The maritime heritage of Kutch, Kathiawad and Gujarat spans over four thousand years. Marine archaeological excavations have brought to light a large number of antiquities suggestive of the regions maritime past dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization. The Indus people had multi -lateral trade contacts with Egypt, Mesopotamia, Bahrain and others.
The maritime history of Gujarat is replete with references about her seafaring traditions. This gets reflected not only in the archaeological findings, but also in the literature, sculptures, memorial stones (palayas), boat building traditions, seamen's manuals (pothis) and daily accounts (roznamas), in their living practices, customs, trade accounts and others.
Situated on the northwestern coast of India, Gujarat is the country's principal maritime state endowed with favourable strategic port locations. This arises out of its geographical location and a long coastline over 1600 km (one-third of the coastline of India). It is the nearest outlet to the Middle East, Africa, Europe and adjoining Pakistan.
Today, the northwestern coast of Gujarat, namely, the Gulf of Kutch and the Gulf of Khambhat are fast emerging as industrial and energy hubs of the State as well as that of the country.
Mrs Mary Rosaline Edward, a post-graduate in Geography, is the Vice Principal of the Smt MMK College of Commerce and Economics, Mumbai and an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Studies. She has over three decades of teaching experience. Mrs Edward has presented over 30 research papers'at internatio-nr, national and state level conferences and seminars. She has also been an active participant at the Maritime History Society's annual seminars and also co-authored the Society's eighth publication Navigational Hazards, Landmarks and Early Charting - Special Study of Konkan and South Gujarat .
In the build up to the maritime heritage of the sub-continent of India, Kutch, Kathiawad and Gujarat not only have a lion's share, but in terms of time, it is the oldest region spanning over 4,500 years. Commencing from the Proto-Historic period, maritime activities continued through the Vedic Period to the Christian era, medieaval and colonial times. The region hosted the Indus Valley Civilization that can be compared with contemporaneous Sumerian civilization of the time and had maritime contacts with it. It also developed, arguably, the world's first dock. Archeaology has revealed maritime artefacts and trade products from West Asia in the region. One of the main reasons for such intense maritime activity is the fact that the region is proximate to the west as compared to other Indian states and hence is the gateway of maritime commerce across the North Indian Ocean as it is also connected to a large hinterland spread over northern and central India.
Throughout its history spanning over four millennia, Gujarat has attracted immigrants from all over the world - Arabs, Persians, Europeans and others. They came to trade, to plunder, to conquer, to colonize, to seek refuge and find their fortune in what is now the State of Gujarat. Similarly the people of Gujarat have enthusiastically embraced maritime activities and have also migrated and settled and developed outposts in the Gulf, East Africa and Indonesia.
The region's rich maritime heritage is reflected in the indigenous sea- crafts built, navigational techniques, transmitted orally down the generations and later handwritten in their own dialects in seamens' manuals, pothis and roznamas or diaries of voyages undertaken. The present work seeks to capture the strengths and weaknesses of this maritime movement and to place it within the national perspective of maritime heritage.
The data base for this work was study of voyage accounts of people touching the Gujarat coast from the early Christian era through the colonial period, scrutiny of seamen's manuals, large scale topographical and hydrographic charts to examine changes in coastal configuration since proto-historic times and also based on archaeology, epigraphy and classical literature. The work is well supported with maps, photographs, diagrams and other illustrations. Guidance has also seen sought from experts in other disciplines, who have studied some aspects of the region.
This volume is the fifth in the series of Maritime Heritage of India's Coastal States and Peoples, in the course of publication by Maritime History Society of Mumbai. The series is conceptualized and is being written under the guidance of Professor B. Arunachalam, formerly professor of geography at the University of Mumbai and lately the academic advisor of the M.H.S. In this volume Mary Rosaline Edward sketches the maritime heritage of the modern State of Gujarat of the Indian Union which in its composition takes in Gujarat proper, the peninsula of Kathiawad along the Arabian Sea littoral and the virtual island of Kutch (Kachha) which borders Sindh to its north, in Pakistan. This region of India has a hugely long association with the sea and therefore to seafaring, over a period of at least six thousand years, when the people of Melluha (Indus Valley and adjacent tracts to the south and the east) were in trading contact with those of Magan and Dilmun to the west in the Arabian peninsula and with Ur on the Tigris-Euphrates. This, quite possibly, is the earliest record of human communities trading by sea in ships fashioned out of reeds to begin with before switching to timbre which could be worked into boats and ships. The people here had built up surpluses in goods and grain, working their exceedingly fertile soil, which they could trade with people across the North Arabian Sea who had a demand for them, in return for what they could offer these early people of Gujarat in their city states of what is now known as the Indus Valley civilization. It is a gripping story of city states trading by sea in ships. The people of Gujarat are inheritors of that history of trading by sea across the North Arabian Sea in sturdy ocean going ships, vahans, enriching themselves and their city states in the process. Over this long period of time Gujarat became a veritable power house of trading enterprise and of entrepreneurship which no other state of India has matched. This remains the chief distinction of the Gujarati people evidenced wherever the Gujarati has migrated within India and without, in search of work and of profitable enterprise. The ubiquitous Dukan owned by the Gujarati, offering to his customer the basic necessities, in the remotest parts of the country and abroad, in Africa, chiefly, is an example of this mercantilist spirit of the Gujarati vania unmatched by any other Indian community, except by his neighbour, the Marwari. Take another recent instance of this entrepreneurship. When the émigré' Patel community of the United States of America discovered the business and commercial potential of the motel business, they began acquiring these motels across North America at a rate which induced the media there to rename these roadside R & R establishments, Potels ! It is possibly a fair example of geography moulding the character and the history of the people of a region. Gujarat's fertile soil was host to huge outputs of long staple cotton which Gujarati weavers wove into coarse and fine cloths which found ready markets abroad, especially in West Asia and along the long east African littoral, further afield in the countries of the Mediterranean. There were other products of the soil too which went abroad by sea. All this trading by sea presupposed Gujarati facility with shipbuilding, seamanship, ship repair and insurance of cargoes and of ships, activities in which the Gujarati has shown great ability. Gujarati ship carpenters and shipwrights were, and still are, among the best in the world wherever timbre ships are built, especially in India and its near abroad. These large Gujarat built kotias are still in business as motorised sailing vessels (MSV) carrying fresh Indian produce to the Gulf countries, returning with merchandise for ports in the Gulf of Kutch. It is still a profitable business for Gujarati ship owning mercantile community, continuing a very long tradition of sea trade. The reader may be interested to learn that the famous Wadhera joint in timbre ship construction was invented by a Gujarati ship carpenter ages ago. This method of joining adjacent timbre planks is watertight without the need of caulking. The reason why it is not in extensive use is because it is exceedingly time consuming to make and therefore cumbersome and expensive in labour. Timbre shipbuilding continues to flourish on the Rukmavati river in Kutch because there is demand for this fine timbre built vessels in India and in the Gulf. With a ban now in force on the use of Malabar teak because of the rapidly depleting teak forests in the Western Ghats, the use of timbre has switched to imported Malaysian kongu which goes to Gujarat via the importing Tamil ports, like Chidambaram. The Gujarati ship carpenter still finds gainful employment along the Indian coast wherever timbre ships are still being built, recognition of his skills in shipbuilding gained over hundreds of years of father to son heritage.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend