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Towns of Medieval India

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Towns of Medieval India - Lesson Summary

Various towns in the medieval India performed several functions like artisans specializing in certain arts - Banarasi sarees and the Gwalior Gharana of Hindustani music. Some were famous for temples like Somnath in Gujarat or Mathura and Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh while others were well-known centres of administration like Magadha and Patna.
Towns were categorized on the basis of an administrative town, a temple town and a commercial centre. The town that developed as the capital of a kingdom, and physically encompassed the offices and meeting places of the ruler, was called an administrative town while, a town that developed around a temple, was a temple town.

Thanjavur was a single town to perform all of these functions. Situated in the Kaveri delta, it was surrounded by rivers and paddy fields and became prominent after being conquered by the Chola rulers. The town is famous for the Rajarajeshvara temple, built by King Rajaraja Chola. The walls of buildings are covered with numerous inscriptions recording the conquests and charitable endowments of King Rajaraja.

Thanjavur also boasts of majestic palaces containing mandapas or pavilions, from where the kings issued orders to their subordinates. Its markets always bustled with people, coming to buying and selling grain, spices, jewelry and cloth.

These temples soon became important economic centre, giving opportunity to various artisans and craftsmen, like the saliya weavers for fine and rough cloth, and the sthapatis for bronze idols, lamps, bells and other articles.

Towards the end of medieval period, samantas or zamindars started building fortified areas to protect the common people. They also laid heavy taxes on traders and artisans using the collected money for administrative purposes.

These towns had designated a mandi or mandapika area, where farmers from nearby villages would come to sell their produce. The street market was called hatta or haat and was lined with shops.


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