Towns, Traders and Craftspersons (Class 7 History Chapter 6 Notes)

Vitalla Temple, Hampi/Ram Nagesh Totha
Most of the ancient Indian towns had a specific functions, either they were a temple town, an administrative centre, a commercial town or a port town. There were towns which have multiple function, but they were very few in number.

Administrative Centres
  1. Thanjavur, the capital of the Cholas, was one of the examples of an administrative centre.
  2. The town was built on the bank of Kaveri River.
  3. The town was also known for Rajarajeshvara temple, which was commissioned by King Rajaraja Chola. Kunjaramallan Rajaraja Perunthachchan was the chief architecture of the temple.
  4. Beside the temple, it was known for mandapas or pavillion. The Chola King used to hold the court in these pavillions.
  5. Nearby town, Uraiyur was known for its cotton industry and Svamimalai for its bronze sculpture industry.

Temple Towns and Pilgrimage Centres
  1. Temple towns represent a very interesting pattern of urbanisation, the process by which new cities developed. Thanjavur is one such example of temple towns.
  2. The temples were central to the economy of these towns. They recieve land and money grants to carry out elaborate rituals and celebrate festivals by their patrons. They also got donations from pilgrims who used to visist these temples. The temple authorities in turn used this wealth to finance trade and banking. Gradually, a number of craftsperson and traders in the town to cater the needs of pilgrims and the town becomes an economic hub.
  3. Bhillasvamin (Bhilsa/Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh), Somnath (Gujarat), Kanchipuram and Madurai (Tamil Nadu), Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh) are example of towns which evolved due to their temple economy.
  4. Vrindavan (Uttar Pradesh), Tiruvannamalai (Tamil Nadu) and Ajmer (Rajasthan) are examples of pilgrimage centres which also slowly and gradually grown into the townships.

A Network of Small Towns
  1. From the 8th century onwards, several small towns emerged from large villages. These towns usually had a mandapika (or mandi/bazaar of later times), where local farmers to sell their produce. They also had several market street, hatta (haat) lined with shops. Each street was known for a specific product or service.
  2. Usually, Samantas or Zamindar fortified these places and collect taxes for proper functioning of the town.

Big and Small Traders
  1. As traders had to pass through several kingdoms and terrains, they travelled in caravans and formed guilds to protect their interests.
  2. There were several such guilds formed in South India from 8th century onward such as Manigramam and Nanadesi. Chettiars and Marwari Oswal went on to become largest trading groups.
  3. Gujarati traders traded extensively with the ports of the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, East Africa, Southeast Asia and China. They sold textiles and spices in exchange of gold and ivory from Africa; and spices, tin, Chinese blue pottery and silver from Southeast Asia and China.
  4. Later, the spice trade between India and rest of the world is what attracted European traders to India. The west coast became home to Arab, Persian, Chinese, Jewish and Syrian Christian traders.

Crafts in Towns
  1. The Bidar (Bidri) community was famous for their inlay copper and silver work.
  2. The Panchalas (Vishwakarma) community was famous for their precious metal as well as mason and carpentery work related to temples.
  3. The Saliyars (Kaikkolars) were famous for their weaving.

A Closer Look: Hampi, Masulipatnam and Surat
The Architectural Splendour of Hampi
  1. Hampi is a town located in the Krishna-Tungabhadra basin, which formed the epicenter of the Vijayanagara Empire, founded in 1336.
  2. It was a well fortified walled city with no mortar or cementing agent used for building those walls. The technique used was to wedge the pieces together by interlocking.
  3. The architecture of Hampi was one of its kind and distinguished by arches, domes and pillared halls with niches for holding sculptures. It also had well planned orchards and gardens.
  4. The temples were the epicenter of the cultural activities and devadasis performed before the diety, Virupaksha (a form of Shiva).
  5. It was known for its Mahanavami festival.
  6. It fell into ruin after Vijayanagar loss to Deccan Sultans in 1565.

A Gateway to the West: Surat
  1. Surat (Gujarat) was the hub of trade activities with West Asia during the Mughal era along with Cambay (present day Khambat).
  2. It was also known as the Gate to the Mecca as several haz pilgrims set sail from there.
  3. In 17th century, all Portuguese, Dutch and English had their factories at Surat.
  4. It was one of the most important cotton producing centers in India and specially known for its gold lace border zari work.
  5. It was also one of the most important financial markets and Surat hundis were honoured in far off markets such as Cairo (Egypt), Basra (Iraq) and Antwerp (Belgium).
  6. However, Surat lost its relevance with the fall of Mughal Empire and competition from neighbouring cities like Mumbai.

Fishing in Troubled Waters: Masulipatnam
  1. Masulipatnam or Machlipatnam (literally, fish port town) stood on the delta of the Krishna river. It was known for its intense commercial activities during 17th century.
  2. Both Dutch and English East India Companies tried to control the Masulipatnam and eventually a fort at Masulipatnam was built by the Dutch.
  3. In 1686-1687 the town along with whole of Golconda annexed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. This caused European companies to look for new alternatives and town lost its significance with the rise of Kolkata, Bombay and Madras.

New Towns and Traders
  1. Several new cities such as Bombay, Kolkata and Madras rose to prominence in the 18th century.
  2. Crafts and commerce underwent a radical change as merchants and artisans were moved into the Black towns established by the Company, wihle white rulers occupied superior locations.