Major Towns: Surat, Hampi and Masulipattanam

Surat, Hampi and Masulipattanam were the major towns in India during the medieval period.

Hampi

  • Located in the Krishna-Tungabhadra basin.
  • It was the nucleus of the Vijayanagara Empire (1336).
  • No mortar or cementing agent was used in the construction of fortified walls and the technique followed was to wedge them together by interlocking.
  • It got splendid arches, domes and pillared halls with niches for holding sculptures.
  • During 15th – 16th centuries, Hampi bustled with commercial and cultural activities. Moors (a name used collectively for Muslim merchants), Chettis and agents of European traders such as the Portuguese, thronged the markets of Hampi.
  • Temples were the hub of cultural activities and devadasis (temple dancers) performed before the deity, royalty and masses in the many-pillared halls in the Virupaksha (a form of Shiva) temple.
  • Hampi fell into ruin following the defeat of Vijayanagara in 1565 by the Deccani Sultans – the rulers of Golconda, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Berar and Bidar.

Surat

  • It was an emporium of western trade during the Mughal period along with Cambay (present Khambat).
  • Surat was the gateway for trade with West Asia via the Gulf of Ormuz. Surat has also been called the gate to Mecca because many pilgrim ships set sail from here.
  • In the 17th century the Portuguese, Dutch and English had their factories and warehouses at Surat.
  • The textiles of Surat were famous for their gold lace borders (zari) and had a market in West Asia, Africa and Europe.
  • Decline factors: the loss of markets and productivity, control of the sea routes by the Portuguese, competition from Bombay where the English East India Company shifted its headquarters in 1668.

Masulipatnam

  • Lay on the delta of the Krishna river.
  • Both the Dutch and English East India Companies attempted to control Masulipatnam.
  • The fort at Masulipatnam was built by the Dutch.
  • The Qutb Shahi rulers of Golconda imposed royal monopolies on the sale of textiles, spices and other items to prevent the trade passing completely into the hands of the various East India Companies.
  • In 1686-1687 Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb annexed Golconda.
  • So European Companies took alternatives to Bombay, Calcutta and Madras which lost Masulipatanam’s glory.