BHARAT's shipping:Maritime activity of the Indians from the earliest times


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Thread in progress adapted from multiple sources.

Prof. K.S. Behera's article "Ancient Orissa/Kalinga and Indonesia: The Maritime Contacts", in H.C. Das (ed.), Cultural Heritage of Orissa, Cuttack, Institute of Oriental and Orissan Studies, 1993, pp. 247- 56.

R.C. Majumdar, Hindu Colonies in the Far East, Calcutta 1944

G. Coedes, The Indianised States of South-East Asia (various editions)

S. Chandra (ed.), The Indian Ocean: Explorations in History, Commerce and Politics, New Delhi 1987

H.B. Sarkar, Cultural Relations between India and South East Asian Countries, New Delhi 1993

Miriam Stark, "Early Mainland Southeast Asian Landscapes in the First Millennium A.D." Annual Review of Anthropology, Volume 35 2006).


"The world's earliest known dockyard. The canal was artificially constructed to handle berth and service ships from Egypt and Mesopotamia. The dockyard has an area of 37×22 meters in Lothal Gujarat reconstructed.


Bharatiya ports were established in 2334 bce.




Ancient Ports of our BHARATVARSH



Roman trade with our BHARAT according to the Periplus Maris Erythraei

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Varuna has a full knowledge of the sea routes (RV 1.25.7)


Introduction on Indian Shipping from earliest times.

Indirect Evidences: References and to the Indian Maritime Activity in BHARAT's literature.

"merchant shipping was very active in India and had, even since Roman times, linked the Mediterranean world to China with great vessels (nava) of which the Indian king owned a fleet, though most of them belonged to wealthy individuals."

: Daily Life in Ancient India - Daily Life in Ancient India: From Approximately 200 Bc to Ad 700


The oldest evidence on record is supplied by the Rig Veda, which contains several references to sea voyages undertaken for commercial purposes.




The Ramayana also contains passages which indicate the intercourse between India and distant lands by the way of the sea. In the Kishkindha Kandam, Sugriva, the Lord of the Monkeys, in giving directions to monkey leaders for the quest of Sita, mentions, all possible places where Ravana could have concealed her. In one passage he asks them to go to the cities and mountains in the islands of the sea, in another the land of the Koshakarsa, is mentioned as the likely place of Sita's concealment, which is generally interpreted to be no other country than China (or the land where grows the worm which yields the threads of silken clothes); a third passage refers to the Yava and Dvipa and Suvarna Dvipa, which are usually identified with the islands of Java and Sumatra of the Malaya Archipelago; while the fourth passage alludes to the Lohita Sagara or the red sea. In Ayodhya Kandam there is even a passage which hints at preparation for a naval fight, thus indirectly indicating thorough knowledge and universal use of waterway. The Ramayana also mentions merchants who trafficked beyond the sea and were in the habit of bringing presents to the king.

In The Mahabharata the accounts of the Rajasuya sacrifice and the Digvijaya of Arjuna and Nakula mention various countries outside India with which she had intercourse. There is a passage in its Sabha Parva which states how Sahadeva, the youngest brother of the five Pandavas, went to the several islands in the sea and conquered the Mlechchha inhabitants thereof. the well known story of the churning of the ocean, in the Mahabharata, in the boldness of its conception is not without significance. In the Drona Parva there is a passage alluding to shipwrecked sailors who "are safe if they get to an island." In the same Parva there is another passage in which there is a reference to a "tempest-tossed and damaged vessel in a wide ocean." In the Karna Parva we find the soldiers of the Kauravas bewildered like the merchants "whose ships have come to grief in the midst of the unfathomable deep." There is another sholka in the same Parva which describes how the sons of Draupadi rescued their maternal uncles by supplying them with chariots, "as the shipwrecked merchants are rescued by means of boats." In the Santi Parva the salvation attained by means of Karna and true knowledge is compared to the gain which a merchant derives from sea-borne trade. But the most interesting passage in the Mahabharata is that which refers to the escape of the Pandava brothers from the destruction planned for them in a ship that was secretly and especially constructed for the purpose under the orders of the kind-hearted Vidura. The ship was a large size, provided with machinery and all kinds of weapons of war, and able to defy storms and waves.

But besides the epics, the vast mass of Sutra literature also is not without evidence pointing to the commercial connection of India with foreign countries by way of the sea. That these evidences are sufficiently convincing will probably be apparent from the following remarks of the well-known German authority, the late

Professor Buhler: "References to sea voyages are also found in two of the most ancient Dharam Sutras.


The Puranas also furnish references to merchants engaged in sea-borne trade. The Varaha Purana mentions a childless merchant named Gokarna who embarked on a voyage for trading purposes but was overtaken by a storm on the sea and nearly shipwrecked. The same Purana contains a passage which relates how a merchant embarked on a voyage in a sea-going vessel in quest of pearls with people who knew all about them.

But besides the religious works like the Vedas, the Epics, and the Sutras and Puranas, the secular works of Sanskrit poets and writers are also full of references to the use of the sea as the highway of commerce, to voyages, and naval fights. Thus in Kalidasa Raghuvamsa (canto 4, sloka 36) we find the defeat by Raghu of a strong naval force with which the kings of Bengal attacked him, and his planting the pillars of victory on the isles formed in the midst of the river Ganges. The Shakuntala also relates the story of a merchant named Dhanavriddhi whose immense wealth devolved to the king of the former's perishing at sea and leaving no heirs behind him. In Sakuntala, we learn of the importance attached to commerce, where it is stated: "that a a merchant named Dhanvriddhi, who had extensive commerce had been lost at sea and had left a fortune of many millions." In Nala and Damyanti, too, we meet with similar incidents.

The Sisupalavadha of the poet Magha contains an interesting passage which mentions how Sri Krishna, while going from Dvaraka to Hastinapura, beholds merchants coming from foreign countries in ships laden with merchandise and again exporting abroad Indian goods.

The expansion of Indian culture and influence both towards Central Asia and the south-east towards the countries and islands of the Pacific is one of the momentous factors of the period immediately preceding the Christian era. From the first century A.D. a systematic policy of expansion led to the establishment of Hindu kingdoms in Annam, Cochin-China, and the islands of the Pacific. The Ramayana knew of Java and Sumatra. Communication by sea between the ports of south India and the islands of the Pacific was well established many centuries before the Christian era. The discovery and colonization of Sumatra, Java and Borneo were the results of oceanic navigation.



The reaction of this overseas activity on India was very considerable. An explanation of the immense wealth of the merchants who made such munificent endowments as witnessed by the inscriptions in the temples of the Satvahana period lies in the great overseas trade.

Tamil literature of the first centuries, especially Silappadikaram and Manimekhalai also testify to this great overseas trade while in Kalidasa we have the allusion to ships laden with spices from distant lands lying in Kalinga ports.


Buddhist literature of our BHARAT




The conclusions regarding the state of Indian trade to which these various hints in the Jātakas point may be thus summed up in the words of Mrs. Rhys Davids:—

Communication both inland and foreign was of course effected by caravans and water. The caravans are described as consisting of five hundred carts drawn by oxen. They go both east and west from Benares and Patna as centres. The objective was probably the ports on the west coast, those on the sea-board of Sobira (the Sophir (Ophir) of the Septuagint) in the Gulf of Cutch or Bharukaccha. From here there was interchange by sea with Baveru (Babylon) and probably Arabia, Phoenicia, and Egypt. . . . Westward merchants are often mentioned as taking ships from Benares, or lower down at Champa, dropping down the great river, and either coasting to Ceylon or adventuring many days without sight of land to Suvannabhumi (Chryse Chersonesus, or possibly inclusive of all the coast of Farther India)

Economic Journal and J.R.A.S. for 1901.

To be continued.


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The epochs of the Indian history round which these various evidences regarding the shipping and maritime activity of India will be grouped, may be roughly indicated as follows:—

1) The Pre-Mauryan Epoch, extending from the earliest times to about the year B.C. 321

2)The Mauryan Epoch (B.C. 321-184).—For this period the available evidences are those preserved in the works of many Greek and Roman authors who essayed to tell the story of Alexander's Indian campaign and recorded the observations made on India by the Greek ambassadors to the courts of the Maurya emperors. These Greek and Roman notices of India have been mostly made accessible to Indian students by the translations of Mr. McCrindle. More important and interesting than these foreign evidences is the evidence furnished by a recently published Sanskrit work, the Arthaśāstra of Kautilya, which is a mine of information regarding the manifold aspects of a highly developed material civilization witnessed by Maurya India.

3)The Kushan Period in the north and the Andhra Period in the south, extending roughly from the 2nd century B.C. to the 3rd century A.D.—This was the period when Roman influence on India was at its height; in fact, the whole of the southern peninsula under the Andhra dynasty was in direct communication with Rome, while the conquests in Northern India tended still further to open up trade with the Roman Empire, so that Roman gold poured into all parts of India in payment for her silks, spices, gems, and dye-stuffs. The evidences proving this are the remarkable finds of Roman coins, more numerous in the south than in the north, together with the references in the ancient Sanskrit and Pali works to "Romaka," or the city of Rome, and in ancient Tamil works to the "Yavanas" or Greeks and Romans, and to the important South Indian ports like Muchiris and Pukar, of which full descriptions are given in old Tamil poems. Besides evidences from ancient Indian literature bearing on Indian commerce with Rome, there are also definite evidences from important foreign works. The chief of these are Pliny's Natural History, the Peripius of the Erythraean Sea, and Ptolemy's Geography, besides the incidental allusions to Indian commerce and shipping thrown out by writers like Agatharcides and Strabo.

4)The Period of Hindu Imperialism in Northern India under the Guptas and Harshavardhana, extending from the 4th century to the 7th century A.D.—This was the period of the expansion of India and of much colonizing activity towards the farther East from Bengal, the Kalinga coast, and Coromandel. Parts of Burma and Malacca were colonized, chiefly from Kalinga and Bengal, as shown in Sir A. P. Phayre's History of Burma, and testified to by Burmese sacred scriptures and coins. The main evidences for the remarkable maritime activity of this period are supplied by the accounts of the numerous Chinese pilgrims to India, of whom Fa-Hien was the first and Hiuen Tsang the most famous. These accounts are now all accessible through translations. Among foreign works supplying valuable materials for the history of the period may be mentioned the Christian Topography of Cosmas. Some very valuable evidences regarding the early commerce between India and China are furnished by Chinese annals like the Kwai-Yuen Catalogue of the Chinese Tripitaka. Yule's Cathay and the Way Thither also has recorded many facts relating to the Indian intercourse with China. For the reign of Harsha the most important source of information is the Travels of Hiuen Tsang, that "treasure-house of accurate information, indispensable to every student of Indian antiquity, which has done more than any archaeological discovery to render possible the remarkable resuscitation of lost Indian history which has recently been effected."

5)The Period of Hindu Imperialism in Southern India and the rise of the Cholas, extending from the middle of the 7th century up to the Mahomedan conquests in Northern India.—During this period Indian maritime intercourse was equally active with both the West and the East. The colonization of Java was completed, and the great temple of Borobudur remained a standing monument of the hold which Buddhism had on that island. The field of Indian maritime enterprise was extended as far as Japan, which is testified to by Japanese tradition and official annals made accessible through the efforts of Japanese scholars like Dr. Taka-kusu. The record of I-Tsing, the famous Chinese traveller, contains many interesting details regarding Indian maritime activity in the Eastern waters and intercourse with China in the latter half of the 7th century. Chinese annals also furnish evidences regarding the maritime intercourse of the Cholas with China, e.g. the Sung-shih.

6)The period from 1100 ad onwards -

Al Biruni is our authority for the 11th century and Al idrisi for the 1200 ad. In the 13th century a very valuable source of information regarding Indian shipping and commerce is furnished by a foreign traveller, the Venetian Marco Polo. Nicolo Conti, and Hieronimo di Santo Stefano, who are also valuable sources of information regarding the shipping and trade of the period. In the earlier part of the 16th century, when the Portuguese first appear as a factor in Indian politics, details regarding Indian maritime activity are derivable from Portuguese annals like De Coutto, utilized in some of the standard works on the history of the Portuguese power in India. About the same time the foreign traveller Varthema has left a very interesting account of shipbuilding in Calicut. Marathas especially and Parsi ship builders to be discussed.


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A conceptual illustration of the Indian magnetic compass used by Hindu mariners in the 1-2nd centuries ce. The Indian compass was called the "MATSYAYANTRA" (fish-machine) as it consisted of an iron fish floating in a vessel of oil, pointing towards north.


TheMatsya-yantra was an independent invention of the magnetic compass in India, the physical principles of magnetism were well know to the Hindus centuries before.


Kalidasa in his ~ 4th century Kumarasambhava makes a pun by using the principles of magnetism. “As a magnet draws iron to it, with the beauty of Umā you must try to attract Śiva’s mind which now is motionless in trance.” (KS 2.59)


The word used for "magnet" here is अयस्कान्त which means literally "lover of iron"

However, the existence of magnetism was known to the Hindus at least 800 years before Kalidasa lived. Maharishi Kanada in ~500 bce (one of the first physicists in the world) describes an unseen force (adṛṣta) that attracts needles to loadstones (magnetite).


It is also very well known that Maharaja Bhoja specifically said that iron shouldn't be used in holding or joining planks of bottoms of sea-going vessels. The reason was simple, for fear the iron on the ship's bottom may attract magnetic rocks on the ocean floor.

Bhoja says this in his Yukti-kalpatru. He says the iron at the bottom of the ship will attract other iron and because of this the ship may fall apart in the water (विपद्यते तेन जलेषु नौका)



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Monsoon as maritime destiny:

We do learn one big thing from the Periplus that as early as the first century CE, India was part of an interconnected global network. And as much as it was part of the old it was also a cosmopolitan, multi-lingual, dynamic world. For centuries before the European trading companies “discovered” it, the Indian Ocean was place where merchants without navies ruled the high seas. And trade without colonialism flourished.
In a period prior to modern navigation and ships, the monsoon integrated a world of trade across the Indian Ocean. The fact that it depended on the vagaries of

the weather did not mean this trade was marginal. India’s location at the centre of this oceanic

geography facilitated its rise as the fulcrum of world trade and economy. This sophisticated, wide ranging commerce, played a key role in the subcontinent. India at the time and for centuries later accounted for, according to some estimates, nearly a fifh of the world’s Gdp.



One of the earliest written accounts of this complex network of trade is the Greek text,
Periplus Maris Erythraei or the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (read it online here). This remarkable handbook was written sometime in the middle of the first century CE and was meant for Greek merchants trading between Egypt, East Africa, southern Arabia and India.

The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea primarily focuses on two trade routes originating at Egyptian ports: one, on the East African coast as far as Tanzania, and the other via the Arabian peninsula and Persian Gulf to western India.

The author writes in detail of numerous cities, ports and harbours on these routes but India’s western coast, from Karachi down to Kanyakumari on the southernmost tip, accounts for nearly half the narrative.Literally, Erythraean Sea means “red sea” but this is not a reference to the waterbody we know as the Red Sea today. For ancient Greek and Roman geographers, the Erythraean Sea incorporated the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the western Indian Ocean.

The text of the Periplus survives in the form of a 10th-century manuscript preserved in Heidelberg, a copy of which is also housed at the British Museum. Written over 1,900 years ago and more than 1,400 years before Vasco da Gama “discovered” the trade route to India, the Periplus is a window into the diverse world of the Indian Ocean. Lionel Casson, scholar of the Periplus and also its most recent translator, has noted that other periploi, an ancient genre of manuals, from the time are primarily guides for seamen containing navigational information.

In contrast, according to Casson, the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea is a guide for merchants emphasising knowledge of trade and products that could be bought and sold on each port something akin to a modern shoppers’ guide.

The descriptions of the places on these oceanic routes are colourful and the reporting style is direct and detailed giving the impression that the author, an Egyptian Greek who remains anonymous, was writing from personal experience.

Manoeuvring the monsoons

By the time this merchant drafted his deliberations on traversing the western Indian Ocean, Mediterranean trade with India had been on the rise for three centuries. But Indian and Arab mariners had plied the Indian Ocean years before Greek ships entered these waters. To ensure safe voyage, these seamen needed to manoeuvre the monsoons, those seasonal winds that in the western Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, and the Arabian Sea, blow from the southwest during the summer and from the northeast during the winter. Until about a century before the Periplus was written, while goods were frequently traded between India and the Mediterranean, the Greek merchants depended primarily on their Indian and Arab counterparts for access to India.

Mastery over monsoon was so integral to this entire trading world that for every port that the
Periplusmentions, it also makes sure to note the most suitable months in which to make the journey.
Quite apart from the delight of reading a merchant’s advice and opinions from so far back in time, the
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, tells us of three vital but overlooked aspects of the ancient Indian Ocean trade. First, the ports, harbours, and metropolises located on the Indian Ocean coasts the Periplus
mentions may not be well-known today but were some of the most vibrant trading centres of the world at the time. The Indian port city of Bharuch, which was also a major manufacturing centre features pre-
eminently in the Greek merchant’s handbook. Muziris, roughly near present-day Kochi on the Malabar coast, was another hub of commercial interactions between the Mediterranean, India, Persia, Africa, China, and Southeast Asia. Northeast of Bharuch, Ujjan was a thriving entrepot from where products from all over the subcontinent made their way to the maritime ports.

The Periplus mentions nearly 20 BHARAT's ports, markets, and towns painting a picture of a buzzing world of trade, production, and social exchange around 50 CE. Over the centuries that followed, Indian ports, urban, and commercial centres rose to prominence as some of biggest cities of the medieval world. Second, the Periplusgives the modern reader a fascinating glimpse into the “bestsellers” traded across the Indian Ocean two millennia ago. The most frequently mentioned and perhaps also the most surprising from today’s vantage point, is tortoise shell procured from India and Africa.

Frankincense and myrrh, aromatic resins used for incense and perfumes and for the purpose of embalming in Egypt also make it to the list. Less surprising is that India’s Malabar coast exported ship-fulls of pepper, as it would continue to do when Vasco da Gama came in search for this precious “black gold” centuries later.The widest spread of goods was traded by India: native spices, drugs and aromatics, fine cottons and Chinese silks, ivory, and pearls. Indian merchants along with their Arab counterparts controlled the trade in everyday commodities like grain, rice, sesame oil, ghee, cane sugar, and cotton cloth. Taste on the Indian coast veered decidedly towards the more expensive side even when it came to imports from the Mediterranean. Indians bought Italian and Arab wines, olive oil, silverware and glassware.

Indian kings also demanded deluxe clothing, choice unguents, as well as “slave musicians” and “beautiful girls for concubinage”. The Mediterranean demands for expensive goods from India, as the Roman officials often lamented were draining their coffers, and as the Periplus also notes, Roman gold and silver coins, valued as bullion, fetched high exchange rates on the subcontinent; the hordes of Roman coins and shards of amphorae (which mostly hold wine but also oil) that archaeologists have unearthed
from India’s southwestern coast. Third, it is clear that even in its earliest form, trade between India and the Mediterranean across the Indian Ocean was highly evolved. A sophisticated economic system was needed to support these intricately linked commercial and social networks.

