Maritime powers in the Indian subcontinent have possessed Navy, navies for many centuries. Indian dynasties such as the Cholas used naval power to extend their influence overseas, particularly to Southeast Asia. The Marakkar Navy under Zamorins during 15th century and the Maratha Navy of the 17th and 18th centuries fought with rival Indian powers and European trading companies. The East India Company organised its own navy, which came to be as the Royal Indian Navy#1612–1830, the Bombay Marine, Bombay Marine. With the establishment of the British Raj after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the small navy was transformed into "His Majesty's Indian Navy", then "Her Majesty's Indian Marine", and finally the "Royal Indian Marine". The Royal Indian Marine transported large numbers of Indian troops overseas during the World War I, First World War, and – as the Royal Indian Navy – took part in naval combat and patrol duties during the World War II, Second World War. When India became Indian Independence Act 1947, independent in 1947 part of the Royal Indian Navy was allotted to the new state of Pakistan; the remaining forces took the title of Indian Navy in 1950. The Indian Navy took part in Annexation of Goa, Operation Vijay in 1961, wars with Pakistan in Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, 1965 and Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, 1971, and in more recent operations of a smaller scale.

Early history

Indian ship on lead coin of Vashishtiputra Shri Pulumavi.jpg, Ancient Indian ship on lead coin of Vasisthiputra Sri Pulamavi, testimony to the naval, seafaring and trading capabilities of the Sātavāhana Empire, during the 1st–2nd century CE. Ajanta_Cave_2_three-mast_sailship.jpg, Painted depiction of ''three-mast sailship'', c. 5th century from Ajanta Caves. File:Rajendra map new.svg, Chola territories during Rajendra Chola I, c. 1030 CE. India has a rich Indian maritime history, maritime history dating back 5,000 years. The world's first tidal dock may have been built at Lothal around 2300 BCE during the Indus Valley Civilisation, near the present day Mangrol, Kathiawar, Mangrol harbour on the Gujarat coast. The Rig Vedas written around 1700 BCE, credits Varuna with knowledge of the ocean routes and describes naval expeditions. There is reference to the side wings of a vessel called Plava, which give stability to the ship under storm conditions. A hundred ore ships have been mentioned in the Rigveda, as well as numerous mentions of samudra or sea which indicates that during Vedic period, trade activities through sea might have been very common. Indians from Bay of Khambat established trade links with Yemen as early as 1200 BC, the presence of Black Pepper in the Egyptian Pharaohs' tombs indicates that there was active Indian trade with western Asia. A model of a bronze miniature ship with an open deck has been excavated from Pandu Rajar Dhibi from West Bengal dated to 2nd millennium BC. Indians initiated trade activities with South East Asia in 5th-4th century BC. A compass, Matsya yantra, was used for navigation in the 4th and 5th century CE.. Chanakya, Kautilya (c. 4th century BCE) in his ''Arthashastra'' mentions the protection of the kingdom’s shipping and destruction of those threatening it. Although navy is not elaborately mentioned as one of the principle arms of Indian military in the Arthashastra, Megasthenes mentions it. Megasthenes mentions military command consisting of six boards of five members each, (i) Navy (ii) military transport (iii) Infantry (iv) Cavalry (v) Chariot, Chariot divisions and (vi) Elephants. During Mauryan empire, Indians had already made trading connections in South east asia from Thailand and Malaysia peninsula to Cambodia and southern Vietnam. Mauryan period seals and inscriptions has been discovered at the ancient port cities of Thailand and Southern Vietnam. Sea lanes between India and neighbouring lands were the usual form of trade for many centuries, and are responsible for the widespread influence of Indian culture on other societies, particularly in the Indian Ocean region. Powerful navies included those of the Maurya, Satavahana, Chola, Vijayanagara Empire, Vijayanagara, Kalinga (historical region), Kalinga, Maratha Empire, Maratha and Mughal Empire, Mughal empires. The Cholas excelled in foreign trade and maritime activity, extending their influence overseas to China and Southeast Asia.`

