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Old NCERT Textbook (Satish Chandra): Economic and Social Life, Education and Religious Beliefs - Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

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 Page 1


FOUR
Economic and Social Life, Education and Religious
Beliefs (800-1200)
Although we have not yet studied political developments in north India from
1000 to 1200, the entire period from 800 to 1200 may be regarded as one for
the purpose of studying economic and social life,and religious beliefs.
Economic and social life, ideas and beliefs change much more slowly than
political life. That is why many of the earlier features which existed before the
ninth century continued during this period also. At the same time, there were
a number of new factors which made the period different from the earlier
one. Generally speaking, new elements as well as elements of continuity are
found in every historical period, but the extent and direction of change varies.
TRADE AND COMMERCE
The economic situation, especially trade and commerce in the country during
this period is a matter of debate among historians. Some consider it to be a
period of stagnation and decline, a set back both of foreign trade and long
distance trade within the country, decline of towns, and greater localism and
regionalism. The virtual absence of gold coins till the tenth century is
considered to be a proof of this.
We can hardly examine here all these points in detail. Suffice it to say that
the fall of the Roman empire did not seriously affect India’s trade with the
West since two large empires, the Byzantine empire with its base in
Constantinople, and the Sassanid empire based in Iran rose during the
subsequent period. Both of them took keen interest in trade with India and
the Indian Ocean region. After the rise of the Arab empire in the seventh
century, the Arabs expanded the trade of the West to India, Southeast Asia
and China.
Page 2


FOUR
Economic and Social Life, Education and Religious
Beliefs (800-1200)
Although we have not yet studied political developments in north India from
1000 to 1200, the entire period from 800 to 1200 may be regarded as one for
the purpose of studying economic and social life,and religious beliefs.
Economic and social life, ideas and beliefs change much more slowly than
political life. That is why many of the earlier features which existed before the
ninth century continued during this period also. At the same time, there were
a number of new factors which made the period different from the earlier
one. Generally speaking, new elements as well as elements of continuity are
found in every historical period, but the extent and direction of change varies.
TRADE AND COMMERCE
The economic situation, especially trade and commerce in the country during
this period is a matter of debate among historians. Some consider it to be a
period of stagnation and decline, a set back both of foreign trade and long
distance trade within the country, decline of towns, and greater localism and
regionalism. The virtual absence of gold coins till the tenth century is
considered to be a proof of this.
We can hardly examine here all these points in detail. Suffice it to say that
the fall of the Roman empire did not seriously affect India’s trade with the
West since two large empires, the Byzantine empire with its base in
Constantinople, and the Sassanid empire based in Iran rose during the
subsequent period. Both of them took keen interest in trade with India and
the Indian Ocean region. After the rise of the Arab empire in the seventh
century, the Arabs expanded the trade of the West to India, Southeast Asia
and China.
There is no reason to believe that Indian traders were excluded from this
expanded trade. Hence, gold and silver continued to come to India in return
for its favourable trade. That is why India continued to be considered a
country full of gold and silver, and hence an attractive prize for foreigners to
invade and trade with. Why the gold and silver was used for decorating
temples and palaces, or for jewellery, or simply buried for future use, and not
used for coinage, is a question to which no satisfactory answer is available.
We have seen how a large number of states arose in the country during the
period, and the growing power and authority of those holding superior rights
in land. Many of these kingdoms expanded agriculture by building bunds,
wells, etc. In some instances, as in Bengal, Sind and the Tamil country, in
order to strengthen their own positions, the rulers invited Brahmans to settle
down by giving them grants of rent-free lands. Since the bulk of these lands
were uncultivated, many tribesmen who were nomads, or cattle-rearers or
food-gatherers were induced to settle down to agriculture. Such expansion of
cultivation further strengthened the position of the local chiefs, samantas, etc.
