The Indian ‘Lords of Trade’
Historians trace the starting point of the ‘Age of Discovery’ that led to colonialism, to the early 15th century CE when European ships traveled across the oceans in search of new markets and trading routes. But long before this, between the 9th and the 13th centuries CE, powerful Indian trading guilds were scouring the oceans and trading with lucrative markets across South East Asia. Sadly while you have heard of the famous British and Dutch East India Companies you wouldn’t have heard of the Indian guilds. Take for example the ‘The Five Hundred Lords of Ayyavole’.
Inscriptions found across Sumatra, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and across South India dating back to the 9th century CE onwards, refer to this very peculiar group of men who called themselves Nanadesa-Tisaiyayirattu-Ainnurruvar or ‘Five Hundred of a Thousand Directions’. This was a very powerful Indian merchant guild that dominated the trade from the Red Sea to Java, Sumatra and all the way to the South China Sea, from the 9th century CE to 13th centuries CE.