Chinese Fishing Nets of Kerala – The perfect postcard image

Though the reasons for travelling vary from person to person, it is usually the pictures and videos that one gets to see, makes them want to visit that place. Postcards, brochures and websites speak volumes and advertise a place trying their best to woo in tourists and visitors. More over each place would have a particular image that gets etched in the memories of people. It will be this image that urges them to take time off their daily schedules and plan for a vacation at that particular destination.

Speaking of postcard images that have carved a niche in the minds of people, Kerala simply has tons of them. From houseboats cruising lazily on the backwaters to Kathakali performances against the backdrop of slanting coconut palms, each and every sight in Kerala qualifies to be a post card image. But the most celebrated image from Kerala would be silhouetted Chinese fishing nets standing against the setting sun casting its orange-yellow rays on the lakes of Cochin. This sight has lured tourists from all over the world to visit Kerala and has made the world curious about the beauty of the place. The image has found a place in all the tourism brochures of Kerala and also remains the image in the majority of post cards sent from here.

The History

The fishing nets are a fixed structure made of a huge fishing net, long and slender wooden poles on which the net is suspended and a wooden platform made from teak wood, jutting out into the waters. These Chinese fishing nets or ‘Cheenavala’ as it is known in Malayalam, have the lent the city of Fort Kochi its unique identity. History claims that the Chinese fishing nets were introduced in Kerala by the Chinese explorer, Zheng He.  It dates back to the 13th century, during the times of Kubla Khan when trade links between Malabar and China were in the budding stages, waiting to get thrived. There is also another story doing the rounds which mentions it was the Portuguese who introduced the Chinese fishing nets in Cochin during the 15th century. As the Cheras, the Zamorins, the Dutch and the Portuguese have all settled once in Cochin, historians still are not sure as to how the fishing nets found their place in the backwaters of Cochin. However, they have stood the test of time and still impart a visual beauty to the place.

Working of the nets

The working of the net is based on the simple laws of physics. If a heavy object is suspended on one side of a long pole, the other side will rise and if the weight is released, the other side will go down. This simple mechanism, very similar to that of a traditional weighing scale is used in the Chinese fishing nets too.  The long poles on which the nets are tied to, have heavy rocks on one side and the nets spread out on the other. The complete structure is about 10 metres tall and it is operated by more than four people as it requires quite a good tugging and pulling to bring it out of the water. If the catch is good, the nets become all the more heavy and good effort is needed to raise it. The nets are designed in such a fashion that a man walking along the platform can lower it into the waters with the weight of his body. The nets remain immersed in water for some time and it is raised every half an hour or so. The fishing nets operate throughout the day, giving visitors an opportunity to watch its working at all times of the day.

The best view of the fishing nets is against the setting sun. The reddened sky and the waters add to the mystic charm and grace of the fishing nets making the moment one to freeze forever. A good view of the nets can be had from the lake shores of Fort Cochin especially the Vasco Da Gama square of Fort Cochin.


About the author:

This article is authored by Syamnath JG who is one of the authors of the blog Ayurveda, you can connect with him on Google+

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