By Janhavi Lokegaonkar, Senior Research Associate, Maritime History Society

International Customs Day is celebrated on 26 January every year. In order to look at the stellar role of the Customs Department in India, the blog titled ‘International Customs Day- A Historical Perspective on the Indian Customs’ is dedicated as a two-part series. The following is the first in the series to trace the historical aspects.

World Customs Organisation and International Customs Day 2023:

Before delving into the history, it is pertinent to understand what Customs are. Every nation has a dedicated Customs Authority that is responsible for the collection of duties and tariffs and overseeing the interchange of goods. Each nation has its own regulations and codes regarding the nature and kind of commodities that are permissible for import and export. The law to regulate such practices is under the jurisdiction of the Customs Authority. In order to increase interoperability on a global scale, the World Customs Organization (WCO) is set up as an international organization that oversees the different customs administrations related to international trade. Continue reading “INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMS DAY- A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE INDIAN CUSTOMS”

Natal: The word that crept into the Indian lexicon.

Dennard H D’Souza Senior Research Associate (Maritime History Society)

The birth of Jesus is widely known as Christmas in India, owing to the predominance of the English language in the South Asian Subcontinent. It is also interesting to note that Christmas in many pockets of  western India has a different nomenclature. In Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat it is referred to as Natal, a word of Iberian origin but Portuguese to be precise.


As Goa remained a colonial settlement of the Portuguese in India for the longest time – approximately for  four centuries. It is astonishing to note that Maharashtra and Gujarat which were part of the British Raj were still influenced by the linguistic sensibilities of the Anglosphere and retained a Portuguese loanword “Natal” Continue reading “Natal: The word that crept into the Indian lexicon.”

Mughal Women in Maritime Trade: Jahanara

By Sadaf Khan, Archives & Collections Associate (Maritime History Society)

Figure 1 Jahanara Source:,_British_Library,_Add_Or_3129,_f.13v.jpg

In the previous two segments, we have read about Mariam-uz-Zamani and Nur Jahan’s maritime pursuits. While Mariam-uz-Zamani had to struggle to navigate her path in maritime ventures, Nur Jahan, on the other hand, played her cards well. With a political acumen and a vision for economic success, she managed to pull off her maritime enterprise smoothly without a glitch. In this last and final piece of the Trilogy- Mughal women in maritime trade, we read about Shahzaadi Jahanara, popularly known as Begam Saheb (Princess of Princesses). Continue reading “Mughal Women in Maritime Trade: Jahanara”

Mughal Women in Maritime Trade: Nur Jahan

By Sadaf Khan, Archives & Collections Associate (Maritime History Society)

Figure 1 Nur Jahan  Source:

In the last segment we read about Mariam-uz-Zamani’s maritime pursuits, she builds up a trading empire and is actively involved in the proceeds and functioning of her maritime venture. Despite being the Queen Mother, she had to deal with the perils of the maritime trade imposed by the Portuguese, which she managed to navigate with all the brevity of a wise trader. In this blog, we shall explore the maritime quests of the ‘Light of the World’ – Empress Nur Jahan. Continue reading “Mughal Women in Maritime Trade: Nur Jahan”

Mughal Women in Maritime Trade: Mariam-uz-Zamani

By Sadaf Khan, Archives & Collections Associate (Maritime History Society)

Figure 1 Mariam-uz-zamani  Source:

The grandeur of the Mughal court narrated in the chronicles of foreign travellers are well documented pieces of history. These stories were carried to places far across the world. The Mughals today are well known for their palaces, artworks, marble works, stone intarsia, painted stuccos and tile works. They are also known for their bewitching luxurious fabrics, their magnificent palaces filled with visitors from far and wide and their sumptuous court cultures. One major aspect of the Mughal era is the status and the position of women, both at court and the realms. The Mughal women have always made their presence felt in domains such as literature, art, politics, religion, architecture and trade. Their contributions have in turn helped in strengthening the cause of the Mughal empire.  Popular belief portrays Mughal women as caged birds who lacked freedom due to the establishment of a fixed harem (zenana), a sacred and forbidden sphere where women lived, veiled and separated from the courts of the emperor.[1]  This caricatured representation of Mughal women can be refuted by the lives of famous Royal women thriving in the empire, notably Mariam-uz-Zamani, Nur Jahan and Jahanara. These women had the benefit of education and were masters of their own will which aided in expanding their horizons over their various pursuits. This article on Mariam-uz-Zamani will be one in a trilogy of the three Mughal Women and their Maritime pursuits. Continue reading “Mughal Women in Maritime Trade: Mariam-uz-Zamani”

The Unsung Hero: Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla Maitre Shah, Research Intern, Maritime History Society

Image 1 Potrait of Captain Mahendranath Mulla. Source – Maritime History Society Archives

09 December 1971, was a fateful day. In the midst of the 1971 Indo-Pak War, the Pakistani Naval Ship (PNS) Hangor torpedoed and sank the Indian Naval Ship (INS) Khukri (F149). 09 December 2022 marks 51 years since the Type 14 blackwood class anti-submarine frigate INS Khukri sank. The Commanding Officer of the ship, Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla chose to go down with the majestic vessel along with 18 officers and 176 sailors who lost their lives. Let us take a trip down the memory lane and commemorate the gallantry of Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla.



