Mandvi's Dhow Making Legacy is a Delicate Dance of Tradition and Modern Challenges

  • By Navtej Singh
  • February 6, 2024
  • A brief write up on the dhow making tradition in Mandvi, Gujarat.

Nestled along Gujarat’s coastline, Mandvi boasts a rich heritage of dhow making, a tradition rooted in centuries of maritime history. These traditional boats, once the lifelines connecting Mandvi to distant lands, are crafted with meticulous manual precision, showcasing the town’s unique identity. The historical roots of dhow making intertwine with Mandvi’s strategic maritime significance, creating vessels that were essential for trade which were instrumental in shaping the town’s prosperity.


However, the art of dhow making faces imminent threats in the modern age. Technological advances, changing economic land scapes, and the globalization of trade contribute to the decline of this traditional craft. The introduction of modern boat-building methods poses challenges to the labor-intensive manual processes, while economic shifts and a lack of apprenticeships further jeopardize the future of Mandvi’s maritime legacy.

Rukhmati river is where river meets the ocean. On river banks boats are built. On either side is Mandvi town.

Despite these challenges, there are ongoing efforts to preserve and revitalize Mandvi’s dhow making tradition. Local initiatives, vocational training programs, and cultural organizations strive to raise awareness about the significance of this craft. These endeavors not only aim to ensure the survival of the tradition but also provide economic opportunities for artisans, balancing the delicate dance between preserving tradition and adapting to a changing world. 


As we marvel at the intricate details of a handmade dhow in Mandvi, the call to action is clear: appreciate, support, and actively participate in the revival of this timeless craft, ensuring that Mandvi’s maritime legacy continues to shape the present. 


Mandvi is less than two hour’s drive from Bhuj, the main city of Kutch.


Navtej Singh is a Defence Photographer, Photographer, Traveller and Storyteller. Cover pic and article pic by author.


To read all articles by author


Editors Notes 

When I visited Mandvi in 2018 saw ships being made in wood.

Ships made of sal wood. Earlier boats from here went to Zanzibar and Arabia.   Mandvi also has a fort, lovely beach too & Vijay Vilas Palace.   Osho restaurant is great for vegetarian thali, said to the best in Mandvi. 

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