Hindu superiority: An Attempt to Determine the Position of the Hindu Race in the Scale of Nations By Har Bilas Sarda, B. A., F. R. S. L



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COMMERCE AND WEALTH.

I.—COMMERCE.


But chief by numbers of industrious hands A nation’s wealth is counted; numbers raise Warm emulation; where that virtue dwells, There will be traffic’s seat; there will she build

Her rich emporium.

-DYER: Fleece.

THOUGH the Indians have practically no hand now in the commerce of the world, yet there was a time when they were the masters of the seaborne trade of Europe, Asia and Africa. They built ships, navigated the sea, and held in their hands all the threads of international commerce, whether carried on overland or by sea.

As their immense wealth was in part the result of their extensive trade with other countries, so were the matchless fertility of the Indian soil and the numberless products of Hindu arts and industries the cause of the enormous development of the commerce of ancient India. As Cowper says :

“ And if a boundless plenty be the robe,

Trade is a golden girdle of the globe.”

India, which, according to the writer in Chamber’s EncyclopEedia, “ has been celebrated during many ages for its valuable natural productions, its beautiful manufactures and costly merchandise,” 1 was, says the Encyclopmdia Britannica, “ once the seat of commerce.”‘

Chamber’s Encyclopmdia, Vol. V, p. 536. 2Encyclopwdia Britannica, Vol. XI, p. 446.

Mrs. Manning says: “The indirect evidence afforded by the presence of Indian products in other countries coincides with the direct testimony of Sanskrit literature to establish the fact that the ancient Hindus were a commercial people.”‘ She concludes: “Enough has now been said to show that the Hindus have ever been a commercial people.”2

Professor Heeren says: “The Hindus in their most ancient works of poetry are represented as a commercial people.” 3

In Sanskrit books we constantly read of merchants, traders, and men engrossed in commercial pursuits. Manu Smriti, one of the oldest books in the world, lays down laws to govern all commercial disputes having reference to seaborne traffic as well as the inland and overland commerce. Traders and merchants are frequently introduced in the Hindu drama. In Sakuntald we learn of the importance attached to commerce, where it is stated “ that a merchant named Dhanvriddhi, who had extensive commerce had been lost at sea and had left a fortune of many millions.” In Nala and Damyanti, too, we meet with similar incidents. Sir W. Jones is of opinion that the Hindus “ must have been navigators in the age of Manu, because bottomry is mentioned in it.”4 In the Ramayana, the practice of bottomry is distinctly noticed Mr. Elphinstone says: “The Hindus



1 Ancient and Mediaeval India, Vol. II, p. 353.

2 Ancient and Medimval India, Vol. II, p. 354.

31leeren’s Historical Researches, Vol. II, p. 266.

4Asiatic Researches, Vol. II, p. 284. Manu speaks of “ mer-

chants who traffic beyond the Sea and bring presents to the king.”—India

in Greece.

5 See Ramayana, III, 237.

navigated the ocean as early as the age of Manu’s code, because we read in it of men well acquainted with sea voyages.”‘

According to Professor Max Dunker, ship-building was known in ancient India about 2000 B.C. It is thus clear that the Hindus navigated the ocean from the earliest times, and that they carried on trade on an extensive scale with all the important nations of the Old World.

With Phoenicia the Indians enjoyed trade from the earliest times. In the tenth century B.C., Solomon of Israel and Hiram of Tyre sent ships2 to India, whence they carried away ivory, sandalwood, apes, peacocks, gold, silver, precious stones, etc., which they purchased from the tribe of Ophir.3 Now Ptolemy says there was a country called. Abhiria at the mouth of the River Indus. This shows that some people called Abhir must have been living there in those days. We find a tribe called “ Abhir “ still living in Kathyawar, which must, therefore, be the Ophir tribe mentioned above. Professor Lassen thinks “ Ophir” was a seaport on the south-west coast of India. Mrs. Manning says it was situated on the western coast of India.

As, however, the authors of Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible think that Ophir was situated somewhere in Africa, let us go a little more closely into the question of this tribe. Let us first see if the articles imported

1 Elphinstone’s History of India, p. 166. “ The word used in the original for sea is not applicable to inland waters.”

2 Called the “ Navy of Tarshish.” See also the Book of Chronicles. 3Max Dunkees History of Antiquity, Vol. IV, and Manning’s Ancient and Mediaeval India, Vol. II, p. 349.

by the Navy of Tarshish were procurable in India, and if they were, whether they were procurable in Africa or any other country also.

Among the things sent by the Hindus to Solomon and Hiram were peacocks. Now, these birds were nowhere to be found in those days except India, where they have existed from the earliest times. “ We frequently meet in old Sanskrit poetry with sentences like these; ‘ Peacocks unfolding in glittering glory all their green and gold;’ peacocks dancing in wild glee at the approach of rain;’ peacocks around palaces glittering on the garden walls.’ Ancient sculpture, too, shows the same delight in peacocks, as may be seen, for instance; in graceful bas-reliefs on the gates of Sanchi or in the panels of an ancient palace in Central India, figured in Tod’s Rajasthan (p. 405).”

At the same time it is quite certain that the peacock was not generally known in Greece, Rome, or Egypt before the time of Alexander of Macedon, whose followers were astonished to see such a beautiful bird in India. It was after Alexander’s time that peacocks came to be imported direct from India or through Persia into Greece. It was the Romans, however, who most delighted in the bird, admired it, and spent immense sums of money on it. It was the height of luxury for the high Roman dames and the old Roman epicures to have tongues of peacocks served to them at their tables.

There is, however, conclusive evidence to prove that Solomon and Hiram got their peacocks from India. This evidence is the name which the bird received in the Holy Land. “The word for peacock in Hebrew is universally admitted to be foreign; and Gesenius, Sir Emerson ‘ferment, and Professor Max Muller appear to agree with Professor Lassen in holding that this word as written in Kings and Chronicles is derived from the Sanskrit language.”I

Now, with regard to ivory. It was largely used in India, Assyria, Egypt, Greece and Rome. Elephants are indigenous in India and Africa, and the ivory

trade must be either of Indian origin or African. But the elephants were scarcely known to the ancient Egyptians,2 and Professor Lassen decides that elephants were neither used nor tamed in Ancient Egypt.’

In ancient India, however, as is well known, they were largely used and tamed. No description of a king’s procession or of a battle is to be met with but elephants are mentioned in it. No chieftain was without his elephants. The elephant is an emblem of royalty and a sign of ‘rank and power. The god Indra, too, has his “ Airawat.” Then, the Sanskrit name for a domestic elephant is ibha, and in the bazars of India ibha was the name by which the elephant’s tusks were sold. In ancient Egypt, ivory was known by the name ebu. Professor Lassen thinks “that the Sanskrit name ibha might easily have reached Egypt through Tyre, and become the Egyptian ebu. It is thus very probable that India first made Egypt acquainted with ivory. Mrs. Manning says: “It is believed that by this name, or by words derived from it, ivory must’have been introduced into Egypt and Greece. Although by what process ibha was changed into the Greek elephas, is not satisfactorily explained.”

Though ivory was known in Greece before the time o Homer, who speaks of it as largebuisedr_hut the

lAncient and Medimval India, Vol. 1I, p. 351. 2Ancient and Medimval India, Vol. II, p. 351, 3Alterthumkunde, Vol, I, p, 354.

elephant itself was unknown to the Greeks until the day of Arabella, where they saw Darius aided by war-elephants with their drivers from India. It was here that the Greeks for the first time saw these animals armed with tusks, which were familiar to them in trade. They gave the name of elephas to the animal itself, whose tusks were known to them by that name. By this name also, Aristotle made the animal famous in Europe.’ We thus see that from India were first imported ivory and peacocks into Egypt, Greece, Palestine and Persia, and that the “ophir “ is no other than the ahir tribe of India.

It would be interesting to many to learn that “it was in India that the Greeks first became acquainted with sugar.” Sugar bears a name derived from the Sanskrit. With the article the name travelled into Arabia and Persia, and thence became established in the languages of Europe.2

Mr. Maunder says: “In the reign of Seleucid/, too, there was an active trade between India and Syria.”‘ Indian iron19 and coloured cloths and rich apparels5 were imported into Babylon and Tyre in ships from India. There were also commercial routes to Phcenicia, through Persia, which will be mentioned later on. We have already seen that India exported her merchandise to Egypt. Mr. Elphinstone says: “The extent of the Indian trade under the first Ptolemies is a well-known fact in history.”



1 Ancient and Medimval India, Vol. II, p. 353.

2See Lassen, p, 318.

3 Maunder’s Treasury of History, p. 775.

3See Heeren’s Historical Researches, Vol. II, p. 272-, 6Elphinstone’s History of India, Vol. L p. 141.

In the Book of Genesis’ we read that Joseph was sold by his brethren to the “Ishmaelites come from Gilead, with their camels bearing spicery, balm and myrrh going to carry it down to Egypt.” Here, Dr. Vincent observes, we find “a caravan of camels loaded with the spices of India and balm and myrrh of Hadramaut.” Some suppose that myrrh used to be imported into Egypt by the Abyssinians, in whose country it largely grows. But the most conclusive proof of its importation from India is the name which it took in Egypt. Dr. Royle2 observes that myrrh is called hal by the Egyptians, while its Sanskrit name is bola, bearing a resemblance which leaves no doubt as to its Indian manufacture. Silk, pearls, diamonds, calicoes, and other commodities of India were also imported into Alexandria in Egypt, which remained for ages the chief emporium of the Eastern commerce.

