The National Maritime Heritage Complex

It can be said that India’s maritime history predates the birth of western civilization. The glorious maritime history of India dates back to at least 3,000 years. Excavation of Lothal is the welcome light that has thrown insights into the maritime activities of the Indus people. The large structure of baked bricks located at Lothal served as a dock and is the earliest manmade dock in the world. Modern oceanographers are of the opinion that Harappans possessed great knowledge of tides as exhibited by the hydrography and maritime engineering of the Harappans.

Available Vedic records suggest that Indian merchants also had trade contacts reaching the far east and even Arabia. There are also evidences of “Naval Department” having existed during the Mauryan period. The Cholas, the Cheras and the Pandyas also had strong maritime trade links with local rulers of Sumatra, Java, Malay Peninsula, Thailand and China. The Chola Empire is known for extensive sea trade, new harbours with living quarters, warehouse and workshops. At one point in history, the Bay of Bengal was to referred as the Chola Lake.

It would not be overstretched to say that the glorious tales of maritime history of India appear surreal. To boast of glorious heritage to the world in the history of India at sea, Indian government is building “The National Maritime Heritage Complex”, which had commenced in March 2022 and is being developed at a cost of Rs 3,500 crore. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi reviewed the site work progress of the National Maritime Heritage Complex at Lothal on 18th October 2022. The objective is not only to display India’s rich and diverse maritime heritage but also to boost tourism potential through this project with the vision of an overall economic development in this region.

Union minister of Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Sabarananda Sonowal expressed that “It is one of the major projects under the Sagarmala scheme which has an educational approach. By using the latest technology maritime heritage will be projected in a user-friendly manner to spread awareness among people”.

The preservation of maritime history is important as sea power emerges as the most salient factor for strengthening the economy. Sea power can be described as the totality of a nation’s relationship with the sea. It includes the full range of activities from shipbuilding, fleet ownership, fisheries, exploration, to robust defence capacity. Open waters, especially the Indian Ocean, have remained vital to India’s national interest since antiquity. Maritime trade and energy supplies are critical to India’s transformation. The Maritime museum upon completion will provide an insight to the past and give a much needed learning on India’s glorious maritime history, and will shed light on golden age of Indian seafaring.