The Silk Road or Silk Route was an ancient network of trade routes that for centuries were central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the East and West from China to the Mediterranean Sea.
While the term is of modern coinage, the Silk Road derives its name from the lucrative trade in Chinese silk carried out along its length, beginning during the Han dynasty (207 BCE – 220 CE). The Han dynasty expanded Central Asian sections of the trade routes around 114 BCE, largely through missions and explorations of the Chinese imperial envoy, Zhang Qian. The Chinese took great interest in the safety of their trade products and extended the Great Wall of China to ensure the protection of the trade route.
Trade on the Silk Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, the Subcontinent, Persia, Europe, the Horn of Africa and Arabia, opening long-distance political and economic relations between the civilizations. Though silk was certainly the major trade item exported from China, many other goods were traded, and religions, syncretic philosophies, and various technologies, as well as diseases, most notably plague, also spread along the Silk Routes. In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road was a route for cultural trade among the civilizations along its network.
The main traders during antiquity included the Chinese, Arabs, Turks, Indians, Persians, Somalis, Greeks, Syrians, Romans, Georgians, Armenians, Bactrians, and (from the 5th to the 8th century) the Sogdians.
There were further offshoots of this South West Silk Route from Lhasa and Lanzhou which crossed the Eastern Himalayas and reached Sikkim at different High altitude passes other than Nathu La like Jelep La and Dhonka La. All these routes converged at Eastern Sikkim and finally led to plains of Bengal from where they bifurcated to various sea ports and trade centers on coastal Bay of Bengal like Tamluk in India, and Wari-Bateshwar, Bhitagarh, Mahasthangarh, Bikrampur and Sonargaon in present Bangladesh. A section of the South West Silk Route crossed Lhasa and entered India through Nathu La from China whereas another section of the route crossed Burma (present Myanmar) and entered India through Assam (Kamrup) further to the sea ports of Bengal and present Bangladesh.
Good to Know
The months of May and October are the best time to travel the Silk Road. The summer can be searingly hot. The winter is freezing. During May, the average temperature along the route is around 15°C.
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- Visitor should carry heavy jackets, socks, sleeping bags, warm hat, light gloves, torch, folding tents etc.
- It will be better to keep some foods with you, like, chocolates, dried fruits, nutrients, electrolytes etc.
- Some medicines like paracetamols, ingestion and anti vomiting tablets, band-aids, lip balms, sun screen with SPF, anti septic cream, moisturizer etc. should always be carried without any fail.
- Visitor with any physical problem should consult with Doctor and keep the medicine with him.
Nathula Pass is closed on Friday and you can visit this India-China border only if you have got the permit. If you have plan to visit Gangtok city via Silk Route, just ask your hotel manager at Gangtok to get the permit for you. If you are not visiting Gangtok from Nathang Valley, you won’t get the permit because permit for Nathula Pass can only be obtained from Gangtok city. Nathula Pass is worth visiting, one of the oldest border gates between India and China.