Maritime Heritage of Southern Peninsular India

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About the Book The present book is a treatise on the Maritime Heritage of Indian Peninsula, South of 14°N. The region remains a cultural identity with orientation to the sea, since the beginnings of historic period. The book delves into the rich maritime heritage over decades, the traditions of maritime skills, wisdom, techniques, tools and technology of crafts, sea-adventures and voyages, and the ultimate links of the sea with the people living in coastal areas as reflected in their culture, ...
About the Book

The present book is a treatise on the Maritime Heritage of Indian Peninsula, South of 14°N. The region remains a cultural identity with orientation to the sea, since the beginnings of historic period. The book delves into the rich maritime heritage over decades, the traditions of maritime skills, wisdom, techniques, tools and technology of crafts, sea-adventures and voyages, and the ultimate links of the sea with the people living in coastal areas as reflected in their culture, folk legends, day-to-day life, festivities and fasts and sea-deities. The work relies heavily on field-work and archieval research.

About the Author

The author of the book, Mr. B. ARUNACHALAM is Academic Adviser of the Maritime History Society, Mumbai. He is a retired Professor of the University of Mumbai. He is a researcher of long standing with many publications and research based books and monographs. He has written ten books for the Society, mostly on Indian navigation techniques and technology, the present book being the latest.

As a teacher of geography he has specialised in geomorphology, mathematical cartography and Indian nautical traditions.


The Maritime History Society, Mumbai conceived a MAGNUM OPUS on the maritime heritage of India, that dates back to at least the third millennium B.C. Being one of the older river valley civilizations, with an open front to a long stretch of the sea-face overlooking North Indian Ocean, this maritime heritage will examine the evolution of maritime interactions with the seas and lands beyond, a socio-culture that strongly reflects the maritime impacts, sea-borne trade and traditions that imbibe the sea-impacts. This work is envisaged in a number of volumes, so as to cover different littoral states and island realms and their individuality in response to the sea. A fairly rich knowledge package is available in the form of regional literature, folk traditions and art, beliefs and faiths, apart from archaeological artifacts and epigraphic records.

The present volume is one of the investigations of a regional segment, namely the southern part of Peninsular India, south of 14° N. latitude. The maritime traditions of the region go back to the beginning of the first millennium prior to Christ. The Dravidian cultural ethos of the region has a strong affinity with the Sumerian culture on one hand and the Malaysian seafarers on the other. Graeco-Roman trade had its impacts since early Christian era. Native navigations skills evolved on its shores and much of this knowledge has been inherited through oral traditions over generations and in later days found expression in regional vernacular sea-manuals in sea-dialects. Much of this wisdom has been gathered through field-work, discussions with traditional sailors, and artefacts, living practices and hand-tools. The work examines the maritime heritage of the region as a whole for the period till 12th Century A.D. during which it presented a linguistic unity. Later day developments are studied in terms of the linguistic, cultural restructure into sub-areas. The work is adequately illustrated with maps, line drawings, and pictorial presentations.

Many are the scholars and technicians who have helped in the work during the execution phase of the work. At the outset, Vice Adm MP Awati (Retd) and Adm JG Nadkarni (Retd), Cdr. Mohan Narayan (Retd), Curator need special mention for their supportive help. The authorities of the Maritime History Society were also highly sympathetic to the project and extended help. My grateful thanks to them. Mr. Vijayaraghavan and Miss Jyothi V. helped in the computer work and my daughter Ms Radha carried out the final format formulation of the text. A number of my old students helped in the cartographic work. I am beholden to all of them. Finally, the printer Work Center Offset Printers (I) Pvt. Ltd. need a special mention for their meticulous work of a difficult manuscript. Mrs. Madhuri Naik deserves my thanks for the book design.


