About the Halari Oshwals

Around 800 AD, a small group of Kshatriya Hindus from Osian, Rajasthan, experienced a life-changing event. This group, who once fought bloody wars and sacrificed animals for their gods, abandoned their deep-seated beliefs and replaced violence by Jainism; a religion rooted in ahimsa, or non-violence; and later adopted by Mahatma Gandhi. This group became known as the Oshwals.

In 1535, a small band of Oshwals migrated to the Halar region in India; they became known as the Halari Oshwals.

The first Oshwal to arrive in Kenya from India was in 1899. In East Africa, Oshwals set up small shops across the country and became Dukawallas. In the early 1960s when all the East African countries started gaining independence from their colonial rulers, many Oshwals had to close their shops and migrate to the UK. Those who remained became became successful industrialists, expanding outwards around the world.

Today, the Halari Oshwals belong to a community of 80,000 people spread around the globe yet tied together by strong bonds of brotherhood, selflessness and respect of tradition.

Although the community seems to be thriving in countries such as Kenya, the UK and India, the threads within the heritage are weakening. In other areas, such as in Canada, there are a mere 400 Halari Oshwals and the population is slowly decreasing.

Geographical disconnect, globalization and age old rules preventing the transmission of the Oshwal identity in intercultural marriages present a threat to its preservation. Halari children are slowly losing the thread that ties them to their heritage.

If this trend does not end, smaller communities in less populated countries could disappear within the next 50 years, erasing hundreds of years of culture, traditions and values.

What will this mean for future generations? And more importantly, what is at stake of being lost? It all hangs on by a thread…

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