Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ancient Trade Routes to West from Andhra Pradesh, India

Hadramaut Excavations Reveal New Evidence of Indo-Roman Trade Links from Arikamedu, India.

Alessandra Avanzini(Ed) A Port in Arabia between Rome and the Indian Ocean (3rd C.BC-5C. AD): Khor Rori Report 2. Arabia Antica 5, <L’Erma> di Bretschneider: Roma, 2008. P.742+6. ISBN 978-88-8265-469-6
This report contains detailed reports of the excavations in Khor Rori (Dhofar in the Sultanate of Oman) from 2000 to the first campaign in 2004, which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since, 1996. Sumhuram is a systematically excavated archaeological port in the region, and contemporaneous to that of Berenike, in Egypt, and Arikamedu, in India. Excavations and examinations in this report push the date of foundation of the secondary trade city, Sumhuram, back to 300 B. C.E., before the arrival of Romans, as opposed to the earlier notions of being established during the 1st century C.E. This changes historical understandings of the maritime trade between Indian Ocean, and Ancient South Arabia (ASA) prior to 100 C.E. As the editor has clarified it succinctly this contradicts the commonly held view that Romans opened new sea routes in the Indian Ocean region, but establishes that they exploited the areas of traffic that previously existed in the years before the Common Era. This report also establishes that Sumhuram is not a subsidiary port functioning in conjunction with Qana, to export Frankincence to the Mediterranean, but an independent port with trade links connecting to Indian Ocean trading posts. The primary relations of Sumhuram are with Arabia and India, as opposed to Qana or the Mediterranean. Several identifiable objects of Rome in fact were thought to have been brought to Sumhuram from India rather than Rome through Qana or Mediterranean trade. This supports the long held view of scholars of Indian history that direct trade link existed between Berenike (Mediterranean port) and Arikamedu (port on the East coast of India on Indian Ocean), and another direct sea link existed between India, and Ancient South Arabian ports (on the Persian Gulf), and that South Arabia did not directly trade with Rome on the sea, but India.    
This book contains 20 articles not numbered in serial order, and is also divided in four sections all of which are also not numbered in serial order. Vittoria Buffa and Alexander V. Sedov’s article, “The Residential Quarter: Area A,” examines Area A thoroughly and summarizes the architectural layout and structures and also notes the changes to these, during the five noted constructional phases. Notable are water wells, not fresh water as the authors note, but may have been used as for drainage. This article also examines the cultural material such as bones, coins etc. found in Area A. A notable find is the use of six large whale vertebrae to form the ceiling of a dwelling. Bronze tools, coins, sea shell lamps also help one understand the material life of people living in Sumhuram. Every object is meticulously collected and systematically catalogued with placement maps and charts. Figures of reconstructed models of residential area help understand the exact appearance of the houses and residential areas under discussion. The authors also note that loam used in construction changes with each constructional phase, although the basic model and plan of houses does not change, significantly.  This article is followed by Alexander Sedov’s article on, “Pottery,” found in Area A. All the descriptions are followed by pictures of residential area as well as the pottery (page 15-123). The descriptions and pictures present the excavated area A, as clearly as though one is visiting the site.
      Next article by Alexander V. Sedov, “Excavations at the Trench A 13 (pages 125- 181),” provides detailed description of excavated layers and accumulated cultural material. Although each phase shows a defense wall, the third constructional phase shows the destruction of defense tower from earlier and a small defense tower is built. In the 5th phase the northern wall begins to collapse and a new passage is added from the north-west. The author does not offer any explanations as to what the changes in the constructions may indicate, however, it can only be guessed that smaller walls, smaller defense tower and collapsing structures may indicate, the lessening fortunes of the city Sumhuram. This article is also accompanied by excellent photographs of excavated structures and cultural material.  
