Ancient Ports of India

Ancient Trading Centres Mentioned in the Periplus/Source: Wikipedia
The maritimes trade and expeditions has played an important role in the making of India since time immemorial. The earliest proof of maritime trade in India trace back to Lothal, the port city of Indus Valley Civilization. Similarly the Mauryan King Ashoka was known to have a strong navy led by Navadyaksha. It reached its zenith during the Classical Age of India and helped spreading the Indian culture in far east. Infact, it was the urge to find shortest maritime route to India, which led to the discovery of New World (America). Interestingly, the Greek mathematician Ptolemy mentioned 15 Indian ancient ports in his work Geographia.

List of Major Ports in Ancient and Medieval India

Lothal
Location: Near Ahmedabad, Gujarat

It is the largest Port City of Indus Valley Civilization and first inhabitated around 3700 BCE.

Barygaza
Location: Bharuch, Gujarat

It is known for its silk and spice trade with Arab and East African nations. It was well established town around 6th Century BCE and was mentioned as Bhrigukachchha or Bhrigukshetra in ancient Hindu texts.

Muziris
Location: Malabar Coast, Kerala

Also known as Makotai Puram, Muziris is said to be a well established sea port around 1st Century BCE. It is mentioned in bardic Tamil poems of Sangam age and historians identify it with modern day Kodungallur.

Korkai
Location: Korkai, Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu

Korkai was the capital, principal trading center and one of the important ports of the Early Pandyan Kingdom. It was established around 200 BCE on the mouth of Tamraparini River on the Bay of Bengal. It was referred as Pandya-Kavada in Kaliththokai (sixth book of Ettuthokai), a Sangam literature anthology.

Puhar
Location: Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu

Puhar, also known as Poompuhar or Kaveri poompattinam), is an ancient port city of India. It once served as the capital of the Early Chola kings in Tamilakam and established on the mouth of Cauvery river. It is mentioned in the Sangam literature as well as the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

Podouke
Location: Arikamedu, Puducherry

Podouke is first mentioned in the the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea and Geographia by Ptolemy. The archaeologists have found Amphorae, Arretine ware, Roman lamps, glassware, stone beads and semi-precious gems at this site. It rose to its prominence in 2nd century BCE.

Barbarikon
Location: Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan

Barbarikon is an ancient Indian port city near the modern day Karachi of Pakistan. It is located on the mouth of Indus river and controlled by the feudal Parthian kings. It finds mention in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

Sounagora
Location: Wari-Bateshwar region, Narsingdi, Bangladesh

Sounagora is an ancient river port established around 450 BCE on the mouth of Brahmaputra river in Wari-Bateshwar region of Bangladesh. It was mentioned by the Ptolmey in his work Geographia.

Maisolia
Location: Present day Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh

Maisolia, also known as Machilipatnam, Masulipatnam and Bandar, is an ancient port of India at the mouth of Krishna River on the Bay of Bengal. It existed since 3rd Century BCE and mentioned in Ptolmey's Geographia. The Greek word Muslin (cotton) is said to be originated from Maisolia. It again rose to the prominence in the 16th century with the arrival of European colonizers.

Tamralipta
Location: Tamluk, West Bengal

Tamralipta rose to the prominence in the 3rd century and is believed to be the exit point of the Mauryan trade route for the south and south-east Asia. It was located on the mouth of Rupanaryana river and found mention in Mahabharata.

Khalkattapatna
Location: Odisha

Khalkattapatna was located on the mouth of Kushabhadra river on the Bay of Bengal.

Other important ancient port cities and towns of India are Vijaydurg (Maharashtra), Kannagara (Konark, Odisha), Katikardama (Cuttak, Odisha), Palur (Odisha) and Tyndis (one the mouth Brahmani river, Odisha).