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Ancient Seaports on the Western Coast of India: The Hub of the Maritime Silk Route Network

  • Published : 2018.12.15

Abstract

The extensive maritime trade network between the Harappan and Mesopotamian civilizations as early as the $3^{rd}$ millennium BCE is a testimony to the long maritime trade history of India. From the dawn of the historical epoch, the maritime trade network of India expanded extensively. The findings of a large number of coins, pottery, amphorae and other materials from Italy and various other European countries, west Asia, China, Korea, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and Far-East countries in India, particularly in the coastal regions, are a testimony to the dynamic maritime trade of India with other countries in the early period. Similarly, pottery, sculptures, inscriptions and other materials of Indian origin are also found in those countries. The depiction of different types of ships on the coins, paintings, sculptures, seals and sealing, exhibit the variety of vessels used for navigation and other purposes in the early period. The over 7500 km-long coastline of India is well known for its seaports located at river mouths or outlets to the sea. The Periplus Maris Erythraei, Ptolemy, and Indian literary sources mention many seaports on the western coast of India. Interestingly, archaeological investigations in many of these port towns have yielded material evidence exhibiting their dominant role in transoceanic trade and commerce with many countries in the early period. This paper discusses in detail all the major ancient seaports on the western coast of India and their maritime trade activities. At the outset, the paper briefly deals with the Harappan's maritime network, their seaports and the type of ships of that period. Following this, the maritime trade network of India during the historical period with various countries in the east and west, the traces of Indian influence and materials abroad and foreign materials found in India, the products exported from India, the trade winds and navigational devices and the depiction of ships on the coins, paintings, and sculptures of the period are discussed in detail. After briefly highlighting the coastline of India and its favourable nature for safe anchorage of ships and the strategic position of the seaports of western India, an extensive account of the major ancient seaports of western India like Barygaza, Ashtacampra, Gundigar, Kammoni, Khambhat, Bardaxema, Suparaka, Calliena, Semylla, Sanjan, Naura, Tyndis, Muziris, Nelcynda and other seaports, and their maritime trade activities are given based on archaeological excavations and explorations, literature, epigraphy, foreign accounts, and numismatic evidence.

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