Cochin, India

The “Chinese fishing nets” lining the shore of Fort Cochin are iconic, as is the native music and dance theater called Kathakali.

I’m not sure whether there is a record of when this design of fishing net was first brought to this Indian coast, but we have seen similar nets while traveling by ferry from Siem Reap to Battambang in Cambodia, on a river off of the Tonle Sap. Each net is operated independently by a team of fishermen, who pull in the catch together, assisted by a counterbalance of stones. The takes we’ve seen are generally unimpressive.

Kathakali is perhaps most notable for its makeup/costume and the expressivity of the eye and facial gestures which make up much of the actor’s performance. Like many traditional art forms, a full Kathakali performances runs well through the night, but shorter, pithier performances are available for tourists at several venues in Cochin. The excerpt we viewed was from the Mahabharata, one of the two great Hindu epics (together with the Ramayana) written before Christ that form a basis for much of storytelling in South and Southeast Asia. (Dances from Burma to Bali retell the Ramayana tales.)

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