Cochin is the commercial capital of Kerala, and is sometimes referred to as the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea'. Cochin proudly boasts a rich cultural heritage, but is one of the most fast paced and modern cities in India. It is also one of the finest natural harbours of the world and a major Indian port.
Cochin is basically a collection of islands and narrow peninsulas and can be divided into Ernakulam, Willingdon Island, Mattancherry and Fort Kochi. An international airport and seaport, connect Cochin to the rest of the world. The city also has an outstanding network of road, rail, backwater, and a modern communication system
Cochin was once an insignificant fishing village. When the backwaters of the Arabian Sea and the streams descending from the Ghats caused the separation of this village from the mainland and landlocked the harbour, it became one of the safest ports on India's southwestern coast. The port assumed a new strategic importance and began to enjoy commercial prosperity.
When the Portuguese penetrated the Indian Ocean in the late 15th century, they arrived at India's southwestern coast. Navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral founded the first European settlement on Indian soil at Cochin in 1500. Vasco da Gama, discoverer of the sea route to India, established the first Portuguese factory (trading station) in Cochin in 1502, and the Portuguese viceroy Alfonso de Albuquerque built the first European fort in India in 1503.
The city remained a Portuguese possession until the Dutch conquered it in 1663. Much Portuguese architecture still exists in the city.
Always a tourist favourite, this city offers visitors plenty. Forts, palaces, museums, old churches, cool backwaters, palm fringed lagoons, beaches and the practicality of a contemporary metro.
Population : AApprox 1 million
Climate : Being situated very close to the sea, Cochin has a moderate climate. Heavy showers are experienced during the months June, July and August due to the South-West Monsoon. The North-East Monsoon brings light rainfall during the months of September, October, November and December. The months from December to February are pretty cool.
Best times to visit : Between November and February.
The Chinese fishing nets These huge cantilevered fishing nets along the backwaters are the legacy of the traders from the court of Kublai Khan. Built of teakwood and bamboo poles, they are fascinating to see. Adjacent to the fishing nets is the Vasco Da Gama Square, a narrow walkway with little stalls that serve fresh seafood and tender coconuts.
St. Francis Church
This Protestant church was originally built by the Portuguese in 1510 A.D. It is considered to be India's oldest European church. Today it is governed by the Church of South India (CSI). Vasco Da Gama was buried here before his remains were taken back to Portugal 14 years later.
Located on Rose Street, Vasco House is one of the oldest Portuguese houses in Fort Kochi and is believed to have been the residence of Vasco Da Gama. Vasco House sports the typical European glass paned windows and verandahs, characteristic of the times.
A large wooden gate with the initials VOC engraved on it, the VOC Gate is a little way off from Vasco House, facing the Parade Ground. The initials correspond to the monogram of the once powerful Dutch East India Company, which had its office here for almost 150 years.
Santa Cruz Cathedral
Built by the Portuguese in around the 16th century, this Roman Catholic church is famous for the beautiful paintings on its ceiling. It was demolished by the British when they took over Cochin in 1795. Until a new building was commissioned in 1887, there was no church on the site for almost a 100 years. The Santa Cruz church was declared a Basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1984.
The lovely Cherai beach, situated in Vypeen, is just a 15 minute ferry ride from Fort-Kochi. Besides the sea, sand and the sun, a typical Kerala village with paddy fields and coconut groves nearby completes the idyllic picture that the beach paints
Also known as the Mattancherry Palace, it was built by the Portuguese and presented to the Cochin Raja in 1555 A.D. A fine blend of Indo-European architecture, it acquired the present name after it was renovated by the Dutch in 1663. In the center of the building is the hall where the Cochin Rajas held their coronations. This central courtyard also enshrines the deity of the royal family. Adjacent rooms contain 17th and 18th century murals illustrating scenes from Indian epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata. There are two temples on either side of the main palace, dedicated to Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva.
Situated close to the Mattancherry boat jetty, the Synagogue and the ancient Jew town built in 1568 A.D. is of great historical importance. The most distinctive features are its white willow-pattern tiles of which no two are alike. They are believed to have been presented by a merchant in 1763 A.D. You will find great scrolls of the Old Testament and the copper plates in which the grants of privilege made by the Cochin rulers were recorded. There are also numerous finely wrought gold and silver coins, gifted to the Synagogue by various patrons. Colourful Belgian chandeliers add to the beauty of the Synagogue. Instances from Jewish history and the hardships the Jews underwent are depicted through paintings.
Parikshith Thampuran Museum
This museum, adjacent to the Shiva temple was the Durbar (court) of the Cochin rajas. It features collections of 19th century oil paintings, sculptures in stone and plaster-of-Paris, old coins and items of the Cochin royal family
Museum of Kerala History
This museum at Edapally, is one of the best looks into the history of Kerala. Significant historic moments of the past 2000 years are depicted through life size figures. There is also a one-hour commentary for each scene, along with a light and sound show
St. George Forane Church
This Roman Catholic church, considered to be one of the oldest churches in Kerala, was built on a plot of land donated by the Raja of Edapally. The new church adjacent to it was built in 1080. It is a well known 9 day feast held every year in the month of May.
Situated on the palm-fringed Bolghatty Island, amidst 15 acres of lush green lawns, this palace was built by the Dutch in 1744. It became the official residence of the British. Today, it is a hotel run by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation.
The sprawling Hill Palace museum displays the erstwhile wealth and affluence of the royal family of Cochin. It has an interesting collection of paintings, antique temple carvings and other royal artifacts. Outside the museum is a botanical garden with exotic tropical trees. There is also a Deer Park in the palace compounds.
Special Festivals in Cochin
Nishagandhi Dance Festival
Held in February each year, this festival pays tribute to Indian classical dance. Visitors are treated to some of the most fabulous dance performances.
The carnival held from December 25-31, offers a kaleidoscope of performing arts, including Kathakali, classical dance, martial arts and boat races.
This harvest festival commemorates a mythical time of social harmony, peace, and equilibrium. In the first month of the Kerala year,Chingam(August-September),floral carpets,made by women, grace the towns throughout the state; adorned elephants parade in Thrissur and long decorative boats race the backwaters of Alappuzha.
Also known as Dussehra or Navaratri, this festival is held between September and October. It is celebrated throughout India but takes on special significance in Kerala. Young children are taken to the temples and are introduced to the letters of the alphabet in front of Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and learning.
This is the festival of Lord Shiva. It is celebrated between February and March. All night, people chant and pray in honour of the deity