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Economy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries: Rise of urban economy and non-agricultural production

Economy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries: Rise of urban economy and non-agricultural production

  • The new Turkish regime released social forces which created an economic organisation which brought changes to the one that had existed before and it led to the expansion of towns, and to important alterations in agrarian relationships.

Rise of urban economy and non-agricultural production

We see increase in the number of coin-hoards after A.D. 1200, and the emergence of large number of new towns.

The urban economy on the eve of the Ghorid conquest:

  • Was on low ebb. The towns were fewer in number and smaller in size in the centuries preceding the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate.
  • D. Kosambi shows : even the capital was a camp city on the move.
    • The higher ruling class wandered from place to place along with the army while the lower ruling class was almost completely ruralized.
  • S. Sharma:
    • He supported the view of urban decline.
    • He has convincingly reasserted his theory of urban decay with the help of enormous archaeological data painstakingly collected.
  • This theory of decay of towns is further corroborated by the evidence of sluggish trade.
    • The near complete disappearance of gold and silver currencies and the almost total absence of foreign coins in the Indian coin-hoards of the period are indicators that the foreign trade was at a very low scale.
    • Moreover, the fact that not even the coins of various regional dynasties are found in the coin-hoards of other regions,suggests that inland commerce was not widespread.
  • All this scenario changed almost immediately with the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate.
  • The archaeological and numismatic evidence corroborate the literary evidence of growth of towns and increase in commerce.
  • Muhammad Habib to postulate a theory of ‘Urban Revolution’.

Growth of towns: 

  • There are two simple definitions of a town:
      • The usual modern definition of a settlement of 5000 or above
      • A settlement where an overwhelming majority of population (say above 70%) is engaged in occupations other than agriculture.
    • The two definitions are not mutually exclusive. (covers town of smaller size also).
  • Evidences:
    • Not much archaeology evidences are available (mainly because much less attention paid to medieval archaeology) , the literary evidences testify growth of urban centers.
    • Important town :
      • Some major towns mentioned in the contemporary sources are Delhi (the capital), Multan, Anhilwara (Patan), Cambay, Kara, Lakhnauti and Daulatabad (Deogiri).
      • Lahore was a big town but decayed after the Mongol invasion in the 13th century. However, in the 14th. century it flourished again.
    • While not even a guesstimate of the population of any town is available in our sources there are reliable indications to assume that at least some of these were cities big enough by contemporary standards.
    • Delhi was the Largest:
      • Ibn Battuta, who visited Delhi in 1330. Describes it as of enormous extent and population, the largest city in the Islamic East in spite of the fact that Muhammad Tughluq had shifted much of its population to Daulatabad.
        • He describes the latter too, as large enough to rival Delhi in size.
    • Some new towns were established during the period, such as Jhain (Chhain) in Eastern Rajasthan that was named ‘Shahr Nau’ during Alauddin Khalji’s reign (1296-1316).
  • Factors for Urban Expansion:
    • They stayed at one place (at Iqta headquarter) :
      • The strength of the invader lay in combination and not in dispersal in an unfamiliar land.
        • Thus, in initial stages, it was natural for the members of the ruling class to prefer to stay at their iqta headquarters along with their cavalry.
      • Most of the 13th century towns was iqta headquarter:
        • These iqta headquarters having the concentration of cavalry, its hangers – on and the retinue and household of the muqti thus emerged in the early phase as camp cities.
        • For example, Hansi, Kara, Anhilwara, etc.
      • These towns were to be fed and provided for. In the beginning, the troops had to go for realizing kharaj/mal by plundering the surrounding villages.
    • Moreland pointed that Gradually by the 14th century Cash nexus developed. The revenue was realized in cash from the peasants who were thus forced to sell their produce at the side of the field. The merchants catered to the needs of towns giving rise to ‘induced trade
    • Immigration from Islamic culture area:
      • The new rulers naturally wanted to get luxuries and comforts of their taste which encouraged immigration.
        • e.g: As described by Isami, these were soldiers, craftsman, artisans, singers, musicians, dancers, poets, physicians, astrologers and servicemen.
      • The immigrant master-craftsman most probably introduced new techniques and articles of technology . In due course, Indian artisans must have learnt the new crafts.

