Part of the International conference on Maharashtra in September 2021 - Neelambari Bharat Jagtap, Shivaji University, Kolhapur
Western Indian ports and towns played a dominant part in promoting trade and commerce since the early centuries of the Christian era. Many ports and towns dotted the coastline and the interior, between which developed a wide net-work of road-routes and inland waterways; these towns greatly expanded their commercial and industrial activity from the first century B.C. In this context of trading world in the Arabian Sea includes the ports and towns along the Mediterranean, Greece and Rome, and the coast of Egypt and Arabia.
We do see power contestations and the lure of the commercial wealth of Konkan. The Nizamshaji of Ahmadnagar controlled in North Konkon, with frequently changing control due to their confrontation with Mughals. The South Konkan, was under Bijapur sway until the 1640‟s when Shivaji, the Maratha King1 began to take control of this region. It was in such a complex political situation that the Europeans were forced to man oeuvre. They made their ways in the Indian commodity trade in particular and in intra-Asian trade in general, as can be seen by checking the course of trade in the Konkan coastal ports such as Vasai, Thane, Chaul, Dabhol, Rajapur, Vengurla and Karwar.
The Europeans looked at the Konkan ports, basically as economic hinterlands. But these ports also constituted as political hinterlands. Hence, one finds these Europeans looking for ports where they could carry out trade and ports where the native political control could be negotiated for trading concessions.
However at the same time the hinterland powers were scared of losing power over these ports, therefore we find constant attempts to put restrictions on the Europeans. The necessity of administration and military setup in these ports in order to impose control. Hence there is an expansion in these units, which meant that the size of the towns expanded with its commercial networks. For example, Shivaji tried to do this in 1659 at Rajapur and later the Angres in the 18th century. The economic focus of the Europeans shifts from one port to another, and then we find a change in the fortunes of 1 the port and it find the alternative to continue the old trade, for example with the decline of Surat and Dabhol trade, we find Rajapur Karwar as upcoming ports. Another aspect of this circulation of commercial interest was also trading world of Arabian sea that necessitated a formation of alternative economic zones and networks and Konkan Coast becomes an accurate example of this. Thus European dominance in the Konkan responded in major shift in patterns of its port markets and patterns of hinterland commercial networks. The other point to create strong holds on Indian subcontinent was the Indian and Indonesian trade being complementary to each other‟s if not mutually exclusive. Many new factories were also opened on the east coast of India to obtain cloth for Indonesia when great famine had affected Surat in 1640‟s. On the other hand, some of the commodities available in the mainland factories such as calicoes, indigo, silk, saltpeter and sugar found an expanding market in England. This could have been secured only with the strong hinterland networks with safe outlets in form of ports.
Such kind of trading policy and network of Intra Asian Trade is found in 17th century and to fulfill these needs one find English establishing strong hold on Indian subcontinent despite confusing and not so secure political support or conditions prevailed in India at time. However this certainly gave boost to development of new ports, market towns and commercial networks. At the end of the 17th century, figure of trade from Asia stood at as much as 95 percent.
Thus this paper will study the port hinterland Dynamics with case study of Rajapur, Chaul, Dabhol, Thane and Karwar. Will unfold the various aspects of trade, circulation of commodities that brought Transition in urban patterns in Deccan and Konkan towns in 17th & 18th Century.