Monday, December 31, 2012



It has been reasonably easy to identify the major routes used for trade between the markets and seaports of Bangladesh, China, Central Asia, North India, and the rest of the world, for over 2,000 years.

Excavations at such as Wari Bateshwar, Sonargaon and Egarasindhur reveal great centres of trade and industry. So, too, do the writings of traders and visitors. From China in the 4th Century CE, to the Chinese and Arab visitors of the 15th Century, and Portuguese, Dutch and English visitors of 16th Century, the descriptions of ‘great trade emporiums’ proliferate.

Chittagong, Mahasthangarh and the vanished city of Sripur, as well as ancient 
Dacca itself are all there, in the roll; all, of course, accessible to Brahmaputra and Ganges.


The northern routes to Central Asia, through Sikkim and Assam/Myanmar, are well established, but Bhutan, too, seems , for centuries, have added itself to those routes.

Work published by two researchers from University of North Bengal, in India, Ratna Sarkar and Indrajit Ray, ‘Two Nineteenth Century Trade Routes in the Eastern Himalayas; the Bhutanese trade with Tibet and Bengal’, makes a scholarly analysis of this trading partner. There are, certainly, from early in the 17th Century, records of the trade, ‘well provided with Chinese merchandise such as silk, gold and porcelain’. All, perhaps, rather light in weight, in view of the somewhat difficult passes between Tibet and Bhutan. Later in the same century, ‘salt, gold, tea, pearls and corals’ are again specified as traded items that there is every reason to believe had probably, by then, been going on for centuries.

Certainly, also in the late 18th Century, the ‘Collector’ for the East India Company at Rangpur, in North Bangladesh seemed to take the trade for granted, noting ‘ horses, dyes, blankets, cow tails, wax, musk, walnuts, laquer, Chinese silk and silver’ amongst the goods traded in the town that appears to have been the main market place for the trade. No doubt Rangpur’s proximity to Brahmaputra and Teesta, with access to Ganges, played some part in the choice of location as a major market place.

Also of interest, in view of the earlier  proliferation of Buddhist monasteries/vihara in North Bangladesh, is the reference made about the trade from Bhutan by the researchers, ‘the state (of Bhutan) was so grossly involved in the country’s external trade that the benefit of trade went largely to the king, his nobles and other associates including monasteries’.
Passage along the waterways certainly facilitated the onward progression of goods to the coastal ‘emporia’, attracting tolls and dues, of course, levied on such traffic by Zaminders, and contributing to the upkeep of their palaces, as well as many estates in Britain!

**All photographs used in this post were collected from the world wide web.

No comments:

Post a Comment