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Roads and Transport

Modes of transport

MB mentions 4 wheeled and 8 wheeled chariots. Drawn by 2 / 3 / 4 oxen, horses or donkeys. It was driven by one person and had ample space for a couple of people to ride. Its body and wheels were made of wood. Solid as well as spoked wheels were in use. It could move at a speed of about 30 km/hr. "Rathakar", chariot making was an industry in itself. Horse trading was a major occupation too.

For waters, various sea going and river boats are mentioned in MB. These vessels were capable of sailing in rough waters and carried ammunation.


Since the ancient times, 2 national higways have been in use in Bharat: the Uttarapath (Northern road) and the Dakshinapath (Southern road). The geographical regions through which these roads travelled were also known as Uttarapath and Dakshinapath.

The Uttarapath joined the states of Anga (Bengal), Maghdha (Bihar), Kashi, Kosal, Panchal, Kuru, Kekay, Kamboj and Gandhar. That is almost from the mouths of Ganga in the east to Afghanistan in the west. The Uttarapath joined the silk route in the North to the interiors of India. It has served as the trading route for thousands of years. It was the longest ancient land route which had become very popular during the Mauryan rule.

The Dakshinapath originated in Magadh (Bihar) and travelled west to Ujjaini and then to south across the Vindhya range to Pratishthan (Paithan) on the banks of Godavari. The name of the region Deccan has originated from its earlier name of Dakshinapath.
Buddhist as well as Puranic sources attest that the merchants and horse-dealers from Uttarapatha would bring horses and other goods for sale down to eastern Indian places like Shravasti (Kosala), Kasi, Pataliputra (Patna), Pragjyotisha (Assam) and Tamarlipitka (in Bengal). A regular horse-trade between the nations of Uttarapatha and those of Dakshinapath (Mysore) is attested to have been going on as late as 12th century.

Both roads are mentioned in the MB. Hastinapur that lies on the Uttarapath had a huge market. Dakshinapath is also mentioned in times earlier than the MB war in the Nal-Damayanti episode.

The partially dry bed of Saraswati was also used as a road by Balaram during his pilgrimage. Other rivers like Sindhu, Ganga were navigable.