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  1. 1. Asian Affairs, Vol. 27, No. 3 : 5-26, July - September, 2005 CDRB publication ASIAN AFFAIRS (Murshidebad) who were infinitely greater wealthy that the citizens of London”. RISE AND DECLINE OF THE ECONOMY OF BENGAL SALAHUDDIN AHMAD Introduction Fertile delta of Bengal attracted people from all directions. Over time the wealth generation in the economy of Bengal developed significantly. As much as Agriculture developed with canal based irrigation so did Industry with significant encouragement of production based on industrial raw material and easy to extract minerals. Trade with the world made Bengal one of the wealthiest countries of the world. Manouchi the personal physician of Aurangjeb, who spent 40 years in India, wrote about Bengal, “Bengal is most known in France among all parts of huge Mughal Empire. The huge wealth, which flows to Europe, is a proof of this country’s fertility. In fact the productivity of this country in silk, cotton, sugar and indigo surpassed Egypt. Everything is in plenty here. Here there is plenty of fruits fertile, food grain, Muslin, golden textile and silk” (Majumdar, R.C.). Worldwide trade brought in gold from far off land such as Rome and other lands leading to the improvement of living standard of Bengal substantially. Lord Verelest, while discussing the condition of Bengal on the eve of Palassey’s war, states “ Farmers were well off and workers were enthusiastic, Businessmen were wealthy and Bureaucrats were satisfied”. (Sinha N.K.,1965). Wealth of Bengal was described eloquently by Lord Clive. When Clive entered the old capital of Bengal( Murshidabad,) the wrote “The city (Murshidabad) was as wealthy as London and populous. However the difference is that there are some citizens of this Copyright©CDRB, ISSN 0254-4199 This brought in greedy hyenas, which started gnawing at the growing economy of Bengal.Since the middle of 18th century decline of the economy of Bengal ensued with the severe onslaught by the British Colonialist.The following sections discuss the factors affecting the rise and decline of Bengal . Section 1 discusses availability and utilization of mineralwealth in pre colonial bengal .section 2 analyzes development of agriculture in pre colonial bengal. section 3 discusses growth of crafts and industries in bengal. section4 discusses trade,inland and foreign , of trade,inland and foreign , of pre colonial bengal section 5 discusses rise and decline of international trade of bengal before british colonialism Availability and Utilization of Mineral Wealth in Bengal Arthasastra of Kautiliya(1909 )points to the finding of Diamond in Paundrak and Tripur (Tripure) in Bengal. Jain Acharang states that possibily dimond was available in Bajrobhumi in Rar country. There is a mention in Ain-I Akbar of Diamond mines in Mandaran or Garo Mandaran. This was spread in the boundary of western Bihar up to Kokhra. Kauliya names a few types of mineral silver named Gaurik found in Gaur. Bhabishya Purah mentions Iron mines in Jangal Khand in Rar country. Iron were melted by prehistoric method. Copper was found in plenty in Jamshedpur and then in the west crossing Chakradharpur. Periplus (Periplus of the Erythraean Sea Ed and Trans from the Greek Wilfred H. Schoff, London 1912 ) mentions pearl of Ganges. Even gold, not of good quality was available. These minerals were easy to extract.As such these mineral wealth provided the foundation of one of the richest countries in the world.These attracted plunderers from all over the world. 6
  2. 2. RISE AND DECLINE ASIAN AFFAIRS Development of Agriculture in Bengal The beginnings of agriculture in Bengal, as in the rest of India, have to be traced back to the pre-historic past {(Bulletin…Orient), (Chatterji,S.K.)}. Foundations of civilization of India, its village life based on Agriculture, is now generally held to have been laid by Nishadas or Austric speaking people. The Austric Tribes brought with them a primitive system of Agriculture producing a varieties of products. These Austric speaking people developed a large water transportation system, initially using long Donga (Austric word) made of sturdy tree stem. These, in turn, laid the foundation of wealth generation through trade. In the initial stage both settlement and agriculture followed the courses of the great river-systems of the province, which acted as powerful fertilizing agents of the soil in their neighborhood. With the growth of population, however, (owing partly perhaps to an increase in birth-rate, partly to immigration) there came about a steady increase in the cultivated area. One can discern indication of this extension of cultivation in the copper-plate inscriptions of the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries. These instances suggest the inference that the three centuries, to which these inscriptions relate, witnessed a steady extension of cultivation and rural settlement. It is possible, though we have no positive evidence to prove that this movement of agricultural extension commenced much earlier, and continued with intermittent force and varying effect from century to century and from region to region. The pressure of a growing population, the