Unearthed trade route sheds new light on ancient history
The latest finding flies in the face of the long-held view that in Orissa the sea was the only trade route. The importance of riverine trade in the ancient economy, experts believe, is slowly becoming clear
Bhubaneswar: During the ongoing excavations at Aragarh in Puri district, experts at the Orissa Institute of Maritime and South East Asian Studies (OIMSEAS) have unearthed an old maritime trade route near the hills at the site, which could account for the spread of Buddhism in ancient times along the Orissa and Andhra Pradesh coast. The latest finding, experts believe, explains the preponderance of Buddhist sites in the region.
While exploring the Daya river valley, archeologists first encountered early Buddhist sites at Kurkimundia on the banks of the Daya river, Labanagiri and Aragarh. The latest finding flies in the face of the long-held view that in ancient Orissa the sea was the only trade route. The importance of riverine trade in the ancient economy, experts believe, is slowly becoming clear.
According to studies carried out in the past, Jaugada in Ganjam district was the only trade link connecting the state to north India while there was no evidence to establish the connection with south India.
“Jaugada apart, there were no evidences available. There was nothing to establish the trade links with the southern states like Andhra Pradesh. The latest finding makes it clear that all the Buddhist settlement sites in India were established along the trade routes like Sanchi, Barhut, Vaisali and Pitalkhora,” said archaeologist Sunil Patnaik who heads OIMSEAS.
“The Buddhist sites at Kurkimundia, Labanagiri and Aragarh establish the trade links with south India and our research proves that the Daya was used for trade in that era,” he said. The discovery of Buddhist sites along the coastal belt all the way to Andhra Pradesh, he added, has proved the existence of hitherto unknown trade routes.
The popularity of Buddhism in the state from the days of emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC contributed to the process of cultural transmission over the centuries. Evidence indicates that for nearly 1,000 years since the beginning of the Christian era, monks, merchants and adventurers kept visiting South East Asia, which with its valuable deposits of gold and tin as well as species and scented wood lured merchants. Thus the direction of Kalinga’s (the state’s ancient name) sea-faring activities was mainly towards South East Asia.
“It is evident from Buddhagat (Burmese sacred scripture) that a steady commercial intercourse was cultivated with Myanmar by the Buddhist merchants of Kalinga, which soon led to missionary undertakings for the propagation of their religion, and afterwards to the assumption of political supremacy in the land. The profit of the overseas trade propelled the earliest maritime activities in Kalinga,” stated Patnaik.
“Similarly missionary activities were undertaken at various other countries like Sri Lanka, Java, Vietnam and other South and South East Asian countries from Kalinga which account for the reference of transportation of Buddhist relics to Sri Lanka and mass migration to Indonesia as well as the establishment of the Sailendra Empire,” informed Patnaik.
The cultural milieu of the times is reflected in the language, literature, art and religion of eastern India and those of the South East Asian countries. Recent researches on the basis of material culture (archaeology) have shown that several Buddhist establishments developed in the post-Ashokan period, particularly at Lalitgiri, Langudi, Radhanagar, Lalitgiri, Dhauli, Aragarh and Jaugarh thanks to the cultural interaction between Central Asia and Southeast Asia and ancient Orissa.
That ancient Orissa was a nodal trade route has been proved from the recent survey of the trade routes from Balkha and Bamiyan in Afghanistan where the Silk Route met and then continued through the north Indian Ganga valley up to Tamralipti (Tamluk, now in West Bengal) connecting the Buddhist establishments of the state like Langudi, Radhanagar, Lalitgiri, Dhauli, Aragarh and Jaugarh. This route passes through the south Indian Buddhist establishments like Kalingapatnam, Salihundam, Nagarjunakonda and Kaveripattinam.
This fact, revealed by OIMSEAS scholars after study of the Buddhist establishments in the East Coast, was presented in the annual conference of Indian Archaeological Society held at Hyderabad University in December last, said Patnaik. A group of scholars from BHU, Deccan College, Utkal University and ASI working with OIMSEAS has revealed these hidden facts of Orissa’s history. The recent survey and documentation of Buddhist remains in the Daya valley will open new avenues of research in Orissa’s history and culture.