Boat and Tribal Museum

Boat and Tribal Museum at Kolkata

The Boat and Tribal Museum of Kolkata showcases 04 different museums in its premise – Ethnographic Museum, Kantha Museum, Puppet Museum and Boat Museum. The Boat Museum is one of its kind in India and houses 46 scaled-down model boats of West Bengal. The other museums also have a collection of around 500 artefacts from 15 different tribes of West Bengal. The museums are governed by Cultural Research Institute (CRI), a wing of the Backward Classes Welfare Department (BCWD), Government of West Bengal.

Location of Boat and Tribal Museum:

This Museum is located at Ambedkar Bhavan in Kankurgachi.

Collection of Boat and Tribal Museum:

The Kantha museum showcases a very impressive collection of 19th Century Nakshi Kanthas (Quilts). These embroidered quilts of Banga (the region of present Bangladesh and West Bengal) was a household art form practiced by women during their leisure. The motifs of Kanthas include images of flower, birds and fish, animals and even kitchen articles and articles of personal care.

The Puppet Museum showcases puppetry genres from across West Bengal, like the Rod Puppet of 24 Parganas, String Puppet of Malda – Cooch Behar region, Glove Puppets of Midnapore and Santhal Tribal wood puppets used in puppetry shows of Chadar Badar.

The collection of Ethnographic Museum ranges from daily attire used by the tribals to elaborate costumes used during weddings. The detailed collection of Tribal artefacts include a varied assemblage of Wood Carvings, Terracotta Craft, Dokra, Musical Instruments, Ornaments, Paintings and masks from various tribes of West Bengal like Santhal, Munda, Bhutia, Lepcha, Lodha, Karmali, Toto and others.

Also, India’s only Boat Museum is located in the same premise. The Boat Museum portrays a panorama of Bengal’s Naval Trade and Commerce throughout the centuries. There are 46 model boats displayed here ranging from simple Fishing Boats, Cargo Boats, passenger boats, racing boats and even Bangal’s Luxury Boats. Here you can learn about heritage boats like saptadinga, mayurpankhi, bajra, singhamukhi and their structures, styles and use.

History of Boat and Tribal Museum:

This Museum is governed by Cultural Research Institute (CRI), a wing of the Backward Classes Welfare Department (BCWD), Government of West Bengal. The CRI was established in 1955 but the museums were inaugurated during 2014 – 2015 by Mr. Upen Biswas – the erstwhile Minister of Backward Classes Welfare Department, Govt. of West Bengal.

 Trivia of Boat and Tribal Museum:

  • The Ethnographic Museum displays only 360 tribal artefacts from its entire collection of 500 tribal artefacts compiled from 14 tribes spread over West Bengal. As per the census of 2001, almost 5.5% of the total population of the West Bengal comprises Scheduled Tribes. Out of them, the Santals constitute more than half of the total Scheduled Tribe population of the state. The other major tribes are Oraons, Mundas, Bhumij, Kora, Mahalis, Bhutias, Bedias and Savars. Later in 2002, the other major tribes added were Tamang and Subba, which has a great significant number in the population. Some vulnerable tribes are Lodhas, Birhors, Totos and Mechs.
  • The Boat Museum has a model of the famous Padma Boat of Rabindranath Tagore where guests like Surendranath Tagore and Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose were hosted by Tagore between 1890 and 1892. Tagore has spent a lot of time on his Padma Boat during his visits to Silaidaha (present Bangladesh) and has even penned some of his greatest creations like Malini, Katha O Kahini, Chitra Chaitali and Sonar Tori. He even translated Gitanjali on this boat.
  • The Boat museum showcases various cargo boat models like Bhedi, Balam (presently used in Bangladesh), Paukhia, Goloiya (used mostly in Malda), Dholai (Sunderbans), Sultani, Khorosalti, Khorokisti and more. Cargo boats like Sultani were used to carry bricks, sand, vegetables and cereals whereas Khorosalti and Khorokisti were primarily used for transportation of paddy and straw.
  • A wide collection of scaled down model of Fishing Boats like Talai, Jele Bachhari, Jele Dingi, Barki, Chhot-Salti, Patiya, Paukhia and others are on dislay at the Boat Museum too. The Paukhia is a fully stapled flat-bottomed boat used in the shallow streamlets and creeks Patia is used mostly for fishing in coastal warers.
  • Malo Bachhari or Jele Bachhari (Gosaba, South 24 Paraganas), Chhot-Salti and Patiya (Purba Medinipore), Paukhia, (Kolkata), (Bangladesh) and Dingi are the popular fishing boats from Bangladesh and West Bengal. Paukhia is a typically flat-bottomed boat and entirely stapled. This boat is ideal for propelling in shallow creeks and streams with a high water current. Patia is a coastal fishing boat. The planks of the boat are joined together with nails and it is ideal for fishing in coastal areas. Boats such as Kosa and Chhot were used both for cargo and fishing.
  • A wide collection of racing boats displayed in the Boat museum are Loll Dinghee, Chhip Boat, Khela and Kaile Bachhari.
  • The earliest mention of the Kantha is found in the book “Sri Sri Chaitanya Charitamitra” by Krishnadas Kaviraj.
  • Puppetry of Bengal are of 4 general types – Rod Puppet, String Puppet, Glove Puppet, Tribal Puppet.