Beypore Uru - Traditional age old handcrafted oceangoing ship of Kerala that transported spices and silk

handcrafted Beypore  ocean going ship Uru, kerala/ 

Beypore Uru, kerala

Among the Indian states, Kerala is known for its distinct and unit Hindu temple architecture, fine-arts and dances, martial arts, etc. They all highlight the native -, imaginative and improvised features that make them stand apart. Kerala hs a long coastal area and is equally popular for its old-style ship building techniques. Beypore Uru and kettuvallam - boat houses are quite well known across India  and west Asia.  This post is about Beypore Uru- sturdy ocean going wooden ships. Often called Dhows by the Arabs  and they, ultimately,  became the traditional Arabian trading vessels. They shifted the ship-building yards to beypore for reasons of availability of skilled workers and rich quality wood needed for durable ocean going ships.

Beypore Uru made from quality wood, Kerala.

Beypore Uru, Kerala.

Nestled in a serene environment on the banks of the  Chaliyar River Beypore is synonymous with the majestic Beypore Uru. Here,  the old ethos of shipbuilding are still carefully nurtured and being kept alive

What is called the ship of Arabian dreams,  Uru is an integral part of the traditional ship building culture of Kerala, that has been alive  on these shores for the last 1500 years despite the advent of modern ship building methods. Why is it popular even now?  It is a wooden dhow (ship / sailing boat / sailing vessel) handcrafted by  well trained and skilled artisans and carpenters in Beypore, Kerala. Their families are engaged in this ship-building business for centuries. The ship builders do not make any compromise on the quality of ships and the  Beypore Urus are purely made of premium wood, without using any modern techniques. Their line of approach in this fast, modern world may stagger our imagination. What is surprising is the cost of boats is not prohibitive and   Centuries ago  sturdy  ocean going wooden ships -Uru handcrafted on the Malabar coast  had sailed across the Indian ocean and Arabian sea transporting spices and clothes from this region.  

About 20 to 30 artisans and carpenters form a team  and take as much as 90 days to finish a full-fledged boat.  The source the needed raw materials like quality teak wood, etc from  Kozhikode city and neighboring places. Known for a centre for shipbuilding since the first century AD,  Beypore  witnessed rapid expansion under the East India Company in the early nineteenth century. As a matter of fact this place witnessed active ocean trade  from ancient time and rapid expansion took place in the late  medieval times primarily because of spices and clothes. .Being one of the ancient ports in Kerala that had trade relations with Middle Eastern countries.the Bepore area was  visited by Arabs, Chinese and Europeans  who were mercantile exporters and importers. So ship building activities were peak and the old ethos of shipbuilding in Beypore still permeates here.  

As old as the beginnings of India’s maritime trade with Mesopotamia. Beypore was the largest  handi crafted boat - Uru or  the wooden dhow in the world. The outskirts of Kozhikode  saw the heyday  when the spice trade on the coastal Malabar was at its peak. .

Several crafting yards with sheds are on the banks of the the Chaliyar river  and the hereditary craftsmen's ingenuity and expertise in old ship building  techniques keep the   old tradition alive for over a millennium.  Surprisingly, the  traditional ship building methods without any modern machinery  native to this place so far have kept the use of modern machinery at bay.  

Beypore, Kerala Uru ship building

   The following facts are quite fascinating and worth mentioning about Uru making: . 

01.  Uru making iis native to  Beypore (northern Kerala), close to Kozhikode  and the required raw materials are sourced locally upon ascertaining their quality.

02. The art of Uru making in Beypore is tradition bound and the expertise is passed down  through several  generations.

03. devoid of plans, models, sketches and drawings, right from the start of the project - conception, design, construction and final execution and finishing everything is conceived in the mind of the master carpenter or his supervisor (maistry) just like a film director who visualizes every shot and every scene, camera angle, etc. 

Dynamics of Buoyance in ship building.

Above image: Ship stability illustration explaining the stable and unstable dynamics of buoyancy (B), center of buoyancy (CB), center of gravity (CG), and weight (W)

04. The Beypore carpenters and artisans for centuries have known the principles of floating objects in the water and the dynamics of buoyancy. The crux of the matter is since they use selective teak wood for ship making they are quite aware of the density of the materials that go into ship construction.
05. They keep the secrecy of certain practical applications intact and the assistants learn them after long strenuous training. 

06. Quite amazing is the  the sheer efficacy of the time-tested technique of hull construction and their meticulous execution, Fully handcrafted the workers make wood, keel, etc waterproof.

07. To maintain quality and longevity of wood that remains in the water , special care is take when water proofing is done.

08. As for the hull and the frame  and related parts, they are also handcrafted in a separate building yard.   Customization and fixing of engine are  taken care in another yard.     

09. On completion of the work, the Uru is double checked and finally decision is taken to launch the boat on the river  to assess their sea-worthiness.

10.  Mopla-Khalasis (after the Arabic word for dockyard workers) do the launching and they employ the age old   pulley-wheel mechanism to roll the boat on a bed of logs to float it out.

Presently, Urus including re the longest dhow (180 metres)  are  made by the local expert carpenters in the huge yards on orders from rich Arabs and royalty in the Middle East to be used as  luxury yachts for entertaining the guests  or to run  floating restaurants. With rich Arabs and royal members evincing keen interest in the handcrafted Beypore Urus , the shipyards on the river banks in Beypore have got a new lease of life; but it takes a long way as 500 to 600 families depend on the Uru industry. A long 180 feet luxury yacht  weighing more than 1500 tons requires 3 years to make  The major customers are the rich Arabs from Qatar or UAE.