Early literary evidences

The Indian shipping and maritime trade activity have been referenced in Arthashastra. Kautilya mentions the superintendent of ships as an officer which was supposed to look after the ports and shipping and security of maritime traders. Four categories of ships have been named, Commercial (Potavanika), Private (Svanaya), Royal (Rajanau) and warship (Himsrika). Commercial ships are further divided into Merchant ships (Samyati) and passenger ship (Pravahana) A Jain text 'Angavijja' and Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. both dated to early centuries AD mention Indian ships called Trappaga (Tappaga) and Kotymba (Kotumba) which were classified as mid sized vessels, larger than Kattha and Velu but smaller than Pota with much greater space and suitable for high sea voyages. Chandraketugarh seals provide names for Indian vessels as ''Indra of the ocean' (Jaladhisukra), scholars have noted a new steering mechanism employed by this ship whose name suggests it as a deep seafaring ship and ''journey of three directions'' (Tridesayatra). Angavijja mentions thirteen categories of ships.

Gupta Empire Navy

The five arms of the Gupta military included infantry, cavalry, chariot, elephants and ships. Gunaighar copper plate inscription of Vainyagupta, Vainya Gupta mentions ships but not chariots. Ships had become integral part of Indian military in the 6th century AD.

Chola expeditions

The Imperial Cholas initiated their grand naval conquests during the reign of two of its most illustrious monarchs, Raja Raja Chola (ruled 985–1014) and his son Rajendra Chola (ruled 1012–1044). Under Rajendra Chola, the Cholas expanded their empire with the use of their strong navy and subdued many kingdoms of South-East Asia and occupied the region which included Myanmar, Malay Peninsula, Malaya, Sumatra etc., and sent ambassadors to countries as far off as China.

Indian Navies of the Post-Classical Age


Manavikraman, Samoothiri Raja of Kozhikode began the naval build-up in 1503 in response to Portugal, Portuguese attempts at extracting trading privileges. He commanded and appointed Kunjali Marakkar, Mohammed Kunjali as Marakkar (admiral) of his fleet.The Kunjali Marakkars are credited with organizing the first naval defense of the Indian coast. Over the course of the next century, the Samoothiri Rajas successfully repelled various attempts by the Portuguese to overthrow their rule, with each side enlisting various allies over time. Four generations of Kunjali Marakkars served the Samoothiri Rajas. However, over time, the differences between Mohammed Ali, Marakkar IV, and his masters increased, culminating with his self-declaration as the "Lord of the Indian seas". The Samoothiris then collaborated with the Portuguese to defeat Mohammed Ali in 1600. Later, they allied with the Dutch East India Company to defeat the Portuguese.

Maratha Navy

The Maratha Empire was established by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1674. From its inception, the Marathas established a naval force, consisting of cannons mounted on ships. The dominance of the Maratha Navy started with the ascent of Kanhoji Angre as the ''Darya-Saranga'' by the Maratha chief of Satara. Under that authority, he was master of the Western coast of India from Mumbai to Vingoria (now Vengurla) in present-day state of Maharashtra, except for Janjira State, Janjira which was affiliated with the Mughal Empire. Until his death in 1729, he repeatedly launched attacks on European merchant vessels, capturing numerous cargo ships of the various East India Companies and extracting a ransom for their return. On 29 November 1721, a joint attempt by the Portuguese and the British to put an end to Kanhoji's privateering endeavours failed. Their combined fleet, consisting of 6,000 soldiers in four man-of-wars, besides other ships led by Captain Thomas Mathews of the Bombay Marine, failed to achieve its goals. Aided by Mendhaji Bhatkar and Mainak Bhandari, Kanhoji continued to capture and ransom European merchant ships until his death in 1729.

Colonial Indian Navy

Establishment of the Bombay Marine

The East India Company, English East India Company was established in 1600. In 1612, Captain Thomas Best encountered and defeated the Kingdom of Portugal, Portuguese at the Battle of Swally. This encounter, as well as piracy, led the English East India Company to build a port and establish a small navy based at the village of Suvali, near Surat, Gujarat to protect commerce. The Company named the force the ''Honourable East India Company's Marine'', and the first fighting ships arrived on 5 September 1612. This force protected merchant shipping off the Gulf of Cambay and the rivers River Tapti, Tapti and River Narmada, Narmada. The ships also helped map the coastlines of India, Persia and Arabia. In 1686, with most of English commerce moving to Bombay, the force was renamed the ''Bombay Marine''. The Bombay Marine was involved in combat against the Marathas and the Sidis and participated in the Anglo-Burmese Wars. The Bombay Marine recruited many Indian lascars but commissioned no Indian officers until 1928.