growing desire of priests for material prosperity, and the religious zeal of kings, all served in various ways to organize a widespread attack on some of the 'negative' lands of the province, which settlement and agriculture had at first avoided. Nanigopal Basak (1939)}. And so do the copper-plate inscriptions ranging from the 8th to the 13th century, which, moreover, mention the cultivators, Kshetra-karah or karshakali, as an important class apart from the officials, Brahmanas and others, and in various ways convey an idea of the important role they played in the economic life of the community. But whatever might have been the cause of this extension of cultivation, there is no doubt that by the seventh century A.D. the bulk of the people had taken to it as the chief means of livelihood. The Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang bears testimony to the fact that in all parts of the province the countryside was regularly and assiduously cultivated, and produced grains, flowers and fruits in abundance { Beal, S, ( ed & trans )(1911)}. Concerning agricultural practice, as it obtained in ancient Bengal, it is not possible to draw any comprehensive picture. It seems certain, however, that paddy (dhanya) was cultivated from a remote antiquity as the staple food-crop of the people. The Mahasthan Brahml inscription probably refers to a rice granary located at Pudanagala (Pundranagara) (Epigraphia Indica).The Ramacharita (ibid) mentions "paddy plants of various kinds" grown in Varendri. The inscriptions of the Sena kings mention "smooth fields growing excellent paddy,” and" myriads of villages, consisting of land growing paddy in excessive quantities." (Inscriptions of Bengal,vol iii , by N.G.Majumdar). Kalidasa's Raghuvarhsa affords us a glimpse into the method of rice cultivation. Describing Raghu's conquest of the Vangas, the poet remarks that Raghu uprooted and replanted them like rice plants. Rice, as is well known, is sown in three different ways— broadcast, by drill, and by transplantation from a seed-bed where it has been broadcast sown. Of these the third method is, as a rule, the least risky and the most profitable. That it was known and practiced in this province at least as early as the fifth century A.D. seems clear from the aforesaid statement of the great Sanskrit poet. The different processes of reaping and threshing also appear to have been similar to those prevailing at present. The description of Varendrl in the Ramacharita confirms the testimony of the Chinese pilgrims. { R.C. Majumdar, R. G. Basak and Another food-crop cultivated was probably sugar-cane. The classical author, Aelian,{quoted in McCrindle(1927 )} speaks of a kind of honey expressed from reeds which grew among the Prasioi. Lucan (ibid) says that the Indians near the Ganges used to quaff sweet juices from tender reeds. Susruta (ibid) mentions a variety of sugar-cane called Paundraka ; and most commentators of Sanskrit lexicon agree it was so named because it was grown in the Paundra country (North Bengal). These statements, taken together, naturally suggest the inference that certain species of 7 8
  3. 3. RISE AND DECLINE sugar-cane were cultivated in Bengal from very early times. It is not improbable, as a writer has pointed out, that from the term Paundraka have been derived such modern vernacular names as Paundia , Paunda,Pundi etc.— a celebrated variety of sugar-cane cultivated in almost all parts of India. Besides the above, contemporary records mention a variety of other crops grown in different parts of Bengal. These include malabathrum and spikenard, mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (Ed and Trans from the Greek Wilfred H. Schoff, London 1912 ) among the exports of this province. These were obviously of excellent quality, and were grown on an extensive scale in the Eastern Himalayas. Another cultivated crop appears to have been mustard. The Vappaghoshavata Grant of Jayanaga (7th century A.D.) mentions the existence of a sarshapa-yanaka' (mustard-channel) in the Audambarika-vishaya of Karnasuvarna (Ain-I-Akbari). Further, epigraphic records, ranging from the eighth to the thirteenth century, tell us that betel-nut palm (guvaka) and cocoanut (Narikela) were extensively grown. Betel-vines were also cultivated in the form of plantations (barajas) and formed, under the Sena kings, a source of revenue to the state. Cotton was also cultivated to feed an important industry of the province. Kautilya (Bk. n. Ch. 11) mentions karpasika or cotton fabrics manufactured in Vanga. According to the inscription of Vijayasena (v. 23), ordinary rural folk were familiar with seeds of cotton. The early Charya-padas also refer to cotton cultivation (BCD. 41). Referring to the people of Bengal, Marco Polo says, "They grow cotton, in which they derive a great-trade" (Yule, Marco Polo, n. 115). Fruits like mango (amra), bread-fruit (panasa), pomgranate (dalimya), plantain, bassia latifolia ( madhuka ), date ( kharjura ), citron ( vija ) and figs ( parkati ) were also widely cultivated. Barnier (1656-1668) writes on Agricultural system of Bengal in his travel account “ One can see numerous canals from Rajmahal to the sea. These have been dug with hard labour for river traffic and irrigation”. Chinese traveler Yuan Chwang gives a vivid description of Agriculture in Bengal. He points to the generation of wealth through Agriculture, Crops, fruits and flower were growth in plenty. 