UPSC : Trade And Commerce - Trade and Commerce in the Pre-Gupta and Gupta Period, History, UPSC UPSC Notes | EduRev
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Trade And Commerce
- The Pre-Gupta and Gupta period was the most flourishing period in the history of trade and commerce in India.
- We do not come across so many kinds of artisans in the earlier texts as are mentioned in the writings of this period.
- The Digha Nikaya, which belongs to pre-Maurya times, mentioned about two dozens occupations, but the Milinda Panho, which belong to this period, enumerates as many as 75 occupations.
- Eight crafts were associated with the working of gold, silver, lead, tin, copper, brass, iron and precious stgones or jewels.
- Technological knowledge about the work of iron had made great progress. Iron artifacts have been discovered in greater number in Kushan and Satavahana layers at various excavated sites.
- But the Telangana region of Andhra seems to have made special progress in iron manufacture.
- Cloth making, silk-weaving and the making of arms and luxury articles also made progress. Mathura was a great centre for the manufacture of a special type of cloth which was called sataka.
- The manufacture of oil increased because of the use of the oil wheel.
- The inscriptions of the period mentions weavers, goldsmiths, dyers, workers in metal and ivory, jewellers, sculptors, smiths and perfumers as constructors of caves and donors of pillars, tablets etc. to the Buddhist monks.
- Coin-minting was an important craft, and the period is noted for numerous types of coins made of gold, silver, copper, bronze, lead and tin.
- The craftman also made fake Roman coins. Various coin-moulds belonging to the period have been found both in north India and in Deccan.
- A coin-mould from the Satavahana level shows that through it half a dozen coins could be turned out at a time.
- These urban handicrafts were supplemented by the manufacture of beautiful pieces of terracotta, which are found in profuse qualities.
- Terracottas were meant mostly for use of upper classes in towns. With the decline of town in Gupta, and especially in post-Gupta times, such terracottas almost went out of fashion.
- The Satavahana inscriptions show that there were in western India at that time guilds which acted as banks.
- One inscription states that an oil-pressers guild (Tailikanikaya) received two amounts of money
Classification of Land
- In the Gupta period land survey is evident from the Poona plates of Prabhavati Gupta.
- Kshetra—Special type of land capable of producing all kinds of crops.
- Khila—Land which has not been cultivated for three years.
- Aprahata—Defined as ‘unclaimed jungle land’.
- Gapatha Sarah—Pasture land.
- Bhumichhidranyaya—Rights of ownershias are acquired by a man making barren land cultivable. It is free from tax.
- Aprada Dharma—Right to enjoy a property but no right to make a further gift.
- Nivi Dharma Aksayena—A perpetual endownment which a donee could not alienate but could make use of the income accruing from it eternally.
- Nivi Dharma—Land endownment in perpetuity.
as fixed deposit. For one amount the rate of interest payable was 12% and for the other 9%.
- The huge sacrifical fees (dakshina) paid after the completion of various Vedic rites by Queen Naganika point to a high degree of economic prosperity which must have depended on maritime commerce.
- The type of Andhra coins with the figure of a shion the obverse and the account preserved in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, all testify to the maritime commerce of the day.
- The most important economic development of the period was the thriving trade between India and the eastern Roman empire.
- In the beginning a good deal of this trade was carried on by land, but the movement of the Sakas, Parthians and Kushans from the first century B.C. disrupted trade by land route.
- Although the Parthians of Iran imported iron and steel from India they presented great obstacles to India’s trade with the land further west of Iran.
- But from the first century A.D. trade was carried on mainly by sea. It seems that around the beginning of the christian era the monsoons were discovered. So the sailors now could sail in much less time directly from the eastern coast of the Arabian sea to its western coast.
- They could call easily at the various parts such as Broach and Sopara situated on the western coast of India, and Arikamedu and Tamralipti situated on its eastern coast.
- Of all these ports Broach seems to have been the most important and flourishing.
