opposite coast. Ships, according to Ptolemy’s
the lower Ganga region with Malay Peninsula and Indonesian Archipelago.
Direct voyages even from Bharukachchha were not unheard of. Merchants
from this important port of western Indian coast who traded with
Suvarnabhumi-Suvarnadvipa must have found a convenient halfway house in
Sri Lanka.
    Indo-Chinese trade was conducted both by overland and sea routes. In the
early centuries of the Christian era, north-western India was connected with
China by several overland routes. Proceeding from the north-west frontier,
the road went by way of Kapisa and Bamiyan across the Hindukush to
Bactria where it joined the famous ‘Silk-Route’ from China to the Western
World. From here, the northern route passed north of the Taklamakan desert
across Kucha and Karashar, while the southern route went south of the desert
through Khotan and Yarkhand, both routes finally converging on the Chinese
frontier near Tunhuang. But a shorter, though more difficult, route followed
the upper Indus through Gilgit and Yasin to Kashgar and thence onward to
China. The sea route to China was known from the second half of the first
century AD, but it was more frequently used only from the second century AD
Organisation of Trade
Types of Merchant Guilds Merchant guilds arose out of the necessity of
financing trade and commerce. These guilds acted as custodians of
commercial conventions and customs. They also acted as modern banks and
received deposits of public money on regular interest and lent out money to
the people.
    Sreni or sangha was a general term for guilds including mercantile
corporations. But the specific term for merchants’ guilds was nigama, while
puga represented interests of different merchants, crafts and professions of a
    Besides, there were also the sartha type of guilds which were something
like mobile corporations meant for transit or caravan trade. The leader of the
sartha type of guild was generally known by the name of sarthavaha. The
sartha guilds themselves can be classified, on the basis of their nature, into
different types, such as those organised by individual traders, contractual