Traversing the Oceans: Indian Seafaring through the Eons

By Mr Dennard H D’Souza, Senior Research Associate, Maritime History Society

Figure 1 A Harappan seal depicting a reed boat coupled with oars. The presence of avian figures alludes to the historic disa-kaka used by seafarers in long distance travel. Source: Harappa.com

India has a long tradition of indigenous seafaring which is well attested from the late chalcolithic period to the late medieval period. Seafaring in India was a continuing practice contrary to the edicts of the Manusmriti That prohibited the crossing of seas especially those by Brahmins. Seafarers became the conduit through which Indian culture and religious traditions seeped into territories beyond the frontiers. In this article, we shall broadly speak of seafaring traditions from the earliest period up until the late medieval Continue reading “Traversing the Oceans: Indian Seafaring through the Eons”

REVISITING HMS MINDEN

By Ms Saba Purkar, Project Research Associate, Maritime History Society

Shipbuilding in India gained momentum in the nineteenth century when the East Indian Company built the Bombay Dockyard and started the construction of ships. The British initially used the Indian shipbuilding ports for repairs to deal with the increasing piracy threats from Indians and Europeans and other foreign powers. The constant sea battles and the rapid building of ships lead to the shortage of oakwood in Britain, which forced them to build ships in their overseas colonies. Hence, the company was sanctioned to build ships in India. In March 1736, the arrival of Lowjee Nusserwanjee Wadia in Bombay from Surat marks the start of the ‘golden age’ of shipbuilding in Bombay.

Continue reading “REVISITING HMS MINDEN”

Three Stories of Sea Voyages from the Buddhist Jatakas

By Mr Dennard H D’Souza, Senior Research Associate, Maritime History Society

Stories act as a conduit through which the complexity of human expression can be transmitted through simple narratives. They are also used as a medium to project broad contours of metanarratives that can be barely reproduced through other modes of communication. India has a large repository of stories that fall in this genre of literature. At face value, they appear to be fantastical in their composition but beneath the surface, they tell a story which is embedded in the cultural, political and social milieu of the Indian past. Continue reading “Three Stories of Sea Voyages from the Buddhist Jatakas”

Trade and Polity in the Indian Ocean: State Formation in Late Medieval Kerala

By Ms Jibita Jans Binnu, Research Intern, Maritime History Society

Introduction

The term Malabar denotes the Indian Subcontinent’s southwestern region, which comprises Malayalam-speaking areas. Geographically, it extended from the Western Ghats to the Arabian Sea. Following the intrusion of the Europeans, the process of state creation and the idea of the power structure in various areas of Kerala underwent a massive change.

Continue reading “Trade and Polity in the Indian Ocean: State Formation in Late Medieval Kerala”

Salt Politics: A Maritime Perspective

By Janhavi Vilas Lokegaonkar, Research Associate, Maritime History Society

Imagine a plate of delectable food in front of you that turns out to be an unpleasant experience on your palate due to inappropriate use or rather absence of salt! Even in our imagination, food without salt paints such a bland picture. That’s the power of salt. In the Indian independence struggle, salt had a significant role to play.

Continue reading “Salt Politics: A Maritime Perspective”

Ship breaking in India – An industry in itself

By Amruta Talawadekar, Research Associate, Maritime History Society

India, being a maritime country with water along its three sides, has always been associated with ships. Evidence of log made boats, dug outs, wooden massive vessels and advanced modern ships have been the glory of our history from the times of the Indus Valley Civilisation to the contemporary times. These vessels did play a major role in the cultural and material exchange to and from the country. While we are often fascinated about how a ship is built, little do we imagine about what happens to the ship after it is no longer deemed fit. Let’s talk about one of the largest ship breaking industries in the world – The Ship Breaking Industry of India.

Continue reading “Ship breaking in India – An industry in itself”

The Sassoon Dock Story

By Janhavi Lokegaonkar, Research Associate, Maritime History Society

Mumbai, the city fascinates many people and is rightly touted as the ‘City of Dreams’ or the ‘City that never Sleeps.’ As fascinating as the city is, equally interesting is its history. Formerly called Bombay, this city has been responsible for myriad changes in the society as it itself underwent a lot of transitions through time. Maritime enterprises have played a pivotal role in the making of this city. The cause and effect relation between the mercantile interests combined with maritime infrastructure transformed the city’s economy. While we Mumbaikars continue to disregard the importance of certain historical and heritage aspects that should be treasured, a certain microscopic aspect of erstwhile Bombay’s maritime history stood the testimony of time to tell its story. It continues to do so just by emitting the nauseating stench of the fish that affirms its presence to passers-by. Yes, it is the Sassoon Dock!

Continue reading “The Sassoon Dock Story”

OVERVIEW OF MUGHAL ADMIRALTY

By Janhavi Lokegaonkar, Research Associate, Maritime History Society

The Mughal rule in India witnessed tremendous power politics throughout their reign in the Indian subcontinent. The dynamism of the Mughal armies and their glories in war, statesmanship of various Emperors are very well documented. Their control over the mainland was possible due to their well-augmented militia. A lot is also written about it. What remains neglected is their Naval setup. Let us take a look at the Mughal Admiralty as it existed during the long reign of the Mughal emperors.

Continue reading “OVERVIEW OF MUGHAL ADMIRALTY”

An Unstitched Ocean of Weaves

By Aishwarya Devasthali, Project Research Associate, Maritime History Society

Since MHS through its constant endeavours attempts to dig deeper in ocean heritage and bring something new for the enthusiasts with a view either to join the dots of the rich maritime history or celebrate and promote it in all its glory, this time it is on a voyage to take a glimpse with help of sarees!

‘Saree’, a six-yard piece of an unstitched cloth turned into a versatile attire, not only looks graceful but also is a globally recognised dress representing ‘India’, and I always love to wear it. Technically, it is just a 6-yard unstitched cloth that is in existence since the time immemorial. Yet, it finds its place in traditional women’s closet as well as modern women’s wardrobe.

Continue reading “An Unstitched Ocean of Weaves”

CAN WE HAVE THE ANCIENT SAILING EXPERIENCE?

By Dennard H D’Souza, Research Associate, Maritime History Society

While flipping through the pages of history, we hear the stories of great maritime voyages undertaken by brave Indian Sailors. Be it the stories of the Kalingan Sandabha who sailed from the coast of Odisha to the far-flung Bali some two thousand years ago, or be it the great Chola fleet that ploughed through the waters of the Indian Ocean to capture the lofty city gate, Vidydhara Torana of the Sri Vijayans. Don’t we feel the urge to witness those momentous events of Indian Maritime history? Don’t we want to experience the briny sprays that waft through the breeze as the sails hoist high? Many of us pine for that experience but some have managed to recreate nostalgic experience by reenacting such ambitious voyages.

Continue reading “CAN WE HAVE THE ANCIENT SAILING EXPERIENCE?”