We do not know the impact of this development on internal trade. The
growth of small towns which catered to local trade, along with greater local
self-sufficiency seems to have gone hand in hand. In north India, in
particular, the decline of long distance trade within the country apparently
led to the decline of trade guilds or shrenis and sanghs. The guilds had often
consisted of people belonging to different castes. They had their own rules of
conduct which the members were legally bound to obey, and were entitled to
lend or borrow money or receive endowments. With the decline of long
distance trade and commerce, these bodies lost their former importance. We
find very few references in north India during the period to guilds receiving
endowments. In the course of time, some of the older shrenis emerged as sub-
castes. For example, the Dvadasashreni, which was a guild, became a subcaste
of the Vaishyas. Jainism, which was patronized by the mercantile sections,
also received a set back in north India.
In some of the Dharamshastras which were written during this period, a
ban is put on travel beyond the areas where the munja grass does not grow or
where the black gazelle does not roam, that is, outside India proper. Travel
across the salt seas was also considered polluting. These bans were not taken
Page 3


FOUR
Economic and Social Life, Education and Religious
Beliefs (800-1200)
Although we have not yet studied political developments in north India from
1000 to 1200, the entire period from 800 to 1200 may be regarded as one for
the purpose of studying economic and social life,and religious beliefs.
Economic and social life, ideas and beliefs change much more slowly than
political life. That is why many of the earlier features which existed before the
ninth century continued during this period also. At the same time, there were
a number of new factors which made the period different from the earlier
one. Generally speaking, new elements as well as elements of continuity are
found in every historical period, but the extent and direction of change varies.
TRADE AND COMMERCE
The economic situation, especially trade and commerce in the country during
this period is a matter of debate among historians. Some consider it to be a
period of stagnation and decline, a set back both of foreign trade and long
distance trade within the country, decline of towns, and greater localism and
regionalism. The virtual absence of gold coins till the tenth century is
considered to be a proof of this.
We can hardly examine here all these points in detail. Suffice it to say that
the fall of the Roman empire did not seriously affect India’s trade with the
West since two large empires, the Byzantine empire with its base in
Constantinople, and the Sassanid empire based in Iran rose during the
subsequent period. Both of them took keen interest in trade with India and
the Indian Ocean region. After the rise of the Arab empire in the seventh
century, the Arabs expanded the trade of the West to India, Southeast Asia
and China.
There is no reason to believe that Indian traders were excluded from this
expanded trade. Hence, gold and silver continued to come to India in return
for its favourable trade. That is why India continued to be considered a
country full of gold and silver, and hence an attractive prize for foreigners to
invade and trade with. Why the gold and silver was used for decorating
temples and palaces, or for jewellery, or simply buried for future use, and not
used for coinage, is a question to which no satisfactory answer is available.
We have seen how a large number of states arose in the country during the
period, and the growing power and authority of those holding superior rights
in land. Many of these kingdoms expanded agriculture by building bunds,
wells, etc. In some instances, as in Bengal, Sind and the Tamil country, in
order to strengthen their own positions, the rulers invited Brahmans to settle
down by giving them grants of rent-free lands. Since the bulk of these lands
were uncultivated, many tribesmen who were nomads, or cattle-rearers or
food-gatherers were induced to settle down to agriculture. Such expansion of
cultivation further strengthened the position of the local chiefs, samantas, etc.
We do not know the impact of this development on internal trade. The
growth of small towns which catered to local trade, along with greater local
self-sufficiency seems to have gone hand in hand. In north India, in
particular, the decline of long distance trade within the country apparently
led to the decline of trade guilds or shrenis and sanghs. The guilds had often
consisted of people belonging to different castes. They had their own rules of
conduct which the members were legally bound to obey, and were entitled to
lend or borrow money or receive endowments. With the decline of long
distance trade and commerce, these bodies lost their former importance. We
find very few references in north India during the period to guilds receiving
endowments. In the course of time, some of the older shrenis emerged as sub-
castes. For example, the Dvadasashreni, which was a guild, became a subcaste
of the Vaishyas. Jainism, which was patronized by the mercantile sections,
also received a set back in north India.