Expansion of Her Majesty's Indian Navy

In 1830, the Bombay Marine became ''His Majesty's Indian Navy''. The British capture of Aden increased the commitments of Her Majesty's Indian Navy, leading to the creation of the ''Indus Flotilla''. The Navy then fought in the First Opium War, China War of 1840. Her Majesty's Indian Navy resumed the name ''Bombay Marine'' from 1863 to 1877, when it became ''Her Majesty's Indian Marine''. The Marine then had two divisions; the Eastern Division at Calcutta and the Western Division at Bombay. In recognition of the services rendered during various campaigns, ''Her Majesty's Indian Marine'' was titled the ''Royal Indian Marine'' in 1892. By this time it consisted of over 50 vessels.

The Royal Indian Marine in World War I

The Expeditionary Forces of the Indian Army that travelled to France, Africa and Mesopotamia to participate in World War I were transported largely on board ships of the Royal Indian Marine. The convoy transporting the first division of the Indian Cavalry to France sailed within three weeks of the Declaration of War, on 25 August 1914. At the outset of the war, a number of ships were fitted out and armed at the Bombay Dockyard, Naval Dockyard in Bombay (now Mumbai) and the Port of Kolkata, Kidderpore Docks in Calcutta (now Kolkata). The Indian Marine also kept the harbours of Bombay and Aden open through intensive minesweeping efforts. Smaller ships of the Indian Marine, designed for operations in inland waters, patrolled the critical waterways of the Tigris, the Euphrates and Shatt-al-Arab, in order to keep the supply lines open for the troops fighting in Mesopotamia. A hospital ship operated by the Indian Marine was deployed to treat wounded soldiers. By the time the war ended in 1918, the Royal Indian Marine had transported or escorted 1,302,394 men, 172,815 animals and 3,691,836 tonnes of war stores. The Royal Indian Marine suffered 330 casualties and 80 of its personnel were decorated with gallantry awards for service in the war. The Royal Indian Marine played a vital role in supporting and transporting the Indian Army during World War I, Indian Army throughout the war. The first Indian to be granted a commission was Sub Lieutenant D.N Mukherji who joined the Royal Indian Marine as an engineer officer in 1928.

The Royal Indian Navy in World War II

In 1934 the Royal Indian Marine changed its name, with the enactment of the Indian Navy (Discipline) Act of 1934. The Royal Indian Navy was formally inaugurated on 2 October 1934, at Bombay.Bhatia (1977), p. 28 Its ships carried the prefix HMIS, for His Majesty's Indian Ship.D. J. E. Collins, ''The Royal Indian Navy, 1939-45'', vol. 1 (Bombay, 1964) At the start of the World War II, Second World War, the Royal Indian Navy was small, with only eight warships. The onset of the war led to an expansion in vessels and personnel described by one writer as "phenomenal". By 1943 the strength of the RIN had reached twenty thousand. During the War, the Women's Royal Indian Naval Service was established, for the first time giving women a role in the navy, although they did not serve on board its ships. During the course of the war six anti-aircraft sloops and several fleet minesweepers were built in the United Kingdom for the R.I.N. After commissioning, many of these ships joined various escort groups operating in the northern approaches to the British Isles. and , each armed with six-high angle 4" guns, were present during the Clyde "Blitz" of 1941 and assisted the defence of this area by providing anti-aircraft cover. For the next six months these two ships joined the Clyde Escort Force, operating in the Atlantic and later the Irish Sea Escort Force where they acted as the senior ships of the groups. While engaged on these duties, numerous attacks against U-boats were carried out and attacks by hostile aircraft repelled. At the time of action in which the German battleship Bismarck, Bismarck was involved, the Sutlej left Scapa Flow, with all despatch as the senior member of a group, to take over a convoy from the destroyers which were finally engaged in the sinking of the Bismarck. The Royal Indian Navy, 1939–1945 - Collins, p248 Later , , , , also antiaircraft sloops, completed similar periods in the U.K. waters escorting convoys in the Atlantic and dealing with attacks from hostile U-boats, aircraft and glider bombs. These six ships and the minesweepers all eventually proceeded to India carrying out various duties in the North Atlantic, Mediterranean and Cape stations en route. The fleet minesweepers were , , , , , , , , . HMIS_Bengal_(J243), HMIS Bengal was a part of the Eastern Fleet during World War II, and escorted numerous convoys between 1942-45. The Sloop-of-war, sloops and played a role in Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily by providing air defence and anti-submarine screening to the invasion fleet.The Royal Indian Navy, 1939–1945 - Collins, p252 Furthermore, the Royal Indian Navy participated in convoy escort duties in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean and was heavily involved in combat operations as part of the Burma Campaign, carrying out raids, shore bombardment, naval invasion support and other activities culminating in Operation Dracula and the mopping up operations during the final stages of the war. The Royal Indian Navy, 1939–1945 - Collins, p255 - p316

