Excellent Construction: The book gives a beautiful description of the decoration of the boat. A boat with four masts should be painted white; one with three masts should be red, one with two masts should be yellow and a boat with only one mast should be painted blue.
The prow of a boat: There is a description of the front part of a boat in the shape of a lion, a buffalo, a snake, an elephant, a tiger, a bird, a frog, etc.
The boat has been in use in India since the Vedic age. The Muslim invasion started in India in the 7th century. Even at that time massive ships were built in India. Marco Polo came to India in the 13th century. He writes, ?Ships had double boards which were joined together. They were made strong with iron nails and the crevices were filled with a special kind of gum. These ships were so huge that about 300 boatmen were needed to row them. About 3000-4000 gunny bags could be loaded in each ship. They had many small rooms for people to live in. These rooms had arrangements for all kinds of comfort. When the bottom or the base started to get spoiled, a new layer would be added on. Sometimes, a boat would have even six layers, one on top of another.?
A traveller named Nicolo Conti came to India in the 15th century. He wrote, ?The Indian ships are much bigger than our ships. Their bases are made of three boards in such a way that they can face formidable storms. Some ships are made in such a way that if one part becomes useless, the rest of the parts can do the work.?
Another traveller named Berthma writes, ?The wooden boards are joined in such a way that not even a drop of water can go through it. Sometimes, the masts of cotton are placed in such a way that a lot of air can be filled in. The anchors were sometimes made of heavy stones. It would take a ship eight days to come from Iran to Cape Comorin (Kanyakumari)?.
Kings of coastal regions had huge fleets of ships. In his book Indian Shipping, Dr. Radha Kumud Mukherji has given a very interesting and substantiated history of Indian ships.
Did Vasco da Gama discover the route to India?
Another illusion that the British spread was the Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India. It is true that Vasco da Gama came to India but if we get to know how he came, then reality will become clear.
The famous archeologist Padmashri Dr. Vishnu Shridhar Wakankar says, ?I had gone to England for studies. I was told about Vasco da Gama'sdiary available in a museum in which he has described how he came to India.? He writes that when his ship come near Zanzibar in Africa, he saw a ship three times bigger than the size of his ship. He took an African interpreter to meet the owner of that ship who was a Gujarati trader named Chandan who used to bring pine wood and teak from India along with spices and take back diamonds to the port of Cochin. When Vasco da Gama went to meet him, Chandan was sitting in ordinary attire, on a cot. When the trader asked Vasco where he was going, the latter said that he was going to visit India. At this, the trader said that he was going back to India the very next day and if he wanted, he could follow him. So, Vasco da Gama came to India following him. In independent India, this fact should have been told to the new generations but, unfortunately, this was not done.
As one reads this, the thought that can come to mind is that if India was so advanced in ship-building, then where did that knowledge disappear? From this point of view it is necessary to know the history of how the British came to India and planned to destroy the Indian shipping industry. Describing this history, Shri Ganga Shankar Mishra writes??Hindu Leading??When the westerners made contact with India, they were amazed to see the ships here. Until the 17th century, European ships were a maximum of 600 tonnes. But in India, they saw such big ships as the Gogha which were more than 1500 tonnes. The European companies started using these ships and opened many new factories to make Indian artisans manufacture ships. In 1811, Lt. Walker writes, ?The ships in the British fleet had to be repaired every 12th year. But the Indian ships made of teak would function for more than 50 years, without any repair.? The East India Company had a ship called Dariya Daulat which worked for 87 years without any repairs. Durable woods, like rosewood, sal and teak were used for this purpose.
The French traveller Waltzer Salvins writes, in his book Le Hindu in 1811 AD, ?Hindus were in the forefront in the art of ship-building and even today, they can teach a lesson or two to the Europeans. The British, who were very apt at learning the arts, learnt a lot of things about ship building from the Hindus. There is a very good blend of beauty and utility in Indian ships and they are examples of Indian handicrafts and their patience.? Between 1786 and 1863, 300 ships were built at factories in Mumbai. Many of them were included in the Royal fleet. Of these, the ship called Asia was 2289 tonnes and had 84 cannons. Ship building factories were set up in Hoogly, Silhat, Chittagong, Dacca, etc. In the period between 1781 to 1821, in Hoogly alone 272 ships were manufactured which together weighed 1,22, 693 tonnes.
(This book is available with Ocean Books (P) Ltd, 4/19 Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi-110 002.)