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Monday, September 7, 2020

Prominent Ancient Ports of India


The naval trade with various countries during the ancient & medieval times played a great role in the spread of Indian culture abroad. The detailed account of the ports in ancient India can be found from the books "Periplus of the Erythraean Sea & Geographia". During Mauryan rule, the Navadhyaksha, i.e., Superitendent of Shipping used to look after the shipping administration. The coins of the last Satavahana King Yajna Sri Satakarni contained the figure of ships, probably indicating the naval strength of the dynasty. Let us look at an illustrative list of prominent port in ancient times.

Name of the Port


Associated Dynasty & the Time Period

Brief Details


Gujarat (near present Ahmedabad)

Indus Valley; 2400 BC

Export of copper, hardwoods, ivory, pearls, carnelian & gold to Mesopotamia and timber wood & Lais Lazuli to Sumeria


Present Bharuch in Gujarat

3rd Century BC onwards; Major trade center of Roman trade under Western Satraps

1. Spice & silk trade with Arabs. 

2. Import of wheat, rice, sesame oil, cotton & cloth.


Malabar Coast, Kerala (near present-day Kochi)

1st century BC onwards; Chera Kingdom

1. Mentioned in Sangam literature. 

2. Export of spices, semi-precious stones like beryl, pearls, diamonds, sapphires, ivory, Chinese silk, Gangetic spikenard & tortoise shells to Persi, Rome, Greece & Egypt.


 Tamil Nadu

 Early Pandyan Kingdom

 Well known center of pearl fishery & finds mention in the Sangam literature.

 Puhar (Kaveri Poompattinam)

 Tamil Nadu (the mouth of Cauveri river)

 Early Chola; 400 BC - 200 AD

 1. Import of various articles.

2. Mentioned in "Silappadikaram".


 Present Arikmedu near Puducherry

 2nd century BC - 8th century AD

 1. Greek trading port to trade with Rome.

 2. Items of export included gems, pearls, spices & silk. Import of wine was prevalent.


 Near Karachi, Pakistan

 Parthians & Scythians

 1. Import of lines, topaz, coral, strox, frankincense, vessels of glass, silver & gold plate & wine.

2. Export included turqoise, lapis lazuli, seric skins, cotton cloth, silk yarn & indigo.


 Wari (Bateshwar in present Bangladesh)

 450 BC; Maurayan dynasty

 Mathematician Ptolemy mentioned in his book "Geographia"

 Maisolia or Masulipatnam 

 Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh

 From 3rd century BC onwards; Satavahana's dynasty

 1. Muslin clothes were traded by ancient Greeks. 

2. Principal sea port of the Golkonda kingdom from 15th to 17th centuries


 Present-day West Bengal

 Mauryan dynasty

 1. Exit point of the Mauryan trade route for the South & South-East.

 2. Dudhpani rock inscription of Udayman of 8th century AD contains the last record of Tamralipti as a port of ancient South Asia.

 3. Chinese pilgrim Hieun-Tsang call the town Tan-mo-lih-ti, who visited in 639 AD. 

4. Fa-hian stayed here for 2 years.


Odisha2nd century AD; Kalinga dynsaty1. Place of voyage to South-East Asia & China and trade of pottery.
2. Mentioned by Ptolemy & Hiuen Tsang in the 2nd & 7th century AD.


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