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Part of a series on Trade routes
Amber Road · Hærvejen . Incense Route
Kamboja-Dvaravati Route . King's Highway
Roman-India routes . Royal Road
Silk Road · Spice Route . Tea route
Varangians to the Greeks · Via Maris
Triangular trade .Volga trade route
Trans-Saharan trade . Salt Route
Hanseatic League . Grand Trunk Road

The Kamboja–Dvaravati Route was an ancient land trade route that was an important branch of the Silk Road. The route dates from the Indus Valley Civilization period in the 3rd millennium BCE, and was a major trading pathway through to the 1st millennium CE. It connected the Kamboja Kingdom in today's Afghanistan and Tajikstan to Dvaraka and other major ports in Gujarat, India, permitting goods from Afghanistan and China to be exported by sea to southern India, Sri Lanka, the Middle East and Ancient Greece and Rome. The road was the second most important ancient caravan route linking India with the nations of the northwest.[1]


The route

A horse caravan.

During the Indus period, the Kamboja-Dvaravati trade route began at the seaport of Dvaravati. It passed through the Anarta region to Madhyamika, a city near Chittor. South of Aravalli, the road reached the Indus River, where it turned north. At Roruka (modern Rodi), the route split in two: one road turned east and followed the river Sarasvati to Hastinapura and Indraprastha, while the second branch continued north to join the main east-west road (the Uttarapatha Route across northern India from Pataliputra to Bamyan) at Pushkalavati.[2][3][4][5][6].

From Pushkalavati, the Kamboja-Dvaravati and Uttarapatha routes ran together to Bahlika through Kabul and Bamyan. At Bahlika, the road turned east to pass through the Pamir Mountains and Badakshan, finally connecting with the Silk Road to China.[2][5][6][7]

Land trade

Both the historical record and archaeological evidence show that the ancient kingdoms in the northwest (Gandhāra and Kamboja) had economic and political relations with the western Indian kingdoms (Anarta and Saurashtra) since Pre-Christian times. This commercial intercourse appears to have led to the adoption of similar sociopolitical institutions by both the Kambojas and the Saurashtras.[1][6]


Historical records

References in both Hindu and Buddhist scriptures mention trading activities of the ancient Kambojas with other nations:

  • The Arthashastra by Kautiliya, a treatise on statecraft written between the 4th century BCE and the 4th century CE, classifies the Kamboja and Saurashtra kingdoms as one entity, since the same form of politico-economic institutions existed in both republics. The text makes particular mention of warfare, cattle-based agriculture and trade.[8] The description tallies with those in the Bṛhat Saṃhitā, a 6th century CE encyclopedia[9] and the major epic Mahabharata, which makes particular reference to the wealth of the Kambojas.[10]
  • Buddhist sources such as literature in the Avadāna collection also refer to the "Kamboja-Dvaravati land road".[11]

Archaeological evidence

Numerous precious objects discovered in excavations in Afghanistan, at Bamyan, Taxila and Begram, bear evidence to a close trade relationship between the region and ancient Phoenicia and Rome to the west and Sri Lanka to the south.

Because archaeological digs in Gujarat have also found ancient ports, the Kamboja–Dvaravati Route is viewed as the logical corridor for those trade items that reached the sea before traveling on east and west.[12].

The seaport and international trade

Lapis lazuli.

From the port of Dvaravati at the terminus of the Kamboja–Dvaravati Route, traders connected with sea trading routes to exchange goods as far west as Rome and as far east as Kampuchea. Goods shipped at Dvaravati also reached Greece, Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, southern India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, the land of Suwannaphum (whose location has still not been determined) and the Indochinese peninsula.

Dvaravati was, however, not the only port at the route's terminus. Perhaps more important was Barygaza or Bharukaccha (modern Bharuch, located on the mainland to the east of the Kathiawar peninsula on the river Narbada.

Horse dealers from north-west Kamboja traded as far as Sri Lanka, and there may have been a trading community of them living in Anuradhapura, possibly along with some Greek traders.[13]. This trade continued for centuries, long after the Kambhojans had converted to Islam in the 9th century CE.[14].

The chief export products from Kamboja were horses, ponies, blankets embroidered with threads of gold, Kambu/Kambuka silver, zinc, mashapurni, asafoetida, somvalak or punga, walnuts, almonds, saffron, raisins and precious stones including lapis lazuli, green turquoise and emeralds.