This trade was carried on from Myos Hormos; the chief port on the Red Sea, where the Indian fleets arrived.. It is said that the articles were carried from here to Coptos, and thence to Alexandria on the Nile. In the middle ages also trade on an extensive scale was carried on between India and Egypt, whence frankincense, an article of perfumery, is said to have been imported from Egypt into India.4 Periplus clearly says that there was much direct intercourse between ancient India and Egypt.5 Mr. Davies says: “But apart from this occasional intercourse, a constant trade was carried on

Genesis, Chapter xxvii, p. 25.

1Royle’ s Ancient Hindu Medicine, “Myrrh,” p. 119, 3Encyclopredia Britannica, Vol. XI, p. 459.

4 Ibid, p. 446.

s See Heerem’s Historical Researches, Vol. II, p, 300.

between Alexandria and Western India. There was also an ov land route through Palmyra.”‘

here was also an active trade between India and Greet The mention of ivory by Homer and of several other I ian articles assign the trade a very ancient date. In ddition to ivory, India also supplied indigo (as mentioned in Periplus) to GreeThe writer in Chamber’s Encyclopmdia ( Vol. V, p. 557) says that indigo was imported into Greece and Rome from India, whence also the inhabitants of the former countries derived their knowledge of its use. India it is called nil, whence is derived the anil of the Portuguese and the neel of the Arabs. Homer knew tin by its Sanskrit nam) Professor Max Dunker says that the Greeks used to wear silken garments which were imported from India, and which were called “ Sindones,” or “Tyrian robes.”

*Rome appears to be the westernmost city in Europe with which ancient India had any considerable trade., The chief articles exported from India, in addition to those already mentioned, are, according toetiplLis,, cotton cloth, muslin, chintz of various kinds, cinnamon and other spicery; diamonds, pearls, onyx stone, emeralds, and many other inferior stones. Ctesias3 adds steel, drugs, aromatics, calicoes4 and lac.’ ry’appears to have been exported from India from the earliest times. &f-essor Heeren says: “India is the mother-country of spices, and from the; most ancient times she supplied the whole Western world with that



I Davie’s Bhagwat Gita, p. 195.

2Periplus, p. 28.

3 Indica, Chapter iv.

4Encycicspa3dia Britannica, Vol. XI, p. 459. Ctesias. Indica, Chapter. xxi.

article.i Pepper was very largely exported from India in the time of Theophrastos,2 who distinguishes several Varieties of it. With pepper, its name also migrated through Persia to the West.3 Mrs. Manning says: “Nard or spikenard, cassia, calamus, and what appears to be the bdellium of Scripture may be traced to India, where scents were early valued and cat-dully prepared.”

Of the products of the loom, silk was more largely imported from India into ancient Rome than either in Egypt or in Greece. “It so allured the Roman ladies,” says a writer, “that it sold for its weight in gold.”3 It is evident that “ there was a very large consumption of Indian manufactures in Rome. This is confirmed by the elder Pliny, who complained that vast sums of money Were annually absorbed by commerce with India.”6 The annual drainage of gold from Rome and its provinces to India was estimated by him at 500 steria, equal to about R3 4,000,000.7 “ We are assured on undisputed authority that the Romans remitted annually to India a sum equivalent to 84,000,000 to pay for their investments, and that in the reign of Ptolemies 125 sails of Indian shipping were at one time lying in the ports whence Egypt, Syria, and Rome itself were supplied with the products of India.”8

Heeren’s Historical Researches, Vol. II, p. 274.



Theophrastos: Historical Plant, IX, 22.

S anskrit pippali, whence the Latin piper and pipper.

4Ancient and Medieval India, Vol. II., p. 353.

5 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. XI., p. 459.

6Pliny: Historical Nation, X IL, p. 18.

7Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. XI. p. 460.

8 Life in Western India (Guthrie), from Tod’sWestern India, p. 221.

Arabia, being the nearest of the countries situated in the west of India, was the first to which the Indian commercial enterprises by sea were directed. The long-continued trade with Arabia dates from a remote antiquity. Agarthachides,’ who lived upwards of 300 years before the time of Periplus, noticed the active commercial intercourse kept up between Yemen and Pattala—a seaport in western India, which Mr. Pottinger indentifies with the modern Hyderabad in Sindh. @add& in Sanskrit means a “commercial town,” “ hich circumstance, if it is true,” says Professor Heeren, `would prove the extreme antiquity of the navigation carried on by the Indus.”2 Professor Max Dunker says: “Trade existed between the Indians and Sabaens on the coast of south Arabia before the tenth century B.C.”3—the time when, according to the Europeans, Manu lived. In the days of Alexander, when the Macedonian general, Nearchus, was entering the Persian Gulf, Muscat was pointed out to him as the principal mart for Indian products which were transmitted thence to Assyria.

That this trade was chiefly in the hands of the Indians. up to the beginning of the last century is proved by what Mr. Cloupet, a not very ancient writer, says: “The commerce of Arabia Felix,” he says “is entirely in the hands of the banians of Gujrat, who from father to son have establisned themselves in the country, and are protected by the Government in consideration of a certain import levied upon their estimated property.”4

Geogr. Min. I. p. 66.



Historical Researches, Vol. II, p. 299.

3Dunker’s History of Antiquity, Vol. IV, p, 156.

4From the accounts of Mr. Cloupet in Allgem. Geogr. Ephem, for November 1810, p. .235.

Egypt was not the only part of Africa with which the Hindus traded in olden days. The eastern coast of Africa called Zanzibar and the provinces situated on the Red Sea carried on an extensive trade with ancient India. Myos Hormos, as has been stated before, was the chief emporium of Indian commerce on the Red Sea. Of the trade with Zanzibar, Periplus gives us pretty full information. After enumerating the commercial stations on the coast as far as the promontory of Rhapta, now called Delgado, which was the most southerly point of his geographical knowledge, and after describing their mercantile relations with Egypt, he continues: “Moreover, indigenous products such as corn, rice, butter, oil of seasamum, coarse and fine cotton goods, and cane-honey (sugar) are regularly exported from the interior of Ariaka (Conkan), and from Barygaza (Baroucha) to the opposite coast.”‘

This trade is also noticed by Arrian, who adds that “this navigation was regularly managed.” Professor Heeren thinks that the trade with the gold countries of Africa will serve to explain the great abundance of this metal in India.

The African trade, too, was in the hands of the Hindus. Periplus2 calls our attention to the fact that the banians, of India as well as merchants of Greece and Arabia, established themselves at Socotra,3 near the Gulf of Aden, beside the Cape of Guardafui. Professor Heeren4 says it is a well-known fact that the banians or



1Periplus, p. 8. 2Periplus, p. 17.

3 It was formerly called the island of Dioscorids.

4 Historical Researches, Vol.’ II.

Hindu merchants were in the habit of traversing the ocean and settling in foreign countries. The fact that thousands of Hindus from Gujarat and its neighbouring provinces are even now found settled in the eastern districts of Africa, proves that in ancient times Indians in large numbers had settled in Africa for purposes of commerce.

The Eastern countries with which ancient India traded were chiefly China, Transgangetic Peninsula and Australia. Professor fleeren says that “the second direction which the trade of India took was towards the East, that is, to the Ultra-Gangetic Peninsula, comprising Aval Mallaca,2 et c., etc. The traffic with these countries would, of course, be carried on by sea only, though the transmission of goods across the Bay of Bengal could not be attended with much difficulty.”3

This commerce was actively carried on in the days of Periplus, as it actually mentions a place situated on the Coromandel coast, from which the passage was usually made to Chrysa, which appellation, according to Ptolemy,4 denoted Malacca, but according to the author of Periplus, the whole of the Transgangetic Peninsula.5

Professor Heeren says: “The Hindus themselves were in the habit of constructing the vessels in which they navigated the coast of Coromandel, and also made voyages to the Ganges and the peninsula beyond it. These vessels bore different names according to their

sits Sanskrit name is A uga, which is noticed. in the Ramayana. 2Col. Wilford. interprets the Sanskrit Yomuta by Mallaca. See Asiatic Researches, Vol. VIII, p. 302.

3 Historical Researches, Vol, II., p. 296.

4See Mannert, Vol. V, p. 242.

SPeriplus p. 34.

size) Nothing, indeed, could furnish better proof that this commerce did not originate from an intercourse with the Greeks, but was the sole product of ancient native industry, a fact which receives additional confirmation from the existence of commercial towns and ports on the Coromandel coast from time immemorial. Masulipatam, with its cloth manufactures, as well as the mercantile towns situated on the mouth of the Ganges, have already been noticed as existing in the time of Periplus; and if we allow these places to have been even then very ancient, of which there is scarcely any doubt, have we not equal reason for believing their commerce arid navigation to be so also ?”‘


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