Watercraft depicted in the art of Odisha, East Coast of India
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The Indian state of Odisha, with its long coastline facing the Bay of Bengal, extensive riverine network and convenient anchorages, has enjoyed a sustained maritime history. Nevertheless, the lack of archaeological excavation of ancient watercraft has meant that evidence for water transport in Odisha has come from other sources. This article examines iconographical representations of watercraft found in temples across Odisha, as well as some from palm leaf manuscripts of the 18th and 19th centuries. The vessels depicted are both riverine and seagoing, and sport different types of planking and constructional features-some unique to Odisha. This iconography emphasises the intimate association between the royal families, deities and mariners of Odisha, and the important role that boats and ships traditionally have had in Odishan trade, transportation and warfare, and as a visual symbol of prestige. The traditional boats of Odisha are unique in design and style, but traditional boatbuilding in the region is declining due to rapid industrialisation and incorporation of modern materials. It is urgent, then, to document such craft and their depictions in ancient art, both for posterity and to aid in understanding and interpreting the rich maritime history of the region.
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