This a place which most of the tourists travelling to Kerala will overlook. But I was told that foreign tourists are more inclined to go there than Indian tourists. But I was anxious to be there, as soon as I came to know about this place. Still, when I ultimately reached here, I was the lone traveler. I am talking about ship building yards of Beypore in Kozhikode or erstwhile Calicut in Kerala.
Its the traditional way of ship building both in wooden and metallic frames for bigger fishing boats and smaller passenger boats (and not for bigger passenger ships). This traditional art of ship-building is called as uru. Actually this art came to Kerala centuries ago from the Arab world. The Arabs used to call them dhows. They were used as traditional Arabian trading vessels. Arabs used to come to Kerala for trade in spices. They came to know about availability of timber in forests of north Kerala and also about the quality craftsmen here. Hence they started getting there dhows made here in Malabar region. Tradition of ship building in Beypore is said to be more than 1500 years old. Now ship building has become modern, but the tradition still continues albeit at smaller scale.
Being a major harbour of the Malabar region Beypore has been major centre for making urus in Kerala. Beypore several centuries ago was itself a prominent port and an important centre for trade via sea, attracting Arab and Chinese travelers and later the Europeans. 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 earlier was completely made of wood and built by joining planks of good quality timber. Urus were traditionally built totally machine free. Even nails were not used. Unlike their ancestors, modern day Uru makers use simple machines as well as nails. Most of the work is done by basic carpentry tools.
But now metal is also used in frames and support structure of fishing vessels. We can see some other fishing vessels being constructed here.
Here you can see a metallic frame:
Another ship is in final stage of construction:
This one is almost ready to go into water within few days-
Modern fishing vessels go through a complicated process with integration of different works at various levels. They also need a proper communication system-
The time taken and cost involved depends on the size of the vessel. The vessel above is almost 80-90 feet and it takes almost six months to build this. The cost for this is estimated to be around 90 lakhs rupees. Bigger ones with around 100 feet length have a cost tag of more than one crore rupees.
Few other ships getting ready-
Rails to finally push the vessel into the water-
Uru building yards are near river Chaliyar, about 1 km off from where it drains into the sea. Beypore is easily accessed from Kozhikode (Calicut) city, by half an hour car drive. You can even take city buses or auto rickshaws to reach Beypore from Calicut. Kozhikode has an airport, rail head, and several bus terminals.
One can also purchase small souvenir Urus from handicraft shops of Beypore and Calicut. The changed scenario in the ship building industry at Beypore has in turn made the local craftsmen to switch to crafting little wooden models of their gigantic masterpieces. The miniature of urus made out of teak wood also come enclosed in bottles. There are many centres in Kozhikode, where one can buy the models of urus and also get them made-to-order in Kozhikode.