Vasco da Gama had recorded in his diary that upon his arrival at Zanzibar in East Africa he saw a docked ship three times bigger than his own. He took an African interpreter to meet the owner of that ship Chandan, a Gujarati trader who used to bring pine wood and teak from India along with spices and take back diamonds to 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. Listening to this, the trader said that he was going back to India the very next day and if he wanted, he could follow him.
Vasco da Gama followed Chandan to reach the shores of India, a fact that was hidden by europeans for many years.
Portugese reached India through sea, followed by French and British.
These British ruled India and wrote history according to their convinience.
Venetian trader and explorer Marco Polo, as early as 13th century, had recounted that ships in India had double boards which were joined together with strong nail and crevices, filled with special kind of gum and were so huge that 300 boatmen were needed to row them.
These vessels could take a load of 3000 to 4000 gunny bags having small rooms and arrangements for comfort.
Additional layers were added to the bottom, when it gets damaged. Some ships had as many as six layers.
Excerpts from Vasco Da Gama’s diary were published in Orgaiser, a newspaper run by RSS, long back.
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.
Even during Islamic invasion on India in 7th century AD, Indians built huge ships to trade between Egypt, Africa, China and Pacific Islands dating back to 350 BCE
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.
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 122,693 tonnes.
Puranas have recorded trade done through shipping and even during Lord Krishna’s era (3200 BCE), maritime trading between india and mesopotamia existed.
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