Read this article to learn about the industries during the Sultanate and Mughal period!
During Sultanate period, Bengal and the towns in Gujarat were famous for their fine quality fabrics. Cloth of fine quality was produced in other towns as well.
Cambay in Gujarat was famous for textiles and for gold and silver work. Sonargaon in Bengal was famous for raw silk and fine cotton cloth (called muslin later on).
There were many other handicrafts as well, such as leather work, metal work, carpet weaving, etc. Some of the new crafts introduced by the Turks included the manufacture of paper. The art of manufacturing paper had been discovered by the Chinese in the 2nd century. It was known in the Arab world in the 5th century and travelled to Europe only during the 14th century.
The production of textiles was also improved by the introduction of the spinning-wheel. Cotton could be cleaned faster and better by the use of the cotton carder’s bow (dhunia). But there is little doubt that most important was the skill of the Indian craftsmen.
Indian textiles had already established their position in the trade to countries on the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. During this period, fine Indian textiles were introduced to China as well where it was valued more than silk. India imported high grade textiles (satin etc.) from West Asia, glassware and, of course, horses. From China it imported raw silk and porcelain.
The most impressive achievement of the Mughal Emperors was in the field of manufactured goods. They had a very rich and prosperous foreign trade although they had not developed their own navy. According to the Time of India of October 2, 1934, as quoted by Prof. S. R. Sharma:-a Captain of the Indian marine was appointed annually by the East India Company to the post of Admiral of the Mughal Emperor, with Head Quarters at Surat, in order to defend Mughal trading vessels.
The officer, fortunate enough to hold the post, received about Rs 85,000 for his year’s service. This officer was an English man and was appointed by the East India Trading Company. We can, thus see that in spite of the fact that they had no navy of their own and no ship building activity, they had their relations with Persia, Iraq, Mombasa, Sumatra and even other African countries.
They had a very favourable trade balance because the common people did not use the costly produce of Europe and in order to have Indian goods, the foreign traders used to import bullion form their mother countries.
Usually, they exported textile, both silken and cotton and some woolen garments and cloth, shawls and carpets plus, of course, spices. According to the foreign travellers “The whole country from Orissa to East Bengal looked like a big cotton factory and the Dacca District was especially reputed for its delicate Muslim fabrics, the best and finest cloth made of cotton.”
According to Pelsaert, the people of East Bengal lived “by the weaving industry and the produce has the highest reputation and quality” Another foreign traveller, Bernier, also speaks in identical terms. “There is, in Bengal, such a quantity of cotton and silk that the kingdom may be called the common store house for those two kinds of merchandize, not of Hindustan or the empire of the great Mughal only, but of all the neighbouring kingdoms and even of Europe.”
According to one estimate, the total annual produce of silk was not less than 2/4 million pounds. They had some other minor industries like the one recorded by Terry. According to this writer, the people could produce many curious boxes, trunks, stand-dishes (pen cases), carpets, with other excellent manufactures.