The next article, “The Cultural Quarter: Area F,” also written by Alexander Sedov discusses the excavated structures in Area F, with its 4 phases and accompanied cultural material. Important structural discoveries in this part of the town are workshops (bronze, pottery, shell) and a temple. The discussion of temple structures and material is complete, accompanied by excellent photographs and descriptions of minute details. The figure 10 on page 201, illustrated each object location with catalogue numbers and very helpful to understand the historical context. This article is also accompanied by analysis and illustration of pottery from Area F. The article, “Religious Architecture in Sumhuram: The Extra Muros Temple,” by Alexia Pavan, Alexander V. Sedov includes complete description of the temple, located on the east bank of Wadi Darbat, accompanied by clear photographs of the temple. The temple does not conform to the standard typology of the temples in this area, it differs in several aspects from typical Hadrami temples and the author categorizes it in the typology of “Hypostyle Temples,” the buildings with the roof supported by columns. The majority of Hadrami temples are categorized under this type although particular differences can be noted, as mentioned by the authors. Reasons for its abandonment are not clear, although the authors hold the view that frequent floods were the cause. Unless the cultural life of the residents has changed it is difficult understand the abandonment of the temple. Floods may have prompted relocation rather than abandonment. Existence of two temples in the same city, one extra muros, and one within the city walls is also puzzling and needs to be further examined.
Another article by Alexander V. Sedov, “The Coins from Sumhuram: The 2001A-2004A Seasons,” discusses the details of 244 coins found in the excavations, accompanied by excellent photographs and tables of exact stratigraphic locations of each coin. This is a thorough and excellent report on the coins. Early coins (4-2 C.B.C.E), 36 of them, show Hadramawt imitation of Athenian tetradrachms (head/owl series). The coinage of Yashhuril Yuharish, son of Abiyas, Mukarrib of Haramawt is most commonly found. The coins were not struck, but cast in a mould and show head with legend on the obverse, and the reverse with eagle. Some of the coins types excavated here in Sumhuram (Khor Rori) are also found in Shabwa, and eastern Arabia. The author proposes that these coins may have been minted in a local mint most probably located at Qana. Eastern Arabian coins were also excavated here which led the author to conclude the trade contacts may have existed between eastern and southern Arabia in pre-Islamic Arabia. Alessandra Lombardi, Vittoria Buffa, Alexia Pavan, in the articles, “Small finds,” describe, catalogue and discuss each object that cannot be categorized with other cultural objects of the excavation. The finds include, incense burners of various sizes and shapes, weights, beads, pendants, rings and other ornaments, vessels, bowls, tools, cosmetic objects, glass pieces, accompanied by excellent photographs and catalogue descriptions.
The next article, “Terrestrial Fauna and Marine Produce in Sumhuram,” by Cabriele Carenti, Barabara Wilkens identifies several types of animal species in Sumhuram. Notable are bovine bones (Bos Taurus). Of all the faunal remains 35% are collected from temple and 38% from dwellings. Pig is normally kept in the area of Dhofar, but bones are found in Sumhuram, which can be explained only through link between these regions. On the whole marine animal remains predominate and indicate a sea food diet of this city. Marta Mariotti Lippi, Roberto Becattini, Tiziana Gonnelli, analyze the floral remains in the article, “Archaeopalynology at Sumhuram,” This study shows that Sumhuram has significantly more greenery and steady water supply with earth cover, which may have deteriorated due to the dry spell after 3rd Century C.E. This study is thorough with pollen analysis and diagrammatical representation of data. Mauro Cremaschi, Alesandro Pegego, “Patterns of Land Use and Settlements in the Surroundings of Sumhuram: An intensive geo-archaeological survey at Khor Rori: report of field season February, 2006,” brings together the archaeological, faunal and floral data together to understand the settlement patterns of Khor Rori (Sumhuram) between 2 c B.C.E-3 c C.E. Megalithic dolmens, historical phase cairns and medieval era stone circles were commonly noticed in this area. Although palaeolithic and Neolithic occupations are absent, this area is continuously occupied from protohistoric times onwards. This article is accompanied by detailed topographic chart of all structures of Sumhuram.