9 ASIAN AFFAIRS Growth of Crafts and Industries in Bengal Periplus describes exported commodities malabathrum and gangetic spikenard, pearls and muslins of the finest sort called Gangetic. It is said that there were sold in mines near the market town called Ganges. Schoff guesses gold came through Ernnaboas or presently “Son” river. Fame of Textiles of Bengal Muslin, spread all over the world long before B.C. In fact Mummy has been found wrapped with Muslin dated 2000 B.C. in Egypt. Chinese traveler Chao-Ju-Kua ping stated about Kalo or Bengal, that excellent swords were made there as well as cotton and other textiles. Towards end of 13th century (1290) Marco Polo discusses about textiles industry of Gujrat, Kambe, Telungana, Malebar and Bengal. In the 15th century Chinese traveler Ma Huan (1405) came to Bengal. Saifuddin Hamza was then the king of Gaur. Wine was made from Cocoanut,,Rice,Palm and Kajang and was sold publicly. Urban civilization was founded by long necked Dravidian language speaking people.Words with urban connotation such as Ur,Pur,Kut etc. has come from Dravidian language.Skill in crafts, came from Dravidians.However,the Aryans internalized these and facilitated the transfer of these techniques. The most note worthy among the crafts and Industries were Textiles, Sugar, Metal work, Stonework, Wood work and Pottery. Textile Manufacture The history of textile manufacture goes very far into history.There were four varieties of textile commodity which were produced viz. kshauma, dukula patrorna and karpasika. Kshauma was linen but of a coarse variety, being mixed with cotton. Its chief seats of manufacture were Pundravardhana (North Bengal) and Benares.. A pure and finer form of linen was called dukula. It was of three varieties ; the first, produced in Lower Bengal (Vangaka), was white and soft ; the second, produced* in North Bengal (Paundraka), was black and, " as soft as the surface of a gem ;" while the third, 10
  4. 4. RISE AND DECLINE ASIAN AFFAIRS manufactured at Suvarnakudya in Kamarupa, had the " colour of rising sun." Patrorna appears to have been wild silk. Amara defines it" as "a bleached or white kausheya" while the commentator says that it was a fibre produced by the saliva of a •worm "on the" leaves of certain trees:" The author adds that patrorna was produced in three regions, viz. Magadha, Pundra and Suvarnakudya. It is significant that wild silk of the best quality is still produced in these districts. Karpasika obviously meant cotton fabrics. These were manufactured in various parts of India, but Vanga and other regions, as Kautilya affirms,produced the best quality.It is thus evident that as early as the time of Kautilya Bengal had attained to great eminence as a seat of textile manufacture. The records of the succeeding ages tend to show that she retained this eminence down almost to the beginning of the nineteenth century. It may be noted that- the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, written in the first century A.D., includes "muslins of the finest sorts" among the exports of Bengal. Referring to Ruhml (which Elliot identifies with Bengal), the Arab merchant Sulaiman wrote in the ninth century A.D. that there was "a stuff made in this country which is not to be found elsewhere ; so fine and delicate is this material that a dress made of it was 3feet in breadth and about 29 feet in length and may be passed through, a signet-ring.' Sulaiman added that it was made of cotton, and that he was not speaking from hearsay, but had himself seen a piece of it. Marco Polo, who visited India in the thirteenth century, states that in his time Bengal still plied a lucrative trade in cotton goods. In the fifteenth century Ma Huan, the Chinese traveller, witnessed five or six varieties of textile goods being manufactured in Bengal. India in the suppiy of sugar to different parts of India. Ceylon, Arabia and Persia. Sugar Another industry which seems to have made considerable headway was sugar. Bengal was probably one of the earliest homes of sugar-cane cultivation. Susruta (Majumdar,R.C.) mentions that the paundraka cane (which grew in the Paundra country) were noted for the large quantity of sugar which they yielded. In the thirteenth century Marco Polo noticed that sugar was one of the important commodities of export from Bengal. Early in the sixteenth century the Portuguese traveller, Barbosa, found Bengal competing with South 11 Salt The manufacture of salt by means of evaporation either from infiltrated sea-water or from subsoil brine was also probably known and practiced in certain areas. The Irda Plate of the tenth century A . D . records the grant of a village in the Dandabhukti-mondaia of the Vardhamana-bukti along with its salt pits (lavanakarah). It is, therefore, permissible to infer that although the manufacture of salt was known and practised in certain places, at any rate from the tenth century onwards, it.had not developed into any, considerable industry. The dampness of the climate and the large