Beypore- Dhow making tradition and neighbouring environs
Beypore ,the small little hamlet situated at the mouth of the Chaliyar river close to Calicut, was once a prominent port.Once upon a time , a few centuries ago,Beypore was an important sea faring center for trade ,attracting Arabs and Chinese and subsequently the Portugese.Beypore has a tradition of boat building (Uru)that is about 1500 years old.Its fame as a ship building center of excellence attracted Arabs and other West Asians ,until the introduction of steel and iron into modern ship building industry destroyed its prospects.The Baramis,who were the main ship builders in Beypore ,trace their root to Yemen.
The master craftsmen called Maistry and the carpenter tribe called Khalasis crafted the ships with the aid of not modern tools or instruments but from memory and mental calculations.The remarkable feature is that for the Uru construction,there are no documents, work plans, or drawings from the concept stage to completion.The designer has a plan in his mind and the details are assigned on a daily basis to the assistant carpenters.No heavy machinery or electrical tools are used. All lifting is done using the pulley system by the Khalasis.The master craftsmen use certain Sanskrit slokas as their guide to the ship building. Even today the secret of dhow or uru making is closely guarded and handed over from generation to generation. Malabar teak which was used for the boat building in the olden days has surreptiously given way to irul and other types of wood.
The launching of the ship is a festive ceremony and a treat to watch.The dhows are made to slide on wooden rollers with the help of Beypore Khalasis who use pulleys and ropes to accomplish their task.It takes a few days to one to two weeks for the launch to be complete.
For our guests staying at Harivihar ,Beypore and its environs has been a fascinating discovery- a peep into the rich culture and traditions of Malabar.Many of them have mentioned that this was their most cherished memory of their visit to India.The ship building at Beypore is a dying tradition and we feel a tinge of regret that attempts to preserve it is not done adequately.
Another interesting place in Beypore is Tasera ,the silk weaving center.Run by Mr Vasudevan , a very creative and short tempered genius , this center is renowned worldwide for making high end tapestries.
Yet another place to visit in Beypore is the fish landing harbour and the peir where you watch scores of fishermen dragging their boats onshore and taking their fresh catch to be sold at the nearby markets. Do stop at the souvenier shops to buy a miniature of the dhow to take home as a memorabilia!