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Surat in the Seventeenth Century

Journal of The Economic and Social History of The Orient - J ECON SOC HIST ORIENT 01/1982; 25(3). DOI: 10.2307/3632193
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    ABSTRACT: At the beginning of the seventeenth century there were three prominent commupities of Indian traders involved in the international market: the Muslims of the seaboard, the Chettis of the Coromandel coast, and the Bapiyis ~ of Gujarat (see Moreland 1962: 229). As the European presence increased in western India, it was primarily the Baniyi community through whom important dealings took place when non-indian traders negotiated with the Mughal government for a profitable position in the new economy. The social and religious placement of the BaniyAs was somewhat usual, however, for, while normally situated in the Vai~ya caste, this group could have either Hindu or Jaina affiliation; in either ease, however, Jaina ideology played an important role in defining the group's ethical and religious values. Focusing on the early Mughal periods of Akbar (r. 1556--1605) and JahS.ngir (r. 1605-27) when serious European trade of the modem period was just beginping, and limiting our study to contemporary European travel and trade literatures of the Gujarat and Arabian Sea port areas, we will examine the influence ~vetSmbara Jainas and especially their doctrine may have had on the early dynamics of this trade. B. Gokhale (1962, 1964, 1979) and I. Watson (1980), for example, have already detailed the role of the Bapiya broker in the early mercantile community of western India; what remains unclear are the religious dimensions of the Baniy.~ role and the ways in which European traders may have made financially beneficial ideological associations and linkages with ~vetSmbara Jaipism, prominent in the western Indian areas of Gujarat, Rajasthan, and the Punjab since the fifth century CE. Early European traders had clear and definite ideas about who the Baniy~s were. Dating at least as far back as 1516 (Yule and Burnell 1985: 63), references to Baniy~s uniformly identified them as traders, merchants, brokers, peddlers (Lord 1630: 83; Withington 1921: 212), or grain dealers (Berpier 1968: 152n),
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