yunnan road1The British brought tea to India (or started planting tea in India) no earlier than 1828, but tea has a history as long as 5,000 years, so certainly tea traveled in and around India for a long time, although there are very few historical records of tea or its movement in India.

I started planting tea in and around Bihar in 1989, an area declared a non-traditional tea-growing region in 1999 by the Indian Tea Board, and traveled in the upper reaches of an area called “Purbanchal” (northeast of Bihar), where the Kosi River, also termed the “Curse of Bihar,” has its flood plain. This flood plain is like a very large marsh through which there has been very little organized movement of humans or goods. Whatever was built by the British was destroyed by a massive earthquake around 1916, rendering the area backward and prone to criminal activity.

yunnan roadOnly seldom did passersby travel to and from Yunnan via this route, which served as a link between the Sindhu Valley civilization and the Kingdoms of Shan – areas dominated by the mongoloid tribes (Birat, Kirat, Kichak, Mech, Koch, Bodo, Dhimal, Khasi, Mishing, Ahom, Naga, Kachin, Bai, Dai, Naxi, Hui, Bulongs, and so on). The name Yin du (also known as Indu or Hindu) was etched in the memories of people over these long years. Written and spoken languages, based on Pali and Devanagari, were transformed and captured in the annals of history and are still written over the pillars in the Dehong prefecture of Yunnan.

My mind flies over these roads when I view them on Google Earth, travel on them, and take photographs of them. My hope is that my words inspire you to learn more about the ancient tea roads.