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|Traders, Kings and Pilgrims
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Traders, Kings and Pilgrims
Finding about Trade and Traders
- Traders are the persons who used to carry things from the places where they are made, to the places where they are sold.
- South India was famous for gold, spices and mainly for pepper and precious stones.
- Pepper was known as Black Gold because it was valued so much in Roman Empire.
- Hence, traders used to carry many of these goods to Rome through ships and caravans.
- Roman gold coins have been found in South India, which provides a clear proof that a lot of trade have been done in the past.
- Traders in order to reach India used to explore various sea routes which followed the coasts.
- Some of them were across the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, where monsoon winds helped in crossing the seas more quickly.
- So, to reach Western coast of the sub-continent from East Africa or Arabia, the traders opted for sailing with South-West monsoon.
- Sturdy ships were required for these long journeys.
New Kingdoms Along the Coasts
- There is a long coastline, hills, plateaus and river valleys in the Southern half of the sub-continent.
- The Kaveri river valley is the most fertile amongst the other river valleys.
- Chiefs and kings who controlled river valleys and coasts became rich and powerful.
- The Tamil word Muvendar is found mentioned in Sangam poems.
- It means, three chiefs used for the heads of the Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas who became powerful in South India around 2300 years ago.
- Every chief had two centres of power i.e. one over inland and one on the coast.
- Only two cities were very important out of these six cities, one is Puhar or Kaveripattinam (the port of the Cholas) and the other is Madurai (the capital of the Pandyas).
The chiefs used to:
- demand and receive gifts from people.
- not collect regular taxes.
- go on military expeditions.
- collect tribute from neighbouring areas.
- keep some wealth and distributed the rest amongst their supporters, including family members, soldiers and poets.
There are poems in Sangam collection praising the chiefs who rewarded them with gold, precious, stones, horses, elephants, chariots and fine cloth.
- Around 200 years later, Satavahanas dynasty became powerful in Western India.
- Gautamiputra Shri Satakarni was the most significant ruler of this dynasty.
- We know about him from an inscription composed by his mother, Gautami Balashri.
- He with other rulers of his dynasty came to be known as lords of the Dakshinapatha.
- Dakshinapatha literally refers to the route leading to the South and entire Southern region was known by this name.
- Gautamiputra sent his army to the Eastern, Western and Southern coast.
- Silk is highly valued fabric in most societies because of its rich, glossy colours and smooth texture.
- Production of silk is very difficult.
- Raw silk has to be extracted from the cocoons of silk worms. Then it has to be spun into thread and finally woven into cloth.
- It was in China around 7000 years ago that techniques of making silk were invented first.
- The method of making silk was kept secret for thousand years.
- There were people who used to carry silk to distant lands on foot, horseback and on camels.
- The route they followed came to be known as Silk Route
Silk in West
- The knowledge of silk spread in West as Chinese rulers sometimes sent gifts of silk to rulers in Iran and West Asia.
- Wearing silk became fashion amongst rulers and rich people in Rome about 2000 years ago.
- It was very expensive, as it had to be brought from China passing through mountains, deserts and dangerous roads.
- People who lived along the route asked for payments from traders to pass through.
- There were some kings who tried to control the large portion of the Silk Route as they were gaining profits from taxes, tributes and gifts which were brought by traders.
- In return these kings saved the traders from robbers attacks.
Rulers who Controlled the Silk Routes
- Kushanas were the best-known of the rulers who controlled the Silk Route.
- They ruled over Central Asia and North-West India around 2000 years ago.
- Peshawar and Mathura were their two major centres of power.
- Taxila was also in their kingdom.
- It was in their rule that a branch of the Silk Route extended from Central Asia down to the seaports at the mouth of the river Indus.
- From there silk was shipped westwards to the Roman Empire.
- They were amongst the earliest rulers of the sub-continent who issued gold coins that were used by traders along the Silk Route.
The Spread of Buddhism
- Kanishka was the most famous Kushana ruler who ruled around 1900 years ago.
- Scholars met and discussed significant matters in a Buddhist council organised by Kanishka.
- There was a poet, Ashvaghosha who lived in his court. He composed Buddhacharita, biography of the Buddha.
