Boats on terracotta temples of Bengal : Pre-modern Age Images

European influence , beyond local models.

I thought of writing this hub after interaction with Mr Alex Blokhin , via his blog on models of ships, which I reached through rec.arts.fine of google.com.This blog's URL is : http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.fine/t/6c2f228b410ab7c9?hl=en .

Those who have gone through my hub on the timeline of the terracotta temples of Bengal (http://hubpages.com/hub/ttob_6_timeline) know that the best of the terra cotta temples took shape between 1643 and 1775 AD. During this period, traders and pirates from European countries were regulars in Bengal.

While I could not find a time tag for the 1st Portugese settlement in Satgaon or Saptagram, Antonio Tavaras founded Ugolim in the mouth of the Ganges between 1579-80 AD near Saptagram , which later became known as Hooghly.In 1603 AD,around 5000 Portugese were resident of this place. (http://www.colonialvoyage.com/bengal.htmlhttp://www.colonialvoyage.com/bengal.html.)

The other notable European settlements are:Chinsurah, which was a Dutch settlement between 1656 and 1825. It was later exchanged by the Dutch for the British-held Indonesian island of Sumatra in 1825. Fort Gustavus, a church, three barracks and many old tombs stand testimony to the bygone days. Chandannagore, a former French colony, is a beautifully laid-out town, on the banks of the river Ganges. The churches, convent and the French Administrator’s residence are the points of interest here.

The southern part of Bengal, specially the forest area known as Sunderban saw pirates coming in speedy and light galleys to plunder villages on the river banks of of these area.

This part of Bengal always produced good quality boats for sale, which are used for carrying various types of merchandise to Hoogly/Saptagram/ Calcutta and other areas. The Sundari provided the best form of wood that used to last long or did not wear out/spoil easily in saline water and were often superior than the British Oaks. The types of boats made are Ghurab, Gallivat/Jalia, Bepari, Balia/Balam Pal/Polwaree Massoola, Fusta and koosa boats and budgerows (www.monglaport.gov.bd/his.htm).

Photos of drawings of Fusta and Galllivat are here.

The artists who prepared the terracotta panels ,were influenced by the European boats as well as the ones they saw on a daily basis on the rivers around their villages. Riverine trade was doing very well during the period we are talking about.We see these boats in the terracotta panels.We also see aristocrats enjoying boat-rides , accompanied by musicians,dancers and friends.

As we go more into this subject, the boats we find in these panels can be tied up with names.Here , we have reproductions of paintings of a few European boats of those days , whose name we find in the list of boats which used be crafted in Bengal for sale and a scene on the Ganges, apart from photos of panels of terracotta temples.

'Fusta' boat. The galliot emerged as a smaller, lighter type of galley. The number of oars or sweeps varied from 18 to 22 per side, the larger ones having twenty-five on each side. The fusta or fuste, likewise, was in essence a small narrow galley .
'Fusta' boat. The galliot emerged as a smaller, lighter type of galley. The number of oars or sweeps varied from 18 to 22 per side, the larger ones having twenty-five on each side. The fusta or fuste, likewise, was in essence a small narrow galley .
8th century ship propelled by 40-80 oarsmen and 1-2 sails, commonly used by the Angrian pirates in the Indian Ocean. Courtesy : www.thepirateking.com/ships/ship_types.htm
8th century ship propelled by 40-80 oarsmen and 1-2 sails, commonly used by the Angrian pirates in the Indian Ocean. Courtesy : www.thepirateking.com/ships/ship_types.htm
Major and smaller Portugese settlements in Bengal,India
Major and smaller Portugese settlements in Bengal,India
Panel ! : Krisna Radha and Gopis in a boat  the Artist came across on a regular basis. Panel 2 :A pleasure trip on a two-level oars boat.
Panel ! : Krisna Radha and Gopis in a boat the Artist came across on a regular basis. Panel 2 :A pleasure trip on a two-level oars boat.
A closer view of Panel 2.
A closer view of Panel 2.
Sage 'Rishyashringa' being taken away from his father's hermitage speedily  by Courtesans. A scene from Ramayana .The shape  is different from the ferry-boat Krisna used.
Sage 'Rishyashringa' being taken away from his father's hermitage speedily by Courtesans. A scene from Ramayana .The shape is different from the ferry-boat Krisna used.
Plate 28 from William Hodges' 'Select Views in India'.  Hodges traveled past the Dutch settlement at Chinsura during his 1781/82 tour of Bengal. Courtesy : http://www.collectbritain.co.uk/mediastore/019/000/019XZZ000000307U00028000%5BSVC1%5D.JPG
Plate 28 from William Hodges' 'Select Views in India'. Hodges traveled past the Dutch settlement at Chinsura during his 1781/82 tour of Bengal. Courtesy : http://www.collectbritain.co.uk/mediastore/019/000/019XZZ000000307U00028000%5BSVC1%5D.JPG

