Banks of Ashtamudi lake near Kollam in Kerala were our home for two days, on our way back home from Kanyakumari and Trivandrum. Google maps told me that the lake is fairly large. However, I needed to spend some time with it to understand its real size and more than size its life & soul. Ashtamudi is not very popular with tourists in Kerala as most of them prefer to stay in Kollam or in Kovalam further south. Others prefer to stay a bit north in Alleppey and Cochin.
Ashtamudi Lake – Kerala Backwaters
Ashtamudi literally means with 8 cones. Some people call it star shaped, while others call it Octopus shaped. You can decide what to call after you see its shape on an online map.
As soon as we reached Kollam and checked into our hotel, we set out for a lunch on the boat. This was a huge boat and the table was set for two of us. A small team served us lunch as the boat moved over the quiet waters of Ashtamudi lake. It was a surreal experience as we ate and the scenery around us moved. The shape of the lake started making sense as we moved from its one arm to another.
Goddess of Light
We came across the sculpture of a lady holding a torch. The locals believe it to be their own version of the statue of liberty. It probably acted as a mini version of a lighthouse for boats passing by. Distinctively European in character the stout woman can be seen from quite some distance. Some boatmen thought that this was many seafarers way of remembering the women back home. A small board beneath the sculpture says ‘Goddess of Light’. I guess there are as many interpretations as the viewers. One thing is sure, she breaks the monotony of water, green, and sky and you can not ignore her.
Chinese Fishing Nets
Slowly the ubiquitous Chinese fishing nets started making an appearance. They look perfect hanging from the banks overlooking the waters like a tea strainer in someone’s hand. More often than not, they are queued up together in bunches. They are a photographer’s delight. One can get lost in capturing them in different compositions. No wonder they are a popular image when we talk about Kerala coast. At places, the fishing nets were parked right in the middle of the lake. While at most places they were anchored to the shore. From a distance, they look like simple nets. It is when you take a close you realize how complex they are.
Colorful fishing boats were parked on the banks, next to the lovely houses. The fishing nets all folded appeared to be resting and rejuvenating for standing in the waters as the sun sets. The pristine environment here meant lots of birds. It is a pleasure to observe them as they fly from one green patch to another on the lake.
Some tourist houseboats crossed our paths but it never felt crowded. Either we were in the not so crowded part of the lake or the lake is big enough to let you have your solitude.
Sun and clouds played their own role in creating a unique landscape for us. Coconut groves and palm trees demarcated the territory of water and sky with their green color. Islands appear like green dots floating in the water.
Some random facts about Ashtamudi Lake
Ashtamudi Lake is a major center of Calms Fishery. Producing 10,000 tons of Calms annually. Most of it is exported. It is in the list of wetlands of International importance as per Ramsar Convention. Read this Hindu Article on how fisheries on this lake couple development with sustainability. What is interesting about this lake ecosystem is that it caters to tourists and tourism economy during the day. At night, it becomes fishermen’s domain as they lay their fishing nets at night for the fresh catch in the morning. Tourist boats are not allowed on the lake at night.
Ashtamudi Lake is fed by Kallada River that originated in Ponmudi Hills. It is the second largest estuarine ecosystem in Kerala.
The longest backwater cruise in Kerala is between Ashtamudi Lake and Alappuzha. And takes about 8 hours. This is one journey that is going to be high up on my wish list.
I have not found a direct reference, but I am sure the lake saw and maybe played a part in all the trade that happened from the ports of Kerala.
While reading for writing this post I stumbled upon the website of Ashtamudi Lake.
Locals commuting boat
In the evening from the comfort of the room, we watched the boats pass by. Long boats being rowed at both ends and presumably transporting the families who live around this lake. There were, of course, the quintessential houseboats – the cornerstone of Kerala Tourism. The boat that took us around last afternoon now framed the sunset.
Even after 2 years of visiting Ashtamudi Lake, its memory is as fresh in my as it was the day I said goodbye to it.
Recommend you read following travel blog on places to visit in Kerala.