Historical records: western sea trade

The sea trade from the southern end of the Kamboja–Dvaravati Route to the west is documented in Greek, Buddhist and Jain records:

  • A century later, Ptolemy's The Geographia also refers to Bharakuccha port as a great commercial center situated on the Narbada estuary.[15] Ptolemy also refers to Saurashtra as Syrestrene.
  • The 7th century CE Chinese traveler Yuan Chwang calls Saurashtra Sa-la-ch'a and refers to it as "the highway to the sea where all the inhabitants were traders by profession".[16]
  • Undated ancient Jain texts also refer to heavy trade activity in Saurashtran seaports, some of which had become the official residences of international traders.[17]. Bharakuccha in particular is described as donamukha, meaning where goods were exchanged freely.[17] The Brhatkalpa describes the port of Sopara as a great commercial center and a residence of numerous traders.[18]
  • Other ports mentioned in texts include Vallabhi (modern Vala), a flourishing seaport during the Maitraka dynasty in the 5th through 8th centuries CE. The existence of a port at Kamboi is attested in 10th c. CE records [19]

The commerce of the western Indian coast was lucrative. Bharukacchan and Soparan traders who established settlements or trading posts in the Persian Gulf reaped enormous profits from the Indo-Roman trade and, according to the Vienna Papyrus, written in the mid-second century A.D, paid high rates of interest.[20]

Archaeological evidence: western sea trade

A Roman coin.

There is good archaeological evidence of Roman trade goods in the first two centuries CE reaching Kamboja and Bactria through the Gujarati peninsula. Archaeologists have found frescoes, stucco decorations and statuary from ancient Phoenicia and Rome in Bamian, Begram and Taxila in Afghanistan.[21].

Goods from Rome on the trade route included frankincense, coral of various colors (particularly red), figured linen from Egypt, wines, decorated silver vessels, gum, stone, opaque glass and Greek or European slave?women. Roman gold coins were also traded and were usually melted into bullion in Afghanistan,, although very little gold came from Rome after 70 CE. In exchange, ships bound for Rome and the west loaded up in Barbaricum/Bharukaccha with lapis lazuli from Badakshan, green turquoise from the Hindu Kush and Chinese silk (mentioned as reaching Barbaricum via Bactria in The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea).[22]

Historical records: eastern sea trade

The eastern and southern sea trade from the ports at the southern terminus of the Kamboja–Dvaravati Route is described in Buddhist, Jain and Sri Lankan documents.

  • Ancient Buddhist references attest that the nations from the northwest, including the Kamboja as well as the Gandhara, Kashmira, Sindhu and Sovira kingdoms were part of a trade loop with western Indian sea ports. Huge trade ships regularly plied between Bharukaccha, Sopara and other western Indian ports, and southern India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Suwannaphum and the Indochinese peninsula.[23][24] In particular, literature in the Buddhist Avadāna collection refers to a saint named Bahiya Daruciriya who was born in the port of Bharakuccha and who made several trade voyages. He sailed the length of the Indus seven times, and also travelled across the sea as far as Suwannaphum and returned safely home.[11] Also, the 4th century CE Pali text Sihalavatthu refers to Kambojas being in the Province of Rohana on the island of Tambapanni, or Sri Lanka.[25]
  • An undated Jain text mentions a merchant sailing from Bharukaccha and arriving in Sri Lanka in the court of a king named Candragupta.[26]
  • There is also a tradition in Sri Lanka, (recorded in the Pūjāvaliya) that Tapassu and Bhalluka, the two merchant brothers, natives of Pokkharavati (modern Pushkalavati) in what then was ancient Kamboja-Gandhara and now is the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan, "visited the east coast of Ceylon and built a Cetiya there."[27]. In addition, several ancient epigraphic inscriptions found in a cave in Anuradhapura refer to Kamboja corporations and a Grand Kamboja Sangha (community) in ancient Sinhala, as early as the third century BC.[28]
  • Several Iranian records mention an embassy from a Sri Lankan king to the Iranian emperor Anusharwan (531-578). The Sri Lankan monarch is reported to have sent the Persian emperor ten elephants, two hundred thousand pieces of teakwood and seven pearl divers.

Archaeological evidence: eastern sea trade

Archaeological digs in Sri Lanka have turned up coins, beads and intaglios from Bactria and Afghanistan. A fragment of a Gandhara Buddha statue in schist was recently unearthed from the excavations at Jetavanaramaya in Anuradhapura. Other finds in Sri Lanka, such as lapis lazuli of the Badakshan type, connect that island with Kamboja, ancient source of the material.