amount of fresh water discharged into the sea by the Ganges and the Brahmaputra might have, hampered the growth of any large-scale salt manufacture. Pottery Among other crafts, pottery appears to have been practiced on an extensive scale. A large number of specimens of the pottery-used by the monks of Paharpur, and dating back probably to the eighth or ninth century A.D., have been recovered in recent years. These include large storage jars, spotted vases or lotas, cooking utensils, dishes, saucers, inkpots and lamps of various designs. The potter's art is also exemplified by the immense variety of terracotta plaques discovered at Mahasthan (Bogra), Savar (Dacca), Paharpur and other places. Some contemporary inscriptions refer to potters (kumbhakara)1 and potter's . ditch (kumbhakara-garta).Context in which these are mentioned seems to show that pottery as an industry-was conducted from rural settlements for the most part. Metal-work Along with pottery, metal-work of various kinds must have been known, from very early times. No settled agricultural community could get on without blacksmiths, whose services were required in the manufacture and repair of agricultural implements ; and contemporary evidence proves that apart from agricultural implements, the blacksmiths manufactured other articles of 12
  5. 5. RISE AND DECLINE ASIAN AFFAIRS general use like water-vessels of iron, and weapons of war such as arrowheads, spear-heads and swords. Besides working in iron, the metalworkers' practiced the "art of bronze-casting with considerable skill. This is shown by the discovery in different parts of Bengal of a large number of bronze or octo-alloy images, dating from the Gupta period onwards. wood-carving of the pre-Muhammadan period have come down to us . It seems evident, however, that the wood-workers built houses and temples and also manufactured house-hold furniture, boats, ships, and wheeled carriages . Jewellery Jewellery, too, provided occupation to a considerable group of metal-workers, for it was the fashion of the rich to use gold and silver dishes and ornaments made of pearls and precious stones and metals for personal adornment. The Deopara inscription of Vijayasena mentions "flowers made of precious stones, necklaces, ear-rings, anklets, garlands and golden bracelets," worn by the wives of the king's servants. The same epigraph speaks of temple girls "the charms of whose body were enhanced by (the wearing of) jewellery." The Naihati Plate of Vallalasena refers to necklaces of pearls worn by ladies of royal blood. (Chakravarti,P.C.) The Ramacharita (in. 33-34) mentions "jewelled anklet-bells," "charming ornaments set with diamonds, , pearls, emeralds, rubies and sapphires," and -"'necklaces with central gems and pure pearls of round and big shape." The Tabaqat-i-Nasiri casually alludes to the use of "golden and silver dishes" in the palace of Lakshmanasena.(Periplus). Stone and Wood Works Two other categories of craftsmen were the workers in stone and wood. The numerous pre-Muslim stone images discovered in Bengal and the beautifully engraved inscriptions on stone slabs bear eloquent testimony both to the volume and skill of the stone-carvers' profession. It has been suggested that the black chlorite stone, out of which most of these images were carved, was probably obtained from the Rajmahal Hills and carried in boats to the different centres of the sculptor's art in the province. Incidentally, this throws light on an important article of internal trade. Alongside stone-carving, wood-carving and carpentry also appear to have been practised on an extensive scale, although owing to the perishable nature of wood only a few architectural specimens of 13 Ship Building There is evidence that there was a successful ship building industry in Bengal building boats,ships both for internal and foreign travel as well as ports.Mukherji gives an account of Indian Shipping Industry in his book entitled “A History of Indian Shipping” (Mukherii,R. K,1912). We have several references to ships and dockyards {Pargiter (1895)}. Ivory-Carving Another important industry was ivory-carving. The Bhatera Plate of Govinda-Kesava mentions an ivory-worker (dantakara) by name, while the Edilpur Plate of Kesavasena refers to "palanquins supported by staffs made of elephant's tusk." Minor Arts Among minor arts, crafts, professions and industries may be mentioned those of scribes, florists, garland-makers, conchshellworkers, braziers, goldsmiths, painters, masons, oilmen, fishermen, washermen, barbers, butchers, distillers of wine etc. who formed so many distinct castes . As regards fishery, we get additional evidence from the land-grants, some of which refer to the right of fishing as included in the grant. Concerning the, nature and organisation of industrial labour, we hardly know anything definite. There are certain statements, however,occurring here and there in the inscriptions, which suggest the inference that the workers in various trades and industries were organized in some kind of corporate groups. There are references to the trade and craft-guilds in Bengal in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. Trade, Inland and Foreign of Bengal The high antiquity of Bengal's inland and foreign trade is proved by the Jataka stories, the accounts of Strabo and Pliny, and the 14
