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Hampi, Masulipatnam and Surat – Architecture, Culture, Trade

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The Indian subcontinent has one of the most thriving economies in the world during medieval times. These three towns help us understand the factors that made land prosperous. Let us try to learn each of them individually and understand how they are unique and contributed to what the economy and society it is today.



Hampi is situated in the Krishna-Tungabhadra basin, which shaped the core of the Vijayanagar Empire, established in 1336. The grand remnants at Hampi uncover an all-around strengthened city. This fortified capital city existed between 1336 and 1565 AD. Hampi is surrounded by the river and mountains on the other three sides. This helped it to be a well-defined capital city of the Vijayanagar kingdom. During that time the empire is so prosperous land. 

No mortar or cementing agent was utilized in the development of these dividers and the strategy followed was to wedge them together by interlocking. The design of Hampi was unmistakable. The structures in the imperial complex had awesome curves, arches, and pillared lobbies with specialties for holding models. They likewise had very much arranged plantations and delightful gardens with sculptural themes like the lotus and corbels. The Vijayanagar kings showed interest and developed gardens beautifully before the Mughals did.  The rulers of the Vijayanagar also built several canals and tanks. One of the important storage tanks was the Ananthraj Sagar tank built with a 1.37km long earthen dam across the Maldevi river. 

Art and Culture

Hampi was famous for its monuments and temples.  Some of the important temples in this town are the Virupaksha temple, Vittala temple, and Hazara Rama temple. The Vithala temple is regarded as the crowning glory of Hampi. It was constructed during the reign of Krishna Deva Raya.  Devadasis (temple artists) performed before the god in the temple and many cultural performances used to happen there. The Mahanavami celebration, referred to at the present time as Navratri in the south, was perhaps the main celebration celebrated at Hampi. Archeologists have found the Mahanavami stage where the ruler got visitors and acknowledged recognition from subordinate chiefs. From here he watched dance and music exhibitions as well as wrestling sessions. Art and culture developed tremendously.

Traders and Craftpersons

In its prime in the fifteenth-sixteenth hundred years, Hampi clamored for commercial and cultural activities. Moors (a name utilized on the whole for Muslim vendors), and European merchants such as Portuguese swarmed the business sectors of Hampi.

The Vijayanagar ruled for over 3 centuries and was founded in 1336AD by the Harihara and Bukka brothers( the sons of Sangama). The empire reached its highest point during the rule of Krishna Deva Raya ( rule: 1509-1529AD). He was the greatest ruler of the Vijayanagar empire. Many foreigners visited Vijayanagar as travelers, ambassadors, and merchants and provided huge information about the kingdom. Some important among them are Niccolo de Conte from Italy, Abdur Razzaq, a Persian ambassador from Herat, and Domingo Paes, from Portugal. 

The writings of these prominent people help us understand the then cultural, economic, administrative, and commercial conditions. Abdur Razzaq described that the city has seven fortified walls, one within the other and seven bazaars. In his detailed account, he said that the merchants sold rubies, diamonds, emeralds, and Pearls on the roads as groceries. A wide variety of handicraft industries such as textile, metal, jewelry, carpentry, pottery, leather, and shipbuilding prospered; which tells us the prosperous conditions of the craftsperson. 

End of Hampi

Hampi crumbled to pieces following the loss of Vijayanagar in 1565 during the battle of Talikota against the Deccani Sultans – the leaders of Golconda, Bijapur, Ahmednagar, Berar, and Bidar. The temples were destroyed, the citizens were killed and at last, the whole city was set on fire after 6 months of looting the city. Hence it became a forgotten land. 


Towns and Settlements

Masulipatnam, meaning fish port town,  is located in present-day Andhra Pradesh on the delta of the Krishna waterway. It was a convenient spot to anchor ships so it gained importance. Masulipatnam started as a poor fishing town in the region of Golconda at the delta of the Krishna river.

This town became the trade center for the powerful British, Dutch, and French. Both the Dutch and English East India Companies endeavored to control Masulipatnam as it turned into the main port on the Andhra coast. The fortification at Masulipatnam was worked by the Dutch. The first Dutch settlement in India was set up in 1605 in Masulipatnam. In 1611AD, a trading center was set up by the British. The first British settlement on the coromandal coast was setup at Masulipatnam . A team of Englishmen led by captain Hippon arrived in Masulipatnam on a ship, Globe and obtained permission from Muhammad Quli Qutub shah , the sultan of Golkonda , to setup a trading settlement. 

Trade and Craftpersons

The word ‘Muslin’ came from this port city’s name. The best quality muslin cloth were exported to Rome, Egypt and Arabic countries.  In the 17th century AD,  Masulipatnam developed as a very popular place for business and a manufacturing spot. It was a city of weavers and dyers. The textiles from Masulipatnam were highly coveted by the royal members and nobles of the Mughal empire. Francois Bernier, a French traveler wrote in 1665AD that the tents where Mughal emperor Aurangzeb held court while travelling from Delhi and Lahore were lined ‘with beautiful hand-painted chintz manufactured at Masulipatnam .

In the seventeenth century, the town became a very popular place for business. The Qutab Shahi leaders of Golconda forced serious syndications on the sale of textiles, spices, and different things to forestall the exchange passing totally under the control of the different East India Companies. Wild rivalry among different exchanging gatherings – the Golconda aristocrats, Persian shippers, Telugu Komati Chettis, and European dealers – made the city crowded and prosperous. 

