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of the many ships that arrived in the ports of Annam and Canton in China “the ships from the Loin Kingdom (Sri Lanka) were the largest”. travelers occupied the second deck and their belongings were placed in the upper deck. Parakramabahu I (1153-86) of Polonnaruva. Two other pre-Christian Brahmi inscriptions at Parmakanda in the Puttalam District and Maligatenna in the Kurunegala District contain the term navika which means mariner. Persia and Ethiopia and that Sri Lankans too dispatched many of their own ships to foreign ports. The Sammohavinodini. This inscription records a land grant to commander Kitnuwaragal for rendering valuable services in the Myanmar campaign. stated that Arab ships from Oman and Yemen came to Sri Lanka and other islands in the vicinity (most probably Laccadives and Maldives) to obtain ropes. was not used. According to the early ninth century Chinese bure aucrat and writer. pearls and cinnamon and also twenty vessels to the Sultan annually. Gunawardena has pointed out that timber from del tree (Artocarpus nobilis) because of its resistance to ship worms. 2 of 3 5/18/2012 9:58 PM . I . the record confirms that Sri Lanka at the time possessed advanced nautical construction techniques. For this retaliatory expedition ships were constructed during a period of five months. the Roman writer Pliny has mentioned that ships of Taprobane could carry 3000 amphorae or about 75 tons. have been studied in detail and even presented in illustrations by Vini Vitharana.Features | Online edition of Daily News . The lowest deck outside of which was immersed in water.H.lk/2011/11/03/fea21. arms. The historicity of the event is corroborated by the Devanagala inscription datable to the 12th year of Parakramabahu I. Bhuvanekabahu I (1272-84) of Yapahuwa sent an envoy named Al-HAj-Abu-Uthman to Mamluk Sultan of Egypt and expressed his desire to establish trade contacts. A century later. Pliny also has stated that mariners of Taprobane navigating in the Indian Ocean. Li Chao. he further mentions that the mariners of the island.A. South Asia including Sri Lanka has had a reputation for building the largest ships in the Asian waters. His account indicates that by his time. R. catamarans etc. In the sixth century. as a result of advancements in rigging. W . Although outcome of this mission is obscure. made preparations in advance. According to the Mahavamsa. Sri Lankan ships had improved from former times in both capacity and speed. chronicles. He attributes this to the central location of the Island in the Indian Ocean. Largest ships By the end of the eighth century. In 1155 AD the Arab geographer. All these were abundantly available in Sri Lanka.dailynews.L. A figure of a ship with high prows and a single mast has been inscribed in a pre-Christian Brahmi inscription at Duvegala in the Polonnaruva District. details pertaining to ancient ship building have to be reconstructed by perusing inscriptions. The document states that Buvanekabahu I desired an Egyptian ambassador accompany his envoy on his return and that he could supply trade commodities like gems. ships and various kinds of other vessels have completely disappeared without any trace. Due to perishable nature of materials used. vallams. the Egyptian monk Cosmas. let them loose from time to time and followed the direction of their flight as they approached land. nursing attendants. More recent constructions of ships. Coconut trunks were used for masts and ropes for hanging sails and anchoring. literary texts and accounts of foreigners. a Commentary of Buddhaghosa states that during the Brahmana Tissa Famine (102 BC-89 BC) ships comprising three decks were constructed at Jambukolapattana (present Sambiliturai) for Buddhist monks who wished to escape to India. He has also stated that there were stairways for loading and unloading in those ships. in order to launch a war against lower Myanmar in 1165. but technology of construction has passed from generation to generation until recent times. took birds out to sea with them. This indicates that from the earliest times of recorded history there existed specialists in navigation in Sri Lankan Society. Corroborating Pliny. recorded that many ships regularly went to Sri Lanka (Sielediba) for purposes of trade from different countries such as India. Maldives. there had been progress in ship building technology in Sri Lanka from pre-Christian times. kept white pigeons on board these ships.asp DAILYNEWS ONLINE News Editorial Business Features Political Security Sport World Letters Obituaries OTHER PUBLICATIONS OTHER LINKS Ship building in ancient Sri Lanka PR O F . art and architecture and city planning. food and medicinal supplies. coconut trunks and timber and also to place orders for ships constructed there. China. Al Idrisi.Lakehouse Newspapers http://www. According to the chronicle the entire coast resembled one great workshop. The war was conducted to avenge the humiliations suffered by Sri Lankan envoys and merchants during the reign of Alaungsitu in Ramannadesa or Myanmar. rafts. canoes. This statement of the chronicler may be an exaggeration but the fact remains that the long standing tradition of building merchant vessels was harnessed at this time to transport troops. But in the absence of surviving specimens. S I R I W E E R A A long with developments in irrigation. domba (Calophyllum inophyllum) because of its flexibility and kos (Atrocarpus heterophyllum) because of its hardness were in demand among shipwrights. Somasiri Devendra and Girhard Kapitan. Trade contacts According to an Arabic document of the thirteenth century.

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