Evidence from the Periplus shows how merchants had to navigate restrictive rulers and their officials, face the threat of pirates and negotiate with vendors who drove hard bargains. Trade was conducted through barter as well as with money. Maritime ports were linked, particularly in India, to webs of internal riverine routes and inland trading and production centres. Over time, complex banking and capital generating systems came in to place. Historian Himanshu Prabha Ray has written, for instance, of the vital role Buddhist monasteries played in the cultural and commercial landscape of the northern Deccan and western India during the first century CE. Her research shows that Buddhist monasteries were able to provide early forms of banking and act as safe houses for merchants and travellers. Their location on important trade routes linked to the Arabian sea also facilitated the rise of production centres and cities in the surrounding areas; the Periplus in fact mentions the towns of Paithan and Tagara in this region that supplied onyx and ordinary cloth respectively to the port of Bharuch near NARMADA river.



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Kerala Maritime History: The Saga of Kerala Trade History

Both the 6400 km land route taken by caravans as well as the Indian maritime history of trade route carrying cargo passed through India. The former crossed North India whereas the latter passed through the coastal belt of south India. These are well-etched stories in Indian history. Our focus is on Kerala Maritime history, discussed here is the scenario prevalent in south India in those times and the impact of trade on this part of the world.


Indian Maritime History mentions that Indian ocean trade had a prominent place in world economic scenario and in linking several people and cultures. The Indian Ocean borders the African continent and connected the Mediterranean through the Red Sea, the Middle East via the Persian Gulf, makes a U shape touching both shores of the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka and across the Bay of Bengal links up with South China seas. There is no single maritime tradition for the entire Indian Ocean region.Instead, there are local traditions suited to a particular maritime environment and set of human needs. There are such cases all through Indian history, or specifically, in the India Maritime History. The Medieval Kerala trade history is a case in point! The geographical location of Kerala, its extensive coastline, and the course of monsoon winds set the rhythm of sea trade here.

Kerala is referred to as ‘Garden of Spices’ according to Sumerian records. Merchants from Babylonia, Assyria, Egypt, Arab, Greece and Rome have visited this part of the land for trade. Kerala maritime history points towards a rich Kerala trade history. Judaism was one of the first foreign religions to arrive in India. It is believed that King Solomon had visited Kerala for trade purposes.In the 6th century BC, the Jews came to Cranganore (which the Jews referred to as Shingly) to escape from the Babylonian captivity of Nebuchadnezzar. Later many more Jews landed here and settled in Kodungalloor (Cranganore), Parur, Palayur and Kollam.Records say Jews were traders and remained loyal to the native rulers, in return the Jewish leaders were granted distinctive privileges and honours by the local rulers and land to make houses and synagogues. To this day, Kochi has a Jewish Street, a functioning synagogue and a handful of Jewish descendants. The copper plates granted by the Chera ruler in 1000 CE bears evidence to the influence the Jews enjoyed in the domestic and foreign affairs of pre-modern Kerala. When St Thomas came to Kerala, there was a large number of Jews already present here and initially, they were tried to convert to Christianity.

Pepper vines in Kerala are what attracted the Romans Hoards of Roman aureus (coins) and pottery were discovered from various parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, pointing towards Indo-Roman trade (a significant part of Indian Maritime History) in the early centuries of the Christian era. This is a great story that connects with Kerala Maritime History. Contemporaneous to the Roman Empire, south India (comprised of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and parts of Karnataka, Andhra and Sri Lanka) was ruled by Chera, Chola and Pandiya dynasties from 6th century BC to 3rd century CE, known as the Sangam Period.

Pepper attracted romans towards BHARATVARSH


Hoards of Roman aureus (coins) and pottery were discovered from various parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, pointing towards Indo-Roman trade (a significant part of Indian Maritime History) in the early centuries of the Christian era. This is a great story that connects with Kerala Maritime History. Contemporaneous to the Roman Empire, south India (comprised of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and parts of Karnataka, Andhra and Sri Lanka) was ruled by Chera, Chola and Pandiya dynasties from 6th century BC to 3rd century CE, known as the Sangam Period

With the decline of the Roman Empire in the 5th century CE, trading with Rome ended. Though Chera, Chola and Pandya powers saw a decline with the rise of Kalabhras, it was short-lived. The three powers revived again during the eighth and ninth centuries

The ordainment of Pallava kingdom (A.D 600) witnessed the development of several trade organizations and economic activities in south India. Some of the ports in the coastal towns were Sopara, Ozene, Kalyana, Tyndis, Naura, Muziris, Nelcynda, Masalia, Sopatma, Kolkar etc. These ports are significant elements of Kerala Maritime History. Spice and precious herbs were traded from hinterlands and plantations of Kerala.

With the decline of the Roman Empire in the 5th century ce, trading with Rome ended. Though Chera, Chola and Pandya powers saw a decline with the rise of Kalabhras, it was short-lived. The three powers revived again during the eighth and ninth centuries.


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The scenario in all of BHARAT wrt sefearing on the rise.

The history of people of South Asia is mainly documented in the literature written in the Sangam period. People were divided into five different clans based on their profession: Mallars (farmers), Malavars (traders), Nagars (border security), Kadambars (forest people), Thiraiyars (seafarers) and Maravas (warriors). Each clan have their own mark in Indian history.The clans spread across the land and formed individual settlements. Seafarers obviously lived in the coastal region and the traders came to live in Kerala, western Tamil Nadu, eastern Andhra Pradesh, and southern Sri Lanka.The growth and development of trade and urbanization in medieval Kerala was a synchronized process. Agricultural production was the mainstay of the economy of Kerala in the medieval period. The land was given much importance as it was the main source of production

The very unique environmental peculiarities of Malabar supported the growth of several varieties of pepper, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Pulses and grains were also grown and the forests produced various species of trees such as teak, veetti, trimbakam, angili, arani and mahagoni.

The ballads, anthologies, inscribed sources and oral narratives refer to agricultural prosperity in the rural areas. Growth and development of agriculture in the hinterlands brought about plentiful availability of surplus. The excess agricultural crops and grains were bartered for other necessities in angadis or trading centres, turning the ports to cities. Traders used coins especially in foreign trade to export spices, muslin, cotton, pearls and precious stones to countries of the west and received the wine, olive oil, amphora and terracotta pots from there. Egyptian dinars and Venetian ducats (1284-1797) were in great demand in medieval Kerala trade history.

Sir Charles Eliot (1862-1931), British diplomat and colonial administrator, in his book, Hinduism and Buddhism vol. I, p.12. says:

In Eastern Asia the influence of India has been notable in extent, strength and duration. "Scant justice is done to India's position in the world by those European histories which recount the exploits of her invaders and leave the impression that her own people were a feeble dreamy folk, surrendered from the rest of mankind by their seas and mountain frontiers. Such a picture takes no account of the intellectual conquests of the Hindus. Even their political conquests were not contemptible and were remarkable for the distance if not for the extent of the territory occupied. For there were Hindu kingdoms in Java and Camboja and settlements in Sumatra and even in Borneo, an island about as far from India as is Persia from Rome."
Gordon Childe says: "The most startling feature of pre-historic Indian trade is that manufactured goods made in India were exported to Mesopotamia. At Eshunna, near Baghdad, typically Indian shell inlays and even pottery probably of the Indus manufacture have been found along with seals. After c. 1700 B. C. C. E. the traders of India lost commercial contact with the traders of Mesopotamia."

S. R. Rao says that the Indian traders first settled in Bahrein and used the circular seal. Later on the different sections of the Indian merchants colonized the different cities of Mesopotamia after the name of their race. The Chola colonized the land where the two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, approach most nearly and the banks touch the so called Median wall. They called their colony Cholades which later came to be known as Chaldea (i.e. the land of the Cholas) as a result of corrupt pronunciation. Similarly the Asuras of Vedic India colonized the city Asura after their name and later they established the Assyrian empire.

Archaeological evidence of the use of indigo in the cloths of the Egyptians mummies, Indian cedar in the palace of Nebuchandnzzar and Indian teak in the temple of the moon god at Ur shows the continuity of Indian commercial relations with the West. Rassam found a beam of Indian cedar in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 B.C) at Birs Nimrud. In the second storey of the Temple of the Moon-God at ur rebuilt by Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus (555- 538 B.C.) Taylor found "two rough logs of wood apparently teak".

The ancient Egyptian traders sailed there boats not only on the Nile but also ventured into the Mediterranean and the Red Sea and even into the Indian Ocean, for they are said to have reached "God's land" or the land of Punt (India). Similarly the Indian traders sailed their ships not only on the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, they also ventured into the Red Sea and even into the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea. From the very beginning Indian traders had a very fair knowledge of all the ancient oceans and seas of the populated world. the Egyptians called India as "God's land" because India was in those days culturally very much developed. The priest of ancient Egypt required vast quantities of aromatic plants for burning as incense; frankincense, myrrh and lavender were also used for embalmment purpose. Herodotus has left us a sickening description of the great number of spices and scented ointments of which India was the center. Beauty products from India also attracted the women of Egypt. The cosmetic trade was entirely dependent on imports chiefly from India. The Pharaohs of the fifth and sixth dynasties made great efforts to develop trade relations with the land of Punt. Knemphotep made voyages to Punt eleven times under the captainship of Koui. This expedition was organized and financed by the celebrated Queen Halshepsut.

(source: Foreign Trade and Commerce in Ancient India - p. 36-43. For more information refer to chapter on India and Egypt)

Before trade with the Roman Empire, India carried on her trade chiefly with Egypt; whose king, Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.) with whom Ashoka the Great had intercourse, founded the city of Alexandria, that afterwards became the principal emporium of trade between the East and West.

M. A. Murray, the Egyptlogist says in his book, " The splendor that was Egypt" that the type of men of Punt as depicted by Halshepsut's artists suggests an Asiatic rather than an African race and the sweet smelling woods point to India as the land of their origin.

(source: Art Culture of India and Egypt - By S. M. El Mansouri p. 14). Refer to Marco Polo’s epic journey to China was a big con Team Folks

This expedition really appears to have been a great commercial success. The queen proudly recorded on the walls of the temple of Deir-el-Bahri: "Our ships were filled with all marvelous things from Punt (India); the scented wood of God's land, piles of resin, myrrh, green balsan trees, ebony, ivory, gold, cinnamon, incense, eye-coloring, monkeys, grey dogs and panther-skins." These objects indicate Indian goods exported to Egypt.

Alexander's passage of the Indus was effected by means of boats supplied by Indian craftsmen. A flotilla of boast was used in bridging the difficult river of Hydaspses. For purpose of the voyage of Nearchus down the rivers and to the Persian Gulf, all available country boats were impressed for the service, and a stupendous fleet was formed, numbering around 800 vessels, according to Arrian, and to the more reliable estimate of Ptolemy nearly 2,000 vessels which accommodated 8,000 troops, several thousand horses, and vast quantities of supplies. It was indeed an extraordinary huge fleet, built entirely of Indian wood and by the hands of Indian craftsmen. All this indicates that in the age of the Mauryas shipbuilding in India was a regular and flourishing industry of which the output was quite large.


A book, called the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea as we noted earlier written by a Graceo-Egyptian sailor in the first century A.D., gives a very detailed and interesting account of Indian trade from the author's personal knowledge. He came to India and found the Indian coast studded with ports and harbors, carrying on brisk trade with foreign countries. The chief articles of export from India were spices, perfumes, medicinal herbs, pigments, pearls, precious stones like diamond, sapphire, turquoise and lapis lazuli, animal skins, cotton cloth, silk yarn, muslin, indigo, ivory, porcelain and tortoise shell; the chief imports were cloth, linen, perfume, medicinal herbs, glass vessels, silver, gold, copper, tin, lead, pigment, precious stones and coral.


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Direct Evidences from Sanskrit and Pali Literature.

It has been already pointed out that though Sanskrit and Pali literature abounds in references to the trading voyages of Indians, they unfortunately furnish but few references having a direct bearing on the ships and shipbuilding of India which enabled her to keep up her international connections. I have, however, been able to find one Sanskrit work,[which is something like a treatise on the art of shipbuilding in ancient India, setting forth many interesting details about the various sizes and kinds of ships, the materials out of which they were built, and the like; and it sums Up in a condensed form all the available information and knowledge about that truly ancient industry of India. The book requires a full notice, and its contents have to be explained.

The ancient shipbuilders had a good knowledge of the materials as well as the varieties and properties of wood which went to the making of ships. According to the Vṛiksha-Āyurveda, or the Science of Plant Life (Botany), four different kinds of wood are to be distinguished: the first or the Brahman class comprises wood that is light and soft and can be easily joined to any other kind of wood; the second or the Kshatriya class of wood is light and hard but cannot be joined on to other classes; the wood that is soft and heavy belongs to the third or Vaisya class; while the fourth or the Sudra class of wood is characterized by both hardness and heaviness. There may also be distinguished wood of the mixed (Dvijāti) class, in which are blended properties of two separate classes.

According to Bhoja, an earlier authority on shipbuilding, a ship built of the Kshatriya class of wood brings wealth and happiness.

It is these ships that are to be used as means of communication where the communication is difficult owing to vast water. Ships, on the other hand, which are made of timbers of different classes possessing contrary properties are of no good and not at all comfortable. They do not last for a long time, they soon rot in water, and they are liable to split at the slightest shock and to sink down.

Besides pointing out the class of wood which is best for ships, Bhoja also lays down a very important direction for shipbuilders in the nature of a warning which is worth carefully noting.[6] He says that care should be taken that no iron is used in holding or joining together the planks of bottoms intended to be sea-going vessels, for the iron will inevitably expose them to the influence of magnetic rocks in the sea, or bring them within a magnetic field and so lead them to risks. Hence the planks of bottoms are to be fitted together or mortised by means of substances other than iron. This rather quaint direction was perhaps necessary in an age when Indian ships plied in deep waters on the main.

Besides Bhoja's classification of the kinds of wood used in making ships and boats, the Yuktikalpataru gives an elaborate classification of the ships themselves, based on their size. The primary division[7] is into two classes: (a) Ordinary (Sāmānya): ships that are used in ordinary river traffic or waterways fall under this class; (b) Special (Viśesa), comprising only sea-going vessels. There are again enumerated ten different kinds of vessels under the Ordinary class which all differ in their lengths, breadths, and depths or heights. Below are given their names and the measurements of the three dimensions[8]:—
(a) Ordinary.
in cubits.
in cubits.
in cubits.
(1)Kshudrā 16 4 4
(2)Madhyamā 2412 8
(3)Bhīmā 402020
(4)Chapalā 482424
(5)Patalā 643232
(6)Bhayā 723636
(7)Dīrghā 884444
(8)Patraputā 964848

Of the above ten different kinds of Ordinary ships the Bhīmā, Bhayā and Garbharā are liable to bring ill-luck, perhaps because their dimensions do not make them steady and well-balanced on the water.
Ships that fall under the class Special are all sea-going.[9] They are in the first instance divided into two sub-classes[10]: (1) Dīrghā (दीर्घा), including ships which are probably noted for their length, and (2) Unnatā (उन्नता), comprising ships noted more for their height than their length or breadth. There are again distinguished ten varieties of ships of the Dīrghā (दीर्घा) class and five of the Unnatā (उन्नता) class. Below are given their names and the measurements[11] of their respective lengths, breadths, and heights:—
(b) Special.
I. Dīrghā, 42 (length), 514 (breadth), 415 (height):
(1)Dīrghikā 32 4 315
(2)Taraṇī 48 6 445
(3)Lolā 64 8 625
(4)Gatvarā 80108
(5)Gāminī 9612 925
Of these ten varieties of Dīrghā (दीर्घा) ships, those that bring ill-luck[12] are Lolā (लोला), Gāminī (गामिनी), and Plābinī (प्लाविनी), and also all ships that fall between these three classes and their next respective classes.
II. Unnatā[13] (उन्नता):
I. Dīrghā, 42 (length), 514 (breadth), 415 (height):
Of these five varieties, Anūrddhvā (अनूर्द्ध्वा), Garbhiṇī (गर्भिणी), and Mantharā (मन्थरा) bring on misfortune, and Ūrddhvā much gain or profit to kings.

The Yuktikalpataru also gives elaborate directions for decorating and furnishing ships so as to make them quite comfortable to passengers. Four kinds of metal are recommended for decorative purposes, viz. gold, silver, copper, and the compound of all three. Four kinds of colours are recommended respectively for four kinds of vessels: a vessel with four masts is to be painted white, that with three masts to be painted red, that with two masts is to be a yellow ship, and the one-masted ship must be painted blue. The prows of ships admit of a great variety of fanciful shapes or forms: these comprise the heads of lion, buffalo, serpent, elephant, tiger, birds such as the duck, peahen or parrot, the frog, and man, thus arguing a great development of the art of the carpenter or the sculptor. Other elements of decoration are pearls and garlands of gold to be attached to and hung from the beautifully shaped prows.[14]

There are also given interesting details about the cabins of ships. Three classes[15] of ships are distinguished according to the length and position of their cabins. There are firstly the Sarbamandirā (सर्ब्बमन्दिरा) vessels, which have the largest cabins extending from one end of the ship to the other.[16] These ships are used for the transport of royal treasure, horses, and women.[17] Secondly, there are the Madhyamandirā (मध्यमन्दिरा) vessels,[18] which have their cabins just in the middle part. These vessels are used in pleasure trips by kings, and they are also suited for the rainy season. Thirdly, ships may have their cabins towards their prows, in which case they will be called Agramandirā[19] (अग्रमन्दिरा). These ships are used in the dry season after the rains have ceased. They are eminently suited for long voyages and also to be used in naval warfare.[20] It was probably in these vessels that the first naval fight recorded in Indian literature was fought, the vessel in which Tugra the Ṛishi king sent his son Bhujyu against some of his enemies in the distant island, who, being afterwards shipwrecked with all his followers on the ocean, "where there is nothing to give support, nothing to rest upon or cling to," was rescued from a watery grave by the two Asvins in their hundred-oared galley.[21] It was in a similar ship that the righteous Paṇdava brothers escaped from the destruction planned for them, following the friendly advice of kind-hearted Vidura, who kept a ship ready and constructed for the purpose, provided with all necessary machinery and weapons of war, able to defy hurricanes.[22] Of the same description were also the five hundred ships mentioned in the Rāmāyaṇa,[23] in which hundreds of Kaivarta young men are asked to lie in wait and obstruct the enemy's passage. And, further, it was in these ships that the Bengalis once made a stand against the invincible prowess of Raghu as described in Kālidāsa's Raghuvańsa, who retired after planting the pillars of his victory on the isles of the holy Ganges.[24]
The conclusions as to ancient Indian ships and shipping suggested by these evidences from Sanskrit literature directly bearing on them are also confirmed by similar evidences culled from the Pali literature. The Pali literature, like the Sanskrit, also abounds with allusions to sea voyages and sea-borne trade, and it would appear that the ships employed for these purposes were of quite a large size. Though indeed the Pali texts do not usually give the actual measurements of the different dimensions of ships such as the Sanskrit texts furnish, still they make definite mention of the number of passengers which the ships carried, and thus enable us in another very conclusive way to have a precise idea of their size. Thus, according to the Rājavalliya, the ship in which Prince Vijaya and his followers were sent away by King Sińhaba (Sińhavāhu) of Bengal was so large as to accommodate full seven hundred passengers, all Vijaya's followers.[25] Their wives and children, making up more than seven hundred, were also cast adrift in similar ships.[26] The ship in which the lion-prince, Sińhala, sailed from some unknown part of Jambudvīpa to Ceylon contained five hundred merchants besides himself.[27] The ship in which Vijaya's Pandyan bride was brought over to Ceylon was also of a very large size, for she is said to have carried no less than 800 passengers on board.[28] The Janaka-Jātaka mentions a ship that was wrecked with all its crew and passengers to the favourite number of seven hundred, in addition to Buddha himself in an earlier incarnation.[29] So also the ship in which Buddha in the Supparaka-Bodhisat incarnation made his voyages from Bharukaccha (Broach) to "the Sea of the Seven Gems"[30] carried seven hundred merchants besides himself. The wrecked ship of the Vālahassa-Jātaka carried five hundred merchants.[31] The ship which is mentioned in the Samudda-Vanija-Jātaka was so large as to accommodate also a whole village of absconding carpenters numbering a thousand who failed to deliver the goods (furniture, etc.) for which they had been paid in advance.[32] The ship in which the Punna brothers, merchants of Supparaka, sailed to the region of the red-sanders was so big that besides accommodating three hundred merchants, there was room left for the large cargo of that timber which they carried home.[33] The two Burmese merchant-brothers Tapoosa and Palekat crossed the Bay of Bengal in a ship that conveyed full five hundred cartloads of their own goods, besides whatever other cargo there may have been in it.[34] The ship in which was rescued from a watery grave the philanthropic Brahman of the Sāṅkha-Jātaka was 800 cubics in length, 600 cubits in width, and 20 fathoms in depth, and had three masts. The ship in which the prince of the Mahājanaka-Jātaka sailed with other traders from Chāmpā (modern Bhagalpur) for Suvarṇabhūmi (probably either Burma or the Golden Chersonese, or the whole Farther-Indian coast) had on board seven caravans with their beasts. Lastly, the Dāthā dhātu wanso, in relating the story of the conveyance of the Tooth-relic from Dantapura to Ceylon, gives an interesting description of a ship. The royal pair (Dantakumaro and his wife) reached the port of Tamralipta, and found there "a vessel bound for Ceylon, firmly constructed with planks sewed together with ropes, having a well-rigged, lofty mast, with a spacious sail, and commanded by a skilful navigator, on the point of departure. Thereupon the two illustrious Brahmans (in disguise), in their anxiety to reach Sińhala, expeditiously made off to the vessel (in a canoe) and explained their wishes to the commander."