Royal Indian Naval combat losses

The sloop P-class sloop, HMIS ''Pathan'' sunk on June 1940 by the Italian Navy Submarine Brin-class submarine, ''Galvani'' during the East_African_campaign_(World_War_II), East African CampaignRohwer & Hummelchen, p.23 In the days immediately following the Attack on Pearl Harbor, was patrolling the Laccadive Islands in search of Japanese ships and submarines. At midnight on 9 December 1941, HMS Glasgow sank the RIN patrol vessel HMIS Prabhavati with two lighters in tow en route to Karachi, with 6-inch shells at 6,000 yards (5,500 m). Prabhavati was alongside the lighters and was mistaken for a surfaced Japanese submarine. The Royal Indian Navy, 1939–1945 - Collins, p96Neil MacCart, ''Town Class Cruisers'', Maritime Books, 2012, , p. 153 was sunk by Japanese aircraft during Burma Campaign on 6 April 1942.

Royal Indian Naval successes

was ordered in 1939, and built by William Denny and Brothers. She was Ship commissioning, commissioned in 1941, and with World War II underway, was immediately deployed as a convoy escort. ''Jumna'' served as an anti-aircraft escort during the Dutch East Indies campaign, Java Sea campaign in early 1942, and was involved in intensive anti-aircraft action against attacking Japanese twin-engined level bombers and dive bombers, claiming five aircraft downed from 24–28 February 1942. In June 1942 was involved in the defence of Sydney Harbour during the Attack on Sydney Harbour. On 11 November 1942 ''Bengal'' was escorting the Dutch tanker MV Ondina, ''Ondina'' to the southwest of Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean. Two Japanese commerce raiders armed with six-inch guns attacked ''Ondina''. ''Bengal'' fired her single four-inch gun and ''Ondina'' fired her 102 mm and both scored hits on ''Hōkoku Maru'', which shortly blew up and sank. On 12 February 1944 the Japanese_submarine_Ro-110, Japanese submarine RO-110 was depth charged and sunk east-south-east off Visakhapatnam, India by the Indian sloop and the Australian minesweepers HMAS Launceston (J179), HMAS Launceston and HMAS Ipswich (J186). RO-110 had attacked convoy JC-36 (Colombo-Calcutta) and torpedoed and damaged the British merchant Asphalion (6274 GRT). On 12 August 1944 the German submarine U-198, German submarine ''U-198'' was sunk near the Seychelles, in position 03º35'S, 52º49'E, by depth charges from and the British frigate List_of_River-class_frigates, HMS Findhorn.http://www.uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/3922.html

Mutiny of 1946

In February 1946, Indian sailors launched the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny on board more than fifty ships and in shore establishments, protesting about issues such as the slow rate of demobilization and discrimination in the Navy. The mutiny found widespread support and spread all over India, including elements in the Army and the Air Force. A total of seventy-eight ships, twenty shore establishments and 20,000 sailors were involved in this mutiny.

Partition and Independence of India

In 1947, India was Partition of India, partitioned and the dominions of Dominion of India, India and Dominion of Pakistan, Pakistan gained independence from the United Kingdom. The Royal Indian Navy was split between India and Pakistan, with senior British officers continuing to serve with both navies, and the vessels were divided between the two nations. When India became a republic on 26 January 1950, the name was changed to the Indian Navy, and the vessels were redesignated as Indian Naval Ships (INS). Vice Admiral R. D. Katari was the first Indian Chief of Naval Staff, appointed on 22 April 1958.

