Wednesday 8 February 2023



     A Naval History cell was created in 1968 to collate and record documents pertaining to 1965 war. The cell was placed under Directorate of Naval Operations, NHQ to assimilate historic data on evolution of Indian Navy since Independence. In 2006 it was upgraded to Naval History Division with greater impetus for collation of material focusing on future requirements.  The fallout was the creation of the Naval History Project (NHP) for analytical study of Naval Operations/ Campaigns and facilitate Naval Historical Research in tandem with growing regional and global footprint of Indian Navy. The OIC of NHP had been Cmde Srikant Kesnur, VSM, Dir MWC assisted by a Capt and Cdr, appointed addln MWC for the Project. Its now been handed over to Cmde M  Doraibabu (with MHS), after the former hung his boots recently. The Team has Authored official History of IN for the Decade 2011-2020, that was released on Navy Day 2022 in Visakhapatnam. The details of the same are placed later in this article.   

         Indian Navy, having evolved from RIN and founded on 26 Jan 1950 is very young; younger than most veterans who were instrumental in shaping her in its growing years.  What started as a small step in preserving its history and to promote awareness of India’s rich maritime history among young Naval Officers and the public at large, on 12 May 1978 by India’s renowned maritime icon and former CinC West, Late VAdm MP Awati, PVSM, VrC  has steadily blossomed into ‘Maritime History Society’, an important component of Western Naval Command, being headed by a Commodore and nurtured by its young Research Associates. Its presently housed at the first floor of Noorbhoy Building in Fort, Mumbai, with an impressive motto, “Where Heritage Awakens Maritime Consciousness”. The custodians who have been grooming it whole-heartedly have added value to preserve the footprints for the future generation to reflect back upon. 


       Maritime History Society vision is to evolve into a body of eminence in the field of Maritime History through nurturing of historical research among young mariners, showcase Indian Maritime Heritage and publication of emerging perspective for a vibrant and resurgent Maritime India. VAdm AR Karve, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, former FOCinC South is its Patron with Cmde Aasheesh Khanna, an ASW specialist it’s present Director. The Academic council members are Dr Rashna Poncha, Dr Tejas Garge, Dr Vaibhavi Palsule and Ms Vrunda Pathare. The Research Associates that hold the sails aloft are Mr Sahil Mulla, Ms Chandrima Maitra, Ms Sapna Nair, Ms Saba Purkar & Ms Sadaf Khan.

          Today I shall walk you through this wonderful albeit much ignored corner of WNC. The first floor of Noorbhoy is a huge Hall that houses the MHS offices besides a spacious Library containing hundreds of books and documents ranging from Ancient times to Late VAdm Hiranandani’s Transition to Triumph, a Saga of the evolution of Indian Navy.


PUBLICATIONS: MHS has published its very own books on Maritime History and research works by Prof B Arunachalam, WgCdr (Dr) MS Naravane, Shri Sachin Pendse, Prof Mary Edward, Dr Sudha Srivastava, Dr Dipti Mukherji, Kalpish Ratna, Cmde Odakkal Johnson and Cdr Dilip Donde. The last two authors are NFMC Veterans and their books are listed below.

a) Timeless Wake: The Legacy Of The Royal Indian Navy During World War II by Cmde Odakkal Johnson (2013)

b) Essays in Maritime Studies, Vol – III, by Dr Sachin Pendse and Cmde Odakkal Johnson (2016)

c) The First Indian: Story of the First Indian Solo Circumnavigation under Sail (Paper Back) by Commander Dilip Donde (2014 & 2015)

       The present lot of full time Research Associates deeply and passionately involved in maritime research in MHS are Mr Dennard D’Souza, Ms Sapna, Ms  Janhavi Lokegaonkar, Ms Amruta Talawadekar, Ms Aishwarya Devsthali. The Research Associates share their work progress via their VLogs available on Youtube.