  • It is not a printed book but a MS., to be found in the Calcutta Sanskrit College Library, called the Yuktikalpataru. Professor Aufrecht has noticed it in his Catalogue of Sanskrit MSS. Dr. [[Author:Rajendralal Mitra}} has the following comment on it (Notices of Sanskrit MSS., vol. i., no. {{sc|cclxxi]].): "Yuktikalpataru is a compilation by Bhoja Narapati. It treats of jewels, swords, horses, elephants, ornaments, flags, umbrellas, seats, ministers, ships, etc., and frequently quotes from an author of the name of Bhoja, meaning probably Bhoja Rājā of Dhara."
  • लघु यत् कोमलं काष्ठं सुघटं ब्रह्मजाति तत्।
    दृढ़ाङ्गं लघु यत् काष्ठमघटं क्षत्रजाति तत्॥
    कोमलं गुरु यत् काष्ठं वैश्यजाति तदुच्यते।
    दृढ़ाङ्गं गुरु यत् काष्ठं शूद्रजाति तदुच्यते॥
    लक्षणद्वय योगेन द्विजातिः काष्ठ संग्रहः॥
  • क्षत्रियकाष्ठैर्घटिता भोजमते सुखसम्पदं नौका।
  • अन्ये लघुभिः सुदृढ़ैर्विदधति जलदुष्पदे नौकाम्।
  • विभिन्नजातिद्वयकाष्ठजाता न श्रेयसे नापि सुखाय नौका।
    नैषा चिरं तिष्ठति पच्यते च विभिद्यते सरिति मज्जते च॥
  • न सिन्धुगाद्यार्हति लौहबन्धं तल्लोहकान्तैर्ह्रियते हि लौहम्।
    विपद्यते तेन जलेषु नौका गुणेन बन्धं निजगाद भोजः॥
  • सामान्यञ्च विशेषश्च नौकाया लक्षणद्वयम्।
  • राजहस्तमितायामा तत्पादपरिणाहिनी।
    तावदेवोन्नता नौका क्षुद्रेति गदिता बुधैः॥
    अतः सार्द्धमितायामा तदर्द्धपरिणाहिनी।
    त्रिभागेणोत्थिता नौका मध्यमेति प्रचक्ष्यते॥
    क्षुद्राथ मध्यमा भीमा चपला पटला भया।
    दीर्घा पत्रपुटाचैव गर्भरा मन्थरा तथा॥
    नौकादशकमित्युक्तं राजहस्तैरनुक्रमम्।
    एकैकवृद्धैः सार्द्धैश्च विजानीयाद् द्वयं द्बयम्।
    उन्नतिश्च प्रवीणा च हस्तादर्द्धांशलक्षिता॥
    अत्र भीमा भया चैव गर्भरा चाशुभप्रदा।
  • मन्थरापरतोयास्तु तासामेवाम्बुधौ गतिः।
  • दीर्घा चैवोन्नता चेति विशेषे द्विविधा भिदा।
  • राजहस्तद्वयायामा अष्टांशपरिणाहिनी।
    नौकेयं दीर्घिका नाम दशाङ्गेनोन्नतापि च॥
    दीर्घिका तरणिर्लोला गत्वरा गामिनी तरिः।
    जङ्घाला प्लाविनी चैव धारिणी वेगिनी तथा॥
    राजहस्तैकैकवृद्ध्या—नौकानामानि वै दश।
    उन्नतिः परिणाहश्च दशाष्टांशमितौ क्रमात्॥
  • अत्र लोला गामिनी च प्लाविनी दुःखदा भवेत्।
    लोलाया मानमारभ्य यावद्भवति गत्वरा।
    लोलायाः फलमाधत्ते एवं सर्व्वासु निर्णयः॥
  • राजहस्तद्वयमिता तावत् प्रसरणोन्नता।
    इयमूर्द्ध्वाभिधा नौका क्षेमाय पृथिवीभुजाम्॥
    ऊर्द्ध्वानूर्द्ध्वा स्वर्णमुखी गर्भिणी मन्थरा तथा।
    राजहस्तैकैकवृद्ध्या नाम पञ्चत्रयं भवेत्॥
    अत्रानूर्द्ध्वा गर्भिणी च निन्दितं नामयुग्मकम्।
    मन्थरायाः परा यास्तु ताः शुभाय यथोद्भवम्॥
    Opinions of Sanskrit scholars whom I have consulted differ as to the exact meaning of the passages above quoted from the MS. Yuktikalpataru. According to some the word राजा means चन्द्र = 1, and हस्त = 2, so that राजहस्त stands for the number 21. But according to others, with whom I agree, राजा = 16, for in the works on Astronomy or ज्योतिष्, 'महीभृत' or 'राजा' is often used to indicate that number. I have made the calculations given above on the basis of the second interpretation.
  • धात्वादीनामतो वक्ष्ये निर्णयं तरिसंश्रयम्।
    कनकं रजतं ताम्रं त्रितयं वा यथाक्रमम्॥
    ब्रह्मादिभिः परिन्यस्य नौका चित्रणकर्मणि।
    चतुःशृृङ्गा त्रिशृङ्गाभा द्विशृङ्गा चैकशृङ्गिणी॥
    सितरक्तापीतनीलवर्णान् दद्याद् यथाक्रमम्॥
    केशरी महिषो नागो द्विरदो व्याघ्र एव च।
    पक्षी भेको मनुष्यश्च एतेषां वदनाष्टकम्॥
    नावां मुखे परिन्यस्य आदित्यादिदशाभुवाम्॥
    •⁠•⁠•⁠•⁠•⁠•नौकासु मणिविन्यासो विज्ञेयो नवदन्दवत्।
    मुक्तास्तवकैर्युक्ता नौका स्यात् सर्व्वतो भद्रा॥
  • सगृहा त्रिविधा प्रोक्ता सर्ब्बमध्याग्रमन्दिरा।
  • सर्ब्बतो मन्दिरं यत्र सा ज्ञेया सर्ब्बमन्दिरा।
  • राज्ञां कोशाश्वनारीणां यानमत्र प्रशस्यते।
  • मध्यतो मन्दिरं यत्र सा ज्ञेया मध्यमन्दिरा।
    राज्ञां विलासयात्रादि वर्षासु च प्रशस्यते।
  • अग्रतो मन्दिरं यत्र सा ज्ञेया त्वग्रमन्दिरा।
  • चिरप्रवासयात्रायां रणे काले घनात्यये।
  • तुग्रोह भुज्युनश्विनोदमेघे रयिं न कश्चिन्ममृवां अवाहाः।
    तमूहथु नौभिरात्मन्वतीभिरंतरिक्ष प्रुद्भिरपोदकाभिः॥
    तिस्रः क्षपस्त्रिरहातिब्रजद्भिर्नासत्या भुज्युमूहथुः पतंगैः।
    समुद्रस्य धन्वन्नार्द्रस्य पारे त्रिभी रथैः शतपद्भिः पलश्वैः॥
    अनारंभणे तदवीरयेथामनास्थाने अग्रभणे समुद्रे।
    यदश्विना ऊहथुर्भुज्युमस्तं शतारित्रां नावमानस्थिवांसं॥
    The Rig Veda/Mandala 1/Hymn 116, śloka 3-5. (Wikisource contributor note)
  • ततः प्रवासितो विद्वान् विदुरेण नरस्तदा।
    पार्थानां दर्शयामास मनोमारुतगामिनीम्॥
    सर्व्ववातसहां नावं यन्त्रयुक्तां पताकिनीम्।
    शिवे भागीरथीतीरे नरैर्विश्रम्भिभिः कृताम्॥
    Mahābhārata, आदिपर्व्व।
  • नावां शतानां पञ्चानां कैवर्त्तानां शतं शतम।
    सन्नद्धानां तथा यूनान्तिष्ठन्त्वित्यभ्यचोदयत्‌॥
    Ayodhyā Kāndam.
  • वङ्गानुत्खाय तरसा नेता नौसाधनोद्यतान्।
    निचखान जयस्तम्भं गङ्गा स्रोतोऽन्तरेषु च॥
  • Upham's Sacred Books of Ceylon, ii. 28, 168. Turnour's Mahāwańso, 46, 47.
  • Turnour's Mahāwańso, 46.
Direct Evidences from Indian Sculpture, Painting, and Coins.

The conclusions pointed to by these literary evidences seem further to be supported by other kinds of evidence mainly monumental in their character. They are derived from old Indian art—from Indian sculpture and painting—and also from Indian coins. These evidences, though meagre in comparison with the available literary evidences, native and foreign alike, have, however, a compensating directness and freshness, nay, the permanence which Art confers, creating things of beauty that remain a joy for ever. Indeed, the light that is thrown on ancient Indian shipping by old Indian art is not yet extinguished, thanks to the durable character of old Indian monuments, thanks also to the labours of the Archaeological Department for their preservation and maintenance.

There are several representations of ships and boats in old Indian art. The earliest of them are those to be found among the Sanchi sculptures belonging to an age so far back as the 2nd century B.C. One of the sculptures on the Eastern Gateway of No. 1 Stupa at Sanchi represents a canoe made up of rough planks rudely sewn together by hemp
Indian Shipping 067.jpg
[To face p. 32.

or string. "It represents a river or a sheet of fresh water with a canoe crossing it, and carrying three men in the ascetic priestly costume, two propelling and steering the boat, and the central figure, with hands resting on the gunwale, facing towards four ascetics, who are standing in reverential attitude at the water's edge below."[1] According to Sir A. Cunningham,[2] the figures in the boat represent Sakya Buddha and his two principal followers; and Buddha himself has been compared in many Buddhist writings to "a boat and oar in the vast ocean of life and death."[3] But General F. C. Maisley is inclined to view this sculpture "as representing merely the departure on some expedition or mission of an ascetic, or priest, of rank amid the reverential farewells of his followers."[4] His main reasons for supporting this view are, firstly, that no representations of Buddha in human shape were resorted to until several centuries later than the date of these sculptures; and, secondly, because the representation is that of a common thong-bound canoe and not of a sacred barge suiting the great Buddha. There is another sculpture to be found on the Western Gateway of No. 1 Stupa at Sanchi which "represents a piece of water, with a barge floating on it whose prow is formed by a winged gryphon and stern by a fish's tail. The barge contains a pavilion overshadowing a vacant throne, over which a male attendant holds a chatta, while another man has a chaori; a third man is steering or propelling the vessel with a large paddle. In the water are fresh-water flowers and buds and a large shell; and there are five men floating about, holding on by spars and inflated skins, while a sixth appears to be asking the occupant of the stern of the vessel for help out of the water."[5] This sculpture appears simply to represent the royal state barge, which quite anticipates its modern successors used by Indian nobles at the present day, and the scene is that of the king and some of his courtiers disporting themselves in an artificial piece of water; but it is also capable of a symbolical meaning, especially when we consider that the shape of the barge here shown is that of the sacred Makara, the fish avatara or Jataka of the Buddhist, just as the Hindu scriptures make the Matsya, or fish, the first of the avatars of Vishnu, whose latest incarnation was Buddha. According to Lieutenant Massey, however, this sculpture represents the conveyance of relics from India to Ceylon which is intercepted by Nagas.[6]

In passing it may be noted that the grotesque and fanciful shapes given to the prow herein represented are not the invention or innovation of an ingenious sculptor trying his wit in original design; they are strictly traditional, and conform to established standards,[7] and are therefore identical with one or other of those possible forms of the prow of a ship which have been preserved for us in the slokas of the Sanskrit work Yuktikalpataru quoted and referred to above.

Next to Sanchi sculptures in point of time we may mention the sculptures in the caves of Kanhery in the small island of Salsette near Bombay, belonging, according to the unerring testimony of their inscriptions, to the 2nd century A.D., the time of the Andhrabhritya or Śatakarni king Vashishthiputra (A.D. 133-162) and of Gotamiputra II. (A.D. 177-196). Among these sculptures there is a representation of a scene of shipwreck on the sea and two persons helplessly praying for rescue to god Padmapani who sends two messengers for the purpose. This is perhaps the oldest representation of a sea voyage in Indian sculpture.[8]

I have come across other representations of ships and boats in Indian sculpture and painting. In the course of a journey I made through Orissa and South India I noticed among the sculptures of the Temple of Jagannath at Puri a fine, well-preserved representation of a royal barge shown in relief on stone, of which I got a sketch made. The representation appears on that portion of the great Temple of Jagannath which is said to have been once a part of the Black Pagoda of Kanaraka belonging to the 12th century A.D. The sculpture shows in splendid relief a stately barge propelled by lusty oarsmen with all their might, and one almost hears the very splash of their oars; the water through which it cuts its way is thrown into ripples and waves indicated by a few simple and yet masterly touches; and the entire scene is one of dash and hurry indicative of the desperate speed of a flight or escape from danger. The beauty of the cabin and the simplicity of its design are particularly noticeable; the rocking-seat within is quite an innovation, probably meant to be effective against sea-sickness, while an equally ingenious idea is that of the rope or chain which hangs from the top and is grasped by the hand by the master of the vessel to steady himself on the rolling waters. It is difficult to ascertain what particular scene from our Shastras is here represented. It is very probably not a mere secular picture meant as an ornament. The interpretation put upon it by one of the many priests of whom I inquired, and which seems most
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Indian Shipping 073b.jpg
[To face p. 36.

likely, being suggested by the surrounding sculptures, was that the scene represented Śrī Krishña being secretly and hurriedly carried away beyond the destructive reach of King Kańsa. It will also be remembered that the vessel herein represented is that of the Madhyamandirā type as defined in the Yuktikalpataru.

In Bhubaneshwara there is an old temple on the west side of the tank of Vindusarovara which requires to be noticed in this connection. The temple is called Vaitāl Deul after the peculiar form of its roof resembling a ship or boat capsized, the word vaitāra denoting a ship. The roof is more in the style of some of the Dravidian temples of Southern India, notably the raths of Mahavellipore, than of Orissan architecture.

There are a few very fine representations of old Indian ships and boats among the far-famed paintings of the Buddhist cave-temples at Ajantā, whither the devotees of Buddhism, nineteen centuries or more ago, retreated from the distracting cares of the world to give themselves up to contemplation. There for centuries the wild ravine and the basaltic rocks were the scene of an application of labour, skill, perseverance, and endurance that went to the excavation of these painted palaces, standing to this day as monuments of a boldness of conception and a defiance of difficulty as possible, we believe, to the modern as to the ancient Indian character. The worth of the achievement will be further evident from the fact that "much of the work has been carried on with the help of artificial light, and no great stretch of imagination is necessary to picture all that this involves in the Indian climate and in situations where thorough ventilation is impossible."[9] About the truth and precision of the work, which are no less admirable than its boldness and extent, Mr. Griffiths has the following glowing testimony:—

During my long and careful study of the caves I have not been able to detect a single instance where a mistake has been made by cutting away too much stone; for if once a slip of this kind occurred, it could only have been repaired by the insertion of a piece which would have been a blemish.[10]

According to the best information, the execution of these works is supposed to have extended from the 2nd century B.C. to the 7th or the 8th century A.D., covering a period of more than a thousand years. The earliest caves, namely the numbers 13, 12, 10, 9, 8, arranged in the order of their age, were made under the Andhrabhrityas or Śātakarni kings in the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C., and the date of the latest ones, namely the numbers 1-5, is placed between 525-650 A.D. By the time of Hiuen Tsang's visit their execution was completed. Hiuen Tsang's is the earliest recorded reference we have to these caves. The Chinese pilgrim did not himself visit Ajantā, but he was at the capital of Pulakeshi II., King of Mahārāstra, where he heard that "on the eastern frontier of the country is a great mountain with towering crags and a continuous stretch of piled-up rocks and scarped precipice. In this there is a Sangharam (monastery) constructed in a dark valley. . . . On the four sides of the Vihara, on the stone walls, are painted different scenes in the life of the Tathagata's preparatory life as a Bodhisattva. . . . These scenes have been cut out with the greatest accuracy and finish."[11]

The representations of ships and boats furnished by Ajantā paintings are mostly in Cave No. 2, of which the date is, as we have seen, placed between 525-650 A.D. These were the closing years of the age which witnessed the expansion of India and the spread of Indian thought and culture over the greater part of the Asiatic continent. The vitality and individuality of Indian civilization were already fully developed during the spacious times of Gupta imperialism, which about the end of the 7th century even transplanted itself to the farther East, aiding in the civilization of Java, Cambodia, Siam, China, and even Japan. After the passing away of the Gupta Empire, the government of India was in the opening of the 7th century A.D. divided between Harshavardhana of Kanauj and Pulakeshi II. of the Deccan, both of whom carried on extensive intercourse with foreign countries. The fame of Pulakeshi spread beyond the limits of India and "reached the ears of Khusru II., King of Persia, who in the thirty-sixth year of his reign, 625-6 A.D., even received a complimentary embassy from Pulakeshi. The courtesy was reciprocated by a return embassy sent from Persia, which was received in the Indian court with due honour."[12] There is a large fresco painting in the Cave No. 1 at Ajantā which is still easily recognizable as a vivid representation of the ceremonial attending the presentation of their credentials by the Persian envoys.

As might be naturally expected, it was also the golden age of India's maritime activity which is reflected, though dimly, in the national art of the period. The imperial fleet was thoroughly organized, consisting of hundreds of ships; and a naval invasion of Pulakeshi II. reduced Puri, "which was the mistress of the Western seas."[13] About this time, as has been already hinted at, swarms of daring adventurers from Gujarat ports, anticipating the enterprise of the Drakes and Frobishers, or more properly of the Pilgrim Fathers,
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(From the Ajantā Paintings.)
[To face p. 40.

sailed in search of plenty till the shores of Java arrested their progress and gave scope to their colonizing ambition.

