The motto of the Indian Navy today is, Sham No Varunah, which means??Lord of the water be compassionate or kind to us?. Journey by water has been a prevalent practice in India since the ancient times. Sage Agastya journeyed through the various islands in the oceans. That is why he is believed to have drunk all the water of an ocean. Indians travelled to various parts of the world to propagate their culture or for trade purposes. Kaundinya crossed the massive ocean and reached south-east Asia. In the rock inscriptions, in the Sun Temple, at Jawatuko in Yukatan province of Mexico, one finds mention of the arrival of the great sailor Vusulin in Shaka Samvat 854, that is, year 932. In the excavations in Lothal district in Gujarat, one believes that trade used to be carried on with Egypt from the port built around 2540 BC. From then till 2350 BC, small boats came to this port. Later, new constructions were erected necessary to harbour big ships and a city was built.
Similarly, the Malabar Coast in south India was also developed for trade purposes and to go to other countries via the sea. Thus, there has been a glorious history of boat and ship-building and voyages by sea.
Chamanlal, the famous Buddhist monk, mentioned the art of marine construction in his book Hindu America. Similarly, in 1950, Ganga Shankar Mishra written about this history in the Hindu Sanskriti edition of Kalyana.
Ships have also been talked about or mentioned in ancient Indian scriptures like the Vedas, Brahmans, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, etc. In the Ayodhya kaand of Valmiki'sRamayana, one reads of such big ships in which hundreds of warriors could ride-
Navam Shatanam Panchanam
Kaivartanam Shatam Shatam
?Hundred of oarsmen inspire five hundred ships carrying hundreds of ready warriors.?
Similarly, one finds the descriptions of a mechanical boat in the Mahabharata-
This is a boat with a mechanical flag (sail) which had the capacity to withstand all kinds of winds.
In The chapter on state administration in Kautilya'sArthashaastra, we get information in the context of the complete arrangements of boats maintained by the navy and the state.
Information on manufacturing of ships can be found in Brihat Samhita, written by Varahmihir in the 5th century and in the Yukti Kalpataru, written by Raja Bhoj in the 11th century.
The Vriksha Ayurveda talks about the kinds of wood. The soft wood which can be joined easily has been called the brahmin; the light, but stern wood which is difficult to join with other woods, has been called kshatriya; light and firm wood has been called vaishya and the heavy and firm wood has been called shudra. A wood having the qualities of two kinds of woods has been called dwijaati.
Bhoj, an expert on ships, says that a ship made of kshatriya wood is good. He also warns that iron should not be used in ships because it is likely that some of the sea rocks may have magnetic power. As such, they may pull the ships towards them. This may be dangerous for the ships.
Types of Ships
The Yukti Kalpataru has a detailed description of marine science and the kinds of ships, shapes and names have been analysed:
1. Ordinary?Those boats which can sail on ordinary rivers.
2. Special?On which voyages on the oceans can be carried out.
These boats and their shapes have been described as under:
Ordinary boats?the measurement is in cubits.