History has proved that Kerala had a unique status in the world system of transactions, according to Prof. P.J. Cherian, Director, Kerala Council for Historical research (KCHR).
He was delivering the inaugural address on the theme ‘ancient trade on the Malabar Coast: across boundaries and cultures' as part of a lecture series on ‘Kerala and West Asia' organised by the Centre for West Asian Studies (CWS), School of International Relations and Politics (SIRP), Mahatma Gandhi University (MGU) on Friday.
Prof. Cherian pointed out that historically, trade was not a mere exchange of goods but it encompassed transaction of ideas, technology, language, food materials, geographical knowledge and culture.
Prof. Cherian argued that Pattanam, north of Kochi, had played a key role in the ancient trade networks. “The West Asian evidence has important ramifications in the history of Indian Ocean trade. This pre-Roman phase of Pattanam could also shed new light on the pre-Islamic Arab world and their contributions to the trade system. The Indian rouletted ware at Pattanam is an indication of the commercial significance of South Asia in the ancient trade. The Roman evidence shows the peak activity phase of Pattanam and it could also provide clues for understanding the Indian role in transcontinental trade,” he said.
Prof. Cherian further said that the urban and maritime features indicated that the people of Kerala were not backward as they were projected to be.
Prof. Rajan Gurukkal, Vice-Chancellor, MGU, on the other hand, argued that the forms of exchanges taking place in the ancient period cannot be called ‘trade' in any sense since they did not include any significant transaction involving money. He reasoned that South India never experienced any trade transaction in ancient period as there was not an effective state system to maintain any monetized form of exchanges.
Contenting some of the claims made by archaeologists, Prof. Gurukkal said that it was too early to proclaim anything concrete about the results of excavations. Moreover, they did not offer any anthropological evidence as of yet to establish that the Romans had lived in the conclave.
Though the things unearthed are significant in terms of archaeological substances, many other valid and useful evidences would have been lost over time because of human interventions, he said.
Dr. A.K. Ramakrishnan, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, spoke on ‘West Asia in the world system with special reference to Kerala-West Asia relations'. Dr. M.V. Bijulal welcomed the audience. Dr. Raju Thadikkaran, Dr. A.M. Thomas and others spoke on the occasion.