Crafted in Beypore Kozhikode district in northern Kerala this coastal village has been renowned for centuries for its uru dhows. Uru or fat boat (in Malayalam) are amongst the largest handcrafted wooden ships in the world. Sizes can extend over 75 feet in length and 100 feet in height with carriage capacities in tons.
In the 15th and 16th centuries Uru dhows transported wood, spices, and manufactured goods to the ports of Mumbai and Kolkata and further afield to the Middle East, Persia and the Far East. Rarely used as passenger ships as their specialisation were the fitment of cargo, its shape and strengths being perfectly conditioned for goods transportation.
The making of handcrafted wooden dhow cargo ships is an endangered tradition as these ancient cargo ships no longer serve their purpose.
While much has been written about the Uru the detailed technical knowledge of its process and technique of handcrafting remains an oral tradition. From the choice of wood, its seasoning, to the final testing and sailing is a process learnt by apprenticeship and passed down through generations. Folklore, songs sung while hauling the huge timbers and loads are all part of the tradition that are equally endangered and undocumented.
As an ode to the Uru in Beypore, intricately crafted miniature sized wooden dhows are being made, including Urus in bottles.