Skip To Content

The Story of India

Lesson 3: The Winds of Trade

(Southern India, 2nd Century BCE)


  • Identify the importance of trade in the classical era and throughout history.
  • Understand that people from distant lands have sought Indian goods since ancient times.
  • Analyze the importance of the monsoon winds.
  • Connect India's history of trade and commerce to its modern emergence as an independent state and economic power.


The development of India throughout history was partially shaped by the interactions with and influences of the many foreign merchants who traveled to and within India. The resource-rich subcontinent supplied great wealth to those merchants who trekked over the Silk Road and sailed the Indian Ocean.

Main Task

Part 1: Roman Merchant
As a Roman trader you have just one goal as you sail the Indian Ocean – bring a large shipment of spices to a port in Egypt that will make this trip profitable. The state of Kerala offers more opportunities than you can resist, so you take up residence. Through a carefully crafted letter, try to convince your business partner back in Egypt to join you in India. Use descriptions of the land, the people, and the opportunities to make vast amounts of money. Remember to describe how he must use the monsoon winds to get to India.

Part 2: Modern Historian
In your research you came across the letter written in Part 1 and believe it exemplifies the greater idea that India has stood on the crossroads of world trade routes since ancient times. You intend to use this letter in an upcoming article as a case study to further your argument that the exchange of goods and ideas, specifically between countries and cultures, has had a lasting impact on the world. Write an overview of those interactions and their greater significance throughout Indian history, referencing the Silk Road, Buddhism, Gupta Empire, Cholan Empire, astronomy, mathematics, Vasco da Gama, and the British East India Company.

Brief Process

  1. Discuss the Part 1 assignment and use the provided resources to research Roman-Indian trade.
  2. Write your letter.
  3. Share your letter with classmates.
  4. Review resources associated with Part 2 and write the accompanying analysis of the letter.
  5. Share your analysis with classmates.


Part A Resources:

Part B Resources:

Extension Ideas

  • Publish letters on the Internet using a blog or wiki.
  • Exchange written letters from Part 1 with other students in the class and complete Part 2 based upon the analysis of a classmate's letter.
  • Research information on other trading posts in the Roman Empire and create an exchange of letters from traders at the various posts.
  • Consider an alternative history mdash; describe Romans from the perspective of an Indian who might have traveled to Italy.


Era 4: Expanding Zones of Exchange and Encounter, 300-1000 CE
Standard 1C: The student understands the synthesis of Hindu civilization in India in the era of the Gupta Empire.
Grade Level Therefore, the student is able to
7-12 Explain the rise of the Gupta Empire and analyze factors that contributed to the empire's stability and economic prosperity.
Standard 1D: The student understands the expansion of Hindu and Buddhist traditions in Southeast Asia in the first millennium CE.
Grade Level Therefore, the student is able to
5-12 Assess the relationship between long-distance trade of Indian and Malay peoples and the introduction of Hindu and Buddhist traditions in Southeast Asia.