  6. 6. RISE AND DECLINE ASIAN AFFAIRS Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Two factors seem to have promoted this early growth of commerce,—first, the qualitative and quantitative development of Bengal's industries, and secondly, the unrivalled facilities for movement afforded by the sea-coast and river-systems of the "province. businessmen taking ships at Benares or lower down at Champa (modern Bhagalpur), and then either coasting to Ceylon or adventuring many days wthout sight of land to Suvanjabhumi.The Periplus of the_Erythraean Sea proves that Bengal maintained an active overseas trade with South India and Ceylon in the first century A.D. The commodities exported are said to have consisted of malabathrum, Gangetic spikenard, pearls, and muslins of the finest sorts. They were all shipped from a 'market-town' called Gange (probably the same as Tamralipti), and carried in vessels described in the Periplus as 'colandia.' Marco Polo mentions Sugar as major exports from Bengal in 13th Century.Portuguese traveler Barbosa talks about competition between South India and Bengal in Sugar trade to Ceylone.Arab and Persia.Pliny points out in the first century the amount of textiles which the western traders carried was worth about one lakh gold coin.(Pliny, 1st Century). Yuan Chwang also describes the import of huge amount of valuable goods,stones,ornaments etc. (Beal-Records, 200-201).Because of wealth generation the Traders were powerful in the society.(Roy,1982). Internal Trade The chief routes of internal trade were probably the waterways of the province, in proximity to which stood the principal towns. The role of the rivers in the economic geography of Bengal cannot be over-estimated. They fertilized the soil by the silt which they carried ; they eliminated, to a large extent, the need for artificial irrigation : and being navigable far inland throughout the year, they served as 'corridors' or 'natural routes' for long-distance traffic. It is probable enough, although statistical data are lacking, that throughout the ancient and mediaeval periods they bore the greater part of the inland traffic of the province. Apart from the rivers, a certain amount of trade probably passed along land-routes. The itineraries of Fa-hien and Hiuen Tsang point to the existence of such land-routes connecting some of the important cities of the province. The Chittagong Plate of Damodara mentions a public road (raja-patha) passing by the side of a village. In recent years Mr. K. N. Dixit has discovered the remains of two ancient embanked roads in the neighbourhood of Dhanora. Foreign Trade Major ports were located on the coast from Sind to Ganga port and Tamralipti There were twenty small / big sea ports. Roman gold came to coastal India through ports of western India such as Virgi Kachcho Shurashtro, Kalyan etc. Land routes included .from eastern coast of China, through desert of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran to Mediterranean. In later centuries the overseas trade of Bengal seems to have increased both in volume and extent. This is probably the chief reason of the phenomenal growth of Tamralipi "as a port of "first- " "rate importance. It is hardly necessary to stress the fact that in all periods the city which controlled the mouth of the Ganges was commercially the most important in Eastern India. There was a succession of such dominant cities: Tamralipti down almost to the end of the-Hindu period; later, Saptagrama till the close of the sixteenth century ; then Hooghly, and finally Calcutta. Bengal's foreign trade may be traced back to at least four or five centuries before the birth of Christ. Strabo refers to the "ascent of vessels from the sea by the Ganges to Pali-bothra,"(McCrindle) . Conversely, a number of Jataka stories mention merchants and The fame of Tamralipti as an emporium of trade spread all over India and even far outside its boundaries. Hiuen Tsang notes that "wonderful articles of value and gems are collected here in abundance, and therefore the people of the country are in general very rich" (Beal-Records, 200-201). According to the Katha-saritsagara, Tamralipti was pre-eminently the home of rich merchants, who carried on overseas trade with such distant countries as Lanka and Suvarnadipa (ibid. 175), and used to propitiate the sea with 15 16
  7. 7. RISE AND DECLINE ASIAN AFFAIRS jewels and other valuable articles to ensure safe voyages across (ibid. 72). Taking Tamralipti as the centre, and radiating from it there are three principal routes of overseas trade. The first led in a southeasterly direction past the coast of Arakan to Burma and beyond. Most of the early voyages from Tamralipti to Suvarnabhumi were probably made along this route. But there was a second line of overseas trade with the Malaya Peninsula and the Far East. Ships came along the coast up to Paloura, near modern Chicacole, and then proceeded right across the Bay of Bengal. This was known to Ptolemy in the second century A.D. By the seventh century ships sailed directly from Tamralipti to the Malay Peninsula. An interesting account of this route is preserved