     Alessandra Avanzini’s article, “Notes for a History of Sumhuram and a New Inscription of Yashuril,” is the last of the articles summarizing the archaeology of occupational levels before the Islamic occupation. One wishes this was the first article of the book for the excellent work it achieves in drawing together research from various archaeological data to propose ground breaking conclusions of the proto historic and early historic Sumhuram up to 5th century C.E. As the author has summarized in this article, study of Sumhuram offers new insights into understanding the trade relations between Ancient South Arabia (ASA) with India on the Indian Ocean. This study is remarkable since it establishes with considerable evidence that the city of Sumhuram is a port of trade connected to Indian Ocean, although attesting to be part of Hadramawt kingdom, it functioned quite independently. It was not a subsidiary port to Qana for exporting Frankinsence. It directly traded with the port of Arikamedu, any Roman objects found here were actually exported from India, and its shipping is also modeled after Indian ships as is evidenced by the graffiti of a double - masted ship, a characteristic Indian Ocean ship, noted on the coinage of Satavahanas, rulers of South India, when the port of Arikamedu flourished (p. 615-616). Therefore the links of Arikamedu and Indian Ocean predominate in ASA, and proves the predominant trade between these regions before 5th century C.E.    Other articles following this examine Medieval Islamic occupation and role of Khor Rori, and scientific investigations of the area, and its neighborhood, Dhofar.
     Although the text uses the Common Era for dating, it is surprising that the title still keeps the older notation of dating as BC and AD.   This book is essential for researchers and students of Indian Ocean region as well as Rome and the Mediterranean, and significant for the Persian Gulf scholars as well. The greatest contribution of this book is the wealth of information presented in detail, recorded with minute details and pictures, which brings into light new sea faring routes of Indian Ocean and Mediterranean through the Persian Gulf.
Lavanya Vemsani
Shawnee State University

Saturday, March 15, 2014

India is Ready for Change!

India is not just ready for change, but it is ready for a complete change of its political leadership. It looks as though one or the other top candidates of each political party is riding high in this wave of change. However, the commitment to fielding new, and uncorrupt leaders in the upcoming  Parliamentary elections will be the real determiner of success for the political parties.
It seems the popular electorate is looking for solutions to common problems rather than self proclaimed dynastic puppets.

What Indians are looking for is uncorrupt politicians, free education, access to housing, electricity and water. It is clear that the common public is unfazed by the political banter, and it had learned to filter through the mixed messages that these political leaders are offering. They are unmoved by the caste, religion or geographical ideologies.

With an electorate that is young, educated and enthusiastic it is time for political parties to prepare and present a practical agenda. This is the first time, India has 80% literate and 75% below 40 age group heading for the Elections. Any political party that could attract this group would sure win the election, and the only key to winning them is propose change, based on issues on hand.

New Genre of Imagined Ideologies Taking Root in India: Imagined Pasts and Divisive Present

India is a test case for any ideologies to take shape in the world. Religion had been the greatest divisive factor during the 'struggle for independence in India'. It is then replaced by the caste during the last sixty years. However, the ideology of caste, is fragmented and did not yield the desired results for the many political parties that exist in India, thus prompting them to look for a more profitable ideology that would lead to an electoral success. It is now geographical identity that seems to be yielding the electoral advantage for the political parties. All of a sudden, there are political parties, pledging support for one of other of these imagines identities based on geography. All the people of a set geographical region are said to possess a certain unique identity regardless of their religion, caste, class, or most importantly gender. Women is a silent subject in this matter.

Divisive ideologies and factional politics are not new to Indian political arena. However the new divisivist ideologies, based on imagined identies encompassing geogrphical location are slow to emerge although, its seeds could be found in British colonial rule.