A) Indian Outlook towards Sea- Janhavi Lokegaonkar

B) Boat Building at Mandovi Gujarat - Amruta Talawadekar

C) How the Indian Pioneered Monsoon Navigation - Dennard D'Souza

D) Fort Suvarndurg, A Feather in the Golden Cap of Marathas - Aishwarya Devsthali    


        MHS is collaborating with Other Research Scholars & Agencies on a few Projects : Two editions of an eight part Maritime Heritage of India Series are under process. Prof Ranabir Chakravarti is working on Maritime Heritage of Bengal, while Cdr Kalesh Mohanan and Dr Nazia Hasan are undertaking Maritime Heritage of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. A joint project with Naval Headquarters is underway to chronicle the Navika Sagar Parikrama (Sep 2017 to May 2018), the circumnavigation of the globe under sail by six Indian Navy Women Officers. An overview of Indian Maritime History is being undertaken in two approaches. One is a comic book in collaboration with Amar Chitra Katha. The other is a collaborative compilation on Indian Maritime Journey.



Amruta Talawadekar while working on the Coastal and Island Batteries in Mumbai Harbour: “Mumbai has been a maritime city with a rich built heritage existing today as an evidence of the city’s evolution across centuries.”

Dennard D’Souza from his work on Sopara an ancient port town: “Sopara was an ancient inland port town located on a nodal point between the maritime and continental trade routes. Buddhist Text like Theragatha Apadana and Saratthappakasini refer to sopara as the hometown of the Merchants Punna and Culla Punna.”

Janhavi Lokegaonkar from her work on Sassoon Docks: “A Sassoons’ maritime enterprise was a prelude to the modern maritime economy of Bombay.”


EVENTS: MHS conducts regular maritime-themed programmes and activities ranging from Outreach Exhibitions to Talks, Conversations and Seminars to bring together scholarship and awareness of Indian Maritime History & Heritage. Monsoon series lectures in Mulla Auditorium are much sought after and awaited events annually, for which eminent speakers are invited.

 As part of the Monsoon Musings I, MHS had held a webinar on 02 July 2021, commemorating the death anniversary of CNS Late Jayant Ganpat Nadkarni. He was not only the 14th Chief of Naval Staff but also a Chief Patron of MHS.

 The Second Monsoon Musing 2021 had been converted to – Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav - a digital symposium with the theme of the "Navy and 75 years of Nation-building". This special event was conducted by Maharashtra Naval Area on behalf of the Western Naval Command of the Indian Navy. The event was conducted on 09 Aug 2021 with a number of eminent dignitaries sharing the stage.


ARTEFACTS COLLECTION: The section of the ground floor of Noorbhoy building entrance is a huge Hall that has a large collection of Artefacts mainly from decommissioned ships and huge charts that depict maritime historical data from Harappan times. It includes a variety of objects and artefacts that represent our Indian Naval Maritime Heritage. In order to provide the best experience of our Indian maritime saga, they offer pre-scheduled visit of MHS premises to showcase the gallery and give a guided tour of the Indian maritime history and heritage. It was interesting to see a Ghazi Hatch, retrieved in 1971 after its sinking during the War.  A part of artefacts shall be shared for the Maritime Naval Cell to be created in The Maritime Museum coming up at Lothal, Gujarat. 


         The Indian Navy is the only service that chronicles it history since 1945 in decadal tomes. Since 1945, there have been six volumes written by eminent retired Admirals upto the decade ending 2010. It was in 2018 that the then CNS put forward the idea to Cmde SB Kesnur (Retd) to author the next volume of the Indian Naval history for the decade 2011 – 2020. Cmde Kesnur immediately took on the idea.

           At that time, I was still undergoing the Higher Air Command Course with the Indian Air Force at Secunderabad. I received a call from Cmde Kesnur if I would collaborate with him on the project. It was a privilege to be asked for such a task and I readily agreed to work with him. Accordingly, I was posted to Maritime Warfare Centre at Mumbai to work on the project with Cmde Kesnur helming it.

          Initially, I was deputed to Delhi to assist VAdm Anup Singh, the author of the last history volume ‘Blue Waters Ahoy’ covering the decade 2001 – 2010 which was to be released on Navy Day 2018 as was the custom. This also gave me valuable lessons on the process of gathering information, filtering and collating actionable inputs for the book. The last book was completed and released by the Hon’ble President of India on 04 Dec 2018. With due guidance from VAdm Anup Singh, Cmde Kesnur and I commenced work on the current book from Apr 2019.

