Classical Eastern Mediterranean contacts with the Seaboards of Peninsular India have a long past of almost two millennia. Phoenicians, Philistines, Egyptians, Arabs, Greeks and Romans were peoples who had exchange contacts in the ancient past. Historians call this maritime contact as trade, without bothering about the nature and forms of exchange in the past, which differed from trade. There were different phases in the history of maritime exchange relations viz., the primordial phase of goods for goods exchange by short distance coasting itinerant merchants, who gathered and exchanged subsistence as well as survival tools/goods from place to place (c.600 – c.100 BCE). This was followed by the phase of high value metal (gold/silver) based barter by cross-oceanic sailors in ships commissioned by rulers/aristocrats and dependent on overland cargo movers as well as local suppliers (c.100 BCE – c.600 CE). To a great extent building kinship was the central strategy of building up relations with communities of distant lands. What was the nature of Eastern Mediterranean overseas contacts and how do we characterise contemporary communities along the seaboards of Peninsular India?
Rajan Gurukkal, former Director of the School of Social Sciences and Vice-Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala, is currently Visiting Profes-sor at the Centre for Contemporary Studies, Indian Institute of Science, Banga-lore. A historian and social scientist, Gurukkal has specialised in the socio-economics of early South Asia and the history of knowledge production of early India. His books, covering a wide range of historical and social sciences, in-clude: Forest Landscapes of the Southern Western Ghats, India: Biodiversity, Human Ecology, and Management Strategies (together with B. R. Ramesh, French Institute of Pondichery, 2007); Social Formations of Early South India(Oxford University Press, 2009, 2012); Suicide Trends in Kerala: Causes and Alleviations (Trivandrum: Kerala State Planning Board, 2009) and Rethinking Classical Indo-Roman Trade: Political Economy of Eastern Mediterranean Ex-change Relations (Oxford University Press, 2016). His current reserarch interest is maritime exchanges, community formation and the spread of religions.