In some of the Dharamshastras which were written during this period, a
ban is put on travel beyond the areas where the munja grass does not grow or
where the black gazelle does not roam, that is, outside India proper. Travel
across the salt seas was also considered polluting. These bans were not taken
seriously, for we have accounts of Indian merchants, philosophers, medical
men and craftsmen visiting Baghadad and other Muslim towns in West Asia
during this period. Perhaps, the ban was meant for Brahmans only, or was
meant to discourage too many Indians going to the areas dominated by Islam
in the West and Buddhism in the East for fear of their bringing back heretical
religious ideas which may be embarrassing and unacceptable to the Brahmans
and the ruling groups.
The ban on sea travel did not interfere with the growth of India’s overseas
trade with the countries of Southeast Asia and China. A brisk trade between
south India and the countries of Southeast Asia had started from the sixth
century onwards. The growing geographical knowledge about the countries
of the area is reflected in the literature of that time. The peculiar features of
the languages of the area, their dresses, etc., are mentioned in the books of the
period such as Harisena’s Brihatkatha-kosh. There are many stories about the
adventures of the Indian merchants in the magical waters of the area, stories
which became the basis of the well-known story of Sindbad the Sailor. The
Indian merchants were organised in guilds, the most famous of them being
the Manigraman and the Nandesi which had been active since early times.
These guilds displayed a spirit of enterprise, engaging in retail and whoselsale
trade in many foreign countries. They also gave handsome grants to temples,
which became centres of social and cultural life, and sometimes also advanced
money for trade. Many of the Indian traders settled down in these countries.
Some of them took wives from the local population. The priests followed the
traders. In this way, both Buddhist and Hindu religious ideas were introduced
in the area. The Buddhist temple of Borobudur in Java and the Hindu temple
of Angkor Wat in Cambodia testify to the spread of both these religions there.
Some of the ruling families of the area were semi-Hinduized, and they
welcomed trade and cultural relations with India. In this way, Indian culture
mingled with the local culture to establish new literary and cultural forms.
Some observers think that the material prosperity of the Southeast Asian
countries, the growth of civilization, and establishment of large states was
based in large measure on the introduction of the Indian technique of
irrigated rice cultivation.
The chief Indian port for sailing to Java, Sumatra, etc., was Tamralipti
(Tamluk) in Bengal. In most of the stories of the period, merchants start for
Page 4


FOUR
Economic and Social Life, Education and Religious
Beliefs (800-1200)
Although we have not yet studied political developments in north India from
1000 to 1200, the entire period from 800 to 1200 may be regarded as one for
the purpose of studying economic and social life,and religious beliefs.
Economic and social life, ideas and beliefs change much more slowly than
political life. That is why many of the earlier features which existed before the
ninth century continued during this period also. At the same time, there were
a number of new factors which made the period different from the earlier
one. Generally speaking, new elements as well as elements of continuity are
found in every historical period, but the extent and direction of change varies.
TRADE AND COMMERCE
The economic situation, especially trade and commerce in the country during
this period is a matter of debate among historians. Some consider it to be a
period of stagnation and decline, a set back both of foreign trade and long
distance trade within the country, decline of towns, and greater localism and
regionalism. The virtual absence of gold coins till the tenth century is
considered to be a proof of this.
We can hardly examine here all these points in detail. Suffice it to say that
the fall of the Roman empire did not seriously affect India’s trade with the
West since two large empires, the Byzantine empire with its base in
Constantinople, and the Sassanid empire based in Iran rose during the
subsequent period. Both of them took keen interest in trade with India and
the Indian Ocean region. After the rise of the Arab empire in the seventh
century, the Arabs expanded the trade of the West to India, Southeast Asia
and China.
