Arab merchants connecting East and West - Focillon Arab merchants connecting East and West | Focillon Humane ClubMade in Humane Club

Arab merchants connecting East and West

Published May 20, 2022
Updated Oct 26, 2022

📍 🇮🇳 Arab merchants connecting East and West

Greek historian Herodotus in his book ‘The Histories’ (c.430 BCE) noted down an interesting tale of Arabs trading with Southern Indians, as mentioned by historian Sanjeev Sanyal in one of his books:

“Herodotus seems to have been told another tale by the Arabs about their sources of cinnamon. The cinnamon sticks were evidently collected by giant birds that used them to build nests high up on a sheer cliff. The Arabs claimed that they left large chunks of meat at the foot of the cliffs so that the birds would pick them up and take them to their nests. However the weight of the heavy meat would cause the nests to break and fall, and the Arabs would then collect the cinnamon. Various versions of this story would be used over the next fifteen hundred years by the Indian Ocean merchants to conceal their sources. A version of it would make it into Arabian nights as the tale of Sindbad, the rock and the valley of diamonds.”

One finds this story carved at Mahanavmi Dibba, Hampi, in the king’s enclosure - a carving performed during the dominant time of the Vijayanagara empire (16th century). The southern half of India was in fact known by the name of this capital city. One of the largest cities in the world back in the day: the significant trading ports of Calicut and Cochin were governed by dispatched vassals of Vijayanagara kings.

Built for festivities and/or to pay tribute to the King, the size of the platform suggests how grand the empire was. Arabs were the main trading connection for a long time between East and West. Such representation of Arab traders can be found in many temples across South India.

____ Sources ____

>> Sanjeev Sanyal, “The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean shaped Human History”, 2017

Read more on our socials:
16th CE