Khalasis have been the traditional boat builders based in Malabar region for over 5000 years.
This can be seen only in Beypore, near Kozhikode. The 1500 years old tradition vanished elsewhere in the world. An expert team of about 30 takes minimum 2 years to make a vessel in wood. Locally called uru, this Arabian shipping vessel is faded from the scene.
Eight kilometers from Kozhikode (Calicut), Beypore could pass off as just another suburb at first glance; however at a closer look, the rich history of this town would start to unfurl. You can see the tell tale signs of this flourishing industry in its many shops that sell the model of ships and huge iron anchors lying on either side of the road. These magnificent masterpieces in wood take shape in the many tall thatched sheds dotting the banks of the River Chaliyam. Ever since Vasco da Gama landed in 1498 in Kappad beach, the Malabar Coast registered its name in the maritime map.
Khalasis have been the traditional boat builders based in Malabar region for over 5000 years. The Portuguese traded spices through sea routes in these massive, hand -made country boats called dhows. Beypore forms the hub of dhow making and these exceptional boats and the rich tradition have attracted international acclaim and has stood the test of time by continuing well into the 21st century.
The master craftsmen of khalasis use certain Sanskrit shlokas as their guide to ship building; nothing has been documented on paper for posterity. Even today, the formula of dhow making remains a closely guarded secret that is handed over from generations to generation. Today, only four master craftsmen are left behind, with Bavamoopan leading the pack.