6 History

Traders, Kings and Pilgrims

Learning Goals:

  • Traders during ancient times
  • Kingdoms along the coast
  • Pilgrims, Buddhism and Bhakti


A person who buys things from where they are made and sell them elsewhere is called a trader. Trade has been taking place since ancient times. Traders travelled long distances to buy and sell things. Traders also helped in exchange of cultures and ideas.

Trade Relations with Rome: South India was famous for gold and spices. Black pepper was the most valued spice and was often termed as ‘Black Gold’. Traders from Rome traveled by ships and by caravans. They carried black pepper to Rome. Many Roman coins have been discovered from south India. This shows that there was good amount of trade between India and Rome.

Ancient Sea Routes through India: The traders also explored many sea routes through India. Some of the sea routes were along the coastline. Some others were through the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. The sailors took advantage of the southwest monsoon while sailing through these seas. Ships were made strong so that they could withstand the rigours of a tough voyage.


The southern part of the peninsula is marked with a very long coastline. This coastline is dotted with hills, plateaus and river valleys are also present along the coastline. There was thriving trade along this coastline. Due to this, chiefs and kings who controlled the coastline and river valleys became very powerful and rich. About 2300 years ago; three ruling families became very powerful in south India. These were; the Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas. The term ‘mauvendar’ has been frequently mentioned in the Sangam literature. The term ‘mauvendar’ means the three chiefs.

Important Trade Centres of South: Each chief had two centres of power. One centre was power was inland and another was on the coast. Thus there were six important cities; in terms of power. Puhar or Kaveripattinam and Madurai were the two highly important cities among them. While Kaveripattinam was the port of Cholas, Madurai was the capital of Pandyas.

These powerful chiefs provided protection to the traders. But they did not collect taxes for giving protection to the traders. Rather they demanded and received tributes from the traders. They usually went on military expeditions too and collected tributes from surrounding areas.

Some of the collected wealth was kept by the chiefs. But most of the wealth was distributed among others; like family members, soldiers and poets. Many poets of the Sangam literature have composed poems in the praise of these chiefs. The poets usually received precious stones, gold, horses, elephants, chariots, and fine cloth as gifts.

The Satavahanas: The Satavanahanas was a powerful dynasty. It rose to prominence in western India around 200 years later. Gautamiputra Sri Satakarni was the most powerful ruler of the Satavahana dynasty. His mother, Gautami Balashri had composed an inscription about him. We know about him through that inscription. The Satavanaha rulers were known as the lords of the dakshinapatha. The term ‘dakshinapatha’ literally means the ‘route leading to the south’. He also sent his army to the eastern, western and southern coast of India.

Traders and Kings

Silk Route

Bhakti Movement

NCERT Solution