We knew not the greatness of what we were seated on!
The weather was good and the trip to the beach exhilarating. To capture the happy experience at the beach we took some snaps, standing along the beach and walking into the waves. The above two photographs are from those lovely memories. All the photographs came out nice. The ocean, the waves, the sky, the beach and the sand are captured beautifully in all of them, and we are happy to see them. It was few days later that I wondered about the crude boat we were seated on. This curiosity led to knowledge that amazed me. It looks so crude but so successful on the rough seas and for so many centuries!
This type of boat is said to be in use since 5th century AD by Tamil sailors and by the ancient Chola dynasty for moving their fleets to conquer South Asian regions that is Indonesia, Malaysia and Burma. It is called Kattumaram in Tamil. In Tamil (and Telugu) ‘Kattu’ means to ‘tie’ and ‘Maram’ means ‘wood, tree’. It is so called because it is made by lashing together three or more shaped logs, with the center log/logs placed keel-wise at lower level than the side logs so as to take the form of a canoe or boat. Its length may vary from 4.5 mtrs. to 9 mtrs. and width from 60 cms. to 1.8 mtrs. Since those ancient times to date Kattumaram is the most important and predominant traditional fishing craft of the not so rich fishermen. With very little variations it is used along our entire East coast from Kanyakumari all along the coast of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
It is so fascinating to know that the Kattumaram, invented by a fishing community called Paravas of Tamil Nadu coast centuries ago; is still serving people today, though with few improvements and modernization (most of them have outboard motors now).
The English adventurer and buccaneer William Dampier, traveling around the world in 1690s in search of business opportunities sailed through the Bay of Bengal and reached Tamil Nadu. He was fascinated by the extensive and efficient use of Kattumarams and he wrote in 1697 - “On the coast of Coromandel boats made of three or more logs called Catamarans (that was the way he pronounced Kattumarams) are extensively used for transport and fishing”. Thereafter Catamaran has became a more popular name for this type of boat and today it is also popular for all modern multi-hulled watercraft featuring two parallel hulls of equal size.
You may see the following two videos on Kattumaram to understand them better – thanks to Wild Films India and the photographs towards the end of this article: