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Maritime Heritage of India

Indian maritime history predates the Common Era by at least two and a half millennia, when the Indus Valley inhabitants had maritime trading contact with early civilizations like that of Mesopotamia. The dock at Lothal, established in 2400 BCE, is a surprise to those who study Indian maritime history because it requires great oceanographic and hydrographic knowledge, especially regarding tides,and maritime engineering know-how to build such a dock on the course of the Sabarmati that was ever-shifting. Lothal is the earliest known dock in the world fully equipped to berth and service several ships.

According to Mesopotamian inscriptions, Indian traders from the Indus Valley area delivered copper, carnelian, ivory, pearls, hardwoods and gold during the reign of Emperor Sargon of Akkad around 2300 BCE. Evidence is available on the bulk shipping of timber and costly woods and luxury items such as lapis lazuli from Badakshan mines from Lothal to Sumeria, Mesopotamia, Oman and Bahrain.At the time of reign of the first Roman Emperor Augustus (63 BCE to 14 CE), every year, 120 ships were setting sail from MyosHormos to India. Pliny (23-79 CE) says that one million sestertii(you could buy a bottle of wine for half a sestertius at that time) were spent on imported goods such pepper, fine cloth and gems from the southern coasts of India alone.

From the descriptions of Marco Polo written in 1292 CE, Indian ships were among the most sea-worthy vessels of that time. We are not going into the whole depth and breadth of the maritime history of India. We have mentioned these glimpses of the ancient history only to indicate the immense wealth of information available to us in this area that would make every Indian proud of his maritime heritage.

Heritage India Foundation is engaged in documentation of the maritime history and the present naval prowess of India. The project consists of a documentary film and a coffee table book on the proud heritage of India in travel and transportation over the oceans.