There is no reason to believe that Indian traders were excluded from this
expanded trade. Hence, gold and silver continued to come to India in return
for its favourable trade. That is why India continued to be considered a
country full of gold and silver, and hence an attractive prize for foreigners to
invade and trade with. Why the gold and silver was used for decorating
temples and palaces, or for jewellery, or simply buried for future use, and not
used for coinage, is a question to which no satisfactory answer is available.
We have seen how a large number of states arose in the country during the
period, and the growing power and authority of those holding superior rights
in land. Many of these kingdoms expanded agriculture by building bunds,
wells, etc. In some instances, as in Bengal, Sind and the Tamil country, in
order to strengthen their own positions, the rulers invited Brahmans to settle
down by giving them grants of rent-free lands. Since the bulk of these lands
were uncultivated, many tribesmen who were nomads, or cattle-rearers or
food-gatherers were induced to settle down to agriculture. Such expansion of
cultivation further strengthened the position of the local chiefs, samantas, etc.
We do not know the impact of this development on internal trade. The
growth of small towns which catered to local trade, along with greater local
self-sufficiency seems to have gone hand in hand. In north India, in
particular, the decline of long distance trade within the country apparently
led to the decline of trade guilds or shrenis and sanghs. The guilds had often
consisted of people belonging to different castes. They had their own rules of
conduct which the members were legally bound to obey, and were entitled to
lend or borrow money or receive endowments. With the decline of long
distance trade and commerce, these bodies lost their former importance. We
find very few references in north India during the period to guilds receiving
endowments. In the course of time, some of the older shrenis emerged as sub-
castes. For example, the Dvadasashreni, which was a guild, became a subcaste
of the Vaishyas. Jainism, which was patronized by the mercantile sections,
also received a set back in north India.
In some of the Dharamshastras which were written during this period, a
ban is put on travel beyond the areas where the munja grass does not grow or
where the black gazelle does not roam, that is, outside India proper. Travel
across the salt seas was also considered polluting. These bans were not taken
seriously, for we have accounts of Indian merchants, philosophers, medical
men and craftsmen visiting Baghadad and other Muslim towns in West Asia
during this period. Perhaps, the ban was meant for Brahmans only, or was
meant to discourage too many Indians going to the areas dominated by Islam
in the West and Buddhism in the East for fear of their bringing back heretical
religious ideas which may be embarrassing and unacceptable to the Brahmans
and the ruling groups.
The ban on sea travel did not interfere with the growth of India’s overseas
trade with the countries of Southeast Asia and China. A brisk trade between
south India and the countries of Southeast Asia had started from the sixth
century onwards. The growing geographical knowledge about the countries
of the area is reflected in the literature of that time. The peculiar features of
the languages of the area, their dresses, etc., are mentioned in the books of the
period such as Harisena’s Brihatkatha-kosh. There are many stories about the
adventures of the Indian merchants in the magical waters of the area, stories
which became the basis of the well-known story of Sindbad the Sailor. The
Indian merchants were organised in guilds, the most famous of them being
the Manigraman and the Nandesi which had been active since early times.
These guilds displayed a spirit of enterprise, engaging in retail and whoselsale
trade in many foreign countries. They also gave handsome grants to temples,
which became centres of social and cultural life, and sometimes also advanced
money for trade. Many of the Indian traders settled down in these countries.
Some of them took wives from the local population. The priests followed the
traders. In this way, both Buddhist and Hindu religious ideas were introduced
in the area. The Buddhist temple of Borobudur in Java and the Hindu temple
of Angkor Wat in Cambodia testify to the spread of both these religions there.
Some of the ruling families of the area were semi-Hinduized, and they
welcomed trade and cultural relations with India. In this way, Indian culture
mingled with the local culture to establish new literary and cultural forms.
Some observers think that the material prosperity of the Southeast Asian
countries, the growth of civilization, and establishment of large states was
based in large measure on the introduction of the Indian technique of
irrigated rice cultivation.