Urban manufactures:

  • Two fold impetus to urban craft production :
    • The Sultanate ruling class remained town-centered and spent the enormous resources it appropriated in the form of land revenue mainly in towns, either on buying services or procuring manufacturers.
      • Even the money spent on the service sector partly went to help the urban craft sector through multiplier effect.
      • Demand for high-priced skill-intensive luxury items was created by nobility created and its hanger-on created a mass market for ordinary artisanal product.
    • Introduction of a number of technological devices that reached India with the invaders.
      • In the luxury sector, silk weaving expanded and carpet-weaving came from Persia.
      • Other major industries were: Papermaking, building industry ( major one for employment creation).
        • Barani says that Alauddin Khalji employed 70,000 craftsmen for his buildings.
  • Organization of Production:
    • Two possible alternatives:
      • Whether the town artisans carried out production under the ‘domestic system‘ (i.e with their own tools, raw material and the end product and also sold their product themselves i.e self employed) or
      • whether they worked under the ‘putting-out system’ (their own tools and they worked at their homes, raw material was provided to them by the merchants).
    • The contemporary sources shed little light on these aspects.
      • However we can assume that since the  tools of production (even after the introduction of new devices) were still simple (mainly of wood and little of iron) should have remained cheap.
      • The artisan was thus master of his own tools, though varied forms of labour organization seem to be prevalent.
        • Certain artisans hawked or hired out their services such as cotton-carder who with a bow- string on his shoulder, went door to door selling his services as is evident from the account given in Khair-ul Majalis.
        • Spinning was done usually by women staying at their homes.
        • The weavers too usually worked at their own looms at home weaving’cloth for sale, out of the yarn bought or spun by themselves. They also worked on wages to weave yarn supplied to them by customers.
        • Karkhanas:
          • If the raw material was expensive such as silk or gold of silver thread, etc. and the products were luxury items, the craftsmen were to work in karkhanas under supervision.
          • Sultans and high nobles maintaining these karkhanas where the production was to cater to their own needs and contrary to D.D.Kosambi’s assumption was not for market.
          • Shahabuddin al Umari records in his Masalik-ul Absar that in Muhammad Tughluq’s karkhanas at Delhi, four thousand silk workers worked as embroiderers.
          • Afif: Feroz Tughluq’s karkhanas produced cloth and carpets in a big way.
          • While there is no suggestion in our sources, we may only conjecture that perhaps merchants also maintained karkhanas where production was for sale.

Non-Agricultural Production: technology and craft

  • We do not have any detailed account of the economic resources of the country during the Sultanat period, and it has to be supplemented by the account provided by Abul Fazl in the Ain-i-Akbari, written towards the end of the 16th century.
  • In this period tools, devices and implements were mostly inexpensive because they were made of wood and earth, while iron was employed only when most necessary. Ropes, leather and bamboo, too, were used when the need arose.
  • India had already various technologies and craft and there were many introduction of new article of technology and new crafts by immigration of Muslims. The newly introduced articles had either developed or evolved in the Islamic culture.

  • The most important manufactures pertained to textiles, metallurgy, building activities, mining and other ancillary activities, such as leather-work, paper-making, toy-making, etc.

Textiles:

