Ch – 6 Towns, Traders And Craftspersons

  • The craftspersons of Bidar were so famed for their inlay work in copper and silver that it came to be called Bidri.
  • The Panchalas or Vishwakarma community, consisting of goldsmiths, bronzesmiths, blacksmiths, masons and carpenters, were essential to the building of temples.
  • Weavers such as the Saliyar or Kaikkolars emerged as prosperous communities.
  • Ahmedabad in Gujarat became a major commercial site.
  • Murshidabad became capital of Bengal in 1704 but declined in the due course of time.
  • The English, Dutch and French formed East India Companies in order to expand their commercial activities in the east. Initially, traders like Mulla Abdul Ghafur and Virji Vora competed with them, but later these traders were subdued by the naval forces of East India Companies.
  • Indian textile was in high demand in the export market. Weavers were forced to work for European orders and designs provided by company agents, they were not allowed to sell or design on their own.
  • “Black Towns” were established in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, where the craftsperson were confined while “white” rulers occupied superior parts of these cities.
  • Thanjavur – Capital of Cholas
  • Rajarajeshvara temple, built by King Rajaraja Chola and architect Kunjaramallan Rajaraja Perunthachchan, is situated here.
  • River Kaveri flows neaby this town.
  • The markets famous for selling grain, spices, cloth and jewellery.
  • Over the years the importance of this town shrank.
  • Temple Towns
  • It represents a very important pattern of urbanisation, the process by which cities develop.
  • Rulers built temples to demonstrate their devotion to various deities.
  • They also endowed temples with grants of land and money to carry out elaborate rituals, feed pilgrims and priests and celebrate festivals.
  • Pilgrims who flocked to the temples also made donations.
  • Temple authorities used their wealth to finance trade and banking.
  • Gradually a large number of priests, workers, artisans, traders, etc. settled near the temple to cater to its needs and those of the pilgrims. Thus grew temple towns.
  • Some examples of temple towns are Somnath in Gujarat, Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh and Ajmer in Rajasthan are examples of Pilgrim Centres.
  • Taders Big and Small
  • Traders had to travel across cities and that’s why they formed guilds to protect themselves.
  • Famous guilds formed in South India from eight century are Manigramam and Nanadesi, they traded within peninsula, Southeast Asia and China.
  • Chettiars and Marwari Oswal went on to become principal trading groups.
  • Gujarati traders including Hindu Baniyas and Muslim Bohras traded within Red Sea, Persian Gulf, East Africa, Southeast Asia and China.
  • Indian spices and cloth were highly in demand in the market.
  • Kabul
  • It became politically and economically important since sixteenth century.
  • Kabul and Qandahar were linked with the Silk Route.
  • Horse trading was primarily carried out through this route in Kabul.
  • Fresh fruits, dried fruits, dates, carpets, etc. were sent from Kabul to all over the world. Even slaves were also brought here for sale.
  • Hampi
  • Hampi is located in the Krishna-Tungabhadra basin, which formed the nucleus of the Vijayanagara Empire, founded in 1336.
  • No mortar or cement was used in construction of forts.
  • The buildings in the royal complex had splendid arches, domes and pillared halls with niches for holding sculptures.
  • They also had well-planned orchards and pleasure gardens with sculptural motifs such as the lotus and corbels.
  • Hampi was a commercial hub in fifteenth – sixteenth centuries, when its market was thronged with Moors, Chettis and agents of European traders.
  • Mahanavmi was one of the important festivals celebrated in Hampi.
  • Hampi fell into ruin following the defeat of Vijayanagara in 1565 by the Deccani Sultans – the rulers of Golconda, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Berar and Bidar.
  • Surat
  • It was an emporium of western trade during Mughal period.
  • Surat was the gateway for trade with West Asia via the Gulf of Ormuz.
  • Surat has also been called the gate to Mecca because many pilgrim ships set sail from here.
  • In the seventeenth century the Portuguese, Dutch and English had their factories and warehouses at Surat.
  • The textiles of Surat were famous for their gold lace borders (zari) and had a market in West Asia, Africa and Europe.
  • The Kathiawad seths or mahajans (moneychangers) had huge banking houses at Surat.
  • It is noteworthy that the Surat hundis were honoured in the far-off markets of Cairo in Egypt, Basra in Iraq and Antwerp in Belgium.
  • However, Surat began to decline towards the end of the seventeenth century because of decline of Mughal Empire, control of sea routes by Portuguese and competition from Bombay.
  • Masulipatnam
  • The town of Masulipatnam or Machlipatnam (literally, fish port town) lay on the delta of the Krishna river.
  • Both the Dutch and English East India Companies attempted to control Masulipatnam as it became the most important port on the Andhra coast.
  • Fierce competition among various trading groups – the Golconda nobles, Persian merchants, Telugu Komati Chettis, and European traders – made the city populous and prosperous.
  • In 1686-1687 Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb annexed Golconda, which made European companies to look for alternatives.
  • Eventually after that, Masulipatnam lost its merchants and prosperity and declined in the course of eighteenth century.

Published by Priya Prakash

In the midst of winter, i found there was within me an invincible summer ~ Albert Camus

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