Written by London Swaminathan 



Date: 4 JUNE 2018



Time uploaded in London – 14-31


Post No. 5075


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Tamil epic Silappadikaram have two Sanskrit words Maha Nayaka (maanaaykkan in Tamil) and Maha Saarthavaaha (maasaaththuvaan in Tamil) as the names of the fathers of hero and heroine (Kannaki and Kovalan) of the poem. These are common nouns and not proper nouns.


The roots of these Sanskrit words are in ancient Sanskrit literature. Though the word Saarthavaaha (Leader of the Merchants) did not find a place in the Vedas they used the word ‘Pani’ for the businessmen.

The word Saarthavaaha is in Amarakosa. The commentator explains it- ‘one who is the leader of the travelling merchants who invested their own capital’. Saartha is defined as the group of travellers. They invest equal amount of money and travel to other market places in groups. Like the Hindu devotees go in groups under some Gurus, they have caravan leaders.


Atharva Veda (12-1-47 etc) speaks about trade routes. The Prithvi Sukta (Earth Hymn) says about Panthas or routes of our great land.

Now the salient features of Earth Hymn in connection with the Trade and Commerce:-

Thy many pathways for men to travel on

the roads for chariots, and for wagons to pass through

on which walk together both good and evil men,

may we be masters of those, and drive out the thief and foe. (12-47)


May the earth with people who speak various tongues

and those who have various rites

according to their places of abode

pour for me treasure in a thousand streams

like a constant cow that never fails (12-45)


(Vedic people visited several countries speaking different language)


Earth in which are cities, the work of Devas

and fields where men are variously employed;

Earth that bears all things kin her womb

may the Lord of Life make her graceful for us from every side (AV 12- 43)



The following points are considered important in the hymn:

1.This land has many routes

2.Thesee routes were the principal means of communication of the people.

3.On these routes the chariots plied.

4.They were routes for Bullock carts as well.

  1. Everyone had the right to use the routes.
  2. However it was necessary for the king to ensure the safety of merchants. He had to protect them from wild animals and robbers.

7.Well guarded and safe routes symbolised the happiness of the earth.


Ancient Tamil and Sanskrit literature have several verses about the robbers who waylaid merchants and  snatched their goods or even goods of the public.


Panini, the grammarian of Seventh century BCE, says about Uttarapatha (Grand Route in North India). When he says ‘Uttara’, we may assume there was also Dakshina patha (Grand Route to/in South India).

Agastya laid a grand road route to South India between 800 and 1000 BCE. While Rama and others used coastal route before, Agastya for the first time laid a land route via the Vindhya mountains.


Following is from my very old post:

Did Agastya drink ocean?


Agastya was one of the greatest travellers of ancient India. He was mentioned in the Rig Veda and the Ramayana. He slowly moved southward and established an ashram at the western ghats- Pothya malai. There are lot of myths about him. All this can be explained scientifically. He did divert the river Cauvery to the present Chola mandala like Baghiratha diverted Ganga. But in thousands of years it became a myth and we read a crow tilted the ‘kamandalam’ (pot) of Agastya and thus came River Cauvery.


Another story told about Agastya is that he travelled to the south at the behest of Lord Siva. It is true that either Siva or a Saivite saint requested him to go to the south to disperse the population. The story of Siva’s (Meenakshi wedding) Tirulkalyanam makes it clear by  saying the overcrowding of the earth tilted the balance and Siva requested Agastya to go southward (with a big group). Our fore fathers were such a great planners that they did what we are doing today-building satellite cities! This story is in Tiruvilayadal puranam and other books.

Did Agastya drink the ocean? Agastya was the first person to cross the Indian ocean for the first time to establish a great Hindu empire in South East Asia.  We now knew that there was a flourishing Hindu colony in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia (Angkor Wat temple), Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia (Borobudur Stupi) for 1500 years. Now they are all converted as Muslims. Like Columbus and Magellan, he crossed the ocean- that is he ‘drank’ the ocean! It is a symbolic story. Agastya’s statues are displayed through out South East Asian countries even today.


One another myth about Agastya is that he made the Vindhya Hill not to grow again. This is another symbolic story to say that he crossed the Vindhyas for the first time through the ‘land route’. Before him North and South Indians used coastal sea routes. Tamil literature also makes it very clear in several places that Agastya came to the south with 18 groups of people and he was the one who codified a grammar for Tamil. A massive exodus from the North followed Agastya.

This is explained in the Puranas as Agastya ‘belittling’ the Vindhyas in the Puranas/mythology. Agastya was the first one to find a sea route to South East Asia around 1000 BCE which the Puranas .



The Dasakumara Charita of Dandi mentioned the name Raameshu (Hindu name) as Captain of a Ship. It is a typical Hindu name. Even today we can find names Ramesh, Rama Seshan, Ramesan in South Indian and North Indian telephone directories. Old authors guessed it as Rama jesus. It is wrong. It is like saying I am selling ‘Hot Ice Cream’.