century AD the problem of obtaining silk from the East may have been finally
solved for the Byzantine empire. This adversely affected Indian foreign trade,
which as far as north India is concerned was confined to silk. Evidently the
stoppage of its export to the Byzantine empire drastically reduced whatever
remained of the shrunken foreign commerce of north-western India in Gupta
times. Hence, so long as some new articles did not take the place of silk there
was no means to restore the balance, and retrogression in foreign trade was
inevitable. The decline of foreign trade may also have been caused by the
expansion of the Arabs under the banner of Islam. The agitated state of
Western Asia, Egypt and Eastern Europe, at least in the initial stages of the
Arab conquests, was bound to tell upon India’s foreign trade with the
countries lying to the west. Only when the Arabs had settled down as rulers
in these countries and Sind, did trade revive from the third century of the
hijra era (i.e. 9th century AD). But meanwhile there was nothing to arrest its
decline. Thus we have clear indications of the decline of foreign trade of
north-western India from the end of the Gupta period, and especially from the
first half of the seventh century AD.
     Whatever internal trade and commerce existed had to be fitted into the
emerging feudal structure. This is evident from the detailed rules laid down in
the lawbooks regarding the functioning of the guilds of artisans and
merchants. It is symptomatic of the declining central authority that the king is
required not only to observe the laws of the guilds but also to enforce them.
What actually prevailed can be inferred from three charters granted to the
guilds of merchants by the rulers of the coastal areas of western India. The
first charter was issued at the end of the sixth century AD, while both the
second and third charters were issued at the beginning of the eighth century
AD by Bhagasakti, the Chalukya king of the Konkan area.
     On the basis of these three charters, we can make the following comments
about the condition of merchants and their guilds in the post-Gupta period.
     The charters were made to the merchants among whom a few were
elevated to the position of managers of the endowment or the town as the
case might be.
     They tied down the merchants to the management of villages, which in
one case were attached to a temple and in another to the rehabilitated town.
The merchants enjoyed practically        the same immunities and privileges as