The representations of ships and boats in the Ajantā paintings are therefore rightly interpreted by Griffiths as only a "vivid testimony to the ancient foreign trade of India." Of the two representations herein reproduced, the first shows "a sea-going vessel with high stem and stern, with three oblong sails attached to as many upright masts. Each mast is surmounted by a truck, and there is carried a lug-sail. The jib is well filled with wind. A sort of bowsprit, projecting from a kind of gallows on deck, is indicated with the out-flying jib, square in form," like that borne till recent times by European vessels. The ship appears to be decked and has ports. Steering-oars hang in sockets or rowlocks on the quarter, and eyes are painted on the bows. There is also an oar behind; and under the awning are a number of jars, while two small platforms project fore and aft.[14] The vessel is of the Agramandirā type as defined in the Yuktikalpataru, our Sanskrit treatise on ships.

The second representation is that of the emperor's pleasure-boat, which is "like the heraldic lymphad, with painted eyes at stem and stern, a pillared canopy amidships, and an umbrella forward, the steersman being accommodated on a sort of ladder which remotely suggests the steersman's chair in the modern Burmese row-boats; while a rower is in the bows."[15] The vessel is of the Madhyamandirā type, and corresponds exactly to the form of those vessels which, according to the Yuktikalpataru, are to be used in pleasure trips by kings.

The third representation from the Ajantā paintings reproduced here is that of the scene of the landing of Vijaya in Ceylon, with his army and fleet, and his installation. The circumstances of Vijaya's banishment from Bengal with all his followers and their families are fully set forth in the Pali works, Mahāwańso, Rājāvalliya, and the like. The fleet of Vijaya carried no less than 1,500 passengers. After touching at several places which, according to some authorities, lay on the western coast of the Deccan, the fleet reached the shores of Ceylon, approaching the island from the southern side. The date of Vijaya's landing in Ceylon is said to have been the very day on which another very important event happened in the far-off fatherland of Vijaya, for it was the day on which the Buddha attained the Nirvāṇa. Vijaya was next installed as king, and he became the founder of the "Great Dynasty."

Indian Shipping 083.jpg
(From the Ajantā Paintings.)
[To face p. 42.

The conquest of Ceylon, laying as it did the foundation of a Greater India, was a national achievement that was calculated to stir deeply the popular mind, and was naturally seized by the imagination of the artist as a fit theme for the exercise of his powers. It is thus that we can explain its place in our national gallery at Ajantā as we can explain that of another similar representation suggestive of India's position in the Asiatic political system of old—I mean the representation of Pulakeshi II. receiving the Persian embassy. Truly, Ajantā unfolds some of the forgotten chapters of Indian history.

The explanation of the complex picture before us can best be given after Mr. Griffiths, than whom no one is more competent to speak on the subject. On the left of the picture, issuing from a gateway, is a chief on his great white elephant, with a bow in his hand; and two minor chiefs, likewise on elephants, each shadowed by an umbrella. They are accompanied by a retinue of foot-soldiers, some of whom bear banners and spears and others swords and shields. The drivers of the elephants, with goads in their hands, are seated, in the usual manner, on the necks of the animals. Sheaves of arrows are attached to the sides of the howdahs. The men are dressed in tightly-fitting short-sleeved jackets, and loin-cloths with long ends hanging behind in folds. Below, four soldiers on horseback with spears are in a boat, and to the right are represented again the group on their elephants, also in boats, engaged in battle, as the principal figures have just discharged their bows. The elephants sway their trunks about, as is their wont when excited. The near one is shown in the act of trumpeting, and the swing of his bell indicates motion. "These may be thought open to the criticism on Raphael's cartoon of the Draught of Fishes, viz. that his boat is too small to carry his figures. The Indian artist has used Raphael's treatment for Raphael's reason; preferring, by reduced and conventional indication of the inanimate and merely accessory vessels, to find space for expression, intelligible to his public, of the elephants and horses and their riders necessary to his story."

Vijaya Sińha, according to legend, went (B.C. 543) to Ceylon with a large following. The Rakshasis or female demons inhabiting it captivated them by their charms; but Vijaya, warned in a dream, escaped on a wonderful horse. He collected an army, gave each soldier a magic verse (mantra), and returned. Falling upon the demons with great impetuosity, he totally routed them, some fleeing the island and others being drowned in the sea. He destroyed their town, and established himself as king in the island, to which he gave the name of Sińhala.[16]

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To face p. 44.

I shall now present a very important and interesting series of representations of ships which are found not in India but faraway from her, among the magnificent sculptures of the Temple of Borobudur in Java, where Indian art reached its highest expression amid the Indian environment and civilization transplanted there.

Most of the sculptures show in splendid relief ships in full sail and scenes recalling the history of the colonization of Java by Indians in the earlier centuries of the Christian era. Of one of them Mr. Havell[17] thus speaks in appreciation: "The ship, magnificent in design and movement, is a masterpiece in itself. It tells more plainly than words the perils which the Prince of Gujarat and his companions encountered on the long and difficult voyages from the west coast of India. But these are over now. The sailors are hastening to furl the sails and bring the ship to anchor." There are other ships which appear to be sailing tempest-tossed on the ocean, fully trying the pluck and dexterity of the oarsmen, sailors, and pilots, who, however, in their movements and looks impress us with the idea that they are quite equal to the occasion. These sculptured types of a 6th or 7th century Indian ship—and it is the characteristic of Indian art to represent conventional forms or types rather than individual things—carry our mind back to the beginning of the 5th century A.D., when a similar vessel also touched the shores of Java after a more than three months' continuous sail from Ceylon with 200 passengers on board including the famous Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hien. It is noteworthy that "astern of the great ship was a smaller one as a provision in case of the larger vessel being injured or wrecked during the voyage."[18]

The form of these ships closely resembles that of a catamaran, and somewhat answers to the following description of some Indian ships given by Nicolo Conti in the earlier part of the 15th century: "The natives of India build some ships larger than ours, capable of containing 2,000 butts, and with five sails and as many masts. The lower part is constructed with triple planks, in order to withstand the force of the tempests to which they are much exposed. But some ships are so built in compartments that should one part be shattered the other portion remaining entire may accomplish the voyage."[19]

These ships will be found to present two types of vessels. To the first type belong Nos. 1, 3, 5, 6. They are generally longer and broader than the
Indian Shipping 091a.jpg
No. 1. (Reproduced from the Sculptures of Borobudur.)
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No. 2. (Reproduced from the Sculptures of Borobudur.)
[To face p. 46.

vessels of the second type, have more than one mast, are many-ribbed, the ribs being curved, not straight. These vessels are built so narrow and top-heavy that it is necessary to fit outriggers for safety. An outrigger is a series of planks or logs joined to the boat with long poles or spars as shown in Fig. 1. It is customary when a large amount of sail is being carried for the crew to go out and stand on the outrigger as shown in Fig. 5.

No. 1 has got two masts and one long sail. No. 3 has got square sails and one stay-sail in front. In No. 5 the crew appear to be setting sail or taking sail down. No. 6 has been interpreted by Mr. Havell as representing sailors "hastening to furl the sails and bring the ship to anchor," but this suggestion seems to be contradicted by the sea-gulls or albatrosses of the sculpture flying around the vessel, which without doubt indicate that the ship is in mid-ocean, far away from land.

No. 1 shows probably a wooden figure-head and not a man; so also do Nos. 3, 5, 6. There is also a sort of cabin in each of the vessels of the first type. Again, in No. 1 the figure aft appears to be a compass.[20] No. 5 appears to be in collision with some other vessel, or perhaps it shows a smaller vessel which used to be carried as a provision against damages or injury to the larger one from the perils of navigation. This was, as already pointed out, true of the merchantman in which Fa-Hien took passage from Ceylon to Java. No. 5 illustrates also the use of streamers to indicate the direction of winds.

There is another type of ships represented in Nos. 2 and 4. The fronts are less curved than in the first type; there is also only one mast. No. 2 shows a scene of rescue, a drowning man being helped out of the water by his comrade. No. 4 represents a merrier scene, the party disporting themselves in catching fish.

Some of the favourite devices of Indian sculpture to indicate water may be here noticed. Fresh and sea waters are invariably and unmistakably indicated by fishes, lotuses, aquatic leaves, and the like. The makara, or alligator, showing its fearful row of teeth in Fig. 2, is used to indicate the ocean; so also are the albatrosses or sea-gulls of Fig. 6. The curved lines are used to indicate waves.

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No. 3. (Reproduced from the Sculptures of Borobudur.)
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No. 4. (Reproduced from the Sculptures of Borobudur.)
[To face p. 48.

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No. 5. (Reproduced from the Sculptures of Borobudur.)
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No. 6. (Reproduced from the Sculptures of Borobudur.)
[To face p. 48.

The trees and pillars appear probably to demarcate one scene from another in the sculpture.

Finally, in the Philadelphia Museum there is a most interesting exhibit of the model of one of these Hindu-Javanese ships, an "outrigger ship," with the following notes:—

Length 60 feet. Breadth 15 feet. ...
Method of construction.—A cage-work of timber above a great log answering for a keel, the hold of the vessel being formed by planking inside the timbers; and the whole being so top-heavy as to make the outrigger essential for safety.
Reproduced from the frieze of the great Buddhist temple at Borobudur, Java, which dates probably from the 7th century A.D. About 600 A.D. there was a great migration from Guzarat in ancient India near the mouths of the Indus to the island of Java, due perhaps to the devastation of Upper India by Scythian tribes and to the drying up of the country.[21]

Lastly, it may be mentioned that in the Great Temple at Madura, among the fresco paintings that cover the walls of the corridors round the Suvarṇapushkariṇī tank, there is a fine representation of the sea and of a ship in full sail on the main as large as those among the sculptures of Borobudur.

We shall now refer to the available numismatic evidence bearing on Indian shipping; for besides the representations of ships and boats in Indian sculpture and painting, there are a few interesting representations on some old Indian coins which point unmistakably to the development of Indian shipping and naval activity. Thus there has been a remarkable find of some Andhra coins on the east coast, belonging to the 2nd and 3rd century A.D., on which is to be detected the device of a two-masted ship, "evidently of large size." With regard to the meaning of the device Mr. Vincent Smith has thus remarked: "Some pieces bearing the figure of a ship suggest the inference that Yajña Śrī's (A.D. 184-213) power was not confined to the land."[22] Again: "The ship-coins, perhaps struck by Yajña Śrī, testify to the existence of a sea-borne trade on the Coromandel coast in the 1st century of the Christian era."[23] This inference is, of course, amply supported by what we know of the history of the Andhras, in whose times, according to R. Sewell, "there was trade both by sea and overland with Western Asia, Greece, Rome, and Egypt, as well as China and the East."[24]

In his South Indian Buddhist Antiquities,[25] Alexander Rea gives illustrations and descriptions of three of these ship-coins of the Andhras. They

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No. 1.
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No. 2.
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No. 3.
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No. 4.
[To face p. 51.

are all of lead, weighing respectively 101 grains, 65 grains, and 29 grains. The obverse of the first shows a ship resembling the Indian dhoni, with bow to the right. The vessel is pointed in vertical section at each end. On the point of the stem is a round ball. The rudder, in the shape of a post with spoon on end, projects below. The deck is straight, and on it are two round objects from which rise two masts, each with a cross-tree at the top. Traces of rigging can be faintly seen. The obverse of the second shows a ship to the right. The device resembles that of the first, but the features are not quite distinct. The deck in the specimen is curved. The obverse of the third represents a device similar to the preceding, showing even more distinctly than the first. The rigging is crossed between the masts. On the right of the vessel appear three balls, and under the side are two spoon-shaped oars. No. 45 in the plate of Sir Walter Elliot's Coins of Southern India is also a coin of lead with a two-masted ship on the obverse.

Besides these Andhra coins there have been discovered some Kurumbar or Pallava coins on the Coromandel coast, on the reverse of which there is a figure of a "two-masted ship like the modern coasting vessel or d'honi, steered by means of oars from the stern." The Kurumbars were a pastoral tribe living in associated communities and inhabiting for some hundred years before the 7th century "the country from the base of the tableland to the Palar and Pennar Rivers. . . . They are stated to have been engaged in trade, and to have owned ships and carried on a considerable commerce by sea."

  • Si-yu-ki, ii. 241.
  • Turnour's Mahāwańso, 51.
  • Bishop Bigandet's Life of Godama, 415.
  • Hardy's Manual of Buddhism, 13.
  • "Now it happened that five hundred shipwrecked traders were cast ashore near the city of these sea-goblins."
  • "There stood near Benares a great town of carpenters containing a thousand families." (Cambridge translation of Jātakas.)
  • Hardy, Manual of Buddhism, 57, 260.
  • Bishop Bigandet's Life of Godama, 101.


Dharma Dispatcher
Senior Member
Nov 10, 2020
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Indirect Evidences: References and to Indian Maritime Activity in Sanskrit and Pali Literature.

I have already said that though ancient Indian literature furnishes rather meagre evidences directly bearing on Indian shipping and shipbuilding, it abounds with innumerable references to sea voyages and sea-borne trade and the constant use of the ocean as the great highway of international intercourse and commerce; which therefore serve as indirect evidence pointing to the existence and development of a national shipping, feeding and supporting a national commerce. We shall therefore now adduce those passages in ancient Indian works which, in Bühler's[1] opinion, "prove the early existence of a complete navigation of the Indian Ocean, and of the trading voyages of Indians."

The oldest evidence on record is supplied by the Ṛig-Veda, which contains several references to sea voyages undertaken for commercial and other purposes. One passage (I. 25. 7) represents Varuṇa having a full knowledge of the ocean routes along which vessels sail. Another (II. 48. 3) speaks of merchants, under the influence of greed, sending out ships to foreign countries. A third passage (I. 56. 2) mentions merchants whose field of activity knows no bounds, who go everywhere in pursuit of gain, and frequent every part of the sea. The fourth passage (VII. 88. 3 and 4) alludes to a voyage undertaken by Vaśiṣtha and Varuṅa in a ship skilfully fitted out, and their "undulating happily in the prosperous swing." The fifth, which is the most interesting passage (I. 116. 3), mentions a naval expedition on which Tugra the Ṛishi king sent his son Bhujyu against some of his enemies in the distant islands; Bhujyu, however, is shipwrecked by a storm, with all his followers, on the ocean, "where there is no support, no rest for the foot or the hand," from which he is rescued by the twin brethren, the Asvins, in their hundred-oared galley.[2] Among other passages may be mentioned that which invokes Agni thus: "Do thou whose countenance is turned to all sides send off our adversaries as if in a ship to the opposite shore; do thou convey us in a ship across the sea for our welfare"; or that in which Agni is prayed to bestow a boat with oars.

The Rāmāyaṇa also contains several passages which indicate the intercourse between India and distant lands by way of the sea. In the Kishkindhyā Kāndam, Sugrīva, the Lord of the Monkeys, in giving directions to monkey leaders for the quest of Sītā, mentions all possible places where Rāvaṇa could have concealed her. In one passage he asks them to go to the cities and mountains in the islands of the sea[3]; in another the land of the Kosakaras[4] is mentioned as the likely place of Sītā's concealment, which is generally interpreted to be no other country than China; a third passage[5] refers to the Yavana Dvīpa and Suvarṇa Dvīpa, which are usually identified with the islands of Java and Sumatra of the Malaya Archipelago; while the fourth passage alludes to the Lohita Sāgara or the red sea. In the Ayodhyā Kāndam there is even a passage which hints at preparations for a naval fight,[6] thus indirectly indicating a thorough knowledge and a universal use of waterway. The Rāmāyaṇa also mentions merchants who trafficked beyond the sea and were in the habit of bringing presents to the king.

In the Mahābhārata the accounts of the Rājasūya sacrifice and the Digvijaya of Arjuna and Nakula mention various countries outside India with which she had intercourse. There is a passage in its Sabhā Parva which states how Sahadeva, the youngest brother of the five Pāṇdavas, went to the several islands in the sea and conquered the Mlechchha inhabitants thereof.[7] The well-known story of the churning of the ocean, in the Mahābhārata, in the boldness of its conception is not without a significance. In the Droṇa Parva there is a passage alluding to shipwrecked sailors who "are safe if they get to an island."[8] In the same Parva there is another passage in which there is a reference to a "tempest-tossed and damaged vessel in a wide ocean."[9] In the Karṇa Parva we find the soldiers of the Kauravas bewildered like the merchants "whose ships have come to grief in the midst of the unfathomable deep."[10] There is another sloka in the same Parva which describes how the sons of Draupadī rescued their maternal uncles by supplying them with chariots, "as the shipwrecked merchants are rescued by means of boats." In the Śānti Parva the salvation attained by means of Karma and true knowledge is compared to the gain which a merchant derives from sea-borne trade.[11] But the most interesting passage in the Mahābhārata is that which refers to the escape of the Pāṇdava brothers from the destruction planned for them in a ship that was secretly and specially constructed for the purpose under orders of the kind-hearted Vidura.[12] The ship was of a large size, provided with machinery and all kinds of weapons of war, and able to defy storms and waves.

But besides the epics, the vast mass of Sutra literature also is not without evidences pointing to the commercial connection of India with foreign countries by way of the sea. That these evidences are sufficiently convincing will probably be apparent from the following remarks of the well-known German authority, the late Professor Bühler "References to sea voyages are also found in two of the most ancient Dharma Sutras. Baudhāyana, Dh. S. ii. 2. 2, forbids[13] them to the orthodox Brahmans, and prescribes a severe penance for a transgression of the prohibition, but he admits,[14] Dh. S. i. 2. 4, that such transgressions were common among the 'Northerners' or, strictly speaking, the ARYAS living north of the author's home, the Dravidian districts. The forbidden practices mentioned in the same Sutra as customary among the Northerners, such as the traffic in wool and in animals with two rows of teeth (horses, mules, etc.), leave no doubt that the inhabitants of Western and North-Western India are meant. It follows as a matter of course that their trade was carried on with Western Asia. The same author,[15] Dh. S. i. 18. 14, and Gautama,[16] x. 33, fix also the duties payable by ship-owners to the king." The later Smṛitis also contain explicit references to sea-borne trade. Manu (iii. 158) declares a Brahman[17] who has gone to sea to be unworthy of entertainment at a Srāddha. In chapter viii. again of Manu's Code[18] there is an interesting sloka laying down the law that the rate of interest on the money lent on bottomry is to be fixed by men well acquainted with sea voyages or journeys by land. In the same chapter there is another passage[19] which lays down the rule of fixing boat-hire in the case of a river journey and a sea voyage. But perhaps the most interesting passages in that important chapter are those which are found to lay down the rules regarding what may be called marine insurance. One of them holds the sailors collectively responsible for the damage caused by their fault to the goods of passengers, and the other absolves them from all responsibility if the damage is caused by an accident beyond human control.[20] Manu also mentions a particular caste of Hindus entrusted with the business of conducting trade, and upon them was enjoined the necessity of making themselves acquainted with the productions and requirements of other countries, with various dialects and languages, and also with whatever has direct or indirect reference to purchase or sale. In the Yājñavalkya Sańhitā[21] there is a passage which indicates that the Hindus were in the habit of making adventurous sea voyages in pursuit of gain.

