Votive offering of fish in the time of poor catch

April 26, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 05:37 am IST - KOCHI:

St. Thomas chapel at Maliankara witnesses revival of a faded-out practice

The St. Thomas chapel in the historic Maliankara village is witnessing the revival of fishermen’s practice of making votive fish offerings in the event of an unprecedented spell of poor catch.

“Fishermen say the sea has dried off,” said Joshi Muttikkal, vicar of the Chettikkad church, describing the reasons behind the revival of a practice that had appeared to have sunk into oblivion.

The 2015 figures reveal a 16 per cent fall in fish landings along the Kerala coast. Oil sardine fisheries were the hardest hit, where landings were down by nearly 60 per cent. With over 50 per cent of fishermen depending on sardine fisheries, the State’s traditional fisherfolk foresee serious trouble.

In Maliankara, a natural harbour for small fishing boats, fishermen used to bring a share of their catch to the church. But, the practice soon faded out. However, a fortnight ago, some of them brought their catch to the church and auctioned it off after the Sunday Mass.

Pashi aka Francis, who brought shrimp and pearl spot for the auction, said the number of fishermen bringing a share of their catch to the church for auction was on the rise. The day witnessed a large black ruff and halfbeak, seer fish, tunny, and shrimp come up for sale. Thanks to the demand, they were sold out briskly.

As is the practice, the auction took place after the Mass. It began with a prayer and sprinkling of holy water on the catch.

The priest and the congregation then prayed for abundance of catch, safety of fishermen and blessings on the community.

“The money from the auction goes to charity,” said Fr. Joshi. Residents believe that a church was built at Maliankara as early as 52 AD. Located close to the port of Muzuris, it was Christianity’s gateway to India.

The indigenous Church in the State is still referred to as the Malankara Church, believed to be a variation of the name of the village that is situated on the banks of the Vembanad backwaters close to the point where the Periyar enters the Arabian sea.

Across the bridge, on the western side of Maliankara, is Pallippuram and to its north lies Munambam.

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