by I-tsing in his biography of Hiuen-tsang, who made a direct voyage from Keddah to Tamralipi. of business in Northern India along this highway of traffic. But Kamarupa was not the terminus of this route, for it seems to have extended eastwards to South,China through the hills of Assam or Manipur and Upper Burma. This is testified to by the famous report which Chang-kien. the Chinese ambassador to the Yue-chi country, submitted in 126 B.C. When he was in Bactria he was surprised to find silk and bamboo which came from the Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Szechwan. On enquiry he was told of the rich and powerful country of India across which the caravans carried these products from southern China to Afghanistan. This route evidently continued in use till the ninth century A.D., and was joined by another from Annam. Kia Tan (785-805 A.D.) describes the land-route from Tonkin to Kamarupa, which crossed the Ganges to Kajangal, and finally reached Magadha, (Majumdar,R.C. Champa). The third line of trade led in a south-westerly direction past the coasts of Kajinga and Coromandel to South India and Ceylon. As already said, use of this route is mentioned in the Jataka stories and the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Pliny also refers to it adding that ‘the island of Ceylon was thought to be twenty days' sail "from the country of the Prasioi,". The distance came afterwards to be reckoned at a seven days' sail, according to the rate of speed of our ships.’ In the early years of the fifth century A.D., the Chinese pilgrim, Fa-hien, embarked at Tamralipti on board a great merchant vessel and sailed to Ceylon en route to China, the voyage taking "fourteen days and nights." From the itinerary of I-tsing we learn that in the latter part of the seventh century numerous other Chinese pilgrims traveled along the same route in their voyages to and from India. More celebrated and frequented, however, was the line of trade which led westwards from various points in Bengal and joined the network of highways which converged at Benares. The Kaiha-saritsagara mentions merchants travelling from Pundravardana to Pataliputra. I-tsing, who landed at Tamralipti in 673 A.D., says that when he left the sea-port, "taking the road which goes straight to the west," many hundreds of merchants accompanied him in bjg journey to Bodh-Gaya. A rock inscription of a chief named Udayamana, which has been assigned on paleographical grounds to the 8th century A.D., reveals that merchants from such distant places as Ayodhya used to frequent the port of Tamralipti for purposes of trade. These western routes formed the principal means of communication and also the grand military routes between Bengal and Northern India. Besides the sea-routes, there seem to have been a number of land-routes by which Bengal's foreign trade was carried. One of these was the route which connected Pundravardhana with Kamarupa. It was along this route that Hiuen Tsang journeyed to the latter kingdom in the seventh century A.D. From very ancient times Kamarupa was noted for her textiles, sandal and agaru, and it seems likely that these were taken to the main centres A third line of overland trade seems to have led through the passes of the Himalayas, past Sikkim and Chumbi Valley, to Tibet and China. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea bears testimony to the fact that as early as the 1st century A.D. "raw silk, silk yarn and silk cloth" came into Bengal from China and were re-exported to "Damirica by way of the river Ganges." It is not impossible that much of this stuff came in along this line of trade. In later period 17 18
  8. 8. RISE AND DECLINE ASIAN AFFAIRS this route became the great highway of Buddhist pilgrim-travel between Magadha and Tibet. Horses in large number appear to have been imported into Bengal along this track. Referring to a town variously named as Karbattan, Kar-pattan or Karambatan, which has not yet been satisfactorily identified, but which was obviously located somewhere at the foot of the Himalayan range, the Tabaqat-i-Nasiri says : Arab merchant ships and navy almost covered India & Pacific ocean Mediterranean and Red sea. "Every morning in the market of the city, about fifteen hundred horses are sold. All the saddle horses which come into the territory of Lakhnauti are brought from the country. Their roads pass through the ravines of the mountains, as is quite common in that part of the country. Between Kamrup and Tibet there are thirty-five mountain passes through which horses are brought to Lakhnauti." A fourth overland route ran southwards, along the Kalinga coast, to the South Indian peninsula. Trade was well managed.There were customs-officers called vyapara-karantfaya or vyaparantfya in the two grants of the time of Dharmaditya, and vyaparaya-viniyukta in the Grant of Gopachandra. These were, as Pargiter points out, obviously officials "charged with the duty of looking after trade"{Pargiter (1895)}. Rise and Decline of International Trade of Bengal Before British Colonialism Living standard of Bengal started improving from the middle of st 1 century.The land of Bengal was turned into a golden land from 4th and 5th Century. The main reason was