History of the economy of the Kushana Empire

April 5th, 2008

From 4th century B.C to fourth century A.D a number early empires emerged in the Indian subcontinent. The earliest of these was the Mauryan Empire (c-324-187BC). Then there came satvahanas(c-324-250 A.D), kushanas (c.AD-50-320), and guptas (c.AD320-570) successively. Kushanas, originally a central Asian nomadic tribe, established a huge empire with Bactrian (Balk in north Afghanistan) as its main centre. Under kanishka 1 (c.AD100-123) this empire extended over a large area by encroaching extensive areas of north India up to Champa or Bhagalpur in the east, the lower Indus valley and Gujarat in the west, Chinese Turkistan and areas lying to the north of the river oxus. The successors of kanishka 1 had little control over the areas to the east of Matura.
The economy of Kushana Empire can be best known from literature, epigraphy and numismatics, various archaeological sites explored and excavated in the later period also acts as good source for the study of the economy of the Kushana Empire.

The kushana period was remarkable as kushana monarchs issued a large number of coins. Besides, there were numerous inscriptions, most of which are donatives in nature. Some of the Indian literatures like the Jatakas, the Angavijja, and the Lalitavistara highlights on the economy of the period.
Very little is known about the land system under the kushanas. During kushana reign agriculture was given due importance. No evidence can be put forward to prove this statement; in the north western part of the Kushana Empire a survey conducted by different scholars helped them to locate remains old canals, agricultural lands on the river courses and plain areas on the terraces of hills with means to canalized rain water from top to bottom.
It is evident from, archaeological evidences that agriculture was not the principal source of income in the kushana reign. Trade was given utmost importance both internally and externally huge amount of resources were mobilized through trade. Besides crafts production mining and different kinds of taxes were imposed on the subjects carved bone and ivory products, potteries excavated from different areas within the kushana realm shows influence of ancient Matura and Taxila art. Movements of ideas and people in the form of merchants’ artists inside the Kushana Empire resulted in exchange of ideas related to culture, art and literature.
Besides internal trade, external trade both over land and maritime played a great role in the kushana economy. Roman Empire had trade links with china. There was a great demand for Chinese silk in roman market. The famous Silk Road from loyang in china reached the two Mediterranean parts of Antioch and Alexandria by passing through central Asia, west Asia and Eurasia. Chinese silk had a great demand not only in the roman but also ion the European markets besides Indian wares, crafts, gems and spices were sold in the overseas markets. Better knowledge and utilization of the monsoon wind system through the Red sea cannels gave a fresh impetus to the flourishing trade during the kushana period. To maintain overseas trade with European countries two major parts of north India known as Barbaricum at the north of the river Indus and Barygara on the mouth of the river Narmada played a vital role and it was quite evident from perilous and Ptolemy’s geography. The city of Matura was a major political center. In case of trade with central and west Asia the cities of Taxila and pushkalavati acted as gateways.
Large scale commercial prosperity during the kushana period led to extensive monetization of the whole economy. kushana gold coins found in Ethiopia proves the value of kushana gold coins in international arena. These gold coins were mainly used in the overseas trade. The kushanas themselves struck silver coins only in the lower Indus area. Large number of copper coins were also struck and used copper coins and Bartend system which were very much in practice indicate that the impact of monetization ran parallel with system of exchange of goods on the basis of needs.
With the expansion of trade proliferation of crafts also took place. Crafts in practice during the kushana period were varied in nature and form. There were different occupations like constructions (navakarmikah), actors (sailakah), carpenters (vaddhaki), perfumers(gamdhika), goldsmith (suvarnakara), clothmakers9pravarika), ironsmith (lohakara), jewelers (manikara0 etc. the mining industry was directly under the state control. the of the state was augmented through mining and marketing of precious stones. Guilds mostly called srenis acted as an early form of bank in which money was deposited and only the interest could be utilized. Cities like Taxila, Matura, Bactra were well planned and blossomed further during the kushana period.


