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Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  1,107 ratings  ·  188 reviews
Much of human history has played itself out along the rim of the Indian Ocean. In a first-of-its-kind attempt, bestselling author Sanjeev Sanyal tells the history of this significant region, which stretches across East Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent to South East Asia and Australia. He narrates a fascinating tale about the earliest human migrations out ...more
Hardcover, 346 pages
Published August 10th 2016 by Viking (India)
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Riku Sayuj
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A thoroughly enjoyable voyage across the Indian Ocean with Sanjeev Sanyal. Sanyal has clearly gone from strength to strength since his last work and his command over the narrative, and engagement of the reader is admirable now. A challenging task is taken up here, since the sweep of time and geography to be covered in a short book like this is ambitious to say the least. Sanyal pulls it off quite handsomely, it has to be said, even though oversimplification and a few biases color the narrative i ...more
Kumar Anshul
Aug 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
How come the fossil remains of marine animals have been found in Himalayas?

How come we can see oriental faces in the engravings by Pallavas?

Why did Vasco Da Gama worshipped in a Hindu Temple when he set his foot in India for the first time?

How come the Parsi Community of India embraced the local Gujarati culture so effortlessly?

Yeah, you guessed it right- This books has not only answers, but also profound explanations of all the above mentioned (and many more) questions.

History has been presc
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who slept during their history lectures in secondary school
I did hope to be impressed which unfortunately I wasn't while reading this one.
I did hope to find some intensive if not extensive history of the diasporic movement around and across the Indian Ocean, what I did get was a quick tour of the region and those beyond it spreading across centuries and civilizations, right from the Prehistoric times to the recent past.
I did hope to read of those unknown sailors, pirates, local merchants, lascars, what I got...well I did not get what the author had hin
Arun Divakar
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
The author of this book, Sanjeev Sanyal makes a credible statement on an obvious shortcoming with a majority of historic narratives. In a planet where 71% are covered by the oceans, our history is almost completely rooted on the land. Sanyal in his book sets out to look at history from the Indian Ocean’s perspective. The Indian Ocean encompasses Africa, Asia and Australasia in its fold what happens against the backdrop of this sea is rich, varied and instrumental to world history. The narrative ...more
Pradeep T
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Being a regular reader of the history I was fascinated by this book by the author Sanjeev Sanyal. Having read his previous book "Land of the Seven Rivers" I was all eager to read this new book. In his previous book, he talked about the seven important rivers of India including the mighty Saraswati River. The Land of seven rivers was summed up in one line as “Seven Rivers (Sapth Sindhu), One Country, Five Millennia, Startling History”.

Asian histories have been rendered in a biased manner since ti
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Another brilliant book by Sanjeev Sanyal.
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
The best thing about this book is the focus on South India. Indian History is far too Delhi-centric, and it is good that an emminental readable and well-studied account of the South is now presented. The author has a knack of combining the studies of Geography and History, and the book does not disappoint one bit. What I particularly enjoyed is the use of anecdotes to stitch together broader historical patterns. The book also does not pull back on punches and focused on key areas such as the cul ...more
Abhishek Desikan
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There aren’t many books which make you feel thankful that you came across them. The Ocean of Churn, by Sanjeev Sanyal, is definitely one of them. For quite some time I’ve wanted to read a book which would give an accurate and vivid description of how civilization came to be, especially around the Indian subcontinent. Few people could tell the story in such a concise manner as has the author, as we wade through the origin of Homo Sapiens right up to the bustling cosmopolitan 21st century behemoth ...more
A Man Called Ove
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
2.5/5 For the most part it read like a school textbook, too much information of dates and names cramped into few pages with urgency. More of information than on insights/analysis. Also, felt a lack of continuity and depth.
Pankaj Kumar
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting read about the maritime history surrounding the Indian ocean. The author has done a great job exploring the means how the trade right since the Harappan Era has shaped the civilizations in and around the Indian Ocean. He also challenges with facts the racist belief of the superior race of "Aryans" shaping the history of the world.
The author starts by describing the Harappan civilization in BCE, gradually progressing in the time line to show how the trade in the east coast closely
Harshad Sharma
Nov 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hist-nonfiction
This is a fascinating read of how Indian Ocean influenced India History. We forget that the major portion of contemporary Indian history is always a narrative from the inland empirical view. This book flies in the face of that school of thought that the power center of India has always been inland in Delhi or that there India has been a land based land route trading empire..

Moreover and the thing i like the most about this book is the fascinating stories of simple people, simple traders and peo
Aditya Kulkarni
Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indian-history
It is really an outstanding book. A friend of mine recommended Sanjeev Sanyal to me and I started reading his books in the chronological order in which he has written them. I guess that was a good decision from my end because I have liked each book more than the previous one and this is quite easily the best from him so far. Very often than not, when we speak of history, we restrict ourselves to the terrestrial form of history and restrict ourselves to a history of a particular country or land. ...more
Mallika Saharia
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What I loved most about this book was how the entire chronology of the evolution of trade along the Indian Ocean has been discretised into small, palatable stories. Coincidentally, I took this book along with me while travelling to Singapore and Indonesia- that made it even more fascinating for me to trace back observations/ seeming similarities to possible origins in different parts of our country. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book!
Deepanjan Roy
Oct 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome Read

Awesome Read that opens up new vistas of knowledge for anyone interested in how what we are today is a sythesis of what we did yesterday
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed reading this book.
Sahila Kudalkar
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it

Before you start reading, be aware that this work, perhaps like all of history itself, is subjective. The Ocean of Churn is a well-researched book, but is influenced by Sanyal's own beliefs (especially towards the end with phrases such as 'stifled by the social economist model imposed by Nehru', or his silence on how the Mughals ruled post the brutal raids by Md. Ghori and the like). Some parts of the book seem speculative such as 'It was commonly argued by colonial-era scholars that India was n
Susmita Kundu
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Maritime history is often overlooked in discussions on Indian history. Come to think of it, many turning point in Indian history has happened through maritime events
e.g. 1) Both Islam and Christianity arrived in India through sea route in present day Kerala.
2) Vasco da Gama's arrival in Calicut and subsequent opening of sea route to India from Europe.