the development of sea trade. Even before that the country had a business relationship with eastern Mediterranean countries. But the trade was mainly in the hands of the Arabs. But from 50 A.D. India and Rome got into direct contact. Gold continued to flow into India from Rome. Pliny stated if the flow of gold continues to be like this then there will be no gold left in Roman Empire. However, Trade with Rome started to decline since 475 A.D. through to half of 7th century. Since the advent of Islam Arab trade started to rise from 606-7 A.D. Within 100 years 19 The Devastation of the Economy of Bengal by British Colonialism Industrial revolution in England led to mass production of cheap textiles. It could not compete with Indian textiles – Muslin, Calico. East India company, set up in 1600, lobbied to ban calico and put high tariff on Muslin. English expedition found route to India and ultimately conquered Bengal in 1757. East Indian company’s commercial activities led to damage of indigenous industrial and trading activities. Such destructive activities included :- cutting of fingers of Nakod (Muslin producers),particularly the British looted the factories of Armenian traders at Sayedabad and imprisoned the factory workers.(Bolt ) . British Colonists did every thing possible to quash the growth of local Indian entrepreneurs. There was huge grabbing by employees of East Indian company , of the products of local producer’s at cut throat prices. “The English employees of East Indian company were buying and selling betel nut, ghee, rice, fish, jute, garlic, sugar, tobacco etc. at only quarter price. They used to snatch these commodity at these prices”.( Dutt Rajani Pam, 1947). Taxes were put on transport of industrial production of locally owned industries. When such entrepreneurs tried to increase the speed of local production British industries tried to quash the Indian industries As Earl of Shafts Bury points out “ We must bear in mind that India has the raw material and cheap labor, and if we allow the manufactures to work their operatives 16 or 17 hours and put them under no restrictions, we are giving them very unfair advantage over the manufacturers of our country ( England ) and we might be undersold in Machester itself by manufactured goods imported from the East. (Bose,Sanat Kumar 1980). These steps initiated the decline of the Bengal’s Industrial sector Lord Cornwalis developed a new land rent system in1793 entitled Permanent settlement in which the tenure of land was 20
  9. 9. RISE AND DECLINE delared secure.Lord Cornwalis stated in a speech(Tripathi,1956). “There is every ground to expect that the large capitals possessed by many of the natives will be applied to the purchase of landed property as the tenure is declared to be secure” From the beginning the noveau Zamindars did not live in the villages nor did they invest money in land development.They employed middlemen who tortured farmers and imposed excess rent .According to clause 7 imposed in 1799 zamindars were given the power to take away the land of the defaulting farmers. ASIAN AFFAIRS Reference Arthasastra of Kautilya ( Kautilya , Chanakya or Vishnugupta ) Ed R. Shamsastri Mysore 1909. Ahmed, Nazimuddin, Mahasthan, A Preliminary recentArchaeological Excavations at Mahasthangarh, 1964. Report of Barnier, F. Travels in the Mughal Empire 1656 to 1668 -London 1934. Basak, Radhagovinda The history of North-eastern India, Calcutta, 1934. Exploitation of the farmers by the absentee Zamindars and their middle men initiated the decline of agricultural sector of Bengal (Government of Bengal ,1940) .This was accentuated by Indigo cultivation.Kuthials of indigo kuthis led to inhuman exploitation of the farmers.In 1770 there was a huge famine and large number of people died. Rbellians such as Sanyasi rebeller Titumir’s bamboo kiya, sipahi Rebelllians ( 1857 ) led to a conflagaration Which accentuated the decline of indigenous economy of Bengal. The colonialists,did bring in technology and education.(such as Textile Mills,Railway,Telegraph, Jute mills,Chemical Industry,Printing industry, Leather Industry, Rice and wheat mill,Matches etc.).This was brought in at the expense of the existing growth process by a competing nation(England) who almost destroyed the indigenous agriculture ,industry and trade in Bengal.World wide trade was routed to the mother country(England). Beal, Samuel, translated from Hien Tsang, Buddhist records of Western World 2 vols London 1906. Bagchi, Prabodh Chandra, Pre Aryan and Pre Dravidian in India Calcutta U 1929( translated from French. Original by Sylvian Levi, Jean Przyllugci and Jules Block). Beal, Samuel translated from Hien Tsang, Buddhist records of World 2 (By Shaman Hwui-li) vols London 1911. Western Berry, J. W. E. The Waterways in East Bengal in Amrita Bazar Patrika June15, 1938. Bose,Sanat Kumar Labour conditions 1850-1914, Studies in Bengal Renaissance, Ed Atul Chandra Gupta 1958 Indian Factory Commission Report 1980. BULLETTIN DE L ECOLE FRANCAISE D EXTREME ORIENT, “NON ARYAN ELEMENTS IN THE CIVILIZATION AND LANGUAGES OF INDIA” HANOI. Chatterji, S.K. Indo- Aryan and Hindi, Calcutta 1926. Chabannes, E, Trans in French Memoirs on the Chinese Pilgrims who went in Search of Law to the western countries by Tsing, Paris 1894 ( A summary of this Work , in English , is given in the introduction to Beal’s translation of life of Hiuen Tsang ). Chandra, Bipin, “ The Indian Capitalist class and Imperialism Before 1947”, 21 22
