Kolkata: For a country surrounded by seas, ravishing seas, rivers and lakes, the development of maritime technology played a pivotal role in the development of the thousand year old civilisation. But until now, there was no museum to celebrate its development and showcase to the world.

West Bengal becomes the first state in the country to have a boat museum. The museum was inaugurated in Kolkata by Upendra Nath Biswas, minister-in-charge, backward classes welfare department. He also inaugurated a three-day workshop on puppetry, kantha and woodwork titled “Arts of Banga: An Ethnological Heritage Re-Appraisal 2013.”

The museum will display six models of boats including ones that were used during the Harappan civilisation as well as boats in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bengal and Bangladesh.

“Development of maritime technology played a crucial role in turning Bengal into a key trading port for centuries together. Boat building used to be a profession and a serious hobby for the people of a bygone era. Today many of them have been marginalised for political, economic and historical reasons. The department of backward classes, apart from social, educational and economic development of the backward classes of West Bengal is dedicated for organisation, recognition and patronage of the rich culture of various ethnic groups,” said Biswas.

The museum will also collaborate with the Government of Kerala and try to display their art of boat making.

“Even today, people in Kerala take this art of boat making seriously as is evident from the various well-known boat races that take place in the country. Also it still plays a critical role in lives especially in the areas known as backwaters,” the minister added.

Apart from trading boats, the museum will also exhibit old age luxury boats used by the kings and personalities of the bygone era. “Rabindranath Tagore wrote lots of poems sitting on the decks of his luxury boat. Also the number of boats were being used by various British Viceroys, we are trying to collect them for our museum,” said the curator.