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2.COLONIAL RULE AND CRAFTS
India has had a long history of trade in craft with other countries beginning from the Harappan Civilisation 5000 years ago. Over the centuries, trade with Greece and Rome grew and historical evidence can be
f o u n d i n l i t e r a t u r e a n d a rc h a e o l o g i c a l e x c a v a t i o n s .
Flourishing trade led to overland routes like the Silk Route and brought silk from China through
CRAFT TRADITIONS OF INDIA: PAST, 16 PRESENT AND FUTURE
traders speaking different languages, meeting at trading stations along the route. Ship-building centres and portsdeveloped along India’s long coastline. Sea routes to the Mediterranean countries, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, South-east Asia and China are mentioned both in Sangam literature and foreign accounts. By the time of the Mauryan empire (300 BCE) traders and craftsmen groups, who had become wealthy and substantially for the building of Buddhist monasteries. There were carpenters and blacksmiths, jewellers and goldsmiths, weavers and dyers, perfumers and stone carvers among others. Constant trade with the Middle East and South-east Asia was already an importantcornerstone of the economy. In the area of textiles, to South-east Asia we exported sarongs, to the Middle East went the finest and most expensive muslins, to West Africa went.
COLONIAL RULE AND CRAFTS 17
materials and bed-hangings. All these fabrics were considered ‘luxury goods’ in these countries. The pattern of trade from the Coromandel Coast was triangular. Arabs carried gold and silver (bullion) to the Coromandel Coast, exchanged these for textiles, and then exchanged the latter in Malaysia for spices, with which they returned to the Middle East. Throughout the ancient and medieval periods the fame of Indian cotton textiles, gems and jewels, and spices lik e pep per and cardamom, ivory and sandalw ood continued to make trade a lucrative business. Gems like pearls, and precious stones like diamonds gave to India the reputation of a fabled land of riches and natural resources. This reputation of being a land of riches and extraordinary skills, tempted traders fromEurope, who were willing to go to war, and to risk their lives in order to get a share of the profit from Indian trade.
INDIA AS A TEXTILE PRODUCTION HUB
“Everyone from the Cape of Good Hope (in Africa) to China, man and woman is clothed from head to foot, in the products of Indian looms,” is how a Portuguese traveller put it. India was, till the advent of colonialism, the largest exporter of textiles in the world. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was trade in textiles and in spices, essential for preserving meat when refrigeration did not exist, that initially brought European traders to India. A triangular trade developed with Britain transporting slaves from Africa to the Americas, to make enough profit and to get the b u l l i o n n e c e s s a r y fo r t h e p u r c h a s e o f I n d i a n manufacture.
1. Imagine you are an adventurous English traveller to India in the seventeenth century. Describe the crafts you see. What would you buy to take home and why?
2. Colonialism transformed India from craft producer to a supplier of raw materials—write a short description of this change and how it affected the crafts industry in India.
3. Make a chart or an illustrated story of the history of textiles in India.
4. Industrialisation transformed craft production in England in the nineteenth century. How did it transform Indian craft production in the twentieth century?
5. Compare and contrast trade in India and China over the last 500 years. Illustrate with graphs or tables.
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