  10. 10. RISE AND DECLINE Journal of Contemporary, Asia vol. 5, No. 3. ASIAN AFFAIRS Majumdar, Rameshchandra, Physical features of ancient Bengal in D.R. Bhandarkar 1940. Chaudhury, Abdul Momin, Dynastic History of Bengal, Dacca 1967. Majumdar, R. C, ed History of Bengal, vol 1, Dhaka1943. Chakrobarti, Chintaharan, Note on Geography of old Bengal, vol.4, 1908, 267- 292. Majumdar, R.C, Corporate life in ancient India, 3rd edition, Calcutta 1969. Chakrobarti,P.C.,The Art of War in Ancient India, pp163-64. Majumdar, R.C., History of ancient Bengal, Calcutta 1974. Dasgupta, J.N. Bengal in the sixteenth century Calcutta 1946. Majumdar, S. C, Rivers of the Bengal delta, Calcutta 1942. Dutt Rajani Pam, India Today, Manisha Prakashoni, 1947. Martin, Montgomery, ed Eastern India, 3 vols, London 1883. East India Company, Papers, Reports, Proceedings, Report of the Proceeding of the East India Company in Regard to the Trade,Culture and Manufacture of the Raw Silk- Londo 1836. Mcrindle, J. W, Ancient India as described by Megasthenes and Arrian, London, 1877. Fazal, Abul, Ain- I – Akbari Ed & Translated by H. Blockmann and H.S. Jarvett, Calcutta 1877 and 1894 vol. 1 revised by D.C. Philloi 1927 and vol. 11 & 111 by Jadunath Sarkar 1948-49. Ghosal, V. N, The Agrarian system in Ancient India Calcutta, 1929. Gopal Lalanji, The Economic life of northern India, Varanasi, 1963. Mcrindle, J. W., The invasion of India by Alexander, the great as described by Arrian, Curtius, Diodorus, Plutarch and Justin Westminster 1896. Mcrindle, J. W, Ancient India as described by Ptolemy, Ed by S.N. Majumdar, Calcutta 1927. Minhajuddin, Siraj, Tabakat-I-Nasiri Ed and trans H.G. Raverty, Calcutta 1873-97. Government of Bengal,Report of the Land Revenue Commission, Floud Commission Report Volume 1 1940. Monahar,T. J. The Early History of Bengal, Oxford, 1924. Habib,Irfan,Agrarian System of Mughal India,1556-1707, 1969. Moreland, W.H. Agrarian System in Mughal India Cambridge, 1929. Hamilton,Alexander, A New Account of the East Indies, 1st Edition Edinburg 1727. Marx, K, Notes on Indian History, The first Indian war of Inde pendence: 1857-59, Progress Publishers 1978. Hunter, W. W. Statistical Account of Bengal London 1875-77. Keith, A.B. Speech and Documents on Indian Policy : 1750-1791 vol.-I. Memoirs of M-Manouchi, A venetian and chief physician to Auranzeb for Forty years Quoted is R.P.Dutt, India Today pasess. Legge, James, trans A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms Being an account by the Chinese monk Fahien of his travels in India and Ceylon ( AD 399-414) in search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline Oxford 1886 Montgomery-Martin R, The History ,Antiquities, Topography and Statistics of Eastern India, comprising Districts of Bihar, Shahabad , Bhagalpur, Gorakhpur, Dinajpur, Purnia, Rangpur and Asam Volumes 1-3.London 1836. Majumdar, Nanigopal Inscriptions of Bengal Rajshahi, 1929 (ed & trans ). Mukherii ,R. K., A History of Indian Shipping (1912), pp. 31, 161, etc.; 23 24
  11. 11. RISE AND DECLINE Niyogi, Puspa, Contributions to the economic history of India, Calcutta 1962. Pargiter, E. F. Ancient countries in eastern India Journal of the Asiatic society of Bengal . 1895. Paul, Promode Lal, The Early history of Bengal from the earliest times to the Muslim Conquest Calcutta 1939. (The) Periplus of the Erythrarean Sea travel and trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant in the first century Ed and Trans from the Greek Wilfred H. Schoff, London 1912. Philip, C, Ma Huan’s account of the kingdom of Bengal in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, !895, P 520-33. ASIAN AFFAIRS Sinha S.K, Economic History of Bengal, Volume 1, Calcutta, 1965. Sircar, D.C. Selected Inscription on Indian History and Civilization (Calcutta U). Tripathi,A,Trade and Finance in Bengal Presidency 1793-1833,Bombay 1965. Varthema,L. The Travels of Ludoviko Egypt,Syria,Arabia,Persia,India 1508,London 1863. in Wilcox Sir William “ Lectures on the Ancient system of Irrigation in Bengal” 1930 Calcutta p 18-19. Walters, Thomas, On Yuan Chwang’s travels in India 629-645 AD London 1905. Pliny, Indica(1st Century A.D.). Ramacharita Ed R.C. Majumdar, R. G. Basak and Nanigopal Basak, Rajshahi, 1939. Ray Chaudhury, Tapan “ The Asiatic mode of production and Indian Foreign Trade in the seventeenth century” in Essays in Honour of Professon Shusovon Sarker Peoples Publishing House 1976. Roy,Niharranjan, Bangalir Itihash,Adi Parba,1982. Sandyakara Nandi’s Ramcharita Ed-Haraprasad Sastri in Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 3:1 1910, 1-56. Sarma, Ramsharan, Indian Feudalism 300- 1200 AD Calcutta 1963. Sumpa Mkhan Po. Pag Sam Jon Zang ed S.C. Das, Calcutta 1908. Smith, Adam, Wealth of Nations, London, 1924. Sinha, Pradip, Nineteenth century Bengal Aspects of social History, Calcutta 1965. Sen, Shukamal, Working class of India, History of Emergence and Movement : 1836-1970, Calcutta, 1977. 25 D,Varthema 26