24. Ship Building Skills

The English word "Navigation" had been derived from the Sanskrit word "Navagati" meaning sea voyage. India has 5000 years of navigational history. Our navigational skills date back to the times of Indus valley civilization.

There is evidence to substantiate that India for the past 30 centuries was as central commercial hub. It had trade links not only with Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Portuguese, Dutch, French and British but also with Asian countries like China, Japan, Indonesia, Burma, Java and Singapore through navigation.

Ships, which were built in India, were of two categories namely Soumya (simple) and Vishesha (Complex). They are built in different shapes. Most of the ships are multistoried and compartmentalized.

The persons involved in building the Ships were highly skilled artisans. For this reason, Indian ships were in great demand. Further, the longetivity of ships built in India was for half a century, in comparison with accidentally built ships, which had only ten to twelve years of longevity and were subjected to frequent repairs.

It was mentioned in a book called "le-hindus" published in 1811 AD written by Francuois Balazar Solvyans, a French navigator, that Englanders had learnt ship building skills and allied techniques from Indians.

The Wall Street journal dt. 28.05.2003 had published a news item regarding America's war on Iraq. It says "A ship built based on the technology mentioned in old Indian literature, proved extremely useful in the war. This ship travels faster than many other ships. It transported more number of tanks than other ships and had capacity to convey nearly 500 Soldiers. Further it used to cover 2500 kms in 48 hours."

Even today, it is believed that Japan is the first Asian country, which had defeated European ships on a sea battle in the year 1905. But in the year 1742, king Marthanda Varma of Travancore defeated the Dutch Naval Cavalry consequently the Dutch Navy and served him loyally for more than two and half decades.

Ancient Indian navigation made it possible to establish Indian settlements in Indonesia, Sumitra, Java, Malaysia and South America etc.

The Indian skill of building ships was viewed with awe and wonder and of course with envy & fear as well. British Government, that rules India had brought a legislation in the year 1814 AD, which had destabilized the Indian shipbuilding Industry. It had banned the entry of Indian made ships into European ports. By the year 1863, Indian ship building artisans were jobless and were completely rooted out.

Sir William Deigo sarcastically commented that with the law in force, British queen had eliminated the Indian naval queen.

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