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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.
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..
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.
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.
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. The
description tallies with those in the Bṛhat Saṃhitā, a 6th century CE
encyclopedia and the
major epic Mahabharata, which makes particular
reference to the wealth of the Kambojas.
- Buddhist sources such as literature in the
Avadāna collection also refer to the
"Kamboja-Dvaravati land road".
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..
The seaport and
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
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
possibly along with some Greek traders.. This
trade continued for centuries, long after the Kambhojans had
converted to Islam in the 9th century CE..
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.
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.
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".
- Undated ancient Jain texts also refer to heavy trade activity
in Saurashtran seaports, some of which had become the official
residences of international traders..
Bharakuccha in particular is described as donamukha,
meaning where goods were exchanged freely.
The Brhatkalpa describes the port of Sopara as a great
commercial center and a residence of numerous traders.
- 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
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.
evidence: western sea trade
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..
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).
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
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.
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.
- An undated Jain text mentions a merchant sailing from
Bharukaccha and arriving in Sri Lanka in the court of a king named
- 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
addition, several ancient epigraphic inscriptions found in a cave
refer to Kamboja corporations and a Grand Kamboja Sangha
(community) in ancient Sinhala, as early as the third
- 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.
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
- ^ a
Buddhist Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, Vol I, 1960, G.
P. Malalasekera, p 526
- ^ a
Proceedings and Transactions of the All-India Oriental Conference,
1966, p 122, Oriental philology.
- ^ India, a
Nation, 1983, p 77, Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala.
Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India, 1977, pp vii, 94
Dr Moti Chandra.
- ^ a
Trade routes; Encyclopaedia Indica: India, Pakistan,
Bangladesh., 1999, p 537, Shyam Singh Shashi - History).
- ^ a
B.C. Law Volume, 1945, p 218, Indian Research Institute,
Devadatta Ramakrishna Bhandarkar, Indian Research Institute - Dr B.
- ^ The
Puranas, Vol V, No 2, July 1963; India, a Nation, 1983, p 76,
Dr Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala.
- ^ :Kamboja.
|| 11.1.04 || .
- ^ :Panchala Kalinga Shurasenah
Kamboja Udra Kirata shastra varttah || 5.35ab ||.
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
- ^ a
Apadana, (P.T.S), II. 476.
- ^ Ancient
Ports of Gujarat, A.R. Dasgupta, Deputy Director, SIIPA, SAC,
Ahmedabad, M. H. Raval Ex. Director, Directorate of Archaeology,
Epigraphia Zeylanka, by Don Martino, Vol II, No 13, pp 75- 76.
(Journal of Royal Asiatic Societry, XV, p 171, E. Muller.
Ptolemy's Geography, p 38.
Yuan Chwang, p 248
- ^ a
Life as depicted in Jain canons, p 273, Bombay, 1947, J. C. Jain;
Geographical Data in Early Purana, 1972, p 321, Dr M. R.
Brhatkalpa Bhashya, I, 2506.
G. Buhler, Indian Antiquary, VI, 1877, pp 191-92 as
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.
Peter T Blood, Lib of Congress, Federal Research Division,
Rome Beyond the Imperial Frontiers, M. Wheeler, p. 156
cf: All Gratitude To Myanmar, S. N. Goenka, Vipassana Newsletter Vol.
7, No. 10 Dec 97.
Jataka Fausboll, Vol II, p 188; Apadana. Vol II,.p 476;
Manorathapurani, Anguttara Commentary, Vol I. p 156.
Ships and the Development of Maritime Technology on the Indian
Ocean, 2002, pp 108-109, David Parkin and Ruth Barnes.
Early History of Education in Ceylon: from earliest times to
Mahasena, 1969, p. 33, U. D. Jayasekara
See Bhallika, Bhalliya, Bhalluka
Thera in: Online Buddhist Dictionary of Pali Proper
Dr S. Parnavitana, Dr J. L. Kamboj and others; see talk page for
Kambojas and for Migration of
- 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
- Life of Ancient India, as depicted in the Jain Canons, 1947, J.
- Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, Dr J. L.
- Bhakati Cult and Ancient Indian Geography, Ed Dr D. C.
- 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 -
- Gujarat as the Arabs Knew it: A Study in Historical Geography,
1959, p 17, Vengalil A. Janaki - Gujarat, India Historical
- 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
- 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