The astronomical works also are full of passages that hint at the flourishing condition of Indian shipping and shipbuilding and the development of sea-borne trade. Thus the Vṛihat Sańhitā has several passages of this kind having an indirect bearing on shipping and maritime commerce. One of these indicates the existence of shippers and sailors as a class whose health is said to be influenced by the moon.[22] Another[23] mentions the stellar influences affecting the fortunes of traders, physicians, shippers, and the like. The third,[24] also, mentions a particular conjunction of stars similarly affecting merchants and sailors. The fourth passage[25] mentions the existence of a class of small shippers who probably are confined to inland navigation. The fifth[26] mentions the causes which bring about the sickness of passengers sailing in sea-going vessels on voyages, and of others. The last passage[27] I would cite here is that which recommends as the place for an auspicious sea-bath the seaport where there is a great flow of gold due to multitudes of merchantmen arriving in safety, after disposing of exports abroad, laden with treasure.

The Purāṇas[28] also furnish references to merchants engaged in sea-borne trade. The Varāha Purāṇa mentions a childless merchant named Gokarṇa who embarked on a voyage for trading purposes but was overtaken by a storm on the sea and nearly shipwrecked. The same Purāṇa[29] contains a passage which relates how a merchant embarked on a voyage in a sea-going vessel in quest of pearls with people who knew all about them. In the Mārkaṇdeya Purāṇa[30] also there is a well-known passage repeated as mantram by thousands of Brahmans which refers as an illustration to the dangerous plight of the man sailing on the great ocean in a ship overtaken by a whirlwind.

But besides the religious works like the Vedas, the Epics, and the Sutras and Purāṇas, the secular works of Sanskrit poets and writers are also full of references to the use of the sea as the highway of commerce, to voyages, and naval fights. Thus in Kālidāsa's Raghuvańsa (canto 4, sloka 36) we find the defeat by Raghu of a strong naval force with which the kings of Bengal attacked him, and his planting the pillars of victory on the isles formed in the midst of the River Ganges.[31] The Raghuvańsa also mentions the carrying even into Persia of the victorious arms of Raghu, though of course he reached Persia[32] by the land route. But this express reference to land route implies that the water route was well known. In Kālidāsa's Sakuntalā we have already noted the reference to China as the land of silk fabrics. The Sakuntalā also relates the story of a merchant named Dhanavṛiddhi whose immense wealth devolved to the king on the former's perishing at sea and leaving no heirs behind him. The popular drama of Ratnāvalī, which is usually attributed to King Harsha, relates the story[33] of the Ceylonese princess, daughter of King Vikramavāhu, being shipwrecked in mid-ocean and brought thence by some merchants of the town of Kausambi. In the Daśakumāracharita of Dandin there is the story[34] of a merchant named Ratnodbhava who goes to an island called Kālayavaṇa, marries there a girl, but while returning home is shipwrecked; and another of Mitragupta,[35] who goes on board a Yavaṇa ship, and, losing his way, arrives at an isle different from his destination. The Śiśupālavadha[36] of the poet Māgha contains an interesting passage which mentions how Śrī Kṛishña, while going from Dvārakā to Hastināpura, beholds merchants coming from foreign countries in ships laden with merchandise and again exporting abroad Indian goods.

In the vast Sanskrit literature of fables and fairy tales also there are many allusions to merchants and sea-borne trade. Thus the Kathāsarit Sāgara of the Kashmirian poet Somadeva bristles with references to sea voyages and intercourse with foreign countries. In the 9th book or Lambaka, 1st chapter or Taraṅga, there is the story of Prithvi Rāj going with an artist in a ship to the island of Muktipura; the 2nd chapter relates the voyages of a merchant and his wife to an island, and their separation after a shipwreck by storm; the 4th chapter describes the voyage of Samudrasura and another merchant to the Suvarṇa Island for commerce, and their shipwreck; the 6th chapter recounts the quest of his son by Chandrasvāmī, who goes to Ceylon and other islands in many a merchant's vessel for the purpose; and so on. The Hitopadēśa also mentions the story of Kandarpaketu, a merchant. In the Hitopadēśa a ship is described as a necessary requisite for a man to traverse the ocean, and a story is given of a certain merchant who, after having been twelve years on his voyage, at last returned home with a cargo of precious stones. In the Nītiśataka of Vartṛihari[37] there is a passage which refers to ships as the means of crossing the illimitable expanse of water, even as lamps destroy darkness. The Rāja-Taraṅginī[38] contains a passage describing the misfortunes of a royal messenger on the sea.

Lastly, we may notice in this connection the frequent mention in ancient Sanskrit literature of pearls and references to pearl fishery as one of the important national industries of India, and especially in the land of the Tamils towards the south. It is hardly necessary to point out that pearls could not have been procured without the aid of adventurous mariners and boats that could breast the ocean wave and brave the perils of the deep. According to Varāhamihira, Garuḍa Purāṇa, and Bhoja, pearl-fishing was carried on in the whole of the Indian Ocean as far as the Persian Gulf, and its chief centres were off the coasts of Ceylon, Pāralaukika, Saurāshṭra, Tāmraparṇī, Pārasava, Kauvera, Pāndyavāṭaka, and Haimadesha. According to Agastya, the chief centres of Indian pearl-fishing were in the neighbourhood of Ceylon, Arabia, and Persia. Pearls were also artificially manufactured by Ceylonese craftsmen, but the Tamils were out the most famous among Indians for pearl fishery, and they gave to the Gulf of Mannar the name of Salābham, "the sea of gain."
Thus Sanskrit literature in all its forms—such as the Vedas, the Sutras, the Purāṇas, poetry epic and dramatic, romance, etc.—is replete with references to the maritime trade of India, which prove that the ocean was freely used by the Indians in ancient times as the great highway of international commerce.
Further, the conclusions pointed to by these evidences from Sanskrit literature receive their confirmation again from the evidences furnished by the Buddhistic literature—the ancient historical works or the chronicles of Ceylon, the canonical books, and the Jātakas or Re-birth stories. The accounts of the Vijayan legends as set forth in the Mahāwańso and other works are full of references to the sea and sea-borne trade. According to the Rājavalliya, Prince Vijaya and his seven hundred followers were banished by the king Sińhaba (Sińhavāhu) of Bengal for the oppressions they practised upon his subjects, and they were put on board a ship and sent adrift, while their wives and children were placed in two other separate ships and sent away similarly. The ships started from a place near the city of Sińhapura, and on their way touched at the port of Supara, which, according to Dr. Burgess, lay near the modern Bassein on the western coast of the Deccan. Vijaya landed in Ceylon "on the day that the successor of former Buddhas reclined in the arbour of the two delightful Sal-trees to attain Nirvāṇa," approaching the island from southwards, and became the founder of the "Great Dynasty." Vijaya then sent a present of precious stones to the king of Pandya, and caused to be brought a princess whom he took to wife, and also seven hundred women attendants whom his followers married. According to Turnour's Mahāwańso, the ship in which Vijaya's Pandyan bride was brought over to Ceylon was of a very large size, having the capacity to accommodate eighteen officers of state, seventy-five menial servants and a number of slaves, besides the princess herself and seven hundred other virgins who accompanied her. A period of interregnum followed after the death of Vijaya without issue till his nephew, "attended by thirty-two ministers, embarked from the city of Sagal," reached Ceylon, and assumed the reins of sovereignty. There are two further sea voyages[39] mentioned in this connection, the first undertaken by a princess who afterwards became the consort of Vijaya's nephew, and the second by her six brothers, both of which had the same starting-point in the city of Morapura on the Ganges, and the same destination, viz. Ceylon, and the latter voyage, according to Turnour's Mahāwańso, occupied twelve days.
Next in importance to the Vijayan legends,[40] so far as sea-borne trade is concerned, are the legends of Punna, a merchant of Supparaka, who carried on a large trade, in partnership with his younger brother Chula Punna, with the distant region of Northern Kosala. At Srāvasti he heard Buddha preach, and became his disciple, and afterwards induced his former mercantile associates of Supparaka to erect a Vihāra with a portion of the red-sanders timber which Chula Punna and his three hundred associate merchants brought home on one of their sea voyages. The ship in which they made their trading voyage was of so large a size that besides accommodating over three hundred merchants there was room left for the cargo of that timber which they brought home. The legends next requiring notice in this connection are those of the two Burmese[41] merchant brothers Tapoosa and Palekat, who crossed the Bay of Bengal in a ship that conveyed full five hundred cartloads of their own goods, which they landed at Adzeitta, a port in Kalinga in the northern section of the eastern coast, on their way to Suvama in Magadha. Again, in the legend of the conveyance of the Tooth-relic, as related in the Dāthādhātuwańso, there is mention of the voyage of Dantakumara conveying the relic from Dantapura to Ceylon. The voyage was performed in one of those ships which carried on a regular and ceaseless traffic between the port of Tamralipta in Bengal and the island of Ceylon.

The Tibetan legend of the Sinhalese princess Ratnāvalī may also be mentioned, which tells of the voyage of the merchants of Srāvasti who were driven down the Bay of Bengal by contrary winds, but who subsequently completed their voyage to Ceylon and back. Again, in one of the Chinese legends of the lion-prince Sińhala,[42] it is related how the boat in which the daughter of the Lion was cast away was driven by the winds westwards into the Persian Gulf, where she landed and founded a colony "in the country of the Western women." The tradition embodied in the Dīpavańsa version of the legend[43] makes her land on an island which was afterwards called the "Kingdom of Women." As the Rev. T. Foulkes[44] remarks, "underneath the legendary matter we may here trace the existence of a sea route between India and the Persian coasts in the days of Buddha." Among the Pitakas, the Vinaya mentions a Hindu merchant named Poorna who made six sea voyages, and in the seventh voyage he was in the company of some Buddhist citizens of Sravasti and was converted by them to Buddhism. The Sutta Pitaka contains also several allusions to voyages in distant seas far remote from land. In the Sańyutta Nikaya (3, p. 115, 5. 51) and in the Aṅguttara (4. 127) there are interesting passages which mention voyages, lasting for six months, made in ships (nāva, which means boats) which could be drawn up on shore in the winter. Very interesting and conclusive evidence is supplied by a passage in the Digha Nikaya (1. 222) which distinctly mentions sea voyages out of sight of land. It describes how merchants carrying on sea-borne trade would take with them in their sea-going vessels certain birds of strong wing which, when the vessels were out of sight of land, would be let loose and used to indicate in which direction the land lay. If the shore were not near or within easy reach, the birds would return to the ships after flying in all directions to get to land, but if there were land within a few miles the birds would not return.

Some very definite and convincing allusions to sea voyages and sea-borne trade are also contained in the vast body of Buddhist literature known as the Jātakas, which are generally taken to relate themselves to a period of one thousand years beginning from 500 B.C. The Baveru-Jātaka[45] without doubt points to the existence of commercial intercourse between India and Babylon in pre-Asokan days. The full significance of this important Jātaka is thus expressed by the late Professor Bühler: "The now well-known Baveru-Jātaka, to which Professor Minayef first drew attention, narrates that Hindu merchants exported peacocks to Baveru. The identification of Baveru with Babiru or Babylon is not doubtful," and considering the "age of the materials of the Jātakas, the story indicates that the Vanias of Western India undertook trading voyages to the shores of the Persian Gulf and of its rivers in the 5th, perhaps even in the 6th century B.C. just as in our days. This trade very probably existed already in much earlier times, for the Jātakas contain several other stories, describing voyages to distant lands and perilous adventures by sea, in which the names of the very ancient Western ports of Surparaka-Supara and Bharukaccha-Broach are occasionally mentioned." The Samudda-Vanija-Jātaka[46] tells the story of the village[47] of wood-wrights who, failing to deliver the goods[48] (furniture, etc.) for which they had been paid in advance, built a ship secretly, embarked their families, and emigrated down the Ganges and out to an island over-sea.[49] The Vālahassa-Jātaka (Jāt. ii. 128, no. 196) mentions[50] five hundred dealers[51] who were fellow passengers on an ill-fated ship. The Supparaka-Jātaka[52] (Jāt. iv. 138-142) records the perilous adventures on the sea undergone by a company of seven hundred merchants[53] who sailed from the seaport town of Bharukaccha[54] in a vessel under the pilotage of a blind but accomplished mariner.[55] The Mahājanaka-Jātaka (Jāt. vi. 32-35, no. 539) recounts the adventures[56] of a prince who, with other traders, is represented as setting out[57] from Champa with export goods[58] for Suvannabhumi on the same ship which is wrecked in mid-ocean—Suvannabhumi is "probably either Burma or the 'Golden Chersonese' or the whole Farther-Indian coast"—and this Jātaka also shows that the Ganges was navigable right away to the sea from Champa or modern Bhagalpur. The Sāṅkha-Jātaka (Jāt. vi. 15-17, no. 442) tells the story of a Brahman given to charity who sails in a ship for the Gold Country in quest of riches by which he can replenish the store[59] his philanthropy was exhausting. He was a native of Benares, and gave away daily in alms 600,000 pieces of money. His ship, however, sprang a leak[60] in mid-ocean, but he is miraculously saved by a kind fairy in a magic ship[61] filled with the seven treasures of gold, silver, pearls, gems, cats'-eyes, diamonds, and coral. The Sussondi-Jātaka (Jāt. iii. 188, no. 360) mentions the voyage of certain merchants of Bharukaccha for the Golden Land,[62] from which, as also from other Jātakas such as the Mahājanaka-Jātaka, it is evident that besides Ceylon, Suvannabhumi or Burma was another commercial objective of traders coasting around India from western sea-ports such as Bharukaccha. Lastly, there are several other Jātakas in which we are told explicitly of a successful, if sporadic, deal in birds between Babylon and Benares, and of horses[63] imported by hundreds from the North and from Sindh.[64]
The conclusions regarding the state of Indian trade to which these various hints in the Jātakas point may be thus summed up in the words of Mrs. Rhys Davids:—

Communication both inland and foreign was of course effected by caravans and water. The caravans are described as consisting of five hundred carts drawn by oxen. They go both east and west from Benares and Patna as centres. The objective was probably the ports on the west coast, those on the sea-board of Sobira (the Sophir (Ophir) of the Septuagint) in the Gulf of Cutch or Bharukaccha. From here there was interchange by sea with Baveru (Babylon) and probably Arabia, Phoenicia, and Egypt. . . . Westward merchants are often mentioned as taking ships from Benares, or lower down at Champa, dropping down the great river, and either coasting to Ceylon or adventuring many days without sight of land to Suvannabhumi (Chryse Chersonesus, or possibly inclusive of all the coast of Farther India).[65]

  • Origin of the Indian Brahma Alphabet, p. 84.
  • The five passages are:—
    वेदा यी वीनां पदमन्तरिक्षेण पततां। वेद नाबः समुद्रियः॥
    (I. 25. 7.)
    उवासोषा उच्छाच्च नु देवी जीरा रथानां।
    ये अस्या आचरणेषु दध्रिरे समुद्रे न श्रवस्यवः॥
    (I. 48. 3.)
    तं गूर्तयो नेमन्निषः परीणसः समुद्रं न संचरणे सनिष्यवः।
    पतिं दक्षस्य विदथस्य नू सहो गिरिं न वेना अधिरोह तेजसा॥
    (I. 56. 2.)
    आ यद्रुहाव वरुणश्च नावं प्र यत् समुद्रमीरयाव मध्यं।
    अधियदपां स्नुभिश्चराव प्र प्रेंख ईंखयावहै शुभे कं॥
    वशिष्ठंह वरुणो नाव्याधादृषिं चकार स्वपा महोभिः।
    स्तोतारं विप्रः सुदिन त्वे अह्नां षान्नु द्यावस्ततनन्यादुषासः॥
    (VII. 88. 3 & 4.)
    तुग्रो ह भुज्युमश्विनोदमेघे रयिं न कश्चिन्ममृवाँ अवाहाः।
    तमूहथु र्नौभिरात्मन्वतीभिरन्तरिक्षप्रुद्भिरपोदकाभिः॥
    (I. 116. 3.)
  • The passage in question is: समुद्रमवगाढ़ांश्च पर्व्वतान् पत्तनानि च। (Kishkindhyā Kāndam, 40. 25.)
  • The passage in question is: भूमिञ्च कोषकाराणां भूमिञ्च रजताकराम्। (Kishkindhyā Kāndam, 40. 23.) The commentator explains कोषकाराणां भूमिम् as कोषेयतन्तूत्पादकजन्तूत्पत्तिस्थानभूतानां भूमिम् or the land where grows the worm which yields the threads of silken clothes. The silken cloth for which China has been famous from time immemorial has been termed in Sanskrit literature चीनांशुक and चीनचेल to point to the place of its origin. Thus in Kālidāsa's Sakuntalāwe come across the following passage:—
    गच्छति पुरः शरीरं धावति पश्चादसंस्थितं चेतः।
    चीनांशुकमिव केतोः प्रतिवातं नीयमानस्य॥
    In the Yātrātattva of Raghunandana we find the following:—
    सर्व्वाङ्गमनुलिप्येच्च चन्दनेन्दुमृदुद्रवैः।
    सुगन्धि माल्याभरणैश्चीनचेलैः सुशोभनैः॥
    The following further evidence of a Western scholar may be adduced to show that China was the prime producer of silk: "The manufacture of silk amongst the Chinese claims a high antiquity, native authorities tracing it as a national industry for a period of five thousand years. From China the looms of Persia and of Tyre were supplied with raw silk, and through these states the Greeks and the Romans obtained the envied luxury of silk tissues. The introduction of silkworm eggs into Europe was due to two missionaries who brought them concealed in a bamboo to Byzantium. The food also of the silkworm, the white mulberry (Morus alba), is of Chinese origin." (Growth and Vicissitude of Commerce, by J. Yeats, LL.D., F.G.S., F.S.S., etc.) The same author, in his Technical History of Commerce, p. 149, says: "Fabrics of silk and cotton are of Oriental origin. For 600 years after its introduction from China (A.D. 552), silk cultivation was isolated within the Byzantine Empire. The rearing of the worms and the weaving of the silk was practised in Sicily during the 12th and in Italy during the 13th century, whence it was subsequently introduced into France and Spain."
  • The passages alluded to are:—
    यत्नवन्तो यवद्वीपं सप्तराज्योपशोभितम्।
    सुवर्णरूप्यकद्वीपं सुवर्णकरमण्डितम्॥ *⁠*⁠*ततो रक्तजलं भीमं लोहितं नाम सागरम्।
    Ptolemy adopted the Sanskrit name of the island of Java and mentioned its Greek equivalent, while modern writers like Humboldt call it the Barley Island. Alberuni also has remarked that the Hindus call the islands of the Malay Archipelago by the general name of Suvarna Island, which has been interpreted by the renowned French antiquarian Reinaud to mean the islands of Java and Sumatra. (Journal Asiatique, tome iv., IVe Série, p. 265.)
  • नावां शतानां पञ्चानां कैवर्त्तानां शतं शतं।
    सन्नद्धानां तथा यूनान्तिष्ठन्त्वित्यभ्यचोदयत्॥
    (Ayodhyā Kāndam, 84. 78.)
    [Let hundreds of Kaivarta young men lie in wait in five hundred ships (to obstruct the enemy's passage).]

