The Newsletter 63 Spring 2013

Tamil merchants in India and abroad (9th-14th centuries)

Risha Lee

Between the ninth and fourteenth centuries, merchants with ties to India’s southeastern Tamil region played a crucial role in facilitating trade throughout the Indian Ocean. They transported India’s highly sought after goods – luxury items such as spices, horses, woven cloth, pearls and gems, as well as everyday items, like rice and oil – to all corners of the Asian world, via the southern maritime route. These exchanges linked multiethnic actors into interlocking geographic and cultural networks, and produced a premodern world system. South Indianstyle art and architecture and at least nine Tamil language inscriptions have been discovered in Southeast Asia and China, located along the Indian Ocean trade routes that these individuals would have travelled.

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