New Delhi: To revive and preserve the 2000-year-old technique of the ‘stitched shipbuilding method’ or ‘Tankai’ method in local parlance, the Ministry of Culture and the Indian Navy have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The stitched ship holds significant cultural value in India, given its historical importance and the preservation of traditional craftsmanship. Throughout history, India has had a strong maritime tradition, and the use of stitched ships played a vital role in trade, cultural exchange, and exploration. These ships, constructed by stitching wooden planks together rather than using nails, offered flexibility and durability, making them less susceptible to damage from shoals and sandbars. Although the arrival of European ships led to a shift in shipbuilding techniques, the art of stitching ships has survived in a few coastal regions of India, primarily for small local fishing boats.
Emphasising that reviving and rejuvenating this fading art is crucial to ensure the preservation of cultural heritage for future generations, the Ministry of Culture stated that an ocean-going wooden stitched sailship is proposed to be constructed using the ancient Indian art of stitching. However, the significance of the stitched ship project extends beyond its construction. It aims to revive the maritime memory and instil a sense of pride in India’s rich maritime heritage among its citizens. Additionally, it aims to promote cultural memories among the Indian Ocean littoral countries.
The Indian Navy will oversee the implementation and execution of the entire project, which aims to leverage the expertise of the remaining traditional shipwrights in India and showcase their exceptional craftsmanship. “Their invaluable experience and technical knowledge will play a pivotal role in the successful revival of the ancient stitching method and the construction of the stitched ship,” the Ministry stated.
By sailing along ancient maritime routes using traditional navigational techniques, the project seeks to gain insights into the historical interactions across the Indian Ocean, which facilitated the flow of Indian culture, knowledge systems, traditions, technologies, and ideas. Thorough documentation and cataloguing of the project will ensure that valuable information is preserved for future reference. “This project not only represents a unique boat-building endeavour but also serves as a testament to India’s diverse cultural heritage and ancient seafaring traditions,” the Ministry said.
Govind Mohan, Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Rear Admiral K.S. Srinivas and Commodore Sujeet Bakshi from the Indian Navy were among those present during the MoU signing ceremony held here on July 18, 2023.
– global bihari bureau