Thursday, March 24, 2011

Master Craftsman, Shipbuilder - Lowji Nusserwanji Wadia

Surtis are famous for all kinds of things, People, Food, Festivals, Clothing, Diamonds, Textiles or any other kind of Businesses, you name it and Surtis are there at the top of the line.  Kavi Narmad, The East India Company, Surti Food, like Surti Undhiyu, Khaman & Dhoklas, Jalebi, Fafda, Samosa, Bhusu, Khaja or Khemo Bhurjis and the mouth watering  sweets like Penda, Halwo, Barfi, Ghari, Faludo and the list goes on and on.  And you may also know about the Flyovers, Shopping Malls and the Movie Complexes, The rapid construction growth Surat has seen in last 10 years and the biggest GDP in the entire country.  My Dear Surtis there are innumerable things to be proud of when you talk about our lovely city, Surat.  Here is an interesting fact I learned.  I know that Surat was a major Ship building port in the early days of its history couple of thousand of years back, literally. I found this great article on the similar subject.  

About 200 years ago highly skilled Indian hands built for the British empire a warship which still stands tall. The oldest surviving British warship — HMS Trincomalee — was built by Surti boat builders, the Wadia family, in Mumbai.
Earlier this week, the warship was incorporated into the new National Museum of the Royal Navy of United Kingdom. Built in 1817, HMS Trincomalee was brought to Hartlepool in 1987, where it took more than 10 years to restore it. It is now the main attraction at Hartlepool's Maritime Experience and attracts 54,000 visitors a year.
"In 1816, work began on HMS Trincomalee at the Wadia Shipyards at Bombay, near the teak forests of Malabar. Master shipbuilder Jamsetjee Bomanjee Waed dia supervised the construction — one of 14 ships he would build for the Royal Navy during his life. In accordance with Zoroastrian tradition, an engraved silver nail was hammered into the keel to ensure the vessel's well being. Little did they know how well it would work," according to details provided by the HMS Trincomalee Trust.
The ship was built at the cost of £23,000. The Wadia family migrated from Surat at the behest of the East India Company as it wanted to develop Bombay as its main business hub. If Mumbai emerged as a strategic port for the British, much of the credit goes to Wadia family. Lowji Nusserwanji Wadia, a skilled ship builder from Surat, was roped in for the assignment and was made master shipbuilder of Bombay in 1736.
Along with his brother Sorabji, Lowjee built India's first dry dock at Mumbai in 1750. "In 1735, master builder Lowji Nusserwanji Wadia came over from Surat and founded this government dockyard. He was made a master shipbuilder and ever since that date the appointment has been in the Wadia family, descending regularly from father to son. The salary is Rs 700 a month besides perquisites," reads one historical account. Credits Ashish Vashi, TNN
Some of the early history about Surat and the people of Surat (Surtis) is extremely interesting and simply mind blowing.  

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