The Story of Baryga


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A vast and wealthy port formerly flourished in what is now the Indian state of Gujarat; established as Bharuch—Greek and Roman traders knew it as Barygaza. Despite its rich and cosmopolitan past dating back to Pre-Maurya times, Barygaza – located on the Narmada river's north bank – is oddly absent from most Indian histories due to an incredible paucity of evidence.

It wasn't until the Sakas intervened and developed Barygaza as an important link in the Indo-Roman commerce network. and the wealthiest people of Rome obtained silk and spices from "the east," making Barygaza almost definitely one of the key export locations.

Not only did Barygaza have links with Ujjain and Mathura, but it also had overland links through Central Asian marts leading to Bactria, and helped develop maritime links with the Near East, Persia, and eventually the Roman Mediterranean.

Barygaza: Role in Trade

During the trade contacts with the Persian, Egypt, the gulf, Ceylon, Syria, and the far east, Barygaza was ruled by Nahapana. Nahapana was the ruler of a dynasty referred to as the 'Western Satraps'.

During his reign, ships from Barygaza sailed east to Java and Sumatra, then west to the Red Sea and Aden. Historically, Bharuch's location near the Narmada River was crucial to its fate. The Narmada was deep and broad here, making it an ideal base for commerce vessels from all over the world. Narmada also added to the land's fertility, and the cotton and wheat farmed in the area were highly demanded. As a result, the area around Bharuch became famed for its cotton fabrics.

In addition to the water benefits provided by Narmada, the extensive woods of the Narmada valley gave valuable timber, which aided in the growth of the cargo vessel building industry in the region. Spikenard or muskroot, costus, and bdellium from Kashmir were among several commodities exported from Barygaza. The ships of the Roman traders were also loaded with indigo, long pepper, ivory, linen, and onyx stones. Furthermore, Barygaza not only exported but also imported silverware, wine, and fragrances, as well as glass, clothes, and styrax from the Mediterranean and Egypt respectively. Ebony wood, teakwood, and wheat were the most important exports from Bharuch.

With so much import and export happening through Barygaza, it goes on without saying that Bharuch also functioned as a center for foreign exchange. This center converts huge quantities of Greek and Roman silver and gold coins into local money for trade.

Barygaza also holds its presence in the historic trade route, the Silk Route which spreads out from China and spreads out to central Asia, all the way down to Bharuch.

Bharuch was a center for ships arriving from China and Sindh in the 10th century CE, during the Solanki kingdom. Bharuch's present identity is based on trade and business, but the ruins of its historic fort, towering gates, and exquisite old Havelis remind us of the magnificent city it once was.

Barygaza Amidst the War

Surprisingly, a port near a coastline in Barygaza had to act as both a commercial magnet and a line of defense against seaborne invasions. This was realized by Solanki prince Siddharaj Jaisinh, who constructed the first Bharuch fort in the 12th century, while the city's walls were further enlarged throughout the Mughal and Sultanate periods.

It was utilized as a base for operations against Gujrati and Deccan rebels under Muhammad bin Tughlaq.

The Battle of Diu in 1509 CE constituted a watershed moment in India's naval history, as the balance of power changed in favor of the Portuguese. Bharuch was besieged and defeated by the Portuguese under Captain Jorge de Menezes in 1547. By 1618, the Dutch and English had created warehouses in order to get textiles at low costs. And the city was named 'Broach.'

However, Bharuch's fortunes changed significantly in the second half of the seventeenth century, when the Marathas attacked the city twice. The city faced six droughts between 1681 and 1696, which devastated the lives of individuals. As a consequence, people began to migrate.

Moreover, the marine docks of Surat, Bombay, and Cambay (Khambat) seize the limelight and begin to attract commerce.

Barygaza and Parsis

The Parsis were among the first communities in Bharuch to benefit from this new surge of commerce. The Parsis did everything, from being the city's principal traders to establishing the English Factory, to having a monopoly on the manufacturing and sale of whiskey, to exploiting the locals' carpentry abilities in ship-building. Many of these Parsi residents were known as 'Bharucha' (because of Bharuch) a typical Parsi surname that is still used today.

Barygaza: Modern Day Bharuch

Bharuch essentially vanished from the national memory, only to reappear in the 1900s during the independence struggle. Some of India's most well-known liberation fighters were born in the city, including K M Munshi, the founding member of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and a well-known figure in Gujarati literature. Following independence, the Narmada provided new impetus to Bharuch, which grew into a powerhouse of textile and chemical factories.


Q1: What was the main factor for the prosperity of Barygaza?

Ans: The one and only factor for the prosperity of Barygaza was the river Narmada. Which enriched the soil of the city for reaping both agricultural and wood benefits.

Q2: What were some prominent goods that were exported by Barygaza?

Ans: There were many goods that were exported from Barygaza but Ebony wood, teakwood, and wheat were the most important exports.

Q3: Apart from import and export of goods what other roles did Baryaza play in trade?

Ans: Apart from import and export, Barygaza served as a center of changing currencies. Where greek and dutch could change their silver ad gold for doing trade.

Q4: Who developed the first Barygaza port and when?

Ans: Solanki prince Siddharaj Jaisinh developed the first Barygaza port in the 12th century.

Q5: Who was Nahapana?

Ans: During the trade contacts with the Persian, Egypt, the Gulf, Ceylon, Syria, and the far east, Barygaza was ruled by Nahapana. Nahapana was the ruler of a dynasty referred to as the 'Western Satraps'.

Updated on: 13-Oct-2022


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