World History 9 Honors
17 October 2016
Trade and Commerce in Ancient India
The country of ancient India has relied heavily on trade for thousands of years. The first
attempts at trade and exchange between the country and other remote regions first began about 4,000 years ago and continued to thrive even after the fall of the Mauryan Empire in approximately 185 B.C. (Beck et al., 195-196). Numerous goods, including gold, woods, spices, and more have been traded by India for long periods of time (Beck et al., 195). These many items that have notoriously shaped both its culture and economy immensely. Commerce in India has frankly had undeniable success, which can be attributed to its various transportation routes, trading partners, and long-lasting cultural effects.
After the collapse of Mauryan rule, multiple groups migrated to India to try and spread
its wealth and resources to surrounding areas. Many of these travelers were from Central Asia and were the first to notify Indians in the trading business about the most important routes, also known as the Silk Roads (Beck et al., 196). These routes consist of different trails and trading stops that link the subcontinent of East Asia to the Mediterranean Sea (Major). Although these routes were primarily utilized by Chinese traders, Indians also benefited greatly by acting as intermediaries, or go-betweens, in the frequent exchanges. They would first purchase valuable goods from China and then sell them to consumers on their way to Rome (Beck et al., 196). They later moved to selling well-constructed steel and paper to buyers along the roads (Carr). They were able to successfully complete these transactions with the help of trading stations among the roads (Beck et al., 196). Sea routes were also used by Indian traders and were extremely useful. They facilitated the trading process significantly, due to the fact that trading ships could transport a greater amount of goods in a more systematic way than the previous travels by foot or animals (Carr). These ships utilized numerous routes located near the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea to transport resources from India to other regions (Beck et al., 196). It is clear that both land and sea routes were greatly profitable for the country of India as a whole.
India had various partners with which they exchanged goods as well. Their relationship
with China was extremely lucrative from the start, selling numerous goods to traders that were hard to find in any other areas. This included unique medicines, clothing dyes, spices, and precious metals. Chinese traders would ship in Indian animals used to simplify trade on land, too, such as elephants, parrots, and monkeys. They also bought cotton cloth and transported silk to buyers in return. Indian merchants sold West Asian wool and glass to Chinese buyers and other Chinese goods, such as pottery, to West Asian areas as well. (Carr). The other large trading partner was Rome. Through multiple ports, including Alexandra, Gades, Ostia, and others, a great amount of Indian goods were brought in; pepper, marble, perfume, and ivory are just a few of the many (Cartwright). India also developed strong overseas marketing relationship with Africa and Arabia. They shipped in several African goods such as gold and ivory and sold cotton cloth to them in exchange for the valuable resources. They traded a small amount with Arabia as well, sending grains such as wheat and rice, glass beads, silk, and cotton cloth to them while receiving useful animals in return (Beck et al., 197). They even brought in teak wood from Iran in order to build the stable and efficient trade ships (Carr).
Trade and commerce in India has not only had effects on its economy, but it also
influenced the cultures of other areas. As trade expanded, Indian merchants migrated to different regions and brought their culture along the way. This led to drastic changes in forms of dance, architecture, and art throughout the southern parts of Asia. This included areas such as Cambodia and Thailand. Trade also led to the introduction of Indian religions in other areas (Beck et al., 197). Buddhism, a religion composed of four truths aimed to help reach nirvana, complete freedom from pain and greediness, became an extremely large practice. It primarily dispersed to these new areas, especially China, due to the constant travels of Buddhist buyers and monks (Beck et al., 68-69, 197). Hinduism, an array of different beliefs that aim at cleansing the soul from the negative aspects of everyday life, was spread to areas such as Borneo, Nepal, and Sri Lanka too (Beck et al., 66, 197). Advances in science also emerged due to increased trade. In order to calculate their approximate location at sea, sailors on trading ships learned how to utilize the position of stars, expanding knowledge on astronomy. means of tracking time were adopted as well, with days made up of hours and seven day weeks. Dates were also based on sun cycles instead of the moon (Beck et al., 195). It is extremely evident that Indian trade had significant cultural impacts that brought along beneficial adaptations.
India has long been regarded one of the most successful and prosperous countries due to
its great commerce. Its multiple trading routes, including different coastal routes and the various Silk Roads were a large component of its affluence. Indian traders\' roles as middlemen on the Silk Roads turned out to be majorly profitable by importing goods from China and selling them to Roman buyers; coastal routes allowed Indian traders to obtain spices, clothing, silk, animals, and precious metals from new regions too (Beck et al., 196-197). India\'s mutualistic trading relationships with Rome, China, Africa, Arabia, and Iran also allowed countless goods to be imported and exported to and from the area, proving to be very crucial to the country\'s eventual wealth. Last but not least, trade and commerce in India led to many long lasting cultural effects. The spread of new religions, artistic styles, and scientific methods that were eventually adapted into everyday life would not have been made possible without these profitable exchanges.
Beck, Roger B. et al. \"Trade Spreads Indian Religions and Culture.\" World History: Patterns of
Interaction. Holt McDougal, Evanston, IL, 2010.
Carr, K.E. \"Ancient India-Economy.\" Quatr.us. Portland State University, Sept. 2016. Web.
Cartwright, Mark. \"Trade in the Roman World.\" Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History
Encyclopedia Limited, 17 Dec. 2013. Web. <http://www.ancient.eu/article/638/>.
Major, John. \"Geographical Setting of the Silk Roads.\" Asia Society. To Asia Society, 2016.
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