The chief Indian port for sailing to Java, Sumatra, etc., was Tamralipti
(Tamluk) in Bengal. In most of the stories of the period, merchants start for
Suvarnadvipa (modern Indonesia) or to Kataha (Kedah in Malaya) from
Tamralipti. A fourteenth century writer in Java speaks of people from
Jambudvipa (India), Karnataka (south India), and Gaud (Bengal) coming
unceasingly in big numbers in large ships. Traders from Gujarat also took
part in this trade.
On account of its prosperity, China had become a main focus of trade in
the Indian Ocean. The Chinese consumed enormous quantities of spices,
which were imported from Southeast Asia and India. They also imported
ivory, the best of which came from Africa, and glassware which came from
West Asia. To these were added medicinal herbs, lac, incense, and all types of
rare commodities. Generally, products from Africa and West Asia did not go
beyond Malabar in South India. Nor did many Chinese ships go beyond the
Moluccas in Southeast Asia. Thus, both India and Southeast Asia were
important staging centres for trade between China and the countries of West
Asia and Africa. Indian traders - especially from the Tamil country and
Kalinga (modern Orissa and Bengal) — played an active role in this trade,
along with Persians, and at a later stage, the Arabs. Much of the trade to
China was carried in Indian ships, the teakwood of Malabar, Bengal and
Burma providing the basis of a strong tradition of ship building. The weather
conditions were also such that it was not possible for a ship to sail straight
from the Middle East to China. The ships would have to wait for a long
period in ports in between for favourable winds which blew from the west to
the east before the monsoon, and from east to west after the monsoon. Indian
and Southeast Asian ports were preferred by the merchants for the purpose.
The main seaport for foreign trade in China during this period was
Canton, or Kanfu as the Arab travellers called it. Buddhist scholars went from
India to China by the sea route. The Chinese chroniclers tell us that the
number of Indian monks in the Chinese court towards the close of the tenth
and the beginning of the eleventh century was the highest in Chinese history.
A Chinese account of a slightly earlier period tells us that the Canton river
was full of ships from India, Persia and Arabia. It says that in Canton itself
there were three Hindu temples in which Indians resided. The presence of
Indians in the Chinese Sea is testified to by Japanese records which give the
credit of introducing cotton into Japan to two Indians who were carried over
to the country by the black current.
Page 5


FOUR
Economic and Social Life, Education and Religious
Beliefs (800-1200)
Although we have not yet studied political developments in north India from
1000 to 1200, the entire period from 800 to 1200 may be regarded as one for
the purpose of studying economic and social life,and religious beliefs.
Economic and social life, ideas and beliefs change much more slowly than
political life. That is why many of the earlier features which existed before the
ninth century continued during this period also. At the same time, there were
a number of new factors which made the period different from the earlier
one. Generally speaking, new elements as well as elements of continuity are
found in every historical period, but the extent and direction of change varies.
TRADE AND COMMERCE
The economic situation, especially trade and commerce in the country during
this period is a matter of debate among historians. Some consider it to be a
period of stagnation and decline, a set back both of foreign trade and long
distance trade within the country, decline of towns, and greater localism and
regionalism. The virtual absence of gold coins till the tenth century is
considered to be a proof of this.
We can hardly examine here all these points in detail. Suffice it to say that
the fall of the Roman empire did not seriously affect India’s trade with the
West since two large empires, the Byzantine empire with its base in
Constantinople, and the Sassanid empire based in Iran rose during the
subsequent period. Both of them took keen interest in trade with India and
the Indian Ocean region. After the rise of the Arab empire in the seventh
century, the Arabs expanded the trade of the West to India, Southeast Asia
and China.
There is no reason to believe that Indian traders were excluded from this
expanded trade. Hence, gold and silver continued to come to India in return
for its favourable trade. That is why India continued to be considered a
country full of gold and silver, and hence an attractive prize for foreigners to
invade and trade with. Why the gold and silver was used for decorating
temples and palaces, or for jewellery, or simply buried for future use, and not
used for coinage, is a question to which no satisfactory answer is available.
