THANJAVUR: Sea trade played a significant role in the growth and expansion of the economy of Tamils and also in the colonisation of various countries by them, said D Dayalan, former director of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), in Thanjavur on Thursday.
Delivering the keynote address at the inaugural session of the three-day seminar on ‘India and Indian Ocean Cultural Heritage’ organised by the Centre for Indian Ocean studies and Department of Maritime History and Marine Archaeology of Tamil University, Thanjavur, Dayalan pointed out that Tamil Nadu had many natural seaports of international fame even in earlier times and thus has a long maritime trading history. The river deltas in State were favourable for navigation and the distributaries associated with estuarine mouths naturally led to the development of many ports, he added.
Further, Tamil Nadu had an extensive maritime trade network with the eastern and western countries for quite a long time, Dayalan said. The dynamic maritime trade network of Tamilagam with other countries in the early period is attested by the findings of a large number of coins, rings, glass objects, pottery, amphorae and other materials from Italy and other European countries, China, Africa, Arabian Peninsula, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and far-east countries -- mainly in Tamil Nadu. Similarly, the pottery, sculptures, beads, inscriptions and other materials of Tamil Nadu origin are also found in those countries, he added.
The discovery of potsherds with Tamil-Brahmi script from the early centuries at Mannitalai, Paramankiray, Vettukatu, Kantharodai, Tissamaharama and other places in Sri Lanka; at Phu Khao Thong in Thailand; Myos Hormos (Quseir-al-Qadim) and Berenike, the ancient ports on the Red Sea coast of Egypt; at Khor Rori-Sumharam in Oman and other places attest to the early maritime activity of Tamilagam with far off countries.
The traders and merchant guilds of Tamilagam such as Ainurruvar, Manigramam, Nanadesi,
Padinen-vishayam, Padinen-bhumi and Anjuvannam played a significant role not only in the maritime and inland trade but also in establishing and patronising religious and secular establishments abroad, Dayalan pointed out.