Saturday, 26 April 2014

Awesome Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi, enjoy it during Sunset

We call it 'Cheena vala', in the Malayalam language, our mother tongue in Kerala. 'Cheena' signifies something related to China.

'Chinese fishing nets', 'Shore operated stationary lift net' are some formal names of this popular tourist attraction in Fort Kochi  (Cochin) in Ernakulam district, Kerala, South India.

These are large, fixed fishing nets permanently erected on a platform raised and lowered into seawater by a cantilever mechanism. Heavy stones attached at one end acts as a counterbalance when a person walks along the pole that extends into the water area and the net sinks into the water. After some minutes, he walks back and the other fishermen pull the stone end of the pole down to raise the net from water to net the fish!

Cheena valas are a common sight in and around the historic Fort Kochi area. Some are present at Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam district.

Surprisingly, these nets never became extinct with the influx of the most modern fishing methods in Kerala. Currently, these have become historic symbols and are very popular tourist attractions. There is also a great demand for the catch and it sells quickly at a good price.

How they were introduced here is a matter of controversy. The name signifies it has a Chinese connection and probably were brought by the Chinese traders around the 13th or 14th century when Kerala had trade relations with China. There is also a strong basis of the finding that these were brought by Portuguese Casado settlers from Macau. Anyhow, these magnificent structures survived and still exist providing awesome, unforgettable images in the backdrop of the setting Sun. Undoubtedly, these would surely form the most photographed images in this coastal city! Just Google image search 'Kochi or Cochin attractions'! You will see so many images of these nets.

I will try to get a video of its operation asap. When I went there the other day it was late in the evening and cloudy.

Chinese, Portuguese and all others who came here for trade/invasion have left centuries ago. But these beautiful installations still stand here elegantly! People watch these centuries-old structures sitting on the seashore enjoying the cool breeze, especially in the evenings during Sunset. I think it is an awesome feeling when we watch the slow rhythm of its movements silhouetted against the setting Sun at the horizon!

There are many descriptions of experiences of people from all walks of life about the movement of these magnificent nets along the shores of Kochi. Many, from all over the world, have described the feel as 'hypnotic', well..they can't be wrong; the majority always win! Considering the huge number of visitors from different parts of the world with a sizable number returning year after year this can't be wrong. Such beautiful sights we have around us may send hypnotic vibes towards us. Accept it, enjoy it and be relaxed.
  • Soaking in the rays of evening Sun, enjoying the cool breeze and languishing in the memory of rich heritage, a wonderful way to relax. It is hypnotic, indeed!
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Elefantest89 said...

Hello, this is really nice post and also your blog!
do you want to follow each other?
I'll wait here. If so, follow me and let me know and i'll follow back for sure!

Birgitta said...

Interesting to read! Cool photo!

Joy said...

Wow! Nice to read the story behind this place. Chinese and Portuguese had been to the Philippines too and left their marks:)
My father is half spamish and half filipino.

Remembering Grace said...

Beautiful picture! And that is fascinating, the history of the nets, and the way the nets are lowered...I would love to see the video of it in action!

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Thanks Birgitta :)
I feel happy you found my post about cheena vala useful.
Cheers :)

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Joy, great !
I have heard like India Philippines too is rich in such awesome heritage spots.
Hope you will write about those asap :)
Happy to hear that your dad is half Spanish and half filipino.
Have a nice weekend :)

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Thanks Grace :)
Great that you could feel that hypnotic vibe I intended to convey through this post. Will try asap to video it in action :)
Have an awesome weekend !

Unknown said...

It's really weird that they're stationary nets and catch anything since the open water's so huge. I'd think the fish would learn to avoid the area. I guess I'm giving fish too much credit for intelligence. O_o

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Hi Lexa, it is a huge structure with a height of about ten meters and net span 20 sq.m. approximately ! As I have mentioned the up and down movements take only a few minutes with the net assuming a bowl like shape netting the catch. These nets are installed at potential spots along the coast where certain fishes popular in Kerala are found aplenty. At night fishermen use a light source to attract fish. Olden days the source was 'petromax', the Indian version of vaporized kerosene lamp !
Thanks for the wonderful comment, Lexa :)
Actually it is such beautiful comments and discussions that prompt the blogger to add more details and eventually the whole thing becomes comprehensive.
Have a wonderful weekend, Lexa :)

Irina said...

Thank you for a cultural glimpse! Looks weird and difficult to opreate. But this is a
dilettante's opinion )) Enjoy your week end, Rajiv!

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Wow, great !
Thanks for your visit to my blog and the comment. I have joined your Google plus follow already :)
Please visit again and add comments, ok?
Have an awesome weekend !

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Hi Irina :)
Glad that you enjoyed this post :)
We may think it is difficult to operate but not to the people who handle it on a daily basis. Much less risky considering going to rough seas in a fishing boat battling waves and hard stuff.
I will post a video asap, then you might change the opinion it looks weird :)
The maintenance cost of these nets are increasing day by day. They now - a - days use metal poles instead of teak wood in place of damaged poles because such strong and durable teak wood have become a rarity and the cost has sky rocketed. The recent offshore developments also had affected the availability of fishes. All these are discouraging fishermen here to depend solely on these nets for livelihood. Moreover, new installations will be extremely expensive; I do not think anyone has installed one anywhere in the recent times !
Hope the Government and tourism authorities will do something good for them to avoid their total disappearance !
Thanks so much, Irina :)

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Such an awesome story behind a beautiful place. Love that photo!!

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Thanks so much :)
Have a nice weekend :)

Elefantest89 said...

I follow you!

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Thanks so much :)

jonathan said...

One of the things I would like to do is to join with some fishermen and stay with them fishing along the sea. I would like to feel the excitement once fish are hurled out of the net and then sent to be sold. It must be exhausting for our fishermen and I do apprecitae their effort. Without them, i then need to fish by myself in orderto eat. There's a lesson in here as well.

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Thank you :)

There is great demand for their fish. The moment it is caught people buy the catch; there are eateries around where they will be cooked according to our choice :)

Yes, some people join the excitement of pushing and pulling along with fishermen; I remember seeing a video on youtube.

One more thing, my dear friend. While researching about Chinese fishing nets I read that similar structures are found in Vietnam and Thailand also. Please try to get a snap if you happen to spot one anywhere. Or some of your friends or acquaintances will be able to help and provide the necessary info. Please feel free to share this post with them, if you like. Their origin is of a lot of controversy but none have so far posted an image or written about such nets found in Vietnam or Thailand in the recent times. I am curious to know if such things still exist anywhere, other than here, in the world. It would be a huge favor and thanks in advance.

Thanks a lot, Jonathan :)

♥ Łucja-Maria ♥ said...

Rajiv, Your posts are very interesting.
I'm sorry but you are a long time I have trouble on the blog.
Sticking my friends blog addresses.
Yours very sincerely :)

Rajiv Sankarapillai said...

Lucia. thank you for your visit to my blog and the comment.
Have a nice week ahead :)