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The Story of India

Photos from Episode 3

Episode 3: Spice Routes & Silk Roads

The next episode in the story of India takes us to the early centuries CE, the time of the Roman Empire in the west, and to "the happiest time in the history of the world" as the historian Edward Gibbon put it.

In this period, located at the "center of world" India became a great player in the first global economy. As the spice routes and the silk roads opened up, Indian civilization grew, enriched by contact and exchange. Beginning in Kerala, Michael Wood journeys on an old wooden sailing boat plying its trade from South India to the Gulf, and tells how the spice trade with Rome opened India up to the world as well as giving us a recipe for dormouse stuffed with peppercorns!

He finds the lost site of the greatest Roman trading port, samples the earliest cuisine of India and travels by train to the great ancient capital of South India, Madurai.

The film then shows how north India was opened up to the world at the same time, as merchant's caravans began to use the Silk Route between China and the West.

Kushan ruins

Kushan ruins of the earliest living city in the whole of South Asia, in Peshawar, Pakistan

Journeying out to Merv in the deserts of Turkmenistan, Wood tells the story of the forgotten empire of the Kushans that ruled India in the first centuries CE: one of the greatest and least known empires in history whose story can only now be told with the recent decipherment of their language.

Coming down the Khyber to Peshawar in Pakistan Wood finds the remains of what was then the greatest building in the world and traveling on to Mathura tells the amazing story of one of India's greatest rulers who opened up India to the world and laid the foundations of medieval India-only to be overthrown in his own capital.

Episode Credits

Written and Presented by Michael Wood
Producer: Rebecca Dobbs
Editor: Gerry Branigan
Music: Howard Davidson & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Filmed and Directed by Jeremy Jeffs

Top photos, left to right:

  1. Boat building, Beypore
  2. Pepper warehouse, Kerala
  3. The god Muragan (often depicted as a 6 headed many armed god riding a peacock) on the temple at Madurai
  4. Kushan Empire coin