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”

The Anathema to Narcissus

By Ms Gargie Kode, Research Intern, Maritime History Society

Nautical Fiction is a genre that has intrigued the masses with its larger-than-life representation of sea voyages, the life of the seamen and bringing forth various aspects of nautical culture. This is a genre that is filled with the finest details of the voyages and expeditions, elucidation of the roaring deep blue sea, narratives of the struggles of the sailors together laced with lores of the maritime expanse. As the genre evolved, it became synonymous with Joseph Conrad- one of the most famous exponents of this genre. Popular among readers for his works like the “Heart of Darkness“, “Lord Jim“, “Typhoon” and one of his distinguished works which was disputable for its contentious title: “The Nigger of the Narcissus“. Continue reading “The Anathema to Narcissus”

Exercise Milan: A Brief Overview of the Multilateral Naval Exercise in the Indian Ocean Region

By Janhavi Lokegaonkar, Senior Research Associate, Maritime History Society

The Indian subcontinent has a vast history of flourishing maritime associations that predominantly involved commerce, culture and religion. However, the legacy of the erstwhile Indian mariners and seafarers who plied the oceans afar was gradually eclipsed by the lure of terrestrial possession until the last century. The liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation reforms in India in the ’90s can be regarded as a tipping point of enunciation of a change in the policy and national outlook towards our maritime frontiers. It rendered increased attention towards infrastructural development of Indian ports and its underlying coastal areas thereby placing the blueprint of maritime strategies on a national pedestal. This paradigm shift in our strategic outlook gained gradual prominence. Continue reading “Exercise Milan: A Brief Overview of the Multilateral Naval Exercise in the Indian Ocean Region”

International Education Day: Need To Bolster Maritime Studies In India

By Janhavi Lokegaonkar, Senior Research Associate, Maritime History Society

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution on 03 Dec 18 that proclaimed January 24 as International Day of Education in recognition and celebration of the role of education that is instrumental in bringing global peace and sustainable development. This being the fourth year of the celebration, the theme of discussions at this pedestal is to highlight the transitions that have to be encouraged in the field of academia to build more sustainable, inclusive and peaceful futures. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a pre-existing education crisis worldwide. So, the objective is to strengthen education as a public endeavour and deliberate how to steer digital transformation in the post-COVID era. This will endorse support for academicians and unlock the potential in every individual to contribute towards the collective well-being of humankind.

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National Maritime Day, 2021: Celebrating India’s Maritime Journey

By Krishna Kataria, Project Research Associate, Maritime History Society

Every year, on April 5, India celebrates National Maritime Day to commemorate modern Indian shipping embarked on its maiden voyage this day in 1919. The SS Loyalty, owned by the Scindia Steam Navigation Company, made an audacious venture, sailing from India to England.

This piece cherishes the day by taking us through the historical recall of the journey of India’s Shipping development, understanding the significance of National Maritime Day, and reminisce about the contribution of Mr. Walchand and Scindia Steam Navigation Company in India’s shipping history.

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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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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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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.

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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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