  • Textile production was the biggest industry of India and goes back to ancient times.
    • It included the manufacture of cotton cloth, woollen cloth and silk.
    • Cotton cloth could be divided into two categories—
      • the coarse (kamin)
        • The coarse cloth, which was also called pat, was worn by the poor and the faqirs.
        • It was often manufactured in households in the villages, but was also produced in some regions, such as Awadh, from which it was imported into Delhi.
        • Cotton cloth of a little superior quality was called calico (kirpas), and was widely used.
      • The fine (mahin).
        • Cloth of fine variety included muslin which was produced at Sylhet and Dacca in Bengal, and Deogir in the Deccan.
        • This was expensive and used only by the nobles and the very rich.
  • Gujarat also produced many variety of fine cotton-stuff.
    • Barbossa tells us that Cambay (Khambayat) was the centre for the manufacture of all kinds of finer and coarse cotton cloth, besides other cheap varieties of velvets, satins, tafettas or thick carpets.
  • Various varieties of cloth was both painted, and printed by using blocks of wood.
    • The 14th century Sufi Hindi poet, Mulla Daud, talks of printed (khand chaap) cloth.
  • Apart from the manufacture of cloth, other miscellaneous goods such as carpets, prayer carpets, coverlets, bedding, bed-strings, etc. were also manufactured in other parts of Gujarat.
  • The production of cloth improved during the period because of the introduction of the spinning-wheel (charkha).
    • The spinning wheel is attested to in Iran in the 12th century by some well-known poets.
    • Its earliest reference in India is in the middle of the 14th century.
    • Thus, it apparently came to India with the Turks, and came into general use by the middle of the 14th century.
    • The spinning-wheel in its simplest form increased the spinner’s efficiency some six-fold, in comparison with a spinner working with a hand spindle.
  • Another device introduce during the period:
    • bow of the cotton-carder (naddaf, dhunia) which speeded up the process of separating cotton from seeds.
  • Silk was imported from Bengal where silk worms were reared.
    • However, a greater supply of silk yarn, including raw silk, was imported from Iran and Afghanistan.
    • There was much use of silk cloth, and of  cotton and silk mixed at Delhi and its neighbourhood.
    • The silk of Cambay (Khambayat) was among the costly items of cloth controlled by Alauddin Khalji.
  • The patolas of Gujarat with many fancy designs were highly valued.
    • Gujarat was also famous for its gold and silver embroidery, generally on silk cloth.
  • Wool was procured from the mountainous tracts, though sheep were also reared in the plains.
    • The finer qualities of woollen cloth and furs were largely imported from outside, and were almost exclusively worn by the nobles.
    • However, the shawl industry of Kashmir was well established. Muhammad Tughlaq sent Kashmir shawls as a present to the Chinese emperor.
  • Carpet weaving also developed under the patronage of the Sultans, with many Iranian and Central Asian designs being incorporated.
  • Dyeing industry:
    • Indigo and other vegetables dyes were responsible for the bright colours of which both men and women were fond.
    • The dyeing industry went hand in hand with calico-painting.
    • The tie and dye method was of old standing in Rajasthan, though we do not know when hand-printing using wooden blocks was introduced.
  • Organisation of the textile industry:
    • Spinning was considered to be women’s work, and was carried out in the homes.
    • Even slave-girls were used for this purpose.
    • Weaving was also a house-hold industry, carried out in towns or in some of the villages.
    • The weaving material was purchased by the weavers themselves, or supplied to them by merchants.
  • The luxury items were generally produced in the royal workshops or karkhanas.
    • In Muhammad Tughlaq’s karkhanas, there were 4000 silk workers who wove and embroidered different types of robes and garments.
    • Firuz Tughlaq had recruited and trained a large number of slaves to work in his karkhanas, and in the parganas.
  • Textile technology:

    • Various new techniques were introduced by the turks in the field of textile.

      • Ginning, Carding and Spinning:
        • After picking up cotton balls. there were three basic stages before cotton could be used for weaving:
          • Ginning or seed extraction: Was done in two ways
            • Roller and board method and
            • Worm-press or worm-roller (charkhi)
          • Carding or fibre loosening:
            • Cotton thus separated from seeds was “beaten” with sticks or carded with bow-string in order to separate and loosen the fibers (naddafi in Persian; dhunna in Hindi).
          • Spinning or making yarn.
            • Spinning was traditionally done with the spindle (duk in Persian; takla in Hindi) to which  whorl (phirki in hindi) was attached to stabilize it.
      • The most important technological revolution in the textile sector was the introduction of the spinning-wheel (charkha) through the agency of the Muslims during the 13th-14th centuries.
        • Charkha did not exist in Ancient India. The first literary reference to charkha comes from Isilmi’s Futuh-us Salatin (A.D. 1350).
        • Charkha did not displace the spindle only accelerated the it’s rotation.
        • According to one estimate, a spinning-wheel (charkha) could produce yarn six-fold more than the spindle during the same unit of time. This must have resulted in greater output of yarn and constantly. more cloths.
        • The yarn from spindle was of a very fine quality whereas the charkha produced coarse yarn for coarse cloths.
    • Weaving:
      • Horizontal loom of thron-shuttle type was used for simple or tabby weave. It is difficult to determine whether the pit-loom (treadle loom) was in use in Ancient India. but we get the first evidence of this loom in the Miftah-ul Fuzala (c. A.D. 1469).
      • This loom allowed the weaver to employ his hitherto idle feet.
    • Dyeing and Printing:
      • Colours derived from vegetable and mineral sources.
      • Indigo, madder and lakh, etc. were widely employed.
      • Indigo was used for both bleaching and dyeing.
      • For fast colours(color’s resistance to fading or running), many articles like alum were added.
      • The Indian dyer (rangrez) employed many techniques like immersion, tie-and-dye (bandhana), etc.
      • Block-printing (chhapa) was perhaps unknown in Ancient India. Some scholars credit the Muslims with its diffusion in India.

