Around the 8th century, trading towns began to emerge across the Indian subcontinent.
Trade was conducted in village markets called mandapikas or mandis, in hattas or haats, and also in special streets for various artisans. Traders undertook dangerous journeys across towns to carry out their business. They sold articles such as salt, camphor, saffron and betel nut, and spices like pepper. Some even traded horses.
Trading towns became wealthy places, therefore, to protect these towns, a samanta or, a zamindar would fortify them by building walls. Along with protecting these towns, the zamindars also levied taxes on traders, artisans and articles of trade.
Traders had to pass through many kingdoms and forests to conduct their trade. They formed guilds in order to protect their interests.
There were several such guilds in South India from the 8th century onwards, the most famous being the Manigramam and the Nanadesi. The Chettiars and the Marwari Oswal went on to become the principal trading groups of the country.
In Gujarat, Hindu Baniyas and Muslim Bohras traded extensively with the ports of the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, East Africa, south-east Asia and China. Traders sold textiles and spices to European traders at sea ports. The demand for spices and cotton cloth eventually drew European traders to India.
While the big traders carried out trade across the country or even with foreigners, there were small traders, who continued to trade in their towns. These small traders were quite famous for their crafts and their work was greatly valued.
The craftspersons of Bidar were so famous for their inlay work in copper and silver that the work was named after their town and came to be called Bidri. The Panchala or Vishwakarma community was essential to temple building. These craftspersons consisted of goldsmiths, bronze-smiths, blacksmiths, masons and carpenters. Over time, trade towns came up and shrank throughout India.