The most important feature of the post-Mauryan period was the growth of trade and commerce, both internally as well as externally.
There were two major internal land routes in ancient India.
First, known as Uttarapatha, connected northern and eastern parts of India with the northwestern fringes, i.e., present-day Pakistan and further beyond.
Second, known as Dakshinapatha, connected peninsular India with the western and northern parts of India.
The Dakshinapatha was the major route that connected the north and south India.
It started from Kaushambi near Allahabad and running through Ujjaiyini (modern Ujjain) extended further up to Bhrigukaccha or Broach, an important port on the western coast.
The Dakshinapatha was further connected with Pratishthana (modern Paithan), the capital of the Satavahanas.
As regards external trade routes, after the discovery of monsoons by Hippatus a Greek navigator in 45 AD, more and more sea voyages were used for trading purposes.
Important ports of India on the western coast were (from north to south direction) Bharukachchha, Sopara, Kalyana, Muziris, etc.
Ships from these ports sailed to the Roman Empire through the Red Sea.
Trade with southeast Asia was conducted through the sea.
Prominent ports on the eastern coast of India were Tamralipti (West Bengal), Arikamedu (Tamil Nadu Coast) etc.
Sea trade was also conducted between Bharukachchha and the ports of Southeast Asia.
An important feature of the commercial activities in the post-Mauryan period was the thriving trade between India and the West, where the Roman empire was at its height.
Main requirements of the Romans were the Indian products such as spices, perfumes, jewels, ivory and fine textiles, i.e. muslin.
The spice trade with the Roman empire was largely based in south India.
Against this import Romans exported gold and silver to India.
Crafts production started growing in this period.
Trade and commerce, both internal and foreign, was dependent to a great extent on the craft activities.
Ujjain was a prominent bead making centre.
Mathura and Vanga (East Bengal) were famous for the variety of cotton and silk textiles.
The communities of merchants were organized in groups known as Shreni or guilds under the head called sreshthi.
Another type of mercantile group was called sartha which signified mobile or caravan trading corporation of interregional traders.
The leader of such a guild was called sarthavaha.
Like merchants almost all craft vocations were also organized into guilds, each under a headman called Jyestha.
Guilds also served as banks and received deposits from the public on a fixed rate of interest.
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