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Recently, The Ministry of Culture has joined hands with the Indian Navy and Goa-based Hodi Innovations to reconstruct an ancient stitched ship – reminiscent of the ships that sailed the oceans on India’s ancient maritime trade routes as many as 2,000 years ago.
- The project entails collaboration across several ministries and departments.
- While the Indian Navy is overseeing the ship’s design and construction and would also be sailing the ship along ancient maritime trade routes, the Ministry of Culture has fully funded the project.
- The ministries of Shipping and External Affairs will be supporting the project in its execution stage.
- The stitching work will be undertaken by a team of traditional shipwrights.
- As per officials, this age-old technique involves shaping the wooden planks using the traditional steaming method to conform to the shape of the hull.
- Each plank will then be stitched to another using cords/ ropes, sealed with a combination of coconut fibre, resin, and fish oil – akin to the ancient Indian shipbuilding practice.
- The project is set to cost Rs 9 crore and is expected to take around 22 months to complete.
- Once the ship is ready, the voyage with a seam of 13 Indian Navy crew from Odisha’s Cuttack will be sent to Bali in Indonesia, in November 2025, to coincide with Kartik Purnima, on the full moon night of the Kartik month as per Hindu calendar.
- The voyage will be a part of the initiative to revive and honour India’s old maritime trade routes.
- This also fits in with the larger decolonisation project undertaken, in the run-up to 2047, when independent India turns 100.
- The ancient stitching technique almost became extinct after the Britishers came to India, where the wooden planks were nailed to support the recoil of canons.
- The earliest known example of a sewn boat is the 40+ metres long funerary boat in Egypt; dating back to 2,500 BC. Later finds in other parts of the world include some early Greek ships.
- In Finland, Russia, Karelia and Estonia, small sewn boats have been constructed more recently, until the 1920s.
- Officials say this initiative is in synergy with the Ministry of Culture’s Project Mausam, which aims to reconnect and re-establish communications between countries of the Indian Ocean world, to create an understanding of cultural values and concerns.
- In fact, initiated by India Project Mausam aims to rebuild maritime cultural connections with the 39 countries bordering the Indian Ocean.
- As per experts in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), naval trade on the Indian Ocean dates back to the 3rd century BC, when residents of the Indus Valley opened maritime trading with Mesopotamia, Egypt, East Africa, and the Roman Empire.
- Through these maritime trade networks, many goods were exchanged, including medicine, aromatics, spices, wood, grain, gems, textiles, metal and stones.
- The trade, in turn, facilitated the exchange of religions, cultures and technologies, contributing to the expansion of Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism, they say.
- Project Mausam is said to be India’s answer to the Maritime Silk Road of China, and India plans to move for UNESCO to award transnational heritage status to Project Mausam, which was launched by India at the 38th World Heritage Session at Doha in June 2014.
- Several countries including the UAE, Qatar, Iran, Myanmar, and Vietnam have expressed great interest in this multifaceted cultural project.