From Harappa to Mauryas, Pandayas, Cholas, Cheras and beyond, the excellence of maritime technology and naval sciences are thoroughly demonstrated
The name of the spacious airport of the world-famous tourist destination Bangkok is - Suvarnabhumi Airport. A great piece of artwork – depicting Samudra Manthan, the great churning described in our Puranas - that attracts the attention of all the travellers as they enter this airport!
Among the ports of ancient Kalinga are Palura and Chelitalo, mentioned respectively by Ptolemy and Xuan Xang in the 2nd century CE and 7th century CE
At the same Suvarnabhumi airport, a great map is placed a little ahead. This map is about 1000 to 1500 years old. Bharat appears in the middle of this map, which is spread from 'Peshawar' to the 'Papua New Guinea. And the map shows Siam (Thailand) prominently. Of course, this map proclaims loudly, “Siam (Thailand) was a part of the vast Indian culture that existed at one time and we are proud of it!”
This feeling is found in almost entire South East Asia. Cambodia is there that proudly boasts icon of Hindu temples on it, but interestingly there is only one Islamic country in the region - Brunei Dar-e-salam. The capital of this country is called - Bandar Seri Bhagwan. This name is the corrosion of the name 'Bandar Shree Bhagavan' from Sanskrit. Yet, they do not get hurt when 'Shri Bhagwan’ comes in the name of its capital, rather they are proud of it.
The areas of Java, Sumatra, Malay, Sinhpur, Siam, Yav Dweep etc. that are today called Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam respectively show tremendous influence of Hindu culture on all these countries. The Hindu kings of Dakshin Bharat went to South-East Asian regions 2000 to 2500 years ago. There are evidences of any hostility and wars with the arrival of monarchs in these regions. On the contrary, whole of South-East Asia began to follow Hindu ideas in the peaceful ways, but on the basis of rich heritage.
Colonial Advent in Bharatiya history was also through the exercise of maritime power
Now, if the Hindu kings, their soldiers and ordinary citizens had gone to South-East Asia in such large numbers, how could have they gone? The obvious answer is by sea. It affirms that in those days the naval science must have been in extremely advanced stage in Bharat. Many paintings and sculptures of Bharatiya boats and sailors of those times are found in Cambodia, Java, Sumatra and Bali. The boats carrying more than 500 people were crafted in Bharat in those days.
Excellence in Maritime
Looking at the overall scenario of sea-faring, the Bharatvasis must have possessed good amount of knowledge of navigation and forecasts of the sea environment. Without such a knowledge, crossing such huge distances in turbulent seas, without the means of weather forecast and communication facilities would have been impossible. It means that the naval science of Bharatvasis must be advanced.
The archaeological department carried out excavations at Lothal in Gujarat in 1955 and 1961. Lothal is not situated on the seashore; just a narrow strip of sea has entered up to Lothal. But the excavation showed that Lothal was an extremely rich dock about 3500 years ago. Highly advanced and well planned town was found there. But most importantly, remains were found showing that Lothal had a shipbuilding factory. Evidence was found that large scale trading was done from Lothal to Arab countries and Egypt.
Till about 1955, we did not have much evidence about Lothal or the naval science in Paschim Bharat. The excavation at Lothal opened the doors of this knowledge. Other coastal locations like, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala were affluent as well.
A glorious harbour named Shurparak stood until 1000-1500 years ago at the place that we call Nalasopara today. Ships from many countries along with indigenous ones came there for trade. Same with Dabhol and Surat
Later, after the establishment of the Vijayanagara Empire, the empire rebuilt many harbours in the south in wealthy condition and started trade in both the directions - the east and the west.
Yucatan is the province in Mexico at the north-western end of Mexico, where the end of South America meets the sea. Remains of their Maya culture are still preserved on a large scale in this region. A very ancient sun temple is still standing at the place called Jawaketu in the same Yucatán region. A Sanskrit inscription has been found in this Sun temple mentioning that Indian great sailor Vusulin had visited here in Shaka Samwat 885.
There was a famous Austrian anthropologist with a long name - Robert Barron von Hein Geldern (1885-1968). He learned at Vienna University. Later he came on the tour of India and Brahmadesh (Myanmar) in 1910. He started his research after being very curious about the advanced knowledge of Bharatvasis. He did a great deal of research on south-east countries. And after a thorough study, he firmly stated that the Indian ships were going to Mexico and Peru much before Columbus!
What greater evidence can there be than this to show that Indian ships were travelling worldwide? And yet we continue to say that Columbus discovered America and Vasco da Gamma discovered Bharat!
In fact, Vasco da Gama himself had reached India with the help of Indian ships. Famous archaeologist Dr Wakankar had gone to England in connection with his research. He saw Vasco-De-Gama's diary displayed in a museum there. He saw it and read its translation. Vasco Da Gama has described how he reached Bharat.
When Vasco da Gama's ship came to Zanzibar, he saw a ship there thrice bigger than his. He took an African interpreter with him and went to meet the ship's Bharatiya owner. The Indian merchant named 'Chandan' was sitting on a cot in very simple attire. When Vasco da Gamma expressed desire to come to Bharat, the Bharatiya businessman told him very casually, "I am returning tomorrow to Bharat. Follow me...”
And thus, Vasco da Gamma alighted at the shores of Bharat!