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”

SOPARA: AN ANCIENT PORT TOWN AND ITS RELIGIOUS REMNANTS

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

Ports were where maritime trade blossomed, people from far and wide brought their ware to an assigned place which would often be near a port and would exchange it for other commodities. This was pretty much the role of all ancient port towns like Alexandria and Rhodes. Today however I shall introduce one such port town that is very close to our city–Mumbai and was at one time a major maritime hub on the western coast of India this city is the ancient port town of Sopara.

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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.

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Maritime Theatre Needs A Multidimensional Approach

By Krishna Kataria, Adjunct Research Associate, Maritime History Society

“Geography provides strategy with underlying continuity, a point that is generally
true, but is especially important for the sea.”

– British Military Historian Hew Strachan

Oceans have been the canvas of connectivity across time. The evolving nature of human movement across the two ocean regions of Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean have witnessed transfusion of culture, commerce and contestations. Across the expanse of this geopolitical space India’s maritime theatre has been a geographical hub and a conceptual axis to connect continents and power dynamics through history.

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INCREDIBLE WINGS OF GOLD – An Obituary to Late Cdr Nishant Singh

By Janhavi Lokegaonkar, Research Associate, Maritime History Society

With each passing day, tensions are rife along the Indian borders and we have all our Armed Forces combat ready. Many soldiers have lost lives in battlegrounds and some have met their fate due to unfortunate mishaps. On a personal note, my association with MHS has not only brought me closer to the maritime domain from an academic and heritage point of view, but has also sensitised me in more capacities- one of them being an amplified awareness of the role and contribution of the defence forces that has further deepened my respect for every officer and soldier of all the military and paramilitary services.

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Building a Reed Boat

By Amruta Talawadekar, Research Associate, Maritime History Society

Most of us have ferried across water in boats to a touristy destination. Most of these boats that we use are made out of wood or steel. Have you ever wondered what form of boats the habitants during the Indus Valley Civilisation used, almost 5000 years ago? The answer is a Reed Boat. Today if you want to see a reed boat in India, it will probably be only on the Maritime History Society’s logo which was designed by its founder Late VAdm MP Awati or you might have to travel all the way to Bolivia or Peru. Let’s explore how a Reed Boat is made.

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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.

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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!

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Mundra Port – History behind the largest container port in India

By Amruta Talawadekar, Research Associate, Maritime History Society

Being a maritime country with a vast coastline spread across its three sides, India has had a diverse history of thriving ports. From the ancient port town of Lothal during the Indus Valley Civilisation to the modern and recently approved Vadhavan port along the Konkan Coast of India, the ports of the Indian subcontinent have developed dramatically across time. Among the Indian states, Gujarat has been the maritime gateway to the world since ancient times. Being strategically located in the centre of the various maritime routes, Gujarat has been the link for East West trade since the Indus Valley Civilisation. With a number of blooming ports in its territory, Gujarat has been popular for yet another port – the Mundra Port. Let’s talk about the history behind the port that has emerged as the largest container port in India as of Jul 20201.

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Asserting the Importance of Maritime History and the Need for Maritime Perspectives in Indian Historical Narratives

By Janhavi Lokegaonkar, Research Associate, Maritime History Society

Maritime history is a broad, interdisciplinary theme while studying global history encompassing the multidimensional study of human interactions.  Arthur C. Clarke has captured the enormity of the maritime expanse as he has rightly put “How inappropriate to call this planet ‘Earth’, when it is clearly Ocean.”

Indians have been seafarers with a history of their maritime ventures that can be traced back to two to three millennia. There is substantial evidence to prove this. Indian Maritime History outlines the traditional themes developed around separate and isolated subjects like the history of maritime trade, ventures, of conquests, colonisation and culture, historical analysis, and discourse on naval warfare and on the economic affairs that encapsulates nautical traditions and practices that include (but are not limited to) shipbuilding, overseas trade, and commercial fishing.

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