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Mughals Organisation of Trade and Commerce

Mughals Organisation of Trade and Commerce

  • Indian trading classes, specializing in long distance, inter-regional trade were called seth, bohra or modi while the Indian trading classes specializing in local, retail trade were called beoparis or
  • There was a special class of traders called the ‘banjaras’ who specialised in carrying bulk goods. They used to move long distances, sometimes with thousands of oxen carrying foodgrains, pulses, ghee, salt etc.
  • It was cheaper to move bulk goods through the rivers on boats. Boat traffic on waterways and coastal trade along the seashore was more highly developed than now.
  • The trade in foodstuffs and textiles were the most important components of inter­regional trade during the period. Bengal exported sugar and rice as well as delicate muslin and silk. The coast of Coromandel had become a centre for textile production, and had a brisk trade with Gujarat, both along the coast and across the Deccan.
  • Gujarat was the entry point for foreign goods. Gujarat exported fine textiles and Silks (patola) to north India, with Burhanpur and Agra as the two nodal points of trade. It received foodgrains and silk from Bengal and also imported pepper from Malabar.    Mughals Organisation of Trade and Commerce
  • North India imported luxury items and also exported Indigo and foodgrains.
  • Lahore was another centre for handicraft production. It was also the distribution centre for the luxury products of Kashmir-shawls, carpets. The products of the Punjab and Sind moved down the river Indus. It had close trade links with Kabul and Qandahar, on the one hand, and with Delhi and Agra or the other.
  • Gomashtas (agents) and Dalas (commission agents) made possible the movement of goods by complex networks.
  • The movement of goods was also facilitated by the growth of a financial system which permitted easy transmission of money from one part of the country to another. This was done through the use of hundis. The hundi was a letter of credit payable after a period of time at a discount.
  • The hundis often included insurance which was charged at different rates on the basis of value of the goods, destination and means of transport. The sarrafs (shroffs) who specialised in changing money, also specialised in dealing with hundis. Rich traders such as Virji Vohra set up agency houses in different parts of India, and also in West Asia.
  • The trading community in India did not belong to one caste or religion. The Gujarati merchants included Hindus, Jains and bohra muslims. In Rajasthan, Oswals, Maheswari’s and Agrawals began to be called Marwaris. Overland trade to central Asia was in the hands of Multanis, Afghanis and Khatris. The Chettis on the Coromandel coast and the Arab and Indian muslim merchants of Malbar, formed the most important trading communities of South India.    Mughals Organisation of Trade and Commerce
  • The trading community in India had such rich merchants as Virji Vohra who dominated the Surat trade, Abdul Ghafar Bohra who was among the wealthiest merchants of the time. Similarly, Kashi Viranna and Sunca Rana Chetti were some of the wealthiest south Indian merchants.
  • The Mughal ruling class was not as actively involved in pushing its business interest as some European states such as Britain, France and Holland were.
  • The Mughals contributed to the growth of trade and commerce by bringing about political integration, establishing law and order over extensive areas, by paying attention to roads and sarais which made communications easier, by levying a uniform tax at the point of their entry into the empire and by minting silver rupees of high purity. Also salaries to the standing army and many administrative personnel were paid in cash which increased cash transactions.
  • According to Ralph Fitch, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri were larger than London. Bernier, a French traveler, says that Delhi was not less than Paris and that Agra was bigger than Delhi.
  • Monserrat, the Jesuit priest who came to Akbar’s court says that Lahore was second to none of the Cities in Europe or Asia. Other prominent cities of the period were Multan, Ahmednagar, Burhanpur, Patna, Rajmahal and Dacca.
  • Both Akbar and Aurangzeb were deeply interested in the manufacture of guns of all types, including mobile guns, and took steps to improve their production. Indian steel swords were also in demand outside India. In 1651.
  • Shah Jahan initiated a programme of building sea-going vessels, and four to six ships were built for voyages to West Asia. In the following year, six ships were put into commission.
  • This was part of a ship-building programme of many wealthy merchants and nobles. In consequence Indian shipyards were soon in a position to produce ships based on European models, and freight rates to West Asia were reduced.  Mughals Organisation of Trade and Commerce


Medieval History

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