Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Early Indo-Arab Relations

Although positive evidence of any relation between India and West Asia or Egypt during the period of antiquity is lacking but India’s commercial and cultural link with the Arab world are known to have existed since the third millennium B.C. According to ancient Egyptian inscriptions, Queen Hatshepsut of the New Kingdom sent an expedition probably in 1495 B.C., is more likely to be India than Somali land. But stories like invasion of India by the Assyrian Queen Semiramis (c. 810 B.C.) are hardly creditable.

A group of Indian military men known as Hittites and Mitannis established their rule in northern Mesopotamia in the second Millennium B.C. Their princes bear Aryan names, they worshipped Indian gods, Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and tught the people of the region horse breeding and breaking.

The rise of Achaeminids in Persia (549 B.C.) brought India into extensive contact with the outside world. The construction of the Nile canal, exploration of the Indian Ocean from the Persian Gulf to the delta of the Indus and then to the apex of the Red sea, all contributed to this.
Dionysus was sent by Ptolemy Philadelpus to the Mauryan court, and left an account of India. The Mauryan kings also sent ambassadors to the Egyptian court. It is said also that the rulers of Syria has a good relation with the rulers of India. Antiochus of Syria (206 B.C.) maintained a direct contact with India.

India’s commercial relations with the Arab world was established between the merchants of the Kulli culture in southern Baluchistan and those of early dynastic Sumer, probably soon after 2800 B.C. The Harppa civilization may have established contact with the West about 2000 B.C. By the later historic times in Mesopotamia Indian cotton was known under the name of Sindhu, and it passed into Greek in the form of Sindon.

From very early times up to about the third century A.D., the Greeks and Romans dominated the commercial activities in the Arabian Sea, and the Arab merchants played an important role in this trade. These Arabs were the main agents of trade between India and Egypt. They supplied to Egypt precious stones, spices and the incense, burnt at the altars of the ancient Egyptian Gods.

During the reign of King Solomon, voyages were made to Ophir once every three years and the merchandise brought from there consisted of gold, silver, jewels, wood, ivory, apes and peacocks. There were Indian merchant settlements on the island of Socotra. King Ptolemy II of Egypt is said to have displayed in his procession, Indian women, oxen and marble.

During the period between the decline of the Greco-Roman trade with India in the third century A.D., and the rise of Islam in the seventh century A.D., a number of important political changes took place. The decline of the Himyarite Kingdom on the one hand and the growing interest of the Sasanians in the navigation of the Arabian Sea on the other, affected Arab trade relation with India, and caused the transfer of the traffic between India and Egypt into the hands of Persia.

Thus in the century before the rise of Islam, the Persians were supreme in the Arabian Sea trade. Their boats frequented the harbours of India. Sea-going ships from India sailed as far as al-Madain up to the Tigris, and al-‘Ubulla has been termed as Farj al_hind, the marches of India. Among the most important ports of India at this time were Sindhu, Orrhota, Calliana, Sibor, ect.

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4 comments:

  1. this is a very interesting subject of mine, I am really glad that you took the chance of delving into it. I know form some of my reading,and from to talking to relatives of mine,that people from Hadramot (. حضرموت) had,had went to India through trade ships "long time" ago, but these same people never actually wrote about their lives there,or perhaps did but did not publish their accounts, and their stories.

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  2. Aslm, My home town is bhatkal which is located in South India. I belong to community called Nawayth. It is believed that our community is Arab whoc migrated from Hadrmouth. You can visit this link to read more
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nawayath

    How these community is different from all other arab settlement is that they have maintained there identity and the are not doing intercaste marriages. They have there own culture, food, attire and language which is mixup of persian, arabic, konkani and urdu.

    I am planning to visit hadramouth once inshallah to see what we have in common. I am residing in Dubai.

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  3. Quote:"A group of Indian military men known as Hittites and Mitannis established their rule in northern Mesopotamia in the second Millennium B.C. Their princes bear Aryan names, they worshipped Indian gods, Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and tught the people of the region horse breeding and breaking."

    This is partly true. They did bear Aryan names and follow a religion similar to people of the Vedic era. But that was not because they were of Indian origin. That was because they, along with Aryans, Iranians, Germanic, Celtic, Italic, Greek people had the same origin i.e. Indo- Europeans. Check Indo-Europeans on Wikipedia.

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  4. One of the reasons why I like visiting your blog so much is because it has become a daily reference I can use in order to learn new nice stuff. It's like a curiosities box that surprises you over and over again.

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