Ships and Navigation in the Medieval South India

Dublin Core


Ships and Navigation in the Medieval South India


Session 2
Nautical (Ship and boat) Archaeology of South Asia


The maritime activities of Indian sub continent have a hoary past. The inscriptions of medieval South India disclose information about the ports of Coromandel coast, the various kinds of boats and ships and goods that were imported and exported through these ports. The inscriptions of the Cholas, Pandyas and the other major dynasties in the Andhra region give valuable evidence on this aspect. Besides, the inscriptional evidences there are quite a number of sculptures, coins bearing the figure of ships and boats attest to the various kinds of vessels of that period. The Cholas who ruled over the entire Tamil country in the medieval period made sevaral voyages to the South-East Asian countries through big vessels. Rajaraja I, the great Chola king (A.D.985-1014), allowed Srivijaya king Sri Mara Vijayadunga Varman son of Sulamanivarman to build a Buddhist vihara in the name of his father Sulamanivarman at Nagappattinam, which suggests that he had a cordial relatio nship with the kingdoms of far east countries during his regime. His able son Rajendra I (A.D.1012-1044) he crossed the Bay of Bengal and reached many countries which were listed in the lengthy prasasti. His prasasti mentions that he used many kinds of ships on the ocean to reach the Southeast Asian countries such as Kadaram (modern Kedha) Java and Sumatra.

An inscription from Mottuppalli refers to the various kinds of ships which were anchored on the Andhra coast. The port had a yard for ship repair. This port was declared as a tax-free zone for the ships affected during storms. An inscription from Nagalapuram near Chittor in Andhrapradesh refers to a kind of ship knows as tongukappal in Tamil. In all probability it could be a big Chinese vessel, namely the jung. This paper discusses in details the nature of the ships and navigation in medieval south India




November 2011



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