We have seen how a large number of states arose in the country during the
period, and the growing power and authority of those holding superior rights
in land. Many of these kingdoms expanded agriculture by building bunds,
wells, etc. In some instances, as in Bengal, Sind and the Tamil country, in
order to strengthen their own positions, the rulers invited Brahmans to settle
down by giving them grants of rent-free lands. Since the bulk of these lands
were uncultivated, many tribesmen who were nomads, or cattle-rearers or
food-gatherers were induced to settle down to agriculture. Such expansion of
cultivation further strengthened the position of the local chiefs, samantas, etc.
We do not know the impact of this development on internal trade. The
growth of small towns which catered to local trade, along with greater local
self-sufficiency seems to have gone hand in hand. In north India, in
particular, the decline of long distance trade within the country apparently
led to the decline of trade guilds or shrenis and sanghs. The guilds had often
consisted of people belonging to different castes. They had their own rules of
conduct which the members were legally bound to obey, and were entitled to
lend or borrow money or receive endowments. With the decline of long
distance trade and commerce, these bodies lost their former importance. We
find very few references in north India during the period to guilds receiving
endowments. In the course of time, some of the older shrenis emerged as sub-
castes. For example, the Dvadasashreni, which was a guild, became a subcaste
of the Vaishyas. Jainism, which was patronized by the mercantile sections,
also received a set back in north India.
In some of the Dharamshastras which were written during this period, a
ban is put on travel beyond the areas where the munja grass does not grow or
where the black gazelle does not roam, that is, outside India proper. Travel
across the salt seas was also considered polluting. These bans were not taken
seriously, for we have accounts of Indian merchants, philosophers, medical
men and craftsmen visiting Baghadad and other Muslim towns in West Asia
during this period. Perhaps, the ban was meant for Brahmans only, or was
meant to discourage too many Indians going to the areas dominated by Islam
in the West and Buddhism in the East for fear of their bringing back heretical
religious ideas which may be embarrassing and unacceptable to the Brahmans
and the ruling groups.
The ban on sea travel did not interfere with the growth of India’s overseas
trade with the countries of Southeast Asia and China. A brisk trade between
south India and the countries of Southeast Asia had started from the sixth
century onwards. The growing geographical knowledge about the countries
of the area is reflected in the literature of that time. The peculiar features of
the languages of the area, their dresses, etc., are mentioned in the books of the
period such as Harisena’s Brihatkatha-kosh. There are many stories about the
adventures of the Indian merchants in the magical waters of the area, stories
which became the basis of the well-known story of Sindbad the Sailor. The
Indian merchants were organised in guilds, the most famous of them being
the Manigraman and the Nandesi which had been active since early times.
These guilds displayed a spirit of enterprise, engaging in retail and whoselsale
trade in many foreign countries. They also gave handsome grants to temples,
which became centres of social and cultural life, and sometimes also advanced
money for trade. Many of the Indian traders settled down in these countries.
Some of them took wives from the local population. The priests followed the
traders. In this way, both Buddhist and Hindu religious ideas were introduced
in the area. The Buddhist temple of Borobudur in Java and the Hindu temple
of Angkor Wat in Cambodia testify to the spread of both these religions there.
Some of the ruling families of the area were semi-Hinduized, and they
welcomed trade and cultural relations with India. In this way, Indian culture
mingled with the local culture to establish new literary and cultural forms.
Some observers think that the material prosperity of the Southeast Asian
countries, the growth of civilization, and establishment of large states was
based in large measure on the introduction of the Indian technique of
irrigated rice cultivation.
The chief Indian port for sailing to Java, Sumatra, etc., was Tamralipti
(Tamluk) in Bengal. In most of the stories of the period, merchants start for
Suvarnadvipa (modern Indonesia) or to Kataha (Kedah in Malaya) from
Tamralipti. A fourteenth century writer in Java speaks of people from
Jambudvipa (India), Karnataka (south India), and Gaud (Bengal) coming
unceasingly in big numbers in large ships. Traders from Gujarat also took
part in this trade.