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Comments 52 comments

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shyamchat 5 years ago from Calcutta Author

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shyamchat 6 years ago from Calcutta Author

Dear Swarup,

Thanks for your note. I have just now visited your site 'Noukoghar'.

Bengal's terra cotta temples have numerous panels on boats.Boats have a very important role in Krsna's Vrindavan Leela and therefore, have a special appeal to the planners of Krsna-centered temples of Bengal.

I shall be happy to contribute to your research paper.

Best wishes.


Swarup 6 years ago

I am a researcher on Bengal Boat. i am now preparing a Blog on Bengal Boat. Please visit my site: "Noukoghar" abode of Bengal Boat. URL: http://bengalboat.blogspot.com/. My e-mail: swarup.bhattacharyya@gmail.com


shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 6 years ago from Calcutta Author

Dear Swarup,

I have based my comment on results of 'google' search.If go for 'sundari wood' and you will find results supporting my statement.

For example :

http://books.google.co.in/books?id=zf_xv9LRd4cC&pg...

This is from page 82 of 'Environment, population, and human settlements of Sundarban Delta'

by Anuradha Banerjee.

Best wishes.


swarup 6 years ago

about your writing on wood used in boat building i have not found Sundari as a raw material. Sal (Shorea robusta) and Teak are the most preferred till today.


Sovon Sanyal 7 years ago

It is, in deed, a new side of the Portuguese interaction in these "Reynos de Bengala".I remember one gentleman from south 24-Parganas has been working on similar theme (probably Portuguese images in folk paintings of Bengal).

Sovon Sanyal

New Delhi.


Sovon Sanyal 7 years ago

It is, in deed, a new side of the Portuguese interaction in these "Reynos de Bengala".I remember one gentleman from south 24-Parganas has been working on similar theme (probably Portuguese images in folk paintings of Bengal).

Sovon Sanyal

New Delhi.


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d.h.rao 7 years ago

thanks shyam, I am doing a small project -"Maritime Heritage sites in India which show -ships,and boats on potsherds,cave paintings,rock paintings and ofcourse sculptures.I had heard about these famous terracotta temples of West Bengal. A rtd prof. of arch, Kolkatta uty did send me two nice photos of these boats. But I would like all the temples name place, with pincode as I am a philatelist who send covers to the nearest post offices to get them cancelled.Problem is today I can not travel much. Can you help.with warm regards- Hem spl note of appreciation-more people should come forward to expose our heritage-thanks a lot


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shyamchat 8 years ago from Calcutta Author

Curious to know which 'poster' is adorning your laptop !I have told Mr Kanad Sanyal to have a good together witha a Projector on 15/8 (10 am -1 pm) for a small group who are in interested in photographs of heritage spots. You will be invited , if such a meet does take place.

But, we can meet for longer period... suggest when ?I have read a lot about Midnapore temples in 'Kaushikee', Tarapada Santra and in a book by Pranab Roy. We can make plan when we meet.


SOMEN SENGUPTA 8 years ago

good - I liked the poster kind of thing that u have made - I even made it my wall paper in my laptop.

We need to explore some more terracotta temples in Bengal specially those which are in Midnapore - let us meet oneday to talk about this.

regds......Somen


funride profile image

funride 8 years ago from Portugal

Thank you so much. I have sent you my e-mail already and I´ll show this hub to my friends ;)

Have fun!


shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 8 years ago from Calcutta Author

Thanks.

I hv pasted some matl in a .doc (msword) file from which I picked up a few points.

If you are interested, I can copy the relevant page/s to you.

Will you give me yr e-mail no ?

If you hv liked the hub, pl ask yr friends to visit :

http://hubpages.com/education/ttob_7


funride profile image

funride 8 years ago from Portugal

Great hub! I love to learn more about ancient Portuguese interactions with others cultures.

I´m going to check the "The Portuguese in Bengal" link (BTW: the link it´s broken, you have to check it, I think it is repeated).

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