Read this article to learn about the Post-Mauryan Period: Urban Centres, Science, Trade and Commerce during Post-Mauryan Period !
Urban Centers in Post-Mauryan Period:
The flourishing trade and crafts and growing use of money was an incentive to the growth of new towns.
Vaishali, Pataliputra, Varanasi, Kausambi, Sravasti, Hastinapur, Mathura, Indraprastha etc. were some of the prosperous towns of North India during the Kushan period.
These towns find mention in the old Chinese texts or records of Chinese pilgrims. The town-sites of Sonpur, Buxur, and Ghazipur in Bihar also flourished during the Kushan age. Excavations have unearthed several Kushan towns in Meerut and Muzzaffarnagar districts. Ludhiana, Ropar and Jalandhar in the Punjab were among the flourishing towns. Ujjain was an important town of the Saka kingdom because it was nodal point of two trade routes – one from Mathura and the other from Kausambi.
During the reign of the Satvahana rulers also several towns flourished. Among them were Paithan, Broach, Sopara, Amravati, Nagarjunakonda, Arikamedu and Kaveripattanam which were highly prosperous centers of trade.
Causes of the Growth of Towns or Urban Settlements:
There were many causes for the growth and prosperity of several towns in the Post-Mauryan period, i.e. from 200 B.C. to 200 A.D. In that period under the Satvahanas, the Kushans, the Indo- Parthians and the Saka rulers, India’s trade with Rome and Central Asia was at its zenith.
Several towns flourished in the Punjab and Western Uttar Pradesh. All these places were situated in the heart of their respective empires. Particularly, the Kushan kings ensured the security of the trade-routes which was one of the causes for the prosperity of these towns. But in the third century A.D. with the decline of these kingdoms, the glory and prosperity of these towns also declined.
Science and Technology in Post-Mauryan Period:
There was a great progress in the field of Science and technology, particularly in the field of crafts, mining and metallurgy from c. 200 B.C. to c. 300 A.D.
Remarkable strides were made in the fields of arts and craft during the reign of the Sakas, the Kushans, the Satvahanas and the Tamil Kings (c. 200 B.C. to c. 300 A.D.) Mahavastu a composition of crafts catalogues 36 kinds of crafts being practiced in the town of Raggu and Milinda Panha or the ‘Questions of Milinda’ enumerates 75 of them.
Great advances and specialization had been reached in metallurgy, glass manufacture, architecture, sculpture, weaving, carpentry, ironsmithy, making arms, dye making, fishing etc.
The post-Mauryan period saw remarkable progress made in the crafts of weaving silk and cloth making. Mathura was a great center of cloth-making. Ivory crafts were at its zenith. Articles of ivory have been found at Rome and Afghanistan.
The Indian craftsmen were well-versed with the art of glass melting and manufacturing glass articles. The bead-cutting craft and sculpture making were highly developed.
The rich wore necklaces made of diamond beads. Perfumes and several other articles of luxury were also made in abundance. Making arms and jewellery were also popular crafts. Architecture, sculpture and construction of caves were at its zenith. Indian workmen were considered master craftsmen. As already discussed the Gandhara School of Art developed during this period. The chief centers of art were Gandhara, Sarnath, Amravati and Mathura. Several monasteries, Viharas and caves were constructed during this period.
Mining and Metallurgy:
In the post-Mauryan period (200 B.C. to 300 A.D.) India made much advancement in mining and metallurgy. In the contemporary literature, there is reference to eight crafts associated with the working of gold, silver, lead, tin, copper, brass, iron and precious stones or jewels. Various kinds of zinc, brass, antimony (brighter metallic substance and red arsenic (Sankhia) have also been mentioned which clearly prove the advancement made in the field of metallurgy.
Especially, much progress was made in the work and technology of iron. Not only different weapons, balance rods, socketed axes, hoes, sickles, ploughshares, razers and ladles (or large spoons with a cup or bowl) began to be made but steel was also manufactured. Indian iron and steel, including cutlery were in great demand in western Asia. According to Pliny, the Romans were prepared to pay anything for Indian cutlery.
The Indian craftsmen and jewellers made some unique specimens of jewellery of gold and silver which were in great demand in foreign lands, especially in the Roman Empire.
Coin-minting had also become an important craft in the post-Mauryan period. Different kinds and shapes of coins of gold, silver, copper, bronze, lead and potin were made during this period. Various coin-moulds belonging to this period have been found both in North India and the Deccan. Some moulds could turn out half a dozen of coins at a time.
Guilds of Artisans and Craftsmen:
The artisans were organized into guilds. It can be drawn from the authority of various books that the artisans orgnaised themselves into guilds to encourage their particular crafts. These guilds also acted as bankers and accepted deposits on which interest was paid.
In the Mahayana form of Buddhism, the devotees deposited money with the guilds of potters, oil millers etc. for providing robes and other necessities to the monks. These guilds were held in high esteem.
Trade and Commerce in Post-Mauryan Period:
Foreign trade during the post-Mauryan period was also highly developed. India had good trade relations particularly with started the Roman Empire. At first, this trade was carried on by road but later on the Persian interfering with it. As a result, trade through sea route started. The most famous parts on the western coast were those of Sopara and Broach and on the eastern coast Arikmedu and Kaveripattanam.
Goods were collected from various centres throughout the country and exported from these ports. Like artisans, the traders also had their guilds with a view to promote trade. They had their own constitution and rules to regulate their activities.
These guilds played a vital role of insuring goods and their payment in order to protect the trader’s interests. The traders usually marched in caravans and paid toll and other taxes. Some traders carried trade in partnership. The Government too looked after their interests.
The trade between India and Rome flourished during this period. It was carried through the port of Alexandria, which was then an important centre of trade. The Romans imported from India muslin, pepper, silk and cotton cloth, perfumes, medicines, diamonds, pearls, ivory etc. Some articles were first imported by Indian traders from China and Central Asia and then exported to the different countries of the Roman Empire.
There was constant trade in silk between India and China. This silk route passed through Afghanistan and Iran. Wine, luxury goods and gold and silver coins were sent to Rome. The Kushans and the Satvahanas especially benefited from their trade with the Roman Empire. The balance of trade was generally favourable to India.
The Roman writer Pliny complains that during this period gold worth 50, 00,000 was drained as a result of this trade. He also wrote that so many gold and silver coins passed in this trade that Rome’s gold reserve was being rapidly depleted.
It forced the Roman Government to impose ban on the import of pepper and steel from India. The Kushan rulers, encouraged by their Roman connections, issued new coins of the same design as ‘dinar’.
But these coins were not used in daily transactions which were carried on with coins made of glass, copper and potin. India had thriving trade relations with Egypt, Greece and Arab countries as well.
India forged trade relations with Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, Burma and China also. India brought spices from the territories of East Indies and exported it to European countries. The Chinese silk too found its way to Europe via India as the Parthian rulers of Iran had put obstacles in their way.
There were some important trade routes. The Sakas and the Kushans used two routes to approach the western coast. Both these routes met at Taxila. The rist route passed through lower Indus Valley and reached Broach while the other route passed through Punjab and followed the Yamuna River to reach Mathura.
Another route passed through Sravasti, the capital of the Kosala kingdom and reached Pratishan on the bank of river Godavari. Trade from East to West was carried through rivers. The boats ferried from Champa to Varanasi and from there to Kausambi. Thereafter the whole cargo was unloaded at Sindh.