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Kerala PSC Indian History Book Study Materials Page 277Book's First Page
are very rare. This may be partly due to the fact that the early historic people made extensive use of wood for building, and partly because neither political nor religious authority was powerful or resourceful enough for prestige buildings during this period. There is also no sign of a citadel or acropolis distinct from the residential area, a feature so characteristic of the Harappan towns. The absence of large-scale warehouses or granaries in the towns again suggests that political authority was still relatively decentralised. The grahapatis have their own granaries, but state granaries are referred to only in the Mauryan period. Rise of Traders and their Activities Origin of Merchants The rise of the city as a commercial centre, besides being a political centre, is related closely to the emergence of traders and merchants. It is from the ranks of the grahapatis that the merchant classes originated. In the Dharma-sutras, the association of trade is with the vaishyas, whose source of wealth is listed as the triple occupation of cattle- rearing, agriculture and trade. But, not all vaishyas would have the surplus wealth to invest in trade and many would have continued to be cattle breeders and agriculturalists. The Grihya-sutras prescribe the rites to be performed for success in trade, the panyasiddhi. Occasionally, there is also mention of some kshatriyas taking to trade and generally, it is the younger sons. Social Respectability In spite of the disapproval of trade as an occupation for the upper two varnas, in much of brahmanical literature, the trading class claimed considerable respect from society. This is evident from the word used for the trader, sreshthin and its Pali form, setthi, meaning, ‘a person having the best’. Sreshthin is used in a general sense, in the later Vedic texts, but it acquires a specific meaning in the Pali texts. Types of Traders A distinction is made between the shopkeeper (papanika), the retailer (kraya-vikrayika), the money-investor (vasnika), the small-scale trader (vanija), and the setthi-gahapati. The latter was essentially the banker or the investor interested in investing money and not involved in the actual production or transportation of commodities. His activities grew with the use of coined money, the evidence for which is available from the punch-marked coins found at various sites of this period.