- The Sakas and the Kushans used two routes from the north-western frontier to the western sea coast. Both these routes converged at Taxila, and were connected with the silk route passing through central Asia.
- The first route directly ran from the north to the south connecting Taxila with the lower Indus basin from where it passed on to Broach. The second route, called lthe uttarapatha, was in more frequent use.
- In the early centuries before and after the christian era the Kushan empire touched the fringes of the Roman empire in the west and the ‘celestial empire’ in the east. Indians acted as the chief intermediaries in the silk trade, besides exporting muslin and spices.
- Their favourable balance of trade, which Pliny mentions, resulted in the creation of a gold standard in India.
- Wina Kadphises and his successors issued gold coins, which were in point of shape, size, weight and material content exactly similar to Roman Solidus and Denarius.
- People on the Coromandel coast were engaged in trade with south-east Asia. The Jataka texts, the Niddesa, the Milinda Panho, the Kathasaritsagara and epigraphic evidence from south-east Asia, point to an increasing Indian merchantile enterprise and subsequent political domination in the region.
- The unrest caused by the extensive race movements from the 2nd century B.C. in central Asia evidently rendered the old silk-route unsafe and Chinese silk trade with the West was carried on through Indian intermediaries.
- According to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Indian exports generally consisted of precious and semi-precious stones, (diamonds, pearls, sapphires, onyx sardonyx, agate, carnelian), ivory cotton cloth called Monakhe and Sagnatogene, muslin and mallow cloth, Chinese silk cloth, spices and medical products like pepper, ward, spikenard, costus, long pepper and malabathrum.
- The articles of import at the port of Barygaza included Italian and Arabian wines, copper, tin and lead, cural, topaz, flint glass, storax, antimony, gold and silver coins, singing boys and beautiful maidens were also brought specially for the king.
conditions caused by the wars with the Hunas and others.
- Chandragupta II was the first Gupta king who minted silver coins after defeating the Saka satraps of Ujjain. The barter system also existed side by side with currency.
- Industries as before, were organised under guilds. The Vaisali seals refer to the guilds (naigama, sreni) of bankers (sresthis), traders (sarthavaha) and artisans (kulika).
- Specific mention has been made of the guild of oil pressers (tailika), silk weavers (pattavaya-sreni) etc. Each guild had a president called Prathawa or Pravana.
- Something like a modern chamber of commerce or cartel also existed. There are references to Sresthi-Kaulika-Nigama. These guilds undertook banking operations and accepted donations to be held in perpetuity (ajasrikam) on certain conditions which were registered (nibaddha).
- A guild of the town of Ajapuraka thus received a permanent endowment (aksayanivi).
- Banking operation was undertaken by temple committees as well, such as the Panchamandali of the Kakanidabota-mahavihara. The importance of the industrial and mercantile communities in the body politic can be seen in the advisory council of the District Magistrate (Visayapati).
- The guild had their own property and trusts, settled disputes of their members and issued their hundis and probably even coins.
- Some guilds even kept their own soldiers which forced the Gupta rulers to frame certain laws to limit their powers.
- Prices in the Gupta period were not always stable and they also varied from place to place. Similarly, land measures, weights and measures were also different at different places.
- The internal trade was carried on by roads and rivers and foreign trade was carried on by sea and land.
- We have numerous references to sea-trade in the period; but the sea routes were not safe for the merchants. We learn from Fa-hein that the Central Asian route from China to India was full of perils.
- Indian ports maintained regular maritime relations with Sri-Lanka, Persia, Arabia, Ethiopia, the Byzantine empire, China and the islands of the Indian Ocean.
- India’s commercial relations with China also flourished and trade was conducted through the land and the sea routes.
- The volume of external trade of India with China greatly increased during the Gupta period. The Chinese silk, which was known as chinanshuka, had a good market in India.
- But India’s trade with the west somewhat declined due to the decline of the Roman empire. However, it revived again under the Byzantine emperors.