A Kattumaram (from Tamil kattu “to tie” and maram “wood, tree”) is a type of boat or ship consisting of two hulls joined by a frame. Catamarans can be sail or engine powered. The catamaran was the invention of the paravas, a fishing community on the Southern coast of Tamil Nadu, India. Catamarans were used by the ancient Tamil Chola dynasty as early as the 5th century AD for moving their fleets to conquer such Southeast Asian regions as Burma, Indonesia and Malaysia.
The English adventurer and buccaneer William Dampier, traveling around the world in the 1690s in search of business opportunities, once found himself on the Southeastern coast of India, in Tamil Nadu, on the Bay of Bengal. He was the first to write in English about a kind of vessel he observed there. It was little more than a raft made of logs. “On the coast of Coromandel,” he wrote in 1697, “they call them Catamarans. These are but one log, or two, sometimes of a sort of light Wood … so small, that they carry but one man, whose legs and breech are always in the water.”