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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Early users of monsoon winds for navigation

Not on something new but a nice article from Current Science .

Early users of monsoon winds for navigation
Sila Tripati
The maritime history of India can be traced back to the Harappan Civilization. Studies suggest that even at that time, monsoon winds and currents assisted in navigation. Recent archaeological exploration and excavations along the Indian margin, Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and coasts of Southeast Asia provide convincing evidence about a maritime network and connections between mariners of India and other parts of the world in ancient times. The author of Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (PES) (60–100 CE) has credited Hippalus (~45 CE), the Greek mariner, with the discovery of monsoon winds and the mid-ocean route to the Indian ports from the Mediterranean. However, archaeological findings of Harappan Civilization, as well as the Vedic and Sangam period texts, suggest that the mariners of India who were trading in the Indian Ocean and adjoining seas had knowledge about monsoon winds much before Hippalus. In this paper, an attempt has been made to demonstrate the fact that knowledge of the monsoon winds was familiar to Indian mariners during the Harappan Civilization as well as in the later period.

 Figure 1. Figure showing the sites mentioned in the text.

 Figure 3 a, b. A seal and a terracotta
amulet from Mohenjo–Daro depict ship
with cabin and birds.

Figures like above  from Mohenjo Daro reminds passages from Rig Veda , like for example RV  I.25.7 about Varuna :
vedā yo vīnāṃ padamantarikṣeṇa patatām | veda nāvaḥ samudriyaḥ|| 
 "He knows the path of birds that fly through heaven, and, Sovran of the sea,He knows the ships that are thereon." (Griffith) 
 "He who knows the track of birds flying through the midspace, knows the (courses of the) boats, since he belongs to the sea." (Jamison-Brereton)
Or  in the old 7th book there is a clear reference to sea travel RV 7.88.3:

ā yad ruhāva varuṇaśca nāvaṃ pra yat samudram īrayāva madhyam| 
"When Varuṇa and I embark together and urge our boat into the midst of ocean" (Griffith)
''When we two, Varuṇa and (I), will board the boat, when we two will raise the middle of the sea ''(Jamison-Brereton)
There are some interesting remarks from Wikipedia on Samudra also :
Samudra and ships[edit]
Some scholars like B.R. Sharma hold that the Rigvedic people may have been shipbuilders engaging in maritime trade.[9] In Rigveda 1.25.7; 7.88.3 and other instances, Samudra is mentioned together with ships. In RV 7.89.4 the rishi Vasishta is thirsting in the midst of water. Other verses mention oceanic waves (RV 4.58.1,11; 7.88.3). Some words that are used for ships are Nau, Peru, Dhi and Druma. A ship with a hundred oars is mentioned in RV 1.116. There were also ships with three masts or with ten oars.[10] RV 9.33.6 says: 'From every side, O Soma, for our profit, pour thou forth four seas filled with a thousand-fold riches."

On Rig Veda, the papers suggestion is quite familiar, with an interesting interpretation on Maruts :

Rig Veda and monsoon winds
Though there are diverse opinions on the
Rig Veda (Rg Veda) (1700 and 1100 BCE)
and its period, it is believed that Rig
Veda is the oldest literary work of the
Indian subcontinent. There are several
hymns that have referred to the wind,
waves, tides, water, thunder and rain,
rivers, sea, etc.4,36,37. Similarly, many
verses praise Parjanya (the thunder and
rain), which shows that the Rig Vedic
people were aware of the rainy season
which comes in a certain period every
year3. Monsoon winds are termed as maruts
in the Rig Veda, whereas in the later
Vedic texts, monsoon was referred to as
salila vada (sahla vada) (the wind from
the ocean, especially SW monsoon)38
the Buddhist texts mentioned kalamegha
(dark clouds) and varshavalshaga (heavy
rains)5,39. Despite the available information
on monsoon, rain, and wind in the
Rig Veda, the following questions were
often asked: was the sea known to the
Rig Vedic people? Were the Rig Vedic
people familiar with seafaring? Numerous
statements can be found in the Rig
Veda concerning Samudra for sea
, Nau,
Nava, Ratha being the general terms for
boat or ship and Navya for navigation or
sailor38. Among all these types of water
crafts, nau was the sea vessel in which
oars, sails, masts and anchors were carried.
During favourable wind, sails were
used so that naus could float and move
with speed
Yog .

It is by no means surprising, that the people of Rig Veda ,with a robust possibility knew about ocean and seafaring . The Sindhu-Sarasvati Civilization, shows strong material and cultural continuity, from Neolithic to Iron ages and even today !. Rig Veda is of course an integral part of that continuity.

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