[INDOLOGY] sea travel

George Hart glhart at berkeley.edu
Sat Jun 28 02:39:22 UTC 2014

In this regard, Akananuru 255, probably from the first to the third century CE, is worth looking at (my translation below).  George

255. Pālai

The heroine, who has changed (grown thin and pale) in separation, overwhelmed by despair, speaks to the friend.

Fearfully, his ship sways as it cleaves the water

and it seems the earth has turned upside down

on the great expanse of the ocean with its waves that smell of fish.

It is tossed by swift winds that never cease day or night,

and the helmsman steers, guided by the bright lamps	5

on the tops of mansions by broad bays with high shores heaped with sand.

My man has left me to find wealth, friend.

Could he come without delaying many days

and make the pain that kills me go away?

In our rich town where water dashes against the cool fields, 	10

the north wind blows incessantly, touching the innermost petals

of the rich flowers of cool pakaṉṛai bushes,

their blossoms white against the dark karuviḷai plants,

and making the green fruits of pākal with skin like jackfruit

sway among all the kūtaḷam vines with their fading leaves.	15

If only we could find someone kind enough to go

and tell him how the wind blows all night in our guarded, many-storied house,

and how my perfect ornaments grow loose, and how my beauty withers,

and the rows of bangles on my arms slide down.

Maturai Marutaṉilanākaṉār

8. “Could he come” translates maṉṉāl, a word that indicates her wish will probably not come to pass.

10. The land described is paddy land, whose fields have raised borders to keep water in them when the paddy grows.  Here, it would seem the water from outside the fields dashes on the raised borders.

13. “White blossoms” and “dark” are added for clarity.

15. “Fading” is mutu, “old.”

19. “Slide down” translates ūrum, “be unloosed.”   

On Jun 27, 2014, at 8:13 AM, rajam <rajam at earthlink.net> wrote:

> Dear Professor Jha and other members on this list,
> I’d like to provide a southern perspective to the notion about ‘the prohibition of sea travel in ancient and medieval India.’
> I’m inclined to accept Professor Jha’s statement that “the prohibition, if any, concerned Brahmans only.” Experts in South Indian brahmanical religious practices might help expand our knowledge in this regard. 
> However, purely from literary sources I understand that sea travel flourished in S.India in ancient and medieval times. 
> Only in one instance, in the first available grammatical text Tolkappiyam, we hear that ‘seafaring was not allowed for women.’ Other than that there is no prohibitive statements about sea travel for anyone. Thus, seafaring was not prohibited.
> Anyway, why would one want to undertake a sea travel one should ask. I understand from literary and other sources that sea travel was mainly for trade and war. 
> Evidences are found in the earliest Tamil literature. The south-eastern ports were the points of commerce. Inland merchants were distinguished from people who were sea-traders. 
> When Buddhism spread through South India over to the Far East, there emerged an epic called Manimekalai. Whether people would take it for granted or would discard it as a story full of myths … what we read in this text cannot be ignored. If the stories in the Mahabharata and Ramayana are to be believed … the stories found in the Tamil epic Manimekalai ought to be believed as well, I think.
> In the story of Manimekalai, women cross the ocean (not by boat but by their ability to fly through the sky). We hear about merchants who went to Java (“cāvakam”) for trading and their ship wrecks. These people were not “brahmans” performing vedic rituals; but, were merchants and buddhists. 
> Regards,
> Rajam
> On Jun 26, 2014, at 12:33 AM, Dominic Goodall <dominic.goodall at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Dear Professor Jha,
>> The researcher you mention will surely be interested to know about Susmita Arp's book, a Hamburg thesis, published from Stuttgart in 1998: 
>> " Kālāpāni. Zum Streit über die Zulässigkeit von Seereisen im kolonialzeitlichen Indien ".
>> Dominic Goodall
>> On 26-Jun-2014, at 8:59 AM, Dn Jha wrote:
>>> Dear List,
>>> A researcher who is not a member of this list has posed the following problem. While I am generally aware of some dharmashastric injunctions against overseas travel I am not in a position to answer all her queries. Shall be grateful for any response. Here is the problem: 
>>> May I ask you one question about the prohibition of sea travel in ancient and medieval India. As I know, it was only in Baudhayana and some minor dharmasastras. In Manu the navigator was not to be invited for sraddha, and that is all. As I understand, this was no obstacle for Hindus to navigate from Aden to China. The prohibition, if any, concerned Brahmans only. Am I right? If so, whence the overwhelming ostracizing of the sea travelers in the nineteenth century? While Banyas in the sixteenth century actively traded everywhere the future Mahatma was expelled from his caste for going to England!
>>> Is there any history of the Kala pani concept (in the sense of not the Andaman jail but the mysterious ‘sea border’ that was prohibited to cross?) What was it – a folkloric notion? How did it gain such popularity, and even with the educated elites in colonial times? Or maybe it was an Orientalist invention disseminated by colonial education?
>>> D N Jha
>>> -- 
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>>> D N Jha
>>> Professor of History (retired), 
>>> University of Delhi
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>> Dominic Goodall
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