This section is from the book "Some Contributions Of South India To Indian Culture", by S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar. Also available from Amazon: Some Contributions of South India to Indian Culture.
The chief exports from the country, as the author of the Periplus says, were these; "the produce of the soil like pepper, great quantities of the best pearl are likewise purchased here, ivory, silk in the web, spikenard from the Ganges, malabathrum from the countries further to the east, transparent stones of all sorts, diamonds, rubies and tortoise shell from the golden Chersonese or from the islands off the coast of Damirke. This is all from the port of Muziris on the west coast. He goes on to say, "there is a great resort of shipping to this port for pepper and malabathrum; the merchants bring out a large quantity of spice and their other imports are topazes, stibium, coral., flint, glass, brass and lead, a small quantity of wine as profitable as at Barugaza, cinnabar, fine cloth, arsenic and wheat, not for sale but for the use of the crew." That Pliny's complaint about the drain was neither imaginary nor hypersensitive is in evidence in a passage descriptive of Muziris in one of the ancient classics of Tamil literature 1 'Musiri to which come the well-rigged ships of the Yavanas2 bringing gold and taking away spices in exchange.'
1 This seems a technical expression meaning the kind of wool which lent itself to weaving.
Regarding the trade of the east coast, here follows the imports into Puhar, "horses were brought from distant lands beyond the seas, pepper was brought in ships, gold and precious stones came from the northern mountains towards the west3; pearls from the southern seas, and
1 See Aham 148, quoted above.
2 Yavanas in this connection stand undoubtedly for the foreign Greeks and Romans. Other foreigners also were known and these were called Mlechchas. Mullaippattu, 11. 61-65, Maha., Svaminatha Aiyar's Edn. of Pattupattu.
3 The Western Ghats in Konkan and Tulu seem to have produced gold, See Aham, 70 coral from eastern seas. The produce of the region watered by the Ganges; all that is grown on the banks of the Kaveri, articles of food from Ilam (Ceylon) and the manufactures of Kalaham (Sumatra) l were brought there for sale as was stated already. The products of particular importance received in the port of Tondi (east or Chola Tondi in the Ramnad Dt.) are akir (a kind black aromatic wood), fine silk, camphor, silk stuff (from China), candy, sandal, scents, and these articles and salt were carried into the interior by means of waggons drawn by teams of oxen or buffaloes slowly trudging along through town and village, effecting exchanges with commodities for export. Tolls were paid on the way and the journey from the coast up the plateau and back again occupied many months. A brisk and thriving commerce with the corresponding volume of internal trade argues peace, and the period to which the above description will apply must have been a period of general peace in the Peninsula. They did not forget in those days to maintain a regular customs establishment, the officials of which piled up the grain and stored up the things that could not immediately be measured and appraised, leaving them in the dockyards
1 Pattinappa ai, 127 ff carefully sealed with the tiger signet of the king.1 The Tamils built their own ships, and in the other crafts of the skilled artisan they seem to have attained some proficiency, though they availed themselves of experts from distant places. In the building of the royal palace at Puhar, skilled artisans from Magadha, mechanics from Maradam (Mahratta), smiths from Avanti (Malva) carpenters from Yavana worked2 together. There is mention of a temple of the most beautiful workmanship in the same city, built of Gurjjara3 workship. In the building of forts and in the providing of them with weapons and missiles, both for offence and defence, the Tamils had attained to something like perfection. Twenty-four such weapons are mentioned among the defences of Madura.4