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History > Towns, Traders and Craftspersons > Traders, Craftspersons and Explorers
Towns, Traders and Craftspersons

Traders, Craftspersons and Explorers

Have you imagined your life as an explorer? It is fascinating to discover new things that we did not know of. Studying history is a lot like an adventure wherein you play the role of explorers and find out about your own past and history. Doesn’t this sound exciting?

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We have already learnt that by the 17th century, India had witnessed the emergence of several towns. Each set of towns with their own forte. Such as port and trade towns dealt with sea trade and cropped up around seashores. Similar temple towns emerged in the vicinity of the holy places with a view to assisting pilgrims on their visit. As towns cropped up, trades and crafts also started flourishing. Which lead to an increase in the number of traders, craftsperson and explorers.

Traders

New towns lead to newer avenues of creating revenue. For instance, those who lived in the temple towns catered to the hospitality and other aspects of pilgrims who came to worship. As a result, several “sarais” and shops came up which were like modern day bed and breakfast.

Similarly, those in port towns started importing and exporting goods from the Gulf nations. Thereby becoming traders of export and import. This process over the period of time created a lot of business options that generated revenue other than agriculture.

There were traders who were nomads and travelled around to create guilds of traders across boundaries. The most famous of them were Manigramam and Nanadesi. They created these guilds to protect their interests in Southeast Asia as well as the Indian Subcontinent.

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Craftspersons

In order to trade, a trader must have some finished product. Say cotton for textile trade, a statue for trade in temples. So on and so forth. This is where crafts persons came in. India is a country of craft persons and artisans. They turned their trade into revenue generating work and created another source of income for themselves.

Explorers

For instance, we had sculptures who sculpted beautiful sculptors of deities and otherwise. They were hired by the royalty for beautifying the royal palaces and places of worships. You will see that the Sun temple in Konark is an epitome of sculptural beauty and all credit goes to the craftspersons who created such a beauty.

Similarly, there was architecture. We had architects who created marvels with stone and sand. Taj Mahal is only one of the many examples of the skilled architects in India. In southern India, Hampi a small village in Karnataka is known precisely for its architectural beauty. Apart from the skills on stones.

We also had craftspeople who weaved magic through other means. Quite literally. We had weavers and spinners and knitters. Crafts like cleaning, spinning and dying of cotton, bidri, weaving became more and more prominent. Even till date, we are aware of which town is famous for what kind of craft. For instance, we know that Cuttack print is a famous cotton print from Orissa.

Or that Madhubani painting is from Bihar. Similarly, silk and silk weaving is attributed Varanasi in north and Chennai i the south. As cloth making, dyeing, weaving and cotton cleaning became specialized crafts, independent of any other craft, there came up towns that became experts of them. Weavers from Saliyar and Kaikkolar communities earned a lot of money through their craft and also donated a lot of it to temples.

Explorers

The process of urbanization relates to the creation of new centres for people to gather in and engage with each other. New towns and their town squares were like a flame attracting moths. The ports which were used for trade also became an inland for explorers and travellers.

The commercial towns were the first to witness an incoming of travellers. It was so because most explorers came out in search of creating business opportunities. Notice that this is how British India Company made its way into the mainland of India.

But British were not the only explorers who visited India in search of new avenues. 16th and 17th century witnessed an incoming of French and Dutch travellers also. Some of who decided to settle in India. They intended to expand their commercial activities to this part of the world. But we all know what happened eventually!!

This period eventually saw the end of independence for craftspersons. The commercialized system created a bondage around their mode of working. There were advanced payments and pre-ordered clothes involved, which lead to the craftspersons working under specific directions and not as per their own will. Everything went for a massive decline as the craftspersons were relegated to “black towns” created by Europeans and white people under their supervision.

Question For You

Q. Name the four crafts which involved the people of Medieval India?

Ans: The crafts involving people of Medieval India are:

  • Sculptor
  • Spinning
  • Weaving
  • Pottery Making
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