    The following sloka from Manusańhitā, while enumerating the various and possible methods and means of warfare, includes also naval fight by means of ships:—
    स्यन्दनाश्वैः समे युध्येदनूपे नौद्विपैस्तथा।
    वृक्षगुल्मावृते चापैरसिचर्म्मायुधैः स्थले॥
    (Manu, 7. 192.)
  • सागरद्वीपवासांश्च नृपतीन् म्लेच्छयोनिजान्।
    निषादान् पुरुषादांश्च कर्णप्रावरणानपि॥
    द्वीपं ताम्राङ्कयञ्चैव स नृपं वशे कृत्वा महामतिः।
    [The magnanimous Sahadeva conquered and brought under his subjection the Mlechchha kings and hunters and cannibals inhabiting the several islands in the sea, including the island called Tāmra, etc.]
  • भिन्ननौका यथाराजन् द्वीपमासाद्य निर्वृताः।
    भवन्ति पुरुषव्याघ्र नाविकाः कालपर्यये॥
  • विष्वगिवाहता रुग्ना नौरिवासीन्महार्णवे।
  • निमज्जतस्तानथ कर्णसागरे
    विपन्ननावो वनिजो यथार्णवात्।
    उद्दध्रिरे नौभिरिवार्णवाद्रथैः
    सुकल्पितै र्द्रौपदीजाः स्वमातुलान्॥
  • वनिक् यथा समुद्राद्वैयथार्थम् लभते धनम्।
    तथा मर्त्त्यार्णवे जन्तोः कर्म्मविज्ञानतो गतिः॥
  • ततः प्रवासितो विद्वान् विदुरेण नरस्तदा।
    पार्थानां दर्शयामास मनोमारुतगामिनीम्॥
    सर्व्ववातसहां नावं यन्त्रयुक्तां पताकिनीम्।
    शिवे भागीरथीतीरे नरैर्विश्रम्भिभिः कृताम्॥
  • "Now (follow the offences) causing loss of caste, (viz.) making voyages by sea." (Bühler's translation in S.B.E.)
  • "Now (the customs peculiar) to the North are, to deal in wool, to drink rum, to sell animals that have teeth in the upper and in the lower jaws, to follow the trade of arms, to go to sea." (Ibid.)
  • "The duty on goods imported by sea is, after deducting a choice article, ten Panas in the hundred." (Bühler's translation in S.B.E.)
  • "Hereby (the taxes payable by) those who support themselves by personal labour have been explained, and those payable by owners of ships and carts." (Ibid.)
  • आगारदाही गरदः कुण्डाशी सोमविक्रयी।
    समुद्रयायी वन्दी च तैलिकः कूटकारकः॥
    ["An incendiary, a prisoner, he who eats the food given by the son of an adulteress, a seller of soma, he who undertakes voyages by sea, a bard, an oilman, a suborner to perjury."]
  • समुद्रयानकुशला देशकालार्थदर्शिनः।
    स्थापयन्ति तु यां वृद्धिं सा तत्राधिगमं प्रति॥
    ["Whatever rate men fix, who are expert in sea voyages and able to calculate (the profit) according to the place, and the time, and the objects (carried), that (has legal force) in such cases with respect to the payment (to be made)."]
  • दीर्घाध्वनि यथादेशं यथाकालं तरो भवेत्।
    नदीतीरेषु तद्विद्यात् समुद्रे नास्ति लक्षणम्॥
    ["For a long passage the boat-hire must be proportioned to the places and times. Know that this (rule refers) to passages along the banks of rivers; at sea there is no settled (freight)."]
  • The passages in question are:—
    यन्नावि किञ्चिद्दाशानां विशीर्य्येतापराधतः।
    तद्दाशैरेव दातव्यं समागम्य स्वतोऽंशतः॥
    एष नौयायिनामुक्तो व्यवहारस्य निर्णयः।
    दासापराधतस्तोये दैविके नास्ति विग्रहः॥
    (Manu, viii. 409. 9.)
    ["Whatever may be damaged in a boat by the fault of the boatmen, that shall be made good by the boatmen collectively (each paying) his share.
    "This decision in suits (brought) by passengers (holds good only) in case the boatmen are culpably negligent on the water; in the case of (accident) caused by (the will of) the gods, no fine can be (inflicted on them)."]
  • ये समुद्रगा वृद्ध्या धनं गृहीत्वा अधिकलाभार्थं प्राणधनविनाशशङ्कास्थानं समुद्रं गच्छति ते विंशं शतकं मासि मासि दद्युः।
  • उन्नतमीषच्छृङ्गं नौसंस्थाने विशालता चोक्ता।
    नाविकपीड़ा तस्मिन् भवति शिवं सर्व्वलोकस्य॥
    (4. 8.)
  • आश्विनवारुणमूलान्युपमृदनन् रेवतीञ्च चन्द्रसुतः।
    पण्य भीषग् नौजीविक तुरगोपघात करः॥
    (7. 6.)
  • स्वातौ प्रभूतवृष्टिर्दूतवणिङ् नाविकान् स्पृशत्यनयः।
    एन्द्राग्नेऽपि सुवृष्टिर्वणिजाञ्च भयं विजानीयात्॥
    (9. 31)
  • तुरग तुरगोपचारककविवैद्यामात्यहार्कजोऽश्वि गतः।
    याम्पे नर्त्तकवादकगेयज्ञ क्षुद्र नौ कृतिकान्॥
    (10. 3.)
  • चित्रास्थे प्रमदाजनलेखक चित्रज्ञ चित्रभाण्डानि।
    स्वातौ मागधचरदूतसुत पोतप्लव नटाद्याः॥
    (10. 10)
  • अथवा समुद्रतीरे कुशलागतरत्नपोत सम्बाधे।
    (44. 12.)
  • E.g. the Vayu Purāṇa, the Mārkaṇdeya Purāṇa, and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa.
  • पुनस्तत्रैव गमने वणिग् भावे मतिर्गता।
    समुद्रयाने रत्नानि महास्थौल्यानि साधुभिः॥
    रत्न परीक्षकैः सार्द्धमानायिष्ये बहूनि च।
    एवं निश्चित्य मनसा महासार्थपुरःसरः।
    समुद्रयायिभिर्लोकैः संविदं सूच्यनिर्गतः॥
    शुकेन सह संप्राप्तो महान्तं लवणार्णवम्।
    पोतारूढ़ास्ततः सर्व्वे पोतवाहैरुपोषिता॥
  • मार्कण्डेयपुराणान्तर्गतदेवीमाहात्म्ये—
    राज्ञा क्रुद्धेन वाज्ञप्तो वध्यो बन्धगतोऽपि वा।
    आघूर्णितो वा वातेन स्थितः पोते महार्णवे॥
  • वङ्गान् उत्खाय तरसा नेता नौसाधनोद्यतान्।
    निचखान जयस्तम्भं गङ्गास्रोतोऽन्तरेषु च॥
    ["Having by his prowess uprooted the Vaṅgas (Bengalis) arrayed for battle with a naval force, that excellent leader (Raghu) posted pillars of victory on the isles formed in the midst of Gangā."]
  • पारसीकान् ततो जेतुं प्रतस्थे स्थलवर्त्मना।
  • अन्यथा क्व सिद्धादेशजनितप्रत्ययप्रार्थितायाः सिंहलेश्वरदुहितुः समुद्रे यानभग्ननिमग्नायाः फलकासादनम्। क्व च कैशाम्बीयेन वणिजा सिंहलेभ्यः प्रत्यागच्छता तदवस्थायाः संभावनम्।
    ["Otherwise how was the attainment of a plank possible of the daughter of the king of Sińhala, shipwrecked on the sea, with her desire kindled by the faith born of the words of saints? How also was she observed in that state by the merchant of Kausambi returning from Ceylon?"]
  • ततः सोदरविलोकनकुतूहलेन रत्नोद्भवः कथञ्चिच्छ्वशुरमनुनीय चपललोचनयानया सह प्रवहणमारुह्य पुरुषपुरमभिप्रतस्थे। कल्लोलमालिकाभिहतः पोतः समुद्राम्भस्यमज्जत्।
    [Then, anxious to see his brother, Ratnodbhava, with the permission of his father-in-law, started for Pushpapur (Patna) on board a ship with his wife, having her eyes rolling. The vessel sank in the water of the sea, being beaten by rolling waves.]
  • अस्मिन्नेवक्षणेनैकनौकापरिवृतः कोऽपि मद्गुः अभ्यधावत्। अबिभयुर्यवना। तावदतिजवा नौकाः श्वान इव वराहमस्मत्पोतं पर्य्यरुत्सत।
    [At this very moment a fleet of many ships was in pursuit. The Yavaṇas were afraid. Then like dogs attacking a boar the pursuing vessels very soon surrounded the ship.]
  • विक्रीय दिश्यानि धनान्युरूणि द्वैप्यानसावुत्तमलाभभाजः।
    तरोषु तत्रत्यमफल्गुभाण्डं सांयात्रिकानावपतोऽभ्यनन्दत्॥
    [He (Srī Kṛishña) was glad to see merchants of distant islands, after realizing great profits from the sale of the products of many countries, reload their vessels with merchandise of Indian origin.]
  • पोतो दुस्तर-वारिराशितरणे दीपोऽन्धकारागमे
    निर्व्वाते व्यजनं मदान्धकरिणां दर्पोपशान्त्यै शृणिः।
    इत्थं तद् भुवि नास्ति यस्य विधिना नोपाय-चिन्ता कृता
    मन्ये दुर्ज्जन-चित्तवृत्तिहरणे धातापि भग्नोद्यमः॥
  • सान्धिविग्रहिकः सोऽथ गच्छन् पोतच्युतोऽम्बुधौ।
    प्राप पारं तिमिग्रासात्तिमिमुत्पाव्य निर्गतः॥
    [The royal messenger fell into the sea while proceeding on a vessel, and a whale devoured him; but ripping open its belly, he came out and crossed the sea.]
  • Upham's Sacred and Historical Books of Ceylon, i. 71; ii. 177. Turnour's Mahāwańso, 55.
  • Hardy, Manual of Buddhism, 56, 57, and 60.
  • Bishop Bigandet's Life of Godama, 101.
  • Si-yu-ki, ii. 246.
  • Si-yu-ki, xiii. 55.
  • Indian Antiquary, 1879.
  • Jataka iii., no. 339, in the Cambridge Edition.
  • Jataka iv. 159, no. 466.
  • "There stood near Benares a great town of carpenters containing a thousand families."—Ibid.
  • "The carpenters from this town used to profess that they would make a bed or a chair or a house."—Ibid.
  • "There they sailed at the wind's will until they reached an island that lay in the midst of the sea."—Ibid.
  • The Vālahassa-Jātaka relates how "some shipwrecked mariners escaped from a city of goblins by the aid of a flying horse."—Ibid.
  • "Now it happened that five hundred shipwrecked traders were cast ashore near the city of these sea-goblins."—Ibid.
  • "The story mentions how a blind mariner was made the king's assessor and valuer, and how he was pilot to a vessel which traversed the perilous seas of Fairyland."—Ibid.
  • "It happened that some merchants had got ready a ship and were casting about for a skipper. . . . Now there were seven hundred souls aboard the ship."—Ibid.
  • "There was a seaport town named Bharukacch or Marsh of Bharu. At that time the Buddhisatta was born into the family of a master mariner there. . . . They gave him the name of Supparaka Kumara. . . . Afterwards, when his father died, he became the head of his mariners. . . . With him aboard no ship ever came to harm."—Ibid.
  • "Four months the vessel had been voyaging in far-distant regions; and now, as though endowed with supernatural powers, it returned in one single day to the seaport town of Bharukacch."—Ibid.
  • The following is a brief summary of its story: A prince suspects his brother, without reason, rebels against him, and kills him. The king's consort, being with child, flees from the city. Her son is brought up without knowledge of his father, but when he learns the truth goes to sea on a merchant venture. He is wrecked, and a goddess brings him to his father's kingdom, where, after answering some difficult questions, he marries the daughter of the usurper. By-and-bye he becomes an ascetic, and is followed by his wife. (Cambridge edition of the Jātakas.)
  • "Having got together his stock-in-trade (viz. store of pearls, jewels, and diamonds) he put it on board a ship with some merchants bound for Suvannabhumi, and bade his mother farewell, telling her that he was sailing for that country."—Ibid.
  • "There were seven caravans with their beasts embarked on board. In seven days the ship made seven hundred leagues, but having gone too violently in its course it could not hold out."—Ibid.
  • "One day he thought to himself, 'My store of wealth once gone I shall have nothing to give. While it is still unexhausted I will take ship, and sail for the Gold Country, whence I will bring back wealth. So he caused a ship to be built, filled it with merchandise, and, bidding farewell to his wife and child, set his face towards the seaport, and at mid-day he departed."—Ibid.
  • "When they were come to the high seas, on the seventh day the ship sprang a leak, and they could not bale the water clear."—Ibid.
  • The following contains a full description of the ship: "The deity, well pleased at hearing these words, caused a ship to appear made of the seven things of price; in length it was 800 cubits, 20 fathoms in depth; it had three masts made of sapphire, cordage of gold, silver sails, and of gold also were the oars and the rudders."—Ibid.
  • "At that time certain merchants of Bharukaccha were setting sail for the Golden Land."—Ibid.
  • Jātaka i. 124, or Tandulanali-Jātaka, no. 5, which tells the story of an incompetent valuer declaring five hundred horses worth a measure of rice, which measure of rice in turn he is led to declare worth all Benares, contains a passage of which the following is the English translation: "At that time there arrived from the North Country a horse-dealer with five hundred horses." Similarly, Jātaka ii. 31, Suhanu-Jātaka, no. 158, has the following: "Some horse-dealers from the North Country brought down five hundred horses." Again, Jātaka ii. 287, or Kundaka-Kucchi-Sindhava-Jātaka, no. 254, mentions how the "Boddhisatta was born into a trader's family in the Northern Province; and five hundred people of that country, horse-dealers, used to convey horses to Benares and sell them there."
  • Jātaka i. 178, or Bhojajanuya-Jātaka, no. 23, mentions how "Boddhisatta came to life as a thoroughbred Sindh horse." Similarly, Jātaka i. 181, or the Ajanna-Jātaka, no. 24, refers to a warrior who fought from a chariot to which were harnessed two Sindh horses.
  • Economic Journal and J.R.A.S. for 1901.


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The Pre-Mauryan Period.

Both Brahminical and Buddhistic texts are thus replete with references to the sea-borne trade of India that directly and indirectly demonstrate the existence and development of a national shipping and shipbuilding. It is now necessary to narrate the facts of that trade, and for this we shall have to draw upon all sorts of evidence, literary, inscriptional, and numismatic, and both Indian and foreign. For India alone has not the monopoly of these evidences; and if she really had commercial connection with the outside world it is natural, and in fact necessary, that they be also supplied by those countries with which she carried on her intercourse, thus confirming those conclusions that are reached by a study of the purely Indian evidences. And so do we find, as a matter of fact, in various foreign works abundant allusions to India's commerce, arts, and manufactures, indicating the glorious position she once occupied and for long maintained as the Queen of the Eastern Seas.

Indeed, all the evidences available will clearly show that for full thirty centuries India stood out as the very heart of the commercial world, cultivating trade relations successively with the Phoenicians, Jews, Assyrians, Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans in ancient times, and Turks, Venetians, Portuguese, Dutch, and English in modern times. A genial climate and a fertile soil, coupled with the industry and frugality of the Indian people, rendered them virtually independent of foreign nations in respect of the necessaries of life, while their secondary wants were few. Of the latter, tin, lead, glass, amber, steel for arms, and perhaps coral and to a small extent medicinal drugs, were all that India had need to import from Europe and Western Asia, while to Arabia she was indebted for the supply of frankincense used in her temples.

On the other hand, India provided europe with wool from the fleeces of the sheep bred on her north-western mountain ranges, famous since the days of Alexander the Great; with onyx, chalcedony, lapis-lazuli, and jasper, then esteemed as precious stones; with a resinous gum, furs, assafoetida, and musk; with embroidered woollen fabrics and coloured carpets which were as highly prized in Babylon and Rome as their modern reproductions are in London and Paris at the present day. But the most valuable of the exports of India was silk, which, under the Persian Empire, is said to have been exchanged by weight with gold.
It was manufactured in India, as well as obtained for re-export from China. Next to silk in value were cotton cloths ranging from coarse canvas and calicoes to muslins of the finest texture. India also supplied foreign countries with oils, brassware, a liquid preparation of the sugar-cane, salt, drugs, dyes, and aromatics, while she had also a monopoly in the matter of the supply of pepper, cinnamon, and other edible spices, which were in great request throughout europe.

Through ages India thus occupied a unique position in the commercial world as the main supplier of the world's luxuries. As a consequence she throughout had the balance of trade clearly in her favour, a balance which could only be settled by the export of treasure from European and other countries that were commercially indebted to her.

For India desired nothing which foreigners could give her but the precious metals. Thus has she been for many centuries the final depository of a large portion of the metallic wealth of the world. Her supply of gold she obtained not as did Europe from America in the 16th century by conquest or rapine, but by the more natural and peaceful method of commerce, "by the exchange of such of her productions as among the Indians were superfluities but were at the same time not only highly prized by the nations of Western Asia, Egypt, and Europe, but were obtainable from no other quarter except India, or from the farther East by means of the Indian trade.

"[1] It was this flow or "drain" of gold into India that so far back as the 1st century A.D. was the cause of alarm and regret to Pliny, who calculated that fully a hundred million sesterces, equivalent, according to Delmar, to £70,000 of modern English money, were withdrawn annually from the Roman Empire to purchase useless Oriental products such as perfumes, unguents, and personal ornaments.[2] It was probably also the same flow of gold into India from outside that even earlier still, in the 5th century B.C., at least partially enabled the Indian satrapy of Darius, naturally the richest and most populous part of his empire (including as much of Afghanistan, Kashmir, and the Punjab as the Persian monarchs could keep in subjection), to pay him "the enormous tribute of 360 Euboic talents of gold-dust or 185 hundredweights, worth fully a million sterling, and constituting about one-third of the total bullion revenue of the Asiatic provinces."[3]
We shall now enter upon a relation of the facts of this trade which served to create "the wealth of Ind," a brief survey of its course which undoubtedly is an important, though neglected, aspect of Indian history, the story of her old, abounding international life.

The antiquity of this trade will be evident from the fact that it is foreshadowed even in the Ṛig-Veda, one of the oldest literary records of humanity, which, as I have already shown, speaks in many places of ships and merchants sailing out into the open main for the sake of riches, braving the perils of the deep, "where there is no support, nothing to rest upon or cling to."

India thus began her sea-borne trade with the very beginning of recorded time, and the trade of the Ṛig-Veda was very probably carried on with countries on the west like Chaldaea, Babylon, and Egypt. I do not feel myself competent to deal with this subject of India's prehistoric trade relations; Egyptologists or Assyriologists alone can do full justice to it. I can but briefly refer to some of the conclusions reached in regard to this subject and the evidences on which they are based. According to Dr. Sayce,[4] the famous Assyriologist, the commerce by sea between India and Babylon must have been carried on as early as about 3000 B.C., when Ur Bagas, the first king of United Babylonia, ruled in Ur of the Chaldees. This is proved by the finding of Indian teak in the ruins of Ur. Mr. Hewitt is of opinion that this wood must have been sent by sea from some port on the Malabar coast, for it is only there that teak grew near enough to the sea to be exported with profit in those early times.

Again, Dr. Sayce points to the use of the word sindhu for muslin in an old Babylonian list of clothes as the clearest proof "that there was trade between Babylonia and people who spoke an ARYA dialect and lived in the country watered by the Indus."

This trade must have been sea-borne, and the muslin must have been brought by sea, for, as Mr. Hewitt points out, if Zend-speaking traders had brought it by land they would have called the country by the Zend name, Hindhu, altering the s into an h.[5] These conclusions of Dr. Sayce and Mr. Hewitt regarding the extreme antiquity of the Indian maritime trade with Babylon are not, however, accepted by all scholars. Mr. J. Kennedy,[6] for instance, in a learned article on the subject, says that he "can find no archaeological or literary evidence for a maritime trade between India and Babylon prior to the 7th century B.C. . . . but for the 6th century B.C. direct evidence is forthcoming."