Mainstream texts often make us believe that maritime activities in the Indian Ocean began with the European colonial powers like the Portuguese an
It is said that the ancient Sanskrit name for the Indian Ocean is "Ratnākara (रत्नाकर)" - Ocean of Gems. While reading this book, I also felt like swimming through the ocean of gems myself - gems in the form of amusing trivia and facts.

Luckily, I came across this book in that year of my life in which I've traveled good deal in the Indian ocean countries of Vietnam and Indonesia. This book is a great source of information on anthropology, history and geography of Indian Ocean region - stretching
Manasa Manjunath
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
Sanjeev Sanyal’s Ocean of churn makes for sublime reading. He tackles the history of the Indian Ocean rim right from man’s first steps into the region and all the way into the 21st century. This book will teach everything that was neglected in your middle and high school history and geography classes. He manages to weave a narrative that stitches together the countries in the region rather than pull them apart.

The stories peppered into the history lesson add that human element and make it that
Vaibhav Kulkarni
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good account of History of the Indian Ocean.
Rosun Rajkumar
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Genre: non-fiction
My rating: 4/5

I started The Ocean of Churn by Sanjeev Sanyal for a book club and it turned out to be such a happy accident. Sanjeev's book talks about how civilizations have formed, survived and evolved with the Indian Ocean rim at the center of it. This would mean history of the Indian subcontinent, South East Asia, Australia, East Africa and the Middle East. A lot of it which we already know and which reads like a quick refresher; also a lot of tall and interesting claims whi
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full 5 stars for the sheer amount of research that has gone into writing this book ! The book is packed with information but the flow is very natural and doesn't feel like reading a text book.

The book is about the dynamics of geopolitics of the landmasses surrounding the Indian ocean rim, from the coasts of East Africa to East Asian countries. Indian ocean has always been a hotbed of political turmoil owing to its strategic location connecting African coast, middle east and South east Asia thro
Paras Kapadia
Dec 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I've been looking for a book like this for so long. If you've been surprised to find a piece of India in unexpected places - Guyana, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Kenya, this book is for you. It's a brief history of the Indian ocean ecosystem. Indians have a rich history of trade and mercantile exploration that have turned it's coastlines into fascinating melting pots of culture - Parsis is Gujrat, Mapilla Muslims in Kerela, Naga kings in Andhra, Sinhalese people of Odiya origin in Sri Lanka etc. Even Po ...more
Manish Gupta
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very enjoyable and enriching voyage through the indian ocean. The rich indian history has been brought alive via the ocean and is a welcome change from the north centered view of indian history. The books also untangles the mysteries behind the rich indian culture observed in south east asia and other places. Delightful passages of travel accounts are inter spread throughout the book. Little known heroes/heroines from the coastal kindgdoms of India are brought to life and their courage celebra ...more
Vipul Murarka
Sep 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I had read this quote somewhere “Mountains are conservative, seas are liberal”. When I picked up the book “The Ocean of Churn – How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History” by Sanjeev Sanyal, I thought it will be another book that will tell how Indians have been instrumental in world history. I am firm believer that it is not just one race, one person or one event that has influence but a diverse set of people, things, instances that lead to a better world. So I am not sure why I picked up this bo ...more
Bernie Gourley
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a geographic and historical overview of the Indian Ocean from the geological processes that created it to the wave of independence movements that took hold in the wake of the Second World War. The author’s approach is to emphasize the interaction between – rather than within – the various nations of this region. [Though, India in particular, gets a great deal of space devoted to internal happenings. However, given its central location (trading to both the east and the west,) its size, an ...more
Vijay Ivaturi
May 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“The Ocean of Churn – How Indian Ocean Shaped Human History” brilliantly captures the events in human history that revolved around Indian Ocean. This book is mainly India centric but also gives a good view into the world of East Africa, Arabs, Turks, Vietnamese, Indonesians, Malays and lastly, the Chinese. And above all, it talks very clearly about the rogue adventures of European nations which currently take moral high ground and act as better civilized societies than rest of the World.

Ravi Singh
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was a pleasure to read from start to finish!
It is well researched and written in free flowing, easy style with an aim to let you enjoy the experience rather than encumber you with stodgy, academic prose.
The critics of this book are reflecting their own biases rather than anything the book offers. The author more often than not just states his research and lets you make up your own mind. He does draw your attention to various events that have been consigned to the backroom of history mo
Sanket Tilekar
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
The whole history of world right from evolution of human till current time seen through the eyes of Indian ocean. This book covers quite a large period of history of trades, and rise and fall of empires around the Indian ocean coast. Despite it's large coverage the small details and stories make it very interesting read. ...more
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Indian Readers: The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History 48 26 Sep 30, 2016 09:00AM  

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Sanjeev Sanyal is an economist, urban theorist and writer. He grew up in Sikkim, Kolkata and Delhi before heading off to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He spent the tumultuous summer of 1993 in South Africa as it transitioned from apartheid, and then extensively travelled through Guatemala as it emerged from civil war. These experiences made him a keen observer of rapidly changing societies, an inter ...more

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