Fishermen, sailors, and merchants travelled the Indian Ocean as early as the third millennium BCE, linking the world’s earliest civilizations from Africa to East Asia in a complex web of relationships. The commodities exchanged and transported through voyages and sold at markets or bazaars along the Indian Ocean littoral included aromatics, medicines, dyes, spices, grain, wood, textiles, gems, stones, ornaments, metals, and plant and animal products.
While trade might have underpinned many of these relationships, the Ocean was also a highway for the exchange of religious cultures and specialized technologies. The expansion of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity helped define the boundaries of this Indian Ocean ‘world’, creating networks of religious travel and pilgrimage.
This lecture presents an overview of the forces that united the societies of the Indian Ocean world before the 14th century.
Himanshu Prabha Ray has been head of the newly established National Monuments Authority of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India since 2012. She is also the chaiperson of the steering committee of the Project ‘Mausam’- Mausam/ Mawsim: "Maritime Routes and Cultural Landscapes", a Ministry of Culture project with Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA).
Prior to this, she taught as Professor at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, India, since 2006, having joined the university in 1980. Numerous fellowships have enabled her to research in Germany, the Netherlands, France, England, North America and Singapore. She is the editor of Routledge India series on Archaeology and Religion in collaboration with the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, Oxford.
Her presentation will draw on her ongoing research and publications on the theme that include: The Archaeology of Seafaring in Ancient South Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2003); co-edited with Satish Chandra, The Sea, Identity and History: From the Bay of Bengal to the South China Sea (Manohar Publishers, 2013); co-edited with E. A. Alpers, Cross Currents and Community Networks: Encapsulating the History of the Indian Ocean World (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007); co-edited with J.-F. Salles, Tradition and Archaeology: Early Maritime Contacts in the Indian Ocean (Manohar Publishers, New Delhi, 1996; Updated edition 2012).