Indian Ocean and Silk Road Trade

12 December 2016

While the Indian Ocean and Silk Road were different as trade networks with respect to the spread of Religion and the process of travel, they were similar in terms of the spread of disease through trade. The Indian Ocean and Silk Road as trade networks were different in terms of the spread of Religion. Along the Indian Ocean trade network, Islam was spread. This happened through Indian merchants who brought Brahmin priests, Arab merchants who brought Muslim scholars and Christian merchants who brought priests.

Along with the Islamic religion came the 5 pillars which included the (1) Shahada: testimony and declaration of faith, (2) Salah: prayer five times a day, (3) Zakat: charity to the poor, (4) Sawm: fasting during the month of Ramadan, and (5) hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca at least once a lifetime. In contrast, the Silk Road helped to spread Buddhism. Buddhism was first publicized in India in 528 B. C, when Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) announced his doctrine.

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This religion was greatly successful in attracting merchants as converts, and later split into different types; Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism.

These merchants later carried Buddhism along the Silk Road where it first established a presence in the oasis towns. Buddhism was such a common religion to convert to because it provided a release from suffering, known as Nirvana, and the Four Noble Truths. This stated, all life is suffering, suffering comes from desire, if you end desire you end suffering, and you can end desire by following the Eightfold path. The Indian Ocean and Silk Road were different in terms of the spread of religion as trade networks because the Indian Ocean helped to spread the religion of Islam, and the Silk Road helped to spread the religion of Buddhism.

The Indian Ocean and Silk Road as trade networks were different in terms of the processes of travel. The Indian Ocean had a very unique and convenient way of getting around. The people traveling along the Indian Ocean actually used Lateen sails, which were triangular sails, to help conquer the Monsoon winds, bringing them from destination to destination. What was really cool about the Monsoon winds was that if the people left during the right season, the winds would aid them on their course. In summer they blew from the south-west towards India and Malaysia, and in winter they blew from the north-east towards Africa.

These sails allowed goods including bananas, pistachios, spices, ivory, books and heavy animals to get carried to places such as South India, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and the Swahili coast. In contrast, the Silk Road couldn’t really use Lateen sailing as it’s mode of transportation because its trade routes were mostly on land. So instead, the Silk Road consisted of Stirrups and chariots which were used around 800 BC. The Stirrup was a device used for securing a horseman’s feet, enabling him to wield weapons more effectively, first shown by the Kushan people of northern Afghanistan around the first century C.

E. With the development of the Stirrup and the use of chariots, people along the Silk Road were able to trade goods including silk, animals, and porcelain to places such as Central Asia, China, Rome, Persia, and Iran. The Indian Ocean and Silk Road were different in terms of the processes of travel as trade networks because the Indian Ocean trade network used Lateen sails to trade with other places, while the Silk Road trade network used things like chariots and horses with stirrups to trade with other places.

Both the Indian Ocean and Silk Road are similar in that the Bubonic Plague spread throughout both trade networks. The Bubonic Plague is believed to have started in Africa, although it is not for certain where it exactly originated and spread to the Mediterranean Sea that later may have been the cause of Justinian’s Plague, killing approximately 25 million people in the Roman Empire alone. From the Mediterranean, the Bubonic plague spread along the Indian Ocean and from the Indian Ocean, it spread to China.

As the Bubonic plague spread to China, it became very easy to keep spreading along the Silk Road, and eventually hit Europe where the deadliest “Black Death” occurred in 1347. This plague killed approximately 25-35 million people, which made up a third of the human population. This whole thing began when the Mongols launched an attack on the Italian merchant’s last trading station in the region. Then in 1346, plague broke out among the besiegers and from them entered into the town.

Later attempting to flee the plague, the Italian merchants fled to their ships, unknowingly carrying the diseases with them. The diseases were also spread from place to place by fleas on rats, or other kinds of rodents who traveled along these trade routes. The Indian Ocean and Silk Road are similar in that the Bubonic Plague spread throughout both trade networks because since trade was very popular and happened all the time, people unknowingly would catch the disease from one place, only to be spreading it to their next stop, causing it to spread across the regions very quickly.

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