During the Gupta period agriculture formed a significant part of the empire’s economy. However, the trade and commerce activities of the Gupta Empire grew steadily. The merchant and other traders were organized into guilds. These guilds were given concessions in the taxes that were liable to be paid to the government.
The guilds played a chief role in the goods industry and also helped to further strengthen the economic condition of the empire. The guilds had regulated their own laws and all the member merchants were expected to abide by these laws.
At the time of the Gupta dynasty rule kings gave land grants to the Buddhist church. The church or the sangha took up the role of a banker and provided monetary support on interest to those in need. During this period, borrowing money was less expensive as compared to the Mauryan Empire. There was no fixed rate of interest since there was none prescribed by the government.
However, the rate of interest could be more than the existing one only when it was so agreed by both the parties involved. The easy accessibility of money to those in need and that to at a reasonable rate was a positive factor which helped the economy of the Gupta Empire to progress.
There was industrial development during the Gupta period. The textile industry was an essential industry of this empire. Some of the major items of produce included silk, muslin, calico, linen, wool and cotton. These goods were also exported.
There were other flourishing industries of the Gupta empire like ivory work, stone cutting and carving of stones like jasper, agate, quartz, carnelian, lapis- lazuli, etc; metal work of precious metals like gold, silver, copper, iron, bronze, lead, etc. Pearl industry was also very popular. However, the most important industry was pottery.
Trading activities within the empire were carried out very smoothly and efficiently. Animals were used for transporting goods from one place to another. Goods were also transported via sea- route with the help of ships. The Gupta rulers issued large number of gold coins. These gold coins were known as dinars.
After the Saka- Kshatrapa kingdom of Gujarat was invaded, the Gupta rulers also issued silver coins. During the reign of the Gupta dynasty, lead and rare copper coins were also issued. Gupta Empire carried out trade with China, Ceylon and other European countries.
After around 550 AD, trading activities with the Roman Empire were relaxed. The Guptas imported Chinese silk and ivory from East Africa. During this time, South- East Asia became a trade centre for the Gupta Empire.