Lord Vishnu and Lord Skanda Kartikeya made daring naval attacks against sea pirates. Ultimately the pirates were subdued or destroyed. We have got enough evidence in Mahabharata, Bhagavata and Skandapurana . Lord Vishnu defeated the pirates in Varaha Avatara. He brought back the treasures hidden under the sea. (Earth/ Veda hidden under the sea is an idiom meaning treasures hidden in a far away island).
Agastya defeated Chaldeans called Kalakeyas and Lord Murugan/Skanda subdued Surapadman, a pirate leader. Lord Krishna’s dearest friend Arjuna defeated pirates known as Nivatakavachas and Panchajana which is also narrated in the Mahabharata and Bhagavata. In the past all those involved in anti social and anti people activities were dubbed as demons. But anyone who is able to read between the lines can differentiate them as pirates, robbers, trouble makers, iconoclasts, whoever is anti social and anti establishment.
Krishna’s special conch is called Panchajanya. He used it in the great war at Kurukshetra. There is a story about it in the Bhagavata. Krishna killed a demon of the ocean that kidnapped his teacher Sandipani’s son. Just to avenge the death, Krishna killed him and took his conch. Here also we read about the kidnapping for ransom and blackmailing people. Shankachuda was another Conch (sea) demon and he was killed by Krishna. All the Pandava brothers had special conches from the ocean which shows that they were more conscious about seas.
Before going into the details about these naval attacks, let us make a brief survey of the Hindu naval power. We have references about 100 oared ship, Asvin’s rescue of shipwrecked Bhuj (R.V.1-116-5;1-97-7) from the sea and similes about seas in several places in the Vedas.
All words regarding ship have either come from Sanskrit or Tamil. Sanskrit Nav is the root of Navy, naval, navigation; Tamil word Kappal is the root of skip=ship; Tamil word Kalam/ship and Sanskrit word Kalasam is the root of Galleon; Sanskrit word Yana patra gave birth to the word vessel/ship.
No other culture in the world has so much association with the sea like Hindus.
Indus valley has seals with ship images and the Indus seals have been recovered from Gulf countries.
Arthasastra gives lot of details about department for the administration of marine trade and ocean administration. Kalidasa speaks about rules regarding ship wrecked people’s properties even in popular drama like Shakuntalam. Samudra Gupta controlled vast areas of Indian ocean and obtained the name of Ocean/Samudra Gupta. Satavahanas issued coins with ship images which show their marine trade.
Agastya and Kaundinya, two Rishis, travelled to South East Asian countries and established Hindu empires. (Please read my article Did Agastya drink the ocean?)
Among the Tamil kings, Karikala was praised by the Sangam poets as one who used the wind power. He knew the power of South West Monsoon and North East Monsoon. He was the one who used the monsoon winds to sail to various places. Later Cholas like Rajaraja and Rajendra established vast empires across the sea.
Tamils against pirates
Cheran Senguttuvan also destroyed the sea pirates. Pandya King Ilamperu Vazuthi died during a marine expedition. Another Pandya Sri Maran established the first kingdom in Vietnam. (More details are in my article Tamil King Who Ruled Vietnam)
Kalidasa’s Megaduta clearly showed the route of advancing South West Monsoon. Hundreds of Tamil verses by Sangam poets are about women watching the monsoon clouds for their husbands return from overseas travel.
One of the Indian kings had the skull in his flag.Pallava king Parameswaravarman and Nandhivarman had this Katvanga (skull) flag. Probably he also destroyed the sea pirates and took their flag as a memento. Pirates use black colour flag with skull and bones displayed on it.
Vishnu’s Residence in the Sea
Hindus and oceans are inseparable. Lord Vishnu resides in the ocean on a snake bed of Adi Seshan. The word Narayana itself shows that his residence is sea. Neer means water which is in Greek as well. Nereids is water nymph in Greek. Neer/ water also in Tamil. Conch from the sea is in his hand.
The first three Avatars are ocean based. Matsyavatara (Fish Incarnation), Kurmavatara (Turtle incarnation) and Varaha Avatara (Boar incarnation) are about the seas. Though the third one is boar the story is about the recovery of treasure from the bottom of the sea hidden by a demon, it is actually a story of a pirate leader. Hindu’s association with the sea is in the story of Churning of the Ocean. In short Hindus knew the oceans very well and had full control of Indian Ocean. The Mayas, the Australian aborigines and others used India-Indonesia-Papua New Guinea/Australia and South America route for their migration.
The word Sagara for sea came from the story of Bhageeratha abd his descendants (Please read the full story in Is Kapila Aranya, California?)
Story of Sura Samhara
In the past each group has a totem symbol. Some had monkey symbol and were called Vanaras; others had bear symbol and they were called Jambjavans; in the same way those who had eagle as their symbol were called Jatayus. These are all symbols similar to our political party or election symbols. In the South of India each group had one tree as a symbol. This is like our national emblem. Any one shows disrespect to it will be dealt with severely.
Chenguttuvan, the powerful Chera king destroyed the Kadamba tree after destroying the pirates. Sangam Tamil literature gave these details in Pathtrup pathu. More details were revealed at Silappadikaram, one of the five Tamil epics. In the same way Lord Skanda, popularly called Murugan by Tamils destroyed the Mango tree and the pirates under Sura Padman. They had their head quarters very near modern Sri Lanka. Lord Skanda invaded the island and defeated them. When the pirates surrendered, and sought reconciliation their symbols cock and peacock were placed on Lord Murugans flag.
Kalakeyas were demons of the ocean. Here demons mean pirates of the sea. Indra killed their chief Vritrasura. Kalakeyas who were living in nearby islands used to come to the land in the night and kill all the innocent people. The sages represented it to the gods. Vishnu suggested that they should get the help of sage Agastya. He was the best known marine engineer and oceanographer in Hindy mythology. He was an authority on Indian ocean. He subdued (drank) lot of pirates and was able to go to al the South East Asian countries. When he “drank” the ocean all the pirates were exposed. Thus all the kalakeyas were exterminated.
Nivatakavachas were another type of sea pirates. They were clothed in impenetrable armour. That means they wore shields to protect themselves. They lived under the sea (under the sea means far away islands). They were extremely powerful in magic and warfare. They had powerful weapons. Their forefathers attacked Ravana and Ravana had to come for an agreement with them. But Arjuna finally defeated them
India, situated at the central point of the ocean that washes on its coast on three sides, seemed destined very early for a maritime future. In the Rig Veda, a passage (I. 25.7) represents Varuna having a full knowledge of the sea routes, and another (L. 56.2) speaks of merchants going everywhere and frequenting every part of the sea for gain.
The Ramayana refers to the Yavan Dvipa and Suvarna Dvipa (Java and Sumatra) and to the Lohta Sayara or the Red Sea. The drama Sakuntala, Ratnavali of King Harsha, Sisupalvadha of Magha, relates stories of sea voyages of merchants and others, and the fabulous literature of India is replete with stories of sea voyages by Hindus.