Metallurgy:

  • India had an old tradition of metal-work as testified to by the iron-pillar of Mehrauli (Delhi), which has stood the ravages of time and weather over centuries.
    • Many idols of copper or mixed-metals also testified to the skill of the Indian metal-workers.
    • Indian damascened swords and daggers were also famous all over the world.
    • Vessels of bronze and copper, including inlay work, produced in the Deccan had a steady demand in West Asia.
  • The high quality of the Sultanat coinage is also an evidence of the skill of the Indian metal workers.
    • The gold and silver-smiths of India were known for the fine pieces of jewellery produced by them for which there was an insatiable demand from both women and men.
  • smelting of ore was carried out by using wood and charcoal.
  • There was no “blast” furnace, but bellows served the need.

Building construction: 

  • The building industry was a major means of employment.
    • There had been a spurt of temple building activity in north India from the 10th century, as witnessed by the temples at Khajuraho in Bundelkhand, at Dilwara in Rajasthan and other places in Orissa and Gujarat.
  • The Turkish sultans, too, were great builders.
    • They introduced a new style of arch, the dome and the vault, and a new mortar, the lime mortar for cementing.
    • They built cities, forts and palaces.
  • Lime Mortar:
    • It was definitely brought by the immigrant Muslims during the Delhi Sultanate.
    • Traditionally ancient India used clay, stones, wood and occasionally bricks.
    • Basic ingredients in lime-mortar were
      • lime (chuna) :
        • Lime was of various kinds, according to the material from which it was extracted. Two major sources of lime were gypsum and gravel (kankar).
      • surkhi (pounded bricks) :
        • Surkhi was added to lime. Afterwards, a number of gelatinous. glutinous and resinous cementing agents like gum, pulses. jaggery, etc. were added to make the mortar more sticky.
  • Arch and Dome/Vaulted roofing:
    • One result of lime mortar was extensive use of bricks as it made the brick buildings more durable.
    • Another important consequence was that lime mortar paved the way for the construction of true arch (mihrab).
    • The very arrangement of bricks or stones in making a true arch demands a strong cementing material to hold the voussairs together. Lime mortar fulfilled this need.
      • This explains the almost total absence of true arch in Indian buildings prior to the Turkish advent.
        • The only exception, however, was the Kushana period: excavations at Kausambi (near Allahabad) have revealed the existence at’some arches – over small windows (not gates). As the Kushanas had come from Central Asia and, therefore they knew arch making.
        • Afterwards, there is not a single evidence of true arches in, India till the coming of the Muslims.
      • Another form of arch was the corbelled one; in fact, it was a variant of trabeate construction (i.e having straight horizontal beams or lintels), that is the pillar-and-beam technique which, was the most distinguishing feature of pre-Muslim Indian architecture.
    • From mihrab to gumbad (vaulted roofing or dome) was a natural development since dome was not possible without a knowledge of how to make a true arch. A dome is a true arch turned 360 degrees. (Dome should not be confused with Buddhist stupas.)
  • There was a great spurt in brick making, and more and more people began to live in brick and stone houses, though the poor continued to live in mud houses, with thatched roofs.
  • As stone cutters, the Indian craftsmen were unrivalled.
    • Amir Khusrau proclaimed that the mason and stonecutters of Delhi were superior to their fellow craftsmen in the whole Muslim world.
    • Timur had taken masons and stone-cutters of Delhi to build his capital, Samarqand.
  • Barani tells that Alauddin Khalji employed 70,000 craftsmen for the construction of his buildings.
    • Both Muhammad Tughlaq and Firuz were great builders. Firuz not only established a number of new towns, but had many old buildings, including mausoleums repaired.
  • Enamelled tiles were introduced in India during the period.
  • Hindu Rajas and chiefs also patronised building-artisans, and a number of new towns, such a Jodhpur in Rajasthan, were built during the period.
  • Wood work of excellent quality was carried out throughout the country, with doors, seats, bed-stands for domestic use being made.

Papermaking and Bookbinding:

  • Papermaking was another contribution of immigrants Muslims.
  • Paper was first manufactured in china around the first century A.D. Arabs learnt from them.
    • The Arabs introduced a new technology, using rags and ropes instead of the mulberry trees and the bark of trees.
  • The Indians perhaps knew about paper paper in 7th century A.D. but they never used it as writing material.
    • When the Chinese traveller I-Ching visited India, he could not find paper to copy the sanskrit manuscripts for being taken to to China. Since he had exhausted his own stock, he sent a message to his friend in china to send paper to him.
  • There is no evidence of its use in India before the 13th century, and the earliest paper manuscript in India available to us is from Gujarat dated 1223-24. Paper making meant a great increase in the availability of books.
  • Use :
    • Paper was used for many purposes, especially for books. farmans and numerous commercial and administrative documents.
    • Paper was available on a large scale so much so that sweetmeat-sellers of Delhi delivered sweets to the buyers in paper packets called purya which is still the practice in India
  • Papermaking centres were few and far between.
    • Ma Huan (The 14th cen. Chinese navigator) : Bengal produced paper. However, the bulk of paper needed was imported from Islamic countries. specially Samarqand and Syria.
  • Craft of bookbinding :
    • It was an innovation in India.
    • It accompanied the practice of writing book on paper.

