History of the Indian Navy

History of the Indian Navy

Early history

Many powerful navies, of the Maurya, Chola, Vijayanagara, Kalinga, Maratha and Moghul empires ruled the oceans, in and around India, for many centuries. [ [http://indiannavy.nic.in/history.htm History of the Indian Navy] ] The two notable naval chiefs Kanhoji Angre and Kunjali Marakkar are considered among India's finest warriors since they were able to defy the British and the Portuguese Navies.

Expeditions of the Cholas

The Imperial Cholas initiated their grand naval conquests during the reign of two of its most illustrious monarchs, Raja Raja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola. 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, Malaya, Sumatra etc., and sent ambassadors to countries as far off as China.


The British East India Company was established in 1612. In 1612 Captain Thomas Best encountered and defeated the Portuguese at the Battle of Swally. This encounter and piracy forced the British East India Company to build a port and establish a small navy based at a small village Suvali, near Surat, Gujarat to protect commerce. The Honourable East India Company's Marine was thus formed by the arrival of fighting ships led by Captain Best during the 10th voyage of the Company on 5 September 1612.

This force protected merchant shipping off the Gulf of Cambay and the rivers Tapti and Narmada. The ships also helped map the coastlines of India, Persia and Arabia.


Although Bombay (now Mumbai) had been ceded to the British by the Portuguese in 1662, they physically took possession of the island on
8 February 1665, only to pass it on to the East India Company on 27 September 1668. As a consequence, the East India Company's Marine also became responsible for the protection of trade off Bombay.

In 1686 with British trade now concentrated off Bombay (Mumbai) the marine was renamed the "Bombay Marine". The marine was involved in fighting against the Marathas and the Sidis and participated in the Burma War of 1824.

In 1830, the Bombay Marine was renamed "Her Majesty's Indian Navy". The capture of Aden increased its commitments and fought in the China War of 1840.

Her Majesty's Indian Navy was renamed back to the "Bombay Marine" from 1863 to 1877, then becoming "Her Majesty's Indian Marine". The Marine had two divisions; the Eastern Division of Calcutta and the Western Division at Bombay.

In recognition of the services rendered during various campaigns, "Her Majesty's Indian Marine" was renamed as the "Royal Indian Marine" in 1892, by which time it consisted of over 50 vessels. [http://indiannavy.nic.in/genesis.htm]

Engineer Sub Lieutenant D.N. Mukerji became the first Indian to be commissioned into the Royal Indian Marine (RIM), 6 January 1928. The first few officers commissioned in the Royal Indian Navy were recipients of the "King's Commission", and those commissioned thus considered themselves a cut above later officers.

In 1934 the Royal Indian Marine was reorganised into the Royal Indian Navy (RIN). At the start of the Second World War it was very small and had eight warships, though this increased during the war. In the war, the Royal Indian Navy sloops ‘Sutlej’ and ‘Jumna’ played a key role in Operation Husky – the invasion of Sicily. [http://www.wewerethere.mod.uk/wewerethere_old/inmed.html]

Indian sailors started a rebellion also known as the The Royal Indian Navy mutiny, in 1946 on board ships and shore establishments which spread all over India. A total of 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors were involved in the rebellion.

India gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, though senior officers were initially drawn from the Royal Navy. The "Royal" title was initially kept as George VI remained head of state and vessels were known as His Majesty's Indian Ships (HMIS).


On 15 August 1947 the Indian Navy was split between India and Pakistan, the division being thus:

Modern Indian Navy

When India became a republic on 26 January 1950, it became known as the Indian Navy, and its vessels as Indian Naval Ships (INS).

The first involvement of the Navy in any conflict came during the Liberation of Goa in 1961 with the success of Operation Vijay against the Portuguese.

The Navy has been involved in 2 wars with Pakistan. While its activity in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 largely involved patrolling of the coast, India's navy played a significant role in the bombing of Karachi harbour in the 1971 war. The name given to the attack was Operation Trident which was launched on December 4. Owing to its success, it has been celebrated as Navy Day ever since. The attack was followed by Operation Python before the crux of the war shifted to the east.

INS Nirghat and Nipat sank a destroyer each and INS Veer accounted for a minesweeper. The naval aircraft, Sea Hawks and Alizés, were also instrumental in sinking many gunboats and merchant navy vessels. There was one major casualty, the frigate "Khukri" (sunk by "Hangor") with another vessel INS "Kirpan" damaged in the western sector, but on the eastern front the opposing Pakistan Navy took a severe beating. The blockade of East Pakistan port with a major naval presence proved to be a vital link in the war.

Type of Vessel Indian Navy lossesPakistan Navy losses
Destroyers 1 2, PNS Khaibar and Shahjahan*(damaged)
Frigates 1, INS Khukri** 3
Submarines 0 1, PNS Ghazi
Minesweeper 0 1, PNS Muhafiz
Navy Aircraft 0, (Alize) 0
Patrol boats and Gunboats 0 4 Gunboats and 3 patrol boats
Merchant navy and others 0 9 (including one US ammunition ship)

::*PNS Shahjahan was presumably damaged beyond repair.::**The second frigate INS Kirpan was damaged although it remained in service later on after salvaging it.

It was also instrumental in overthrowing the coup attempt by Tamil mercenaries in Maldives by pouring troops there in 1988. The campaign led by the Indian navy was known as "Operation Cactus".

In 2006 the Indian Navy successfully evacuated 2280 persons including Indian, 436 Sri Lankan and 69 Nepali and 7 Lebanese citizens from war torn Lebanon. This operation is named Operation Sukoon. [http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=20224]


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