Documenting lives and travels of Khalāsis

Photographs of some Khalāsis from Malabar, captured by K.R. Sunil

Photographs of some Khalāsis from Malabar, captured by K.R. Sunil  


Photo expo at MGU in connection with fifth edition of Kerala History Congress

Stories about the seafarers of Malabar underlie the maritime history of Kerala. And K.R. Sunil had a particular way of capturing it. He did it through photographs, several of them.

Now they are on display at the School of Gandhian Thought and Development Studies, Mahatma Gandhi University (MGU), Kottayam. The exhibition, being organised in connection with the fifth edition of the Kerala History Congress at the university, will run for three days from January 9 to 11.


‘Manchukkar — The Seafarers of Malabar’ documents the lives and travels of Khalāsis from Malabar. According to the organisers, the history of Manchukkar is the history of the pioneers of cross-regional labour vital to the functioning of trade, transportation, and pilgrimage throughout the Arabian Sea and beyond.

The cross-regional trade incorporated the seafarers of Malabar into a globalised community of great geographical, linguistic, and social diversity.

Fact and fiction

According to MH Ilias, head of the department, the travel accounts of Manchukkar are a rich source of geography, ethnography, and cultural history of Kerala.

As short narrative texts, they provide channels for knowing best the cultural and anthropological settings in each seafaring community, though sometimes they may easily cross the boundaries between reality and imagination.

“The stories of miracles and divinity widely circulated among them make statements of freedom from the prison-like confines of the realist-rationalist conventions. There are several interesting dimensions to such narratives as the particular mode of travel has for all practical purposes been referred to as ‘illegal’ without proper documents and there are many painful experiences attached to each journey,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 11:20:22 PM |

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