Other Crafts:

  • Another crafts which was widespread in India was leather-working, based on the large cattle wealth in the country.
    • This was largely organised on a caste basis.
    • Superior quality saddles were produced for a large number of horses in the stables, or gifted to nobles.
    • Gujarat produced exquisite mats of red and blue leather, decorated with birds and beasts, or inlaid work.
  • Other crafts included salt-making, quarrying for stone and marbles, and extraction of iron and copper ore.
    • Salt was also procured by the natural evaporation of the saline sea-water collected systematically.
  • There was also diamond mining in Panna and in south India, as also diving for pearls from the sea. Ivory working was another important craft.

Military Technology:

  • Stirrup
    • Iron-stirrup (rikab in persian) was unknown in India. There is no Sanskrit word for stirrup. Perhaps surcingle, ‘big toe stirrup’ and ‘suspension hooks’ were used in India, but stirrup proper was the contribution of the Muslims.
  • Horseshoe:
    • Hoof is the most vulnerable part of horse. Like human nails, susceptible to breaking, splitting and shelling.
    • Shoeing offer two advantages:
      • It gives a better grip on soft ground.
      • The hooves get protection on rough ground.
    • It was brought by the Turks in India.
      • It has not been reported from any archaeological site excavated in India
      • Sanskrit literature on horses (Salihotra) do not mention shoeing.
  • Shoeing in the past was largely monopolized by Muslim artisans. (It is not by accident)
  • Gunpowder
    • The immigrant Turks brought gunpowder to India perhaps in late 13th or early 14th century.
    • But even by the reign of Sultan Feroz Shah Tughluq its only use was for pyrotechny or fireworks (atashbazi), not for fire-arms or for propelling cannon-balls.
    • Fire-arms were used for the first time during the second half of the 15th century in some regions of India like Gujarat, Malwa and the Deccan.
    • the use of fire-arms on a regular basis was introduced by the Portuguese when they came to Calicut in A.D. 1498, and by Babur in North India in the early 16th century.

Tincoating:

  • This craft came to India along with the turks.
  • The craftsman who does tincoating is called qalaigar (qalai= tin).
  • Tin (ranga) is a highly malleable and ductile metal, and its coating over metallic vessels protects the latter from corrosion and chemical poisoning.
  • Abul Fazl refers to tincoating in the Ain-i Akbari. He says that copper utensils of the royal kitchen are tinned twice a month, but those of the princes, etc. once.

Glass manufacture:

  • The earliest use of glass in India has been set somewhere during the first millennium B.C.
    • But the presence of an object in a society may reveal its possible use but does not necessarily imply a knowledge of technology also.
  • Earlier, Indian glass objects “did not range or go beyond the manufacture of tit-bits like beads and bangles.
  • With the Muslim advent, pharmaceutical phials, jars and vessels started coming to India from the Islamic countries.
    • It is not possible to determine that glassware fabricated (in India) during Delhi Sultanate were imitation of these importation.
  • But there had not been manufacture of articles of glass like: glass lenses or looking glasses (mirror).

Shipbuilding: 

  • The entire frame of boats and ships were made of timber as everywhere in the world.
  • The planks were first joined by the rabbeting or tongue-and-groove method.
  • Then they were sewn with ropes made from the coconut husk. Sometimes wooden nails were also used.
    • But iron nails and clamps to join the planks was a later development under the influence of European shipbuilding after A.D. 1498.
  • Anchors were made of stones, later Europeans introduced iron anchors.
  • For navigation, magnetic compass was a great contribution which the Muslims diffused in India.

Distillation: 

  • There are two ways to get wine:
    • fermentation : widely known in the worldWine was procured by fermenting rice, sugarcane juice, mahuwa flowers, etc.
    • Distillation was a late comer.
      • For India, there is an opinion that distillation was a contribution of the Turks.
      • But this opinion is not true because Excavations at Sirkap (Taxila) and Shaikhan Dheri (Pakistan) have yielded distillation apparatus like condensers and parts of still, many of which are now lodged in the Taxila Museum.
      • This apparatus belong to the period from 2nd century B.C. to 2nd century A.D., much before the Turks came to India.
      • However, we may give credit to the Turks for its eastward diffusion.

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