Traders, Kings and Pilgrims Class 6 History Notes

How to find out about trade and tr ade and trade and traders

  • The Northern Black Polished Ware pottery, especially bowls and plates, were found from several archaeological  sites throughout the subcontinent.
  • Traders may have carried them from the places where they were made, to sell them at other places.
  • South India was famous for gold, spices, especially pepper, and precious stones.
  • Pepper  was particularly valued in the Roman Empire, so much so that it was known as black gold.
  • Traders carried many of these goods to Rome in ships, across the sea, and by land in caravans.
  • There must have been quite a lot of trade as many Roman gold coins have been found in south India.
  1. Traders and Sea Routes

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  • Traders explored several sea routes.
  • There were others across the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, where sailors took advantage of the monsoon winds to cross the seas more quickly.
  • If they wanted to reach the western coast of the subcontinent from East Africa or Arabia, they chose to sail with the south-west monsoon. And sturdy ships had to be built for these long journeys.

New kingdoms along the coasts

  • The southern half of the subcontinent is marked by a long coastline, and with hills, plateaus, and river valleys.
  • Amongst the river valleys, that of the Kaveri is the most fertile.
  • Chiefs and kings who controlled the river valleys and the coasts became rich and powerful. Sangam poems
    mention the muvendar.
  • This is a Tamil word meaning three chiefs, used for the heads of three ruling families, the Cholas, Cheras, and Pandyas who became powerful in south India around 2300 years ago.

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  • Each of the three chiefs had two centres of power: one inland, and one on the coast.
  • Of these six cities, two were very important: Puhar or Kaveripattinam, the port of the Cholas, and Madurai, the capital of the Pandyas.
  •  The chiefs did not collect regular taxes.
  • They demanded and received gifts from the people.
  • They also went on military expeditions, and collected tribute from neighbouring areas.
  • They  kept some of the wealth and distributed the rest amongst their supporters, including members of their family, soldiers, and poets.
  • Many poets whose compositions are found in the Sangam collection composed poems in praise of chiefs who often rewarded them with precious stones, gold, horses, elephants, chariots, and fine cloth.
  • Satavahanas became powerful in western India.

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  • The most important ruler of the Satavahanas was Gautamiputra Shri Satakarni.
  • Gautami Balashri and other Satavahana rulers were known as lords of the dakshinapatha, literally the route  eading to the south, which was also used as a name for the entire southern region.
  • He sent his army to the eastern, western and southern coasts.

The story of the Silk Route

  1. Introduction
  • The rich, glossy colours of silk, as well as its smooth texture, make it a highly valued fabric in most societies.
  • Making silk is a complicated process.

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  • Raw silk has to be extracted from the cocoons of silk worms, spun into thread and then woven into cloth.
  • Techniques of making silk were first invented in China around 7000 years ago.
  • While the methods remained a closely guarded secret for thousands of years, some people from China who went to distant lands on foot, horseback, and on camels, carried silk with them.

2. Spread

  • The paths they followed came to be known as the Silk Route.
  • Chinese rulers sent gifts of silk to rulers in Iran and west Asia, and from there, the knowledge of silk spread further west.
  • About 2000 years ago, wearing silk became the fashion amongst rulers and rich people in Rome.
  • It was very expensive, as it had to be brought all the way from China, along dangerous roads, through mountains and deserts.
  • People living along the route often demanded payments for allowing traders to pass through.

3. Among Rulers

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  • Some kings tried to control large portions of the route.
  • This was because they could benefit from taxes, tributes and gifts that were brought by traders travelling
    along the route.
  • In return, they often protected the traders who passed through their kingdoms from attacks by robbers.
  • The best-known of the rulers who controlled the Silk Route were the Kushanas, who ruled over central Asia and north-west India around 2000 years ago.
  • Their two major centres of power were Peshawar and Mathura.
  • Taxila was also included in their kingdom.
  • During their rule, a branch of the Silk Route extended from Central Asia down to the seaports at the mouth of the river Indus, from where silk was shipped westwards to the Roman Empire.
  • The Kushanas were amongst the earliest rulers of the subcontinent to issue gold  coins.
  • These were used by traders along the Silk Route.