A region such as 'Telangana,' which never existed as an independent state anytime in known History, but only as a region in Nizam territories (Nizam called his Telugu territory as Telengana (land of Telugu, the Marathi territory as Marathwada (land of Marathi)), is now created as a separate state. Marathwada and Telangana are part of Deccan Subedari from which the Nizam state was formed, while Nizam ceded the Coastal Andhra to British, ruling only the Marathwada and Telangana regions directly. What is interesting in this state formation is that such imagined identity is now turned into a viable political tool. Several political parties are ambitiously preparing for elections 2014 in Telangana region with this new divisivist ideology proclaiming to serve the interests of Telanganites. Time only would prove the fallacy of such imagines identities and paternalistic policies implemented without popular support.

Festival of Yoga: Tribute to Indian Culture and Life Style

The state of Himachalpradesh organizes Yoga festival annually attracting thousands of Yoga enthusiasts and practitioners to Rishikesh.

The first thing that comes to one's mind when anyone says 'India,' is Yoga. Yoga, is a set of philosophic principles aiming to achieve unity of body and mind, through intense concentration of mind, and various body postures. This ancient science of body and mind found several enthusiasts in its followers in this modern era. Importantly recent discoveries that mindful yoga meditations could be used to treat several psychological and physical ailments made it even more popular across the world.

Several good books are written on Yoga to familiarize the practitioners to laymen about yoga. Patanjali's Yogasutra exists in a number of translations in English. The recent Sackler Gallery exhibit on Yoga is an excellent show case of Yoga, as well as informative.

India of course had been holding Yoga festivals in a number of cities, the pioneer of such festivals is Rishikesh. This year's yoga festival hosted between 1-4 March, 2014 had been attended by several Yoga gurus (teachers), students and individual practitioners from across the world. It is a time of yogic exuberance, and enthusiasm. The service of the yoga institutions, and practitioners in holding this festival and bringing yoga to the forefront should be applauded. After all it is the society that benefits from having healthy and happy individuals. Practicing yoga at least for 30 minutes everyday would provide immense benefit for everyone.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Types of Corruption and How to Curb Them: Thoughts From Kautilya's Arthasastra

India may have to look back at its history as it is trying to find ways to curb corruption in India. One precious resource in this area is Kautilya's Arthasastra. A quick look reveals this following measures which improve administration, without creating an external structure, but establishing internal checks and measures in each department.

State contracts (government services such as civil supplies to government auctions such as mining or 2G that were noted for scams in the recent past): This is one of the largest forms of corruption in any state. Of course, the Mauryan state is not an exception to this. Kautilya has a number of ideas on how to curb this type of corruption at the highest to lowest levels. Book II.Section 65-67 of Arthasastra deals with embezzlement of money that is due to the state and how the responsible persons should be punished. Kautilya indicates that in such cases all the persons indicted, such as the treasurer, the prescribed, the receiver, the payer, the person who caused the payment shall each be separately examined (Artha.II.67). A proclamation shall be issued, "whoever has suffered at the hand of this offender may make their grievances known to the king". Those who respond to the call shall receive such compensation as is equal to the loss they have sustained. This is the main aspect missing from the legal system designed to stop corruption in modern day India. Those that are affected by it may complain, but they won't get a remedy for their trouble. Including this in the law will bring forward common public to complain and are now part of the process to stop corruption.

Corruption is rampant at the local and regional level where enforcing bodies are often controlled or connected to local goons or factions. Local contractors and officers form a nexus of corruption which is impenetrable and untraceable for prosecuting purposes. Since the state pays for a number of contracts either to build, maintain or expand existing infrastructure (roads, electricity, sewage and water supply), health care, and educational facilities. Chapter 9, Section 68-70 of Book II of Arthasastra deals with the conduct of government servants, daily checks, punishments and remedies. Kautilya is not shy of using spies in internal management, and suggests that those who attend upon military officers and are noted for their honesty and good conduct shall be spies to watch the conduct of accountants and clerks.

Loopholes in financing of political parties, and also lack of transparency in election spending by major political parties. Although this aspect seems as though it is unrelated to administrative or state corruption. This is the biggest behind the scenes back bone of corruption that supports and spreads corruptions to all sections of society. Undeclared funds (black money) spent during elections cause a double loss to the Treasury and the payments given out to local public and others to garner support will spread the corruption widely.