Masulipatnam became important center of international trade and it also became important port for goods from Bengal. Initially, Masulipatnam was a trading spot for south-east countries like Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, China and Indonesia. Towards the end of 16th century, a new sea route was linked to Arab countries.  This leaf to a  massive increase in commerce, as trade with Arab countries happened through Gujarat. Masulipatnam now has good travelling through both eastern and western sectors of Indian ocean. The traded items included muslin cloth, diamonds, a variety of cotton cloth- chintz. 

The fall of port city

As the Mughals stretched out their capacity to Golconda their delegate, the lead representative Mir Jumla who was likewise a vendor, started to set up the Dutch and the English to contend with one another. From 1686-to 1687 Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb raged war on Golconda. This made the European Companies search for options. It was a piece of new strategy of the English East India Company that it was adequately not assuming a port had associations with the creation places of the hinterland. The new Company exchange focuses, it was felt, ought to join political, managerial, and business jobs. As the main Members of the Company moved to Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras, Masulipatnam lost the two of its shippers and the Business declined over the eighteenth century, being today just a weather-beaten little town.


The town and settlements

Surat in present-day Gujarat was the main source for the western exchange during the Mughal period alongside Cambay (present-day Khambhat) and fairly later, Ahmedabad. Surat was the main route for exchange with West Asia by the Gulf of Ormuz. Surat has additionally been known as the door to Mecca in light of the fact that numerous traveler ships set forth from here. It became important center for trade from the 16th century AD onwards. 

The city was cosmopolitan and individuals of all stations and ideologies lived there. In the seventeenth century the Portuguese, Dutch, and English had their processing plants and stockrooms at Surat. As indicated by the English writer Ovington who composed a record of the port in 1689, typical 100 ships of various nations could be seen as secured at the port at some random time. Captain  William Hawkins came to Jahangir’s court in 1609 to look for authorization to open a manufacturing plant at Surat. A Farman was given by Jahangir to allow to constructed a production line at Surat (1613). Sir Thomas Roe came to India as representative of James I to Jahangir’s court in 1615 to get the consent for exchanging and to raise manufacturing plants. Surat was the principal settlement of The French in 1668.

Trade and Craftpersons

There were additionally a few retail and discount shops selling cotton materials. The materials of Surat were well known for their gold trim lines (zari) and had a market in West Asia, Africa, and Europe. The state fabricated various rest-houses to deal with the necessities of individuals from everywhere in the world who came to the city. There were extraordinary structures and endless joy parks. The Kathiawar sets or Mahajan (moneychangers) had tremendous financial houses at Surat. It is significant that the Surat hundis were regarded in the distant business sectors of Cairo in Egypt, Basra in Iraq, and Antwerp in Belgium.

After Akbar captured Gujarat in 1572 AD, merchants began to prefer transporting their merchandise through Surat. Surat was a major export center for textiles , indigo and other products . It was also the place from where goods were sent to other parts of the empire. 
The city had an imperial mint where foreign merchants could trade their currency for Mughal coins. During the Mughal times , wheat , sugar and silk were carried from Agra to Gujarat . The Europeans traded scented oils , perfumes , dry fruits , coral and wines. By the 16th century AC , the English East India Company started to dock its ships in Surat. 

The fall of Surat

Surat started to decline towards the finish of the seventeenth century. This was a direct result of many elements: the deficiency of business sectors and efficiency in view of the decay of the Mughal Empire, control of the ocean courses by the Portuguese, and rivalry from Bombay (present-day Mumbai) where the English East India Company moved its base camp in 1668. Surat was gone after by the Marathas in 1723AD and , in the years that followed, the dealers of Surat needed to confront misfortunes. The English exploited the present circumstance and laid out command over portion of the exchange . The Dutch controlled around one-10th of the exchange. Today, Surat is a clamoring business focus.

Sample Questions

Question 1: What other things other than described is Masulipatnam famous for?


 It is famous for kalamkari textiles. The name is derived from ‘Kalam’ meaning pen which was used to create intricate designs on fabric. ‘Kari’ means work. The town is also famous for paintings created using vegetable dyes. The western traders during 17th century were attracted to these art. 

Question 2: What are the changes occurred in the craftsmanship in the 17th and 18th century?


  •  Increasing popularity for products like materials prompted an extraordinary development of the specialties of weaving, bleaching, dyeing.
  • An ever increasing number of individuals took them up.
  • Indian cloth designs turned out to be progressively refined.

This period additionally saw the decay of autonomous craftsperson’s.

  • They  started to deal with an arrangement of advance requests.
  • Weavers no longer had the freedom of selling their own fabric or winding around then-own examples.
  • They needed to imitate the plans provided to them by the organization specialists. 

Question 3: How did William Methwold depict Masulipatnam?


William Methwold depicted Masulipatnam as primary port of Golconda. He depicted it as a little yet crowded, unwalled, poorly fabricated town. According to him it was an unfortunate fisher town with harsh springs. A street made it a home for shippers who came to this coast.

Question 4: Which cities acquired and lost significance during sixteenth and seventeenth century?


 A few cities like Ahmedabad became significant business towns and cities like Murshidabad on the banks of Bhagirathi became significant as silk focus and became capital of Bengal in 1704. It continuously declined because of rivalry from cheap mill made material from England.

  • Hampi established in 1336 tumbled to ruins by 1565 because of rout of Vijayanagar by Deccani rulers.
  • Surat became significant as a port city however started to decrease in late seventeenth hundred years.
  • Masulipatnam was focus of action in seventeenth 100 years however continuously declined throughout eighteenth century.

Question 5: How did the Mughals broaden their command over Golconda?


 Mughals began to broaden their command over Golconda. Their agent Mir Jumla, a vendor started to set up Dutch and the English to contend with one another. In 1686-87 Aurangzeb raged war on Golconda. This made European exchanging organizations search for choices.

Last Updated : 22 Sep, 2022
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