(Giraffe in Konark - a closer view)
India, owing to its long coastline and vast natural resources have a very old seafaring tradtion, which we come to know through archaeological evidences, depiction of sculptures in temples and monasteries and travelougues, besides folklore, ancient texts and inscriptions.
Orissa, on the east coast of India, known for its beautiful temples and Buddhist monasteries, also has a very ancient seafaring tradition. Merchants and traders (sadhavas) from this land sailed through the mighty sea of Bay of Bengal to distant Java and Sumatra to trade throughout the last two millennium. Archaeologists have discovered a range of evidences such as ceramics, and precious stone beads to support their argument on Orissa's rich maritime history. However, Orissa's contact with Africa is not much known from the archaeological sources.
Konark, the epitome of Orissa's temple architecture, however has preserved a unique evidence - depiction of a giraffe in one of its lower panels.
In the panel, the relief shows a king, seated on an elephant, receiving the homage of a group of outlandish men clad in frilled petticoat like lower garments. They have brought gifts for the King, one of which includes a giraffe.