THRISSUR: The arrival of ‘Edavapaathi’ in the Malayalam calendar heralds the beginning the monsoon, the bittersweet wake up call of a new school year and a full season ahead where the curse of wet socks becomes a harsh reality for most office goers. Removed from all the drudgery and hullabaloo of city life, the fisher folk in the coastal belt celebrate ‘Edavapaathi’, the day Edavam 15 as marked in the Malayalam calendar, as their very own New Year.
For them, Edavam 16 signifies a whole new beginning; new jobs, new fishing nets and for some, a higher pay. In a display of communal harmony, the fishermen, regardless of their religion, visit the nearby temples, mosques and churches together and gift their offerings to Kadalamma for a bountiful year ahead.
In olden days, when motor boats were non existent, over five fishermen would be employed in a row boat. With no help of modern equipment for tracking fish density, the rowers would have to rely on their intutive skills to identify the locations of best catch.
Owing to the fact that they run entirely on manpower, the row boats also had the disadvantage of a very limited range. At the end of the year, the boat owners would woo the best fishermen from other boats offering a higher pay and the fishermen would shift allegiance only on Edavam 16 in due processes known as ‘Maatti Peythu’, after paying back their debts to the previous boat owner.
The boat owners would use the sum to provide the new fishermen loans free of any collateral like gold or property. Profits from half the catch of the day would go to the boat owner. ‘Kadakkodi’, in those days, was a term used in reference to the ‘pramani’ or the boat owners, persons of importance.
“The days prior to the Edavam 16 would witness a bustle of activities on the Chavakkad beach. The fishermen would be busy weaving nets for the coming year and so on. Now, the nets can be bought directly from the Matsya Fed,” said Veeramani, a fisherman at Chavakkad.
The motorised fishing boats have also now increased their range to 25 nautical miles and more.