Existing rules are inadequate or not implemented due to political pressures noted owing to the nexus between election funding and business, and other interested groups. This is often the most significant cause of corruption. Lack of will on the part of political parties and elected leaders contributes to lethargy on the part of the administration and common public. The public may suffer silently and may not come forward to complain but get used to paying bribes to get services. Which results in a breaking down of the economic system and gradually results in an economic backlash where inflation may become rampant.

Therefore finding clean politicians, and establishing transparency in funding and election spending of political parties is the first phase to fighting corruption in India. The second phase is that the elected leaders be strong willed to implement the laws and also remedy the affected public.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Strategic and Political Changes in the Former British Colonies of the South Asia

It is a well known fact that India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Sri Lanka and Myanmar are former British colonies. They face economic issues due to population increases, while democracy has still not crossed its infancy in this region.

It is unfortunate that except for India, the rest of the states in this conglomerate are still in a state of democratic chaos. Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have held elections recently, but owing to the nature of its state as Islamic theocracy with the presence of numerous polarized power groups, and the presence of too strong a military, democracy is only a stop gap measure in the long standing history of ethnic tensions, cleanings, and military dictatorships.

Bhutan, Tibet, Myanmar and Srilanka are all Buddhist majority nations, and Nepal is a Hindu majority nation, with significant Buddhist presence. They all have characteristic regional differences. Tibet is under Chinese occupation and has its own cultural and political issues, in addition to the Han migrations and ethnic tensions. Nepal, and Bhutan are gradually coming under the influence of Chinese strategic power, while Myanmar and Sri Lanka are dealing with ethnic violence. In addition Myanmar is also under a military dictatorship.

India is surrounded by states that are recovering from either military dictatorship or ethnic violence or both. To this unpredictable mix of states is added the Chinese strategic power play, which is further polarizeing nations in the region and pushing India into seeking stabilizing sources from  far away friends and peace seekers.

Any threat to existing balance of power in this region will result in these already fragile states being pushed into war, which will not only pose a danger to the heavily populated region, but to the world owing to the presence of Nuclear arms in India, Pakistan and China.

With an impending election season within months India may not be able to make any strategic decisions now. However, any political party that emerges winner in these elections have to make peace building in this region a priority. India must take lead in forming alliances and fostering lasting friendships in the region.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

India 2014 Elections!

India 2014 Elections!What do the People of India Want!!

Elections in India is always a gargantuan effort. It is more so this year. This is to be expected in the largest Democracy in the world, with the largest number of political parties. There are so many political parties that it is almost impossible for any one party to win an absolute majority. As the poll preparations are on, the political parties are also in negotiations about their alliances. It seems there are three emerging conglomerates- for the power, but one has to wait and see how the alliances change until the elections. In the meanwhile it is important to think what the expectations of the people of India are this election season.

People of India are only expecting simple services like 24 hour water and electricity supply and reliable public transportation. Erratic water and electric supply, and public bus and train service has made life very difficult for common people of India. If the public transportation is improved the traffic congestion can be eased and life would be a little bit comfortable. Reliable electric supply is not that impossible in India. With the availability of cheap solar panel technology, it is within the reach of most middle class people of India, to establish solar panels in their own households. All that the government needs is to pass a policy that will be helpful in spreading this technology and subsidizing the solar panels for domestic use. Water is a tricky issue in India with its varied geography. However, the government should establish a longterm plan to link the rivers of India, and within ten years, it should be able to provide reliable water supply to every region of India.

Secondly, pople of India have expressed this in the past, and still want a uncorrupt and prompt government services. Corruption at all levels of administration as well as the political parties has made the economy weak and causes a number of hardships for people of India. This needs to be addressed at all levels, and an independent investigative body should be vested with investigative powers all well as to arrest and prosecute corrupt officials and political leaders.

The political parties are preparing lengthy agendas to attract the vote, but these two items should be the center of their plan of action to attract any vote in this election.