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08 Feb

Medieval India Towns, Traders and Craftpersons

Towns of Medieval India
There were administrative centres, temple towns, as well as centres of commercial
activities and craft production during medieval periods.
Administrative Centres and Towns
• The best example is Thanjavur.
• During the reign of Chola Dynasty (King Rajaraja Chola), its capital was Thanjavur.
• Architect Kunjaramallan Rajaraja Perunthachchan built Rajarajeshwara Temple.
• Besides the temple, there were palaces with mandapas or pavilions. where kings hold court here and issue order to subordinates.
• The Saliya weavers of Thanjavur and the nearby town of Uraiyur were busy producing cloth for flags to be used in the temple festival, fine cottons for the king and nobility and coarse cotton for the masses.
• Some distance away at Svamimalai, the sthapatis or sculptors were making exquisite bronze idols and tall, ornamental bell metal lamps.
Temple Towns and Pilgrimage Centres
• Thanjavur is also an example of a temple town. Temple towns represent a very important pattern of urbanisation, the process by which cities develop.
• Towns emerged around temples such as those of Bhillasvamin (Bhilsa or Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh), and Somnath in Gujarat. Other important temple towns included Kanchipuram and Madurai in Tamil Nadu, and Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh.
• Pilgrimage centres also slowly developed into townships. Vrindavan (Uttar Pradesh) and Tiruvannamalai (Tamil Nadu) are examples of two such towns.
Small towns
• From the 8th century onwards the subcontinent was dotted with several small towns.
These probably emerged from large villages. They usually had a mandapika (or mandi of later times) to which nearby villagers brought their produce to sell. They also had market streets called hatta (haat of later times) lined with shops.
• 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.
• There were many kinds of traders including Banjaras.


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