Coined in the 18th Century, the word Sheherwalis mean “City dwellers”
Invited by the court of the Nawab of Bengal, traders, businessmen and bankers migrated from the small towns of Rajasthan to Murshidabad – the then land of opportunities. From the scorching deserts of Rajasthan to the lush banks of the Bhagirathi River, the Oswal Jains settled around Azimganj, Jiaganj, Lalbagh, Nashipur, Cossimbazar and adjoining areas (important suburbs of Murshidabad during the Mughal rule) and adopted the local culture, values, cuisine and way of living.
Soon, the community proved to be of great importance as they formed liaisons with the European trading companies, providing financial and banking services for local and overseas trade and thus they amassed great fortunes and wealth. Today, this community has a distinct identity which is different from the marwaris of Rajasthan and is known for their unique way of life.
It is said that the combined wealth of 20-30 Sheherwali families surpassed that of the British aristocracy of that time.
Migrated from one city to the other, all these families became close to each other and adapted to their new local environment in terms of their food, values and practices. Bengali and Nawabi influences are seen in their fashion and style of dressing - the Sheherwali women adorned themselves with Rajasthani bore (head ornament) and heavy meenakari jewellery studded with precious stones. While the Sheherwali men wore rajasthani kurta, hand-frilled and pleated dhoti (Bengali) paired with embroidered shawl thrown over one shoulder and a distinctive pagdi (head dress);
Food : flavors of food rich in ghee and bold spcy tastes that could survive in the tough climate of Rajasthan, met the distinctive local flavors of Bengal and the royal cuisines of the Afghans and later the Mughals;
Lifestyle : an amalgam of the princely traditions of Rajasthan and the culture of Bengal. This led to theie love for the finer things in terms of art, jewelry, clothes, gardens, furniture and libraries. Many anecdotes about their preference for the huge variety of mangoes are legendary.
Despite of generating huge wealth, the Sheherwalis did not forget their society and its people. They established many schools, temples, markets and training centers. Even today, many families are devote their time and effort towards preserving the region and its heritage for the generations to come.