Ancient Indian Economy
Most people in ancient India, as in other parts of Asia and Europe at this time, were farmers. In India, farmers mainly grew wheat and rice, and cotton for cloth. On the coast, people produced salt in big evaporation flats.
However, there have always been a lot of Indians involved in trade too, because India is between China and West Asia and Europe. From the Harappan period on, Indian people were selling West Asian things like gold to people in China, and Chinese things like silk and pottery to people in West Asia.
Traders in India also sold Indian things to both China and West Asia, especially cotton cloth and spices like cinnamon and pepper. All this trade made India a very rich country. But because the trade mainly went through northern India, the north part of India was usually richer than the south part.
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After a while, people began to trade using ships on the ocean, which could carry more stuff more easily and safely than donkeys or camels could on land. This was good for South India, because some of the ships went to ports in the south, or sailed right around the south of India.
To find out more about the ancient Indian economy, check out these books from your local library or from Amazon:
Arab Seafaring: In the Indian Ocean in Ancient and Early Medieval Times, by George Hourani and John Carswell (2002). For adults, a time-tested account of trade between India and the Arabian Peninsula.
Land of Milk and Honey: Travels in the History of Indian Food, by Chitrita Banerji (2002). Not a cookbook, but a discussion of food in India, for grown-ups.
Eyewitness India, by Manini Chatterjee (2002). Written for kids.
Ancient India, by Virginia Schomp (2005). Written for middle schoolers. Very good for reports.