Silk Route

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The Silk Route or Silk Road refers to a network of ancient trade routes connecting Asia, Europe and Africa. Extending more than 6,500 kms, the Silk Route was majorly used to transport Chinese Silk to Europe through Central Asia from 2nd Century BC. However, many trade routes (both sea and land routes) existed in much earlier times that connected the main Silk Route and traded in different commodities ranging from salt to gold. Silk Route’s greatest contribution to world history was not mere trading of few commodities but exchange of ideas, art and science between Asia, Europe and Africa. It was the world’s first information superhighway. The advent of Silk Route is one the most remarkable events in world history. Almost all Ancient Trade routes across Asia and Europe merged with the Silk Route at some point and the whole network of trade routes became the world’s first international cultural phenomenon. The Silk Route in Sikkim is an offshoot of an ancient trade route which came from Lhasa, crossing Chumbi Valley and passed through Nathula Pass and finally took the port of Tamralipta (present Tamluk in West Bengal). From Tamluk, this trade route took to the sea and reached Sri Lanka, Bali, Java and other parts of the Far East. We find the mention of Tamralipta as a busy sea-route on Bay of Bengal in Fa Hein’s accounts as early as 400 AD. This portion of the Old Silk route through Bhutan, East Sikkim and West Bengal was quite less travelled but is expected to have been discovered by traders as early as First Century AD. Most of the Mountain Passes in this region of the Eastern Himalayas are around 14,000 feet above sea-level and stays snow covered from November to April, which makes this route one of the most inhospitable regions on earth. The distance between Lhasa and Tamralipta through this nearly obscure part of the Ancient Silk Route was around 900 kms, which is significantly less than other seaports from Lhasa and this route was comparatively a safer land route option for the traders’ caravans. Much of the modern history of the South West Silk Route through Sikkim would remain unfinished without the mention of Sir Francis Edward Young husband – the famous British Explorer and Army officer. In 1904, Major Francis Young husband led a successful mission through Nathula La to capture Lhasa. He travelled through much of present North Sikkim and East Sikkim’s Silk Route corridor to enter Tibet with his troops.

 

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