Karwar, on the Konkan coast, is an idyllic town with a blissful blend of the sea, sand and sunshine. Caressed by River Kali on one side, the waves of the expansive Arabian sea on the other, and bordered by hills covered with greenery projecting onto the bay, the Rabindranath Tagore beach is a picturesque bounty of nature. It is said that Tagore was inspired by the beauty and serenity of this beach, so much so that the place grew on him, prompting him to pen his first poems while staying with his brother in Karwar.
On this beautiful beach rests the famous warship INS Chapal - renowned as the valiant hero of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. This ship has been converted into a museum - a befitting memorial. What makes this museum unique is that, it is one of the three ship museums in India. The other two are located in Essel World (INS Prabal) in Mumbai and on the Ramakrishna Mission Beach in Vishakhapatnam (INS Kurusura).
At its peak
INS Chapal, the Russian-made small missile ship, that has a weight of 245 tonnes and length of 38 metres, played a significant role in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, paving the way for India's victory. The crew of this ship were awarded two Param Veer Chakras and eight Veer Chakras for their gallantry. INS Chapal was decommissioned in 2005, after serving the Indian Navy for over three decades. Its last post was decided as Karwar beach where it now stands as a warship museum. The ship is fixed on to a concrete base so as to avoid damage when the waves engulf the beach during the monsoon months.
An arched gate with the signage, Warship Museum, stands on the roadside at the entrance of the museum, through which one reaches a beautiful garden laid out around the ship. On the deck of the ship, there are four missile launchers, two in the front and two at the back. The direction radar projects onto the sky. It is said that these guns had the capacity to fire 3,000 rounds per minute within a 4 km range.
Below the deck, there is the captain's control room, the engine room, small cabins for the crew, kitchen, dining room and washrooms, all kept intact. An interesting feature here is the installation of life-like wax models on various parts of the ship. These figures are depicted in action.
The captain, in full uniform, is standing in the control room, looking out to the sea. A sailor is shown driving the ship. On both sides of the deck, in the ammunition rooms, fighter sailors are loading missiles into the launchers. A statue of an officer having breakfast is placed in the dining room. Adjacent to that is a small kitchen, with life-size statues of cooks. In the two cabins meant for the crew, sailors are sleeping. All these provide an actual feel of the warship to the visitors. The whole interior is air-conditioned and well-lit. Signboards and photographs of the ship in action during its service days provide detailed information about each section.
In a room below the deck, the visitors can watch a 20-minute audio-visual presentation of an informative documentary on India's naval history along with the scenes of launching missile attacks. This room also displays photographs depicting various warships owned and used by the Indian Navy. The museum provides detailed information to the visitors on sea warfare and operations related to it.
During long weekends, festival holidays and vacations, a large number of tourists visit this museum. Suffice to say that a visit to this Warship Museum is like taking a stroll down history to experience the glory of the retired war hero. The museum is open on all days from 10 am to 1 pm and 4. 30 pm to 6 pm.