India, a Rich country:
There is no doubt that India by and large remained a rich country throughout this period.
Foreign travellers who visited India during this period have observed that the people used gold, silver, diamonds, pearls and other precious stones profusely in the form of ornaments.
It was India’s fabulous wealth which tempted Mahmud of Ghazni to invade India so many times.
Timur also got unimaginable wealth from only one of India’s corners. We find several prosperous cities and parts during this period. The Sultans of Delhi, nobles, governors, merchants and elites of the society possessed vast wealth and enjoyed all comforts of material life.
Several beautiful mosques, monuments, palaces, forts and temples were built during this period. All this indicates that there was general economic prosperity in the country. Despite constant warfare of the Sultans of Delhi, affluent agricultural and industrial production and foreign trade had enriched India and maintained its prosperity.
Achievements in various fields of Indian economy were mostly on account of private enterprise. Very little was done by the Sultans and provincial governors towards the direct development of trade and industry. Food in general was not a problem for the common man. The problem of shelter did not worry the people.
According to Ibn Batuta, a traveller who came from North Africa in India during the fourteenth century, agriculture was in a state of great progress. The soil was so fertile that it produced two crops every year; rice being sown three times a year.
Sesame, sugar-cane and cotton were grown in abundance and these formed the basis of several village industries. Rice of Sarsauti, sugar-cane of Kanauj, wheat and betel leaf of Malwa, wheat of Gwalior, ginger and spices of Malabar, grapes and pomegranates of Daultabad, betel nuts of the South India and a large variety of oranges were popular in and outside India.
Cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables etc. were produced in almost all parts of India.The Ganga-Yamuna Doab remained always famous for its fertility and large scale production.Animal husbandry was in a very advanced stage. Ordinarily there was plenty of food production. However, on account of the failure of rains, there were periods of draught.
Condition of peasants:
Peasants formed the overwhelming majority of the population. They had to work hard to eke out bare subsistence. Usually they were required to pay one-third of their produce as land revenue.
Textile industry was the primary industry. Cotton, silk and woolen clothes of different varieties was produced in large quantity. The clothes were studded with gold, diamond, pearl, silver and other stones. Indian textiles were in great demand in foreign countries. The skill of Indian craftsmen was of a high order. Indian cotton textiles were introduced in China as well where these were valued more than silk. Bengal and Gujarat were famous for their fine quality fabrics.
Important handicrafts were such as carpet weaving, mat work and leather work. Besides textile industry, sugar industry, paper industry, metal work, stone cutting, pearl driving out of the sea, ivory and sandal wood work were other important industries of India. The Sultans had set up several ‘Karkhanas’ (workshops).
Trade and commerce:
India carried a brisk trade—both internal as well as external. Delhi was the largest city and the most important trading centre. Other important trade centres were: Daultabad, in the south, Lahore and Multan in the north-west, Kara and Lakhnauti in the east and Anhilwara (Patan) and Cambay (Khambayat) in the west.
External trade was very profitable and it was one of the main causes of the wealth of India. India had trade relations with Iran, Arabia, European countries, Africa, China, Malaya, Afghanistan and Central Asia, etc.
The Arabs were the dominant partners in trade through Indian ocean.
The Gujarati and Tamil traders played an important part in trade.
The main items of India’s exports were: cereals, cotton and silken cloth, opium, indigo, sea-pearls, sandal wood, saffron, ginger, sugar and coconuts, etc.
India imported horses, salt, rosewater, colour valvets, perfumes, wines etc. The external trade was carried on both by land and sea.
Goa, Diu, Chaula, Cochin and Quilon were the important parts on the western Sea-coast of India. There were several seaports on the eastern coast also.
India enjoyed a favourable balance of trade.