Bullock carts were the major means
of transportation on land. The basic bullock cart is similar to the ones
still used in northern India today. A pair of animals tied to a central yoke
provided the power to draw the cart. Carts were made of wood, and a copper
specimen has also been found. As kingdoms grew, the elite of society began
to use horse chariots.
Though well-made roads have been
mentioned in the early Vedas, little evidence of them exists. However by the
5th century BCE a more advanced system of roads with bridges, crossways and
four-road junctions was developed.
Sea and river transport
The rivers of northern India, being
fed by melting ice from the far reaches of the Himalayas, are perennial and
have always been a popular mode of transport. In other parts navigability
was governed by the amount of rainfall. Along with river transport, India
also developed sea transport for her relations with Egypt and Mesopotamia in
There is much evidence of the Indus
valley civilisations having trade contacts with Mesopotamia and Egypt. A
representation on a seal shows a rowing ship without masts and with a
steersman at the rudder, which is similar to the ships used in the
Mediterranean at the time.
In the early Vedic period (ca.
1500-900 BCE) boats are described as dugouts with oars for paddling. These
were probably used for inland transport. The lack of material describing
seafaring ships may indicate that the early Aryans had little trade contacts
with overseas civilisations.
Of later times, little
physical evidence remains but accounts of travellers like Fa-Hien indicate
that Indian seafaring technology remained inferior to that of the
Phoenicians, Romans, Vikings and other such civilisations. The maximum
tonnage of a ship is described to be only 75 tonnes, a far cry from the
Greek and Roman ships of the same period.
Timbers of ships were lashed
together instead of nailed together, not only because they were more
resilient in rough weather but also because of the superstition fear of
“magnetic rocks” which would, it was feared, pull out the nails.