India is looked upon as a country with immense resources available through its length and breadth. The objective of this brief paper is to go through the timeline of history of Indian Trade right from ancient times till today, when it has a foothold in the major and the not so major economies of the world.
India was famed for her fabulous wealth ever since the ancient times till the establishment of the British Empire. Indian trade history reflects that despite the frequent political upheavals during the 12th to the 16th centuries, the country was still prosperous. The political and economic policies followed by the Muslim rulers propagated the growth of towns in various parts of the country. These towns grew into trade and industrial centers which in turn led to the general prosperity. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, covering the two hundred years of Mughal rule, Indian urbanization saw further growth.
Descriptions of the wide variety of excellent goods sold in the Indian markets of those days are found in the records of foreign travelers. India was well known for its textiles one of the chief items of export. Textiles from Gujarat were sent to the Arab countries and to South-east Asia. Trade history of India also shows hardwood furniture, embellished with inlay work was a very popular item for expert. Although the expensive carvings and inlays were inspired by the ornate Mughal style, the furniture was modeled on the European design. Carpets were used both in ancient and medieval India. But the skill of carpet weaving touched new heights only during the Mughal era in the 16th century. A larger variety of ornamental work in cut stones, ivory, pearl and tortoise shells were produced in South India. Pearl fishing was a major industry here. Indian arts and crafts patronized by Indian rulers, were unmatched for their beauty and skill and were very popular in the European countries.
History of Indian trade has extensive accounts about domestic trade in medieval India by the foreign travelers. With Delhi as a major trade centre, well-maintained roads linking various parts of the country facilitated domestic trade has been mentioned. River routes also promoted trade between different parts of the country. Different communities were known to dominate trade in various parts of the country. India’s exports were seen to far exceed her imports both in the number of items as well as in volume. Arab traders shipped Indian goods to European countries through the Red Sea and the Mediterranean ports.
Foreign trade was in the hands of both local and foreign merchants, as revealed by the Indian trade history. The magnitude of India’s foreign trade during the medieval period can only be imagined. But India was always able to enjoy a favorable balance in her trade relations with other countries. With huge earnings from her exports of various commodities, the state coffers were amply stocked with gold and silver.
However in the 18th century, when we peep in the trade history of India, the political conditions then brought about a drastic change in the situation. This period was marked by decline of the Mughal Power. The rise of the British power in the mid 18th century dealt a fatal blow to the prosperity of the country. The British imposed heavy duties on both imports and exports in order to disrupt the foreign trade relations of India with the other countries.
By the time India gained Independence from the Britishers in 1947, the economy was entirely geared to only trade. There were hardly any manufacturing facilities to suffice the needs of the growing Indian population. The past couple of decades in the history of Indian Trade have seen the country struggle to create manufacturing capacities across the board to be self sufficient. The government has been focusing on the same to enable broad basing the development to move the economy from an underdeveloped status to being a developed nation.
India today stands at a over a trillion economy. Darjeeling tea, Indian khadi cotton, Bombay Duck, Kashmiri carpets, Indian spices and dry fruit are just a few of the famous gifts India has given to the world. The economic levels have improved in the urban and semi-urban areas. Literacy is penetrating deep in to even the far reach areas, thus creating awareness and to higher consumption patterns for all kinds of goods across all sections of the society. Promoting the availability of goods from different parts of the world has seen a rise in more trade with other countries.
Indian trade history is remarkable. Indian trade has benefited and so has the world. The country has realized that at the end of the day, maximizing use of one’s own resources is what makes all the difference.