1. Trade reached its peak during the Gupta period. The annexation of the territory of the Satraps brought areas of exceptional wealth and fertility into the ordit of the empire. The State gathered abundant revenues in the form of custom duties at the numerous ports on the western coast like Broach Sopara, Cambay and a multitude center where most of the trade routes converged. The city of Jjjain is even now regarded as one of the seven sacred Hindu cities, slightly lower than that of Benaras in sanctity. The favoured position of the city made a succession of rulers embellish the city with various religious establishments.
2. Guilds continued to be the nodal points of commercial activity. They were almost autonomous in their internal organization. The government respected their laws. The laws governing the guilds were made by a corporation of guilds in which each guild had a member. The corporation elected a body of advisers who functioned as its functionaries. Some industrial guilds like that of the silk weavers had their own separate corporations. It is also interesting to observe that the Buddhist Sangha was rich enough to participate in commercial activities. At places the Sangha acted as the banker and lent money on interest. This was in addition to their returns from land. They too took one sixth of the produce just as the State.
The rate of interest varied. Very high rates of interest were no longer charged for overseas trade showing that there was increased confidence in that form of trade. Generally the rate was 20 per cent as against 240 of the earlier period. This lowering of the interest rate also reveals abundance of goods and conquest decrease in rate of profit.
3. Textiles of various kinds were manufactured. The domestic market was considerable. They had also markets in foreign countries. Silk muslim calico, Linen, wool and cotton were produced in great quantities. Western Indian was known for silk weaving. By the end of the Gupta period there was an eclipse of this industry. Possibly the in creasing use of the central Asian route and the sea-routeut China might have caused this eclipse.
However, ivory work remained at its peak and did stone-cutting and carving. In metal-work copper the chief items of production were those of copper, iron and lead. Bronze also began to be used. The pearl-fishers of western India reaped huge profits in foreign markets. A great variety of precious stones like jasper, agate quartz and lapis-lazuli were exported. Pottery indeed remained the most important part of industrial production although the earlier elegant black polished were was no longer produced.
For carrying goods pack animals and ox-drawn carts were used. In certain areas elephants were used for transport. The Ganges, Yamuna, Narbada, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri were the maij waterways.
There was some change in the items of trade as compared to the preceding period. Chinese silk was imported in great quantities. So was ivory from Ethiopia. The import of horses from Arabia. Iran and Bactria increased during this period.
Regarding over-seas trade ships regularly crossed to Arabian Sea the Indian Ocean and the China Seas. Indian trade contacts with East Africa were continued.
It is strange to observe that in the period when commercial activity was at its apex the law-makers declared travel by sea a taboo and a great sin. Ritual purity became an obsession with both brahmins and upper castes. It was held that travel to distant lands would lead to contamination with the mlechhas (impure and non-caste people). Thapar observes that this ban had an indirect advantage to the Brahmin in the sense that it curbed the economic power of trading community.
4. It is generally held that the peoples standard of living was very high. The prosperous urban dwellers lived in comfort and ease. Indeed there was a wide variation in the pattern of living. Out-castes were made to live on the out skirts of towns. Also there was no change in the standard of living of villagers as known from the accounts of foreign travelers.
The daily life of a comfortably well-off citizen in towns is described in the Kamasutra. The citizen led a gentle existence devoted to various refinements of life. in social gatherings poetic recitations and compositions were heard. Music was another necessary accomplishment particularly the Playing of veena. The sophisticated townee has to be trained in the art of love and for this purpose the Kamasutra and other books of the same kind were written. It is also said that the courtesan was a normal feature of urban life. According to the Kamasutra the occupation of a courtesan was very demanding profession. "She was often called upon to be a cultured companion like the geisha of Japan or the haetaere of Greec".