Ashtamudi Lake (Ashtamudi Kayal), in the Kollam District of the Indian state of Kerala, is the most visited backwater and lake in the state. It possesses a unique wetland ecosystem and a large palm-shaped (also described as octopus-shaped) water body, second only in size to the Vembanad estuary ecosystem of the state. Ashtamudi means ‘eight coned’ (Ashta : ‘eight’; mudi : ‘coned’) in the local Malayalam language. The name is indicative of the lake’s topography with its multiple branches. The lake is also called the gateway to the backwaters of Kerala and is well known for its houseboat and backwater resorts. Ashtamudi Wetland was included in the list of wetlands of international importance, as defined by the Ramsar Convention for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands.
Along both banks of the lake and its backwater canals, coconut groves and palm trees interspersed with towns and villages are seen. Kollam, (formerly Quilon) is an important historic port city located on the right bank of the lake. Boat cruises are operated by the Kollam Boat Club from Kollam to Alappuzha providing transport access to many other towns and villages along this route. Luxury houseboats also operate on the lake. The boat journey is an 8-hour trip, winds through lakes, canals and water bound villages, and gives complete exposure to the beauty of the backwaters of Ashtamudi Lake. Chinese fishing nets, called cheena vala in Malayalam, are used by local fisherman and are a common sight along the waterway. The lake and the city of Kollam on its banks and the Neendakara port at the confluence offer a means of transport for the state’s trade and commerce in the cashew trading and processing industry as well as the marine products industry. The lake is the source of livelihood for people living close by from fishing, coconut husk retting for coir production and inland navigation services. In 2014,Clam Governing Council of Ashtamudi Lake became the first Marine Stewardship Council certified fishery in India for their sustainable clam fishing. The lake and the life on its shores have inspired many artists and writers. It has been the subject of many poems by the renowned poet Thirunalloor Karunakaran who was born and brought up on its banks.