Rise and Fall of Hampi and Surat
- Rise and fall of Hampi
- Rise and fall of Surat
Crafts in towns: The craftspersons of Bidar were so popular for their inlay work in copper and silver that the work was named after them, i.e. it came to be called Bidri. The Panchalas or Vishwakarma community which was essential to the building of temples consisted of: Goldsmiths, Blacksmiths, Bronzesmiths, Masons and Carpenters.
They also played a vital role in the construction of palaces, big buildings, tanks and reservoirs. The Saliyar or Kaikkolar community of weavers also emerged as a prosperous community and even made donations to temples. Some of the aspects of cloth making became independent crafts, like cotton cleaning, spinning and dyeing.
Architectural splendor of Hampi
Hampi which is located in the Krishna-Tungabhadra basin formed the nucleus of the Vijayanagara Empire founded in 1336. A well-fortified city is revealed by the magnificent ruins at Hampi. The construction of walls was done using a technique in which stone slabs were wedged together by interlocking. No mortar or cementing agent was used in this construction. Hampi had a distinctive architecture.
- Buildings: The buildings in the royal complex had splendid arches and domes. They had pillared halls with niches for holding sculptures.
- Orchards and pleasure gardens: These were well-planned with sculptural motifs like the lotus and corbels.
The city bustled with commercial and cultural activities in its heyday in the 15th and 16th century.
Commerce The following trading communities were the participants of the markets of Hampi:
- Moors (a collective name for Muslim merchants).
- Agents of European traders such as the Portuguese.
Culture: Temples were the central point of all cultural activities. Devadasis (temple dancers) performed before the deity, royalty and masses in the many-pillared halls in the Virupaksha (which means a form of Shiva) temple. One of the most celebrated festivals was the Mahanavami (which is called Navaratri in the present times in south India).
The fall of Hampi
The city which was a hub of various activities during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries fell into ruin following the defeat of Vijayanagara in 1565. They were defeated by the Deccan Sultans (the rulers of Golconda, Ahmadnagar, Berar, Bidar and Bijapur).
Surat: A gateway to the West
Surat (Gujarat) was the emporium of western trade during the Mughal period. Cambay (present day Khambat) too was like Surat in terms of market hub. Later, Ahmadabad too joined the two cities as an emporium of western trade. Surat was called the gateway for trade with West Asia via the Gulf of Ormuz. It was also called the gate to Mecca because many pilgrim ships set sail from here.
The city was cosmopolitan, i.e. people from all castes and creeds lived here. The Portuguese, Dutch and the English had their warehouses here in the 17th century.
Surat: A closer look: Many retail and wholesale shops sold cotton textiles. The Surat textiles were famous for their gold lace borders called zari and these had a market in West Asia, Africa and Europe. Many rest houses were built by the state to take care of the needs of the people around the globe who came to the city. Many magnificent buildings and pleasure parks were built here. Huge banking houses were run by the Kathiawad seths or mahajans (moneychangers). Even in the distant markets of Cairo (Egypt), Basra in Iraq and Antwerp in Belgium, the Surat hundis were honoured.
The decline of Surat
The following factors are responsible for the decline of Surat in the 17th century:
- Loss of markets and productivity because of the decline of the Mughal Empire.
- Control of the sea routes by the Portuguese.
- Competition from Bombay (Mumbai of the present times) where the East India Company shifted its headquarters in 1668.