshatriyas converted to Hinduism as they never were influenced by Jain ideology. Those who converted to Jainism also continue to follow local traditions and pray to local or family gods. The Goddess Sacchika,[1] historically associated with the Osia town, is often the family deity of the Oswals. Over the years the number of Vaishnava Oswals following Hindu tradition has increased due to Hindu influence.


The origin of the name "Oswal" is tied to a small village in the Jodhpur District of Indian State of Rajasthan called Osian, Jodhpur or Ossiya. There was once a large city at the site of Ossiya. The ancient names by which this city was known at various times were Uplesh Pattan, Urkesh, Melpur Pattan and Navmeri. Upkeshpattan is said to be analogous to such a town situated about 32 miles northwest of Jodhpur in the state of Rajasthan. It was the home to a Jain monastic order called Upakesh Gachchha [2](which is now extinct) belonging to the Svetambara tradition.

According to an Upakesh-gachchha-charitra composed by Kakkasuri of Upakesh Gachchha in vikram 1393 [3] (but some say it was written in 17th century), Jain Acharya) Shree Ratna Prabhu Suriji the 7th Acharya in the line of tirthankara Parshva's sect, came here in 457 B.C. with his five hundred disciples in year 70 after Mahavira's Nirvana(457 B.C.). However other scholars do not agree to this.

King Upaldev and his very able minister Uhad ruled the city at that time. After receiving proper guidance from Acharya, the King, his ministers, and more than one thousand Rajput soldiers gave up alcohol and meat and adopted Jainism. The Acharya gave this group the name Oshwals or Oswals. Thus, a new Jain corps, the Oswal Gaccha, the ancestors of the Oswal community, came into existence.

However, according to another publication "Ossiya Vir Stavan" written in Vikrama Samvat 1712(1656 A.D) by Jain monk 'Naya Pramod Vijay', the follower of monk 'Hir Udya Vijay' the city of Ossiya was founded in Vikrama Samvat 1011 and the conversion by Acharya took place in Vikrama Samvat 1017. But in the historical documents published in the city of Bhinmal, it is mentioned that Minister Uhad (the brother of king Punja of Bhinmal) left Bhinmal and founded the city in Vira Nirvana Samvat 70 after Mahavira’s Nirvana.

Also, in the documents available from city of Korta(Rajasthan) there is a mention of a conversion of a large group to Jainism by Acharya Ratnaprabha in Osian in Vira Nirvana Samvat 70 after Mahavira’s Nirvana.

Around 10th or 12th century AD, because of adverse natural conditions, a small number of these Oswal Mahajans left the village of Osian in search of better life and migrated to Sindh - what now is called West Pakistan & southern part of Rajasthan ie Bhinmal, Jalore, Raniwara, Sanchore. The conditions in Sindh were not any better. So, continued the migration southwards into Kutch, now a part of the State of Gujarat and settled in Vagad district. Later on, some moved to Kanthi district and onwards into other parts of Gujarat.

Today, although many Oswal Jains visit Osian, there is a legend that all Jains must leave by sun set or risk being cursed. Today, very few Oswals actually live in Osian.

During the course of Indian history, Oswals are known to have played an important part in assisting many Hindu and Muslim princely states to finance their activities. Many Mughal administrations have placed great value on the Oswals ability to generate revenue. Many Oswals won patronage from various Mughal Emperors due to their strong presence in commercial activities.

An Oswal immigrant who is said to have exercised decisive role in a series of events which culminated in the Battle of Plassey was Jagat Sheth, 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 to the East India Company's primacy in Bengal.

See also


  1. ^ A Unique Sculpture of the Jaina Goddess Saccikā, by R. C. Agrawala, Artibus Asiae, 1954 Artibus Asiae Publishers.
  2. ^ http://philtar.ucsm.ac.uk/encyclopedia/jainism/small.html Smaller Gacchas
  3. ^ http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jain-friends/message/2620 Shrishrimal


External links

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