By Saba Purkar Project Research Associate, Maritime History Society (MHS)

In 1992, The Indian Navy with the Odisha State Government planned a Bali voyage known as “Kaling Bali Yatra” to celebrate Boita Bandana and retrace the ancient sea trade route between Odisha and Indonesia. This activity was a grand gesture aimed at rediscovering the socio-economic and socio-cultural ties between the two nations.

Situated on the eastern coast of India, Odisha is gifted with a natural harbour of about 600km stretching from the Ganges on the north and Godavari and Krishna on the south which has played a crucial role in India’s maritime trade and history. The festival of Boita Bandana, popularly known as Bali Yatra in Odisha, is a traditional festival emerging out of Odisha’s Maritime past. The name itself conveys a journey to Bali. During the festival, all women and girls float boats made of ‘Shole’ or bark of plantain tree, with flowers, leaves and light lamps inside. This ritual was performed for the safe return of the sailors from their voyage on the day of Kartika Purnima. This festival is celebrated around the end of October and the beginning of November. The same ritual is observed in Bali.

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By Saba Purkar, Project Research Associate, MHS

The average lifespan of a ship at sea is considered as 25-30 years. After that, the maintenance of the ship becomes too expensive and dangerous to voyage in. However, today i.e 12 October marks the launch date of the Royal Navy’s Leda class frigate HMS Trincomalee who carries in her bones over two centuries worth of history, making her the oldest afloat surviving warship of Great Britain. What is interesting and makes it relevant to us is that this ‘Grand Old Lady’ was built in the Bombay dockyards by none other than the famed Wadia shipbuilders.

The ships of East India Company covered a wide range of trade routes and to tap into this network they established a shipbuilding industry in Bombay under the local builders, the Wadia’s in this case. The HMS Trincomalee was built after the end of the Napoleonic wars by the Wadia group in Bombay at a whopping cost of 23,000 pounds back then. It was in May of 1816 that the work of building this ship began after none other than the master builder Mr. Jamsetjee Bomanjee Wadia himself hammered a ceremonial engraved silver nail into the ship’s keel, which was considered vital for ships well-being, according to the Parsi Zoroastrian tradition. What sets this ship apart from her sisters is that, she is made of teakwood in place of the commonly used oak. This was probably because of the scarcity of oak wood in Britain, in those times, owing to the rapid shipbuilding during the Napoleonic wars.