Indian Navy operations

Annexation of Goa, 1961

The first involvement of the Navy in any conflict came during the 1961 Indian annexation of Goa with the success of Operation Vijay (1961), Operation Vijay against the Portuguese Navy. Four Portuguese frigates – the NRP Afonso de Albuquerque, the NRP Bartolomeu Dias, the NRP João de Lisboa and the NRP Gonçalves Zarco – were deployed to patrol the waters off Goa, Daman and Diu, along with several patrol boats (Lancha de Fiscalização). Eventually only the NRP Afonso de Albuquerque saw action against Indian Navy ships, the other ships having fled before commencement of hostilities. The ''NRP Afonso'' was destroyed by Indian frigates ''INS Betwa'' and ''INS Beas''. Parts of the Afonso are on display at the Naval Museum in Mumbai, while the remainder was sold as scrap.

Indo-Pakistani war of 1965

There were no significant naval encounters during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. On 7 September 1965 a flotilla of the Pakistani Navy carried out a small-scale bombardment of the Indian coastal town and radar station of Dwarka, 200 miles (300 km) south of the Pakistani port of Karachi. Codenamed Operation Dwarka, it did not fulfill its primary objective of disabling the radar station. There was no significant Indian retaliation, since 75% of the Indian naval vessels were undergoing maintenance or refitting in the harbour. Some of the Indian fleet sailed from Bombay to Dwarka to patrol the area and deter further bombardment. Operation Dwarka has been described as an "insignificant bombardment" of the town was a "limited engagement, with no strategic value."South Asia's Nuclear Security Dilemma: India, Pakistan, and China By Lowell Dittmer, pp 77

Indo-Pakistani war of 1971

The Indian Navy played a significant role in the bombing of Karachi harbour in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, 1971 war. On 4 December, it launched Operation Trident (Indo-Pakistani War), Operation Trident during which missile boats ''INS Nirghat'' and ''INS Nipat'' sunk the Minesweeper (ship), minesweeper and destroyer ''PNS Khyber''. The destroyer ''PNS Shahjahan'' was irreparably damaged. Owing to its success, 4 December has been celebrated as Navy Day ever since. The operation was so successful that the Pakistani Navy raised a false alarm about sighting an Indian missile boat on 6 December. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) planes attacked the supposed Indian ship and damaged the vessel before it was identified as being another Pakistani Navy ship, ''PNS Zulfiqar (K265), PNS Zulfiqar'' which suffered numerous casualties and damage as a result of this friendly fire. During Operation Python on 8 December, the frigate ''PNS Dacca'' was severely damaged by ''INS Veer'' and the oil storage depot of Karachi was set ablaze. On the western front in the Arabian Sea, operations ceased after the Karachi port became unusable due to the sinking of Panamian vessel ''Gulf Star''. An Indian frigate, ''INS Khukri'' was sunk by submarine ''PNS Hangor''. On the eastern front, the submarine ''PNS Ghazi'' was sunk outside Vishakhapatnam harbour. Indian naval aircraft, Hawker Sea Hawk, Sea Hawks and Breguet Alizé, Alizés, from the aircraft carrier were instrumental in sinking many gunboats and merchant navy vessels in the Bay of Bengal. The successful blockade of East Pakistan by the Indian Navy proved to be a vital factor in the Pakistani surrender.

Operations after 1971

The Indian Armed Forces initiated Operation Cactus to prevent a coup attempt by a group of Maldives, Maldivians led by Abdullah Luthufi and assisted by about 200 Sri Lankan Tamils, Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries from the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) in Maldives in 1988. After Indian paratroopers landed at Hulhule and secured the airfield and restored the democratically elected government at Malé, the Sri Lankan mercenaries hijacked the freighter ''MV Progress Light'' and took a number of hostages, including the Maldivian Transport minister and his wife. The Indian Navy frigates INS Godavari (F20), INS Godavari and INS Betwa (F39), INS Betwa captured the freighter, rescued the hostages and arrested the mercenaries near the Sri Lankan coast. During the 2006 Lebanon War, the Indian Navy launched Operation Sukoon to successfully evacuate 2280 persons from Lebanon, including Indian, 436 Sri Lankan and 69 Nepali and 7 Lebanese citizens.http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=20224 Since 2 November 2008 an Indian Navy frigate INS Tabar (F44), INS Tabar accompanied by the destroyer INS Mysore (D60), INS Mysore has been on an Piracy in Somalia, anti-piracy mission off the Gulf of Aden.


{{Reflist Naval history of India, Indian Navy History of organisations based in India, Navy Maritime history of India