The spread of Buddhism

  1. Introduction
  • The most famous Kushana ruler was Kanishka, who ruled around 1900 years ago.
  • He organised a Buddhist council, where scholars met and discussed important matters.
  • Ashvaghosha, a poet who composed a biography of the Buddha, the Buddhacharita, lived in his court.
  • Ashvaghosha and other Buddhist scholars now began writing in Sanskrit.
  • A new form of Buddhism, known as Mahayana Buddhism, now developed.

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2. Features

  • This had two  distinct features.
  • Buddha’s presence was shown in sculpture by using certain signs.
  • His attainment of enlightenment was shown by sculptures of the peepal tree.
  • Statues of the Buddha were made.
  • These were  made in Mathura, while others were made in Taxila.
  • The second change was a belief in Bodhisattvas.
  • These were supposed to be persons who had attained enlightenment.
  • Once they attained enlightenment, they could live in complete isolation and meditate in peace.
  • They remained in the world to teach and help other people.
  • The worship of Bodhisattvas became very popular, and spread throughout Central Asia, China, and later to Korea and Japan.

3. Spread

  • Buddhism also spread to western and southern India, where dozens of caves were hollowed out of hills for monks to live in.
  • Some of these caves were made on the orders of kings and queens, others by merchants and farmers.
  • These were often located near passes through the Western Ghats.
  • Roads connecting  prosperous ports on the coast with cities in the Deccan ran through these passes.
  • Traders probably halted in these cave monasteries during their travels.
  • Buddhism also spread south eastwards, to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, and other parts of Southeast Asia
    including Indonesia.
  • The older form of Buddhism, known as Theravada Buddhism was more popular in these areas.


  • They are men and women who undertake journeys to holy places in order to offer worship.

The quest of the pilgrims

  • As traders journeyed to distant lands in caravans and ships, pilgrims often travelled with them.
  • The best-known of these are the Chinese Buddhist pilgrims, Fa Xian, who came to the subcontinent about 1600 years ago, Xuan Zang and I-Qing, who came about 50 years after Xuan Zang.
  • They came to visit places associated with the life of the Buddha (Chapter 6) as well as famous
  • They wrote of the dangers they encountered on their travels, which often took years, of the countries and the monasteries that they visited, and the books they carried back with them.
  • Xuan Zang took the land route back to China carried back with him statues of the Buddha made of gold, silver and sandalwood, and over 600 manuscripts loaded on the backs of 20 horses.
  • Over 50 manuscripts were lost when the boat on which he was crossing the Indus capsized.
  • He spent the rest of his life translating the remaining manuscripts from Sanskrit into Chinese

The beginning of Bhakti

  1. Introduction

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  • Shiva, Vishnu, and goddesses such as Durga were worshipped through Bhakti, an idea that became very popular at this time.
  • Bhakti is generally understood as a person’s devotion to his or her chosen deity.
  • Anybody, whether rich or poor, belonging to the so-called ‘high’ or ‘low’ castes, man or woman, could follow
    the path of Bhakti.

2. Idea

  • The idea of Bhakti is present in the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred book of the Hindus, which is included in the Mahabharata.
  • In this Krishna the God, asks Arjuna, his devotee and friend, to abandon all dharmas and take refuge in him, as only he can set Arjuna free from every evil.
  • This form of worship gradually spread to different parts of the country

3. System Of Bhakti

  • Those who followed the system of Bhakti emphasised devotion and individual worship of a god or goddess,
    rather than the performance of elaborate sacrifices.
  • According to this system of belief, if a devotee worships the chosen deity with a pure heart, the deity will appear
    in the form in which he or she may desire.
  • The deity could be thought of as a human being, lion, tree or any other form.
  • Once this idea gained acceptance, artists made beautiful images of these deities.
  • Because the deities were special, these images of the deity were often placed within special homes, places that we describe as temples

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  • The word ‘Hindu’, like the term ‘India’ is derived from the river Indus.
  • It was used by Arabs and Iranians to refer to people who lived to the east of the river, and to their cultural practices, including religious beliefs.


  • Discovery of silk making (about 7000 years ago)
  • The Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas (about 2300 years ago)
  • Growing demand for silk in the Roman Empire (about 2000 years ago)
  • Kanishka, the Kushana ruler (about 1900 years ago)
  • Fa Xian comes to India (about 1600 years ago)
  • Xuan Zang comes to India, Appar composes devotional poems in praise of Shiva (about 1400 years ago )

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