Indian handloom weavers and domestic Indian handicrafts

April 5th, 2008

The weavers had industrial unit centered in their crone (an old woman) house. The women and children of the respective weavers’ family acted as auxiliary or helping workers. Sometimes they could be seen doing works like spinning threads. In the northern gangetic plains there were some differences. Large workshops were owned by rich men. These worked on the basis of all male master-apprentice team. Gradually European traders consolidated their position in case of Indian Ocean trade. In case of spot transactions contracts were made between trader and producer. This process in course of time was popularized and a bigger number and greater verities of intermediaries came to play a vital role in this process.
European traders emphasized on, quality, standardization and timely supply. These were some of the problems over faced by them. By 1800 the trade network via Europe was dwindling. Indian handicrafts had a huge demand in European market which decreased considerably. In India the disputed British revenue policy in rotaries areas lead to decline in demand in the rural areas. From 1820 machine made yarn and cloth began to reach Indian markets. As a result domestic textile industries which were largely dependent on hand running machines were at the verge of destruction. Increasingly concentrated markets and unrelated location of production also aggravated the problem. No permanent solution to this problem was found. Within the next 75 years European machine made clothes and yarn had no substitute, in Indian market. The impact, timing and significance of de industrialization could be seen in the decline of domestic Indian industries. As a result there was a large loss in employment in the handicraft textile sector. Prior to industrial exports from England 4-5 million persons all over India were engaged in the hand spinning industry. The decline in hand spinning and hand weaving industry in India took place gradually. In case of income loss, hand spinners were by and large domestic workers who performed spinning as part time workers. In lieu of their labor they used to take very small payment. This income loss was however not so important in comparison with the employment loss. Morris (1969) indicated that the rapid cheapening of cloth due to exports must have caused an expansion in demand. At the same time cheapening of yarn proved beneficial for the handloom weavers. Thus we can see that in the 19th century part of the handicraft textiles gradually disappeared while a part survived. At the same time some positive forces began to work in favor of the handicrafts. The handlooms did not merely survive but this sector saw a remarkable growth in the twentieth century

Bronze Age : Creatures who helped the kings to cross over in to the heavens

April 5th, 2008

According to a Chinese belief, certain wise and understanding people can understand what lies above and below, and have the insight to perceive the distant. It is they who supervise the positions of the spirits during rituals. They alone had access to the heavens. The shang rulers were such persons. They visited the heavens and brought down prayers and songs of various rituals to the earth.

The ritual bronze vessels that we have mentioned were used for sacrificial feasts. The decorations on them depicted all manner of real and mythical beasts in a highly schematic way. It is these creatures who helped the kings to cross over in to the heavens and make connection with ancestors. Actual animals and human sacrifices were also made. You may remember that such vessels were buried with the dead kings.

In the case of Mesopotamia, the royal burials of Ur involved the deposition of all kinds costly and skillfully crafted items with the dead. Great amounts of silver and gold, and precious stones and shell, much art work too, went into royal’s burials. More intriguing, guards armed with weapons, musicians and domestic staffs were also buried with the dead. As elsewhere, there were rituals each year. At this time, the sacral Marriage was ritually re-enacted between the deities Dumuzi(the king) and Inanna(personified by a high priestess). We have numerous erotic love songs recorded on clay tablets, which had accompanied this ritual.

The declines of the Bronze Age states: — it is natural phenomenon that everything in the world to decay. The Bronze Age societies also declined due to many states. The end came much sooner in south Asia. Although numerous folk traditions undoubtedly survived, we know that the Hrappan great tradition came to an almost abrupt end. The greater Indus valley did not play a central role in any latter Indian empire.

There is no hard evidence for massive floods of the Indus. In 1826, this lake burst its banks and there was a devastating flood. Thus, however “gigantic” a flood, we cannot expect one such event or even a series of floods, to have brought an entire civilization to an end.

The end of the temple and palace entered polities of the western Asiatic Bronze age have, in the past, been attributed variously to climatic Ghanga, earthquakes/ volkanos, famines or floods. Such arguments enjoy little credibility today, because it is acknowledged that natural disasters have been frequent in history, and culture/civilization have survived them.

Many cities on the coats of Anatolia, Syria and Palestine and inland cities such as Hattusha, the capital of the Hitler empire, were destroyed by marauding migrants. Know as the sea peoples, who arrived suddenly in the Mediterranean. The destruction of a Bronze Age city meant the destruction of the economic nerve centre of the concerned polity.

NRI Phenomenon in Indian Economy

April 4th, 2008

There was support for economic liberalization from other quarters from new businessmen involved in what were essentially “parallel market “transactions; a section of the top bureaucracy and perhaps more significantly the large and politically powerful urban middle classes, along with more prosperous rural farming groups, whose real incomes increased in the consumption –led boom of the 1980s. The letter groups actively began to desire access to international goods and gave potency to the demands for trade liberalization. And of course the technological and media revolution, especially the growing importance of satellite television imparted a significant impetus to the international demonstration effect, which further fuelled liberalizing and consumerist demands. This process was given further stimulus by the accelerated globalization of a section of Indian society. Apart from the media, one major instrument of this was the postwar Indian Diaspora. The “NRI phenomenon” by means of which of qualitatively significant number of people from Indian elites and middle classes actually become resident abroad, contributed in no small measure to consumerist demands for opening up the economy. The important of non resident Indians was not only because they were viewed as potentially important sources of capital inflow but also because of their close links with dominant groups within the domestically resident society.