See also


  1. ^ a b Buddhist Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, Vol I, 1960, G. P. Malalasekera, p 526
  2. ^ a b Proceedings and Transactions of the All-India Oriental Conference, 1966, p 122, Oriental philology.
  3. ^ India, a Nation, 1983, p 77, Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala.
  4. ^ Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India, 1977, pp vii, 94 Dr Moti Chandra.
  5. ^ a b Trade routes; Encyclopaedia Indica: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh., 1999, p 537, Shyam Singh Shashi - History).
  6. ^ a b c B.C. Law Volume, 1945, p 218, Indian Research Institute, Devadatta Ramakrishna Bhandarkar, Indian Research Institute - Dr B. C. Law.
  7. ^ The Puranas, Vol V, No 2, July 1963; India, a Nation, 1983, p 76, Dr Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala.
  8. ^ :Kamboja. Sauraastra.ksatriya.shreny.adayo vartta.shastra.upajivinah || 11.1.04 || .
  9. ^ :Panchala Kalinga Shurasenah Kamboja Udra Kirata shastra varttah || 5.35ab ||.
  10. ^  :Kambojah.................yama vaishravan.opamah...|| MBH 7.23.42 || i.e the Kambojas ferocious like Yama, the god of death (in war), and rich like Kubera, the god of wealth, in material wealth.
  11. ^ a b Apadana, (P.T.S), II. 476.
  12. ^ Ancient Ports of Gujarat, A.R. Dasgupta, Deputy Director, SIIPA, SAC, Ahmedabad, M. H. Raval Ex. Director, Directorate of Archaeology, Ahmedabad.
  13. ^ Epigraphia Zeylanka, by Don Martino, Vol II, No 13, pp 75- 76.
  14. ^ (Journal of Royal Asiatic Societry, XV, p 171, E. Muller.
  15. ^ Ptolemy's Geography, p 38.
  16. ^ Yuan Chwang, p 248
  17. ^ a b Life as depicted in Jain canons, p 273, Bombay, 1947, J. C. Jain; Geographical Data in Early Purana, 1972, p 321, Dr M. R. Singh.
  18. ^ Brhatkalpa Bhashya, I, 2506.
  19. ^ G. Buhler, Indian Antiquary, VI, 1877, pp 191-92 as Kamboika.
  20. ^ The Indian Ocean in Antiquity, p. 295, J. Reade; A Resurvey of Roman Contacts with the West, H. P. Ray, Ed. Baussac and Salles, p. 103.
  21. ^ Peter T Blood, Lib of Congress, Federal Research Division, 1997.
  22. ^ Rome Beyond the Imperial Frontiers, M. Wheeler, p. 156
  23. ^ cf: All Gratitude To Myanmar, S. N. Goenka, Vipassana Newsletter Vol. 7, No. 10 Dec 97.
  24. ^ Jataka Fausboll, Vol II, p 188; Apadana. Vol II,.p 476; Manorathapurani, Anguttara Commentary, Vol I. p 156.
  25. ^ Ships and the Development of Maritime Technology on the Indian Ocean, 2002, pp 108-109, David Parkin and Ruth Barnes.
  26. ^ Early History of Education in Ceylon: from earliest times to Mahasena, 1969, p. 33, U. D. Jayasekara
  27. ^ See Bhallika, Bhalliya, Bhalluka Thera in: Online Buddhist Dictionary of Pali Proper Names.
  28. ^ Dr S. Parnavitana, Dr J. L. Kamboj and others; see talk page for Kambojas and for Migration of Kambojas.

Book and Periodicals

  • Ankuravatthu section of Petavatthu Jataka.
  • Barhatkalpa Bhasya I.
  • Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, 1960, G. P. Malalasekera
  • Dipavamsa, IX
  • Mahavamsa, VI
  • Classical Accounts of India.
  • Ptolemy's Geography.
  • Purana, Vol V, No 2, July 1963.
  • Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India, 1977, Dr Moti Chandra - Trade routes
  • Ships and the Development of Maritime Technology on the Indian Ocean , 2002, David Parkin and Ruth Barnes.
  • The Archaeology of Seafaring in Ancient South Asia [Cambridge World Archaeology], 2003 Himanshu Prabha Ray, Norman Yoffee et all.
  • Life of Ancient India, as depicted in the Jain Canons, 1947, J. C. Jain.
  • Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, Dr J. L. Kamboj.
  • Bhakati Cult and Ancient Indian Geography, Ed Dr D. C. Sircar.
  • On Merchants and Monsters: Common Motifs in Tales from Medieval China and 19th-century Bukhara, by Siamak Adhami
  • Ancient Cities and Towns of Rajasthan: A Study of Culture and Civilization, 1972, p 513, Dr K. C. Jain
  • B.C. Law Volume, 1945, Devadatta Ramakrishna Bhandarkar, Indian Research Institution, Indian Research Institute - History
  • India, a Nation, 1983, p 77, Dr Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala - India
  • Gujarat as the Arabs Knew it: A Study in Historical Geography, 1959, p 17, Vengalil A. Janaki - Gujarat, India Historical geography
  • Proceedings and Transactions of the All India Oriental Conference, 1966, p 122
  • Trade and Commerce of Ancient India, C. 200 B. C.-c. 650 A. D.: 200 B.C.-c , 1966, Haripada Chakraborti - India
  • Economic life in the great epic: Some Aspects, 1990, Shyamal Kumar Banerjee
  • Encyclopaedia Indica: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh., 1999, p 537-38, Shyam Singh Shashi - History
  • The Beginnings of Civilization in South India: Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 29, No. 3 (May, 1970), pp. 603–616, Clarence Maloney

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