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.