Now, it is generally known that Columbus was not the first to discover America. Before him, almost every seafaring culture had set foot upon the American continents. Ancient Hindu texts are replete with maritime references of ancient Indians, particularly from the coastal regions, having commercial relations with several countries of across the Bay of Bengal like Cambodia, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and China. Similar maritime and trade relations existed with countries across the Arabian Sea like Arabia, Egypt and Persia. Various sources have revealed that the first colonizers of Babylon came in Indian ships from the Persian Gulf.
India’s links with South-East Asia and other far-off islands of the Pacific Ocean are well-established facts of history. The ancient Hindus were mighty navigators and pioneers of cultures who established their cultural empires in South-East Asia and ruled there till the 14th century. The conquest of Malaya by King Rajendra Chola, the story of Buddhagupta the Great Sailor, the religious expeditions of ancient Indians to preach the gospel of Buddhism in the distant lands of Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Mongolia and China are proofs of the impact of Indian culture.
The Hindus of ancient India excelled in shipbuilding and this is proved by the fact that even the British, who were experts in naval architecture, found early Indian models worth copying. The Indian vessels combined elegance and utility, and were models of fine workmanship. Even around circa 500 AD, sextants and mariner’s compass were not unknown to ancient Indian shipbuilders and navigators. J.L. Reid, a member of the Institute of Naval Architects and Shipbuilders, England, at around the beginning of the 20th century wrote in an article published in the Bombay Gazetteer that “The early Hindu astrologers are said to have used the magnet, in fixing the North and East, in laying foundations, and other religious ceremonies. The Hindu compass was an iron fish that floated in a vessel of oil and pointed to the North. The fact of this older Hindu compass seems placed beyond doubt by the Sanskrit word “Maccha-Yantra” or, “fish-machine”, which Molesworth gives as a name for the “Mariner’s compass”.
A Chinese account of the 3rd century AD describes large vessels which were 150 feet in length, and had four masts and were able to carry six to seven hundred men and one thousand metric tons of merchandise when the Buddhist Pilgrim Fahien returned from India to China in 414 AD. A Chinese chronicler mentions these ships which used western winds and currents in the North Pacific to reach California, sailed south along the coast, and then returned to Asia with the help of the trade winds.
World’s leading anthropologists, Robert Heine Geldern and Gordon F. Ekholm have said: “Ships of size that carried Fahien from India to China (through stormy Chinese waters) were certainly capable of proceeding all the way to Mexico and Peru by crossing the Pacific. One thousand years before the birth of Columbus Indian ships were far superior to any made in Europe up to the 18th century.”
It appears that the Hindu merchants used to sail frequently, some settled down in the far Eastern lands and travelled to Polynesia. From there, they travelled further to South and Central America may be after stopovers at the important ports on the other islands- a chain of which seems to have existed then and some of which submerged later because of tectonic movements of the earth.
While tracing the history of the Maoris of New Zealand some scholars have claimed with sufficient data that the ancient Polynesian wanderers left South India as far back as the fourth century BC and were daring mariners who made, more often than not, adventurous voyages with the definite object of establishing new settlements.
Hindu scholars have always claimed that in remotest times, their ancestors visited every part of the globe, mapping it accurately. The script on seals found in the two Indus Valley cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa is exactly similar to that seen on the stone tablets found in one other farthest corner of the world: Easter Island! Some old Sanskrit texts were even found in Yucatan in Mexico.
In the 1870s, scientific interest was deeply aroused when a German scientist, Ernst Haekel proposed that Africa and India had once been joined together, before splitting apart, allowing India to move northward by continental drift. This fact gains further significance and support from an essay on Egypt from the “Ancient Book of the Hindus” written in 1792 by British Lt. Colonel Francis Wilford who gave abundant evidence proving that ancient Indians colonized and settled in Egypt. The British explorer John Hanning Speke, who in 1862 discovered the source of the Nile in Lake Victoria, acknowledged that the Egyptians themselves didn’t have the slightest knowledge of where the Nile’s source was. However, Lt. Colonel Wilford’s description of the Hindu’s intimate acquaintance with ancient Egypt led Speke to Ripon Falls, at the edge of Lake Victoria.
This article and a lot many interesting details were part of my epic book titled “Mexico: A grand voyage through the fascinating land with ancient links to India” which I completed in 2010. I set aside these incredible details when I converted the epic book into three e-books Discovering Mexico, Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World and A Guide To Mexican Cuisine which are available for sale on this blog.
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