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Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Even before the accounts of the 1st century BC, there were written accounts of Shipbuilding and war-craft at sea. Professor R.C. Majumdar says that there existed a comprehensive book of Naval-architecture in India datingback to 2nd century BC, if not earlier.
During the reign of Raja Raja and his son, there were a complex classification of class of vessels and its utility. Some of the survived classes' name and utility are below.
The close diplomatics tie between the Song dynasty of China and the Medieval Cholas facilitated many technological innovations to travel both ways. The more interesting ones to have reached Chinese shores are:
*. The famous Chola ship-designs employing independent water tight compartments in the hull of a ship.
*. The mariner's compass
*. The continuously shooting Flamethrowers for naval warfare.
*. Dharani - The equivalent of modern-day destroyers designed to take combat to high-seas.
*. Loola - The equivalent of modern day Corvettes ; designed to perform light combat and escort duties.
*. Vajra - The equivalent of a Frigate maybe, a fast attack craft lightly armored.
*. Thirisadai - Probably the battle cruisers or battleships of the day, they are reported to be armored heavily and could engage more than 2 targets in combat, and relied on its built rather than speed to survive and attack.
Though all ships of the time employed a small Marine force (for boarding enemy vessels), this class of ship seems to have had aseparate cabins and training area for them. This ship also is said to be able to engage in asymmetrical warfare.
Dharani The primary weapons platform with extensive endurance (up to3 months), they normally engaged in groups and avoided one on one encounters. Probably equivalent to modern day Destroyers .
Lola They were lightly armored, fast attack vessels. Normally performed escort duties. They could not perform frontal assaults. Equivalent to modern day Corvettes.
Vajara They were highly capable fast attack crafts, typically used to reinforce/rescue a stranded fleet. Probably equivalent to modern day Frigates .
Thirisadai The heaviest class known, they had extensive war-fighting capabilities and endurance, with a dedicated marine force of around 400 Marines to board enemy vessels. They are reported to be able to engage three vessels of Dharani class, hence the name Thirisadai , which means, three braids . (Braid was also the time's name for oil-fire.)
Apart from class definitions, there are names of Royal Yachts and their architecture. Some of which are,
*. Akramandham - A royal Yacht with the Royal quarters in the stern.
*. Neelamandham - A royal Yacht with extensive facilities for conducting courts and accommodation for hi-officials/ministers.
*. Sarpammugam - these were smaller yachts used in the Rivers (with ornamental snake heads)
In addition to these, we find many names of Ship classes in Purananuru and its application inboth inland waters and open oceans. Some of them are,
*. Yanthiram - Hybrid ship employing bot sails and oars or probably Paddle wheels of some type (as Yanthiram is literally translated to mechanicalwheel)
*. Kalam - Large vessels with 3 masts which can travel in any direction irrespective of winds.
*. Punai - medium sized vessels that can be used to coastal shipping as well as inland.
*. Patri - Large barge type vessel used to ferrying trade goods.
*. Oodam - Small boat with large oars.
*. Ambi - Medium sized boat with a single mast and oars.
*. Toni - small boat used in rocky terrain.