For such a vast coastline, Indians do not have much of sea mythology. Most images of boats in Indian art are related to ponds and rivers, and not the sea, such as images of Ram and Sita crossing the Ganga, or Krishna and Radha on the Yamuna. Images of sea-faring vessels are few and far between as in Bharhut Stupa, Ajanta Caves and Goa’s hero memorial stones.
Today, we refer to Varuna as the sea-god, the father of Goddess Lakshmi, but in Vedic scriptures, his role is with ‘waters’, a rather abstract term and not necessarily the sea, and he has a lot to do with royal upright conduct. It is only in the Ramayana that we encounter him as the god of the sea who begs Ram not to shoot his lethal arrow at him and instead build a bridge to Lanka. In the Puranas, he is identified as Sagara, the sea, who rides a Makara (a dolphin or fish with an elephant head) and the rivers are his many daughters. And most importantly, in Vastushastra, he is the guardian of the West, facing Indra, god of rain, the guardian of the East.
In Odisha, there are no specific gods of the sea. But women worship the goddess Mangala who helped sailors return home. In Bengal and Bangladesh, sailors worship Pancha-pir, the five holy men from Mecca, who probably originated from the five Buddhas of Mahayana Buddhism. There is an 8th-century tale of a Bhairava-worshipping Tantrik traveling back from Java to India on a ‘stone’ ship using his magical powers.