The waning influence of a Eurocentric paradigm paves the way for a close look at the maritime situation of the Indian subcontinent in the Indian Ocean during the first half of the second millennium C.E. Situated at the centre of the Indian Ocean, the two sea-boards of the subcontinent, along with Sri Lanka, appear in a wide variety of sources—literary (including letters of Jewish merchants), epigraphic, archaeological (including shipwreck archaeology)—as sites of vibrant commerce and cultural transactions across the sea. Nomenclatures and the historical geography of the Indian Ocean also form parts of the discussion. This essay pays particular attention to the exchange in daily necessity commodities, including plant products. A survey of ports dotting both the coasts of the subcontinent suggests the dynamic character of premier ports, shaped by their relation with subsidiary ports and their respective hinterlands and forelands. The paper highlights the role of seafaring groups, especially the ship-owners, active in and beyond South Asia. The available evidence irrefutably demonstrates that Indic people did take to sea during pre-modern times, thereby driving home the inefficacy of the taboos on seafaring in Sanskrit normative texts. To what extent the Indian Ocean experienced political contestations has been discussed in the light of a 14th century Latin Crusade tract. The advent of the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean in 1498 did not signal the Age of Discoveries in the Indian Ocean in the light of seafaring in this maritime zone during 1000–1500 CE phase.
A Subcontinent in Enduring Ties with an Enclosed Ocean (c. 1000–1500 C.E.): South Asia’s Maritime Profile ‘Before European Hegemony’†
- Views Icon Views
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
Ranabir Chakravarti; A Subcontinent in Enduring Ties with an Enclosed Ocean (c. 1000–1500 C.E.): South Asia’s Maritime Profile ‘Before European Hegemony’. Journal of Medieval Worlds 2 June 2019; 1 (2): 27–56. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jmw.2019.120003
Download citation file: