The inhabitants of the littoral regions – Paradavar – were fishermen. Their society evolved into seafarers and maritime traders, and latter day conquerors and empire builders.

Their primary produce was fish, sea-shells and salt, which they hauled and traded – bartered – with the people further inland for milk and ghee, stone tools and, in later years, metal implements. The Paradavar sold jewellery made from coral and sea-shells and fish oil for lamps. Salt was a prime commodity in barter trade with the inland peoples.

The exchange of goods led to the Paradavar becoming the first organised society of merchants.

From fishing by the beach, the more adventurous clans moved further offshore. The first boats were a little more than logs lashed together. Settlements along the river banks built circular wickerwork baskets covered in hide. These wicker baskets were common river crossing transports right into the late 20th century.

The people graduated from building coastal craft to sea-going vessels. The seas were a natural extension to the Paradavar’s mercantile activities.

These sailor merchants engaged in trade, travelling as far as the Arabian Peninsula and in later centuries even to Rome in the west. They travelled east to China and had a great impact on the archipelagos of South East Asia where the Paradavar established the first Hindu empires.

*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2018 ***

(Note: Treat these posts on Ancient Indian history as highly simplified introductions to a complex, often conflicting, and vague period mired in the mists of antiquity.)

Join me next Friday when I touch on the ancient (B.C.E.) Tamils of the last tinai, the Marudam (agricultural) Regions.



  1. I hope you are compiling this in a book format, Eric. There is great interest in discovering believed richness of the historical/ mythological past. Writers like Amish Tripathi and Devdutt Pattanaik are two names that come to mind, who have become very popular.

    1. Hello Ankur,

      I’m afraid I’m not compiling these for a book. These are information gleaned from my research for a novel I’m finishing soon – Song of the Ankle Rings – which is an adaptation of Silappatikaram, one of the 5 ancient Tamil classics. It is my most ambitious project yet and I hope to launch the book in January 2018.

      I’ve heard of Amish Tripathi and Devdutt Pattanaik but have not read them. They are on my to-read list. Thank you for the heads-up.


  2. I’ve been quiet but am still here and enjoying your history lessons. Are there dates for the Paradavar of the Neydal? I suspect that the English were still in wode at the time that their society was developing in complexity. Did they have a method of accounting for their commerce? Are there any artifacts remaining to this day or are they a society which got absorbed into the past rather like the Mayans and Incas?

    1. Hello Jane,

      I suppose you’re busy with the grandchildren – enjoy. I look forward to my grandchildren every weekend too. What joy, they give us.

      Yes there are artefacts, temple inscriptions and stone etchings.

      Tamilakam’s pre-history relies on oral tradition and most of the BCE history came down to us from literature – poetry and songs. Much of this material makes exaggerated claims and draws on mysticism, mythology, and early religion and cultural norms.

      To make matters worse, ancient kings freely adopted the names of their illustrious forefathers. The same king appears hundreds of years apart. And poets and bards wrote songs as if they knew these people on a first name basis.

      To add to the confusion, dates started when a new monarch ascended the throne. Therefore, we often read something like this: On the fourth year after he ascended his throne, King So-and-so did this or that. On the 16th year of his rule, he invaded and conquered… This is useless because unless we know the year he ascended the throne, all subsequent references to dates causes confusion. It goes like this: on the 36th year of his rule he went to heaven and his son succeeded him. And because 16 is an auspicious number for the ancient Tamils, it keeps appearing again and again. There is the suspicion that even when an event did not occur on the 16th year, the panegyrists claimed the date for their king.

      Historians try to peg the dates by comparing records, seeking parallels and names of contemporary kings and events. There is no absolute consensus on all the events.

      Often we rely on records maintained by foreigners – the early Chinese visitors from the east, and Greek and Romans from the west. We speak of BCE. The Arabs came much later in the CE.

      Interestingly, Greek and pre-Christian Roman records spoke of highly developed societies with magnificent palaces, fortresses, and exemplary codes for governance, the conduct of war and commerce. We speak of the period referred to as “pre-historic Tamilakam”.

      I can go on, but am no expert.

    1. Hello Seyi,

      Busy as you are authoring books, you’ve taken time to visit, read, and comment. I’m humbled by your generosity.

      Thank you and all good wishes,

    1. Hello Ian,

      I read several books and do not recall where I gleaned this information. But you can try these links:

      I did not use the information found here, but it is a quick read >

      Try the Rare Books Society of India, my go-to source >

      For a current and scholarly work by ISEAS (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies), try this book > Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwipa: Reflections on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia. I’ve ordered this book and am expecting it next week.

      All good wishes for the weekend,

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