Indian Navy Day: Naval and Maritime History Dating Back to Thousands of Years

Indian Navy

4th December. It is Indian Navy Day. On this day, India salutes the bravery, role, and achievements of Indian naval forces, especially their contribution in the Indo-Pak War of 1971. Indian Navy played an instrumental role in India’s victory in the war.


It was the night of 4th December 1971. Operation Trident was ready for action under the commandment of Vice Admiral S.N. Kohli in the western naval base. And they attacked the port of Karachi with missile boats. PNS Khyber, Pakistani destroyer and PNS Muhafiz minesweeper sank in the attack. The Pakistan Navy reciprocated with their submarines hunting out for Indian warships, but in vain.


Operation Trident continued operations on the night of December 5. Pakistan’s PNS Shah Jahan was shoddily damaged. This paralyzed the enemy’s participation as they lost reserve fuel including numerous commercial ships. With Operation Python joining on the night of 8th and 9th December, Karachi port is further damaged. Use of missile boats resulted in submerging of three more Pakistani merchant ships and damage of their reserve fuel tanks.


The eastern forces of the Indian Navy under the commandment of Vice Admiral Krishnan trapped the Eastern Pakistan Navy by blocking the naval route in the Bay of Bengal. This resulted in complete isolation of East Pakistan. The Indian naval forces fenced in eight foreign merchant ships in the eastern ports.


Meanwhile from 4th December, Sea Hawk fighter-bombers from INS Vikrant aircraft carrier laid attack on numerous coastal towns in East Pakistan. Pakistan reciprocated, deploying submarine PNS Ghazi towards Vishakapatnam, but it sank en route. Unfortunately, on 9th December, Pakistan laid a successful attack with its submarine PNS Hangor, resulting in sinking of India’s INS Khukri frigate in the Arabian Sea. 194 Indian Navy personnel including 18 officers lost their lives under water.


In war with the Indian naval forces, Pakistan lost half of its navy. The Karachi port was badly destroyed. Indian Navy captured three of their big merchant navy ships and 10 smaller ships. Around 1900 Pakistani naval personnel lost their lives and 1413 captured. 18 of Pakistan’s cargo and related vessels in addition to 2 destroyers, 3 patrol crafts, 7 gunboats, 1 minesweeper, and 1 submarine were destroyed. Eventually, India won the war against Pakistan.


During the 17th century, the strong Maratha Navy under the kingship of Chhatrapati Shivaji, defended the Indian waters against numerous foreign forces. The Maharaja’s naval force was well trained and their ships were mounted with cannons, always ready for action. Shivaji erected watch posts on the Andaman Islands, which helped him keep a watch on foreign ships. His naval forces attacked English, Dutch and Portuguese ships and captured British vessels.


Few Maratha naval commanders worth mentioning are SidhoJi Gurjar, Kanhoji Angre, Mainak Bhandari, and Mendhaji Bhatkar who plundered Portugese and British ships, killing thousands of the enemy sailors. Such was the robustness of the Maratha naval forces and ships in the India waters that Shivaji, who started the robust bases, came to be known as the ‘Father of Indian Navy’.


Historical records corroborate the stationing of naval forces by the Mauryas, Guptas, and Cholas in the Indian waters. The Chola Navy led naval expeditions between 900 to 1100 AD. Few successful naval expeditions include conquest of Indonesia (then known as Sri Vijaya) and Ceylon islands. It was under Rajaraja Chola I and his son Rajendra Chola I, that the Chola dynasty expanded their territories with a robust military and naval base.


Chandragupta Maurya’s Prime Minister Kautilya (Chanakya) in his book Arthashastra had written about ocean waterways. According to an article published at, “Chandragupta Maurya established an Admiralty Division under a Superintendent of Ships as part of his war office, with a charter including responsibility for navigation on the seas, oceans, lakes and rivers.”


Do you know that the history of Indian maritime dates back to thousands of years, as early as the pre-Rigved period? The Rigved finds mention of Varun, the God of water and the celestial ocean, as having knowledge of sea routes.


Sanskrit terminologies like Navadhyaksha, Nava Dvipantaragamanam, Samudrasamyanam, Matsya Yantra, etc. that find mention in ancient manuscripts refer to the existence of sea routes, ships, exploration, sea warfare, navigation, and sea trade in ancient times.


Excavations at Lothal in coastal Gujarat in present Mangrol harbour substantiate the historicity of the port area dating back to 2300 BC corresponding to the Indus Valley Civilization.


Do you know most of the Indian naval warships are of indigenous design? These warships, built in Indian shipyards, are at par with international counterparts and those constructed by advanced countries. Indian Navy inventory is equipped with sophisticated submarines, advanced missile-capable warships, latest aircraft, minesweepers, and aircraft carriers. The fifth largest naval force in the world, Indian Navy has two major naval bases in Mumbai and Visakhapatnam.


Featured image courtesy: Nausena Bharti and

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manoshi sinha
Manoshi Sinha is a writer, poet, certified astrologer, avid traveler, and author of 7 books including 'The Eighth Avatar', and 'Blue Vanquisher' - Krishn Trilogy 1 and 2 that delve on Krishn beyond myths.



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