Top 9 commodity markets of ancient India

By Rohan → Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Ancient Indians included artisans, farmers, merchants, and administrators. All the mentioned people depended on the town which they settled in. The trade centers and towns were known to be a hotspot for numerous reasons. The reasons were:
·        The town was easily accessible either using land or water.
·        It was a junction for various traders and merchants who could sell what they produce.
·        The availability of a variety of products attracted merchants from overseas.
·        The overseas trading helped in the growth of the town as well as the economy of the whole kingdom.
·        The trade towns attracted many intellects because with trade cultural and technology also spread.
Here is a look at a few towns that achieved this status:


This was the first town at the edge of the western front of the Royal road. Situated in the west of the Indus, it was the capital of the janapada of Gandhara. The city was famously known as Pushkalavati.
This city was an entrance to India from the north and the west. The city was situated on the route of the Kabul river which fell into the Indus. It was a junction to many important overland routes and was accessible from the rivers as well.
This town was blessed with fertile soil. Moreover, this region was supplied with natural irrigation by the broken and meandering channels of the rivers. The ancient Indians utilized this natural resource using canals.
The factors such as natural irrigation, fertile soil, and the geographical positioning of this town led to the economic development of this region. This town was a stronghold of power for every Greek ruler who conquered India.
Demetrius captured this city before capturing the rest of India and made it the capital of his empire. Demetrius tried to improve communication between Bactra. The panjshir valley lying near the city of Kapisa had numerous silver mines. Kapisa became the principal mint of the empire. Roads constructed were safe and secure that ensured brisk trade between Bactra and Pushkalavati via Kapis. These also ensured that silver could be easily brought into India.
Under the Kushanas in the 1st century AD the trade between India, Rome, and China flourished further and expanded. Pushkalavati had a considerable amount of share in the trade. New trade routes were opened from India to the Central Asia and China via this town. The goods of this town were exported west using the Barygaza port.
This town was rich in cereals, fruits, and sugarcanes. These were used and processed to form solid sugar. The town diminished in status as sea routes started being preferred instead of land routes.


It has been mentioned in the Mahabharat as the capital of Madras. The Mauryan empire valued the town and till the time of Ashoka, it held to its important status. This is evident from various scriptures and a stupa that was built there.
The city was built by the wisest of architects of that period. The defense of the town was kept in mind while construction. It had many strong and tall towers to keep a watch around the area. Huge gates and entrance archways protected the entrance. The white-walled royal citadel stood in the middle of the town.

The roads were well planned and laid according to the standards. Various crossroads, streets, and squares depicted the craftsmanship of the laborers. The marketplaces were filled with luxurious and costly merchandise.
The whole city had distributed mansions of the rich merchants and traders that inhabited the town. The traffic consisted of elephants, horses, carriages, and pedestrians. This depicts how prosperous the town and its occupants were.
The market was a storehouse of precious metals and gems. Delicacies produced in this town were sought after and in demand. The market was flooded with Kasi and Kotumbara cloth.  This fertile river valley produced spring-wheat and rice. The site was also a reserve for gold, silver, bell-metal, copper, and iron. The people wore glossy white clothes made of silk and muslin. This represented the growth of textile industry in this region. This agricultural and mineral producing town stood at the junction of an important trading center Bipas in the east and Indus on the west. All these factors along with its accessibility through various river routes made it a profitable mart.


This revered town was first mentioned in the account of Megasthenes who was the celebrated Greek ambassador in the court of Chandragupta Maurya. This place gradually turned into a hub for different ancient religions which led to the economic development of this place.
The Greeks realized the importance of this town and evidences of its brisk trade have been discovered. Coins of Greek rulers were found in Mathura along with Taxila, Sind, Gujarat, and Barygaza. This indicates the trade relationship or economic network in this region.
Sculpture excavated in Mathura

The Indian rulers also did not stay behind in using this town for trade. The coins of sakas have been found in this region. During the start of the Christian era, numerous western tanks were built in the region. They might have been used for irrigation.
The city of Mathura lied on the bank of river Yamuna on the road to Patulipatra to Taxila. Taxila was a junction where routes from South India, Baryzaga, and Barbaricum-Patala converged. This made the town grow commercially which was not a surprise.
Scriptures and inscriptions on pots have been conclusive of the trade that happened in this region. The depiction of caravan leaders and his gifts on various artifacts signify the prosperity of the inhabitants and the commercial aspects of the town. These inscriptions have provided information regarding the trade in incense and perfumes. Moreover, they have depicted bankers and accountants.     
Metal working was an important occupation in the town. Goldsmiths were also the inhabitants of the town and set up tablets to pay homage to different gods and gurus. The temple town attracted people from various town that donated a significant amount to the developing town. This fact is the reason to believe that the town itself become a trade center.
The cotton industry flourished in the town. Various accounts mentioning the production of fine quality of cotton clothing have been discovered. The inhabitants of this town did not consume wine, meat, onion, and garlic. Numerous scriptures have stated the same fact which depicts the influence of Jainism and Buddhism on the region.

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