The District Tourism Promotion Council, Kozhikode has applied for a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for the famous Beypore Uru (boat).
It is a wooden dhow (ship / sailing boat / sailing vessel) handcrafted by skilled artisans and carpenters in Beypore, Kerala. According to details provided by the District Tourism Promotion Council in its filing with the Geographical Indications Registry here in Chennai, the Beypore Urus are a symbol of Kerala’s trade relations and friendship with the Gulf countries.
The Beypore Urus are purely made of premium wood, without using any modern techniques. The wood used to build the Uru is still sawed the traditional way which requires immense expertise. It takes anywhere between 1-4 years to build each Uru and the entire process is done manually, said IPR Attorney P. Sanjai Gandhi, who filed this application on behalf of the District Tourism Promotion Council, Kozhikode. Today, many artisans involved in Uru-making are over 50-70 years old and have been in the profession since their fathers passed on the tradition to them.
Historical records quoted in the filing show that Beypore has been a legendary maritime hub for traders from across the world since the 1st Century C.E. and the iconic Uru ships have been in high demand for around 2000 years. The history of Khalasis, skilled natives engaged in launching the Uru boats at Beypore, dates back to 2000 years. Hence, based on the above discussion on the historical origin and historical records of the Beypore Urus, it can be concluded that this traditional handicraft has been in existence for 2000 years.
Records show that there are several communities traditionally associated with Uru-making. The prominent people among them are Odayis. They manage the technical matters of ship building. Their family name comes from Odam (a type of small ship previously used in interactions/trade between the Malabar coast and Lakshadweep).
The Khalasis are another prominent class associated with Uru-making after the Odayis. They are also referred to as Mappila Khalasis as majority of them are Mappila Muslims. They are world-famous for their skill and expertise in launching the completed Urus into the water by using only traditional methods. They also haul the Urus in need of repairs back to the shipyard at Beypore.