This direct evidence, which is so very interesting, may be thus presented after him:— (1) Mr. Rassam found a beam of Indian cedar in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 B.C.) at Birs Nimrud, part of which is now exhibited in the British Museum. (2) In the second storey of the Temple of the Moon-god at Ur, rebuilt by Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus (555-538 B.C.) Mr. Taylor found "two rough logs of wood, apparently teak, which ran across the whole breadth of the shaft," and Mr. Rassam thus says of it in a letter: "Most probably the block of wood which Taylor discovered was Indian cedar like the beam I discovered in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar. There is no doubt that this wood was imported into Babylonia from India." (3) The Baveru-Jātaka, as we have already seen, relates the adventures of certain Indian merchants who took the first peacock by sea to Babylon. Mr. Kennedy remarks, "the Jātaka itself may go back to 400 B.C., but the folks-tale on which it is based must be much older." We have already cited the opinion on this Jātaka of the late Professor Bühler, according to whom, if the age of the materials of the Jātakas be considered, "the story indicates that the Vanias of Western India undertook trading voyages to the shores of the Persian Gulf or its rivers in the 5th, perhaps even in the 6th century B.C., just as in our days. This trade very probably existed already in much earlier times; for the Jātakas contain several other stories, describing voyages to distant lands and perilous adventures by sea, in which the names of the very ancient Western ports of Surparaka-Supara and Bharukaccha-Broach are occasionally mentioned."

[7] We may also note in this connection that in the Digha Nikaya (I. 222) of Sutta-Pitaka, the date of which has been placed by Mr. Rhys Davids[8] in the 5th century B.C., there is an explicit reference to "ocean-going ships out of sight of land." (4) Certain Indian commodities, e.g. rice, peacocks, sandal-wood, were known to the Greeks aiid others under their Indian names in the 5th century B.C. "It follows that they were imported from the west coast of India into Babylon directly by sea; and this conclusion is borne out by the statements of the Baveru-Jātaka. And we must further conclude that they were first imported into Babylon in the 6th century B.C., not only because direct intercourse between Babylon and India practically came to an end after 480 B.C., but because rice and peacocks must have reached Greece at the latest in 460 or 470 B.C. in order to become common at Athens in 430 B.C." After this review of the evidence Mr. Kennedy puts forward the following conclusion: "The evidence warrants us in the belief that maritime commerce between India and Babylon flourished in the 7th and 6th, but more especially in the 6th, centuries B.C. It was chiefly in the hands of Dravidians, although ARYA had a share in it; and as Indian traders settled afterwards in Arabia and on the east coast of Africa, and as we find them settling at this very time on the coast of China, we cannot doubt that they had their settlements in Babylon also." And he further remarks: "The history of the trade between Babylon and India suggests one remark: the normal trade route from the Persian Gulf to India can never have been along the inhospitable shores of Gedrosia."

Mr. Rhys Davids,[9] who has also dealt with this subject, has thus stated his conclusions:— (1) Sea-going merchants, availing themselves of the monsoons, were in the habit, at the beginning of the 7th (and perhaps at the end of the 8th) century B.C., of trading from ports on the southwest coast of India (Sovira at first, afterwards Supparaka and Bharukaccha) to Babylon, then a great mercantile emporium. Such Indian names of the goods imported as were adopted in the West (Solomon's ivory, apes, and peacocks, for instance, and the word "rice") were adaptations not of Sanskrit or Pali, but of Tamil words.

The same view of this Indian trade with the West has been held by Mr. A. M. T. Jackson, I.C.S.[10] According to him, "the Buddhist Jatakas[11] and some of the Sanskrit law-books[12] tell us that ships from Bhroach and Supara traded with Babylon (Baveru) from the 8th to the 6th century B.C."
There have been also other scholars who are disposed to view this maritime commerce of India with the West as of very great antiquity. According to Lenormant, the bas-reliefs of the temple of Deir-el-Bahari at Thebes represent the conquest of the land of Pun under Hatasu. "In the abundant booty loading the vessel of Pharaoh for conveyance to the land of Egypt appear a great many Indian animals and products not indigenous to the soil of Yemen—elephants' teeth, gold, precious stones, sandal-wood, and monkeys." Again, "The labours of Von Bohlen (Das alte Indien, vol. i., p. 42), confirming those of Heeren, and in their turn confirmed by those of Lassen (Ind. Alt., vol. ii., p. 580), have established the existence of a maritime commerce between India and Arabia from the very earliest period of humanity."
[13] The principal commodities imported from India were gold, precious stones, ivory, etc. Further, according to Wilkinson,[14] the presence of indigo, tamarind-wood, and other Indian products has been detected in the tombs of Egypt, and Lassen also has pointed out that the Egyptians dyed cloth with indigo and wrapped their mummies in Indian muslin.

Lastly, this early maritime commerce of India, first vaguely hinted at in the Ṛig-Veda, and proved by the evidence of Egyptian and Assyrian archaeology, is further supposed by many competent authorities to be alluded to in several places in the Bible itself. "Even in the Mosaic period (1491-1450 B.C.) precious stones which were to a great extent a speciality of India and the neighbouring countries appear to have been well known and were already highly valued. It is probable that some of the stones in the breast-plate of the high priest may have come from the far East."[15] In the Book of Genesis[16] there is mention of a company of traders with their camels bearing spicery, balm, and myrrh, going to Egypt. In the days of Solomon (about 1015 B.C.) there could be supplied from India alone the ivory, garments, armour, spices, and peacocks which found customers in ancient Syria. In the Book of I Kings it is stated[17] how the ships of Solomon came to Ophir and fetched from thence gold, plenty of almug trees, precious stones, and the like. In the Book of Ezekiel, which dwells on the commerce of Tyre, there are mentioned commodities which are undoubtedly of Indian origin.[18] Thus the ivory and ebony included in them are characteristic

Indian products and were recognized as such by classical writers like Megasthenes,[19] Theophrastus,[20] and Virgil.[21] Besides, another proof that the Bible really refers to the foreign trade of India may be found in the fact that there have been discovered some old Dravidian words in the Hebrew text of the Books of Kings and Chronicles of the Old Testament, where there is given the list of the articles of merchandise brought from Tarshish or Ophir in Solomon's ships "about 1000 bc." Thus the word for "peacock" in the Hebrew text is tuki in Kings, tuki in Chronicles, while "the ancient, poetical, purely Tamil-Malayalam name of the peacock is tokei, the bird with the (splendid) tail."[22] Again, the Hebrew words ahalim or ahaloth for the fragrant wood called "aloes" in Proverbs vii. 17, etc., is derived from the Tamil-Malayalam form of the word aghil.

Bishop Caldwell's opinion is further supported by another erudite clergyman and scholar, the Rev. T. Foulkes,[24] who, in a very learned essay, comes to the same conclusion, and says:—

The fact is now scarcely to be doubted that the rich Oriental merchandise of the days of King Hiram and King Solomon had its starting-place in the seaports of the Dakhan; and that with a very high degree of probability some of the most esteemed of the spices which were carried into Egypt by the Midianitish merchants of Genesis xxxvii. 25, 28, and by the sons of the patriarch Jacob (Gen. xliii. 11), had been cultivated in the spice-gardens of the Dakhan.
Thus the first trade of India of which there is any record was with Western Asia and Palestine.
King Solomon tried to appropriate a share of this trade for the Jewish people by creating facilities for his Eastern traders both on land and sea routes. On the land route he built as resting-places for caravans the cities of Tadmor (Palmyra), Baalbec (Heliopolis), and Hamath (Epiphania), and his foresight in protecting these caravan routes bore fruit in the great trading centres of Mesopotamia, viz. Babylon, Ctesiphon, Seleucia, and Ossis, which all flourished for a long time on the profits of their commerce with the East. The Jewish monarch was also equally interested in the sea-borne trade of the East. His fleets made periodical voyages to and from the head of the Red Sea and the ports in the Persian Gulf, and we know from Holy Writ that "Ezion-geber, which is beside Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea in the land of Edom," was the Syrian port for the arrival and departure of the fleets sent on these voyages. Their cargoes were carried by caravans to Petra and distributed some to Egypt and others to Rhinocolura, a port of the Mediterranean, for transhipment to Europe. The Phoenicians also took an active part in this trade, with Tyre as their headquarters. After the conquest of Tyre by Alexander the Great, and the foundation of Alexandria, the Egyptians came into the field, and after the successive decline of the Jewish, Phoenician, and Persian powers in Western Asia, they retained with the Arabians a monopoly of this commerce for about 900 years between Alexander's death and the conquest of Egypt by the Musalmans in the year 640 A.D.

We have now dealt with the foreign trade of India in the age of the Bible, and proceed to consider the notices left by the Greek writers of this period of the international intercourse of India. The earliest, probably, is that of Herodotus (450 B.C.), the father of history, whose reference to the Indian contingent[25] of Xerxes' army, clad in cotton garments and armed with cane bows and iron-tipped[26] cane arrows, is well known. Herodotus also speaks of the inclusion of a part of India as the twentieth satrapy of the Emperor Darius,[27] a fact which in the opinion of scholars accounts for the traces of Persian influence[28] on old Indian art, architecture, and administrative methods. Among Indian products Herodotus noted the wool which certain wild trees bear instead of fruit, "that in beauty and quality excels that of sheep,"[29] of which Indians make their clothing.

Herodotus also gives us some insight into the nature and extent of certain Indian mineral productions. Babylon obtained precious stones and dogs (probably Tibetan mastiffs) from India.[30] In the enumeration of the nations and tribes which paid tribute to the Persian monarch Darius, the Indians alone, we are told, paid in gold, all the others paying in silver. The amount of this gold was 360 Euboic talents, equivalent to £1,290,000. Herodotus also pointedly speaks of India as being "rich in gold,"[31] and he relates the famous and widespread fable of the gold-digging ants, which has been shown by Sir Henry Robinson and Dr. Schiern[32] to have originated in the peculiar customs of the Tibetan gold-miners; and the name "ant gold" was possibly first given to the fragments of gold-dust brought from Tibet on account of their shape and size. The "horns of the gold-digging ants" mentioned by Pliny and others have been supposed to be simply samples of the ordinary pickaxes used by miners, which in Ladakh and Tibet were made of the horns of wild sheep, mounted on handles of wood. Herodotus may also have meant the gold-diggers of the desert of Gobi, who were in the habit of excavating gold from beneath the earth, and from them Indian traders of the Punjab neighbourhood could obtain their supply of gold. The portion of India conquered by Darius was situated chiefly to the north-west of the Indus, and, according to the authoritative testimony of Professor V. Ball, F.R.S., the eminent geologist, "the Indus itself, as well as some of its tributaries, is known to be auriferous." Professor Ball also rejects the view held by Lassen, Heeren, and many others that gold (and silver) was not indigenous to India, but imported from abroad, e.g. from Tibet, Burma, or even Africa;[33] for as he points out, "our most recent knowledge of India affords evidence that the amount of gold derived from indigenous sources must have been very considerable before the alluvial deposits were exhausted of their gold."

The further remarks of Professor Ball in this connection are worth quoting in full:—
When it is remembered that about 80 per cent. of the gold raised throughout the world is from alluvial washings, and when this fact is considered in connection with the reflection that wide tracts in Australia and America, formerly richly productive, are now deserted, being covered with exhausted tailings, it can be conceived how these regions in India—and there are very many of them—which are known to be auriferous, may, in the lapse of time, after yielding large supplies of gold, have become too exhausted to be of much present consideration. More than this, however, recent explorations have confirmed the fact, often previously asserted, that in Southern India there are indications of extended mining operations having been carried on there.
Evidence exists of the most conclusive kind of large quantities of gold having been amassed by Indian monarchs, who accepted a revenue in gold-dust only from certain sections of their subjects, who were consequently compelled to spend several months of every year washing for it in the rivers.[34]
In Ctesias' Indica (400 B.C.), the earliest Greek treatise on India, is to be found, among other things, the existence of a really Dravidian word which Ctesias used for cinnamon.[35] The word used by Ctesias is karpion, which Dr. Caldwell derives from the Tamil-Malayalam word karuppa or karppu, to which is akin the Sanskrit word karpura "camphor."[36]

Ctesias also refers to a lake in the country of the Pygmies upon the surface of which oil is produced. This is supposed to mean Upper Burma, where there is a tribe answering to this description, and where "there are also the only largely productive petroleum deposits, which, moreover, we know to have been worked since the earliest times."[37] Ctesias also mentions gold being obtained on certain "high-towering mountains" inhabited by the Griffins, which have been recognized as Tibetan mastiffs, "specimens of which, by the way, appear to have been taken to the Persian Court as examples of the gold-digging ants first described by Herodotus."[38]

  • C. Daniell, F.S.S., I.C.S., Industrial Competition of Asia, p. 225.
  • Pliny, Natural History, xii. 18. See also Mommsen's Provinces of the Roman Empire, vol. ii., 299-300.
  • Herodotus, iii. (V. A. Smith's Early History of India, New Edition, P. 34).
  • See his Hibbert Lectures for 1887 on the Origin and Growth of Religion among the Babylonians.
  • J.R.A.S., 1888, p. 337. Mr. Hewitt, late Commissioner of Chota Nagpur, is the author of many works on primitive history.
  • See J.R.A.S., 1898, on the Early Commerce between India and Babylon.
  • Origin of the Indian Brahma Alphabet, p. 84.
  • See J.R.A.S., April, 1899, p. 482.
  • Buddhist India, p. 116.
  • Bombay City Gazetteer, vol. ii., ch. vi., p. 3.
  • Nos. 339 and 463 (Fausboll).
  • S.B.E., ii. 228; xiv. 146, 200, 217.
  • Hist. Anc. del Orient, English edition, vol. ii., pp. 299, 301, quoted in I.A., vol. xiii., p. 228.
  • Ancient Egyptians, ii. 237, quoted by Delmar, Director of the Bureau of Statistics, U.S.A.
  • Professor V. Ball, M.A., F.R.S., F.G.S., in his highly valuable article on "A Geologist's Contribution to the History of Ancient India," in the I.A. for August, 1884.
  • Gen. xxxvii. 25: "Behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt."
  • I Kings ix. 26, 27, 28: "And King Solomon made a navy of ships in Ezion-geber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea . . . And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon. And they came to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to King Solomon." I Kings x. 11: "And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees and precious stones."
  • Ezekiel xxvii. 24: "These were thy merchants in all sorts of things, in blue clothes, and broidered work, and in chests of rich apparel, bound with cords." Ibid. 15: "They brought thee for a present horns of ivory and ebony."
  • Strabo, xv. 37: "Ebony grows there."
  • History of Plants, iv. 4, 6, quoted by McCrindle.
  • Georg. i. 57: "India produces ivory." The Periplus also mentions logs of ebony exported from Barygaza-Broach.
  • Dr. Caldwell, in his Grammar of the Dravidian Languages, p. 91. We may remember also in this connection the well-known reference in the Baveru-Jātaka to voyages made by Indian merchants to Babylon, in the second of which they took thither the first peacock for sale.
  • Grammar of the Dravidian Languages, p. 122.
  • The Indian Antiquary, vol. viii.
  • Herodotus, vii. 65, viii. 13, ix. 91. V. A. Smith remarks: "The archers from India formed a valuable element in the army of Xerxes, and shared the defeat of Mardonius at Plataea."
  • Cf. V. Smith, Early History of India, p. 35: "The fact that the Indian troops used iron in 480 B.C. is worth noting."
  • Herodotus, iii.
  • See Smith's Early History of India, pp. 137, 153, 225, for an account of this Persian influence.
  • Herodotus, iii. 106, in McCrindle's Ancient India as Described in Classical Literature.
  • Ibid., i. 192.
  • Ibid., iii. 106.
  • I.A., vol. iv., pp. 225 ff.
  • Asiatic Nations (Bohn's ed.), vol, ii., p. 32.
  • I.A., August, 1884.
  • Ctesias, translated by McCrindle, p. 29. His Indica embodies the information he had gathered about India, "partly from the reports of Persian officials who had visited that country on the King's service, and partly also perhaps from the reports of Indians themselves who in those days were occasionally to be seen at the Persian Court, whither they resorted either as merchants or as envoys bringing presents and tribute from the princes of Northern India, which was then subject to Persian rule." (McCrindle's Ctesias, Introduction, p. 3.)
  • Dr. Caldwell in his Grammar of the Dravidian Languages, p. 105.
  • Professor Ball in the I.A., vol. xiii., p. 230.


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The Maurya Period.

We now reach the age of the Mauryas, which may be taken roughly to begin from the date of Alexander's Indian campaigns, about 325 B.C. In the accounts of these campaigns by Greek writers like Arrian, Curtius, and others, interesting light is sometimes thrown on the economic life of the period. Thus it may be stated with certainty that shipbuilding was in those very ancient days (so far back as 325 B.C.) a very flourishing industry giving employment to many, and the stimulus to its development must have come from the demands of both river and ocean traffic. Alexander's passage of the Indus was effected by means of boats

[1] supplied by native craftsmen. A flotilla of boats was also used in bridging the difficult river of the Hydaspes.[2] For purposes of the famous voyage of Nearchus[3] down the rivers and to the Persian Gulf, all available country boats were impressed for the service, and a stupendous fleet was formed, numbering, according to Arrian,[4] about 800 vessels, according to Curtius and Diodorus about 1,000 vessels, but according to the "more reliable estimate of Ptolemy" nearly 2,000 vessels, which between them accommodated 8,000 troops, several thousand horses, and vast quantities of supplies. It was indeed an extraordinarily huge fleet, built entirely of Indian wood by the hands of Indian craftsmen.


A few more interesting details regarding the shipping and navigation of the period are given by Pliny[10] in his description of Taprobane (Ceylon): "The sea between the island of Ceylon and India is full of shallows not more than six paces in depth, but in some channels so deep that no anchors can find the bottom. For this reason ships are built with prows at each end, for turning about in channels of extreme narrowness. In making sea voyages the Taprobane mariners make no observations of the stars, and indeed the Greater Bear is not visible to them, but they take birds out to sea with them which they let loose from time to time and follow the direction of their flight as they make for land."[11] Pliny also indicates the tonnage of these ancient Indian vessels, which is said to be 3,000 amphorae, the amphora being regarded as weighing about a fortieth of a ton.[12]

In the days of Asoka, whose empire embraced a much wider area than that of his grandfather, India was brought into systematic connection with the distant Hellenistic monarchies of Syria, Egypt, Cyrene, Macedonia, and Epirus,[46] and she soon became, through the efforts of merchants, and missionaries preaching the gospel of universal brotherhood, at once the commercial and spiritual centre, the very heart, of the Old World. This was possible only through the instrumentality of an efficient national shipping and system of communications. As Mr. V. A. Smith observes: "When we remember Asoka's relations with Ceylon and even more distant powers, we may credit him with a sea-going fleet as well as an army."[47]

In that monumental work called Bodhisattvāvadāna Kalpalatā, by the Kashmirian poet Kshemendra, of the 10th century a.d., is preserved a very interesting story regarding Indian mercantile activity in the Eastern waters, which clearly indicates that the progress of the foreign intercourse and naval activity of India during the days of the Emperor Chandra Gupta was continued also in the days of Asoka the Great. The 73rd Pallava or chapter of Kshemendra's work above referred to relates how the Emperor Asoka, seated on the throne in the city of Pataliputra, while holding his court, was one day approached by some Indian merchants who traded to the distant islands.

