This time I am going to tell you something about the place which I call my home. The northern part of Kerala, which is called as Malabar was quite known to the outer world since centuries. There were trade relations with ancient cities like Mesopotamia and Rome. The ports here were busy with ships loaded with spices, ready to reach the far end of the world. Beypore, which is very near to Calicut was once such port. Though the great times of this small fishing hamlet now were past stories, the people here are not yet ready to leave a tradition which is as old as that of Beypore. They make excellent small size ships, completely from wood, which is considered the largest handicraft in the world. They don’t use any kind of heavy machinery or tools, don’t have any plans or designs. These ships are called “Uru” in Malayalam. Also known as “dhow” or fat boat.
I have been to Beypore many times. But this time I wanted to share the stories of Uru’s and those traditional boat builders with you. Many of you might not have heard about them before.
The “Uru”s are the pride of Beypore. The fat boats had conquered many seas. They were even used in battles also. During the British rule, the “Uru” was a part of the navy.
When the modern steel cargo ships started to sail, the demand for “Uru”s came down. The “Uru” making in Beypore declined and the tradition has almost died. But later the rich royal families of Middle-east came to know about this handmade wonder, they got interested and came forward to buy them. Slowly, the “Uru” making started again and Beypore is making them continuously throughout the year.
The “Uru”s of Beypore are basically cargo ships, but their modern versions are a kind of luxury yacht. It has luxury bedrooms, a kitchen, most modern navigation systems and powerful engines.
When I visited the only “Uru” building yard in Beypore, two of them were under construction. They are made completely on wood. The construction will take almost two years and the cost of an average sized “Uru” will be around 10 crores INR. That is a huge amount of money. Qatar is the country which orders “Uru”s quite frequently. The rich royal family is always in demand for it. I was told that more orders are coming because of the football world cup coming to Qatar in 2022.
The building yard is in the banks of River Chaliyar. In Beypore, this river joins the Arabian sea. Once the boat is complete, a special group of people called Mopla Khalasis come and take the boat into the water. They still use the old techniques to move the “Uru”. These people are mainly workers in the Beypore port who are well skilled to lift weights and carry them.
One interesting thing is that they don’t draw any plans in advance. All the designs and plans are within the memory of the master carpenter, who leads the “Uru” building. About 40 people work in the yard every day. The master will give instructions on what to do each day. The master carpenter will be highly skilled and expert in boat building.
Read more about Uru making
How to reach the “Uru” building yard in Beypore?
Beypore has good accessibility through road. It is a fishing harbour, so roads and pretty occupied all the time. The nearest major city is Calicut, about 10 km.
I couldn’t find the yard initially. I thought it is near to Beypore port and went there first. So if you feel lost, just ask anyone there, they will definitely help you.
Plenty of buses are running between Calicut and Beypore. If you are coming by bus from Calicut, get down at BC road. Then you need to reach a temple called Kakkadath Sree Bhagavathi Kshethram which is about 600m from there, towards Cheruvannur side. There will be a small road through the side of the temple, walk along and you will end up in the yard.
Calicut airport is about 22 km from Beypore. There is also a major railway station in Calicut.
Visiting the “Uru” yard
The yard is functioning throughout. We can visit it at any time of the day. There is no entry fee and all. Just ask them the permission to enter and get inside the “Uru”. If not busy, some of the workers will accompany you and explain everything about them.
Keep in mind not to disturb any of the work going on there.
Things to do in Beypore
Beypore is not just about the “Uru” building. There are a few other things to see here.
The beaches of Beypore are the best place to see sunset if you are around here. Many people come to the beach in the evening. There is a long pier that goes about 1km into the sea. You can walk up to the end and see an amazing sunset
At the end of the long pier on the beach, you can spot Bottlenose dolphins. The Dolphins come mainly during mornings and evenings
As I said before, Beypore is one of the major fishing harbour on Malabar. You come here in the morning, see the world of fish markets here.
So if you are visiting Calicut, do visit Beypore also. You can start from Calicut afternoon, visit the “Uru” building yard first and visit the beach by evening.
Hope you liked the story of “Uru” and their builders.
Malabar region of Kerala is still unexplored compared to other parts.
Also read: The “Green tunnel” train journey in Kerala
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