Linguistic research has also proved the Greek and the Romans had longstanding ties with the Malabar Coast. Place names and utility items like the Chinese fishing nets (Chinawala) and woks (chinachatti) are reminders of the links with the Far East.
Historians recognise the fact that India’s history features Kerala’s trade ties with the west way back to 3000 B C. Spices and aromatic herbs including pepper, the black gold, turmeric, dried ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and timber from teak, rosewood and sandalwood, were to be found in plenty in Kerala. These natural resources attracted the Babylonians, the Phoenicians, Jewish traders from Israel, the Chinese and the Arabs and all areas of culture had trade links with Kerala which they referred to a ‘Malabar’. The aromatic herbs and oils, that were available here, were used as medicine and for embalming the bodies of rulers and rich aristocrats; it was also used as the beauty enhancing oils for women and in the places of worship. It is believed that the Phoenicians and the Arabs were the first to carry these priceless herbs and spices to the foreign lands.
In 1500 BC, the Egyptian Queen is said to have sent five ships to the Red Sea to procure these things. Cardamom and cinnamon are mentioned in the holy books and it is opined that the Kerala was the only place where the two products were available. The Old Testament mentions that the church, constructed in Sinai (1490) by Moses, the Jewish lawgiver, had used cardamom. By 1000 B C, Solomon’s ships had touched Kerala to procure the fragrances and herbs. In the last century of the BC era, the Greeks and the Romans too came with the same interests. The Greek elders have included the name of Kerala’s aromatic herbs along with the mention of medicinal herbs. Pepper was also priced by the Romans. Coins of the Romans are proofs that trade existed here.
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