SS Loyalty & SSNCL
National Maritime Day is observed every year on April 5th. In 1919, on this day, SS Loyalty, the first ship manufactured by the Scindia Steam Navigation Company Limited (SSNCL), set off to United Kingdom.
SSNCL was set up by Walchand Hirachand in the year 1919 to rebuild the Indian Shipping Industry that had been crushed by the British.
India had a Large Shipping Industry
SS Loyalty was not India’s first ship. This country with its 6000 km coastline was once forefront in global navigation.
Coastline of India
India was a navigational giant and had a huge shipping industry that built large ships. Navigation was verily ingrained in the cultural fabric of this land.
Nava Shastra mentions large ships
When we look at the ship sizes mentioned in the Nava Shastra, the Indian Navigational text, it is obvious that India had huge ships, and had industries that built such ships.
A systematic science
Our history textbooks have completely neglected any mention of India’s naval prowess. By 11th Century, Raja Bhoja instituted Ship-building as a systematic science. In the same period, no country in Europe had textual information on ship-building.
Testimony of Vasco Da Gama
In 1498, Vasco Da Gama, from Portugal, sailed towards India, southward along the west coast of Africa. He sailed in the largest ships of his times, Sao Gabriel that was 28 metres long.
Vasco Da Gama on board Sao Gabriel
He writes in his log book diary, which is now in the Lisbon Maritime Museum that, when he came to South Africa, he saw Indian ships ten times the size of his own ship.
Vasco Da Gama’s ship amidst larger Indian ships
Navigation formed the backbone of Indian Trade
The making of large ships prove that Indian Navigation System and Shipping industry was highly developed and formed the backbone of the Indian trade in medieval times. India had 25% share in World Trade before the British Rule.
India’s Trade Pie
British Destroyed Indian Ships
Unfortunately, the British pounded and destroyed Indian ships to make way for their modern ships, to boost their shipping industry and economy.
Indian Navigation in Ancient Times
From medieval times, if we go back to ancient times, 5000 years ago, India still had well developed ports and an extensive navigational system.
Lothal in Gujarat was one of the oldest ports in the world. In the past 50 years, many archaeologists and oceanographers have vividly studied the ruins of Lothal. They have come to the conclusion that ancient Indians must have had great knowledge relating to the tides, to build such a dock on the ever changing course of the Sabarmati River.
Lothal formed a Triangle of Developed Port, Large Scale Production and Hinterland
The port provided access to ships during high tides as well. This shows that the ancient Indians indeed had a good hydrography and maritime engineering skills to build such a dock.
There are other such archaeological evidences that suggest that Indian Navigation was highly developed even 5000 years ago.
More on Indian Navigation in our books You Turn India and Brand Bharat – Made In India.