A country stands strong with the support of its citizens. The endless efforts of the nation builders and the sacrifices of its military personnel has made India a strong and progressive nation. The limitless endeavors of the officers serving in the defence services have constituted India to be a militarily powerful and assertive nation. Today, the Indian Navy (IN) in particular is a multi-dimensional force. There are several unsung heroes who have worked relentlessly to serve the nation. One such hero was INS Khukri’s Commanding Officer, Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla. Continue reading “The Unsung Hero: Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla Maitre Shah, Research Intern, Maritime History Society”

World Tsunami Awareness Day

Kajal Gautam

Research Intern

Maritime History Society

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai

Source: 9th_century.jpg


The term ‘Tsunami’ is derived from the Japanese word “tsu” meaning harbor and “nami” meaning waves and is used in reference to a phenomenon that is related to tidal waves that are characterized by a long wavelength and period.[i] Created by heavy displacement of water, tsunamis can be generated from any large event, ranging from earthquakes and underwater explosions, to volcanic eruptions and meteorite impacts. Rare but extremely dangerous, tsunamis have claimed multiple human lives while also leading to heavy destruction of human property and infrastructural damage. Continue reading “World Tsunami Awareness Day”

Old Soul in a New Body: The Story of INS Kiltan

Kajal Gautam, Research Intern, Maritime History Society

INS Kiltan


Indigenously built, INS Kiltan is one of the four Kamorta class Corvettes designed by Indian Navy’s in-house organisation, Directorate of Naval Design under Project 28. As a part of Project 28, INS Kiltan was built as an anti-submarine warfare corvette by Garden Reach Shipbuilders in Kolkata. The ship is named after a coral island that is a part of the Aminidivi archipelago which is located in the Lakshadweep and Minicoy group of islands. Launched on 26 March 2013, the ship was finally commissioned on 16th October 2017 by the Indian Navy in an impressive ceremony by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman[i].

Kiltan is India’s first major naval ship to contain a superstructure of carbon fibre composite material. This feature leads to a lower cost of maintenance while permitting more enhanced stealth features. The warship showcases the usage of advanced engineering materials and the significant improvement it has led to, as evident by its enhanced stability parameters and top speed. The vessel is 80% indigenous and equipped with cutting-edge, state of art weapons and systems, making it effective against chemical, biological and nuclear warfare conditions. The warship also hosts a variety of weaponry like the heavyweight torpedoes, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) rockets, 76 mm calibre Medium Range gun and two multi-barrel 30 mm guns as a close-in-weapon system (CIWS) with dedicated fire control systems and missile decoy rockets (Chaff). The ship also contains an integrated communication system and an advanced Electronic Warfare Support Measure system with the most advanced bow-mounted sonar and air surveillance radar Revathi[ii].

INS Kitlan is a part of the Eastern Naval Command and as such, acts as a fragment of the Bay of Bengal Naval Forces that make up the naval establishments on the east coast of India. The vessel has proved itself to be an important component in India’s strategic outreaches in the eastern waters, made evident by its involvement in a myriad of mapping operations and maritime exercises in East Asia. Quite recently, the warship was enshrined in SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region) III as a part of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) initiative towards its eastern neighbours[iii].

Other than being a modern powerhouse on its own, INS Kiltan also shares a proud legacy with the former Arnala-class (Petya class) corvette of the same name, Kiltan (P79), which played an important part in Operation Trident as an anti-submarine corvette during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.

INS Kitlan is regarded to be one of the most potent warships to be constructed in India. The vessel, and the Kamorta class of Corvettes as a whole, shows India’s quest of turning and developing its Navy into a self-sufficient sector as exhibited by the efforts of indigenization, by involving itself in the process of seamlessly transforming the armed the maritime branch from a Buyer’s Navy to a Builder’s Navy.


[i] 7, Vinay KumarNEW DELHI:March, and Vinay Kumar. “Third Anti-Submarine Warfare Corvette Launched in Kolkata.” Return to frontpage, November 16, 2021.

[ii] Desk, Express Web. “What Is INS Kiltan?” The Indian Express, October 16, 2017.

[iii] Gill, Don McLain. “How INS Kiltan Has Become the Strategic Flag-Bearer of India’s ACT East Policy.” The Print, July 9, 2021.

Indian Naval feats with United Nations

By, Ms. Maitre Shah, Research Intern, Maritime History Society

Image 1 Symbolising Indian Navy and its collaboration with United Nations. Source – Author


The World War II resulted in a devastating economic and human loss. Effects of the World War II led the global leaders to rethink the governance strategies for world policies and the United Nations was formed. India has been associated with the United Nations since its inception and the Indian Navy regularly assists in various humanitarian operations. While 24 October is celebrated as United Nations Day each year to commemorate the official commencement of the United Nations, let’s get an insight into the Indian Naval collaboration with the United Nations. Continue reading “Indian Naval feats with United Nations”

INS Kavaratti: Power Punched and deadly!

Ms. Uma Kabe, Project Research Associate, Maritime History Society

“A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guarantee of peace”.

–  Theodore Roosevelt.

Promoting the ‘Make in India’ initiative, INS Kavaratti (P31), the last of the four Kamorta Class Corvettes under Project 28 (P28), was commissioned into the Indian Navy (IN) by the then Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane through a formal function held at the Naval Dockyard Visakhapatnam on 22 October 2020.[1] Designed by the Directorate of Naval Design (DND) in collaboration with a Swedish Company, the indigenous Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Stealth Corvette, is built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata at an estimated cost of 1,700 crores.[2] The hull of the ship was jointly developed by Defence Research and Development Organization and IN.[3] Continue reading “INS Kavaratti: Power Punched and deadly!”