construction of temples, but also lent money to the kings. Thus, the rulers did
their best to accommodate the guilds because of the benefit which they
derived from their trade. Due to their international connections, the troops
they employed and the immunities they enjoyed, such guilds almost
constituted a state within the state.
     Among the most powerful guilds were the Ayyavole and the
Manigramam. The Ayyavole, derived from the name of a former capital of
the Chalukyas, Aihole, dominated the trade of the Deccan, whereas the
Manigramam was based in Tamil Nadu. The international connections of the
Ayyavole extended to West Asia, while the Manigramam concentrated on
trade with South-East Asia. The inscription at Takuapa (on the Isthmus of
Siam), belonging to the middle of the ninth century, mentions this latter guild
(Manigramam) specifically, while the Tamil inscription of 1088 found in
Sumatra was also produced by a guild from Tamil Nadu. But there was no
strict division of the spheres of trade between these guilds. Thus, for
example, a nanadesi trader from the Malabar coast (Malaimandalam)
established a nanadesi-vinnagar temple, devoted to Vishnu, at Pagan in
Burma in the 13th century.
     In the trade with West Asia, the traders of the south-west coast of India
obviously had some advantages. Ethnic connections were helpful in this
respect too. Arab and Jewish merchants who settled on the Indian south-west
coast corresponded with their colleagues even in far off Cairo. Letters and
papers found in an old synagogue of Cairo give ample evidence of the
intimate contacts which the medieval merchants of Cairo had with those of
south India. The respect which the Jewish traders enjoyed in south India is
shown by a royal grant inscribed on copper plate in favour of one Issuppu
Irappan (Joseph Raban). He obtained princely privileges, exemption from all
taxes and the grant of the revenue of a traders’ quarter of the port of
Cranganore on the Malabar coast.
     The imperial Cholas tried to enhance their maritime strength by gaining
control over all strategically important coastlines. They captured the
southwest coast of India and almost the entire Indian east coast up to the
mouth of the Ganges. They also seized the Maldives, Sri Lanka and the
Andamans. In keeping with this line of policy, they finally took on Sri