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Ancient and medievalcharacteristics
Though ancient India had a significant urbanpopulation, much of India's population resided invillages, whose economy was largely isolated andself-sustaining. Agriculture was the predominantoccupation of the populace and satisfied a village's foodrequirements besides providing raw materials for handbased industries like textile, food processing and crafts.Besides farmers, other classes of people were barbers,carpenters, doctors (Ayurvedic practitioners),goldsmiths, weavers etc.
Religion, especially Hinduism, played an influential rolein shaping economic activities. The Indian caste systemcastes and sub-castes functioned much like medievalEuropean guilds, ensuring division of labour andprovided for training of apprentices. The caste systemrestricted people from changing one's occupation andaspiring to an upper caste's lifestyle. Thus, a barber could not become a goldsmith and even a highly skilledcarpenter could not aspire to the lifestyle or privilegesenjoyed by a Kshatriya (person from a warrior class).This barrier to mobility on labour restricted economicprosperity to a few castes.
Pilgrimage towns like Allahabad, Benares, Nasik andPuri, mostly centred around rivers, developed intocentres of trade and commerce. Religious functions,festivals and the practice of taking a pilgrimage resultedin a flourishing
In the joint family system, members of a family pooled their resources to maintain the family and invest inbusiness ventures. The system ensured younger members were trained and employed in the family business andthe older and disabled persons would be supported by the family. The system, by preventing the agricultural landfrom being split ensured higher yield because of the benefits of scale. The system curbed members from takinginitiative because of the support system and family or work.
Along with the family-run business and individually owned business enterprises, ancient India possessed anumber of other forms of engaging in business or collective activity, including the gana, pani, puga, vrata,sangha, nigama and sreni. Nigama, pani and sreni refer most often to economic organizations of merchants,
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