On account of its prosperity, China had become a main focus of trade in
the Indian Ocean. The Chinese consumed enormous quantities of spices,
which were imported from Southeast Asia and India. They also imported
ivory, the best of which came from Africa, and glassware which came from
West Asia. To these were added medicinal herbs, lac, incense, and all types of
rare commodities. Generally, products from Africa and West Asia did not go
beyond Malabar in South India. Nor did many Chinese ships go beyond the
Moluccas in Southeast Asia. Thus, both India and Southeast Asia were
important staging centres for trade between China and the countries of West
Asia and Africa. Indian traders - especially from the Tamil country and
Kalinga (modern Orissa and Bengal) — played an active role in this trade,
along with Persians, and at a later stage, the Arabs. Much of the trade to
China was carried in Indian ships, the teakwood of Malabar, Bengal and
Burma providing the basis of a strong tradition of ship building. The weather
conditions were also such that it was not possible for a ship to sail straight
from the Middle East to China. The ships would have to wait for a long
period in ports in between for favourable winds which blew from the west to
the east before the monsoon, and from east to west after the monsoon. Indian
and Southeast Asian ports were preferred by the merchants for the purpose.
The main seaport for foreign trade in China during this period was
Canton, or Kanfu as the Arab travellers called it. Buddhist scholars went from
India to China by the sea route. The Chinese chroniclers tell us that the
number of Indian monks in the Chinese court towards the close of the tenth
and the beginning of the eleventh century was the highest in Chinese history.
A Chinese account of a slightly earlier period tells us that the Canton river
was full of ships from India, Persia and Arabia. It says that in Canton itself
there were three Hindu temples in which Indians resided. The presence of
Indians in the Chinese Sea is testified to by Japanese records which give the
credit of introducing cotton into Japan to two Indians who were carried over
to the country by the black current.
Indian rulers, particularly the Pala and Sena rulers of Bengal, and the
Pallava and Chola rulers of south India, tried to encourage this trade by
sending a series of embassies to the Chinese emperors. The Chola ruler,
Rajendra I, sent a naval expedition against Malaya and the neighbouring
countries to overcome their interference in the trade with China. The
embassy sent to China by Rajendra I travelled in an Indian ship. There is
evidence to show that there were many shipyards which were located on the
west coast, including Gujarat. Thus, growth of India’s foreign trade in the
area was based on a strong maritime tradition, including ship building, and
the skill and enterprise of its traders. The Chinese trade was very favourable
to the countries engaged in it, so much so that in the thirteenth century, the
Chinese government tried to restrict the export of gold and silver from China.
Indian ships gradually gave way to the Arabs and the Chinese ships which
were bigger and faster. We are told that the Chinese ships were several storeys
high and carried 600 passengers apart from 400 soldiers. An important factor
in the growth of the Chinese ships was the use of the mariner’s compass—an
invention which later travelled from China to the West. Already Indian
science and technology were being left behind.
Thus, India’s trade with the western areas and with Southeast Asia and
China grew steadily. The lead in this trade was taken by south India, Bengal
and Gujarat. This was an important factor in the wealth and prosperity of
these areas.
Condition of the People
There was no decline in the high standard of Indian handicrafts such as
textiles, work on gold and silver, metallurgy, etc., during the period., Indian
agriculture also continued to be in a flourishing condition. Many of the Arab
travellers testify to the fertility of the soil and the skill of the Indian peasant.
All the literary works of the period tell us that the ministers, officials and
feudal chiefs lived in great ostentation and splendour. They aped the ways of
the king in having fine houses which sometimes were three to five storeys
high. They used costly foreign apparel such as imported woollen clothes,
Chinese silk, and costly jewels and ornaments made of gold and silver to
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How to Prepare for UPSC

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