Topic outline

    • Towns, Traders and Craftspersons

      Q36. What was the role of a samanta or a zamindar?

      Ans. Usually a samanta or, in later times, a zamindar built a fortified palace in or near these towns. They levied taxes on traders, artisans and articles of trade and sometimes “donated” the “right” to collect these taxes to local temples, which had been built by themselves or by rich merchants. These “rights” were recorded in inscriptions that have survived to this day.


      Q37. What would a traveller visiting a medieval town expect to find?

      Ans. This would depend on what kind of a town it was – a temple town, an administrative centre, a commercial town or a port town to name just some possibilities. In fact, many towns combined several functions – they were administrative centres, temple towns, as well as centres of commercial activities and craft production.

      Q38. How did the system of advances snatch the freedom of the weavers?

      Ans. Indian textile designs became increasingly refined. However, this period also saw the decline of the independence of craftspersons. They now began to work on a system of advances which meant that they had to weave cloth which was already promised to European agents. Weavers no longer had the liberty of selling their own cloth or weaving their own patterns. They had to reproduce the designs supplied to them by the Company agents.


      Q39. What were the reasons for the decline of Surat?

      Ans. However, Surat began to decline towards the end of the seventeenth century. This was because of many factors:

                              i.        The loss of markets and productivity because of the decline of the Mughal Empire.

                             ii.        Control of the sea routes by the Portuguese and competition from Bombay (present-day Mumbai) where the English East India Company shifted its headquarters in 1668.


      Q40. How important were craftspersons for the building and maintenance of temples?

      Ans. Craftspersons were important for the building and maintenance of temples:

                               i.        The Panchalas or Vishwakarma community, consisting of goldsmiths, bronzesmiths, blacksmiths, masons and carpenters, were essential to the building of temples.

                              ii.        Similarly, weavers such as the Saliyar or Kaikkolars emerged as prosperous communities, making donations to temples.

      Q41. Write a note on taxes on market in 10th century.

      Ans. There were taxes in kind on:

      Sugar and jaggery, dyes, thread, and cotton,

      On coconuts, salt, areca nuts, butter, sesame oil,

      On cloth

      Besides, there were taxes on traders, on those who sold metal goods, on distillers, on oil, on cattle fodder, and on loads of grain. Some of these taxes were collected in kind, while others were collected in cash.


      Q42. Why do you think towns grew around temples?

      Ans. Rulers built temples to demonstrate their devotion to various deities. They also endowed temples with grants of land and money to carry out elaborate rituals, feed pilgrims and priests and celebrate festivals. Pilgrims who flocked to the temples also made donations. Temple authorities used their wealth to finance trade and banking. Gradually a large number of priests, workers, artisans, traders, etc. settled near the temple to cater to its needs and those of the pilgrims. Thus grew temple towns.

      Q43. Pilgrimage centres also slowly developed into townships. Explain

      Ans. Pilgrimage centres also slowly developed into townships. Vrindavan (Uttar Pradesh) and Tiruvannamalai (Tamil Nadu) are examples of two such towns. Ajmer (Rajasthan) was the capital of the Chauhan kings in the twelfth century and later became the suba headquarters under the Mughals. It provides an excellent example of religious coexistence. Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti, the celebrated Sufi saint who settled there in the twelfth century, attracted devotees from all creeds. Near Ajmer is a lake, Pushkar, which has attracted pilgrims from ancient times.

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