Have you heard of the “Viking of British India”? If not don’t feel bad neither did I until at least a week back. Some referred to him as the “King of Jobra”, someone who after living in India for more than forty years started calling India as his home yet could not even speak or understand any Indian languages.
George H Faulkner was an engineer by profession and a native of Manchester. He had learned his trade in one of the many engineering workshops that once thronged Lancashire. He had come to India around 1833 when he was just twenty years old and as per records after initial service in Madras (Chennai) where he had worked in the Irrigation Company which has formed for the purpose of irrigation canal construction on Godavari River which was then part of the Madras presidency. This company also had contracts for further canal construction on Mahanadi thus George H Faulkner had shifted to a small locality in Cuttack known as Jobra.
Later on, this Irrigation Company was taken over by the British Crown (Government of British India) thus becoming directly employed under the crown.
One of his most significant work was to start the Boat repair workshop in Jobra in the year 1869. This workshop was under the PWD (Public Works Department). Faulkner was a skilled artisan himself thus knew his trade from the back of his hands. Jobra was like his own kingdom and he was the undeclared “King of Jobra”. His engineering skills were legendary and during the construction of canals around Cuttack (on Mahanadi) he was known to have been the problem solver by inventing machines in his Jobra workshops which aided in the construction process. Jobra was also a place where extensive boat repairs were done in the workshop.
Odisha then was a part of Bengal Presidency and after the great famine in the state; it was decided to expand the irrigation system in and around Odisha to prevent this disaster in the near future. Thus, Jobra PWD Workshop played an important role in the maintenance of the machinery and the boats.
George H Faulkner was a Freemason and was a member of the Cuttack Lodge this surely is reflected in his working style which involved a lot of men especially native laborers who he had to keep check yet maintain an atmosphere of finesse.
Over the decades, this workshop slowly was lost in oblivion and just rusted away with time. Boats were no more required to be repaired here as larger dockyards had already come up in Calcutta, Paradip, and Machilipatnam. This place lay in ruins for decades and finally in 2013 was revived as a Maritime Museum. A lot of restoration works were carried out and finally, we got the Odisha State Maritime Museum.
This museum has fourteen galleries each properly demarcated, each of these galleries have a different set of information. As you enter start from your right and then proceed.
The different galleries at Maritime Museum
- Introduction Gallery
- Maritime History Gallery
- Boat Building Gallery
- Jobra Workshop Gallery
- Maritime Rituals Gallery
- Navigation Gallery
- Monuments on Odishan Coast Gallery
- Boat Shed Display
- Saw Mill
- Boat Repairing Jetty
Apart from this, there is an open-air amphitheater where you have events, an exhibition gallery, library, multimedia room, computer section where you can find more information about any particular maritime subject, activity room for the children and a souvenir shop.
Last but not least there is also an Aquarium which is a must visit section.
Odisha Maritime Museum – Introduction Gallery
This section mainly comprises of old artifacts and old photographs of the workshop as it was before the renovation. You can see some old signaling lamps, cannons, compass, utensils and other objects from that period and mostly found at the site.
ODISHA MARITIME MUSEUM – Maritime History Gallery
This section, you will see many three dimensional dolls or mannequins depicting the history of Kalinga and its maritime connections with the rest of the world.
ODISHA MARITIME MUSEUM – Boat Building Gallery
In this gallery, you can see a depiction of boat building activity, which has been carried on for centuries in and around ancient Kalinga. You will find photographs and illustrations along with models depicting various boat building activity.
ODISHA MARITIME MUSEUM – Jobra Workshop Gallery
This section of the museum is what I liked the most as this section houses all the old tools and machinery used at the Jobra workshop. This section is the metal workshop so all bending, shaping, cutting etc. were done here. The old machinery has been wonderfully restored and mannequins depict the various activities within the workshop.
ODISHA MARITIME MUSEUM – Maritime Rituals Gallery
India is steeped in traditions and this is found in boat building activity, for sailors as well as for fishermen. Religious activities have seamlessly merged with maritime and in Odisha, this has a long history. This gallery features several three-dimensional models depicting the various rituals associated with maritime in this part of India.
ODISHA MARITIME MUSEUM – Navigation Gallery
This gallery has a huge collection of navigation tools from different decades and centuries. From compasses to sextants, you will also be able to see models depicting chart navigation system.
ODISHA MARITIME MUSEUM – Monuments on Odishan Coast Gallery
There are quite a few monuments along the Odisha cost associated with maritime, these sections show scale models of some of these.
ODISHA MARITIME MUSEUM – Boat Shed Display
India has a long history of indigenous boats and in this gallery; you get to see different types of boats from other states. This shed also hoses some vintage trucks, which were originally used in the workshop.
The workshop, which was once the pride of Jobra and was completely run down now, has been restored to its former glory. All the different sections of the workshop have been renovated and now houses the exhibits. You can get an overall feel how the workshop used to originally look like if you stroll along the gardens.
ODISHA MARITIME MUSEUM – Saw Mill
Boats were basically made of wood along with the support of metal structures. This section of the museum houses the machinery used to cut and shape wood for boat repair.
ODISHA MARITIME MUSEUM – Aquarium
The newly built museum has an aquarium where you can see various biotopes, which have been carefully recreated. You can see various type of sea life, which belong to each of these biotopes. Baitarani. Bhitarkanika, Amazon, Lake Chilka, Mahanadi, Tanganyika and Koi pond are some of the sections in the display.
Overall, this museum has a lot to offer thus I would recommend a half a day tour in order to see all the sections within the museum properly. There is a cafeteria within the museum thus you will not go hungry if you need a quick bite also do check out the souvenir shop located within the museum for some exciting collectible items and gifts.
Indian Vagabond was specially invited by Times Passion Trails in association with Odisha Tourism to attend this cultural & heritage trail of Odisha. I would like to thank the entire team for curating this wonderful tour.
Memoirs of a Bengal Civilization by John Beames
Quarterly Civil List For Bengal No.53
Allen’s Indian mail and register of intelligence for British and foreign India: 1878, 7/12
Maritime history comes alive – Naveen inaugurates museum on Utkal divas