The Telegraph
Saturday , March 7 , 2015

Global meet on ancient trade links

An impression of the Harappan cylindrical seal depicts maritime trade. Telegraph picture

Bhubaneswar, March 6: Ancient maritime links among countries around the Indian Ocean will be revived through an international conference in the city.

Experts believe that Odisha was a major centre for maritime trade in the past. Antique objects of this maritime heritage, including a rare Harappan era cylindrical seal, will also be exhibited during the event that is to be hosted later this month.

A large number of Indians, mostly from Bihar, Bengal, Odisha and south Indian states, as well as people from other coastal countries had migrated to other countries around the Indian Ocean. This diaspora will get to interact with each other at the event.

Cultural influence in religion and literature, including various versions of the Ramayan, is a result of constant maritime interaction among these countries.

The meet will also showcase the seafaring legacy, synergic ideologies and display symbols and remnants of this communication through terracotta art forms, boats, text of loan agreements on papyrus, and many more articles such as the unique trade seal of the Harappan era.

"We have strong evidence of ancient maritime trade from the beginning of the Harappan civilisation, dating back to 3,000BC. Archaeological findings show that ships laden with Indian merchandises from Meluhha in Harappa went to Akkad (modern Iraq). At that time, there was a village in Akkad for people from Meluhha to stay. We have come to know about a sailor and an interpreter of Meluhha from the impression on the seal," said Institute of Social and Cultural Studies secretary Arindam Mukherjee, one of the hosts of the event.

A terracotta model of an Egyptian mummy was also discovered at Lothal in Gujarat, which testifies to the trade of Harappan civilisation with ancient Egypt. Images of seafaring vessels on Harappan civilisation's seals have also been found. These will also be apart of the exhibition.

A postal stamp on the Indian Ocean and Rajendra Chola will also be released as a tribute to the glorious past when the Indian ruler reigned over most of the Southeast Asia.

As many as 20 nations, including Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius, Singapore and so on, together known as the Indian Ocean Rim countries, are sending delegations to take part in the event to discuss historical links and cultural networks as well as the present day situation and possibilities regarding macro issues on trade and investment.

Focus will be given on ocean economy, maritime co-operation, non-traditional security issues and energy security at the conference.

The event is scheduled from March 20 to 22 and is jointly hosted by the institute and the Research and Information System for Developing Countries, a central government autonomous body, along with ministries of external affairs, petroleum and natural gas, culture and tourism.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan will inaugurate the conference.

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