The chhot-builders of West Bengal, India: Documenting the vanishing craft knowledge of a unique boat-building tradition

By John Cooper, Zeeshan Alli Shaikh | 12 August 2022

The project aims to record the endangered craft skills and material culture underpinning construction of the chhot river boat—a wooden vessel of unique construction found on the Rupnarayan river, a tributary of the Hooghli river in West Bengal, India.

The chhot is a rarity in that its planking is joined using metal staples, a technique unknown elsewhere in India that echoes sewn-boat construction, while its keel-less construction echoes traditional watercraft in southeast Asia. The chhot-building tradition is threatened by dwindling demand for the vessel as a result of improved road infrastructure, rising wood costs, overfishing and new materials.


John Peter Cooper

Zeeshan Alli Shaikh

Location of Research:
Dihimandalghat village and surroundings, West Bengal, India

Host Institution:
Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies, University of Exeter


Top Banner Image: The oculus is common on chhot boats: to the fisherman, the chhot is not inanimate. (Photo: Swarup Bhattacharyya)