Mandvi beach & the ancient craft of shipbuilding

Posted on May 5, 2019 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

Mandvi

 

I don't know if Martin Parr has ever visited the historic seaport town Mandvi in Gujarat before, but if he has, he surely would be clicking away on the beach capturing the rather surreal beach scenes. Mandvi beach faces the Arabican sea, and was extensively used by ship merchants in the 18th century due to maritime trade. Now the beach is recreational but does not get overcrowded.

 

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

 

There are several interesting points about Mandvi beach that differs vastly from non-Indian beaches: there is a windfarm on the beach (I have never seen this before elsewhere); there are camels and horses everywhere (for rides); the oddest, though, is that there are no sunbathers nor swimmers! Perhaps it is due to religious and cultural reasons, but all the men and women I saw on the beach were fully clothed, while a hand full of people would go into the water to take selfies. Most of the activities took place on the beach, and few in the sea, which I found intriguing.

 

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

mandvi beach

Mandvi

mandvi beach

Mandvi

Mandvi

 

After spending some time walking barefoot on the sandy beach, we headed towards the shipbuilding yard to see Mandvi’s 400-year-old dhow-making tradition.

Founded by Maharao Khengarji I in 1580, Mandvi was a gateway to West Asia and Africa, as it was located at the intersection of the spice route and the camel caravan route. The Kharva community of both Hindus and Muslims became experts in building ships (or dhows) for the thriving maritime trade.

Amazingly, these ships are still being built today – by hand – using sal wood imported from Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma, and locally from Gujarat’s babool trees. The shipbuilders are mostly from the carpenter community who learned their skills from their fathers and grandfathers. Yet this is another dying craft as the issue of priracy in Somalia and Yemen is affecting the cargo trade, and fewer ships are being made now.

 

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

 

I have never been inside a handmade wooden ship before, and what came to my mind was 'Naoh's ark' when I stepped in – undoubtedly the sturdy-looking ship can carry many animals, people and withstand a storm. I felt like I was in a time warp. There are hundreds of screws, nuts and bolts being used, and you can truly appreciate the craftsmanship and beauty when you are inside.

 

shipbuilding mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

Mandvi

 

Yet how can we preserve this ancient and dying craft if the demand for handmade cargo ships is dwindling? Can the craftsmen apply their skills to another trade? I don't have the answers, but I think it would be a great shame to lose this craftsmanship, and only see this ship in a museum/virtual museum in the future.

 


This post was posted in Architecture, Travel, Traditional arts & crafts, India, Kutch and was tagged with architecture, heritage, traditional crafts, India, Kutch, craft, shipbuilding, Mandvi, beach

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