Ancient India Maritime History: Trade Links With Europe and Southeast Asian Nations

Excavations Provide Evidence About Ports that Played a Major Role in Overseas Trade in Past

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Ancient India maritime route
Ancient Indo-Oman maritime trade route. Wikimedia
  • The maritime history begins from the 3CE when the Indus Valley people initiated trading contact with Mesopotamia
  • Tamil Nadu being a coastal state had more than 16 ports across Chennai which had trade links with China, Egypt, parts of Europe
  • Presently in Tamil Nadu, a deep-sea port has been proposed in Enayam which would emerge as a major port for Indian cargo to be exported

June 27, 2017:

Before the incipience of air transport, mankind was dependent on sea links for transportation and trading of goods between continents. Sea was the major form of transportation in the past and even though people still use the sea for transport, most of the trading is now usually done through the air transport.

As we look back in time, the ports were the busiest place to be, because sailors were the only people who could get you and your goods across countries. In India too, we had ports down on the southern region so that we could access trade with all over Europe and Middle East countries.

The Ancient India maritime history begins from the 3CE when the Indus Valley people initiated trading contact with Mesopotamia. Indian Silk was one of the most traded product but later on, Indian spices took hold of most of the trading to the West surpassing Silk.

Tamil Nadu being the coastal state had more than 16 ports across Chennai and Tirunelveli which had trade links with China, Egypt, parts of Europe and South-east Asian countries. Archaeologists say ancient Tamil literature and excavations provide evidence about the existence of such ports that played a major role in overseas trade in the past.

C Santhalingam, the secretary of Pandya Nadu Centre for Historical Research told that these sea routes in Tamil Nadu can be traced to the Sangam Period which was from (3CE BC to 3CE AC) and said, “The historical coastal town of Kaveripoompattinam (Poompuhar in Nagapattinam district) recorded import of horses from Arab countries and finished goods from Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The port was also a major centre for the export of spices from South India.

Ancient port was built differently from the modern ports which are at the coastline as they were situated over the river mouths because the transporting ships in the past were not as big as the ones now, so the river mouths were the right places for safe docking of the ships.

Presently in Tamil Nadu, a deep-sea port has been proposed in Enayam in Kanyakumari district which would emerge as a major port for Indian cargo to be exported. The proposed budget for this port is 27,570 crore and the port would act as a hub for the global east-west trade route and also reduce the logistics cost for Indian traders dependent on transhipment in Colombo and Singapore giving rise to maritime link jobs.

prepared by Sumit Balodi of NewsGram. Twitter: @sumit_balodi

  • Jai Rajkumar

    BEFORE THAT TAMILS SAILED ALL AROUND THE WORLD. TAMILS ARE THE FIRST SAILORS O THE WORLD