This is the first volume in a series which addresses the maritime heritage of India over a period of several millennia. The series is being guided and supervised by Professor B Arunachalam, academic advisor of the Maritime History Society. This volume, compiled and written by the Professor may readily be considered to be a guiding framework for the several authors who will write on the several maritime regions of India in the months to come. The volumes which will follow are expected to address the maritime heritage of Gujarat, Konkan (Aparanta), Goa including northern Karnataka, Coastal Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and the island territories of Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar not necessarily in that order. In those the Society aims to cover the hugely enormous panorama of India's accomplishments and attainments at sea over three millennia of human history on our planet. The Society is aware that it is attempting a daunting task. I must confess at this stage of the project, as to whether the Society will find itself up to the task. I can merely incant 'Shanno Varuna' and pray that the Ocean Deity will enable us. It is a long delayed attempt to put on record and present to the interested reader the wonderful canvas of India's maritime achievements and her heritage of the sea under one Title. It is our hope that it will be appreciated by those few or many who have been exposed to India's story at sea, if I may call it that, chiefly through the writings of westerners who have taken a partisan or skewed approach to the subject and usually debunked India's relations with the seas which surround her on three sides. The country was long considered sea-unfriendly, a country which feared, even abhorred the sea for reasons which even now are clouded in controversy. At best it could be a partial truth, presented as history by biased minds. The contiguity of the Indian subcontinent with the sea is a geographical fact. Ancient and medieval occupants of the great Indian peninsula could not possibly have repudiated the limitless waters which surrounded them. They could not have ignored nor denied the almost limitless opportunities the seas presented to them for a living, for food and other parvenus, opportunities for earning a living which the sea must have given to them. There is little doubt in my mind, nor is there any evidence to suggest that Indians as a people were not comfortable with the sea which surrounded them. Indeed, there is much evidence to the contrary which these volumes hope to present to students of history.

Having said that, I turn my attention to this book, Maritime Heritage of Southern Peninsular India, the inaugural volume of the series. The triangular region in the extreme south of the country, the region between the eastern and the western seas south of 14 degrees North parallel, presents us with a truly astonishing maritime past going back at least two millennia, perhaps longer. Evidence has very recently surfaced and continues to pour forth from the most recent excavations on the Kerala littoral, at Pattanam, near Parur, south of Kodangallur (Cranganore) which confirm the site as that of Musiris, the ancient port which had a thriving trade with the Roman port of Bernike (now in Egypt) on the Red Sea. I had visited the site briefly in 2006 and again in 2008. I was present when what appeared to be a quay with an NW-SE alignment, in line with the lay of the coast, was uncovered., with some stout trunks of teak timber embedded in the ground along the 'quay'. The leader of the team was perplexed as to what these timber boles could be along the line of the quay. I had ventured to suggest that these might be bollards used to secure the rope hawsers from ships, secured alongside to embark or discharge cargoes. They turned out to be just that. This led to an observation from the Director of the Kerala Council for Historical Research,..under whom the excavations were being conducted, that archaeological excavations had to be a multi-disciplinary. effort. I was invited to attend the 2008 season. I did, very briefly, when a distinguished American archaeologist was present. He had been at the Bernike site in Egypt where evidence of exports from Pattanam/Musiris had been excavated the previous season. Here then was the latest evidence of Indo - Roman trade going back to the last few centuries before Christ. There has been other evidence from diggings in Tamil Nadu, around Coimbatore, inland, Arikamedu and the Sea Temple site of Mahabalipuram south of Chennai, on the coast which corroborate the assumptions of a pulsating maritime trading region in the south of Indian peninsula inhabited by a very strongly maritime oriented people of Dravidian culture speaking non Aryan languages of Dravidian origin.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

Item Code: NAR663 Author: Prof. B. Arunachalam Cover: HARDCOVER Edition: 2010 Publisher: Maritime History of India, Mumbai ISBN: 9788190810814 Language: English Size: 10.00 X 7.50 inch Pages: 330 (Throughout Color and B/W Illustrations) Other Details: Weight of the Book: 0.87 Kg
Price: $40.00
Discounted: $30.00
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