           The initial process of informing the environment, seeking necessary approvals, getting manpower and setting up office of the Naval History Project (NHP) 2011 - 2021 took up the better part of 2019. In 2020, as a maiden initiative, Cmde Kesnur initiated a case to hire a civilian research team to assist in trawling the wide scope of material available online, in social media, in think tank websites etc about the Indian Navy in the decade. This was the first time when a civilian academic team was collaborated to cull open source information for a book project and proved to be very successful. The civilian research team, by the end of the project produced a ‘Social Media Book of Reference’ containing a lot of information filtered from open sources.

           Then the CoViD pandemic struck in early 2020 and work was stymied. Notwithstanding, the NHP took on the challenge and worked in remote to collect information from various Directorates/ Units/ Organisations/ Commands through the lockdown period. However, due to various reasons, the scheduled deadline of the project of releasing the book in Dec 2021 was delayed and extension was taken for another year. After CoViD restrictions were slightly eased in 2021, the team continued to gather information by pouring through files, briefs, notes, correspondence etc to sift important unclassified information to be written as chapters for the book. A vetting board constituting Admirals and Commodores was set-up to peruse the draft chapters of the volume and remove references to classified information.

          The book was to be published by M/s HarperCollins India and their team of content editors, copy editors, production, design etc also got into play by 2022. Multiple drafts were prepared, corrected, re-worded and passed through various levels of checking before they were passed to the publishing house. In Jun 2022, Cmde Kesnur retired from active service and I took over the project in a crucial phase.

           The crunch phase was the latter half of 2022 and the team rallied to meet the deadline of releasing the book on Navy Day 2022 at Visakhapatnam. Multiple iterations of the chapters were done and changes continued to take place till the very last minute. The book while being exhaustive in archiving the history had to be exactingly accurate in its details while also not letting out confidential information in the public domain. Since the book’s audience would be keen maritime researchers, foreign navies, practitioners, policy makers etc, it had to strike a balance between the information provided and outlining the operational mindset of the Indian Navy that could be used by inimical forces.

           It was a coordinated team effort by all involved in the making of the history volume namely, the core team of Naval History Project, officers and men of Naval History Division, civilian research associates and assistants, contributors and a pantheon of officers from various directorates who went out of their way in providing decade old information. Finally, the book went to print in end Nov 22 and was unveiled in the presence of the Hon’ble President, Smt Droupadi Murmu by the Chief of the Naval Staff, Adm R Hari Kumar on 04 Dec 2022 at Visakhapatnam. 

INDIVIDUAL EFFORTS: Its heartening to see a few Senior Veterans engaged in preserving the Maritime heritage of Indian Navy. Cmde Ranjit Rai, former DNO and DNI and Ex- VP IMF, is the Proud Curator of the only Maritime Museum of Delhi, that he has established at his C-443, Defence Colony basement. He welcomes group tour of school / college students to his Museum and even arranges lectures for students of International affairs from Universities in and around Delhi. The Veteran is also a renowned Commentator, Broadcaster and Author (with 9 books to his credit)   


The Vikrant Memorial outside the Lion Gate is the brain-child of Senior Veteran Cmde Medioma Bhada, when he visited the Darukhana ship breaking yard in Apr 2015, where the Mother Vikrant was being dismantled. The Idea of making a small but elegant memorial in her memory took roots during this visit. After a lot of hiccups and his unstinting efforts with BMC and assistance from Naval Dockyard Mumbai the Memorial was erected and inaugurated by VAdm SPS Cheema, then FOCinC West in Jan 2016. Later a Full fledged Vikrant Memorial was inaugurated by Governor of Maharashtra at the Regal Circle on 10 Jun 2022. 



Of late a welcome competitive eagerness by Naval establishments at Kochi, Vizag, Mumbai, Goa, Kolkata and other locations in building Memorials and Museums to keep the Naval awareness alive in the hearts of our countrymen is indeed praiseworthy. The Naval Museum in Kochi, Vikrant Memorials at Mumbai, An elaborate Aviation Museum in INS Hansa Goa, Kursura Submarine Memorial at Beach Road Vizag  and the TU-142-M Museum in Kolkata are the finest examples. There-in lie the everchanging dynamics in preserving Naval History.  







(PS- Double click the Videos below and finger zoom for convenient viewing)

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