THE SHIPBUILDING INDUSTRY OF BEYPORE
From ancient times, the small coastal town of Beypore in Kozhikode district which is an important harbour in the Malabar region, has been synonymous with the traditional ship building culture of Kerala. The origin of the ship or ‘uru’ dates back to thousands of years when Arab merchants landed at the port for sea trade and the localites learnt the art and science of uru making from them. These traditional Arabian trading vessels which traced their way to the spice-scented shores of Kerala were called ‘dhows’. The builders of this traditional country craft are referred to as 'khalasis'. These adept ship builders had deep knowledge about their craft.The urus still have a swelling market and continues to draw buyers from across the Arabian Sea.
After coming to know about the availability of good timber in the forests of Kerala and also the presence of skilled craftsmen in ship building, the Arab merchants began to place orders for constructing dhows to the craftsmen of Malabar in north Kerala. Thus the foundation for the ship-building industry was laid, and the tradition still continues, although on a smaller scale.
This historic port is located about 10 km south of Kozhikode town at the mouth of the Chaliyar River. This port, besides Arabs, was also visited by Chinese travelers and later the Europeans.
There was a time when the place experienced great demand from western Asia for ships, because of its fame as the home to excellent craftsmen. This ship-building industry at Beypore once had a healthy phase of growth until the invasion of iron and steel which then started posing a serious threat to its existence.
A typical uru in appearance is a large vessel. It demands hard labour and the dexterous hands of craftsmen to build one. This seagoing vessel is completely made of wood and is built by joining planks of good quality timber. Usually an uru is built by a team of fifty men over a period of at least four years. No blueprints are made and the entire aspect of ship building is embedded in the minds of the highly skilled shipwrights. It is a team work undertaken with minimum of sophistication, following strict and orderly work ethics and also discipline. Visitors to the shipbuilding yard at Beypore would simply be fascinated by the manner in which the various stages are executed. A lot of creativity and dexterity goes into the work.
Nowadays, the local craftsmen are more into building little wooden models of the gigantic masterpieces carved out by their predecessors. The expertise and skill of these craftsmen who have passed on their skills through generations, is amazing. The miniature models of these boats made out of coconut, teak and other materials are available at the government emporium in Kozhikode. These miniature pieces also come encased in bottles, as curios and gift items.
Travellers arriving at the beach destination of Beypore can enjoy a mesmerizing view of the Arabian Sea by taking a walk along the stone bridge that stretches out for about 2 kilometers into the heart of the Arabian Sea.
Travellers visiting the land of urus, dotted with silhouettes of fishing boats and the stone pathway jutting into the sea, would find it a truly unforgettable experience.
Beypore beach still exudes its old world charm and visitors can still smell the past while on a visit to the historic boat-building yard.
The nearest airport to Beypore is the Calicut airport at Karipur, 23 km from Kozhikode city.