Top 9 ancient commodity markets of India

By Rohan Chawla → Monday, 13 March 2017

Commodity markets or trading centers are the towns or ports which become a hub for trade carried internally or internally and externally. These regions generally enjoy some geographical bliss over the other regions that encourage the growth of trade in this region. The area is generally easily accessible for foreign as well as local merchants. Moreover, the commodity producing towns and villages are easily navigable and accessible through this area.
There are basically two kinds of trading centers one are the port towns and the other are inland areas. The port towns had access to the sea and were blessed with natural harbors for the docking of ships and boats. These became very popular as humans learned to sail ships. The maritime routes were cheap and less dangerous as compared to the roads which were infested with highway robbers and wild beasts.
Here are a few ancient seaports that were the hub for the trade during the period of 200 BC-625 AD:


A part of the north-western group of ports, this famous port stood at the mouth of the Indus river. This port has been addressed by rulers and intellects in their scriptures using various names. It is known as "Alakanda" in Sanskrit derived from Alexander or Alexandria. It is mentioned as "Barbaras" in the Mahabharat and Puranas.
The port has been identified as a source of pearls and corals. The two types of corals obtained were alakandaka(from the mouth of the river) and vaivarnika(obtained from the sea on the islands).
This port was an entry point for the ships from the west which then cut into the Arabian sea into an area referred as Syagros. The main item of export was pepper. Large-scale export of pepper took place during the reigns of Alexander the great and the Greek ruler Demetrius.
The Arabs had the monopoly over the trade of spices from India to the west. They bought the spices and sold it to the west with their own. In a certain scripture, it is mentioned that the first Greek ship that sailed from Egypt to India returned with spices and precious stones in the 120 BC.
Inscriptions and cave paintings obtained from Nasik, Junnar, and Karle have records of merchants of this port town. They amassed huge quantities of wealth and the ports near the mouth of the Indus were at their peaks during the first two centuries before Christ. This region flourished and prospered till the time of the Gupta's and is mentioned in the famous poets Kalidasa's account.


The modern Baroach was known as Barygaza under the Greek and the Mauryans. This state after the fall of Chandragupta Maurya passed into the hands of the Greek rulers and then the Sakas. The coins of Apollodotus and Menander were under circulation during this time that signifies the Greek ruler Demetrius's dominion.
The port town rested on the bank of river Narmada and was difficult to access. The monstrous high tides and shoals were the main reasons an inexperienced sailor found himself in a terrible situation.  The hinterlands of this port were very fertile and produced wheat and rice in large amounts. Other than wheat and rice, cotton was produced and distributed. The other items of export include onyx-stones, muslin, and other local products. This was the main distributing center of western India. Foreign goods and commodities were brought here and then sold in other parts of India.
The goods were traded by the Romans internally through this port. The trade increased manifold during the reign of Augustus. Numerous coins of his dynasty were unearthed that make these trade relations evident. Romans brought butter, wheat, and rice. Ships from this port were often loaded with copper and sandalwood. The merchandise imported were pearls, purple clothing, wine, dates, gold, and slaves.
This port was more favorable for trading as the Barbacium port was shallow and marshy which made it unnavigable except the middle part where the town was situated. Scriptures point to the presence of poisonous snakes that were deadly. This was another hindrance at the lower Indus region port. Moreover, the port of  Barygaza was directly accessible through the Narmada which was not the case with Barbacium. This port served as the main western gateway to the north and south of India.


A market town known for pearl fishery is mentioned by Periplus in his inscriptions. Periplus was a traveler and philosopher of the ancient period.
This port was of great interest to Ptolemy. He was a Greek ruler who collected information regarding the trade in this region. He made the port town into a legal marketplace for foreign as well as local merchants. This place became a trade hub for the cotton produced all around India. Cotton was exported to numerous places from this port.


This port is reduced to a mere fishing town of today. It was of great importance during the past. This port was associated with the trade of teak and blackwood. This was also a center for shipbuilding and was mentioned after Simylla in the inscriptions.


The port belongs to the now modern state of Tamil Nadu. It was referred to as a cape and a town. This region was an important port town as well as a religious place in the South India. It was famous for conch-shells and was famous for the creation of ornaments such as bangles, rings etc .


The region is now known as Pondicherry. It was a major Indo-Roman trading center. This was concluded after the discovery of Roman pottery in 1945. This discovery made it clear that monsoon trade between Rome and this port town could be dated back to 30 AD.
The northern and southern excavations of this region showed usage of tanks and courtyards. These were excavated for making muslin cloth which was an important export product of the South India. The other industry that flourished during this period was that of beadmaking. The presence of Greco-Roman gem-cutters is evident from many instances. They used gold, semi-precious stones and glass to design the ornaments.
Italian, Arentine, Greco-Roman and other forms of pottery found while excavations are evidence of the settlement of western merchants on this port. It was believed that they settled under some conditions favorable to the development of the port as well as the settled individuals.

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