Native Boats, Kolkata, India


View of Native Boats on Hooghly, Calcutta
c.1910

Wikipedia Commons: Boats in West Bengal

“I was born on the banks of the Madhumati (a river in present-day Bangladesh),” said Biswas. “I am familiar with all the rivers of East Bengal. My father was a merchant and we used to own boats. As a child, I have seen boat races in East Bengal. If we were to step back in time by only a hundred years, in Bengal, for transport, for business, there was no option other than boats. You will find the term ‘nou-sadhan’ in many texts about Bengal.”

“This is riverine country,” said Biswas. “What we know and think of as Bengal is actually a large river delta.” Bhattacharyya explained further: “You will find different kinds of rivers in Bengal, from the shallow, rapid streams of North Bengal, to the Hooghly of Kolkata, with its slow and stately gait.”You will find different kinds of rivers in Bengal, from the shallow, rapid streams of North Bengal, to the Hooghly of Kolkata, with its slow and stately gait.” Each kind of river demands a specific boat. “If I were to go to a boat-maker today and ask him to make me a boat, the first question he would ask me is, on what river would the boat operate,” said Bhattacharyya. The dinghy, commonly seen at the ghats of Kolkata, works fine in the waters of the Hooghly, whose current is weak. “But it would be useless in North Bengal because a dinghy cannot travel against the current due to its shape.”
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