The establishment of a large empire with a strong and fairly centralised government doubtless created a new sense of security which acted as stimulus to the expansion of arterial roads. The increased attention paid to the laying out and maintenance of roads and waterways facilitated the movement of goods and promoted the growth of trade, internal and foreign both.

Kautilya men­tions different types of roads and pathways such as the king’s highway, the merchants’ road, ruler roads, paths to fields, forests, and so on, and prescribes their respective width and the arrange­ments for their proper maintenance, and the crea­tion of market towns under the state colonisation schemes in rural areas.

The villagers everywhere had a large measure of collective responsibility for the maintenance of roads and other works of public utility, and they were liable to be fined if they failed to cooperate in an enterprise for the common good.

Several important arterial roads are mentioned by the Greek writers, as well as by Kautilya and the Buddhist works. Megasthenes was struck by the Royal Road leading from the Indus to Pataliputra which was continued from there to the mouth of the Ganga, and Pliny has noted its different stages, with the distances in Roman miles, in a difficult and much discussed passage.


The Sutlej near its junction with the Beas, the Yamuna near the present Bureah, the Ganga somewhere near Has- tinapura, Dabhai about twelve miles south of Anupshahr, Kanauj or some smaller place in its vicinity, and Prayaga at the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna, formed, according to Crindle, the principal stages in the road to capital. The roads were marked by millets indicating distances and cross-roads.

A road Sravasti to Rajagriha is mentioned in the Jat and up to Kusinara this must have passed the foot of the Himalayas where the rivers more easily crossed; from Kusinara to Raja there were twelve halts including one at with a single crossing of the Ganga at Patna,as learn from the itinerary of the Buddha record in the Digha Nikaya.

Another route from Sra to the ‘Borders’ is mentioned in the Jatakas. taken along with Panini’s reference to a nor west route (uttarapatha), may mean that there another road from Sravasti to the north-w across the land of the Fiver Rivers, linking it with the great highways of Central and West Asia; or possibly the road joined the Royal Ro at some point. Another road led from Sravasti the south-west by way of Kausambi, Vidisa a Pratishthana on the Godavari.

There was also road to Sind, the home of horses and asses, an Sauvira with its capital at Roruva or Ror Seaports like Tamralipti in the east, Bharuka. chha and Surparaka (Sopara) in the west, wer connected with the main trade routes.


The road to Sind led across the deserts of Rajputana which took several days to traverse, and caravans going east and west by that route marched in the cool of the night guided by stars and land-pilots. Bridges were not known, but only fords and ferries.

The roads, particularly through forests, were infested j by robbers against whom the merchants protected themselves by hiring the services of forest guards’ and maintaining their own armed forces.

In spite of the cheapness and ease of transport by water, Kautilya prefers land routes as they were less risky and open to use in all weather. He prefers coastal trade to oceanic trade as the former touches many port towns and brings in more profit. The Ganga was the most important inland waterway; from Champa boats sailed up to Varanasi, the great industrial and trading centre of the time.

Hence they went further up as far as Sahajati and up the Yamuna to Kausambi. The Jatakas have preserved the memory of daring sea- es to Baveru (Babylon) in the west and arnabhumi, perhaps a generic name for and Malaysia, in the east.


Merchants from kachchha who traded with Suvarnabhumi have found a copvenient half-way house in ‘ Lanka The Jatakas mention also ‘shore-sight- birds which were used in locating the nearest when the ship’s position became doubtful.

India maintained connection with Egypt by the Sea route and with the Seleucid Empire by the sian Gulf. Both these routes were controlled powerful Arab tribes engaged in highly veloped and lucrative trade. Strabo has served an interesting reminiscence of the in- share in the western trade.

In the region of olemy Eurgetes II (145-116 B.C.), an Indian o was stranded on the shore of the Arabian ulf (Red Sea) was brought to Alexandria, ving learnt Greek there, he gave the king information of the sea route to India. Then Ptolemy t two expeditions under Eudoxus of Cyzicus, of which made successful voyages to India d returned laden with goods.

Besides these, India was connected with the West on land three roads. The northernmost was along the river across the narrow section of the Afghanistan where only the Hindukush parates the basins of the Oxus and the Indus, the second lay about five hundred miles to the west where the Afghan mountains end and “n up an easy way across 400 miles of plateau Kandahar to Herat, and another way from the south-east of Kandahar through the Bolan pass into the lower Indus Valley.


Last, a third led across the deserts of Makran or along the coast of Baluchistan. Kautilya mentions huseya (silk) from the Chinabhumi, which seems to mean not China but the land of the Shin tribe of Gilgit and its neighbourhood. He also describes woollen blankets from Nepal called bhingisi and ipasaraka, made of eight pieces, black in colour and rain-proof (varsha-varanam).

The Mauryas period not only paid greater at- ntion to roads and market towns, but also maintained and extended different trade utes. Kautilya, initially, says that the costlier erchandise consisting of elephants, horses, fragrant products, tusks, skins, gold, and silver were plentiful in the Himalayas; and consequently the routes leading to the Himalayas were better than those leading to Dakshinapaiha.

But later, he says more candidly that it was not so, ‘for with the exception of blankets, skins, and horses, other articles of merchandise such as conch-shells, diamonds, precious stones, pearls, and gold are plentiful in the South. And of routes leading to the South, that which traverses a large number of mines, along which valuable articles are moved, and which is frequented by traders because of its easy nature, it to be preferred; as also that by following which an abundance of merchandise of various kinds can be obtained.’

It is quite probable that the first view was the older one, valid when trade with the South had not developed so much as under the Mauryas, and Northern India found trade with the Himalayan regions more worthwhile.


With the establishment and spread of Mauryan power, the balance shifted in favour of the South as more routes leading to that part of the country were opened up and the volume of trade increased.

The remarkable list of agricul­tural, manufacturing and other products of dif­ferent regions of India, which Kautilya mentions, gives an idea of the extent of internal trade and the objects which entered into it.

The Mauryan Empire controlled not only all the internal trade routes, but most of the land and sea routes leading outside the country to the West and East. The liberation of the Indus Valley from the Greek rule, and the territorial gains arising from the repulse of Seleucus and the treaty with him gave Chandragupta Maurya control over the north-western and western land routes which linked India to the Mediterranean lands.

The con­quest of the Deccan brought some of the most important ports into the empire, and the conquest of Kalinga by Asoka completed the process by eliminating the only possible rival for the mastery of the eastern trade.


The wise policy of friendship with the Hellenistic states, which was maintained throughout the best days of the Mauryan Empire, was another important factor that favoured the expansion of India’s trade with Western Asia and Egypt. Professor has made a masterly study of these developments.