Boat Museum, Ambedkar Bhawan, Kankurgachhi, Kolkata
Ambedkar Bhawan, Kankurgachhi, Kolkata
The country is full of rivers, channels, streams, swamps, marshes and morasses. Southern part of delta is still composed of hundreds of tiny islands. In such a land of waters boating is bound to be the principal means of all purpose of life.
The Boat Museum, the only one in its kind in the whole of India, is located at the Ambedkar Bhawan, Kankurgachhi, Kolkata.The Boat Museum was inaugurated in Jan. 2014.
Boats have been an integral part of Bengal history and culture and it has been portrayed in Bengal mythologies like Mangalkavyas.
References of boats like Sapadinga Madhukar, Mayurpankhis, Aswamukhi, Singhamukhi and Bajra are found in abundance throughout Bengali literature.
The dream of conquering the seven seas (Saptasamudra) has once been a childhood passion for every Bengali youth.
This lead to the development of naval engineering resulting in the construction of appropriate boats and ships for inland and overseas navigation.
Sadly with the passage of time many of the indigenous boats have vanished. The ethnic communities, who once built these ships and boats are slowly shifting to other trades.
The Heritage Boats of Bengal is a humble venture of the Department of Backward Classes, West Bengal, which lead to the foundation of the Boat Museum. The Boat Museum contains 46 scale models of boats and ships dating back to the days of Indus Valley Civilization and covering areas from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Bangladesh.
The Boat Museum is housed in a small room with a typical Bengal style boat in the centre. The 46 models are displayed in glass cases on the four walls.
All the models are crafted by Rajbanshis wood craft artist from Dakshin Dinajpur district of West Bengal.
Harappan Boat Amulet: The model of baked clay amulet of dimension of 4.6 cm x 1.2 cm x 1.5 cm found in Mohenjo-Daro is on display. It shows a boat (probably a river bundle raft) with some superstructure amidships, twin steering oars aft and propelled by means other than sail. Two birds like creature have observed on the deck.
Pinnace: Pinnace is two mast boat with a cabin in the stern position, it is propled by both sail and oar.
Patia: Coastal fishing boat operating in the coastal areas of Bengal and Orissa. The planks of the boat are joined together by nails.
Dholai: Large cargo boat operating in the Sundarban area. It was mainly used to carry gol pata (Nipa fruticans) and garan kath (Ceriops roxburghiana) from Sundarbans. But presently it carries a wide variety of items such as brick, sand, tiles, and any other goods. Dhaloi is round hulled and the boat is entirely stapled and rabbeted.
Khorokisti: Kisti is the Persian term for boat, while khar means straw in Bengali, so the boat was built to carry straw only.
Goloiya: Goloiya operates on River Ganga in the vicinity of Mathurapur of Malda District. It is heavily built fully rabbeted and stapled.
Goloiya is equipped with a large triangular radar and square sail. Its carrying capacity ranges from 500 mounds to 3000 mounds.
Paukhia (Cargo): Long, narrow and flat bottomed boat meant for shallow creaks. It is a entirely stapled boat. The stem and stern portion built separately and attached to the medial portion.
Kosa (Bangladesh): Passenger boat, with the entire deck modified to carry passenger. Rabbeted and stapled boat propelled by steering oar only.
Masula: Sailing and rowing boat operating in Eastern coast of India. It is a sewn boat with out any iron nails.
Kosa (Cargo): Flat bottomed, stapled boat with stem and stern posts. Triangular shaped balance rudder is used to steer the boat. Equipped with sail.
Talai: Talai is a long and narrow fishing boat meant for hook and line fishing. It is propelled by paddle. Thousand of hooks tied in a single line dipped into the river to catch fish.
Dingee: Round hulled boat with a semi circular cabin at the back side of the boat used to carry passenger. Stern is placed in higher position than the stem.Steered by steering oar hanged on the port side of the boat. Propelled by oar.
Balam: A sewn boat from Chittagong. It is used to carry a thin variety of paddy of Bakerganj of Barisal district, Bangladesh. That thin paddy named after the boat variety called balam.
Bhedi: Flat bottomed long boat. Carry passenger and even bullock carts. Carrying capacity increased by joining two boats side by side. Double boats is termed as Chap.
Kerala Boat: Flat bottomed pleasure boat with cabin. Ply in the backwaters of Kerala. Used as houseboat.
Baawalee-a: A spoon shaped long boat with a decorative cabin at the aft. It is not familiar in Bengal and there are different version of the size of cabin in the boat. Boat makers of Varanashi, Uttar Pradesh are familiar with the boat.
Kosa (Fishing): Flat bottomed, stapled, fishing boat with stem and stern posts, ideal for propelling in the shallow yet rivers with high water current. Popularly known as ‘tin taktar nouka’ (boat made of three strakes)
Trawler: The English word trawler indicates the type of vessels used in fishing with a trawl net, but these trawler follow the traditional way of fishing. Entirely rabbeted and stapled boat with fully covered deck. Without any mast and sail.
Salti: A flat-bottomed small boat used to catch fish in shallow waters of East Kolkata wetlands. There are different versions of the boat.
Padma Boat (Rabindranath Tagore’s Boat): Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore had five boats and ‘Padma’ is one of them. He spent time in this boat during his visit to Silaidaha, Bangladesh. Between 1890 and 1891, many a time Kabiguru acted as host of this boat to guests like Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, Lokendranath Palit and Surendranath Tagore. It was a prolific period of his life, when he wrote most of the stories of Galpo Guchchho and numerous poems, including Sonar Tori. Sitting at his desk on the Padma, he wrote essays, letters and edited journals. It was here that Tagore began his English translation of Gitanjali and even Malini was written during this period.
Note: This article is not exhaustive and does not cover all 46 models on display
- The Boat Museum is open on Monday – Friday (excepting holidays) 10 am – 5 pm
- There is no entry fee. A booklet is available for Rs15 a book is also available for Rs500
- Photography is not allowed, however permission can be obtained from the director of Cultural Research Centre
- Visitors need to mention there caste in the visitors’ book, this is because the Backward Classes Welfare Department want to keep a record of the percentage of back ward class people visiting the Boat Museum
- Swarup Bhattacharyya, a friend and an expert on boats, for arrange the necessary permission for photography and providing valuable in puts for my blog
- Dr. Prosenjit Deb Barman, Director of Cultural Research Institute, for his cooperation
- Shampa Chanda Sinha, of Cultural Research Institute, for guiding me through the Boat Museum