- Ashvaghosha and other Buddhist scholars started writing in Sanskrit.
A new form of Buddhism was developed known as Mahayana Buddhism. This had two distinct features such as:
- Earlier, the Buddha’s presence was shown in sculpture by using certain signs, for example, Buddha’s attainment of enlightenment was shown by sculptures of the peepal tree but now statues of the Buddha were made in Mathura and Taxila.
- The second change was a belief in Bodhisattvas.
- They remained in the world to teach and help other people.
- Earlier, once they attained enlightenment, they could live in complete isolation and meditate in peace.
- The worship of Bodhisattvas became popular and spread throughout Central Asia, China and then to Korea and Japan.
Buddhism and India
- Buddhism also spread to Western and Southern India where dozens of caves were hollowed out of hills for monks to live in.
- The caves were made on the orders of kings and queens, and also on orders of farmers and merchants.
- Location of these caves were near passes through Western Ghats.
- There were roads through these passes, which connecting these ports with cities in the Deccan.
- Traders halted in these cave monasteries during their travels.
- Buddhism also spread South Eastwards, to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and other parts of South-East Asia including Indonesia.
- In these areas, the older form of Buddhism, Kalled as Theravada Buddhism was popular.
The Quest of the Pilgrims
- Pilgrims refers to those men and women who travel to holy places to offer worship.
- Pilgrims frequently travelled with the traders.
- The Chinese Buddhist pilgrims were very popular who visited places associated with the life of the Buddha and monasteries.
Some of the pilgrims are:
- Fa Xian (came about 1600 years ago)
- Xuan Zang (came about 1400 years ago)
- 1-Qing (came about 50 years after Xuan Zang)
Account of Pilgrims Journey
- Each pilgrim left experiences of their journey.
- They wrote about the dangers, they faced during their travels of the countries and the monasteries.
- They wrote about the books they carried back with them.
The Beginning of Bhakti
- The starting of Bhakti became a central feature of later Hinduism.
- It was also the time when certain deities were worshipped such as Shiva, Vishnu and Goddesses such as Durga.
- Bhakti refers to a person’s devotion to his or her chosen deity.
- Anybody, whether rich or poor, belonging to ‘high’ or ‘low’ castes, man or woman could follow the path of Bhakti.
- The concept of Bhakti is also present in sacred book of the Hindus i.e. Bhagavad Gita which is included in the Mahabharata.
- In this epic, God Krishna asks to Arjuna, his devotee and friend, to renounce dharmas and take refuge in him, as only he can set Arjuna free from form every evil.
- This type of worship spread to various parts of the country.
- The people who followed Bhakti focused on devotion and individual worship of a God or Goddess, and not on the performance of elaborate sacrifices.
- According to the Bhakti system, if one worships the chosen God or Goddess with a pure heart, the deity will appear in the form in which he/she wishes.
- And that’s why there were many forms in which people used to think of them.
- Some of them are as a human being, lion, tree etc.
- After this concept was accepted at large, many beautiful images of these deities were made by artists.
- These deities were placed in temples and at special places in homes as they were special.
- It was Bhakti that motivated best expressions in art-sculpture, poetry and architecture.
- Trader: Traders are the people who bring things from where they are made to the place where they are sold.
- Black Gold: It is the name given to the pepper in Roman Empire. It was valued so much there that it came to be known as Black Gold.
- Route: It is a way or path followed by someone to reach at particular place.
- Muvendar: It is a Tamil word referring to the three chiefs which is used for the heads of the three ruling families, i.e. the Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas.
- Silk: It is a rich and highly valued fabric in most societies.
- Silk Route: It is a route followed by the traders who used to carry silk.
- Kushanas: Kushanas were the ones who ruled over Central Asia and North-West India around 2000 years ago. They controlled the Silk Route.
- Mahayana Buddhism: Mahayana is a form of Buddhism having two distinct features. Firstly, statues of Buddha were made, secondly a new belief in Bodhisattvas, persons who had attained enlightenment, was developed.
- Pilgrim: The persons who undertake journeys to the holy places to offer worship are known as pilgrims.
- Bhakti: Bhakti generally means a person’s devotion to his or her chosen deity.