  • V. A. Smith's Early History of India, p. 55.
  • Ibid., pp. 59, 60: "He found the fleet of galleys, boats, and rafts in readiness." Also Arrian, v. 8.
  • Ibid., p. 87.
  • Indica, ch. xix.
  • Commerce of the Ancients, vol. i., p. 12.
  • Disquisition concerning Ancient India, p. 196.
  • Anab., vi. 15, and Curtius, ix. 9.
  • Strabo, xv. 46: "But the armour-makers and shipbuilders receive wages and provisions from the kings for whom alone they work."
  • Strabo, xv. 46.
  • Pliny, vi. 22, quoted in McCrindle's Ancient India, p. 55.
  • Pliny, vi. 22. The fact of mariners using birds for ascertaining the direction in which the land lay is also alluded to in the Digha Nikaya (I. 222) of Sutta-Pitaka, the famous Pali text. Mr. Rhys Davids places the date of the Digha in the 5th century b.c. and takes this reference to be "the earliest in Indian books to ocean-going ships out of sight of land." (See J.R.A.S., April, 1899, p. 432.)
  • Pliny, vi. 22. With regard to the equivalent of the amphora and the tonnage of these ancient vessels, McCrindle says: "The amount of cargo carried by ancient ships was generally computed by the talent or the amphora, each of which weighed about a fortieth of a ton. The largest ships carried 10,000 talents or 250 tons. The talent and the amphora each represented a cubic foot of water, and as the Greek or Roman foot measured about .97 of an English foot, the talent and the amphora each weighed very nearly 57 lbs. See Torr's Ancient Ships, p, 25."
  • V. A. Smith's Early History of India, p. 124. Cf. also Strabo, xv. 52: "Next to the city magistrates there is a third governing body which directs military affairs. This also consists of six divisions with five members to each. One division is associated with the Admiral of the Fleet."
  • In using this book for my purposes I was greatly helped by the translations of Pandit R. Syāma Sāstry in the Mysore Review.
  • Arthaśāstra, bk. ii., ch. xxviii.
  • नावध्यक्षस्समुद्रसंयानवानदीमुखतरप्रचाराण् देवसरोविसरोनदीतरांश्च स्थानीयादिष्ववेक्षेत।
  • तद्वेलाकुलग्रामाः कॢप्तं दद्युः।
  • मत्सवन्धका नौकाहाटकं षड्भागं दद्युः।
  • पत्तनानुवृत्तं शुल्कभागं वणिजो दद्युः।
  • यात्रावेतनं राजनौभिः सम्पतन्तः।
  • शङ्खमुक्ताग्राहिणो नौकाहाटकं दद्युः।
  • स्वनौर्भिवातरेयुः।
  • क्षुद्रपशुर्मनुष्यश्च सभारोमाषकं दद्यात्।
  • शिरोभारः कायभारो गवाश्वं च द्वौ।
  • उष्ट्रमहिषं चतुरः।
  • पञ्चलघुयानम्। षड़्गोलिङ्गम्। सप्तशकटम्।
  • पण्यभारः पादम्। तेनभाण्डभारो व्याख्यातः।
  • द्विगुणो महानदीषु तरः।
  • मूढ़वाताहतां तां पितेवानुगृह्णीयात्।
  • उदकप्राप्तं पण्यमशुल्कमर्द्धशुल्कं वा कुर्य्यात् तथा निर्द्दिष्टाश्चैताः पण्यपत्तनयात्राकालेषु प्रेषयेत्।
  • पुरुषोपकरणहीनायामसंस्कृतायां वा नावि विपन्नायां नावध्यक्षो नष्टं विनष्टं वाभ्याभवेत्।
  • सप्ताहवृत्तमाषाढ़ीं कार्त्तिकीं चान्तरातरः।
    कार्म्मिकप्रत्ययं दद्यात् नित्यं चाह्निकमावहेत्।
  • शासकनियामकदात्ररश्मिग्राहकोत्सेचकाधिष्ठिताश्च महानावो हेमन्तग्रीष्मभार्य्यासु महानदीषु प्रयोजयेत्।
  • क्षुद्रिकासु वर्षास्राविणीषु क्षुद्रकाः।
  • वद्धतीर्थाश्चैताः कार्य्याः राजद्विष्टकारिणां तरणभयात्।
  • अकालेऽतीर्थे च चरत पूर्व्वस्साहसदण्डः।
  • काले तीर्थे च अनि-सृश्चतारिणः पादोनसप्तविंशतिपणः तरात्ययः।
  • कैवर्त्तकाष्टतृणभारपुष्पफलवाटषण्डगोपालकानामनत्यस्सम्भाव्यदूतानुपातिनां च सेनाभाण्डप्रयोगानां च; स्वतरणैः तरतां; वीजभक्तद्रव्योपस्करांश्चामूपग्रामाणां तारयताम्।
  • ब्राह्मणप्रव्रजितबालवृद्धव्याधितशासनहवगर्भिण्यो नावध्यक्ष मुद्राभिस्तरेयुः।
  • कृतप्रवेशाः पारविषयिकाः सार्थप्रमाणा वा विशेयुः।
  • हिंस्रिका निर्घातयेत्। अमित्रविषयातिगाः पण्यपत्तनचारित्रोपमातिकाश्च।
  • परस्यभार्य्यां कन्यां वित्तं वापुहरन्तं शङ्कितमाविग्न भाण्डीकृतं महाभाण्डेन मूर्ध्नि भारेणावच्छादयन्तं सद्योगृहीतलिङ्गिनं आलिङ्गिनं वा प्रव्रजितमलक्ष्यव्याधितं भयविकारिणं गूढ़सारभाण्डशासनशस्त्राग्नियोगं विषहस्तं दीर्घपथिकममुद्रं चोपाग्रहयेत्।
  • निर्गच्छताश्चामुद्रस्य भाण्डं हरेयुः।
    अतिभारेणावेलायामतीर्थे तरतश्च॥
  • V. A. Smith's Early History of India, p. 125.
  • V. A. Smith's Early History of India, p. 125.
  • Rock Edicts II. and XIII.
  • Edicts of Asoka, Introduction, p. viii.
  1. राजा श्रीमानशोकोऽभूत्पुरे पाटलिपुत्रके।

    तं कदाचित् सभासीनं वणिजो द्वीपगामिनः।
    सर्वस्वनाशशोकार्ताः सनिश्वासा व्यजिज्ञपुः॥

    अस्माकं तु प्रवहणं भंक्त्वा रत्नधनं हृतम्।
    केवलं भाग्यदौर्वल्यान्नागैः सागरवासिभिः॥

    वयमन्यत्र जीवामस्तदुपेक्षा तु ते विभो।
    समुद्रयात्राविच्छेदात् कोशशेषविधायिनी॥

    इति तेषां वचः श्रुत्वा राजा संक्रान्ततद्यथः।
    समुद्रान्तर्गतान् नागान् विचिन्त्य स्तिमितोऽभवत्॥

    तं दृष्ट्वा निष्प्रतीकारकोपव्याकूलमानसम्।
    इन्द्रो नामाब्रवीद् भिक्षुः षडभिज्ञः स्थितोऽन्तिके॥

    नागानां रत्नचौराणां स्वत्प्रतापाग्निसूचकः।
    ताम्रपट्टार्पितो लेखः प्रेष्यतां पृथिवीपते॥

    इति भिक्षुवचः श्रुत्वा लेखं राजा विसृष्टवान्।
    क्षिप्तमेव तमम्वुधौ नागास्तीरे प्रचिक्षिपुः॥

    अथ राज्ञा पुनर्लेखे प्रहिते नागपुङ्गवाः।
    स्कन्धार्पिताखिलवणिग्रत्नभाराः समाययुः॥

    तदशेषं नरपतिर्वितीर्य्य वणिजां धनम्।
    विसृज्य नागानभवज्जिनशासनसादरः॥


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The Andhra-Kushan Period : Intercourse with Rome.





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The Period of Hindu Imperialism in Northern India under the Guptas and Harshavardhana
The Foundations of a Greater India : Intercourse with Farther India

Throughout the centuries when India carried on her maritime and political intercourse with Rome she also maintained an equally active commerce with the farther East. The trade with the West alone was unable to give a full scope to her throbbing international life.


The period of Hindu kingdoms


Many well-organized kingdoms with a high degree of civilization were ruled by indigenous kings who had adopted the Hindu or Buddhist religion. This explains why this period in history is called the Period of Hindu Kingdoms. It lasted from ancient times to the 16th Century AD. Because the culture and civilization, which emanated from the Hindu and Buddhist religions, were syncretized with the local cultural elements, the period was also referred to as the Hindu-Indonesian period.

Indian culture and customs were introduced, such as the system of government in a monarchy, the ancestry system, the organization of military troops, literature, music and dances, architecture, religious practices and rituals, and even the division of laborers into castes or varnas. The Hindu literary works known as Vedas and the "Mahabharata" and "Ramayana" epics were also introduced through the wayang, or shadow-play performance, which is still very popular in many parts of present day Indonesia.

The first Indian Buddhists arrived in Indonesia between the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD. They brought with them Buddhism in its two sects, Hinayana and Mahayana. The latter became more advanced in the 8th Century AD. With the spread of Buddhism to China many Chinese pilgrims sailed to India through the strait of Malacca. On their way, some stopped and temporarily stayed in Indonesia to learn more about Buddhism. In 144 AD a Chinese Buddhist saint, Fa Hsien, was caught in a storm and landed in Java-Dwipa, or Java island, where he stayed for five months. The northern part of the island was then ruled by an Indonesian Hindu King named Kudungga. Kutai, on the island of Borneo, was successively ruled by the Hindu kings Devawarman, Aswawarman and Mulawarman. When the Greek explorer and geographer, Ptolemy of Alexandria, wrote on Indonesia, he named either the island of Java or Sumatra "abadiou". His chronicles described Java as a country with a good system of government and advanced agriculture, navigation and astronomy. There was even mention of the "batik" printing process of cloth that the people already knew. They also made metalware, used the metric system and printed coins. Chinese chronicles of 132 AD described the existence of diplomatic regions between Java-Dwipa and China. Ink and paper had already been in use in China since the 2nd Century AD. Around 502 AD Chinese annals mentioned the existence of the Buddhist Kingdom, Kanto Lim in South Sumatra, presumably in the neighborhood of present-day Palembang. It was ruled by king Gautama Subhadra, and later by his son Pyrawarman of Vinyawarman who established diplomatic relations with China. Because of a spelling or pronunciation difficulty, what the Chinese called "Kanto Li" was probably Crivijaya, a mighty Buddhist kingdom. On his way to India, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, I Tsing, visited Crivijaya in 671 AD to study the Sanskrit language. He returned 18 years later, in 689 AD Crivijaya was then the center of Buddhist learning and had many well-known philosophy scholars like Sakyakirti, Dharmapala and Vajabudhi. The kingdom had diplomatic relations with the south Indian kingdom of Nalanda. The Crivijaya mission built a school on its premises where Indians could learn the art of molding bronze statues and broaden their knowledge of the Buddhist philosophy. With the spread of Buddhism, Crivijaya's influence reached out to many other parts of the archipelago. Another known Buddhist kingdom was Cailendra in Central Java. It was ruled by the kings of Cailendra Dynasty. During their rule (750-850 AD) the famous Buddhist temple, Borobudur, was built. In 772 AD other Buddhist temple were also build. They include the Mendut, Kalasan and Pawon temples. All of these temples are now preserved as tourist objects near the city of Yogyakarta. The Cailendra kingdom was also known for its commercial and naval power, and its flourishing arts and culture. A guide to team singing, known as the Chandra Cha-ana, was first written in 778 AD. One of the Pallawa language-stone inscriptions of 732 AD mentioned the name of King Sanjaya, who was later identified as the king of Mataram, a kingdom that replaced Cailendra in Central Java. The Prambanan temple, which was dedicated to Lord Civa, was started in 856 AD and completed in 900 AD by King Daksa. Earlier Civa temples were built in 675 AD on the Dieng mountain range, southwest of Medang Kamolan, the capital of the Mataram Kingdom. In West Java were the kingdoms of Galuh, Kanoman, Kuningan and Pajajaran. The latter was founded by King Purana with Pakuan as its capital. It replaced the kingdom of Galuh. The kingdoms of Taruma Negara, Kawali and Parahyangan Sunda came later. At the end of the 13th Century, the Crivijaya Empire began to fall as a result of severance by its vassal states and frequent attacks by the south Indian kingdom of Chola and by the Majapahit Kingdom. In the end, Crivijaya was completely conquered by Majapahit with the support of King Aditiawarman of the Melayu kingdom. Earlier, Majapahit had conquered the kingdom of Jambi in East Sumatra and, by moving its expansion along the rivers, it finally annexed the kingdom of Pagar Ruyung in West Sumatra. Thus, all of Sumatra came under Majapahit's rule. Meanwhile, for unknown reasons, the mighty kingdoms of Central Java disappeared from historic records and new prosperous kingdom emerged in East Java. King Balitung, who ruled between 820 and 832 AD, succeeded in uniting the Central and East Java kingdoms. The disappearance of records was presumably caused by a natural disaster or an epidemic. At the end of the 10th Century (911-1007 AD) the powerful kingdom of Singasari emerged in East Java under King Dharmawangsa. He codified laws and translated into Javanese the "Mahabharata" epic and its basic philosophy, as exposed in the Bhisma Parva scripture. He also ordered the 12 translations of the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavat Gita. Meanwhile, the island of Bali was ruled by King Airlangga, known as a wise and strong ruler. He had water-works built along the Brantas River that are still in use today. Before his death in 1409 AD he divided his kingdom into the kingdoms of Janggala and Daha or Kediri. These were to be ruled by his two sons. Under Airlangga's rule literary works flourished. The Panji novels written during this period are still popular today. They are even taught in the art faculties of the universities in Thailand, Kampuchea and Malaysia. King Jayabaya of Kediri 1135-1157 wrote a book in which he foretold the downfall of Indonesia. Subsequently, so he wrote, the country would be ruled by a white race, to be followed by a yellow race. His prediction turned out to be Dutch colonial rule and the Japanese occupation of the country during World War. However, Jayabaya also predicted that Indonesia would ultimately regain her independence. During the golden period of the Kediri Kingdom many other literary works were produced, including the Javanese version of the Mahabharata by Mpu (saint) Sedah and his brother Mpu Panuluh. This work was published in 1157. The kingdoms of East Java were later succeeded by the Majapahit Kingdom, first ruled by Prince Wiiaya who was also known as King Kartarajasa. The Moghul emperor, Kubilai Khan attempted to invade Majapahit. His troops, however, were defeated and driven back to their ships. As Majapahit grew to become a powerful empire, it conquered the kingdom of Crivijaya in South Sumatra. As mentioned earlier, this kingdom has once been attacked by the Indian kingdom of Chola. Under King Hayam Wuruk the Majapahit Empire became the most powerful kingdom in the history of Indonesia. It had dependencies in territories beyond the borders of the present archipelago, such as Champa in North Vietnam, Kampuchea and the Philippines (1331-1364). King Hayam Wuruk, with his able premier Gajah Mada, succeeded in gradually uniting the whole archipelago under the name of Dwipantara. During this golden period of Majapahit many literary works were produced. Among them was "Negara Kertagama," by the famous author Prapancha (1335-1380). Parts of the book described the diplomatic and economic ties between Majapahit and numerous Southeast Asian countries including Myanmar, Thailand, Tonkin, Annam, Kampuchea and even India and China. Other works in Kawi, the old Javanese language, were "Pararaton," "Arjuna Wiwaha," "Ramayana," and "Sarasa Muschaya." These works were later translated into modern European languages for educational purposes.


Historical facets of maritime tradition, state formation in Indian Ocean Community

Apart from the presence of monuments venerating Hindu dharma and Bauddha dhamma, a remarkable feature of state formation noted by many historians is that in many states of the Indian Ocean Community, the features of ‘rajadharma’ unique to Hindu civilization were incorporated in the evolving polities. Some times, the historians also refer to this extended area of influence of Hindu civilization as ‘Greater India’. A celebration of the cultural contacts beyond the shores of Hindustan in the Indian Ocean occurs in a festival called Bali Jatra (Journey to Bali). This celebrates annually (Kartik Purnima, i.e. October-November), the maritime legacy day when ancient Sadhabas (Oriya mariners) set sail on ocean voyages to distant lands of Bali, Java, Sumatra, Borneo (all in Indonesia), and Sri Lanka for trade. The festival is also called Boita Bandana Utsav, or the "festival of boats".
In the Hindu tradition, karkotaka is a Naga. Krakatoa is a volcano in Indonesia which had super-erupted.
Karkotaka > krakatoa and maritime migrations creating Hindu civilization.
In the Hindu tradition, naga are a vams’a from paataala loka (ocean world) and venerated as hydraulic engineers, as in pratima adjoining Vidisha rock-cut reservoirs.
In current usage among historians, the term "Greater India," consists of "all the Asian lands including Burma, Java, Cambodia , Bali, and the former Champa and Funan polities of present-day Vietnam," in which pre-Islamic Indian culture left an "imprint in the form of monuments, inscriptions and other traces of the historic ‘Indianising’ process." In some accounts, many Pacific societies and "most of the Buddhist world including Ceylon, Tibet, central Asia, and even Japan were held to fall within this web of Indianising ‘culture colonies’." (Bayley, Susan (2004), "Imagining ‘Greater India’: French and Indian Visions of Colonialism in the Indic Mode", Modern Asian Studies 38 (3): 703-744.)


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Names of BHARTIYA sailors as they appear in cave inscriptions of Socotra (off the coast Yemen), dated to 1st to 6th century ad.




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Also the name Socotra سُقُطْرَى, which marks the island/archipelago off the coast of Yemen as per Huntingford comes from the Sanskrit word: Sukhadhara "the provider of contentment". ;)


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A Trishula like symbol was also found in the Hoq cave, this fits the narrative of the cave having religious significance for the Indian Traders who lived in their colony off the Yemen coast.



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Indian merchants in 6-7th centuries went to Zanzibar to trade in Ivory. Some of them even ended up settling there and had lived their lives in the colony, conducting trade with merchants from India. Daṇḍin had a story about a merchant named Kāla-Gupta living in kalayavanadvīpa

मुनिवर! कालयवननाम्नि द्वीपे कालगुप्तो नाम धनाढ्यो वैश्यवरः कश्चिदस्ति तन्नन्दिनीं नयनानन्दकारिणीं सुवृत्तां “O Best of Sages, In an island by the name of kāla-yavana a [merchant] vaiśya by the name of kāla-gupta lived.
वाणिज्यरूपेण कालयवनद्वीपमुपेत्य कामपि वणिक्कन्यकां परिणीय As a trader, I had set out for the kāla-yavana island and married some daughter of another merchant [there]. With her I was returning, in the ocean, not far from the bank indeed our ship was wrecked.

A story from Gupta age Jain book "Vasudevahindi" Here an Indian merchant travels to South east Asian islands (Java,Sumatra and Kambodia), then to to alasanda (alexandria) and berber coast , then finally via land route to Ferghana and beyond.



Love story of an Indian Merchant and a half greek dotter of Indian merchant

1. How shipwrecked sailors courted help 2.Small boats were sent from Ships to small islands with shallow surroundings 3. Marriage on a ship


Ancient mountaineers , diamond drills and parachute?


Log books

Naimita sastra (Nautical sciences) .

A wise Captain giving a speech about dangers of the open seas to a group of his merchant passengers before starting


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