Even before the rise of the Atlantic system, the Indian Ocean basin thrived as a religious and commercial crossroads, powered by the annual monsoon wind cycle. India was at the center of this trading system, and gunpowder-fueled empires both on land and at sea began to bring change. From the original port towns and trading centers to the empires of Vijayanagara and the Mughals, the vast majority of people were peasant farmers, and the armed conflicts that disrupted everyday life usually meant a rise in tribute demands for most ordinary people. As the Europeans brought silver and Christianity into the basin, and forcibly took over key ports, and the Mughals brought gunpowder and Islam, they were forced to deal with different religious traditions to make a profit; thus many inhabitants did not convert, and religious tolerance remained the rule. As European interlopers arrived in larger numbers, they adapted to local cultures when force was impractical. But with the decline of the great land empires, Europeans also began to alter established ways of life. Expansion into the interior by the Dutch VOC and English EIC would grow into full-blown imperialism in the nineteenth century, but a few outliers, such as the Sultanate of Aceh, examined in the Counterpoint of this chapter, managed to hold out, if only for the time being.