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Ancient maritime trade of the eastern Indian littoral

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Ancient maritime trade of the eastern Indian littoral

By: Sila Tripati
Marine Archaeology Centre, National Institute of Oceanography
(CSIR), Dona Paula, Goa 403 004, India

Roman port scene
(Lithograph from Seewesen by Walter Muller 1893)
Before the discovery of the monsoon winds by Hippalus in AD 45–47, the mariners of the east coast of India were aware of the monsoon wind and currents and used them for maritime trade. The maritime trade from India to Southeast Asia was a seasonal phenomenon. The distribution of Buddhist settlements, discovery of varieties of pottery, beads and inscriptions along the ports and trade centres point to active maritime trade between India and Southeast Asia. Further, the representation of art on the walls of the caves, stupas and temples indicate that Buddhist monks, saints, traders and craftsmen used to set sail together. Over a period of time, ancient methods of maritime trade disappeared, and are now only remembered and celebrated as rituals and social events along the east coast of India. This communication details how the monsoon wind and currents favoured mariners during their onward and return voyages to Southeast Asia. In order to understand the past monsoon wind and current patterns, the prevailing wind pattern and ocean circulations have been taken into account because for centuries no major changes have been observed in the southwest and northeast monsoons. The findings of varieties in pottery, beads, etc. along the ports and Buddhist settlements show that all these played a significant role in disseminating Indian culture in overseas lands.

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